Matt McHugh
Matt - Blog - December 2005


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Ending 2005 with a Bang (Almost)
December 31, 2005

Seriously bizzaro day today. Was up late last night, so the wife got the kids when they went off at 7:30. However, she wasn't feeling well so by about 8:15, she called me in. After breakfast I put on the TV (Sesame Street, which the almost-5 boy has come to think of as somehow uncool, but will still watch) and dozed on the couch for about an hour and a half. After that, we spent an hour or so wrangling coat and shoes onto the kids (it's a process, not an event) and I took them a couple of blocks away to use their new scooters on a stretch of pavement near the local high school.

The 2.5 girl has some trouble with the scooter, but she's as happy to just run around in circles. The boy does pretty well, though I yelled at him for doing it one-handed and then had to coax him back when he refused to ride it. (I soured him on his bike with similarly stern safety tips and didn't want to repeat the problem.) Anyway, he recovered then we had a blast playing tag and throwing rocks into an icy mud puddle. We came up with game of walking on a curb, avoiding stepping into the parking lot (hot lava) and the muddy practice field (poison forest). He decided he wanted to change the imaginary pitfalls so the field became just poison mud and the lot was a trapdoor. When I asked where the trapdoor went, he thought about it for a minute and said to a black pit where robot arms threw fruit at you (my hand to God). Actually, that's a pretty freaky Wonka-gone-wild scenario. Definitely something to keep you on the curb. Anyway, we had a fine time... until he fell into the mud puddle.

It was deep, wet, and cold, and he got covered. He got absolutely hysterical, which I can't really blame him for, but I had to try to talk him down enough to walk the two blocks back home while he screamed bloody murder. My daughter had lost her gloves and we didn't have time to look for them so she was screaming bloody murder too--plus, I had to carry the scooters as well. Needless to say, it was eight minutes of living hell and I had threatened to kill both of my offspring before the end of it. We washed, got clean clothes and hot chocolate with marshmallows, and the storm passed.

As if that wasn't enough stress, I had to take the boy out to a store to pick a birthday present for a schoolmate's party (BTW, kids' birthday parties have become a nothing short of an arms race. The magician. The animal wrangler. The pony rides. Seriously... it's out of control.) The Target toy run went fine, except when we got out, it had just started to snow. Driving in snow does not intimidate me, though in this case, it should have. It had been raining most of the day so the inch of snow covered a perfect sheet of ice over everything. I lost control of the car three times on the way home, the last time was when I was slowing down to turn into my street traveling less than 10 miles per hour. I tapped the brake and released it when I felt the car start to slide. Instead of continuing straight, it just skidded sideways up onto a curb and missed hitting a family by about three feet. I would have been more freaked out except I was just so stunned it happened. After all, I've driven in snow a hundred times and I was being extremely careful--after having skidded twice already. The whole thing literally happened in slow motion, so even if I'd hit the pedestrians, they probably would have just gotten pushed out of the way. Still, it's a pretty harrowing feeling. As soon as the car stopped, I got out to check that nobody was hurt. They seemed as stunned as I was by the whole thing. I put the blinkers on and drove the remaining 50 yards to my house at about two miles an hour.

So, overall, 2005 was OK, with its assorted ups and downs for me--but, damn, am I grateful that New Year's Eve 2005 is done.

Anyway, may you all have a good one.

-- mm

A Kouple Komments on King Kong
December 30, 2005

Forgive the K's. No particular intended meaning.

While the in-laws were staying over during the Christmas Holidays (I wonder if using both words together offends Christians?), the wife and I took the built-in babysitting opportunity to take in a movie. There was little debate on what to spend our quarterly night out on: Peter Jackson's King Kong.

I have to say, it was less like a movie than an experience. It's long. Gruelingly long, though never boring--though a hair of action movie overkill tedium creeps in at some points. Its length, however, contributes to the overall experience. You take a journey with the film, and come out pretty nearly exhausted from it. I don't mean that in a negative way; you climb up and down the mountain and the tired you're left with is a good tired.

To consider the movie itself... well, there's plenty of reviews out there and you can read them on your own. Personally, I always like to read reviews after I see a movie to decide if I agree or not on the spot. All I'll say is that everything you've heard about it is true. It's very entertaining, truly spectacular to behold, a little contrived at some moments, and packs a big, sentimental wallop. Frankly, I don't think there's much more from a popcorn-crunching "Movie" experience you could want than what PJ's KK deliver's in butter-drenched boatloads. Quibble all you like with the paucity of meaty intellectual themes in the film, but if your pulse don't quicken when that magnificently rendered CGI monkey battles a dinosaur for the blondie, you just ain't human.

