Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Lowlights of 2008

¶ Every year at this time I compile the Lowlights of 2008, a list of the staggeringly stupid things that people in our state do. Here is the latest. Also, the photo is not one of the Lowlights. I just needed something to break up all the words.

¶ By Nicholas K. Geranios
¶ Associated Press Writer
¶ SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) _ When Shakespeare wrote "what fools these mortals be," he obviously wasn't thinking about residents of Washington state. But fools we often be.
¶ The Lowlights of 2008 include college football, election mudslinging and a song about a sinister Santa.
¶ Below is a survey of some of the lowest acts of the year in the Evergreen State. As usual, this is only a random sample, as it would be impossible to chronicle all the stupid and heinous acts that occur in the state each year.
¶ BAD SANTA: An already bizarre battle over which holiday displays would be allowed at the state capitol veered into a true lowlight when the gay-hating Westboro Baptist Church entered the fray. The group wrote a charming holiday ditty called "Santa Claus Will Take You To Hell," which claimed the jolly old elf was a false idol who brought child sexual abuse, economic disaster and eternal damnation. The group demanded the song be placed next to existing decorations that included an atheist message, prompting the state to ban all requests for additional displays.
¶ HUSKY BAILOUT: In the midst of a massive budget shortfall, University of Washington boosters pushed for taxpayers to contribute $150 million toward a $300 million overhaul of Husky Stadium, which is in even worse shape than the football team. When some Washington State fans objected at a hearing, UW uber-booster Ron Crockett called them "fools," proving that losing the Apple Cup went pretty deep with some people.
¶ STICK A FORKS IN IT: The Olympic Peninsula town of Forks, best known for a stupefying amount of rainfall each year, is enjoying a tourist boom thanks to the "Twilight" books and movie. "Twilight" is about hot-looking teenage vampires who live in Forks, and fans have been visiting the community to revel in the setting. Marcia Bingham of the Forks Chamber of Commerce said the town's rain and gloom are just perfect for this crowd. "We all know vampires can't be out if it's bright."
¶ MONORAIL BLUES: When the aging Seattle monorail broke down in mid-December, the 15 stranded passengers included an 86-year-old man who said he was a monorail driver back when it was first built for the 1962 World's Fair.
¶ OUCH: In March, the state paid $15,000 to a Kelso man who was forcibly catheterized after an arrest for investigation of drunken driving. Matthew Clifford Arthur had refused to provide urine and blood samples after a traffic stop, so officers got them the hard way.
¶ BLOWING COOKIES: In September, a man who ate moldy cookies in the King County Jail sued the county for pain, suffering and emotional distress. Moses Wiggins, 41, says he didn't notice the mold until he had eaten half the bag, and that it caused vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps.
¶ BADA BING!: In the hotly contested governor's race, supporters of Republican Dino Rossi put up billboards in Eastern Washington exhorting residents not to let Seattle "steal" this election, implying that's what happened in the 2004 race when Christine Gregoire won. Meanwhile, the state Democratic Party was forced to change an ad that showed Rossi, accompanied by the theme song from "The Sopranos," a television show about homicidal mobsters.
¶ WHO'S THE IDIOT?: In October, a Seattle man was accused of a hate crime for allegedly threatening his neighbor's autistic son. Mark J. Levison was arrested after yelling that he, "did not want to see that idiot staring at my house." Levison was already under a court order to stay away from the family after he threatened to burn down their house in July if they didn't keep the 13-year-old boy out of his sight.
¶ THE YAKIMA OF CALIFORNIA: For two decades, a sign proclaiming, "Welcome to Yakima: The Palm Springs of Washington" greeted motorists on Interstate 82 in the city. The sign came down for about a year because of construction, but was put up again in February. "I've heard people say, 'Who was the idiot who put that up?' but that doesn't bother me," sign owner Gary Lukehart said.
¶ THIRD DEGREE: In December, the Washington State Patrol said nine troopers allegedly bought fake college degrees from a Spokane diploma mill to boost their pay. The Thurston County prosecutor will decide if the troopers, on paid leave, will face charges. Troopers get a 4 percent raise for a four-year degree and 2 percent more for a master's.
¶ HOMELAND INSECURITY: A federal building security guard in Spokane who used high-tech cameras to watch women undress in nearby buildings pleaded guilty to felony voyeurism. Darin Earl Wanless used rooftop camera equipment in the post office to ogle women on two dozen occasions. He was fired and must register as a sex offender for the next decade.< ^___= ^SPECIAL SPORTS LOWLIGHTS= ¶ COLLEGE FOOTBALL: The University of Washington was the only winless team in the country, going 0-12 and firing its coach. Washington State went 2-11 and gave up more points than any team in college football history. Both were national laughingstocks. The Huskies hired a new coach, Steve Sarkisian, who shares the same last name as Cher. That raises the possibility of a "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves" slogan for UW next season. ¶ SUBSONIC: The Seattle SuperSonics of the NBA were stolen away to Oklahoma City, where they sank to new lows of basketball futility. ¶ SEAHAWKS: The Seattle Seahawks made some fans wish they'd move to Oklahoma City. ¶ MARINERS: The Seattle Mariners last season became the first team with a $100 million payroll to lose 100 games in a season. ¶

