Delenda Est Carthago

Why not delve into a twisted mind? Thoughts on the world, history, politics, entertainment, comics, and why all shall call me master!

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!


It Came From the Eighties!!!!! (With a Special Celebrity Cameo!)

I visited Pennsylvania this past weekend for our second annual high school reunion picnic, which this year was a bit more significant as I actually graduated 20 years ago. I went stag, as I needed some time away from the kids and it's far more expensive to buy four plane tickets than one (imagine that!). I flew out on Wednesday night and spent Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and most of Sunday in my old stomping grounds - namely, Bucks County, PA. This year I won't write about my experiences, as I did last year, mainly because the kids weren't around, so my visit mainly concerned sitting around with friends drinking (not too much, as I just can't deal with a lot of alcohol anymore, plus I was driving most places), which no one wants to hear about. At the actual picnic, I had a grand time catching up with people, some of whom I hadn't seen in 20 years and others who I see every time I go home, but they all make me feel inadequate (off the top of my head, we had a psychiatrist, at least one doctor, a woman who works for the Peace Corps in Niger, a lawyer, and a person who's working on a vaccine for staph infections at the picnic, and I'm sure I'm missing several other impressive occupations, making my day of watching television and blogging seem trivial by comparison - even if I LOVE IT!) so I'll just say to any of them who might be reading, It was great to see you, and I hope I can do it again next year.

However, while I was home, my mom told me that she had dug out some old photo albums, so of course I had to go through them. These are pictures from no later than May of 1993, when I graduated from college, and going back to probably 1986 (the only dated photograph is from July 1987, but a few look older than that). So sit back and return with me to a time when I was actually skinny. I know, it's hard to believe, but I have photographic proof! These photos star my sister, my parents, my bride-to-be, and perhaps the greatest celebrity cameo in history. I kid you not!

That's my sister, by the way.

Check out that skinny dude! That's my dad, back when he had (some) hair.

Man, I look like a total nerd. What's up with the hair and glasses? Dang. That's my aunt and uncle and my two young cousins.

This is my sister and I waiting at the airport in the summer of 1988 before our trip to Barbados. My parents took us cool places, because they're awesome.

This is when we arrived in Barbados. I have no idea where I'm going with such intensity, but I love that picture.

All right, ladies, avert your eyes before you're overcome with desire! Stud Alert!!!!

Look at those abs! Is it any wonder I was beating them off with a stick?

This is my senior prom in May 1989. That's my girlfriend, Holly. She was a pretty cool chick. We grew apart once we went off to school, but I had a nice little romance with her.

High school graduation. Look at how uncynical I am! So very, very foolish of me!

Check out those glasses! And yes, that is my Billy and the Boingers T-shirt. That's just how I rolled, man!

A dude should never match his mother. But check out those shorts! The '80s ruled.

My sister and I again.

This is July of 1987 at Ricketts Glen, Pennsylvania. The girl on the right was an exchange student who lived with us for a time. Check out my tan! And that's a Little Shop of Horrors T-shirt I'm wearing.

That's my dad in a rare moment of levity. Well, I guess it wasn't all that rare, but this is still not too common from him.

I don't know when this was taken, but it was in the Poconos, I know that much. Check out the shades!

This is kind of murky, but it still cracks me the fuck up. This is when I got all four of my wisdom teeth out and I had to have ice on both sides of my mouth for a few days. It was no fun.

This was probably junior year, but I'm not sure. This was my first girlfriend Krista. I wonder what happened to her.

I live to be goofy.

Look at that idiot. He thinks the world is his oyster. What a kook!

This would be my lovely future bride. We were in Nanticoke, PA, where my grandparents lived. This was my grandfather's funeral in the winter of 1993. It was the first time Krys met my parents. Fun!

Here I am sitting around at my grandfather's funeral. That's some stylin' hair on that dude!

This is my graduation from Penn State, meaning it's May of 1993.

That's my maternal grandmother. She was 82 at the time. She was pretty awesome.

My sister again. You might be wondering, does she ever smile?

Hell yeah she does! Barb and my mom were flying to New Orleans once and yes, Richard Simmons was on the flight with them. So they got their picture taken with him. Don't they all look happy? Richard Simmons is awesome, man.

So those are my mother's olde-tyme daguerreotypes. I hope you dug 'em!

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Plugging the other blog!

If you're at all interested, I have two long posts about my vacation in Disneyland up at the other blog. Go read Part One, then have a butcher's at Part Two.

Unless, of course, you have better things to do. You don't, do you? Of course you don't!

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What I've been reading

The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939 by Antony Beevor. 1982/2006, Penguin Books, 526 pages.

It took me a long time to read this book, not because it was bad, but because I had just zipped through a bunch of shorter and, frankly, less challenging books and I needed to get back into full-on historical reading mode. Plus, we went to Disneyland for a week, so I didn't do much reading. But I finally got through it, and while I didn't love it, Beevor does a nice job sorting through the morass that was the Spanish Civil War.

