Sunday, November 28, 2004
However, this evening we saw a film that blew my mind away. And, we watched it from the privacy and warmth of our home. I sat stunned from pretty much beginning to end of “Brother's Keeper.” This movie was released some 12 years ago, but I only recently ran across it on Netflix while searching for something in the neighborhood of “Crumb” and “American Splendor.” (Note: I'm NOT writing about the Jeanne Tripplehorn movie by the same title that was released in 2002. Please do not mistakenly rent that one!)
“Brother’s Keeper” is a documentary about the events surrounding, and personalities involved, in the trial of Delbert Ward, an aging New York dairy farmer, who was charged in the early 1990s with murdering his older brother William- supposedly in the bed they shared on the farm where they have lived with their stepbrothers Roscoe and Layman since the late 1930s (give or take a few years). To use the words “odd,” “eccentric,” “illiterate,” “unfortunate,” or “suspicious” to describe these fellas, would be like trying to hack your way through an Amazon rainforest using rusty toenail clippers!
Like I said, I sat without speech more or less for the entire movie, unable to look away except during two scenes. The first was during the second appearance of the medical examiner while offering his “expert” testimony as to William’s cause of death. I’m thinking, “Is this guy for real?” How on earth can this guy who would make for a completely unbelievable character even on “Six Feet Under,” be anything other than a fictional person discovered beaten, robbed, and left for dead in the middle of a Lou Reed song?
The other scene that disturbed me to no end, was the slaughtering of a hog. I think I understand WHY the filmmakers put that part in the movie, but I won’t go into my theory here and now as I wish to avoid biasing anyone who hasn’t seen this movie YET.
This movie is a fantastic medium to help you explore our justice system. It is also an anthropologist’s dream as the people watching is first rate!
When you rent this movie, I recommend you grab the 10th Anniversary Edition (1992) as it contains a bunch of extras, including footage of the first (and likely only) trip the Ward brothers made to Manhattan- and the original movie trailer that consists of an appearance by Spaulding Gray who undoubtedly saw a brief replay of the film recently after he leapt from a bridge. I must say, the shot of the brothers sitting in the shadows of the World Trade Center towers discussing whether or not they wanted to ride the elevator up to the observation deck is a jaw-dropping piece worthy of inclusion into any time capsule where the intent is to baffle future historians as to the reality of pre-9/11 America.
So forget about Shrek’s I or II, or the newest holiday film. Instead, rent “Brother’s Keeper” and settle back with a nice bottle of Wild Turkey and let the fun begin. I’m betting you will feel better about your station in life before the end credits begin rolling.
Saturday, November 27, 2004
These things I enjoy looking at include cows and horses grazing in pastures, locals from the Sandia Pueblo gathering wild squash and other vegetation from the adjacent ditches, freshly cut hay fields, and the few ghostly remnants of the aged Mother Road such as abandoned filling stations, dilapidated billboards, and old highway construction features. (I know, I’m easily entertained.)
There is also a road sign that makes me smile because it reads “313 SOUTH.” For those of you who don’t know/remember, I spent the vast majority of my childhood in a house at 313 South Miller Street, in Toulon, Illinois. That’s it. It’s really a simply connection, but isn’t that really what nostalgia is all about?
I’ve been tempted to pull over and snap some photos of that signage, but I’ve resisted the urge given that there is virtually no place to pull safely off the roadway. That is, until recently. You see, the past couple weeks, I’ve been monitoring the progress of construction workers from the Sandia Pueblo who have been keeping themselves busy blading the shoulders of the roadway flat.
On the one hand, this type of thing is needed in the worst way as the road really has very few places where motorists can pull off the road in times of emergency. On the other hand, it is strange to experience how different the old corridor is beginning to “feel” with the new, wide (and flat) shoulders. I’m certain that people who believe that roadways are significant cultural properties that must be preserved “as-is” will be outraged by the modifications.
Then this week the workers began applying asphalt to the shoulders. This process results in traffic being stopped completely for extended periods of time (say 15-20 minutes) to allow the big machinery to move about without fear of crushing someone’s Nissan. So if I’m in a hurry, I’ll take the freeway. Otherwise, I’ll still take NM SR 313 just to see what happens. Sitting parked on a roadway for a quarter of an hour makes me think back to my experiences of conducting archaeological surveys along highways. You REALLY can see so much more when you walk a highway corridor than you can while driving through it. Perhaps that seems obvious to some of you, but it is funny how I tend to forget this fact.
