Sunday, December 31, 2006

2006 - A Good Year



This bright new year is given me
To live each day with zest
To daily grow and try to be
My highest and my best! (William Arthur Ward)

Hard to see how 2007 could top 2006, but I'm certain it may. Let's look back at the year that was ...

I re-met the woman of my dreams, whom it turns out I've actually known since 1993, courted, proposed to, married, honeymooned, and had our first holidays together.

I sat on the Green Monster to watch the Red Sox with my Dad.

Also on that trip, Dad and I took in two rounds of the U.S. Open at historic Winged Foot, a taping of The Late Show With David Letterman and toured the nation's capital for the first time as an adult.

I spent quality time with my family, such as our annual trip for Gabriel's birthday, and Thunder Over Louisville.

I basked in the knowledge that I have the best friends a guy could hope for.

I even won my own Oscar contest.

My and Val's whirlwind romance included stops in New York, St. Louis to see the Cardinals, Jacksonville to see the Cowboys play, Tunica, Chickasaw State Park (twice), Atlanta, and Louisville.

I mentioned getting married, right?

Friday, December 29, 2006

100 Things About Me - Holiday Edition

1-10 | 11-20 | 21-30 | 31-40 | 41-50 | 51-60 | 61-70 | 71-80

81. Growing up, my three siblings and I would rotate who handed out the gifts when everyone (grandparents, cousins, etc.) came over Christmas Eve. The entire week before we'd call our spots in the living room. My favorite was at the end of the fireplace nearest the tree and thus, the presents.

82. Christmas morning, we'd wake up at 4 a.m., take a blanket downstairs and start playing with our Santa gifts that were arranged by kid and not wrapped. The morning went like this: Playing, napping, playing, breakfast, playing.

83. Some of the gifts I remember most: The popular Nintendo game system from the mid-80s. My favorite game was track & field complete with a pad to run on. If you ran on your heels you could roll! Other favorites include a basketball goal, electronic football game that I ruled, and for some reason I recall getting Bears boxers and a cap when I was a big Bears fan in the 80s.

84. By the time we were older, my family would see movies on Christmas day. Back in '97 we saw both Titanic and L.A. Confidential on Christmas.

85. I'm not sure I've ever had more than a sip of egg nog. Just the name makes me gag.

86. My favorite family memory is when we'd gather each New Year's and play Monopoly, and watch "It's a Wonderful Life," which would air on WMC before the music and fireworks downtown.

87. I'm pretty sure that the first - and only - time I ever got tipsy from alcohol was due to my parents. I recall Mom and Dad having a bottle of wine for New Year's, and letting me have a small glass. All I know is that by midnight I was tossing popcorn in the air to celebrate.

88. My only white Christmas in memory was in El Paso, Texas. We flew in to 22 inches of snow, and watched it melt over the next week while visiting my grandparents.

89. I have been swimming on Christmas at least once, having spent the holiday in Florida when my grandparents lived there in the 80s, and twice to visit Dad, in 2000 and again last year.

90. New Year's Eve is fine, but since I never had anyone 'till now to kiss at midnight and never really went out to celebrate, then New Year's Day, a.k.a. Bowl Bonanza, was better. I'd plop down and watch football all day long, with a deep warm indention left in the couch where I laid all day, next to ginormous bags of chips and bowls of salsa and rotel dip astride several cans of Coca-Cola.



*If any of these memories are faulty, then I'm fine with that. It's how I remember them, and it makes me happy.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Valfrey holiday travel update

We're heading to Tennessee after I get off work tonight, arriving in Millington after midnight. Thursday we're driving up to Jackson to see Val's friends, and spending Saturday with her Mom's side for their Christmas party.

We'll be back in time for me to work on New Year's Eve, which will stink since I'll be at CNN at midnight instead of where I really want to be, and that's with my new bride celebrating the end of our best year, and the beginning of the new best year!

In the meantime, I have pictures from our Christmas day, and last week's visit to Chapel Hill and Millington. Sorry, didn't have time to finish captioning all of the latter photos, but enjoy anyway!

Seems that from phone calls, emails and co-workers, the first question on everyone's mind is, "How was your first Christmas?"

Simple answer: Incredible.

Longer answer: Everything I've always wanted, to wake up Christmas morning with my wife, exchange presents given with care and thought and fun, curl up in front of the tree as Christmas music plays, eat a big delicious meal, watch the Cowboys' game, watch the "Deal or No Deal" two-hour Christmas special, and just in general enjoy the bliss of being married during the holidays.

Seasons Ventings

The latest quotable Vents posted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

- I noticed a small baby in a buggy going through the checkout line at Costco. I asked my boyfriend, "Where could I buy us one of those babies? You can get anything at Costco." "Yes," said the lady in front of us. "But, they only come in packages of three."

- We’ve got 22 months to go, and I’m already sick of hearing about Iowa and New Hampshire. (Jeff note: In mid-January expect a vent that says, "We have 12 months until the first primaries ...")

- To a Republican, bipartisan means finding common ground with some sensible Democrats. To a Democrat, bipartisan means getting their own way.

- Why is bipartisanship considered a good thing? All you’re doing is combining the stupidity of both major political parties into one really bad idea.

- My parents had a tracking device for me. It was called “no gas money.”

- There’s nothing better than having a handicap parking permit during the holiday season.

- It wouldn’t surprise me if some stores start their after-Christmas sales on Dec. 20.

- My brother, a Green Beret in Vietnam, was spit on in the San Francisco airport. He was arrested after he broke the hippie’s jaw with one punch. Daddy was happy to wire him bail money.

- First, we pull our troops out of Iraq so that terrorism will go away. Then, we get rid of our police so that crime will go away.

- Just in time for Christmas; “Girls Gone Wild, Miss USA Edition.”

- I would like to be the first to vent about my neighbor who still has their Christmas lights up.

- Rosie O’Donnell and Donald Trump. What could be more unpleasant than two unpleasant people being unpleasant to each other?

- Just curious, at what point did the casualties of World War II surpass those killed in the attack at Pearl Harbor? Did the media make a point of it?

- Why is it that batteries are wrapped in a plastic that could probably survive a nuclear blast, while light bulbs are wrapped in a slim cardboard container?


My Vents:

- I'm going to see Barack Obama; my wife has a fever and if she could just touch the hem of his garment she would be made whole.

- The First Rule of Liberalism: Accuse the Right of doing exactly what the Left is doing.

- The fun part of the Palestinian internal battles is anticipating how Jimmy Carter plans on blaming Israel for it.

- Considering that Bratz dolls promote looking like tramps, is anyone surprised that they would curse?

- For a guy who wrote a book called "The Politics of Truth," Joe Wilson is awfully scared to testify under oath.

- Didn't we reward "Babel" last year when it was called "Crash?"

- Am I the only one who was shocked to find out that the slogan is "No one doesn't like Sara Lee" instead of "No one does it like Sara Lee?"

- Help! I got my wife Netflix for Christmas, and judging by her queue I'm about to be inundated by chick flicks!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Odd Tag

I've been tagged by Amy C. to name six odd things about me.

I don't know if I'm insulted or if it's sweet that "they" think I only have six quirks.

Like Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future, I'm not one to back down from a challenge. But I can also cheat since I've already noted much of this in my 100 Things About Me series:

1. I have index cards in my car, and my space is full of scraps of paper, because I wrote so many notes to myself about every little idea in my head, especially for writing on this here blog thing.

2. Sometimes I sneeze so deeply, so hard, that my groin tightens up. That hurts something fierce.

3. As a kid I wouldn't eat food that touched other food on my plate. As you can tell from modern photographs, I don't have that problem anymore.