One more movie

Just watched ``The Foot Fist Way'' last night and it was the most cringe-inducing indictment of the typical American doofus that I have ever seen. The main character's stunning vapidity and lack of self-awareness was heart-breaking and hilarious. I highly recommend.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Thank God for movies

Spokane has received a record of more than 59 inches of snow in December (that's nearly 5 feet in the metric system). A more adventuresome type (like Ann) might have taken the opportunity to go sledding, skiing or snowshoeing. Instead, I've been plowing through a backlog of cigars and movies.
Here are capsule reviews of the movies that have kept me entertained this month, both in theaters and on video:
1, Milk: went to the theater with Miranda to see this movie. I really liked it and was moved by the struggle for gay rights in the 1970s. I could have stood for a little less kissing among the men, and Miranda warned that if I did not stop groaning each time Sean Penn put a lip lock on someone she was moving to another seat.
2, You Don't Mess with the Zohan: fairly watchable Adam Sandler comedy, especially when he catches a fish in his rectum.
3, Four Christmases: Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon. What's not to like? Love the extreme fighter brothers.
4, Fred Claus: Despite Vince Vaughn and Paul Giamatti, this one took me two nights to get through, as I fell asleep on night one.
5, Bucket List: I intended to absolutely hate this feel-good affirmation of life and friendship, but found it surprisingly palatable. Is there anything Nicholson and Freeman can't do?
6, The Women: Very easy on the eyes, especially Eva Mendes. I thought the male-bashing could have been toned down a bit, but I always think that.
7, Quantam of Solace: I still haven't seen it. What is Christmas without a homicidal superspy saving the world?
8, The Dark Knight: Really liked it, especially the Joker, but it was too long. And the Harvey Dent stuff at the end seemed really tacked on.
9, The Cable Guy: I had never actually seen this all the way through, so when it showed up on HBO I watched and was stunned by the brilliance. I want to go to Medieval Times and have a serving wench.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Jimmy Buffett story

I've been working for months on a story about singer Jimmy Buffett. I'm a big fan. The story finally moved to the national wires on Monday. Here it is for those dont see it elsewhere