Now I’m wondering if the roadway construction plans include resurfacing the entire deal. If so, I can kiss my leisure route goodbye as I’m sure traffic will increase by leaps and bounds, and the old artery will filled with new blood racing to create clogs in the heart of the Land of Enchantment.
For train watchers… there is one bend in the road and adjacent railroad tracks that is guaranteed to bring out the hobo in the best of us. Certainly during the warm days of Indian summer, I was tempted to blow off work and hang out on the side of the road and watch the bright orange B.N.S.F. diesel engines chug along the tracks pulling their cars loaded with freight to that magical spot on the horizon where turquoise blue meets green and all is gone.
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
The year was 1989 (or 1988). Seriously, who can remember those kinds of details anyway? I woke up “late” on Thanksgiving morning after spending the majority of the previous evening at the Midway Tap in Kewanee, Illinois with co-workers from S&W Associates. We made balloons at that factory. Although that fact has nothing whatsoever to do with THIS story, I think it is interesting enough to be worth mentioning.
After a quick shower, I grabbed my backpack of clothes, a package of strawberry pop-tarts, and a couple cans of Coke- hitting the road to my grandparents’ house right at 9:30 am. I was facing a 2.5 hour drive to Versailles, Illinois, which would get me there right around noon. I figured I could make up enough time to guarantee that I would not arrive late if I took a couple of blacktop roads I was familiar with. It has always been surprising how minimally some of those roads are traveled in America’s heartland… especially given that they are oftentimes aligned straight as an arrow.
Nevertheless, I settled behind the wheel of my 76 Ford Torino with my hangover as co-pilot. We made excellent time, listening to Neil Young, Pink Floyd, and Arlo Guthrie on the tape deck, and portions of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on the AM radio. The only time I took my hands off the wheel was to primp my mullet in the manner that only a person who has had a mullet (or HAS one… or WILL have one) can understand.
About 10 miles from my grandparents’ village limits, I glanced at the clock and discovered that I was going to arrive with a full 30 minutes to spare. I barely had time to get excited about that when I noticed a car pull into range of my rear view mirror. Yeah, it was a cop, and his flashing lights indicated that he had something of importance to discuss with me.
If you’ve been pulled over before, you can pretty much imagine how the next several minutes passed. If you’ve never been pulled over for speeding, well, what on earth are you waiting for?
A $52 fine later, I arrived at my grandparents’ house directly at noon. The entire family was already there. No time was wasted parking since the kids normally played basketball in the driveway after eating, and the adults had been trained that they wouldn’t have to go outside and move the cars if they parked along the curb before hand. I entered the house right as my grandfather was putting the finishing touches on his apple salad, which he more or less made specifically for me. With everyone talking at once, I immediately forgot about the speeding ticket, and to be honest, was relieved to not have to think about it- or explain the event to my family.
Possibly the worst thing about family gatherings are the inevitable drop-in visitors. Several hours after dinner, we were playing cards when the doorbell rang. It was my grandmother’s second cousin stopping by for a chat, a cup of coffee, and a wedge of punkin’ pie. I swear, the woman hadn’t even gotten her coat off when she asked who owned the green car. (Okay, my Torino was green. Do you find some sort of pleasure in knowing that?)
When everyone looked in my direction, she added that she and her busybody husband had seen my car pulled over by the county police earlier in the day when they were driving back from visiting her friend in the nursing home in Quincy. Obviously at that point, I had some ‘splaining to do, and endured a considerable amount of ribbing.
And that is my story of the Thanksgiving of 1989. Or was it 1988?
Now if you don’t mind, I need to get back to designing my NEW website. Stop by and check it out when your boss isn’t looking!
Sunday, November 21, 2004
Saturday, November 20, 2004
Sometimes it is impossible for me to think of something to write that is worth typing. I guess when I find myself staring at a blank screen, I'll post a photo from my extensive collection, and either comment on it, or not.
I snapped this photograph while exploring an alley between Central Avenue and Gold Avenue as part of my regular walkabout around downtown Albuquerque. I wonder about the person who decided that bricking up the doorway would be time and materials well spent.
Someone recently emailed and asked if I could send them a "full-sized" copy of one of the photos I published in a previous entry. I told them that they could click on the image to view a larger one, and that seemed to do the trick. (At least they haven't written back.) I should also add that these photos I post are intended ONLY for your viewing pleasure. Should you decide that you'd like to do something with one or more of my images, please contact me directly so we can discuss terms, copyrights, and all that jazz.
