Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Some TV thoughts

First of all, the Amazing Race wasn't too bad in terms of exploiting children. At least so far. I did feel awful for the Black family kids who were just so depressed when they were eliminated first. But their parents seem to have it together and made it a good experience for them. That was good to see. And I loved the other family with small kids - the Gaghans. I am rooting for them. Based on the way they acted in this episode, I think if mom and dad had to choose between the million dollars and not messing with their kids' heads, they'd make the right choice/ Here's a picture of the youngest Racer - Carissa.

I also watched Commander in Chief, which is on opposite Amazing Race. Great show. The basic premise is the first female Vice President (who happens to be an Independent and was chosen to get the women's vote) becomes President when her predecessor dies unexpectedly. Her teenage daughter is an avowed Republican and agrees with the rest of the former President's inner circle who push the VP to resign. Geena Davis is extremely presidential and Donald Sutherland is excellent as the arch conservative who plans to dog every move she makes. The finest scene in the show was when Sutherland bellows that because she doesn't want the power that comes with the presidency, she isn't fit to be President. There was ugly truth in his words and it summed up the reason that I have been unhappy with every president elected in my lifetime. The fact that desire for power is a necessary ingredient taints the job.

I think it has a lot of potential especially if President Mackenzie Allen doesn't just turn into a liberal mouthpiece. Let's see her actually being independent - choosing what makes sense to her character, not following the tired dogma of either party. Enh, I am probably setting the bar way to high for this show. Still, I'll be watching it next week.

Battlestar Galactica ended with an excellent cliffhanger. I can't wait til January. It was great to see Michelle Forbes show up as the cold, cutthroat Admiral Cain commanding the Battlestar Pegasus. In the original series, the Galactica came across Commander Cain and the Pegasus and he wasn't such a nice guy either.

I did enjoy the premiere of Lost more than I thought I would and I am interested in checking out tonight's episode. It's still appointment television, but I am not that into it this season. I still can't say why exactly.

Survivor is great this season and there are very few spoilers making this season the most unpredictable in a long time. I am having fun at my Survivor Blog.

Nine Years

Nine years is a long time. Sure, it's not 25 years. Or even 15. But still. Nine years is not something you to sneeze at.

Sharon and I were married nine years ago today. When I think of everything I have accomplished in the last nine years, I realize that none of it would have been possible without Sharon's support, feedback, and love.

So anyway, in the spirit of our anniversary, here are the top ten moments from our wedding:

10) Taking overly dramatic and somewhat silly pictures on the lawn outside the church.
9) Uncle Wally's crazy singing and dancing.
8) The fact that our families did so much of the behind the scenes stuff that we didn't have to focus on too much more than getting married.
7) Sharon finding out directly after the ceremony that her boss had quit meaning it was possible she'd get promoted.
6) Saying our vows, which we wrote together.
5) Matt S.'s trumpet playing.
4) Getting the Big Pig as a wedding present from our friends.
3) Dieter walking to the altar with the little stuffed pig Pygmalion in his pocket.
2) Making my entire family raise a glass to my friend Carter who had passed away a few months earlier.

And the number one moment from our wedding was...

1) When the Unity Candle almost went out and then I glared at it and it came back to life.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Amazing Race Family Edition

I am a big fan of the Amazing Race. It's a great show. But I've been less then excited about this latest family version which premieres tonight. I wasn't sure exactly why until I was showering this morning and it became clear to me. (Who doesn't do their best thinking in the shower, I ask you?) There are little kids on the race (the youngest is eight). Now this seems obvious: kids ruin the race, right? I think I knew that from the first moment I heard about it, but I couldn't put into words why kids are going to mess things up. And then, in the shower, I pictured the scenario where the family is trying complete a Detour (a choice between two tasks, both of which have pros and cons) and one of the kids says "I don't want to play anymore." He's done and he wants to go home. What the parents do at that moment shouldn't be on TV because one of three things happen:

1) They yell at the kid to get him to complete the task
2) They manipulate the kid to get him to complete the task
3) They acquiese to the kid's request and the game is over for that family

As a parent, numbers one and two really bother me and I don't want to watch that on TV. Number three makes for bad TV. With a million dollars at stake, I think there's a decent chance we'll see numbers 1 or 2 at some point during the race.

