Monday, July 11, 2005

Way to "Go"

Replace "Steelers" with "Packers," and I think we have a plan:

Funeral home laid out fan in front of TV

/ Associated Press
Posted: July 6, 2005
PITTSBURGH (AP) - James Henry Smith was a zealous Pittsburgh Steelers fan in life, and even death could not keep him from his favorite spot: in a recliner, in front of a TV showing his beloved team in action.
Smith, 55, of Pittsburgh, died of prostate cancer Thursday. Because his death wasn't unexpected, his family was able to plan for an unusual viewing Tuesday night.

The Samuel E. Coston Funeral Home erected a small stage in a viewing room, and arranged furniture on it much as it was in Smith's home on game day Sundays.

Smith's body was on the recliner, his feet crossed and a remote in his hand. He wore black and gold silk pajamas, slippers and a robe. A pack of cigarettes and a beer were at his side, while a high-definition TV played a continuous loop of Steelers highlights.

"I couldn't stop crying after looking at the Steeler blanket in his lap," said his sister, MaryAnn Nails, 58. "He loved football and nobody did (anything)* until the game went off. It was just like he was at home."

Longtime friend Mary Jones called the viewing "a celebration."

"I saw it and I couldn't even cry," she said. "People will see him the way he was."

Smith's burial plans were more traditional - he'll be laid to rest in a casket.

* Three guesses for what "(anything)" really was.


Tuesday, July 05, 2005

History Lesson: Science World

All right, well, Lisa's pissed... and rightly so, I'd say. It's a shame I don't post more. I'm really a very interesting person, and I have lots of interesting things to say. Unfortunately, she thinks I should say them more on my other blog -- the one I share with her and some other friends, Science World '88.

Some of you have asked me what the hell Science World '88 (SW88) is. To you, I say, "Uh-huh... uh-huh... uh-huh. Listen, shut up for a second." One day, back in the 1987-88 school year, my 8th grade Science teacher, Ms. Schouten, kept me after class and asked me whether I would be interested in filling out an application for a summer camp.

"An application?" I probably said, my voice cracking as a pimple suddenly and inexplicably appeared on my left earlobe.

"Yes, it's a special camp, just for Wisconsin students who are gifted in Science," she may have replied (although I highly doubt she used the word "special" or "gifted").

This was when I was a member of the Young Astronauts Club at Longfellow Middle School. It was also when I first began reading Douglas Adams, listening to Sting, and I had just landed my second, third, and fourth of what would be many more roles in musical theatre -- Nicely-Nicely Johnson in Longfellow's production of Guys and Dolls, Adam in The Apple Tree, and Dick (well, "Tom" in our production) in Dames at Sea. It was during this time that I would get to know folks like Devin Gensch, Matt Book, Lisa Dwyer, Melinka Curich; I would strike up what would turn out to be longtime friendships with Matt Cody and Brian Cantwell; and I would realize that I really, really loved theatre.

Up until that time, my summers had largely consisted of packing up with the family and driving from Wauwatosa out to our cottage on Coldwater Lake in Michigan for three months, where I would often busy myself with summer things and carelessly not miss the friends I had made or the things I could be doing with them. This opportunity to attend a camp for two weeks outside of Michigan was cause for trepidation in me at the time. My parents encouraged me, though, and I swallowed hard and sent in my application.

When I "made the cut," it was actually published in our incredibly local paper, The Wauwatosa News-Times.

When I attended Science World on Pigeon Lake in northern Wisconsin in the summer of 1988, I came out of my shell for the first time while not on stage. I realized that I actually was interesting and that people -- absolute strangers at first -- could really like me for who I was. They didn't know me before those two weeks began. They had no pre-conceptions about who I was, apart from the fact that I enjoyed learning about Science... which was a trait they all shared. Okay, yes, we were a bunch of nerdy kids who were all thrown together and recognized one another's nerdiness for what it was. There were still cliques, though. Someone could easily have done a character study for a college 101 course that summer, taking note of how, even within nerdish subcultures, there exist the same arbitrary peer groups that they appear to be a part of themselves.

