Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Better than the Chattanooga Aquarium 

Emily has discovered a new source of amusement. She can turn her aquarium on and off. She likes to do it over and over and over again.







See? It's incredibly exciting.




Saturday, September 25, 2004

Fan mail 

Earlier this month I got a call at home from someone I didn't know. She told me she'd read my blog and wanted to e-mail me, but couldn't get the address to work (I list it as matt[at]cuthbert[dot]ws to avoid spambots).

My immediate reaction was, "Where did you get my home number?"

"Information," she told me. "You're listed in the phone book."

Hmm. I should have thought of that. I've never bothered to hide my real name on here, so I've always known that it would be easy for someone to track me down — I just never considered that anyone would actually do it. Oh well. No big deal.

After I explained the intentional variation in my e-mail, my mysterious caller thanked me and bid me good night. However, she hadn't told me what she'd wanted to e-mail me about. I began to fear that I'd pissed off some "Passion of the Christ" fan who was going to write and tell me about how she's praying for my soul.

A little while later I checked my e-mail and received a the message.
Hi Matt,
I just got off the phone with you. Thank you for clarifying your email address.
I just wanted to tell you that I was sorry to read your negative comments about the product I created to help my daughter in her grief over her little dog. Obviously you didn't bother to visit the website www.comfortpets.com and really see what we have to offer. All the customer has to do is place the cremated remains in the zipper pocket that has been created for them. Read the testimonials and see what a wonderful product we have.

I have received the most heartfelt thanks from people who have purchased a Comfort Pet. The following is one such response and there are many many more:
Dear Monica,
Thank you for providing the UPS tracking number. As soon as I saw that the package had been delivered, I rushed home to get it. She's absolutely beautiful! You did a wonderful job. The package with the bow, it was all so special. You made me feel like a special person just to receive such a wonderful gift! And I thank you so much for including a fleece blanket, even though that doesn't come with the package that I ordered. That was very kind and generous of you, dear Monica.

Words cannot express how it will feel to be able to hold my baby in my arms again! I was extremely close to Bailey, being a single mom and having my sons grown and living away from me. It's been just me and my two girls for years and years. Losing her has been traumatic for me, to say the least. What you have done for me, I cannot express my gratitude. I truly hope your web developers fix the search for your website and you become wealthy beyond your wildest dreams! You deserve it!

I've decided to go ahead and order a comfort pet for my Molly girl, so I'll have it all ready for her, when her time comes. Hopefully, that won't be for a long, long time. But when it does happen, I'll be able to hold her in my arms right away.

My deepest and warmest heartfelt thanks to you!

Sincerely,
Randi

As far as I am concerned, Matt, I am already 'rich' by receiving emails such as that. These people are not 'wackos' as you put it.

After speaking to you on the phone, you sound like a very nice person. I hope you raise your beautiful daughter with as much love and attention and affection that these 'wackos' feel for the beloved companions.
Best of luck to you,
Monica Josephson

Ms. Josephson's letter is the sort of thing I want to make fun of, but I can't. To be fair, she wrote a very polite and sensible response to my remarks about Comfort Pets. I still disagree with her, but I don't think she's crazy, and I certainly respect her. She's just an entrepreneur who created a product that I think is bizarre. And yes, I think the people who use it are a little off, too. I'll admit that the Comfort Pets concept is sweet, but that doesn't make it any less weird in my eyes.

So what's the point, then? If I'm not going to pick apart her letter or change my original stance, why should I even bother to post her message?

As a point of contrast.

Ms. Josephson was displeased with something I wrote and was very nice about it. On the other hand, Steve S., a reader of my Get on with Your Nightlife blog, was not so tactful when he responded to my review of the documentary "Outfoxed."
Mr.Cuthbert,

As a young person I look at your opinions and background (comic books) and I see why you are against Fox and probably anti-Bush as well, you and your type can unfortunately be pigeonholed as Liberals with minds full of mush who are doomed to repeat history and would have been fully behind Neville Chamberlain (look him up, it's called a history book and not made by Marvel) Saying Michael Moore is a Great satirist is like comparing Norman Vincent Peale as a deep philosopher. Son, please, for the sake of your child, do a little studying and see where your generation is causing the crumbling of the underpinning of our nation

Steve S.

In case you were confused, I am not actually Steve S.'s son. My father's name, in fact, is Arthur. The use of the term "son" here, is merely intended to condescend.

Of course, such condescention began in the very first sentence using a tactic that Mr. S.'s nemisis Michael Moore is famous for — half truth. My background does indeed include having owned a comic book store. Therefore, Mr. S.'s assertion is true. However, it's not really the whole story. My background also includes almost 10 years of journalism experience in newspaper, radio, and Internet. It includes writing and editing in both the news and entertainment fields. It includes a degree in communication arts with a focus in rhetoric. An enjoyment of comic books does not negate those things.

Unfortunately, Mr. S. didn't come up with a respectful disagreement to my opinions; he chose to insult me instead. The problem is, he seems to have misread my view in the first place.