4. I’m like Rain Man when it comes to drinking water from bottles. If I can’t find Aquafina I get hysterical.

5. Sunday mornings during church I would take the bulletin and design a golf course on it, using the text as hazards (trees, lakes, etc.).

6. I don’t like bananas. I love banana pudding and banana milkshakes. I don’t like vanilla wafers in my banana pudding.

We've been Netflixed

Val and I have been film buffs, but now we can finally participate in the world of DVD delivery. Due to a free preview, a gift subscription from Aunt Lynn and another from me to my bride, we have 4 1/2 months of Netflix free to us.

Thus, we live in a new blog world, where I will make random posts about movies you never heard of or never cared to know about, and yet you still be compelled to read.

The difference between our account and yours is, as newlyweds it seems 90 percent of our selections will be movies are partner hasn't seen but "needs" to. Wish us good luck.

Gut buster

Scientists said last week that the reason during these holidays that evil skinny people eat a bunch and don't gain a pound while you eat celery and still gain is due to bacteria in your tummy.

The bacteria in my gut particularly enjoy hamburgers, pizza and fried rice. If not for their voracious appetites, I'd be downright thin!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Good tidings we bring to you and your kin

From me and my darling wife, Valerie, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!



I don't know how 2007 could be better than 2006, but we'll certainly try!

Holiday laughter



Just some fun stuff for the holidays, good for some giggles during the most wonderful time of the year, courtesy Grif.net:

--------------------------------------------------


A woman in line in front of me at the Post Office obviously needed some stamps for letters to friends. When the clerk simply asked, "What denomination?", I saw the lady stop for a moment, think, and then say, "Oh, how about 50 Catholic and 50 Baptist ones."

--------------------------------------------------


SMART ANSWER #4

It was mealtime during a flight on a major airline. "Would you like dinner?" the flight attendant asked John, seated in front.

"What are my choices?" John asked.

"Yes or no," she replied.

SMART ANSWER #3

The cop got out of his car and the kid who was stopped for speeding rolled down his window. "I've been waiting for you all day," the cop said.

The kid replied, "Yeah, well I got here as fast as I could."

When the cop finally stopped laughing, he sent the kid on his way without a ticket.

SMART ANSWER #2

A truck driver was driving along on the freeway. A sign comes up that reads, "Low Bridge Ahead." Before he knows it, the bridge is right ahead of him and he gets stuck under the bridge.

Cars are backed up for miles. Finally, a police car comes up. The cop gets out of his car and walks to the truck, puts his hands on his hips and says, "Got stuck, huh?"

The truck driver says, "No, I was delivering this bridge and ran out of gas."

SMART ANSWER #4

A lady was picking through the frozen turkeys at the grocery store but she couldn't find one big enough for her family. She asked a stock boy, "Do these turkeys get any bigger?"

The stock boy replied, "No ma'am, they're dead."

--------------------------------------------------


The radio announcer said, "We are going to have 8 to 10 inches of snow today. You must park your car on the even-numbered side of the street, so the snowplows can get through."

Norman's wife goes out and moves her car.

A week later while they are eating breakfast again, the announcer says, "We are expecting 10 to 12 inches of snow today. You must park your car on the odd-numbered side of the street, so the snowplows can get through."

Norman's wife goes out and moves her car again.

The next week they are again having breakfast, when the radio announcer says, "We are expecting 12 to 14 inches of snow today. You must park..."

Then the power went out.

Norman's wife is very upset, and with a worried look on her face she says, "Honey, I don't know what to do. Which side of the street do I need to park on so the snowplows can get through?"

With the love and understanding in his voice that all who are married must exhibit, Norman says...

"Why don't you just leave it in the garage this time?"

--------------------------------------------------


This policeman was being cross-examined by a defense attorney during a felony trial, attemping to undermine the policeman's credibility....

Q: "Officer -- did you see my client fleeing the scene?"

A: "No sir. But I subsequently observed a person matching the description of the offender, running several blocks away."

Q: "Officer -- who provided this description?"

A: "The officer who responded to the scene."

Q: "A fellow officer provided the description of this so-called offender. Do you trust your fellow officers?"

A: "Yes, sir. With my life."

Q: "With your life? Let me ask you this then officer. Do you have a room where you change your clothes in preparation for your daily duties?"

A: "Yes sir, we do!"

Q: "And do you have a locker in the room?"

A: "Yes sir, I do."

Q: "And do you have a lock on your locker?"

A: "Yes sir."

Q: "Now why is it, officer, if you trust your fellow officers with your life, you find it necessary to lock your locker in a room you share with these same officers?"

A: "You see, sir -- we share the building with the court complex, and sometimes lawyers have been known to walk through that room."

--------------------------------------------------


After a young couple brought their new baby home, the wife suggested that her husband should try his hand at rinsing and watching the cloth diapers.

"I'm busy," he said. "I'll do the next one."

The next time came around and she asked again.

The husband looked puzzled, "Oh! I didn't mean the next load of diapers. I meant the next baby!"

--------------------------------------------------


One day my housework-challenged husband decided to wash his Sweatshirt. Seconds after he stepped into the laundry room, he shouted to me, "What setting do I use on the washing machine?"

"It depends," I replied. "What does it say on your shirt?"

He yelled back, "University of Tennessee."

--------------------------------------------------


Favorite Police Lines

"Take your hands off the car, or I'll make your birth certificate a worthless document."

"If you run, you'll only go to jail tired."

"Can you run faster than 1,200 feet per second? In case you didn't know, that is the average speed of a 9 mm bullet fired from my gun."

"Warning? You want a warning? O.K., I'm warning you not to do that again or I'll give you another ticket."

"Fair? You want me to be fair? Listen, fair is a place where you go to ride on rides, eat cotton candy, and step in monkey poop."

"Yeah, we have a quota. Two more tickets and my wife gets a toaster oven."

"I'm glad to hear the Chief of Police is a good personal friend of yours. At least you know someone who can post your bail."

"You didn't think we give pretty women tickets? You're right, we don't. Sign here."

--------------------------------------------------


Home Security System

1. Go to a second-hand store and buy a pair of men's used size 14-16 work boots.

2. Place them on your front porch, along with a copy of Guns & Ammo and your NRA magazines.

3. Put a few giant-sized dog dishes next to the boots and magazine.

4. Leave a note on your door that reads:

"Hey Bubba, Big Jim, Duke and Slim - I went for more ammunition. Back in about an hour. Don't mess with the pit bulls -- they attacked the mailman this morning and messed him up real bad. I don't think Killer took part in it but it was hard to tell from all the blood.

Anyways, I locked all four of 'em in the house. Better wait in your truck till I get back."

--------------------------------------------------


TOP TEN LEAST POPULAR HOLIDAY TV SPECIALS
(credit to Dave Letterman)

10. Rudolph the Insurance Adjuster

9. Mary, Joseph, and the Donkey's Wet, Hacking Cough

8. It's an Above Average Life

7. A Charlie Brown Parole Hearing

6. Frosty 2: The Revenge

5. It's a Claymation Hanukkah!

4. The Whoville Seven

3. Live from Las Vegas: The Grinch IS Elvis!

2. The Innkeeper's Dental Appointment

1. The Night Santa Snapped

--------------------------------------------------


As my five year old son and I were headed to McDonald's one day, we passed a car accident. Usually when we see something terrible like that, we say a prayer for those who might be hurt, so I pointed and said to my son, "We should pray."

