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April 2008

All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
April 30, 2008

I enjoy pushing buttons.

Not the plastic ones. I mean the invisible "buttons" people have that can transform them from mild-mannered folks into red-faced, bug-eyed screaming monsters.

And nothing can push a button like the topic of politics.

And for some reason, when the subject turns to Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, cluster bombs of temper tantrums can erupt from those who disagree with the candidacy and/or policies of either of these Democratic presidential candidates.

Now, before I go any further, I'm an equal opportunity fence rider, especially when it comes to politics. I've voted for Democrats and Republicans in past presidential races. The only allegiance I hold is to whomever I happened to believe is the best candidate regardless of party. And that allegiance usually reveals itself when the actual ballot is sitting in front of me.

Sad, I know.

I'm usually socially liberal but financially conservative, and when it comes to defense, I think it's best to have someone who is making decisions that could send American men and women into harm's way to have actually had an active and productive stint in the military.

Finding such a candidate in these times, however, would be like finding Rush Limbaugh at a Pearl Jam concert. In other words: ain't gonna happen. Besides, my multi-faceted dream candidate seems simply too perfect to be realized in 2008 -- which is somewhat sad, I suppose.

All of this is to say when I push politically charged buttons, it doesn't necessarily mean I agree with the things I'm spouting to push such buttons.

I simply like to see my friends' cheeks get red.

I have one friend who would vote Republican even if Charles Manson was the G.O.P. candidate. So, needless to say, when I was hanging out with him the other night, I jumped right in.

"Boy," I said clapping my hands with glee, "can you believe how fantastic Obama is doing? He's going to turn this country around when he's elected."

"WHAT?!?" my friend bellowed. "He's gonna turn this country around into a Muslim country! That's what he's gonna do!"

Now, let's stop here for a moment. Obama opponents, whether they are Clinton supporters or Republicans, have scored a coup with the absolute nonsense about Obama's alleged association with and belief in radical Islam. As I've noted, I don't know for whom I'm voting in November, but the utter b.s. about Obama's supposed closeted Islam beliefs and the horse manure notion that he's going to swear on the Koran if elected has been bought hook, line and sinker by millions of folks -- even by friends of mine who should know better.

If I've offended folks who have taken these tales to heart, then I'm sorry. I think it's best you splash water on your face and slap yourself awake before you fall for something else. Before you know it, you'll start believing those Nigerian e-mail scams too.

Back to pushing buttons with my Republican friend...

"Are you telling me you believe all that Internet crap about Obama being a closet Muslim?" I asked.

"Hell yes! Did you know that if he's elected he's going to take the oath of office on the Koran?!?"

"I can't believe that you, my level-headed friend, would fall for that stuff. Besides, Bush has run this economy in the ground sinking trillions of dollars into the war. Yeah, it's gonna be a good day when he leaves office, but Obama is going to have to fix a big mess."

It's at this moment in the conversation that all the blood in my buddy's body immediately flooded into his cheeks. Again, keep in mind that I'm saying all of this to get the reaction from my friend that will explode in three...two...one!

"I GUESS YOU FORGOT ABOUT SEPTEMBER 11! WE'RE OVER IN IRAQ TO PROTECT OUR COUNTRY! W. IS A MAN OF ACTION! YOU THINK OBAMA WOULD GO AFTER THE TERRORISTS? HELL, NO!"

"Oh, you don't think I support our troops?" I said. "Of course, I do. But the real terrorists are in Afghanistan and Pakistan. What are we doing in Iraq?"

"DOING WHAT BILL CLINTON SHOULD HAVE DONE, THAT'S WHAT!"

"Well, I will grant you that I don't entirely trust handing our military decisions to Obama because McCain would definitely be a better option in that arena."

"AND I TELL YOU ANOTHER THING! I DON'T THINK THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD BE GIVING A BUNCH OF HANDOUTS TO PEOPLE! THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO HAD NOTHING AND ARE NOW MAKING $250 MILLION A YEAR!"

By now, the waitress at the restaurant where we were having this conversation, seemed a bit reluctant to approach our table.

"Ahhh, you know I'm just playing devil's advocate. I was just pushing --"

"AND HERE'S SOMETHING ELSE: I BELIEVE IN PEOPLE PULLING THEMSELVES UP BY THEIR BOOTSTRAPS! THAT'S SOMETHING OBAMA DOESN'T BELIEVE IN -- THAT'S FOR SURE!"

"Hey, I was just --"

"THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO HAD NOTHING! AND THEY'RE NOW MULTI-MILLIONAIRES!

"OK...I was just messing --"

"OBAMA WOULD JUST BE A HORRIBLE MISTAKE FOR AMERICA!"

My friend went on and on. And I realized now would not be the time to tell him the rumor I heard about Sean Hannity being a cross-dresser.

I would've been kidding, but I had already pushed one too many buttons.

Rob is the president of W.R.D. Entertainment. Feel free to e-mail him at rgmax99@yahoo.com, and check out his blog: www.suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com.

All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
April 16, 2008

Here are two things Batesville does not need for, at least, a month: rain and traffic jams on Harrison Street.

