Paula’s drunk; Bowfinger’s funny; Card is wise

Extraordinarily rough workout this morning. I’m not holding up well, particularly my back. To paraphrase Berkeley Breathed, I don’t think the Schwarzeneggerization of Stallion is meant to be.

Oh my living starts and garters. Idol last night was stunningly awful. Barbarino Castro and Brooke White need to go home. Now. David Archuleta is way talented, but he’s phoning it in. Syesha is starting to step up, but it’s too little too late. David Cook has the confidence of a rock star and is the most fun to watch of all of them, but that’s not saying much. I want Melinda Doolittle to come back from last season and win it all.

And what to make of Paula Abdul, stoned out of her mind? For her to ramble on about how Jason Castro’s second song left her “empty” before he’d even sung his second song, and then to say she was reading ahead to notes about David Cook, who she later said was her favorite.

Does anyone care that one of the judges shows up for work drunk off her tuckus every single night?

We watched Bowfinger after the kids went to bed, and that movie needs to be added to the list of the five best movies you’ve never seen. It’s got plenty of laughs throughout, but it holds the distinction of featuring the single funniest moment ever committed to film. The premise is that Steve Martin is filming a movie without Eddie Murphy realizing that he’s in it. Eddie Murphy also plays a nerdy stand-in who is asked by Martin to run across both sides of a busy freeway and avoid the “stunt drivers” in a pivotal scene. Neither I nor Mrs. Cornell could breathe by the end of it. If you’re not roaring with laughter after watching that, there is something seriously wrong with you.

I looked for it on YouTube, but I could only find it with some Scandinavian voiceover. The freeway bit doesn’t kick in until about halfway through, but even if you don’t speak Finnish, it will still make you howl.

Renowned Sci-Fi author and Latter-day Saint Orson Scott Card writes a weekly column that is always worth reading. His latest takes JK Rowling to task for her lawsuit against the publisher of the Harry Potter Lexicon. I was sympathetic to Rowling until I read Card’s very persuasive piece. Card also owns a website called the Ornery American where he does political commentary, and while he insists he’s still a Democrat, I have yet to find any other pundit with views that so closely parallel my own.

That may mean I’m not much of a Republican anymore, but I also think Card is in a state of denial re: his own party affiliation. It doesn’t matter – neither party is worth much of anything these days, so I take political wisdom wherever I can find it.

Card is also a great source for finding great books and CDs that you would never know about otherwise. His recommendation for The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss ought to be passed along, as it was the best book I read last year, Harry Potter included. Except I don’t understand why Patrick Rothfuss insists on wearing a goofy top hat in all of his author photos.

Writers are weirdos.

Sexy Grammar and Pronunciation

I’m a slob.

I’ve always been a slob, and I come from a family of slobs. Mrs. Cornell, a non-slob, isn’t too happy about my whole slob motif, and I’ve tried to adapt to living in the real world where people expect you to have an ironed shirt and don’t want to find Filet-O-Fish wrappers on the floor of your car, but I’m still struggling with it. I just don’t care enough to pick up after myself. I’m the opposite of an anal retentive, which is a pretty gross metaphor if you interpret the original description literally.

So it’s all the more surprising that I’m a Grammar Nazi. Perhaps I’m overcompensating for my irretentive anus in other ways, but nothing peeves me off more than lousy grammar. This, too, is a source of endless annoyance to the lovely Mrs. Cornell, who is exceptionally bright and literate, but does not share my contempt for ending sentences with prepositions. Some of our most gruesome marital squabbles have centered on sentence construction. I don’t know who originally said this, but ending a sentence with a preposition is an effrontery up with which I will not put.

But just as she’s learned to tolerate a certain amount of detritus in my living conditions, I’ve bitten my tongue a number of times to avoid obsessing over irrelevant grammatical imperfections. Currently, I’m coming to accept that many people I love see the verbs “lie” and “lay” as interchangeable, and they can say the sentence “I’m going to go lay down for awhile” without feeling like they’re scraping nails down a chalkboard.

The correct thing to say would be “I’m going to go LIE down.” “Lay” always takes a direct object – you lay something down, whereas you lie down when you’re talking about yourself. Complicating the equation is the fact that “lay” is also the past tense of “lie,” so you can say “I lay down for awhile” if you’re talking about what you did yesterday. It’s all very convoluted and doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter at all. Nope.

I’ve got problems.

It gets worse. When I went to USC, I took a class in phonetics, where I learned standard American pronunciation. I was already a grammar and spelling compulsive – I’m forced to correct these hastily written blog entries when I discover typos and trivial errors, like misspelling Karl Malone’s name yesterday or using the word “hoisted” instead of “foisted” – but this class allowed me to become a pronunciation freak as well. There’s a slight difference, though. Phonetic irregularities aren’t necessarily incorrect; they’re just regionalisms. Standard American speech eliminates regional dialects and makes everyone sound like they’re from an upscale Connecticut suburb. It’s the way all newscasters in the country speak, as well as many actors – Robin Williams is a pretty standard American speaker, and Kelsey Grammar is compulsively so.