From the back seat I heard his earnest request: "Please, God, don't let those cars block the entrance to McDonald's."

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Wonders

Apparently the original Seven Wonders of the World aren't good enough for some folks who can't find the Lighthouse of Alexandria, and have decided to name the New 7 Wonders of the world.

"Voters" are given many options and allowed seven choices. Here are my picks:

Statue of Liberty - Not necessarily for any difficulty in construction, but in what it represents. And I've been there!

Petra - I'm a big fan of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Great Wall of China - Hey, if it's big enough to see from space, that's a wonder.

Colosseum - Those Romans were certainly entertained.

Taj Mahal - The most exotic of the new Wonders. (Just beat out the world's largest ball of twine.)

Christ Redeemer - I've been there!

Stonehenge - I've been there! (Yes, I just think it would be cool if I could say I've been to three of the seven new Wonders.)


I know you're thinking that this is an incomplete list, and I agree. Here are some modern Wonders that are not available to choose:

- Suri Cruise
- Pizza delivery
- Reality TV
- The Clapper
- Polyester

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Holiday Cheer - Top Five edition

My Top Five Christmas Songs:

  • "Christmas Canon" by Trans-Siberian Orchestra - Okay, it might be obscure to some of you, but it's very pretty and soothing.

  • "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)" - Make fun, but darn it if you don't laugh and sing along.

  • "Christmas Eve" by Celine Dion - This one's for my lovely bride, with whom I enjoy singing along, "It's Christmas Eve and they can see we're in love."

  • "Christmas in Dixie" by Alabama - A must for any Southerner.

  • "Do They Know It's Christmas" by Band Aid - Yes, I know, "they" could probably care less that it's Christmas, considering "they" probably worship snakes or something, but it's nice nonetheless.

    Honorable mention: "Wonderful Christmastime" by Paul McCartney; "Jingle Bell Rock" by Bobby Helms; "Blue Christmas" by Elvis Presley; "All I Want for Christmas is You" by Mariah Carey

    My Top Five Christmas Movies:

  • Scrooged - A modern Christmas Carol, Bill Murray is at his comedic best.

  • It's A Wonderful Life - You know it, you love it, you're thinking this is obvious, so let's move on.

  • Elf - "Santa! I know him!" A wonderful trip like two hours of eating candy, candy canes and candy corn, all covered in maple syrup.

  • National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation - The Griswolds may have gone from Wally's World to Europe, but they're just as funny, goofy and nuts at home.

  • The Christmas Toy - My sisters are probably the only ones who remember this one, a John Henson muppet-type show, about stuffed animals that come to life when no people are around.

    Honorable mention - Die Hard; The Muppet Christmas Carol; The Santa Clause; Love Actually; Miracle on 34th Street; The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Santa's in it, so it counts!); Home Alone

    Top Five Christmas Shows:

  • "A Charlie Brown Christmas" - The ultimate Christmas fare. Better than any Christmas movie or song. When you hear Vince Guaraldi's jazzy music, don't you want to dance in place? Aren't you still a little shocked nowadays when Linus recites the Christmas story, wondering when the network censors will bleep the entire scene out?

  • "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" - Hate the live-action movie. But watching this TV show can make your heart grow three sizes that day.

  • "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" - 'cause sometimes don't we all feel a bit like we belong on the Island of Misfit Toys?

  • "Frosty the Snowman" - So, did the song or the show come first? Same with Rudolph. Let me know.

  • "Mickey's Christmas Carol" - Really, this is only the fifth Christmas TV show I can remember that was genuinely holiday related, so it's by default.

    Honorable Mention: "South Park" ("Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classic"); "The Star Wars Holiday Special" (just kidding);
  • Tuesday, December 19, 2006

    Valfrey holiday update

    Team Valfrey will be heading to Tennessee the next few days. As soon as I get off work tonight, I'm picking up Val and heading to Chapel Hill, then moseying over to Memphis/Millington on Thursday, before returning Saturday. We'll spend our first Christmas together at home, and then head back to Memphis for a few more days.

    Our hero

    My cousin Amy's hubby, Phil, made a bit of news this week up in Knoxville. Talk about being at the right place, the right time, and being the right person for the job!

    Go to WBIR.com and click on "Update: Bank robbery suspect who hired limo for getaway also wanted in Ohio" for the lead story!

    Alert officer nabs man suspected in robberies


    By DON JACOBS
    Knoxville News Sentinel
    December 19, 2006

    It's a good thing off-duty Knoxville Police Department officer Phil Jinks perked up when he heard about a bank robbery in West Knoxville.

    A short time later, Jinks was standing next to that robbery suspect at a West Knox County convenience store. The robbery suspect had stopped his rented limousine to grab a snack for his planned trip to Atlanta.

    "It was just a matter of the right place at the right time," Jinks said Monday.

    Because of Jinks' uncanny interest in the heist, federal authorities arrested a man suspected in two bank robberies, including one in Youngstown, Ohio.

    Thomas A. Phelan, 50, of Austintown, Ohio, is accused of the Dec. 6 armed robbery of the Charter One Bank in Youngstown. Now he faces a second federal charge of armed robbery in connection with the 10:39 a.m. Monday heist of the Tennessee Members First Federal Credit Union, 9307 Kingston Pike.

    Jinks had been out with his two sons - ages 1 and 2 - earlier Monday to get their pictures taken. For a treat, he stopped at a McDonald's in Farragut before taking the boys to a baby sitter.

    While listening to WIVK radio, the eight-year police veteran heard about the armed robbery. No one was hurt in the heist and the robber escaped on foot.

    Jinks said because he was out west, he called the E-911 Center and got a description of the suspect. He took his sons to the baby sitter and then stopped about 12:30 p.m. at the Marathon convenience store on Campbell Station Road at Snyder Road.

    Jinks said he noticed two things as he approached the store: A sleek, black limousine in the parking lot and the Doberman pinscher in the back.

    Once in the store, however, something else caught his attention. Standing at the counter was a man who seemed to match the description of the West Knoxville bank robber.

    "He's standing next to me," Jinks said. "I'm armed. He's cool as a cucumber. He's got a lot of money in his hand, but my concern was he was going to rob the store."

    Jinks said he got back into his private vehicle and again called the E-911 Center to verify the description of the robbery suspect. With the description of the Harley Davidson regalia and the black boots bearing orange flames, Jinks knew he had the right guy.

    Jinks called for marked police cruisers and inconspicuously followed the limousine as it headed for westbound Interstate 40 and then southbound Interstate 75. At the Lenoir City exit, a group of officers from the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the Lenoir City Police Department and the Loudon County Sheriff's Office stopped the limo.

    Phelan was arrested without incident. The Doberman was carted away by animal control officers, Jinks said.

    And Jinks didn't get to KPD headquarters until 3 p.m., about an hour past his normal 2 p.m. shift.

    "I was a little late, or a little early," Jinks said.

    Monday, December 18, 2006

    The weather outside is frightening

    Yeah, frighteningly HOT. Ye gods.

    During the summer when the weather is super-duper warm, my rearview mirror seems to bounce up and down until the AC runs a bit and cools off the window. I'm guessing the adhesive gets moist when hot and that's why the mirror seems to move violently when I'm driving.

    Yesterday, on December 17, after a nice lunch with Amy and Michael at O'Charley's, my mirror was doing that shaking thing that almost never happens between October 1st and May 1st. It was so hot that we could barely last ten minutes outside talking afterwards, and had to hop in the car and turn on the cold air.