The thing I enjoyed the most about it was the very close attention the filmmakers paid to the behavior of real gorillas. Kong's looks, movements, behaviors, and even emotings are beautifully informed by real gorilla behavior. Speaking as someone who's spent many hours in the Great Ape houses at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, the National in DC, the San Diego Zoo, the Bronx Zoo, the Philadelphia Zoo, the Fort Worth Zoo, and Busch Gardens in Tampa--not to mention watched every National Geographic and Animal Planet gorilla special ever made--I have a pretty strong image of what these creatures are like. Once you've stared into the eyes of one for a while, you can't ever think of them as merely animals again. Jackson and company definitely did their homework, and Kong is a cinematic being at once as familiar and alien as anything you've ever seen on film. That alone was worth the $9 ticket to me.

Anyway, I definitely recommend making a the effort to see King Kong on the big screen if you're even remotely interested. You're not likely to be disappointed.

-- mm

A Quick Bushku
December 29, 2005
He's a straight shooter.
When he's speaking you know just
Where Karl Rove stands.

-- mm

More Bushku

Texas Taffy, Divine Justice
December 16, 2005

There's a candy product named Laffy Taffy; the kids got lots of it for Halloween. It's basically a little slug of chewy, flavored goo with the gimmick that it has jokes printed on the wrapper. They're of the kid-friendly, pun-heavy, not-particularly-funny variety, apparently contributed by people via a website. If your joke is picked, you get your first name, last initial, and city and state abbreviation listed with it. Joe T., Brooklyn, NY; Mary S., Tampa, FL; you know the deal.

Here's an inadvertently hilarious one. When I read this, I probably laughed louder than anyone over 6 has ever given up for a Laffy Taffy label:

Laffy Taffy wrapper - Jesus V. Laredo, TX

I can think of a few things assorted Texans have done that might piss off Jesus, but one wonders what the town of Laredo in particular did to actually merit a lawsuit.

-- mm

An "A" Snowman
December 15, 2005

Yes, it's a snowman shaped like a letter A. What'd you expect from a title like that?

snowman shaped like an A

The first of a planned series. Don't hold your breath for the complete set.

-- mm

A Few More Bushku
December 14, 2005

A few more Bushku based on King George II's recent series of speeches.

He now blames the war
On faulty intelligence.
You got that right, George.
He thinks Iraq lost
Thirty thousand, more or less,
Since liberation
He says you must try
To keep history in mind
When your kid gets killed.
Removing Saddam
Was still the right decision,
Whoever made it.

-- mm

Slipping in Google
December 13, 2005

Ah... darn. Since I stopped writing a daily blog entry, my Google ranking has slipped. "mattmchugh" still gets me as #1, but "Matt McHugh" gets an IMDB entry for the old movie actor of the same name. I'm #2, but that's just not good enough. I have little doubt that it's because I stopped regularly updating my site. So, I've to make some more updates. So, here's one.

Regarding Googling "Matt McHugh," as I say, my home page comes up #2, but number #3 is a subpage on my site. It's my April 2004 Blog page. This is also one my most accessed files according to my host's log. I can't quite figure out why. The only thing on there that's kind of unusual is (are? ... can't tell, it's Japanese, you know!) Bushku. I haven't updated any of them in ages either, and I have a separate Bushku page (hit #4 in Google), so if by some fluke, they get some webby attention, shouldn't it all go to that page? Who knows? But, in any case, I do need to update this site to stay in the mix. So, I'll try to get an entry every other day or so. But I'm not going back to daily. Nope. That ship be sailed, at least for now.

BTW... a Bushku for you:

I'm impressed the word
"Islamofacism" made
It out of his mouth

-- mm

Fever Dream After the Novel
December 2, 2005

Beginning in mid-November, I'd spent the last two and a half weeks immersed in the challenge of trying to write a 50,000-word novel start to finish. When, on November 30 at about 6:30, I finally uploaded my text to the website sponsoring the "contest" and its counter came back with 50,002, the sense of release was palpable. Went out and met a friend for a few drinks and just decompressed. That night, I had a great, long, complex, elaborate dream

The first thing I remember was being in a large, underground room, like a vast, disused subway or train station. It was definitely a foreign country, and all around were martial artists, apparently there to participate in some big, underground (figuratively and literally, it seemed) tournament. By some fluke, I was dressed in a gi, but I wasn't participating in the tournament. Far too old and out of shape for such things. I had colored ribbons or tassels around my thigh, supposedly indicating my rank and style, but I had no idea what they meant. They weren't mine; I was wearing this and in this location due to some kind of mix up. A guy came up to me and said "Oh, you do muay tai," and kneed me in the ribs lightly, being playful and competitive at the same time. I tried to explain that I wasn't in the tournament, but he just kept goofing around and kneeing and elbowing me. I moved on.

