Saturday, August 30, 2008

John McCain's running mate--Alaskan GOP governor Sarah Palin


Going into John McCain’s announcement, I was expecting him to select Michigan native and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney as his running mate. Then I heard speculation about the female governor of Alaska. Had to look up her name. Sarah Palin.

Then came the news that McCain had chosen Palin as his running mate.

What’s there to like? She’s smart, articulate, tough, a “hockey mom” whose youngest child has Down’s Syndrome but is loved and adored. They say she also, during her tenure as Alaskan governor, cut wasteful spending and cleaned up corruption. Sounds like she has lots of moxie and street smarts, the kind of woman who’s not easily intimidated. To win the Republican nomination for governor, she had to beat out the GOP incumbent in the primary. She’s also an outdoors woman who fishes, hunts and is a member of the NRA. She’s also very pro-life and supports drilling for oil in Alaska.

Some conservative friends of mine are calling this a slam-dunk pick, one that will awaken the conservative base that sat out 1996, 2000 and 2004 and perhaps even women out there. My gut tells me that in November McCain will defeat Barack Obama 60-40.

What’s there not to like? She has served less than two years and, before that, she served as mayor of a town of about 6,000 people. I understand her bachelor’s degree is in communications. Not exactly a detailed political résumé.

Yes, she’s running for vice president and not president. But keep in mind that with McCain’s age (72) and health, it’s possible she could end up having to take over. I like to think that she’ll fare well in her debate against Joe Biden, but we’ll have to see. Biden has served for many years as a U.S. senator.

I did find it amusing how Obama at first derided her for her perceived lack of experience. He has since backed off it. I guess he figured he didn’t have much more, and he’s running for the big prize.

It’s hard to say how this selection will go, but my gut tells me that historians will look up on this as an absolutely brilliant move by McCain. We’ll see. All I know is this: I had been telling myself that I’d consider third party if a pro-abortion running mate had been chosen by McCain. Now, I know for certain in November I will vote for McCain.

Either way, this will be a historical election: we'll either have our first female vice president or our first black president. I hope it's the former.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Controversy: Madonna's hail mary for relevance

We know what a hail mary pass is in football. You send your receivers into the end zone, toss the ball high in the air and hope one of them comes down with the catch.

Well, right now I'd say Madonna is performing a hail mary of sorts in her concerts.

In her "Sticky and Sweet" tour (something I probably would've thought was cool 25 years ago when I thought Madonna was hot), she flashed images comparing John McCain to Adolf Hitler.
Specifically, a video during her concert showed images of destruction, so-called man-made global warming, Hitler and McCain. Then, on the happy side the images showed John Lennon, Al Gore, Mahatma Gandhi and Barack Obama.

It reminded me of that classic line from Animal Farm: Four legs (Obama) good, two legs (McCain) bad!

McCain blasted the ad, but he really should've ignored it. After all, Madonna is doing what she's always done--use controversy to draw attention to herself. I suspect she's in hail mary mode when you consider all the pretty female pop stars out there (Avril Lavigne, Celine Dion, Kelly Clarkson, et al).

I find it amusing that Madonna would have such a strong opinion...hasn't she spent much of the past few years (until the last several months) living abroad in England?

Disappointed with National Treasure 2

I loved the first movie, but the second one sucked and was far too formula driven. Here's a rapid synopsis:

Cage and his girlfriend break up, and he moves out of the giant mansion. His friend's sports car gets towed. So much for all the money they made. They now set out on a new adventure: to prove that Cage's character's ancestor didn't conspire to assassinate Abraham Lincoln.

The "evidence" is a fragment of a single piece of paper, listing Gates with other conspirators. Truly underwhelming evidence, but nevertheless evidence. In the course of getting to the truth, they prove the ancestor's innocence, get filthy rich again, Cage's character and girlfriend reconcile, the assistant gets a girlfriend, and even Cage's parents (played by Jon Voigt and Helen Mirren) reconcile after a bitter 30 years of being happily divorced. Once again, the man is the thoughtless pig that ruins the relationship.

See this movie only if you're a big fan of Mirren (which I am) or if you like the cool riddles they have to solve.