What was interesting when I began the class was that my own dialect didn’t actually reflect the region where I grew up. I should have sounded like a Southern Californian, with a flat, surfery “O” vowel sound in “hello” or “no way!” Instead, I have the hard, Jimmy Stewartish R sound that comes when you roll your tongue too far back in your mouth. That’s very typical of the Salt Lake area, and I’ve since discovered that most American Mormons have that same regionalism in their speech, regardless of where they live.

A Utahism that really bugs me is the clipping of the vowel in words like “real” and “deal,” so that when you go to order a burger and fries, you ask for the “rill mill dill.” That little phonetic tick has never crept into my own speech, but you can never be too careful.

The danger in all of this is that your speech starts sounding affected and artificial, and that’s why I’ve allowed my Rs to revert back to their natural, Kermit the Frog-style default position. I can speak standard American if I want to, but I simply choose not to.

Crap. I just ended a sentence with a preposition. Time to go lay down for awhile.

Effluvia

Gas prices are headed to ten dollars a gallon, according to one paper. We could mitigate that by increasing domestic production with oil shale, but those damn greenies won’t let us. And in the meantime, we’re burning through our food supply to make ethanol, driving up both gas and food prices and doing absolutely nothing to help the environment. It’s more than an outrage. It’s criminal, and it needs to stop.
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I can now make it through an entire twenty-five minute personal training workout without collapsing. I talked to a woman at church yesterday, and she refuses to go back to a personal trainer because she ends up despising the trainer, no matter how nice they are. I can sympathize with her, although my trainer seems to be a pretty decent guy. But every time he says “faster” or “come on, work it!” I want to throw my barbell at him, and I would if I had sufficient upper body strength. Which I don’t.
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I have a lot to do. And the more I have to do, the less inclined I am to do it. I go through sudden spasms of productivity amid long periods of procrastination. That’s why I don’t think I would make a very good farmer.
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If you’re a Mormon, teaching Gospel Doctrine is the best church calling you can have. The worst, I would think, is Scoutmaster.
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I work in an environment where I’m supposed to wear a shirt and tie, but nobody gets too broken up if I don’t. I honestly don’t understand why workplaces have dress codes that require Sunday clothes. I am far more productive when I dress casually. I’m not talking T-shirts and sweats, but I think jeans are OK, and many people do not. I would also be happy to see casual clothing worm its way into Mormon Sunday worship, but I don’t think that will happen in my lifetime. Except when I lived in West Yellowstone, Montana, a guy in the bishopric wore jeans, cowboy boots, and a bolo tie on the stand. I was OK with that. I wish more people were.
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Had dinner with my father yesterday, and he reported favorably on attending an LDS fireside with Gladys Knight and her touring choir. They’re apparently very good and very gospel, which is virtually unheard of in the Church. I really don’t get why that style of music is considered by many old timers to be irreverent. A hot, rocking gospel choir is far more uplifting than a lot of the staid, ultraconservative dreck that’s foisted on LDS congregations. And yes, MoTab, I’m looking in your direction.
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The Jazz are winning, up 3 to 1. Suddenly I’m a fan again. And I’ll abandon them as soon as they break my heart. I’ve always loathed professional sports, but the Jazz won me over in the Karl Malone/John Stockton days. My cousin once pointed out that the Jazz are the only thing that truly unites all Utahns, both Mormons and non-Mormons alike. There’s a lot to be said for that.
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Reviewing the election, I can’t think of a single Republican I’m excited about voting for. That should be terrifying to the GOP. If they’ve lost me, they’ve lost everybody.
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I’ve been reviewing some old videos of my acting days, and I find myself woefully depressed by them. I can jump right back into the mindset I had while I was performing, and I can see why I’m not an actor anymore. I was always straining; I overthought everything, and I was never able to relax and just do it. I was also quite strange looking, and I don’t understand how anyone would put me up on a stage and look at me for two hours. Unless they dig circus freaks.
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I prefer button-up shirts to golf shirts. And I prefer long sleeves, unless it’s just too dang hot.
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I want to see Ben Stein’s Intelligent Design movie, especially since critics have excoriated it. I’m looking forward to all the big genre movies coming out this summer – Indiana Jones, Prince Caspian, Batman, Iron Man, and the Incredible Hulk – but not much else. I think the Hulk is the most likely to suck, because the Hulk looks too CGI. The only CGI character who has ever worked on screen is Gollum from the Lord of the Rings movies.
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Speaking of the Lord of the Rings movies – which I absolutely love – I can’t seem to get excited about the upcoming Hobbit adaptation. I’ve read The Hobbit, and, frankly, it’s not that good. And I’m fully dreading the “second” Hobbit film, which will supposedly bridge the time frame between The Hobbit and LOTR. It’s a sequel/prequel. And it will blow.
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My brother-in-law and his wife are thinking about naming their upcoming baby “Solomon.” But if you did that, how would you keep from calling him “Solomon Grundy” in a Challenge of the SuperFriends voice all the time?
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Solomon Grundy done with this blog now.

Rage Against the Green

What’s the opposite of green?

Because that’s what I want to be. I don’t want to be a sensible, environmentally friendly conservative who wants to go about greening the planet “the right way.” I want to be a slash-and-burn mudhead who wants to replace the ozone layer with cigarette smoke, put motor oil in the water, and heat the planet 746 degrees every month.

I’m sick of green. Sick, sick, sick of it. I want it to die.