    I can only blame President Bush for this. If Al Gore had been elected in 2000, we would have snow and temperatures wouldn't rise above 45 in December. And the snow would only stick to yards and houses and no ice would form on the roads or sidewalks because Gore possesses magic beans that can determine global climates and weather patterns, if only Bush would relent and use these powers.

    UPDATE 7:45 p.m. - It's worse than we thought. Al Gore isn't our savior, either, because apparently he's a gangster from a galaxy far far away, calling for a "carbon freeze" on society.

    Sunday, December 17, 2006

    Sunday inserts

  • Congratulations! Time magazine named You - you, me, everybody - as its Person Of The Year for 2006. I just want a small favor. Can y'all let me keep the trophy at my place? I mean, I'll let y'all come over and see it; I just want to be able to look at it every morning. Cool?

  • Could someone tell CBS.com that their Innertube system of playing back shows is, in a word, awful? I have yet to be able to watch an entire show all the way through without the system tossing me off with "server alerts" or whatnot. And you can't just skip to a part of a show, meaning that for an hour-long drama like "CSI Miami," I have to go through each part fast-forwarded in order to get from one part to another, and there are five parts, each one of which could throw me off when the mandatory commercial airs in between.

    It's frustrating, and an embarrassment for CBS.com considering the ease with which I can watch shows on ABC.com. And yes, I'm fully aware that just the fact that I can watch a full show online when I miss it on television is amazing and cool and all that, but I still expect quality, mkay?

  • NASA's astronauts currently up in space are having a bit of a problem retracting a solar array attached to the International Space Station. If you think it shouldn't be that difficult, imagine trying to re-fold a 115-foot map that's been stretched out completely for several years. Good luck with that.

  • Today's cool link: PlateWire, "a public repository and electronic forum of drivers by drivers. Using a drivers license plate, commuters can communicate their thoughts and feelings in regards to driving on today's roadways. Report and flag bad drivers, award good drivers, and even flirt with cute drivers. PlateWire was born out of frustration from years of driving along side drivers who seem to have no concern with anyone's safety, including their own."

    All I know is that if I'm in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, behind a truck with the license plate 016-LZZ, I'm telling him to keep his hands off the ceiling. Fair warning, though: Proper spelling and grammar is not a prerequisite for posting on the site.
  • Saturday, December 16, 2006

    That's what I'm talking about!

    The latest quotable Vents posted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

    - My retired neighbor was pulling ragweed from his garden when the punk neighbor kid asked what he was doing. The old man said someone had thrown pot seed all over his garden, and he was trying to pull them before the police saw them. When he awoke the next morning, his garden was weed-free.

    - They say the second million is easier to make than the first. So I think I will work on my second million first.

    - I thought my husband was the most handsome man at his office holiday party and told him so. He said I might be the prettiest woman there. I think I know what Santa is going to put in his stocking this year.

    - The downside of my age is that I’ve outlived most of my friends. The upside of my age is that I’ve outlived all of my enemies.

    - The CitiCard ads must have made loads of sales — of batteries for remote controls! I don’t know anybody who doesn’t hit mute or change the channel every time they come on! (Jeff note: Amen to that. Egad, who came up with that drek?)

    - I really hate it when someone says, “Needless to say,” and then goes ahead and says it anyway.

    - Whoever it was who said that women talk three times more than men has never watched a Senate confirmation hearing.

    - Why is it that the liberal media never mention that Barack Obama's middle name is Hussein?

    - My friend would be a great parole officer. He never lets anyone finish a sentence.

    - I'm turning 65 next month and there are some perks. People aren't nearly as likely to view you as a hypochondriac.

    - I’m tall and must fly in coach. If you recline your seat into my leg space, I promise I will make your flight as miserable as you make mine.

    - If Barack Obama were white, the news media would say he’s too inexperienced and not qualified to run for president.

    - Santa can’t make it this year. He’s on the government’s no-fly list.

    - Trying to help the oppressed and downtrodden in Iraq was the right thing to do. The doing may have been mucked up, but the quest was honorable.

    - Don’t we have better things to worry about than elaborate celebrity weddings and pop stars without panties? (Jeff note: No. Not really. But then again I'm an avid watcher of E!'s "The Soup," so maybe I'm not mature enough for this question.)

    - The TV news said, “Major bust at a house of prostitution!” Isn’t that supposed to be one of their selling points?

    - Is it a coincidence that every time the local massage parlors hike their rates, the state Legislature asks for a raise?


    My Vents: (Well, at least I submitted them.)

    - Oil-for-food, child prostitution rings, genocide in Darfur, evil regimes heading key commissions ... but yeah, John Bolton was what really plagued the U.N.

    - A penny saved is a government oversight. (Courtesy Grif.net.)

    - The easiest way to find something lost around the house is to buy a replacement. (Courtesy Grif.net.)

    - Atlanta gets its name from the Cherokee word meaning "No really, they drive like this all the time."

    - Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night. (Courtesy Grif.net.)

    - There is a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness." (Courtesy Grif.net.)

    - People who want to share their religious views with you almost never want you to share yours with them. (Courtesy Grif.net.)

    - If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved and never will achieve its full potential, that word would be "meetings." (Courtesy Grif.net.)

    - The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we ALL believe that we are above average drivers. (Courtesy Grif.net.)

    - Never be afraid to try something new. Remember that a lone amateur built the Ark, and a large group of professionals built the Titanic. (Courtesy Grif.net.)

    - It's always darkest before dawn. So if you're going to steal your neighbor's newspaper, that's the time to do it. (Courtesy Grif.net.)

    Thursday, December 14, 2006

    My wonderful wife and her goober husband

    It's official: Val is a sci-fi geek enabler.

    Tonight we went to a special screening of Friday night's mid-season finale of "Battlestar Galactica," whereupon we sat in the packed theater and she marveled, "I'm surrounded by goobers." Yep, and she married one!

    It's her fault for being there, of course. She not only noticed on the TV Guide channel last week the advertisement for the screening, she actually told me about it and encouraged me to look into it! Turns out there were only a few cities where this was available, and I jumped at the chance like a Democrat to an urban church the weekend before election day.

    I got my pass via email on Tuesday for tonight's screening, and we managed to drive to midtown Atlanta in less than a half-hour at rush hour (a miracle, truly) to arrive at 6:45 for the 7:30 show. Let's just say that the only other time I've seen a line that extensive so early was for Episode 1, only with fewer people in costume. Unless everyone was dressed like a normal Caprica citizen.

    If you got that, you are my fellow sci-fi geek, and I adore you for it.

    There were so many people that we were among the final dozen people to find a seat, having to sit in the second row on the far left side of the theater. An entire theater's worth of fans had to wait an hour until we finished to get into the same room and see the screening. We were looking up so close to the screen you could see every open pore on Edward James Olmos' huge face, which looks a bit like a topographical map of New Zealand.

    Val was a teeny bit out of her element, but the fact that she was still so enthusiastic about going out on a school night a long way from home to wait in line for 45 minutes for a 45 minute showing of a TV show she knows 10 percent about, well, that's why she's my lovely wife. If she wants to drive an extra hour some day to go to an outlet mall, I'm all hers. (And yes, honey, we'll stop at Coldstone Creamery, too.)

    Valfrey on DVD

    The big highlight of this week was the arrival yesterday of the Valfrey wedding DVDs. Val's former Union co-worker, Paul, and his production partner were our videographers, and did a great job of filming and editing our wedding into two discs, one containing the ceremony, and the other special features like the reception and interviews with our loved ones.

    Watching and oohing and aahing over and over again, Val and I could only come to these conclusions: We're in awe of our parents and lucky to have such great in-laws; our current and new extended families are big, happy and supportive; and we're thankful to have amazing friends.