2008 Democratic National Convention thoughts

Haven't been watching it, don't plan on it. Mostly because I am no longer a full-time freelance writer and now work full-time at a newspaper. My time is limited, and I don't have the inclination to listen to Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama bloviate. I'm not voting for Obama.

Want a summary of what's being said in Denver at the convention? Here's an idea:

(Bush is trying to send a message to Muslim extremists: don't screw with America) Bush lied, people died...let's (make it even harder for businesses to thrive) end tax cuts to the wealthy...We need (to regurgitate the same, tired old message) change in this country...We need to (become an international yes-man to Europe and the rest of the world, never mind that we often get called up on when some conflict arises) undue all the foreign policy disasters that Bush has done...Get the troops out of Iraq...Let's (naively suck up to Iran) try to have dialogue with Iran...

The items in parentheses, of course, represent what they really mean.

Will I watch the Republican National Convention? Don't know. I will be paying close attention to whom John McCain chooses as his running mate. If he picks a pro-abortion running mate, it will bother me enough to where I will consider third party. The idea, of course, is that the GOP is continually ignoring its conservative base to where it's starting to show no noticeable difference from the Democrats. Sad.

My boss at work, a Reagan Republican, is going third party.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Post-olympic thoughts

The Olympics are gone. I must admit, curiosity led me to watch some, but I chose not to blog about it. Just my protest, I suppose. Next Olympics will be the winter 2010 in Vancouver and the summer 2012 in London. Chicago is in the running to get the 2016 games.

Getting a chance to speak Chinese

I’ve met a few people in Oxford who speak Chinese. One’s a teacher for Oxford schools (she teaches Mandarin Chinese). Then there are the Canton province-born restaurant owners who also speak Mandarin. Am told another Chinese restaurant in town has an owner who doesn’t speak English. This is actually great news and will provide me opportunities down there to practice my Pu Tong Hua (Mandarin Chinese).

Sakartvelo, Sakaaaaartvelo...

We call the country Georgia. Russia calls it Грузия (Gruziya). The Georgians call their country Sakartvelo. Odd, isn’t it? Funny how country names change. What we call China the Chinese call Zhong Guo. What we call Finland the Finnish call Suomi. What we call Germany the Germans call Deutschland. In return, the Chinese call America Mei Guo, the Koreans call it Mei Gook and the Arabs (if I remember right), call our country Umrika (when not referring to us as “The Great Satan”).

Who will be John McCain's running mate? Colin Powell? Mitt Romney?

I’ve seen reports online that John McCain may choose retired Army general and former secretary of state Colin Powell as his running mate. Would almost be a reversal of what Barack Obama is doing with Senator Joe Biden. Would it work? I know that Powell supports abortion and affirmative action. Hmmm…I still prefer Mitt Romney, but perhaps McCain might feel that an African-American running mate would be perfect for his ticket. Obama’s chances in November are starting to look more and more nebulous, so why not make things interesting by potentially having the first black vice president?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Wow, I was right about Obama's pick

I had suspected Barack Obama would choose Delaware senator Joe Biden as his running mate, and indeed he did. Biden is said to have lots of foreign policy experience.

Now, I wonder if Obama made a pick that will destroy his chances in November.

Remember, this is the same Biden who has spoken glowingly of John McCain and who in a debate questioned Obama's leadership, saying that the presidency is not the place for on-the-job training.

Hillary Clinton may end up really loving this pick, since it possibly will open things up for her to run again in 2012.

Some speculation is that Obama is counting on blacks in the south to help him win southern states, but I wonder if that's truly enough. Some rappers talk about how Obama's not black enough, and I think there are too many conservatives in the south who won't vote for Obama and too many racists who simply can't stomach a black president.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Richard's Ramblings and news about another blog where I post...

...Sometime in the next few days, I'll be submitting my next version of Richard's Ramblings. Probably will be a random ramblings one. Lately haven't had much time to write it. My newspaper job is one of those where I tend to put in long hours right now, part of which spent learning the way things are done and making the right connections...

...Have been informed that, where I blog exclusively about the Dallas Cowboys, will be up by Monday or so. Looking forward to blogging about the Cowboys again!