Have yourself a stellar weekend!
Friday, November 19, 2004
Raindrops patter on the roof of our 98-year-old home as I sit in my office waiting patiently for a decent topic to write about comes to mind. Then lightning strikes! Unfortunately for you readers, I mean literally- and just outside my window. Slightly startled, I'm still at a loss for words.
My wife always enjoys hearing of my adventures when I visit the grocery store; so let's see what I can pull out of the old shopping bag. Would you like paper or plastic?
Personally, I would prefer paper for the nostalgic feelings associated with when I worked at Arganbright's Grocery in high school. Still, I always choose plastic as it amuses me to watch the baggers put single items that are made to be carried by their handle (laundry detergent for example) in individual plastic bags. The best of that routine is that even the kid who wears a bicycle helmet while running aimlessly about the parking lot corralling stray shopping karts has enough common sense to realize that those plastic bags are so weak that you can't trust them with much more than a carton of eggs and a box of lemon Zingers.
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I actually found myself in Smith's grocery store twice in just less than 24 hours. Oh the HUMANITY! I enjoy watching the people, and trying to categorize them based on gross generalities whenever possible. I find it interesting to note that single, old men seem to flock to do their shopping during the later portion of Wednesday afternoons. I wonder why that is.
Also, don't ask me why, but I noticed the last two times that the stockers were unable to keep up with the demand for cans of Del Monte peas. They are currently on sale (3 for $1.00), but that doesn't explain why that portion of the shelves was bare. Are Del Monte peas better than the store brand? What's wrong with Del Monte green beans or carrots? This is all very confusing to a person who believes that the whole notion of vegetables being "good" for humans is actually fallout from a government conspiracy that began during the Great Depression to see exactly how gross of items people would tolerate eating if they had to.
Vegetables... Yeah, I used to get in trouble at the dinner table quite often as a youngster. Once my mother told me to clean my plate as I sat staring at a pile of then room temperature lima beans, and I thought that meant she wanted me to go scrape the entire mess off into the trashcan. Boy was I wrong! Luckily, I got sent to bed early that night, so I could enjoy my stash of Easter candy in peace, without fear of my older brother launching a surprise offensive into my half of our room, and shooting me with spit wads.
Now where was I? Oh yeah, at the grocery store. I also enjoy finding empty wrappers and cans on the shelves while I shop. Sometimes the smallest gestures of sticking it to the "man" are the best.
I also have questions concerning grocery store etiquette. How much should you tip the butcher? Which one of you knuckleheads is responsible for stashing the container of cottage cheese behind the four boxes of Uncle Sam's Laxative Cereal? When prompted for your "savers card," is it okay to hand the cashier the wrong one on purpose just so you can begin venting about how lame and annoying those transparent marketing strategies are? And when asked if you need help out to your car, what is the best way to ask them to tell Kartboy to keep his distance until you have loaded yourself and all your items into your vehicle and locked the door?
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
Mion's Mamie Eisenhower - Fab 50s
At any rate, I was very pleased to discover that a copy of my contract archaeology coloring book I had left at the hotel two years before (11-1-2002) was still there. I felt even better when I realized that the book had been moved from the location I had left it (the bottom dresser drawer in the Harry Truman Room) to the shelves in the main lobby reserved for books (predominately coffee table variety) about art and architecture. Although no one had colored any of the pages in over two years, I was impressed because the book could have just as easily been tossed onto the trash heap by housekeeping, or removed by anyone of thousands of guests who have spent a night or three in that fabulous hotel.
I feel honored that someone thought enough of my effort to file it with the art books. I suppose they may have made the classic mistake and shelved it under the theory that archaeologists design houses. Although most of us don’t, I suspect that a few actually do.
The other thing that people frequently believe archaeologists do besides drink beer, is dig up dinosaur bones. If you are one of those people, I’m here to tell you that archaeologists do NOT deal with dinosaurs. If you discover the remains of a T-rex in your garden and don’t know what to do, grab the Yellow Pages and look under "Paleontology."
Say, that reminds me of a joke:
Q: How many archaeologists does it take to excavate a dinosaur?
A: None! Archaeologists don’t dig fossils.
On the other hand, Arkies DO love diner-saurs!