    Thank you to everyone who was a part of the wedding, to everyone who attended, to everyone who couldn't attend and sent congratulations.

    God bless us, everyone!

    (And yes, we'll be bringing the DVD with us everywhere this holiday season!)

    Wednesday, December 13, 2006

    THE Christmas Story (Jeff reviews "The Nativity Story")

    Surprisingly, the tagline for The Nativity Story is not "Inspired by true events."

    Instead, the tagline is "Her child would change the world."

    BOR-ing!

    Posters for a movie based on Suri Cruise could say the same thing! How about something a little more enticing, such as, "Eternity's a long time. Better get in good with the baby born in this film." Or, "Watch because there could be a quiz when you get to the pearly gates."

    Maybe such banality is why the film finished fourth in its first week of release, as opposed to The Passion of the Christ, which made approximately $1 billion the first three days Mel Gibson's controversial movie came out.

    Perhaps the movie is too sweet, too syrupy, too greeting card, too good for Christian audiences that flocked to see Jesus flogged.

    If only director Catherine Hardwicke had spiced things up. You know, baby Jesus flies up and smites King Herrod with laser beam eyes, or it turns out Mary was eating ham when the angel Gabriel came to her in a vision.

    Or, considering Hardwicke's previous directorial work consists of Lords of Dogtown and Thirteen, Mary is a precocious 'Tween and Joseph is a skater punk on the wrong side of the tracks, and well, let's just say that their parents are non too pleased when she's pregnant and "I don't care if He's THE Savior, you are NOT raising Him with that boy!"

    No, I didn't go to church Sunday, why do you ask?

    Seriously, though, why aren’t Christians organizing church outings to see The Nativity Story like they did for Passion? Is it the controversy? Were Christians more apt to support the latter because it was attacked by liberals, the mainstream media (but I repeat myself) and anti-Christians?

    Historical-based movies usually have me coming home and Googling the true story behind the film. When I saw The Nativity Story I thought, "I should look that up," and then I thought, "Uh, oh yeah, I can just read the Bible."

    I told you, I didn’t get to church this Sunday. I had to work, okay?

    No, I didn’t go last week, either, when I was working the evening shift. Let’s move on.

    As I was saying, the film follows the Biblical Christmas story we’re familiar with true and straight, focusing on the year before Jesus’ birth, following Mary (Keisha Castle-Hughes) and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

    The dialogue is without irony, explanation or rationale for an angel visiting Mary, Joseph and the shepherds, or Zechariah losing his voice as Elizabeth (Shohreh Aghdashloo, who is always like royalty) became pregnant. These things don’t need to be explained, only believed.

    This was both refreshing and disquieting at the same time. Refreshing in that when the first teasers for Nativity Story came out, I was panicked that Hollywood would try to “modernize” the story by implying that Mary wasn’t a virgin, or that her child just happened to be born at the right time and the right place and hey, can we throw in a random fight scene?

    This was in turn disquieting in that it’s so strange to see the Christian story portrayed so vividly, honestly and without tricks. That was a bit of a negative, too, because the production is decent, but really Nativity Story looks one step up from a movie made for TBN and a step below a major Hollywood production.

    Okay, so the use of the Three Wise Men as comedic relief is odd, but at least it adds some humor to a movie that's filmed much of the time in a gray sheen.

    For those who pay attention to this element of moviemaking, the music is a plus. The choice of using a rendition of familiar Christmas carols, especially "Carol of the Bells" while Joseph frantically searches for somewhere to have the baby in Bethlehem, is ingenious. As the movie begins, "O Come Emanuel" is understated and lovely, and as the film closes, "Silent Night" is a tender inspiration.

    Now, if only Christians would support a movie that is both touching and genuine, they would discover that once in a great while, even a secular embarrassment like Hollywood can be redeemed, which is pretty much what Christmas is about, am I right?

    Tuesday, December 12, 2006

    Tuesday tidbits

  • I miss Dennis Miller's show. Okay, I rarely watched it, but at least he was overtly right-wing post-9/11 and seems to be sticking with the conservative viewpoint even off of CNBC. Last week on Jay Leno, Miller pulled out a copy of the April 28, 1975 Newsweek that featured the story, "The Cooling World," showing "the temperature of the planet is dropping off." Miller laughs, "It says the solution to the global cooling problem is to deliberately melt the polar ice caps." But hey, Algore says we're all gonna die from the ice caps melting due to global warming, so who are you going to believe?

  • A few days ago I marveled at how a Democrat under investigation for bribery has been re-elected, but that's just one person. As OpinionJournal.com noted last week ... "the House passed a resolution 'condemning the decision of St. Denis, France, to name a street in honor of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the convicted murder [sic] of Philadelphia Police Office Danny Faulkner.' The vote was 368-31, with 8 members voting 'present.'" All opposed are Democrats. Why a police officer in this country would ever pull the lever for a Democrat is beyond me.

  • An Atlanta radio station auctioned its airwaves for charity earlier this month, with listeners paying $75 for a song on the stations' rock-based playlist to $150-plus for something that isn't. The more off the wall, the more expensive. As the Atlanta paper notes, the cover of "Jailhouse Rock" by Motley Crue set one caller back $150, one listener paid $225 for the station to play U2's "Wire" three times in a row.

    What would I request? I think it's worth paying $150 to hear William Shatner's performance of "Rocket Man" on the radio and share that glory with an entire city. Or just $75 to hear "Safety Dance" on the radio again. Maybe $150 for the Lord of the Rings score, but to get my money's worth, I'd request the ten-minute finale to ROTK.
  • Sunday, December 10, 2006

    Sunday inserts

    - The difference between Democrats and Republicans, No. 4,343: When Mark Foley gets all creepy with pages, the GOP abandons him to the wolves. When William Jefferson is caught with $90,000 in bribe money in the freezer, his Democrat constituents re-elect him.

    - Overreact much? When a Rabbi asked the Seattle airport to add a menorahs next to a "holiday" tree, the airport instead tood down all nine trees.

    - This guy isn't doing the rest of us guys any favors:
    Living in balmy south Georgia, Gene Long knew his wife Crystal pined for the winter snows of her native Pennsylvania.

    So he decided to do something about it.

    Armed with a homemade snowmaking machine, the 41-year-old paramedic and firefighter stayed up overnight during a rare subfreezing snap and crisscrossed their property.

    Saturday morning, he presented her with an inch-deep blanket of snow on their lawn.

    - If I told you that people were getting E. coli from Taco Bell, those of you who have felt the after effects would probably have some good ideas of the cause, but you'd be wrong. Turns out their green onions are bad. Didn't see that coming.

    - The blood pressure of Arizona nurses is rising for different reasons than men who eat at the Heart Attack Grill in Tempe. They're not terribly happy that the waitresses wear naughty nurse uniforms when delivering food such as the Quadruple Bypass Burger and Flatliner Fries. When I typed in "nurse costume" in Google I received 150,000 links, so let's not pretend that the "sexy nurse" fantasy is a new phenomenon. I look forward to a Heavenly Cafe where naughty angels serve Pearly Gates Burgers and Halo Rings.

    Saturday, December 09, 2006

    Good or bad fortune?

    Today's fortune cookie is certainly one I've never received before:

    "Let another car cut in front of you today."

    Um, okay, and why is this? To be nice? Because if I don't, that car will chase me down Mad Max style?

    It is the holidays, so I guess I'll let cars, plural, cut in front of me and not worry. But so help me God, if they don't do what I do when I cut people off and at least wave at me to acknowledge that they know that I know, then all bets are off. It's so on.