Big story coming up this next week

Well, I think it's big. Could be wrong. All I'll say is that it has to do with law enforcement. Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Memories of Santo Gold

Perhaps you remember those cheesy commercials from the 1980s where a man with longish dark brown hair, eyes impossible to see because of the mirror or dark-tinted aviator glasses ice cream-white suit and and flashy gold jewelry that made him look like a Mr. T wannabe. The commercials sought to promote a jewelry line and a wrestling movie. The movie was Blood Circus. Always got a kick out of the commercials since Santo Gold (real name: Santo Rigatuso and has been known to go by Bob Harris) had this curious east coast accent. He pronounced "gold" as goh-d, as if he couldn't pronounce the letter L. He also pronounced "wrestling" as rassling. And, of course, the word "genuine" as gen-you-wine. The whole thing seemed to me like an extremely bizarre dream.

His movie was reportedly awful, so much that film editors who worked on it declared it unwatchable. His jewelry business tanked and Rigatuso/Harris was arrested and spent time in prison for fraud. Apparently, the "money back guarantee" was anything but a guarantee. There was one rumor that he was arrested for his crimes right as he was about to flee the country.

Now, he has a website where you can order an hour-long copy of The Making of Blood Circus. You can also submit demos to him to showcase your talent. If he likes what he sees, he'll work with you--for a fee. Who does this guy think he is? Simon Cowell? Star Search?

Some computer techs say the site is unprotected, meaning you're taking a risk if you put up your financial information.

I wonder if Harris is one of those guys who is deliberately doing what he can to get sent away again. Fishy...

Reawakening my interest in Mandarin Chinese

On Tuesday night, I had very short conversations in Mandarin Chinese (or, as it's said in Chinese, Pu Tong Hua) with the Chinese-born owners of an Oxford, Mich. restaurant. They were able to understand me; turned out, the Guang Dong province-born owners speak both Mandarin and Cantonese.

Then, today while at Oxford High School, I met a lady who's from Beijing and is now teaching Chinese. Again, short conversations and she said she understood me just fine. I even understood some of the things she said. Hao ji le!

Funny how once the pressure to study is removed, the language becomes much easier to learn. I've often thought that eight months of my life spent studying Mandarin at the Army's Defense Language Institute is too much time to waste. So, with that I'm working to brush up on both my Chinese and Russian skills. Spanish too, perhaps.

Teacher, whom I'd rather not identify, has even encouraged me to stop by sometime and chat with her. How cool is that?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Richard Zowie, restaurant reviewer

It was quite, surreal, actually. At work, I was told to go write a short review of a local restaurant for the monthly business magazine the newspaper puts out.

Me, a restaurant reviewer? Sure, I love to eat and enjoy food that's well-prepared and spicy, but I've never really thought of myself as someone to sit at a restaurant, sample some of the fare and write about it. But I was willing and it was easy: try their signature dishes and write what you liked about it.

"Which restaurant?" I asked the assistant publisher.

"Any of them," he replied.

My first choice was the local Thai restaurant since I've always wanted to try out Thai food. Unfortunately, the manager and I had a miscommunication and it didn't work out for this month. So, I tried the local Chinese restaurants. One of them fell through: the owner wasn't in to authorize it, and he didn't speak English. My Mandarin Chinese consists of a few phrases and a number of words and very rusty overall, so that was a no-go.

So, I tried out the other one in town.


The owners couldn't have been nicer, and I even conversed a few times--howbeit briefly--with them in Mandarin (they're from China's Canton Province and speak Cantonese primarily). Food was very wonderful. I dislike mushrooms and detest peas, but you know the food is good when the mushrooms and snowpeas (peas harvested when they're in the baby stage) taste great.

I was telling Dan, who works with me, that I'll have to go there a few times for lunch as a way of saying thank you for the free food they served for the review. Heck, not only did I get to take the Hunan Beef, Thai Chicken and General Tso's Chicken home, they also cooked up a quart of cashew chicken for my family to enjoy.

Wow. Hao ji le!

Few of the things I said to them in Chinese:

Li Xiao Long shi zai Jiu Jin Shan sheng de (Bruce Lee was born in San Francisco).