I remember feeling this way before, when I was (sort of ) dating a rabid vegetarian who insisted that I was engaging in cannibalistic murder every time I downed a hamburger. I tried to be reasonable. I tried to explain, patiently, that eating meat is perfectly natural and healthy, that eating a cow is not the same thing as eating your seventh grade math teacher, and that nature is far crueler to its meat than human beings are. And the more reasonable I got, the shriller she got. Once you pull the rug out from a specious argument, all your opponent can do is shriek. And shriek she did.

Finally, I told her I only eat meat that’s been thoroughly tortured before it’s been killed. That shut her up. (It ended our dating, too, but that’s another story.)

So what’s going to shut up the greens? I don’t like seeing TV or Google logos that look like forests. I don’t get warm and fuzzy when a company advertises it uses “clean fuels” or whatever crap they want to shove down our throats today. I want people who sell the MLM scam known as carbon offsets baked in their own biodiesel. Talking rationally with these people only makes you a bigger punching bag.

So why not go whole hog?

I will vote for the first candidate who says they want to turn the planet into their own personal sauna. I want someone to call for filling Mt. Rushmore with nuclear waste. I want a car company to advertise a fifty-foot long sedan that gets three miles to the gallon. I want to take everything in recycling plants and dump it in landfills, and then raze the tops of mountains and cover them with aluminum cans and plastic DVD covers. I want the oceans filled with noodles, boiled, and then served as soup.

We should continue to talk like this until the radical greens, who would be happy if the population of the world collapsed by two thirds, are forced to meet us in the middle, where reasonable people used to be.

Yes, I’m in pain from my fourth day of personal training. That has nothing to do with this! Who else wants Ocean Noodle Soup, served Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, or Arctic style?

Tattoo Lady, Crap Politicization, Whining, Cars

Carly got sent home on Idol last night. Brooke and Jason were far worse, but I can’t say I was disappointed. At least we won’t get any more cutaway shots to her Illustrated Man husband.
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WhiteEyebrows, who is a gentleman and a scholar, weighed in with a pertinent comment he made yesterday re: the Boston Legal Supreme Court nonsense. He thinks Spader’s character got one thing right, namely the “crap politicization that has happened to the court.” He then laments “What happened to the court that is supposed to be above the political fray?”

That’s an excellent question.

There was one almost authentic moment in the Boston Legal exchange that highlights the problem. The goofy Sam Alito lookalike weighs in to tell Spader’s character that he is not allowed to argue for the guilt or innocence of his client and confine his comments to matters of law. This sets Spader off, who then does precisely what Alito told him not to do and excoriates Alito for being cruel and heartless in the process.

But the fauxAlito got it right.

By the time this thing gets to the Supreme Court, the only issue is whether the law is constitutionally sound, not whether anyone’s happy about it.

Consider a less explosive example. If there were a law that designated April as National Pickle Month, the Court can’t just say, “How stupid! The majority of us hate pickles! We declare this law null and void.” But if there were something in the law that abrogated constitutional principles, such as a requirement that every Sunday in April, all Americans were compelled to kneel toward a jar of Vlasic pickles and sing “Amazing Grace,” they could – and should – strike down the law because it violates the First Amendment’s establishment clause.

That’s how it’s supposed to work. They shouldn’t consider the policy implications of their decisions – they should simply enforce the laws, even the ones they don’t like.

Spader wanted more than that. He wanted them to follow their hearts, to do the right thing, to march to the beat of a different drum, or whatever. But once you allow judges to start inflicting their personal policy preferences on the polity, no matter how high-minded they may be, you’ve created an oligarchy, where elected representatives of the people don’t matter, and five unelected judges can do whatever the hell they want. And that’s all too often what happens – Roe v. Wade being probably the most egregious example. Show me one decision by the Roberts Court than even approaches Roe v. Wade in terms of hubris and overreaching. You want crap politicization of the Court? Roe v. Wade is the very definition of crap politicization of the Court.

The Roberts Court has reversed a number of decisions in which the Court has overstepped its bounds. Liberals screech because they don’t like the consequences of those decisions. Well, they have ample recourse – they can get Congress to change the law. But that’s a messy and convoluted process, and it’s far easier to get five judges to agree with you than it is to convince 51 Senators, 218 Congressmen, and 1 president to take the action you want.

Democracy’s difficult, but it beats the alternative. You want efficiency? Get a dictator.

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I’ve received many messages from people telling me to stop whining about my personal trainer pain. Most of them are from Mrs. Cornell, in the form of direct statements of “Quit yer whinin’!”

To all of you, I say – no. Never! Whining is one of very the few things I do well.
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So we’re trying to get out of debt. We bought a big ol’ Suburban for our freakishly large family, and it means I can no longer justify the expensive payment on my Camry. So we’re going to sell the Camry and get a cheaper used car for me. We don’t want to spend more than $8,000. But what should we get? I’d appreciate any suggestions from the public at large.

Really Bad Television

Excruciatingly bad television makes for fun blogging. And there was some excruciatingly bad television on Tuesday evening.

We start with American Idol’s Andrew Lloyd Webber night, which fell far short of my expectations. To call it “Broadway Night” is a little overstating it, because most of Webber’s stuff is solidly pop. (When they do a Sondheim night, then I’ll be impressed.) There were plenty of good options for these singers, but almost to a person, they chose exactly the wrong crap to sing.