    Friday, December 08, 2006

    Easy, Breezy

    Hey folks, Jeff here, with my lovely bride sitting in the next room flipping around looking for Christmas movies, soaps and/or anything with "cute doggies."

    Nothing doing today, what with temperatures below freezing. It was so cold that the water left in my car's cup holder was frozen when we went shopping after noon. Thus, we'll be curling up under a blanket and staying home. We only had to go to Chick-fil-A for lunch (yes, had), Target and Best Buy, and that's done.

    We justify today's laziness by noting we were out and about all day yesterday. Saw The Nativity Story, which surprisingly does not have the tagline "Inspired by true events." I'll have more on it this weekend. We also did some shopping at the mall and Bed, Bath, To Infinity And Beyond, and then headed over to the hospitality of the Christophers for dinner and socializing. Michael got his sweet revenge after I lucked out and won Scene It last time by annihilating the other three of us, we enjoyed Chinese, and watched the first half of Dead Man's Chest before pooping out. We'll be back there this Sunday when they hold their all-day Christmas get-together.

    Wednesday, December 06, 2006

    In Theo we trust? Not so much.

    My initial reaction to Theo announcing today that they were signing J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo, both potentially disasters-in-waiting in Boston, was probably akin to that of Ben-Hur when Messala says he's going to put not only him away for life, but also his Judah's sister and mother. You know, "Wait, I thought we were good friends? I thought we had a trust, an understanding? Why would you do this to me?"

    Needless to say, I'm skeptical. But it should be another dramatically fun season for the Sox, and next year I'll actually be paying attention!

    Two bits of good Red Sox news: Young pitching star Jon Lester is cancer free, just over three months after he announced that he'd been diagnosed with a rare form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a blood cancer. Second, looks like all the Manny-is-gone talk was just another year of nothing.

    Tuesday, December 05, 2006

    Letting others speak for me

    The latest quotable Vents posted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

    - Global warming does cause more severe hurricanes, but only in odd-numbered years.

    - Pamela and Kid Rock splitting up? Gee whiz, my whole Christmas is ruined.

    - I am addicted to placebos. I would quit, but it wouldn’t really matter.

    - When my two young grandsons saw my dentures soaking in a glass, one said to the other, “The tooth fairy will never believe this!”

    - As a Democrat, I consider all viewpoints to be welcome as long as they agree with mine.

    - Amnesia is a condition that allows a woman who has been through childbirth to have sex again.

    - Citations for off-leash dogs at a doggie park? What’s next? Indecent exposure charges at a nudist camp?

    - After soul-searching, prayer and discussions with my family, I have decided to not be a candidate for president in 2008.

    - Social Security is our national pyramid scheme. It’s great for the people who got in early, but the rest of us are going to get cheated.

    - You know it’s Christmas when TV is full of jewelry store commercials that make all men look like cheapskates and all women look like greedy goldiggers.

    Monday, December 04, 2006

    Driving in a winter wonderland

    Pictures from last week's excursion to Lake Lanier for their light display with Amy and Michael are now up! Enjoy!

    Saturday, December 02, 2006

    Heh, they said "butt"

    In today's Uplifting Holiday Story, the state of Maine is banning a beer with a label depicting an angry Santa Claus enjoying a pint of brew.

    The beer's name?

    Santa's Butt, "a splendid, satisfying Winter Porter."

    I don't know what that means, and I don't drink, but doggone if I want a bottle!

    I also look forward to future beers by this company, including:

    - Pooh's Rumbly Tummy Lager
    - The Tooth Fairy's Preeclampsia Taquila
    - Sherlock Holmes' Prostate Whiskey
    - Boogeyman's Diaper Rash Sambuca
    - The Easter Bunny's Wee Wee Chardonnay

    Save Manny!

    Apparently while I've been away in La La Newlywed Land, talk in the MLB Hot Stove League has the Red Sox seeking to trade Manny Ramirez again, and this time they're serious. My thoughts echo this blogger's:
    There's one question that every Red Sox fan should be pondering right now: How in the hell does trading Manny make the Red Sox better?

    Will they get an equal talent in return? Highly unlikely, unless Albert Pujols should suddenly get caught looting Tony La Russa's office or Texas foolishly parts with Mark Teixeira after a down year.

    Does trading him allow them the financial flexibility to fill other holes? Sure. But if you give me the choice of Manny Ramirez and two replacement-level players or no Manny, but with the immensely unlikeable Julio Lugo and J.D. Drew, I'll take the former option and kick the latter's butt all season long. And frankly, I'm so sure I trust them to spend Manny's millions wisely. In Theo we trust? Yeah, not so much these days.
    This Sox fan thinks Manny's dramatics are overblown, and I don't think he's a distraction to the team as much as the Boston media and ESPN hype. I'd miss him terribly, and Big Papi would miss his bat in the order behind him even more.

    In news that's almost as bad, the Sox declined to offer arbitration to Trot Nixon, who could still return to the club, but likely would sign elsewhere since another team would offer a multi-year contract. You know, because it's kind of nice to have a hard-working player with a decent bat and a great attitude. Why, it's almost as if the Red Sox could use a player like that ...

    Photo Saturday

    While I work on captions for the pictures from the lights at Lake Lanier Thursday night, some pictures from the last few days around town. The first one is Val and her new Georgia driver's license, which we also did Thursday. Then, on Friday, we got her tags for her car, so my young bride is now a legally official Georgia resident!











    Random observation:

    Coming into work this afternoon I realized I had to navigate SEC Championship visitors. Apparently there are no laws in the states of Arkansas and Florida about pedestrians, because folks from there like to walk willy-nilly across streets whether or not there are walkways, traffic lights or cars approaching with the right-of-way. I hate to judge other foreign cultures, but it'd be nice if they would follow local customs sometimes, too, ya know?

    Friday, December 01, 2006

    Lake Lanier

    Team Valfrey had a great night last night with Amy and Michael, taking in the massive annual Christmas light display at Lake Lanier on the northeast side of metro Atlanta.

    The Magical Nights of Lights features a driving tour through more than six miles with themes such as a the 12 Days of Christmas, Peter Pan, Wizard of Oz, teddy bears and lots of cute animals, and naturally there's a "Holiday Village" to buy things and ride a few carnival rides run by shady characters sipping beer out of styrofoam cups.








    Wednesday, November 29, 2006

    O Tannenbaum

    This weekend saw Val and I putting up our first Christmas tree, a real life Fraser fir that smells great. It's about 6 1/2 feet, tall enough that our angel sits just below the 8 foot ceiling. Below are lots of pictures of us decorating! See if you can figure out which ornaments are Val's and which are mine. Hint: Not difficult. Not seen: Me covered in sap while putting the tree in the stand, or the fact that the colored lights are all twinkly (and with NINE settings!).

    Click on the thumbnails for the larger photos:

    Kibbles

    - The military dubs its three options for Iraq "Go Long," "Go Big" and "Go Home." Other names turned down: "I'm Rubber, Al Qaeda's Glue," and "Suck THIS, Terrorists!"

    - In Al Gore "We're all going to die!" news: Apocalypse called off - Greenland is colder, Antarctica sees LOWERING sea levels and the Arctic is "fighting back".

    - For those others who listen to Ronald D. Moore's "Battlestar Galactica" podcasts, give me some support: His wife is annoying. She's like the "peppy best friend" in 80s teen movies whom you hope fall into a pool of gators.