Suiran wo hen xi huan ya, ke shi wo bu xi huan chi ya! (Although I like ducks, I don't like to eat ducks).

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

My hunch on Barack Obama's running mate: Joe Biden

Tomorrow, Barack Obama announces through an e-mail whom he will be selecting as his running mate. My guess is that it will be Delaware senator Joe Biden. Biden is said to be strong on defense issues, as strong as a Democrat can be.

A smart choice? Not so sure. Granted, Obama is in way over his head and is woefully short on experience, but wouldn’t it be better to pick a popular Democrat from the South? Except for Maryland, I don’t think the Democrats have won a southern state since the 1996 elections. Remember: in 2000 Al Gore became the first presidential candidate since George McGovern in 1972 to lose his home state (Tennessee); in 2004, John Kerry lost North Carolina despite having Tarheel State Senator John Edwards as his running mate.

Honestly, it doesn’t really matter. Unless John McCain picks a pro-abortion running mate, I’m 100% certain I’ll vote for McCain. Then, I’d have to do some serious thinking.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Covering the police beat

Today at work, when pursuing some leads on possible crime stories, I was reminded of just how important it is as a journalist to be 100% cooperative with the police. If they ask you to hold off on a story due to a person not being formally charged, do it. If they ask for something to be kept off the record, do it. I know we all want to get the big scoop, but fewer things can be more crippling to the journalist than an alienated police department that won't provide them any information on stories.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Rough cut done!

Got the rough cut done on a 3,000-ish word freelance article that pays well. Hard part's over. Woo-hoo!

Writing contest thoughts

I was a little discouraged to lose out on a writing contest. When I saw the winner of one magazine's latest contest, it really made me think of something. Theme has to do with going into a bar. As I read the winner's story, I kept thinking, "What was the point of this story?" Read it over again and kept concluding the same thing.

From this, one can come to two conclusions: either I'm so far behind as a writer that I can't recognize good writing or that this winning entry really, really sucks and that I can have some success if I work hard and keep submitting.

There was a previous contest where I submitted what I thought was a good story, saw what won and wondered why such a mediocre piece of writing would win. Maybe I'm whining, or maybe the magazine's judges just have really bizarre standards.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Church tomorrow

Ahhh. Very nice to be going to church tomorrow. I've really missed it. That's one of the reasons I've always hated jobs that require work on Sunday. Get me out of church for a few weeks and my spiritual equilibrium seems to be out of whack.

New design on blog

In my never-ending quest to find a look that's perfect, I have gone with a different template for this blog. Most of the templates Blogger offers didn't impress me, but I kinda like this one. I may tweak with the colors down the road.

Just asking

I spent much of the last year trying to get full-time employment. One ad I kept running into talked about a very successful company needing people to work as "registration agents". $25 an hour. Sounds great, right?

Well, twice I applied for work there, went to fill out the applications, submit my resume and sit through a 20-minute presentation that could've easily been done in about five minutes. They never really told us what it was that we'd be doing, instead talking about this growing company and how successful it is and how we'd be working long hours.

On the surface, that sounded great. Working 12-hour days five days a week, this comes to $78,000 a year (before taxes, but still not too shabby).

When I went in for the private interview, they asked a few questions. Both times, the men said, "I really like your resume and your answers. You're on my short list. We'll be in touch."

Nothing came of it. But this company is constantly advertising needing new registration agents.

Is it possible that the job's far from what's advertised and that it's another one of those worthless commission only jobs where you have to drive your own vehicle and use your own gas when you go out and try to get people signed up?

Unemployment is very humbling and can suck away your dignity, but be very cautious of what you see in the job ads.

Very cautious.

Writer's Digest and The Writer magazines

My favorite time of the month, no doubt, is when Writer's Digest and The Writer magazine arrive in my mailbox. Always gives me hope and encouragement, like that Stephen King book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (which is boxed up somewhere in our garage, darn it). This month they were talking about websites and blogging and how both are important to writers. So, I think what I'll do is keep posting to this and two other free blogs to get an idea of which I like the best. If you're reading this, tell me what you like about my blog here as well as this blog server. Especially if you're a writer.