For one thing, I didn't call Michael Moore a "great satirist;" I called him a "gifted satirist." There's an important difference between the two, and I was specifically careful with my choice of words there. To say someone is a great satirist could be interpreted as meaning either that he "does a great job" or that he is "one of the greats." To avoid such ambiguity, I used the word "gifted," denoting that Moore is talented when it comes to satire. More importantly, the word "gifted" does not imply admiration as the word "great" does. I do admire Michael Moore, and I do think his talent is great. But that was not the point of my statement. Rather, I was pointing out that Moore uses satire to his advantage, but the filmmakers behind "Outfoxed" do not.

What confuses me more than a simple misquoting, though, is that the whole focus of my review was that "Outfoxed" was a disappointing documentary. Nevertheless, Mr. S. attacked me for my liberal views. I admited that I wanted to like the film, but I was also fairminded enough to concede that it just wasn't very good. A critic with admited prejudice is willing to give the other side a chance — I would think that's the sort of review a person could respect. Instead, I got labeled as having a mind full of mush.

But at least my soul is still intact.

Friday, September 24, 2004

The South's ugly colors 

Misty's mom got moved into her new apartment last week. It was a long process of packing and cleaning before the big day arrived. The landlord at the new place was kind enough to give us the keys early and said we could start moving things in as soon as we wanted — just so long as the apartment wasn't occupied until the 15th. I made several trips from her old home to the new one with my little Jetta loaded up with boxes and other things that wouldn't fit well into boxes.

My mother-in-law's new apartment complex is full of old ladies. These women don't have much to do in their day to day lives, so any new activity is met with a captive audience. Each time I made a trip over there to unload boxes, one neighbor or another would come out and introduce herself. Each of them expressed enthusiasm that someone was moving into their little community. They were cleary a friendly bunch.

On one such cleaning/moving trip, I had the help of Misty and her aunt and uncle. We moved a whole bunch of stuff over, and as usual, a couple of the old ladies came outside to offer their greetings. They told us how long they'd been residents and assured us that Misty's mom was going to like living there. "It's very safe here," we were told. "And we've been lucky that we've never had any of those kind of people move in."

I swear to God, I thought she meant noisy college kids.

But no. Uncle Mike knew what she meant, and he chimed right in. "So, y'all ain't got no niggers here, huh?"

My jaw dropped.

"No, we don't have any niggers," the nice hateful old lady said with a chuckle.

The conversation continued with the word "nigger" being droped several more times back and forth along the way.

The whole time I kept my mouth shut because I was too timid to stand up for what was right. All I could think of was how much that hateful word reinforces the stereotype that the South is full of ignorant redneck trash. I thought of Sidney Poiter in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" when he said: "Not until your entire generation has lain down and died will the weight of you finally be off our backs!" *

Ah yes, what a wonderful community Misty's mother has moved into.

* I can't find the exact quote, so I may be a bit off.

Monday, September 20, 2004

I have stories to tell... really 

There have been all sorts of exciting things going on in my life lately — racism, hate mail, tooth extraction, food poisoning, moving, family bickering, hurricane damage — but I haven't told you about any of it. It's the same old situation that 99% of bloggers run into. Writing just gets to be a chore after a while.

Maybe I can work up some enthusiasm to get back on track, but does anyone really care? Who wants to read my bitching, anyway?

(Come on... fuel my ego — I need it.)

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Move over, Bono 

Hear George W. sing "Sunday, Bloody Sunday."

Link via my unfortunately Republican comrade, Kenny.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Shut up, America. Your opinion doesn't matter. 

In his music column this week, Clay Broussard takes aim at the Vote for Change tour. He says, "Most of the artists on the list are: 1) old; 2) white; 3) musically safe; 4) appealing to liberals; and 5) desperately in need of some press." Most of those traits could be pinned on Broussard himself.

He goes on to write:
I've always been suspicious of rock artists who get political. Conservative rocker Alice Cooper, who has been at the center of some controversy regarding his recent criticism of the tour, said recently, "If you are listening to a rock star in order to get your voting information on who to vote for, you are a bigger moron than they are. Why are we rock stars? Because we're morons."

Amen, brother, from one moron to another.

I'm sick of this stupid argument. People afraid that some celebrity might sway votes in a direction they don't agree with are quick to denounce celebrities as sources of intelligent political discourse. "He's just rock star — what does he know about politics?" or "All these overpaid actors ought to keep their mouths shut when it comes to political issues."

By that line of thought, engineers should shut up when it comes to politics, too. So should doctors, traffic cops, librarians, construction workers, retail managers, football coaches, chefs, and newspaper music columnists. After all, they're not politicians — what could they possibly know about politics?

Broussard claims:
I've never met a rocker whose political views I valued; in fact, I can't even remember one political conversation I even had with a musician.

People like Broussard need to think again when it comes to the voice of the American citizen. Every American has the right to speak out regarding our government. And every American's voice matters. Believe it or not, just because politics isn't your profession doesn't mean that you don't have something worthwhile to say.

So don't be so quick to dismiss Broussard, either, when he offers his opinions:
So let the rockers rock, let the politicians politick, and try not to mix the twain.

With that advice in mind, don't vote, either. Because unless you're a politician, you're really in no position to make such a decision.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Now I have a machine gun. Ho, ho, ho. 

It's September 1st, and you know what that means: It's Christmas time at Wal-Mart.