    - Stealing from Tim Ellsworth, my favorite choices from TV Land's 100 Greatest TV Quotes & Catch Phrases:
          "Come on down!" (Johnny Olson, "The Price is Right")
          "Good grief" (Charlie Brown, "Peanuts" specials)
          "How you doin'?" (Joey Tribbiani, "Friends")
          "If it weren't for you meddling kids!" (Various villains, "Scooby Doo, Where Are You?")
          "Live long and prosper" (Spock, "Star Trek")
          "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia! (Jan Brady, "The Brady Bunch")
          "Nip it!" (Barney Fife, "The Andy Griffith Show")
          "Norm!" ("Cheers")
          "Oh, my God! They killed Kenny!" (Stan and Kyle, "South Park")
          "Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?" (Grey Poupon ad)
          "Well, isn't that special?" (Dana Carvey as the Church Lady, "Saturday Night Live")
          "Yeah, that's the ticket" (Jon Lovitz as the pathological liar, "Saturday Night Live")
          "Whatchoo talkin' 'bout, Willis?" (Arnold Drummond, "Diff'rent Strokes")

    I'd also like to give a big "up yours" to the people who compiled the list, since there are several quotes in favor of liberal agendas. Seriously, "Read my lips: No new taxes" makes it, but "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" doesn't? Up yours, TV Land.

    - Golf ball DESTRUCTION! Watch this wicked awesome video at Nike.com of testers firing their new golf ball into various objects like Jell-O, a lava lamp, a ceramic bunny, etc. How fun was this to "test?"

    - Ultra-liberal Democrat Rep. Charlie Rangel, who thinks the draft should be re-instated just because he believes politicians won't fight wars if their kids are in the military, thinks people who do volunteer are idiots who don't know any better. Oh, and his reasoning is crap.

    Tuesday, November 28, 2006

    Thanksgiving

    Pictures from last weekend's Thanksgiving festivities with my new young wife are now up!

    Can you believe that today Val and I celebrated our one-month anniversary? Wow. Has it been that long? And doesn't it seem like yesterday?

    Saturday, November 25, 2006

    Consider the steam blown

    The latest quotable Vents posted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (registration required - use this):

    - I have always thought that people who wait in long drive-through lines must be driving nekkid.

    - Before you put government in charge of your health care, you must first list three things the government does better than the private sector.

    - Marriage is a relationship in which one person is always right and the other person is the husband.

    - Life should not be a safe journey to the grave in an attractive, well-preserved body. One should skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, screaming, "woo hoo what a ride!"

    - The Chinese names are beautiful, but the Atlanta-born panda should be named Scarlett O’Bear-a.

    - I saw a story on plastic surgery for pets. We are truly living in the end times.

    - Anna Nicole Smith doesn’t just have issues….. she has a subscription.

    - I am afraid I shouldn’t be drinking alcohol with my prescriptions. But I refuse to read the labels to find out.

    - People who think that giving the world a timetable for our withdrawal from Iraq is the way to go probably also put a sign in their home or business window declaring they have no guns on the premises.

    - The shameful firing of Donald Rumsfeld brings to mind the old adage that Washington, D.C., is a town where your friends stab you in the front.

    - Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid released a statement regarding the new Martin “Luthor” King Jr. National Memorial. I always thought Luthor was Superman’s archenemy.

    - Why is it that drivers who are dangerously determined to get in front of you immediately slow to a crawl as soon as they get there?

    - When Republicans lose, it’s because voters want a change. When Democrats lose, it’s because the voting machines malfunctioned.

    - I’m thankful the Pilgrims didn’t celebrate with prime rib.

    My Vent:

    - Every Bush-hating venter acts as if they are the first to cleverly slip by the nets of the Rovian Anti-Dissent Defense Forces.

    Wednesday, November 22, 2006

    Thankful

    Obviously I have MUCH to be thankful for this Thanksgiving holiday, especially since eight months ago I couldn't have told you that I'd be spending the day with my wife and her family!

    Val and I will be driving to Millington at 8 tonight, right after I get off work, and spend Thanksgiving with her father's side and Friday with my mother-in-law's side before returning Saturday.

    Hope everyone has a blessed, food-filling holiday!

    Tuesday, November 21, 2006

    Kofi's arrogance

    U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, whose term ends at the head of the global body ends Jan. 1, said Tuesday that the war in Iraq, and the failure of the U.N. Security Council to prevent the invasion by U.S.-led forces, was the biggest regret he had from his 10-year tenure.

    Really Kofi? You couldn't think of something other than the removal of a tyrant from power? Let's see what Kofi has decided is less bad than the U.S. ousting Saddam and letting 25 million Iraqis decide their own path:

    - Iran and North Korea becoming nuclear powers.

    - The U.N. oil-for-food scandal, in which Kofi's own son was caught.

    - The genocide by the Sudanese government against the people in the Darfur region of the country.

    - Widespread sex abuse and trafficking, including rape of women and children, by U.N. "peacekeepers."

    - When PLO thug Yasser Arafat died, Annan called it “a grave day for the world,” and instructed headquarters in New York to especially fly the UN flag at half-mast. (This is despite the fact that Arafat did not represent any UN member state, and the UN doesn’t usually mark the death of leaders of even its member states in this way. The UN didn’t fly its flag at half-mast when, for example, Ronald Reagan died a few months before Arafat.)

    - In 2003 and 2004, the Israel Defense Forces captured documentation showing how the U.N. Development Program was regularly funding two Hamas front organizations.

    - The United Nations Human Rights Council includes China, Cuba, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.

    - Bungled relief aid for tsunami victims.

    - A Google search for "U.N. scandal" had 182,000 results.

    - "Kofi Annan" "corruption" came up with 1,010,000 results.

    Monday, November 20, 2006

    Bondapalooza!

    It's another edition of Jeff's Top Fives, and we'll keep with the Bond theme of the weekend and make this a bonanza of Bond!

    My Top Five Bond Films:

    1. Goldfinger - I know. Too easy. I have absolutely no originality whatsoever. But this was obvious, so we'll debate the next four ...

    2. GoldenEye - Pierce Brosnan's only good Bond flick is also his first. I should also point out that while everyone else was focused on the Va-Va-Voomosity of Famke Janssen, I found the other girl to be cuter.

    3. The Man With the Golden Gun - Okay, this has turned into a "gold" theme instead. I promise this wasn't on purpose! My favorite Roger Moore Bond flick, every time this one's on, I can't turn away. Christopher Lee is smoother than Bond as Scaramanga, and the little guy from "Fantasy Island" is one of his henchmen!

    4. The Living Daylights - Yep, I'm a Timothy Dalton Bond fan, and I'm not ashamed! I challenge anyone to tell me why this isn't a rollicking action-packed and entertainingly worthy addition.

    5. Thunderball - Can't get out of here without another Connery movie, and this is his most fun.


    Top Five Bond Girls:

    1. Ursula Andress - When Honey Ryder emerges from the ocean in that white bikini in Dr. No, well, that pretty much set the standard for all Bond girls to follow.

    2. Jane Seymour - Live and Let Die is in my bottom three Bond films, but Seymour's turn as Solitaire is delicious.

    3. Lynn Holly-Johnson - Ice skater Bibi isn't the main Bond girl in For Your Eyes Only, but doggone is she a sexy, sassy little minx!

    4. Maryam D'Abo - Her Kara Milovy doesn't have a double entendre name, but she's as important in The Living Daylights as Timothy Dalton in his first Bond movie, and yeah, pretty hot, too.