A few times, I've watched stuff out of curiosity, but no blogs are coming. Sorry. I don't like the choice of China as a host.

For those who like my blogs and wanted to see Olympic coverage, eat your heart out until Vancouver in 2010 and London in 2012.

John Edwards' career over?

It's been revealed that he was seeing another woman while his wife had cancer, and now there's becoming a possibility that this child is his. Is Edwards' political career one that a fork could be stuck into?

I suspect he and Detroit "mayor" Kwame Kilpatrick will be kept as far from Denver as possible.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Some dirty looks

Last night, I covered a township board of trustees meeting. A few people there gave me odd looks; one trustee member who's on her way out gave me an icy stare that reminded me of my mother when she was in a bad mood. Another gent at work, who looks a lot like me, had written a critical column about them, and apparently they thought I was him.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Big day at work tomorrow

That's the day we start getting ready to lay out the Wednesday edition. I'll also be going out to interview a new business owner and see if that'll make this week's paper. Lots of stuff regarding after-primary stories.

Have met some very interesting people, so far. I'm curious to see how many of the people I have tried in vain to contact via telephone will complain, come Wednesday, that they weren't included in the articles. Well, I might be able to do many things in life, but making people return phone calls isn't one of them.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Bernie Mac

I'm very saddened to learn of the premature passing of Bernie Mac. He was only 50. My family and I enjoyed watching his show The Bernie Mac Show, in syndication. I'll miss his rantings as he addresses the viewers as "America."

R.I.P., Mr. McCullough.

Almost getting to interview Rip Torn

So, at the newspaper I was given this press release. Rip Torn took a tour of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Article mentions that he's from Lakeville, which is a community near Oxford, Michigan (where I work).

Wow! I thought. Rip Torn! I remember him very well. He played an evil high priest in the 1982 film The Beastmaster and was in a few other movies. What's interesting is that he and I have a few things in common: both of us grew up in Texas, both of us are left-handed and both of us share a birthday (February 6).

How to get in touch with him? Knowing it would probably be a dead end, I looked him up online to see if he had an address in Lakeville, using his real first name--Elmore.


No listing in Michigan, either, for an Elmore Torn (his real first name).

Then I looked at the press release and noticed it was datelined New London, Connecticut, where the academy is at. Is it possible there's a Lakeville, Connecticut? I thought.

Sure enough, there was.

Bummer. I was looking forward to meeting him and talking with him. The only nearby celebrity we have is Kid Rock, who has a home in nearby-Ortonville.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

R.I.P., Gospodin Solzhenitsyn. Do svidaniya.

Working at the paper

I've tried driving down to Oxford through Davison and Lapeer and find both to be about the same length. I prefer Davison since it has fewer stoplights and less traffic.

One of my work colleagues has been there, done that. Lots of great stories to tell. Used to work at the Detroit News. Tells me that only about 10% of Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's corruption has gone public.

According to this colleague, being related to Kilpatrick has its advantages. One of Kwame's relatives, according to this reporter, makes around $70,000 a year working only an hour per week. Basically, sitting in on meetings. That's about $1,346.15 per hour. If a person were working a 40-hour week at that hourly rate, they'd be earning $2.8 million per year.

Once again, I find myself hardly waiting to get to work and keeping my eyes peeled for a story that might be huge. We'll see what happens.

Camping this last weekend

We went up to Alpena (up north, as Michiganders like to call it) to a camp. Spent time canoeing on Thunder Bay River, which flows into Lake Winyah (which eventually flows into Lake Huron.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Working at the paper

Work is going pretty good so far. It's great to be a full-timer. At this point, I'd rather not say the name of the newspaper, but it's a weekly in Michigan. For the first time in my writing career, I'm writing using WordPerfect instead of Microsoft Word (although the two are fairly similar). When loading articles, briefs, columns and other word texts onto the server, we put them into Pagemaker. Interesting.

It's sooooooooo nice to be in a newsroom and smell the faint, pleasant odors of the ink from the print shop.

Today, I filed a tragic story. Mother was sleeping with her infant and accidentally rolled over onto the baby in the middle of the night. Police are ruling it an accident. A very tragic accident that, no doubt, will haunt the lady for a long time.