I suppose there is a 4th option. They talk to the kid, figure out why he or she wants to be done, and work out a compromise that makes the kid happy and allows the family to continue with the race. If I were in that situation, that's what I do (I hope). But if there is no compromise to be reached, then as a parent, you have to put the kid's needs ahead of the game. With a million dollars at stake, that's a lot harder than it would be normally. Especially when you start justifying pushing the kid by thinking about how much better the kid's life would be if you won the million.

It just seems to me they're going down a bad road here. The parents are exposing their kids to what could be a very unforgiving audience.

I will watch to see if my fears are justified, but the remote is in hand and I will shut it off.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

A lost confession

Lost's second season premieres tonight. And I'm ... not excited. I don't know why that is. I loved the show last season. I thought the moment in the finale when Walt was kidnapped was great TV. But I'm just not that thrilled about the premiere. I wonder if it's partly because I don't watch any other ABC shows and therefore haven't seen one commercial promoting the show. I will watch it on tape when I get home from rehearsal tonight. But I'm just not that excited.

Let's look at Matt's TV viewing habits.

Sunday: Football (da Bears)
Monday: How I Met Your Mother (That's a maybe. I liked the premiere.)
Tuesday: Commander in Chief (I'll tape the first episode) and Amazing Race (It's the Family Edition, so I'm a little underwhelmed)
Wednesday: Lost and Invasion (tape premiere to check it out)
Thursday: Survivor, Reunion (Already hooked) and Everyone Hates Chris (It's supposed to be great, so I'll tape it and see.)
Friday: Nothing
Saturday: Nothing

I have a feeling that Invasion is not going to hold my interest, but I thought I'd give it a shot. How I Met Your Mother and Everybody Hates Chris probably won't be appointment televison - just shows I'll watch if I happen to catch 'em. I watch too much TV, don't I?

JD won it all! It's great when at the end of a reality show, the person you were rooting for all along actually ends up with the prize.

I think it was clear that no one wanted to win this competition more than JD. When he made his comment about not having to learn the songs because he already knew them, that wasn't hubris; it was just a fact. He's been an INXS fan forever and it's clear their music influenced his musical choices. He was the only right choice and I'm glad he got the job.

INXS also offered Marty the opportunity to open for them on their tour. Which was an excellent move by INXS since Marty is so popular. And of course, it's great for Marty, too. I predict Marty will eventually be a bigger star than INXS. And you know, I admit I love it when Marty does this:

Here's a shot of the new INXS:

So it's over and what a fun ride it's been. There's been talking of doing it again next year, but I don't know if it'll be for a band (how many bands out there need lead singers? Rock Star:Nirvana?) or just a generic Rock Star competition. Either way, I'll tune in. One last image of JD:

His arms say "HUMAN BEING".

Kind of sums us all up, huh?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

What a jerk...

David Oman, the guy who is in charge of the ridiculous rain forest project, that is. He's probably a really nice guy once you get to know him, but he sounded like a real jerk in the newspaper today. "We will finish it when we finish it," he said, in reference to a response to the Coralville City Council's demands. The deadline for that response is today. Time for John Lundell, Tom Gill and Jean Schnake, the councilors who said they would pull support for the project if Oman missed the deadline, to step up and do what they said they'd do. And in light of the hurricane devastation, this pork project looks even worse than it did before. I recommend we immediately donate the $50 million the government gave us for the rain forest to the Gulf Coast rebuilding project.

Kris and the Iowa Pork Forest have more.

The end of Rock Star

Tonight is the finale for Rock Star: INXS. It's down to three: MiG, Marty and JD.

I think JD will win it all and rightly so. He's the one who fits best with INXS. And he's willing to do what they tell him, unlike Marty who made it clear he likes to be in charge. MiG used to be the guy inside the Wags the Dog costume. IF you've never heard of the Wiggles, you clearly don't have young children.

Surely, that will be enough of a blot on his career to prevent him from getting the rock star gig.

Monday, September 19, 2005

That's what I'm talking about!

Da Bears are what? At the top of their division? They scored how many points? 38!? And held the Lions to only 6? Could this be a turn around year for my Chicago Bears?

God, I hope so.