Talking about the rain and flooding these days is futile. We're all sick of it. We want to be dry. And we want to be able to go to Riverside Park without floating to Newport. Simple as that.

However, the Harrison Street dilemma has some interesting aspects worth discussing. First, about two columns back, I made the now-ridiculous statement that the thoroughfare seemed to be moving much smoother with the new turning lane. The day that issue was published I spent ten minutes on Harrison trying to go five blocks. I distinctly remember sitting in traffic, thinking about the comment I wrote in that particular week's column and then banging my head against my steering wheel over and over and over...

Well, actually, I'm being a bit dramatic, but I'm sure you get the drift. I still have people coming up to me, asking: "What exactly were you smoking when you wrote that Harrison Street was running smoother?"

I try to avoid Harrison Street now, hitting one of the parallel avenues instead. But when I find myself on Harrison, I tend to see some fellow frustrated drivers, as well as some stupid ones. Case in point: those dimwits who think the middle turning lane is a passing lane. Here's something from Driving 101: the turning lane is NOT a passing lane. Drivers utilize the turning lane to turn left, not to zoom past waiting cars on a possible collision course with someone who actually understands the purpose of the lane.

There's an accident waiting to happen if that nonsense keeps up.

***

Speaking of dimwits, I recently went to see the horror film, The Ruins. Last year, I read the acclaimed novel on which the movie is based, and though horror movies usually aren't my bag, I decided to check it out.

Because I read the novel and because the film was R-rated, I knew going in that the movie was going to be stuffed with blood and gore. So, there I sat waiting for the movie to begin when a couple walks in the theatre with...a...two-year-old...child.

These brilliant parents sat through the movie and exposed their kid to a movie filled with scenes such as a man's head being blown off, a man having his rotted-to-the-bone legs amputated with a small hunting knife and a woman slashing herself open all over her body.

(Some of you may ask what the heck I was doing at a movie with such violence, much less the child. Again, I'm not a fan of horror movies, but the novel was a page turner. Plus it's about man-eating plants. How could I not miss a movie about man-eating plants? How often do those types of stories come along, huh?)

All of this begs the question: what kind of parent would go to a movie like this with a small child? There can be no valid reason for subjecting a two-year-old to such onscreen carnage. None. Zilch. Zero. And the crazy thing is, these parents looked like reasonable folks.

Unbelievable.

Many movie theatre chains have a policy of no children under the age of six being allowed in any R-rated film. That should be mandatory for all theatres.

That, and the banning of any more movies where Matthew McConaughey takes off his shirt.

That should also be a nationwide policy, don't you think?

Rob is the president of W.R.D. Entertainment. Feel free to e-mail him at rgmax99@yahoo.com, and check out his blog: www.suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com.

All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
April 9, 2008

This is Biology 101, I realize, but watching the gene pool of each parent revealing itself externally through the child's looks -- their eyes, hair, body structure, etc. -- is a wonderful process, but when they begin exhibiting some personality quirks and emotions of a particular parent, then that's where the fun begins.

People often say that our son, Hutton, is me made over in looks. He does look like me in some aspects, but if one compared pictures of me at age ten and Hutt, the similarities aren't so prevalent. Personally, I think his mother's looks dominate, particularly in his facial features. However, internally, his personality is a carbon copy of mine at that age. He's obsessed with helicopters, video games, his dirt bike, music, movies, airplanes and getting down on his hands and knees with his cars and trucks and crashing them into each other with his vocal sound effects of explosions ("Ka-pusshhh!", "Paaakkkuuuussshh!") and the imaginary screams of the poor souls in those vehicles.

He possesses a profound distaste for homework just like me. (I know: most kids loathe homework, but for Hutt, homework can be equated to physical torture.) And his sense of humor is goofball to the extreme.

Sports don't really interest him, but he'll still list his favorite football, baseball, and basketball teams, and then ask you for your favorites. Sure, the television and computer monitor hold a little too much sway in his downtime, but I was much worse of a couch potato, watching reruns of Gilligan's Island, Get Smart, The Andy Griffith Show, Gomer Pyle, etc., until my eyes would lifelessly fall out of their sockets. And his fascination with engineering and fun science shows (Mythbusters would be one example) likely stems from his mother's side (Engineering played a big part in his maternal Granddad's career).

As for our 12-year-old daughter, Hannah, one can quickly sense many personality characteristics inherited from her mother, particularly her good nature and shining politeness to those around her.

However, definitive proof that she also holds many of my genes can be found in her wicked and bone dry sense of humor.

Case in point: Tuesday of last week. She opened the door, and I found her standing with one ankle wrapped in bandages and holding onto crutches for support.

A breath leapt from my chest.

"Honey! What happened?"

"Oh, I fell down," she said in a very matter-of-fact tone.

"How? Are you OK?"

She stared at me, expressionless, and after a moment of likely considering the cluelessness of her father, said: "Dad. What's today?"

"Tuesdaaa..." It then hit me. "Oh. April Fools, huh?"