The exception was Syesha, who nailed “One Rock and Roll Too Many” to the wall. She was flawless in every respect, and I hope this proves to be a breakout for her. She’s certainly one of the prettiest contestants, but she’s never been particularly impressive before last night. To downplay her success by saying it’s “Broadway” instead of pop is just plain wrong. What part of that song – which I had never heard before, by the way – would not be at home on a Fantasia or Jordin Sparks album? It may have given her more confidence to think she was singing musical theatre and not “real” pop, but if she can bring that same confidence to the rest of this competition, she could pull a huge upset. She was head and shoulders above everyone else last night, and, as Simon put it, she was sexy besides.

And, digressing for a moment, how much would it suck to be Randy Jackson? Everyone’s really only interested in what Simon has to say, because he’s the only one who actually says anything. Paula’s clearly the worst judge on every level, but she gives all the contestants a freebie, and her bloviated, scattered nonsense provides a certain level of camp value. Idol should hold a contest for viewers to guess how many shots of vodka she’s had before going on the air. But Randy? He’s a nonentity who has a repertoire of about five phrases that he uses interchangeably. How many times can you hear “It was just all right for me, dawg,” and “It was a little pitchy in spots,” or even “That was the bomb,” before you pretty much ignore everything he has to say? For me, I reached my limit about a season and a half ago.

And since I’ve deviated from discussing the contestants, can somebody explain what happened to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s face? Is that plastic surgery, and, if so, what self-respecting plastic surgeon would have done that to a fellow human being? He and Michael Jackson must frequent the same clinic.

Anyway, Syesha’s triumph was followed by the horror that was Jason Barbarino Castro, who, admittedly, has a voice too slight for most of this stuff. (He should have sung “Benjamin Calypso” from Joseph, strummed his ukelele a few times, and called it good.) So what does he do? He picks Webber’s biggest, showiest, bombastic-est song and butchers the living snot out of it. Randy provided his first insightful comment by labeling it a “train wreck,” and, like a train wreck, it was impossible to turn away. I have never seen a more pathetic performance on this show – outside of auditions – and I doubt anyone else has, either. I still think he’ll squeak through, because Brooke was just as bad, if not worse.

Actually, that’s not true. Brooke wasn’t nearly as hideous; she was just deadly dull. And on Idol, that’s the greater sin. Simon called Jason’s performance the “longest two minutes of his life,” but that’s not true. Jason was actually fun to watch BECAUSE he sucked so badly. Brooke was just – there. Flat. Tedious. Nothing. And she picked such a boring song! How about “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” from Superstar? Or if she had to stick with Evita, what about “Another Suitcase in Another Hall?” There are plenty of Webber ballads that would have suited her perfectly, and she picks the most forgettable one she can find. Paula was stirred out of her stupor long enough to moan about her stopping and starting, which made little difference. The material couldn’t sustain what she was trying to accomplish.

Then there was David Archuleta, who’s “Think of Me” was just fine on its own, but such a missed opportunity! Dude! Don’t you realize that you’ve got a career ahead of you singing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat for the next twenty years? Where was “Close Every Door?” It would have killed! Heck, even “Any Dream Will Do” would have brought the house down. I also thought Webber’s advice about keeping the eyes open was decidedly unhelpful. It’s fine if you’re on a Broadway stage, but he’s a pop singer doing a pop version of a song, and all the advice did was make him self-conscious. He was still better than most of the competition, though.

Especially Carly. Sorry, judges, but you were wrong on this one. She sucked out loud. She didn’t have the range to hit the high notes in the chorus, so she did these pretentious little riffs while the backup singers hit them for her. “Memory” would have been a better choice for her, except she doesn’t have the instrument for it. At least singing “Superstar” gave her a chance to hide behind flash to make up for lack of raw vocal power. I’d like to see her gone, but Brooke and Jason outsucked her. Maybe next week.

Then there was David Cook, who, I think, took the biggest risk he’s ever taken by singing “The Music of the Night” and singing it straight. I don’t think he succeeded, really, but he gets props for trying. I would have liked to have seen him do “Superstar” or anything Judas sings from that show – maybe “Heaven on their Minds” or “Blood Money.” The Phantom piece struck me as an odd choice, but it won’t hurt him in the end.

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Let’s move on, shall we?

Before going to sleep, we started flipping channels in bed and landed on Boston Legal, which is David Kelley’s latest self-indulgent exercise in creating conservative straw men and knocking the stuffing out of them. He had James Spader – who seems to be following the William Shatner diet – arguing before the Supreme Court, complete with grotesque pseudo-lookalikes of all nine justices who were identified by name. Spader’s character wanders far afield from the case at hand and spends a solid ten minutes excoriating the judges for their sins agains liberalism, and, at one point, even tells Thomas to “put down the magazine,” which we are left to assume was pornographic.

Mrs. Cornell was disgusted. “Turn it! This is awful!” Yes, it was, but like an all-Jason-Castro production of Cats, I couldn’t look away. It was so deliciously, enticingly stupid. Does Kelley really think the court would sit there and take it as some bloated punk lectured them about their confirmation hearings? Does he think that these conservatives on the court are really demons spawned from hell who cling to power solely to screw over the little guy? And does he really think that if only someone like Spader were brave enough to say “Up yours!” to these scoundrels, they’d collapse, dumbstruck, under the weight of the liberal brilliance shining on them for the very first time?