I met Lisa there. Lisa became my first real girlfriend. I had had a "girlfriend" earlier -- Katie Holshbach, who lived kitty corner from me -- but it was in my relationship with Lisa that I learned what love was. This relationship took shape perfectly over the two weeks we had there (although Lisa would probably argue that it took forever for me to finally "make my move"), and I was over the moon when we parted ways because -- since this was a camp for Wisconsin students -- I knew she'd be nearby. I was in Tosa, and she was in Franklin.

A week after we left Science World, I was in Michigan, talking with Lisa on the phone, and the stars fell from the sky. She informed me that she had just recently learned that she would not in fact be so nearby to me soon -- her father had gotten a job in South Bend, Indiana, and they would be moving there.

As it turned out, that was still not too far away, but only when I was in Michigan. From Tosa, South Bend was halfway around the world when I was 14. But that move was not the end of us. Lisa and I dated longer than I've ever dated anyone since, until my wife. Long-distance relationships suck, but they're also wonderful. That's just another one of the life lessons I learned in my relationship with Lisa.

Now Lisa's acting more than I am. She's in Chicago, and I'm in Madison; we're closer now. We miss 1988 together, and we celebrate it at SW88. We're still tracking down alumni, so if you got to this post through a search for other SWers, head on over to SW88 and check in!

My friends know I'm melancholy. I live a lot in the past. It's probably because of my summers at the lake. I always missed things in retrospect. Come fall, I was always out-of-the-loop on some joke or some experience I'd only ever learned about second- or third-hand. I mostly let those moments go and lived for the times I actually did share with my friends; but I also tried hard to take mental notes at those times when I was involved. In fact, for a time, I actually brought a tape recorder along with me to capture the moments. Some of my friends rolled their eyes at the time (and probably still do now at my mention of this practice), but I have never regretted that. Talk about living in the past! I can actually all but go back there, thanks to those tapes!

I wish I'd had a tape recorder at Science World in 1988. Or at Science Summer Institute in '89. Or at the Halloween party in Franklin, the Homecoming Dance at Tosa East, the cottage.... "The past is much more fun."

Sunday, July 03, 2005

The Blahgs

It's not that I don't want to post. Quite the contrary, in fact. And when I get on dry benders like this last one, I'm almost constantly thinking, ooh, I should blog this or that -- I even compose posts in my head. But then life intercedes and I never get it written. Someone will invariably tell me that I need a Blackberry so I can blog immediately as I think of things. I don't. Thanks.

See, lately, I've begun to think of blogs as bad things. At best, they're really incredible time-wasters. I know there are blogs out there that I would absolutely benefit from reading daily. The benefit is mostly intrinsic, though, and actually taking the time that would be involved to read every single post on every single one of those blogs would get in the way of some of my responsibilities, many of which are direct pathways to that all-important extrinsic benefit, money. So I haven't tried to find those blogs out there, and I have tried my best to avoid reading the ones I already know exist, for fear of getting into the habit.

Having said that, I do have my favorites. At some point during the week, I like to keep up with Dave Barry's blog because he makes me laugh, and it fills the void left by his weekly column, which is currently on hiatus. And I read Ang's posts regularly, too, because she's a longtime friend who thinks a lot like I do and who writes about stuff that matters. (She makes me laugh, too.)

I let the RSS feeds handle everything I read, though. I am now using Thunderbird (both for RSS and for email). I used to use FeedDemon, but I realized that free was cheaper than not free, and I like T-bird better, anyway. Using RSS, I can just check a folder for the latest posts on my blog or website of choice. (It also makes weeding a little easier; for example, I really just read Ang's posts... Katy's go immediatley into the Trash -- no offense intended... I just don't know her!) This, of course, also allows me to keep up with time-wasters of a non-blogular form. I read just about every deal that gets posted on TechBargains, and I keep up with what's all the rage at Free Download a Day, just for starters. The feeds I check are mostly so I can stay up-to-date on news, technology, and prices of all the computer and electronic equipment I can't afford. I used to read Slashdot until I realized it was taking up hours of my week that I really didn't need to lose reading about what some nerd thinks about "Star Trek." There are literally hundreds of thousands of others I could be perusing, and every once in a while, I add one to my list.

What blogs do you keep up with, and -- perhaps more importantly -- why? What are the RSS feeds you can't live without?