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
Undoubtedly, my favorite diners include the 5 & Diner (Phoenix, Arizona) and Doggie Diner (Woodridge, Illinois). I’ve dined in authentic railroad dining cars on Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, which is interesting, but a far cry from the mom & pop style diners as depicted in American Graffiti and Happy Days.
Then there’s el’ Bambi Café in Beaver, Utah. What’s the difference(s) between a diner and a café? Is a café nothing more than a ghostly truck stop stranded on the business loops of forgotten towns that have been by-passed by super highways? Not if they have interesting furniture, artwork, a respectable candy display, and a counter full of old-timers spreading local gossip over their patty melts and peppering their biscuits and gravy with surplus apostrophes that slide out of greasy menus.
And although technically, Harvey’s Wineburger in Phoenix is a bar, not a diner, you must know that they serve up the BEST cheeseburgers I’ve EVER consumed. You’ll want to check out Harvey’s for yourself the next time you’re in the Valley of the Sun (west side of 16th Street just south of Camelback Road).
For many years, I’ve thought it would be fun to own a diner (as long as I didn’t have to work in it). Fortunately, my wife feels the same way, so we decided to decorate one of the rooms in our home following a 50s diner décor. Picking out the furniture was a hoot, but waiting the six weeks for it to be built and shipped wasn’t nearly as exciting. Finally it arrived this past weekend and the real fun began.
My suggested first meal of JUMBO candy bars in our diner was out voted 1-1. Instead, we broke in the new table, booth, and chairs with meatloaf, mashed potatoes, some tiny yellow vegetables called "corn", and applesauce. We celebrated with chocolate malteds while the cats looked on in confusion and, of course, curiosity.
I’m looking forward to adding intriguing artwork to the room and inviting guests to stop in for a grilled cheese sandwich and a brown cow. You’ll want to make sure you bring some spare change though, as one of my top priorities is to add a gumball machine to the room.
Is there a diner in your neighborhood that you frequent? Is there a diner so special that you go out of your way to visit every chance you get? Any memories of diners that no longer exist?
Saturday, November 13, 2004
A little history first:
I went outside after lunchtime to put my cooler in my truck. It was way windier and colder than I had counted on, so I neither dillied nor dallied. I did notice a small crew of dudes working on the utility line that runs adjacent to the road that extends past my workplace. Even though I'm not enjoying my present job, I was thankful that I'm not a lineman for any utility companies. With the storm blowing in, I couldn't help thinking "Better them than me."
Fast forward two and a half hours:
I'm sitting at my Group W workstation doing research online to try to figure out just exactly what Google wants from our website to raise our overall rankings on certain keywords and phrases. In the back of my mind I'm trying to think of a interesting subject for my next (this one) blog entry. All the sudden my screen goes wonky, I hear a loud booming noise that I assumed originated in the shop downstairs, then the power fails completely. It is difficult to think straight with a half dozen battery back-up units chirping away in some apocalyptic rhythm, so I bolt for the window located about 15 feet from my desk.
At first I notice a fresh, light dusting of white powder on the west face of the Sandia Mountains to the east. Then I notice the rapid, jerking decent of the utility company's cherry picker not far off to the northeast. The crew on the ground was understandably nervous as the basket of the cherry picker lowered to the ground with it's cargo- now a smoldering lump of human-shaped char. I'm not sure if the guy touched the wires by accident, or if weather was to blame.
My coworkers and I watched as a number of police cars and ambulii arrived on the scene. I could tell from the wires hanging from the utility pole that the power was going to be down for a while, and that I was going to get a 90-minute jump on the weekend.
As I left for the day, I was NOT prepared for the smell that hit me as I left the building. It is really difficult to describe other than it was not pleasant. Sort of a mixture of burned hair and a full plastic ashtray that is melting. As I pulled out of the parking lot and began my journey homeward, I thought, "Better HIM than ME!" (About a mile later my mind asked itself if it believed that the rapture had begun. There was no reply.)
If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times... "If you are going to get hurt at work, do it on a Monday. If at all possible, you never want to spend payday in the emergency room (and/or morgue)."
Thursday, November 11, 2004
In an attempt to keep warm, I am posting a photo I snapped several years ago of what had to be the BEST campfire I've ever built and maintained. This fire was enjoyed while camping on the in southwestern Arizona one autumn evening while I was participating in an experimental archaeology project on the Barry F. Goldwater Range.
Gosh, it still looks warm and inviting!