They really looked good today. The rookie threw his first TD. We got 7 points from the special teams and 7 from the defense. And Thomas Jones is making everyone forget about selfish holdout Cedric Benson with his 139 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Keep the rookie whiner on the bench and play Jones.

And did you hear about the Vikes and the Packers? Both are 0-2! You know what 0-2 means? Well, let's look at the stats. Only three clubs have started 0-2 and gone to the Super Bowl. The NFL has produced three playoff teams over the past three seasons that began 0-2. Three teams. Think the Vikes or the Pack will make four in four seasons? I don't think so.

Bears in the playoffs, baby! Count on it!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


Have you seen Crash?

If you haven't, you really ought to rent it. It's the best movie of 2004 so far hands down. It tackles racism in all its forms, which from the beginning of our history has probably the defining issue of this country. And why shouldn't it be? We are the country of foreigners. We welcome everyone and say we are all created equal, but frankly we're not really up to the job. Whether we are black, white, latino, asian, or some mixture, there is inherent prejudice bred into us that we have to fight to overcome every day. That's what this movie is about. All of us pre-judge people based on race or even just what we think is someone's race. This movie exposes that racism in all of us and, even more importantly, shows that while we all may have a bit of racism in us, we are all capable of great good, too. The best performance is hard to pick, but I'm going to go with Matt Dillon. He plays perhaps the most obviously racist character in the movie. He's also a cop. And when it comes time for him to reach inside and choose between the hero cop and the racist bastard, he chooses the hero. That choice is what this movie is all about. We can rise above the inherent racism within us. We can choose to be better. It isn't always easy and we're not always going to make the right choice, but we do have it within us.

That moment depicted on the movie poster, by the way, made me cry. But then I have two little girls, so that's not too suprising, I guess.

Sunday, September 11, 2005


May we always remember those who died on this day four years ago. And may we always honor those who sacrified their lives to save others.

Here's the list.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

NFL - Week One

I have been a Bears fan since the Super Bowl season. I was pretty much centered on the Bears for a lot of years. I didn't really pay much attention to the other teams unless they were our opponents for that week. However, for the last few years, I've played Fantasy Football which has gotten me interested in the entire league. So I thought I'd throw some football thoughts out there since the NFL season starts tonight with the Patriots vs. the Raiders. Yawn. The Patriots will kill them. Randy Moss will enjoy his first of many losses this year. And that makes me happy. Why is it some of the most talented football players are also the biggest jerks? Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, etc. Let's look at some of the other games this week.

First of all, the Bears play the Redskins. I think we have a decent chance. Everything may depend on what rookie Kyle Orton does. If he screws up, it's going to be up to the defense to not only play well, but also get the ball into the end zone. I am picking the Bears, of course. Win or lose, I stick with my team.

In other NFC North news, we have the Packers and Lions facing off at Ford Field. I think the Pack will probably win this one as Harrington is clearly not the QB Marriuci hoped he was going to be. However, I am picking the Lions because, well, I hate the Packers.

The Vikings, the other NFC North team, gets their an old NFC Central rival, the Tampa Bay Bucs. Should be an easy win for Minnesota.

The Broncos get to play the Dolphins this week. Lucky Broncos. The Fins are doomed this year. I'm happier with the Bears quarterback choices than I am with the Fins'. Gus Ferrotte? You gotta be kidding me. And AJ Feeley, free agent quarterback flavor of the week a year or two ago, is now third string behind Sage Rosenfels! At least with Orton, there's a chance he'll be good.

All of my picks for week one:

Oakland at New England
Chicago at Washington
Cincinnati at Cleveland
Denver at Miami
Houston at Buffalo
New Orleans at Carolina
N.Y. Jets at Kansas City
Seattle at Jacksonville
Tampa Bay at Minnesota
Tennessee at Pittsburgh
Arizona at N.Y. Giants
Dallas at San Diego
Green Bay at Detroit
St. Louis at San Francisco
Indianapolis at Baltimore
Philadelphia at Atlanta

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Dreamwell presents Baal

by Bertolt Brecht
directed by Janet Bentley
September 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17 2005

This classic play chronicles the shameless, voracious pursuit of total pleasure and sensual self-fulfillment by Baal, a young artist. His companionship with Ekart, a complex love-hate relationship that is at times erotic, nurturing, violent, and indifferent, explores the consequences of hedonism.