The answer is yes. Kelley really is that stupid. He’s incapable of attributing any positive attributes to his ideological opponents, so he wildly misreads how they would respond to his flimsy agitprop if someone were foolish enough to drag it into the courtroom.

You’d think he’d at least have taken a moment to actually review a real-life Supreme Court session, which involves far more speaking by the justices than the lawyers. Antonin Scalia would eviscerate Spader in thirty seconds if he started to ramble on about abortion and campaign finance reform in a death penalty case. There wouldn’t be much left of Spader at the end of it, and that’s no small feat, considering how much of him there was at the beginning.

Sorry for all the fat references. Today was my third day of personal training, and I think I nearly died. But at least I’m getting skinnier – in theory.
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Political post-script: Yes, Hillary won the Pennsylvania primary, and, no I’m not happy about it. The only satisfaction I can derive from this wretched political season is the tantalizing prospect of the end of the Clintons. The Rush Limbaughs of the world think prolonging the agony in the Democratic primary is somehow helpful, but McCain still loses to the Democrats in head-to-head poll matchups, and it’s unlikely that his positives will ever be higher than they are today with the Dems in disarray. Letting the Clintons linger gives them more time to steal this thing, and if it’s at all possible to do that, they will do it.

The next president will be a Democrat, and if it’s all the same to you, I’d rather it not be Hillary.

Breaking My Back

Note: today is both the Pennsylvania Primary and Earth Day. In celebration, I recommend dousing an effigy of Hillary Clinton with biofuels and setting it ablaze inside a hybrid gas tank.
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Questions have been raised with regard to my broken back that I mentioned yesterday.

To fully understand the story, I have to take you back to the early months of 1986, when Calabasas High School was holding auditions for its spring musical, Grease. I was pretty ticked off, because I was the school’s reigning musical theatre hero at the time, having wowed the world with my Music Man star turn the previous spring, and this was my senior year, my last to chance to shine. So why did they have to pick Grease? I was completely unsuited to play some Travoltaesque Fonzie. So when they cast me as the guy who sang the “Beauty School Dropout” number, I just stopped going to rehearsal. That was a really snotty, teenagery thing to do, so when I saw the guy who replaced me at my 20th high school reunion, I apologized. He told me not to sweat it. Everything’s cool now.

Anyway, this has nothing to do with Grease – which is a wretched musical, by the way – but it just so happened that during the auditions, I was sitting atop the fiberglass lunch tables swapping stories with other drama geeks when I started to laugh and tipped off the back of the table and slammed down, back first, on the hard concrete below.

I landed right square in the middle of my back, and it knocked all the air out of my lungs. Somebody asked “Are you all right?” as they tried to help me to my feet, and I managed to wheeze back, melodramatically, “No, I am going to die.” I really thought I was, until, slowly, my breath returned and I could stand on my feet. But my back still hurt, excruciatingly so. I walked around the rest of the day with my hands at my hips to brace myself, and that may have been why I didn’t have the air of cool needed to win the starring role as a teenage hipster/Scientologist.

I actually think I may have broken my back that day and not known it. In any case, ever since then, it’s that exact spot where I landed that’s given me problems.

When I was serving a mission in Scotland, I was doing a service project for some lady in Dundee. I was hefting big sacks of sand, when suddenly something tweaked right in the middle of my back and I collapsed in a heap. I only needed to rest for a few minutes and then was able to carry on, but that spot in my back always wore out more quickly than the rest of me, and even when I’m not exerting myself too much, it’s often a little tender.

All this is prelude to the big day in August of 1998, when I’m finishing up what would prove to be my final season as the Executive Producer of the Grand Teton Mainstage Theatre in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I don’t remember the circumstances as to how this happened, but for some reason, the pregnant Mrs. Cornell was back at out home in Salt Lake City, 289 miles away from Jackson, but I had our then-18-month-old oldest daughter Cleta with me. I really don’t understand, to this day, how that could have been the case, but that’s neither here nor there. I was in Jackson with my daughter, and the story begins as we’re finishing up a fun morning riding the Alpine Slide at the Snow King Ski Resort.

Cleta was too little to ride the slide by herself, so she rode in my lap as we tore down the mountain at breakneck speeds on a wheeled sled with inadequate brakes. Many people have injured themselves by capsizing on the slide – my brother-in-law almost severed his ear in one incident – and it would be a far more manly story if I had broken my back by playing the daredevil. It would also probably have done Cleta some serious damage, which, thankfully, was not the case when I engaged in the boneheaded behavior that resulted in my injury.

Alas, the fateful moment came just a minute or two after our safe arrival at the bottom of the ride. Cleta was in high spirits, and I was swinging her around in the air as we skipped down the gentle, grassy slope to the parking lot below. It was early enough in the morning that the grass was still wet from the morning dew, so it was not surprising that I lost my footing and slipped, landed on my butt, and involuntarily sent little Cleta flying off in the air some distance away as I lay there, sprawled out on the grass, replaying the “I’m going to die” motif from Grease auditions twelve years earlier.

Cleta was uninjured, but, even though she was too young to speak, it was clear she was terrified out of her mind. She ran back over and started to pound on my chest, screaming at the top of her lungs. I couldn’t lift my arms. I couldn’t even speak. I thought I might black out, but I was scared what would happen to Cleta if I did.