¶ Associated Press Writer
¶ LAS VEGAS (AP) _ It's like the world's biggest beach party, hosted by the world's richest beach bum.
¶ The 15,000 fans packing the sold-out MGM Grand arena were enjoying the final concert of the season by Jimmy Buffett, the singer whose popularity and fortune grow greater even as his hair grows grayer.
¶ Buffett, who turned 62 on Christmas Day, long ago became an icon of certain baby boomers _ perhaps the least-hip demographic in the country _ by offering the dream of throwing off their responsibilities for his tropical party vibe.
¶ But in the past decade, this chronicler of Margaritaville has really cashed in on his image.
¶ How big is Buffett?
¶ With an estimated annual income of more than $40 million, you might mistake his portfolio for that of Warren Buffett (not a relative). And he's done it by sailing beyond most musicians' ticket, T-shirt and poster revenue stream.
¶ The title of his most popular song is showing up on restaurants, clothing, booze and casinos. Among the products he's involved with are Landshark Lager, the Margaritaville and Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurant chains, clothing and footwear, household items and drink blenders. The Margaritaville cafe on the Las Vegas strip is said to be the top grossing restaurant in the nation.
¶ Buffett writes best-selling novels. There's Radio Margaritaville on Sirius. Even his recording career is booming as the music industry tanks: His recent album, "License to Chill," was the first No. 1 album of his career.
¶ In October, Buffett was chosen by Vanity Fair as No. 97 on a list of the 100 most influential people. In the world. He's nestled between Universal Music Group CEO Doug Morris and anti-poverty crusader Jeffrey Sachs.
¶ But the exact scope of the Parrot Head empire is secret. Buffett's privately held Margaritaville Holdings LLC does not publicly disclose its finances, and his publicists declined numerous requests for interviews with the singer or anyone connected with Miami-based Margaritaville Holdings.
¶ "He wants to be known as an artist and musician, but he's an extremely savvy businessman," said Brian Hiatt, an associate editor for Rolling Stone who covers the concert industry.
¶ Buffett is somewhat unique among aging crooners in that his fan base is broad, and is not tied solely to a string of past hit songs. For most of his career, Buffett had only one Billboard Top 10 hit, "Margaritaville," in 1977.
¶ What he offers his fans is an accessible fantasy.
¶ "Anyone of any age could imagine retiring to a tropical paradise and drinking margaritas," Haitt said. "There is something extra-musical about the whole thing."
¶ You don't have to go to a concert to buy his stuff. Margaritaville boat shoes and flip flops are found in shopping malls. Margaritaville Foods sells salsa, hummus, tortillas and dips in Wal-Mart and other stores. Landshark is sold in grocery stores, and Margaritaville tequila is in liquor stores.
¶ And concert tickets sell out in short order, despite prices that run well over $100. The Buffett brand is on a growth spurt, usually as a result of marketing deals.
¶ The Cheeseburger in Paradise chain was founded in 2002 and owned by OSI Restaurant Partners, owners of Outback Steakhouse, among others, under a license from Buffett. Landshark Lager, made by Anheuser-Busch, and Margaritaville Tequila, made by Seagram, are sponsors of his concerts.
¶ Last May, the Trump Marina Hotel Casino in Atlantic City was purchased by Coastal Marina, LLC, which will convert it into a destination resort under the "Margaritaville" label.
¶ "Jimmy Buffett and his team at Margaritaville have created an extraordinary brand that is instantly recognizable to an enormously large and dedicated fan base," said Richard Fields, CEO of Coastal Development. "The brand implies quality, value and good times."
¶ Meanwhile, Harrah's Entertainment, Inc., has teamed up with Buffett to develop the $700 million Margaritaville Casino & Resort in Biloxi, Miss., near where Buffett was raised. That project has been delayed by the downturn in the nation's economy. But Harrah's and Buffett already have a profitable relationship.
¶ According to Buffett's Web site, the first Margaritaville opened in Key West, Fla., in 1987. The chain has since grown to 16 outlets, including a new one at the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut.
¶ Margaritaville at the Flamingo Las Vegas takes in more than $43 million a year, said casino president Don Marrandino.
¶ "It's been pretty consistent for five years," Marrandino said. "It speaks to the Buffett lifestyle."
¶ ___
¶ On the Net:

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Heeeeeeeere's Nicky!

Remember that scene at the end of Million Dollar Baby where the manager suffocates the paralyzed boxer because the boxer does not want to live as a quadriplegic? It's getting to the point where that sounds pretty good as we are going on a week of being housebound by a record snowstorm in Spokane. ``Please, Boss, do it now, and then have Morgan Freeman narrate a nice elegy for me.''