I watched some of last night's rehearsal and I can safely say this is a unique show. It incorporates music in a way that Dreamwell has never done before. The use of the space is impressive. Interesting lighting choices, too. Of course, the great thing about Baal is how visceral it is. This is a show you don't want to miss.

Quick Rock Star Thoughts

It's late and I need some sleep, so here are quick Rock Star INXS thoughts.

JD was on fire tonight and should be safe this week. His original was great and fit with INXS's music.

Jordis was good, but not great, with We Are the Champions. Her original song was okay, but didn't sound like an INXS song at all. Also, the whole point of the song seemed to be about fighting not lose herself and she said it was based on her experience in the competition. Kind of tells INXS that she doesn't really want the job. Plus, hearing her sing an INXS song last week on the elimination show makes it clear she's a bad fit.

Suzie has an amazing voice and beautifully sang I Can't Make You Love Me. Her original song was good, too, though again, it didn't sound like an INXS song.

MiG was just okay. He did a good job with Hard to Handle, but I think he really turned off the band with his original song. For one, again, it didn't sound like a song INXS would ever sing. What was worse, the subject matter was about moving on after losing a loved one. MiG went as far as to point out that that was what the show was all about - moving on with the band after the death of Michael Hutchence. I thought it was (unintentionally) really presumptuous and, well, crass of MiG to be talking to the band about moving on. MiG is a nice guy and I think he'd be mortified to realize he offended the band (and I am only assuming he did based on the looks on their faces). Anyway, I think he hurt his chances with that move.

Marty was the star of the show and I think he has a real chance to win it. For one thing, he has shown he is willing to listen to INXS's comments and make changes accordingly. For another, his song, Trees, was easily the best of the originals and the one that sounded most like an INXS song.

Bottom Three: Jordis, MiG, Suzie. Jordis will go home.

Monday, September 05, 2005


I've been meaning to check out Gilead from the library. It was written by Marilynne Robinson, who is a professor at the University of Iowa's renowned writer's workshop.

The novel, Robinson's first since 1981, won the Pulitzer Prize this year. I had also heard it's about a father-son relationship, which was of interest to me, being a father and a son.

Sharon checked it out last week and read it. She thought it was very good and highly recommended it to me. Today I picked it up and read a little bit. It pulled me in immediately. The writing is unbelievable. It's not sparse like Hemingway, but you feel every word is chosen for a purpose.

One of the moments that has stood out for me early was this passage:

A man can know his father, or his son, and there might still be nothing between them but loyalty and love and mutual incomprehension.

This lead me to think about the different sorts of relationships we have with different people in our lives. My wife knows the present me best, for instance. There's no up or down that she hasn't seen. My parents know me in a different way. They have the memory of the small child, the young boy, the rebellious teenager, and the grown man. Reconciling all of that in their minds must be difficult. Who am I really to them?

Maybe that's why "loyalty and love and mutual incomprehension" rang so true to me.

Anyway, I highly recommend the novel. It's wonderful and I'm only 27 pages into it.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

I'm sorry, but one more...

The Times-Picayune of New Orleans printed a blistering editorial today, speaking for all of those in New Orleans who suffered because the federal government didn't do enough to save them.

One of the reasons this happened was because Bush decided to put FEMA under the Homeland Security Department, which is focused on protecting us from terrorist attacks. FEMA's budget was cut and, because it was part of a larger agency that had multiple priorities, it wasn't equipped to handle this catastrophe.

Lawmakers are working to fix that colossal mistake.

Rep. John D. Dingell said he will introduce legislation Tuesday that would remove FEMA from the Department of Homeland Security and make it, instead, an independent agency headed by a Cabinet-level executive.

"I can clearly see that FEMA has lost its way," the Democrat from Michigan said in a written statement.

James Lee Witt, a former FEMA director who has been brought in as an advisor by Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, agreed that the agency "really needs to be put back as an independent agency."

"Since 9/11, FEMA has been basically dissected and taken apart," he told CNN.

I swear, a happy post next time. Really.

More about New Orleans

It's becoming more and more clear that those involved in rescuing the people of New Orleans have screwed up over and over again.