I don’t know how many times I tried, and failed, to get to my feet, but it was several. Cleta kept trying to get me to pick her up, but I couldn’t even get off the ground. So I started to wheeze “help” to the sundry passers-by who, a la the priest and the Levite, walked as far away from me as possible. I was only a few yards away from the taxi stand in front of the resort, and, despite having a hysterical screaming daughter and being clearly incapacitated, no one bothered to offer me a hand.

Finally, after who knows how long, I slumped forward and was able to sort of roll myself up on my feet, but the pain was unbearable, and I could barely walk. Cleta kept jumping up on me, still screaming, unable to understand that there was no way I could possibly lift her. I made my way to the taxi stand, and I asked the lead driver to take me to the emergency room. He told me he wouldn’t be able to do that, since I didn’t have a car seat for my toddler. So I begged him to drive us to my own car, just to the other side of the parking lot, since I didn’t think I’d be able to walk that far. He relented, and he helped get Cleta into her car seat, in which she promptly fell asleep, exhausted and spent from having screamed in fury for what must have been close to an hour.

I got to the emergency room and left Cleta sleeping in the car as I hobbled up to the desk and checked myself in. They called some of the actors from my theatre, who came and picked up Cleta, and then I was wheeled in for X-rays and whatever else they do. They determined that I had a compression fracture in the same place that I had injured during the long-ago Grease auditions. My spinal cord was not in danger; it was a “stable” fracture, and the most they could do was give me drugs – which were very nice – and they told me to stay flat on my back for the next couple of days. Mrs. Cornell arrived in Jackson that night, and she took over handling Cleta, despite that she – Mrs. Cornell, not Cleta – was five months pregnant.

The rest is history. For two or three years after that, my back would wear out very quickly. Now it’s not all that bad, but I can still feel it, and it’s easily the first part of my body to wear under strain. I think I’ve got a little arthritis back there now, too, but it’s not that big a deal. It could have been a whole lot worse.

Mrs. Cornell told me I ought to write about fun and silly stories on this blog. I don’t think this one qualifies.

Railroad Ties and Personal Trainers

On Saturday, I spent the whole afternoon going back and forth from Home Depot buying railroad ties. Believe me, that’s just as fun as it sounds.

Here’s the story.

We have a paddle tennis court at the far end of our backyard, and there are all sorts of weird shrubs and things surrounding it that may, at one point in their lives, have been recognizable foliage, but now they look like things you might see in the Princess Bride’s fireswamp. I got my handy-dandy chainsaw and hacked all of it down, and we hauled it out to the side of the house to await the city’s spring pickup date, when they’ll pick up and take away anything and everything. But now, with all of the nasty stuff gone, Mrs. Cornell sees an opportunity to grow some tomato plants, but to do that, we need to put down some railroad ties to wall off the dirt from the court.

Railroad ties are big. They’re heavy. And I dropped one on one of my fingers, which, amazingly, didn’t turn my fingernail black. It caused pain, though, And yelping. Much yelping. Nothing about railroad ties are good. And when you finally heft them out to the back of the house and discover you’ve gotten the wrong size, it’s very difficult to avoid using profanity. Very, very %$&ing difficult, indeed.

So I lugged them back into the car and drove them back and got the even bigger, heavier railroad ties, and Home Depot offered a hireling to help me load them into the back of my Suburban. He was a college-age kid with a huge scowl on his face.

“Keeping you busy?” I said, a little too cheerfully.

“I hate this job,” he snarled back. “I’m gonna quit soon.”

I laughed out loud, appreciative of the brutal honesty. “Really? What are you gonna do instead?”

“I don’t care,” he said. “Anything else. Just as long as I don’t have to lift any railroad ties.”

I laughed again. His lousy customer service was truly a breath of fresh air.

“What do you need railroad ties for, anyway?” he muttered.

“It’s for my wife,” I said. “She wants to grow tomatoes.”

“Oh, yeah?” he snapped. “Then tell her to come get her own railroad ties.”

I foresee a very interesting marriage in that young man’s future.
________________

Today was Day Two of the Total Stallionic Body Reinvention. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 7:00 AM, I spend a half an hour with a personal trainer in a sort of “Boot Camp” that will get me into shape in four to six weeks.

In case there was any doubt on this point, I am not in shape now.

It’s not that I’m fat so much as that I’m not skinny, at least not the way I used to be. Of course, that’s a pretty high threshold. Growing up, I was ridiculously thin, and I stayed that way for a very long time – I was 6’4” and 175 pounds when I got married at age 26. That’s not just skinny – that’s Ichabod Crane skinny. I stayed that way until I broke my back right after my 30th birthday. Since then, I’ve been on a safe, effective, and wholly unanticipated weight gain program of about 4 pounds per year. I still have skinny arms and legs and a slim, sexy tuckus, but my gut is spreading and my face is somewhat puffy.

It’s a bad scene. And what really upsets me about this is that it screws up my deal.

See, the deal was, back in the day, that I looked like a geek and was wildly uncoordinated, but at least I could eat whatever crap I wanted and never gain weight. Now the deal has been broken, and I still look like a geek.

I kept my end. It’s the universe that’s in breach of contract.