The experiment I mentioned above consisted of constructing agricultural features such as check dams and brush weirs similar to those believed to have been built by Hohokam farmers, placing some modern artifacts on the ground, and recording the "site." Basically, we were hoping to learn how to better identify prehistoric ag sites in the archaeological record by getting a better understanding of how such features are impacted by nature. We (Here I use the term "we" very loosely) returned to the area about every six months to observe and record the changes to the features and the "artifacts" that we left behind. This monitoring went on for at least three years, and I believe continues to this day. I really should check on that.
Nevertheless, I was very surprised at how far some of the materials had been moved (presumably by wind and sheet washing) across the desert floor. There was also a considerable amount of vegetation that sprung up and thrived in the areas where we placed the brush weirs- more or less proving that those types of features do actually help trap moisture. If anyone learned anything about archaeology through this project, well, they never shared that understanding with me.
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
"I have noticed other times when you replace a C with a K. If there a reason for it that I don't get, then I think a wider audience might miss it also. Unique is one matter, but raising unanswered questions might cause disinterest."
First, thanks for taking the time to read my blog. I know there are millions of other blogs "out there" that you could be reading instead of this one, so I feel honored.
I suppose the reason I regularly perform the old K/C switcharoo is because my parents named me Kris (with a "K") instead of Chris (well, with a "Ch"). I think the norm was to spell boys' names "Chris" and girls' names "Kris"- well, obviously not for people named Bob, or Tom, or Jane, or Dusty. Whatever the case, that decision has led to a lifetime of me having to tell people who are writing my name, "Ummm... that's Kris with a K." That almost always leads to a kurious look, followed by some half-hearted erasing. See, I've gone and done it once again.
I think another reason I do it is because I think that misspellings are funny. Typos, on the other hand, are not. For instance, the title of this entry is my way of making fun of the acronym "FAQ." I'm not a professional comedian, so it doesn't bother me if the only person laughing at my jokes is me. FAQs however, do bother me.
I hope that explanation clears it up for you dear reader. Please feel free to ask as many questions as you desire, and as frequently as you feel the urge.
Monday, November 08, 2004
I'm looking forward to listening to the cd on a stereo at home since driving in a jeep on the freeway at 85 miles per hour obviously isn't the best way to listen to music. Still, I can say that overall, the cd is worth owning. Some of the highlights (in my opinion) include Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt's cover of "Poor Poor Pitiful Me" (knocking Linda Ronstadt's version down to number three on my list), Bruce Springsteen's live cover of "My Ride's Here," Jordan Zevon performing "Studebaker," and the first cut on the cd... Don Henley performing "Searching for a Heart." I was also impressed that the Pixies are on the cd, even though I've never been a huge fan of "Ain't That Pretty At All." And perhaps the most surprising thing was that Bob Dylan doesn't completely mutilate "Mutineer."
Other contributors to the cd include Steve Earle and Reckless Kelly ("Reconsider Me"), The Wallflowers ("Lawyers, Guns and Money"), Pete Yorn ("Splendid Isolation"), David Lindley and Ry Cooder ("Monkey Wash, Donkey Rinse"), Jill Sobule ("Don't Let Us Get Sick"), and Jorge Calderon and Jennifer Warnes ("Keep Me In Your Heart").
I suppose if any efforts on the cd are bad enough to make Warren spin in his pine box, it would have to be Billy Bob Thornton's cover of "The Wind." Ugggh!
The album certainly makes one think... If I was going to pull together a Zevon tribute album, I wouldn't be able to call it complete until it contained the following:
Neil Young - Veracruz
Billy Joel - Piano Fighter
R.E.M. - Dirty Little Religion
Paul Schaeffer & the CBS Orchestra - Hit Somebody!
Rolling Stones - I'll Sleep When I'm Dead
Garbage - French Inhaler
Steely Dan - Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner
Lazy Lightning - Gridlock
Carly Simon - The Indifference of Heaven
Pink Floyd - Something Bad Happened to a Clown
Dick Dale - The Hula Hula Boys
DEVO - Leave My Monkey Alone
Willie Nelson - Heartache Spoken Here
Lou Reed - Gorilla, You're a Desperado
Thursday, November 04, 2004
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
I will probably be writing about stuff like archaeology and baseball, and posting photos and original artwork. If none of those things interest you... then BLOG OFF!
What is it, some 108 days until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training? sigh.......