Here's a link to Naomi Kritzer's blog. She has compiled a list of links that lead to stories about the absolute incompetence that federal government has shown in reacting to this tragedy.

My cousin and her family lived in New Orleans and another cousin went to school there. Both were lucky enough to get out before the hurricane hit. As I have said before, I love that city. So this is hitting a little close to home for me. I don't blame mother nature for what she's done. But I am furious at our government for making the situation ten times worse than it had to be.

And I promise my next post will not be about the hurricane. I need to make a happy post for my own sanity.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Exposing the bones is what he does...

My friend, mythfish, has done some research on the current crisis and come up with some interesting information. Check it out.

"Now get off your asses and do something."

If you haven't listened to the Mayor of New Orlean's interview, you need to listen. Right now. That'll tell you what they're dealing with down there. No bullshit. Just the honest truth. From a politician.

Better late than never

Bush is finally going down there to take over and be a leader. I guess when the Mayor of New Orleans calls you out, you listen. Mayor Ray Nagin said he told Bush in a recent conversation that “we had an incredible crisis here and that his flying over in Air Force One does not do it justice ... I have been all around this city and that I am very frustrated because we are not able to marshal resources and we are outmanned in just about every respect.” He also said "they don't have a clue what's going on down here.

This is not about politics, people. The Republican leaders are upset with how things are going. I never thought I'd agree with anything Newt Gringrich said, but check this out:

"I think it puts into question all of the Homeland Security and Northern Command planning for the last four years, because if we can't respond faster than this to an event we saw coming across the Gulf for days, then why do we think we're prepared to respond to a nuclear or biological attack?"

Yeah, no kidding.

Who do think will be fired first - the head of FEMA or the Secretary of Homeland Security?

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Bush's bad call

EDITED to add: I found a newspaper article via Kris that says that underfunding the levees was not the direct cause of this catastrophe.

"I don't see that the level of funding was really a contributing factor in this case," said Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, chief of engineers for the corps. "Had this project been fully complete, it is my opinion that based on the intensity of this storm that the flooding of the business district and the French Quarter would have still taken place."

So who's right? The local officials or the Army Corps of Engineers? More investigation is needed.

Nelle is suggesting in the comments of this post the President shouldn't be attacked for his actions during this crisis. I'll just agree to disagree with her on that one. But let's look at a decision the President made which has made this catastrophe 100 times worse than it should have been.

This article explains it all. Basically, they needed money from the government to make sure the levees were strong enough. From the article:

In early 2004, as the cost of the conflict in Iraq soared, President Bush proposed spending less than 20 percent of what the Corps said was needed for Lake Pontchartrain, according to a Feb. 16, 2004, article, in New Orleans CityBusiness.

On June 8, 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; told the Times-Picayune: "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us."


The 2004 hurricane season was the worst in decades. In spite of that, the federal government came back this spring with the steepest reduction in hurricane and flood-control funding for New Orleans in history.


Local officials are now saying, the article reported, that had Washington heeded their warnings about the dire need for hurricane protection, including building up levees and repairing barrier islands, "the damage might not have been nearly as bad as it turned out to be."

President Bush made a decision and it was the wrong one. The cost: hundreds if not thousands of lives, New Orleans, and many other smaller communities.

EDITED TO ADD: I just watched an interview with President Bush where he said, "No one expected the levees to break." That's just not true, President. Lots of people expected it - that why they asked for the money to fix them.

Blogburst for Aid for Katrina Victims

Bloggers are uniting today, September 1, to ask for donations for the victims of the Hurricane Katrina. The organization I am recommending is the Salvation Army. Although if you want a list of lots of good options, go to Instapundit. Chuck Simmins is tracking the donations. If you join in the blogburst, go here to add your blog to the list.

They are saying the death total may reach the 1000s.

I can't believe New Orleans, the site of some of my happiest moments, has been destroyed. I just can't. I don't want to believe it.

My Survivor blog has the latest news and speculation as well as some spoiling about the show.
About Me

Name: Matt
Location: Coralville, IA
I am a Dad and a Husband. An Actor. An Administrator. A Hiker. A Writer. Probably a bunch of other things too. Read my blog and you'll find out more.
Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama

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