The first day was aerobic exercise – stepping up and down, kicking, with some crunches and stuff thrown in. Today was all upper body stuff – biceps, triceps, and “planking,” where you hold yourself above the ground on your elbows and make your body as stiff as a board and pray for the earth to open up and swallow you whole.

I feel closer to John McCain than I ever have before, because right now, I can’t lift my arms above my head.

GINO 4.3 review – spoilers

This thing’s been streaming on SciFi.com all day, and I could only watch it about ten to fifteen minutes at a time. But I got the gist of it pretty well.

Even for a nihilistic series like this one, “The Ties that Bind” was markedly, unrelentingly grim. I think that was its goal, and it succeeded. It felt like a dull, plodding headache mixed with intestinal bloating and stiff joints, with just a hint of claustrophobia. It made me wonder why someone would strive so hard to create such a forbidding, unpleasant world, and, even more, why anyone could find anything in this world particularly entertaining.

So, fully for purposes of masochism, let’s take a look at this sucker.

Moore began this season by saying it would require people to question what it means to be a Cylon. He was right, although not the way he intended. Why is Cylon Al making out with Boomer? Isn’t that kind of gross? Is it just me, or do the centurions have blood now? Is Tori instantly superhuman now? Why don’t all the Sixes bleach their hair? Tori’s clearly evil all of a sudden, so what about Tigh and Tyrol? If they’re not, why don’t they off themselves? And what’s Anders doing breaking up the Final Four party? Whatever happened to the first Cylon/Human hybrid? And does anyone care, since the second one is now suddenly being elevated above his initial status as an inconvenient afterthought?

It’s a waste of time to question what it means to be a Cylon, because the Cylon designation is essentially meaningless. As soon as Moore decides what it means, then it might be worth discussing. Probably not, though.

Then there’s the politics. Sweet fancy Moses, but the politics are stupid. I think we’re gearing up for another anti-Bush metaphor, what with Roslin supposedly wielding too much executive power and all. Is this really necessary? Is there any doubt about how these folks feel about George Bush? Is there any reason to waste your last season wading through some dopey, made-up metaphor that serves no real dramatic purpose other than to look politically fashionable? If everyone watches the show concedes that Bush is a jerk, will the writers focus on something else, please?

The Lee-as-a-Delegate subplot bores me beyond measure. Fun to see Richard Hatch chew the scenery a little bit, but the political intrigue angle is just a dead end, dramatically speaking. Look, these are pretty good actors, guys. How about giving them something to do? Rummaging through files and whispering about conspiracies may make for passable agitprop, but it’s got no juice to it.

We move on to Kara, who has presumably taken the entire command crew of the Galactica on her garbage scow. You’d think that Helo, Athena, Gaeta, and Anders might have better things to do, but, no, they have to join Sackhoff as she wallow in her obligatory Moment in the Sulk. Nothing to see here, folks.

And then there’s Callie.

Callie has always been a whiny naïf of a character, and I can’t say I’ll miss her. But I have to confess that her death was startling and terrifying in a way that this series often wants to be but seldom is. I don’t know why I found it so affecting, but I did. Maybe it’s because I’m a dad and it’s heart-wrenching to see a mother torn away from her child and tossed out of an airlock. But I think there was more to it than that. Her scene with Tyrol, where Tyrol is blurred out in the background and his audio is muted, was a stroke of genius. You could feel Callie’s isolation and mounting terror, and you knew her life was about to end. And the fact that the stinkin’ kid won’t stop screaming just adds to the anxiety. Well done, whoever did that one.

So, to sum up, I was impressed by the last five minutes of this thing, but that’s not the same thing as saying I liked them. It was a technically perfect depiction of absolute misery, and absolute misery isn’t something I enjoy watching. The one brief, shining moment in this ep was Adama reading to Roslin in her sickbed. See, these guys can do sweet if they really want to. They’re just happiest when nobody in their universe is happy.

But 70-plus year-old Dean Stockwell’s gotta be enjoying the Boomer smooches.

Barack Felgewater

Barack Obama and Myron Felgewater have at least two things in common: a deep-seated ignorance and/or contempt for the fundamental principles of economics, and the fact that I will never vote for either one of them for any political office, ever.

Let’s begin with Myron. When I worked for him, part of my job was to help determine pricing for our product. We were working in a business where fixed costs were high and marginal costs were low to nonexistent, much like, say, the airline industry. Every time a plane takes off, the cost of the flight is essentially the same if the plane is full or the plane is empty. In addition, you can’t put the airplane seats back up on a shelf and store them in your inventory if you don’t sell them. Once the flight is gone, it’s gone.

That’s why airplanes offer so many specials and discounts and incentives. Any cash that comes in to fill an otherwise empty seat is found money, and as long as it covers the cost of the complimentary beverage service, you come out ahead.

This was too much for Myron to grasp. Every time I would offer a discount, he would wail about how much the discount would “cost.” See, if a plane fare was regularly $1,000, and I sold it for $800, Myron would moan the fact that this ticket had “cost” him $200. To him, this was the equivalent of opening up his wallet, yanking out two Ben Franklins and flushing them down the toilet. He would prefer the seat remain unsold, which means that he would rather lose the potential of a real $800 to “save” an imaginary $200 that was never his in the first place.