"Yes. And this is how I'm going to school. I'm telling everyone I broke my ankle doing a triple back flip off the trampoline."

Her mastery of text messaging has also furthered her sarcastic reach. I can be sitting in a meeting, eating dinner or sound asleep when I hear my cell phone beep. Nine times out of ten, it's her working her thumbs like mad, texting me little notes, trying to rankle me in some fashion.

And, then there's her discovery of You Tube, the website that allows anyone with a computer and some type of video link to post videos on the Internet. As I write, she and her friends currently have about eight or nine little shows on You Tube. They range from skits featuring her performance of an elderly aunt with severe digestive problems to monologues concerning her obsession with teen rockers, The Jonas Brothers, to lots of instances of prank calls to her friends (of course, hearing only her end of the conversation does take away some of the intended fun).

There is a "double-edge sword" aspect to all of this, of course.

Just as kids inherit the fun aspects of their parents' personalities, they also inherit their bad traits, as well. Morning crankiness usually reigns supreme with both of them, and my hot-head temper surfaces from time to time in these two.

But, again, this is all Biology 101 stuff. The good and bad genetic cargo is on the same train, so to speak.

I will be concerned, however, if either of them exhibit their father's infamous penchant for closely studying crumbled gunk plied from his toenails.

That's just wrong.

Rob is the president of W.R.D. Entertainment. Feel free to e-mail him at rgmax99@yahoo.com, and check out his blog: www.suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com.

All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
April 2, 2008

I finally caught up with the 2007 western, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, on DVD last week, and after watching the 160-minute film, I immediately wanted to see it again.

Assassination delves into the cracked psyche and darkness that likely tortured the notorious outlaw James, particularly during the final days of his life. The film, based on a 1983 novel of the same name, paints the criminal as an increasingly paranoid, disturbed, perhaps regretful, and certainly deadly soul. Brad Pitt, an actor whose tremendous talent as an artist has always been overshadowed by his celebrity, delivers an astounding performance as James that taps into the man's descent. Much has been made regarding Casey Affleck's performance as Ford, an odd young man eager for the celebrity James had attained and who eventually shot the legendary bandit dead, and it is a brilliant job, but Pitt's work completely centers the film and infects it with a somber and dark tone free of artifice and exposed theatrical mechanics.

Pitt, Affleck and the wonderful other actors who breathe life into the much-covered territory of the Jesse James myth are authentic and mesmerizing. Yet, the film belongs to writer and director Andrew Dominik. This is a major piece of film artistry that completely removed me from present day and enveloped me in its backwoods world and its forlorn spirit. Dominik's rough poetic country dialogue illuminate the rustic and hardened characters, and his command of mood and cinema converge to make a rare, almost note perfect film.

Warner Bros., the studio that produced the movie, apparently had little faith in the film. They dumped it into a few theatres last September with minimum publicity. It's a shame because if they had truly pushed this fine movie, there's a chance more people and more accolades would have come its way.

Other odds and ends this week...

Is it me or is Harrison Street in Batesville running much smoother even though there are only three lanes? The middle turn lane helps tremendously. I wonder if the Independence County Sheriff's Department has noticed a decrease in rear end fender benders.

Batesville's Blockbuster Video is shutting its doors (by the time you read this, it may already have), which, I believe, leaves the town with two video renting options: Hastings, and of all places, McDonald's.

Batesville resident Bev Finch passed along an encouraging update on her singer/songwriter daughter, Scout. Currently based out of Nashville, Scout received an extremely positive review of her debut CD from the website, www.rodeoattitude.com. The reviewer, John Lewis, says Scout "...has almost everything she needs to be a major country artist with a long lasting career."

Rolling Stone magazine is reporting that Wal-Mart is pushing record companies to lower CD prices. The mag says ten bucks per CD is the magic number, and the article implies that the chain might cut back on stocking CDs if the music biz doesn't adhere to its request...In some amazing news, a recent AOL TV survey noted that over 50% of television viewers believe CNN's Larry King is the least sexiest interviewer on television. Shocking.

I saw -- what I estimate to be -- my 21st Bruce Springsteen show last week in Ohio. I've always said that if you only associate Born in the U.S.A. with Springsteen, you're missing a much bigger picture. And only by seeing him live can a skeptic be converted. No one in the Ohio State arena sat during the entire show. He is a genuine rock and roll evangelist who can spur an assembled flock into a hurricane frenzy, brothers and sisters. (See the cell phone photo that accompanies this article. He keeps the houselights on for most of his encore.)

Apparently, there are some major fans of heavy metal bad boy Axl Rose at Dr Pepper. The soda company announced last week that it will give everyone in America a free can of Dr Pepper if Rose finally releases the 17 years-in-the-making Guns N' Roses album, Chinese Democracy, this year. Here's a suggestion: if Rose does release the album in 2008, why doesn't Dr Pepper take the dollar amount of all those free cans and donate the money to charity?

And yes, it's true: there is no period after Dr in Dr Pepper. Look it up.

Rob is the president of W.R.D. Entertainment. Feel free to e-mail him at rgmax99@yahoo.com, and check out his blog: www.suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com.

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