We are not exactly trapped in the house, but the streets are so miserable that mail and newspapers are not being delivered, and it's nerve-wracking to go anywhere.

The holidays have been a decidedly low-key affair in what I am calling a George Bush Christmas (it's similar to a Charles Dickens Christmas, except the rich do even better and don't have any pesky ghosts trying to change their ways). I was actually pleased to get some new socks and underwear.

Everyone has been very accepting of the hard economic times except my 14-year-old, Tom, who is upset because he did not get a ``pimp cane'' to keep ``his 'ho's in line.'' This is apparently a cane that has a secret compartment for a knife or something. We made like the Shackleton expedition and got out to the Valley Mall yesterday to return some clothes that didn't fit, and Tom wanted to wander from store to store asking for a pimp cane. I considered allowing this in Macy's and JC Penney's, but was worried he might actually find one at Spencer's so I said no. Can't have sharp pointy weapons in the house at Christmas.

Last night, I watched ``Hamlet 2,'' since there is little else to do but watch the tube. I found it very funny, especially the ``Rock Me Sexy Jesus'' part and any scene involving the drama teacher's wife. I highly recommend this movie, although if it were up to me it would have been called ``Hamlet 2, More Death!'' or ``Hamlet 2, Dane to Watch It!"" or ``Hamlet 2, Hamlet Harder.''

I was so stir-crazy yesterday that I actually went to the gym with Miranda and Tom to work out. For me, this involves riding an exercise bike at the lowest setting while watching CNN on the bike's TV. Then I sit on one of those huge exercise balls while reading the newspaper (this is great for your core). Miranda and Tom made fun of me.
The photo shows Ice Station Spokane, aka the scene on the side of my house, where giant icicles have formed entire new rooms.

Friday, December 26, 2008

snow at night

here is a view of my house in the snow at night

Fortress of Solitude

Greetings from the Frozen North, where there is so much snow and ice on the ground that we have been barely able to move for the past week. Spokane has already set a record snowfall for December, with more coming. The ice is growing so thick off my roof that it actually formed a room on the side of the house. Here are Tom and Eli playing in front of the ice after I managed to knock off some of the thinner pieces.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Beth's new book

My friend Beth Harpaz, an AP writer in New York, has a new book out all about the
horrors of raising adolescents (you know who u are). Here's a link to a website for her book, which includes some research findings on uber-adolescents Tom and Eli.

Got Greeks?

The Census Bureau put out new estimates about the U.S. population recently, and the number of people of Greek ancestry remains catastrophically low.

In Washington state, there are only 26,022 Greeks among a population of more than 6 million people! How pathetic is this? Consider that there are 76,000 Danes, 251,865 French and 405,942 Norwegians. But the biggest ethnic group is Germans, totaling 1.3 million. Idaho should be nervous.

Nationally, the situation is just as dismal. There are only 1.3 million Americans of Greek ancestry. Now I know what The 300 felt like.
The photo shows me in Greek revolutionary military garb during a Greek Independence Day ceremony at our church in Montana in the 1960s. Formidable, don't you think?

More snow

Spent this morning digging a Suburban out of the barrow pit it had slid into near my house last night. The Suburban was driven by a friend of my daughter. It was tilted at a ridiculous 45 degree angle, but some people with chains stopped and we were able to get it out.
Then I drove through the snow to work. Went for a coffee at Nordstrom, where I discovered the giant sized version is called an Enorme. This is a fabulous name, and I'm thinking of introducing myself as Enorme, Norm for short.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


The spokane area was pummeled by 20 inches of snow in the past 24 hours, and everyone is trapped at home. Here are some pictures of the snow outside my house

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


I've been watching the Showtime series ``Californication,'' on DVD recently, and decided it is primarily intended to reinforce conservatives' stereotypes about California (drugs, sex, permissiveness). However, the show has produced a great new band name: ``The Irritating Smugness of David Duchovny.'' As usual, if you use this name, you owe me money. At right, Duchovny reads a script.
p.s. Vomit update. The stomach flu has ``passed'' completely, so to speak, and our family is back to normal.