    5. Denise Richards - Just kidding.

    5. Izabella Scorupco - I don't know what it is about her Natalya Simonova in GoldenEye, but she sure is adorable.


    Top Five James Bonds:

    1. Sean Connery - Yes, again, too easy.

    2. Daniel Craig - Maybe too soon? But I did have a non-sexual male crush on him after seeing Casino Royale this weekend. Let's move on.

    3. Timothy Dalton - Contrary to popular belief, he was witty, had some good one-liners, plus he could pull off all the athletic demands and looked the part.

    4. Roger Moore - He was always charming if not particularly athletic (seriously, it was like trying to imagine the relative you always see asleep on the couch competing in the X Games). Also, it wasn't his fault that a few of his Bond movies are just awful.

    5. Pierce Brosnan - Like Moore, it's not his fault the movies became so forgettable. I was excited when he was hired in the early 90s, and it's because he's got a great style, full of panache that made "Remington Steele" so enjoyable on the telly.


    Top Five Villains:

    1. Jaws - Not even a mastermind yet my number one, Richard Kiel doesn't get to say much of anything in The Spy Who Loved Me or Moonraker, but that doesn't stop his steel teeth from making him the most intimidating and yet likeable henchman of the series.

    2. Scaramanga - Christopher Lee made a career out of being evil, so it's no surprise that he steals The Man With The Golden Gun from Moore.

    3. Auric Goldfinger - I have never heard of nor seen actor Gert Fröbe anywhere else, but I have no doubt that he's had a great life off this classic role.

    4. Ernst Stavro Blofeld - The SPECTRE head might be higher if he was played by the same actor in all seven of the Bond films the character has been in. Donald Pleasence was my favorite in You Only Live Twice, while the others are serviceable as the cat-cradling crackpot genius.

    5. Max Zorin - I still haven't decided if I like or hate A View to a Kill, but I do know this, any time Christopher Walken is your villain your starting from a good place.


    ------------------------------------------------------
    Previously we looked at my top five Minutes Of The Weekday, Secular Concerts, Best and Worst Jobs, my cars, LPGA babes, movie scores, TV theme songs, Brat Pack flicks, Favorite Movies of 2005, ”Important” 2005 Films I’m Avoiding, Things I Think About The Upcoming 2006 Red Sox Season, Reasons for Losing Weight and Lovey-Dovey Films.

    Saturday, November 18, 2006

    The new Bond flick

    If Casino Royale proves anything, it's that I'm apparently very, very hard to please.

    After a decade of groaning through the last three Pierce Brosnan Bond films (strangely, I'm one of the few who enjoyed GoldenEye), I grew weary of where the Bond franchise was headed. I was a fan of Timothy Dalton's Bond flicks, so there's no telling what delights me most in the franchise. My big bro, Scott, is the big Bond fan, and he’s read those book thingies by Ian Fleming of the Fleming Fine Furniture stores.

    (Okay, I made that last part up.)

    So going in to Daniel Craig's first go-round at 007 I hoped that this Bond prequel would focus more on the man and how he became the MI6 bada** we adored, and less on big bangs and insanely impossible action. Craig is actually investigating and spying, he stumbles frequently, he has to learn on the job, he doesn't always get out of situations with his velvet voice and charm, he can't figure out what kind of martini to order, his ego gets in the way and his cold heart gets too warm.

    I’ve enjoyed these get-back-to-basic approach in Batman Begins, so I can’t complain when there’s not enough boom, can I?

    Yet, because of the last half-hour or so, I left a teeny tiny bit unsatisfied. The movie felt anticlimactic when the final action sequence was taking place. During his entire lovey-dovey romance, you knew something had to happen, and then it doesn't for a long time, and by that time you're thinking, "Is this movie over yet?" During the entire last act I’m aware of my bulging bladder and the fact that my 6’4” frame is crammed in a full theater without room to stretch, no matter how good the movie is in front of me.

    It’s like rooting for your favorite baseball team ... you hear that management wants to put the team in a new direction, focusing on small ball and defense, and you get excited, and then the team is in third place and 40-42 in July and only one player has at least ten home runs and 50 RBIs, and you start secretly hoping that at the trade deadline the teams trades for Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield, even though you know it will kill team chemistry and give you a headache.

    Okay, a few more complaints, then I’m done with the negative, which were outweighed by the positive: Where's the car chase? There's only one time he gets to hit the gas, and that lasts all of ten seconds before it's over. No Q? Precisely because Bond is new to the double-O world, he needs to know all the cool stuff he’s got. Eva Green is sassy enough to be a Bond girl, but the first woman (Caterina Murino) we see Craig woo in the movie is much sexier.

    At least I should be thankful that we got a Bond girl chosen for acting talent as well as beauty, considering the train wrecks that were Halle Berry and Denise Richards. (Seriously, Richards played a nuclear scientist. Isn’t this like me portraying myself as the World’s Strongest Man?)

    Back to the good stuff. The opening action sequence was impressive not for impossible stunts but by watching these guys actually jumping and running and finding holes and tricks like nothing you've seen before, so much that a few times I was mouthing, "whoa."

    I’m sure it’s part of the “back to reality” approach as a prequel, but in this Bond film you felt nearly every death and were as aware as Bond that people are killed in nasty ways and dying ain’t pretty. He doesn’t just punch a guy and that guy falls out unconscious. It takes Bond a long time to fight hand-to-hand against a few of the thugs, and he has to catch his breath and figure out what to do from there, both as a job and emotionally.

    It’s easy to nitpick, so forgive me if I sound too negative overall in this review. I guess when it comes to a franchise that’s been around as long as James Bond 007, there are a lot of comparisons to make and a lot of personal preferences for favorite scenes, characters and how the hero should act.

    In fact, my favorite crowd reaction was when we figured out who CIA agent Felix Leiter was, and my audience had a lot of “Ohhhh,” which is how I felt, you want to lean over and tell your seatmate, “Cool! It’s Felix!” Of course, my wife isn’t a Bond aficionado and couldn’t care less, but I had that reaction nonetheless.

    Maybe that’s one way of looking at it, too. I’m a Bond fan, Val hasn’t seen most of them, and we both had about the same reaction: Good times, better that it was more character-driven, a little ineffectual in the end, but certainly worth the money.

    In other news from the theater …

    You know the reaction you give when one of your friends says they’re making a life-changing choice, and you know it’s doomed to fail and you can’t hide your sarcasm when telling them so? Not a good sign for the new Rocky Balboa movie: When the trailer began, the entire audience started laughing, and laughed even more after the trailer ended. Apparently the suspension of disbelief that Rocky could compete at a major level of heavyweight boxing has ended.

    Friday, November 17, 2006

    Time for the holidays!

    Thanksgiving's next week, we're putting up our first Christmas tree next weekend, and we're already playing Christmas music, so that must mean it's time for that coolest of YouTube Christmas lights set to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's "Wizards in Winter!"

    Wednesday, November 15, 2006

    No gamble to have fun here

    Our Jamaica honeymoon may have officially ended a couple of weeks ago, but Val and I know that the "honeymoon" never has to end! So last week when we went back to Memphis to pick up a bunch of our things we decided to stay in Tunica for a night.

    Our destination: Gold Strike Casino.


    We did a little gambling, losing a little money, but we enjoyed our time playing roulette, slots and blackjack, the latter of which was actually our first time playing at a casino. Thankfully we picked a table where there was just one older lady, and she and the dealer were helpful in teaching us the "rules" of the table.


    The real reason we were there? To enjoy a big comfy room and room service!


    I should also mention that we were staying in a jacuzzi suite! Ooh, yeah!


    This is just the sitting room we never even used, complete with its own TV and couches and amenities.