Everywhere I went, fighters--all Asian, by the way--were throwing punches and kicks at me. Nobody actually made contact; they were just showing off that they could. I found this very annoying but decided I'd have to just ignore it, since I wouldn't have stood a chance had I fought any of them. I found my way to a something like a cafeteria and got in line with a food tray. There, I saw a former teacher of mine. I said hello to him. He asked me if that's what I'd been doing with myself lately: fighting in underground tournaments. I said "No, I'm just here on a business trip." (That was the first that explanation of my presence there came to me.) I asked him if was here to referee, and he said yes. He invited me back to eat at his room, away from the fighters.

His "room" turned out to be a large greenhouse-type garden, apparently a place of high honor available for only the most respected judges. We sat down on padded benches far apart from each other, perhaps twenty feet. I started a conversation, asking how long he'd been doing this tournament refereeing when suddenly his entire extended family--wife, kids, parents, uncles, cousins, siblings, nieces and nephews, etc.--came to the door of the greenhouse. Forty people or so streamed in and there was this instant picnic-party going on. I figured I had no place at such a family gathering so I quietly slipped out.

Back in the large station-like room where all the fighters were, lights out had been called for the night and most had settled down on cots or mattresses on the floor. I had a bunk up in a balcony where I could see down below. On one big mattress I could see one guy with a prostitute. He was a heavy-set, crew-cut American and was humping this woman in an aggressive, animalistic way. No one paid any attention. I figured that such things were pretty common in this setting. But, after he'd finished, the guy started pushing and slapping around the prostitute. I remember being annoyed that none of these peak-condition fighters had the decency to intervene. I went down to try to put a stop to it, but again, didn't think I would be much of match for the guy. I picked up a chair--it just like the wooden high-chair used by both my children--and figured I'd just clock him with it. Then, the guy gets a chair as well and starts threatening to hit the hooker with it. I thought, great... now I have to fight this guy in a chair-duel! I figured that it was such a bizarre method of combat that at least he wouldn't have the advantage of being experienced at it.

Before anything could happen, the scene changed. It was the same kind of dilapidated underground station, only now it was filled with refugees of some kind. It had heavy wooden pews, like a church, and people were camped all around. There were a couple people in charge, and they suddenly told us all to prepare ourselves because the flood waters were coming. No sooner had they said this that white water rushed into the room and began to wash over the pews. I held on and it hit my like a wave, but dissipated and was gone almost immediately. The men in charge said we should evacuate quickly. I wasn't so sure that was a good idea because the tunnels outside the big room were narrow and had low ceilings. Seemed to me we were much safer in a large room less likely to completely flood.

However, the men in charge hustled me out anyway and I found myself in the tunnels--old and crumbling, but ornate with Italianate marble arches, like an Roman aqueduct. It was lit by a series of torches and I remember thinking how dark and scary it would be if those torches went out. I was with a local man and woman. The woman was hysterical, so I told the man to take her one hand, I'd take her other, and we'd lead her out together. There was a long ramp covered with some kind of black rubber. We climbed up the ramp and were out of the underground in less that two stories. I was surprised that the tunnels were so close to the surface and realized the guys hustling people out had made the right decision. I decided to go back down to see if I could help anyone else evacuate.

Back in the large room, I saw a guy I knew from work. He was one of the people in charge down there, but the urgency to evacuate seemed to have passed. He had gotten cancer recent and his nose and face were covered with small lesions. His teeth were rotting and he had some kind of chemotherapy catheter embedded in his face. He went up out of the tunnel to smoke a cigarette, and I remember thinking that was a pretty sad case of addiction.

I followed up to the surface but lost sight of him. We were in the middle of some kind of run-down shopping district, with many of the storefronts closed or boarded. Suddenly, up from one of the nearby entrances to the underground came a large silver elephant and rhinoceros. Their bodies were featureless, pliant, reflective silver--like mylar balloons of old-fashion computer animation. I remember thing that I understood why people might travel to this strange country just to see that. The elephant and rhino came up to street level, then immediately turned into another tunnel and started back underground. The rhino fell. It was a big, clumsy, stupid thing that just foundered around on its side, struggling to get up. Eventually it righted itself and continued down the tunnel.

That's all I remember. It's actually a pretty loaded dream. Maybe I'll take a whack at analyzing it over the next few days.

-- mm

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