I should note that this also flew in the face of his own unique sales technique, which was to offer ridiculous discounts and freebies to friends and family and anyone else just to prove what a big cheese he was. (Frequent commenter WhiteEyebrows could probably provide plenty of firsthand stories to verify my account.) His own personal inconsistency in applying his own rules, however, merely illustrates his pettiness and arrogance, not an appreciation for economic principles.

In his defense, Myron’s argument has some merit if the airplane is always full, and everyone on the plane is always paying full price. But at the time, most of our flights were half-empty, and a full flight was cause for celebration. It was essential that we fill those flights in any way possible, but Myron’ solution was to resist discounts and jack up prices, even on flights that weren’t selling.

Finally, in a fit of exasperation, I proposed a different solution.

“Why are we wasting time offering such cheap fares?” I said. “Why not bump the ticket price up to $1,000,000 a head? Of course, if that were the price, then every time you sell a measly $1,000 ticket, it would cost this company $999,000 dollars!”

That made the point. It also made Myron mad. That was usually the way things worked back then.

You’d think that Barack Obama would be a little brighter than your average Felgewater, but after last night’s debate, which I made the mistake of actually watching, I’m not so sure.

What was remarkable about the debate was that the candidates were asked real questions. They were called on the carpet for their stupid statements and lies, and, in a moment that made me drop my jaw, Charlie Gibson posed a question about the capital gains tax that was actually economically intelligent.

Here’s the opening part of the exchange:

MR. GIBSON: You [Barack Obama] have… said you would favor an increase in the capital gains tax. As a matter of fact, you said on CNBC, and I quote, “I certainly would not go above what existed under Bill Clinton, which was 28 percent.”

It’s now 15 percent. That’s almost a doubling if you went to 28 percent. But actually Bill Clinton in 1997 signed legislation that dropped the capital gains tax to 20 percent.

SENATOR OBAMA: Right.

MR. GIBSON: And George Bush has taken it down to 15 percent.

SENATOR OBAMA: Right.

MR. GIBSON: And in each instance, when the rate dropped, revenues from the tax increased. The government took in more money. And in the 1980s, when the tax was increased to 28 percent, the revenues went down. So why raise it at all, especially given the fact that 100 million people in this country own stock and would be affected?

Holy cow! Charlie Gibson acknowledges that a tax cut raises more government revenue? Isn’t that a sign of the apocalypse?

But if you’re not a Felgewater, you can understand the principle. Generally speaking, a lower tax rate on a higher volume of revenue brings in more money than a higher tax rate on a lower volume of revenue. If the capital gains tax were raised to 100%, it would be just like Felgewater raising ticket prices to a million bucks a head. The high rate would bring in no money, because no one would be stupid enough to take a capital gain under such a punitive system.

So here was Barack Felgewater’s answer:

SENATOR OBAMA: Well, Charlie, what I’ve said is that I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness. We saw an article today which showed that the top 50 hedge fund managers made $29 billion last year — $29 billion for 50 individuals. And part of what has happened is that those who are able to work the stock market and amass huge fortunes on capital gains are paying a lower tax rate than their secretaries. That’s not fair.

Did you get that? Obama does not dispute Gibson’s point. But he doesn’t care. The overriding principle is fairness, so he’s going to raise the capital gains tax even if it costs the government money to do it!

You know, if I’m a secretary, my paycheck isn’t going to get any bigger if my boss has to pay more in capital gains tax – quite the opposite, since that boss now has fewer resources to reinvest into the business.

Do you grasp the enormity of this? Obama is proposing to raise taxes not to get more money for the government but solely to punish the rich.

He continues, trying to temper his remarks but still digging himself deeper into his hole:

And what I want is not oppressive taxation. I want businesses to thrive and I want people to be rewarded for their success. But what I also want to make sure is that our tax system is fair and that we are able to finance health care for Americans who currently don’t have it and that we’re able to invest in our infrastructure and invest in our schools.

You want money for your “investments,” Barack? Then don’t raise the taxes and squelch off the revenue stream! Incredibly, Gibson manages to call him on this.

MR. GIBSON: But history shows that when you drop the capital gains tax, the revenues go up.

To which Barack lamely responds:

SENATOR OBAMA: Well, that might happen or it might not.

And the sun might rise tomorrow or it might not. And Myron Felgewater might have lots of planes full of people paying a million dollars a ticket. You cannot repeal the law of supply and demand, Barack, no matter how fair you want to be.

The thing that scared me about this debate is the thing that initially made Obama attractive, and that is this: Barack Obama is a decent, honorable man who is true to his word. So when he says he’s going to jack up taxes even if that costs the government money, he means it. When he says he’s going to yank out the troops even if it throws the entire Middle East into chaos, creates a safe haven for al Qaeda, and allows Tel Aviv to disappear in the shadow of an Iranian mushroom cloud, he means it.

Hillary, with her smug little smile and her cackle of doom, doesn’t mean anything. She promised to pull the troops out, but she won’t do it. She won’t jack up taxes just because she can. She’s going to pander as much as possible to maintain power, and she’ll screw over her own party every time she has to.

That makes her the most contemptible person running for office, and, horrifically, the most conservative.

I want to throw up.

I’m going to be writing in my vote for president this year. Captain Bob Morris is currently my leading candidate. But if you’d like to be in the running, let me know.