Most of us, I would surmise, don't know much about the war. We know about the bad guys (the fascists, who should be more correctly called the nationalists), the good guys (the republicans), the fact that the Nazis used is as a training ground for their weapons, that Pablo Picasso painted a masterpiece depicting the destruction of Guernica, and that many literary luminaries, such as Ernest Hemingway and George Orwell, fought or worked for the republican side. That is, if we even know that. I knew all that but not much else, so I figured it was time to learn more!

Beevor is certainly exhaustive in his research. This book was originally published in 1982, but years later, Beevor went back, looked at newly available archives, and reworked the book. It's an extremely thorough examination of the war, which is nice to see. Beevor doesn't focus on one side over the other, as he does a fine job getting inside both the nationalist and republican governments. He goes back to the nineteenth century to explain the context of the sides, especially the Carlists, who traced their origins back to the 1830s. He spends as much time with the society and culture of the opposing sides as he does with the actual war, which helps us understand why the nationalists were able to triumph beyond just the fact that they were militarily superior to the republicans. The nationalists probably would have won the war anyway, but Beevor does a good job showing that the republican government didn't do their fighting forces any favors.

Beevor's sympathy lies with the republicans, but what's nice about the book is that he never shies from showing the dark side of the Spanish democracy. It's easy to believe the atrocities committed by the nationalists - we're conditioned to believe that about fascists, after all, and General Franco was allied with Hitler, after all - but Beevor does a good job delving into the terror perpetuated by the republican side. The republicans were an odd melange of communists, anarchists, Marxists, and Basque and Catalan separatists, which were occasionally right-wing and therefore had more in common with the nationalists politically but didn't buy into their vision of a united Spain. The nationalists, of course, were a mix of monarchists (those who followed the traditional line of Alphonso XIII, and the Carlists, who wanted the cadet branch of the Bourbons to take over) and fascists (the Falangists), but they had the advantage of Franco, a powerful personality who could bend them to his will, for instance in 1937, when he merged the Carlists and Falangists. Beevor makes it clear that the republicans were ill-equipped to deal with the war, mainly because they had no one like Franco who could take over. As the war progressed, they committed several atrocities against nationalists caught in the republican zone, while the communists gradually took over and purged the government of anyone who disagreed with their ideology. Despite his sympathy with the republican side, Beevor still manages to be even-handed when he discusses their crimes.

This may be because the republican side, as it became more and more communist, also became the obvious puppet of the Soviet Union. Throughout the book, it's clear that the biggest crime of the war was the way the Western powers ignored the plight of the republican side because of the irrational fear of the Soviets. Many of the high-ranking officials in France and Britain were even pro-Franco, despite fearing Hitler's Germany. Hitler, of course, sent in the Condor Legion to test various weaponry (it was the Condor Legion, mainly, that carpet-bombed Guernica), and although he wasn't particularly subtle about it, the British and French governments looked the other way. This was at the height of appeasement, of course, and the republicans happened to be involved in a war at precisely the wrong time. Franco was desperate to win the war before the greater European war erupted, not only because he'd lose the support of Hitler and Mussolini, who'd be pre-occupied elsewhere, but because he would be lumped in with the Axis powers and be a target of the Allies. As it turned out, he won the war with about six months to spare (although the outcome was known for about a year before it actually ended) and then, even after declaring neutrality in World War II, still assisted Hitler and drew no ire of the Allies. This legerdemain was one reason Franco managed to stay in power until 1975.

This is a difficult book to get through because of the large cast of characters and even political parties. It's fascinating, though, because of what a mess Spain was during these years. Beevor points out that communists foolishly engaged the nationalists in pitched battles simply for propaganda reasons, which weakened the republican government even more and hastened its demise. He also shows that Franco may have been a dictator, but that democracy in Spain was weak even under the republican coalition of the early 1930s, so who knows if it would have survived. Beevor wonders if Spain would have gone the way of Stalinist Russia had the republicans won, and he feels that Stalin's interest elsewhere during the 1940s might have mitigated that influence somewhat. The book shows that the Spanish Civil War, which seems simple on the surface, is much more about the common folk who suffered during it than the warring sides, neither of which were particularly good for the country. War always takes it toll on the non-participants. In the case of the Spanish Civil War, that seems more pertinent than in others. That's the tragedy of it - even if the "good guys" had won, the common people would have lost.

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Just how stupid are Americans?

That was the question I had to ask myself two weeks ago, when I first went into a lavatory at Disneyland and saw this on the wall, next to the faucets:

Yes, it's an instruction manual on washing hands. Now, given the fact that most Americans, I'm sure, don't wash their hands after using the toilet, it's perhaps not surprising that they've forgotten how to do it, but really? REALLY????

I'm moving to Andorra, damn it.

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Saturday night YouTubery!

It's Saturday night, and why don't we look at some videos I found on someone else's blog! Namely, Nik's. Because why come up with content when displaced Americans living in New Zealand can do it for you?

First: Bollywood action movie scene. If any Hollywood movie had anything close to this cool, they'd make a shitload more money, I tells ya.

And like Nik, I would totally watch this show:

Enjoy! Thanks, Nik!

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Random thoughts about Disneyland in particular and the Los Angeles area in general

I'll delve into our holiday to SoCal over at my daughters' blog, mainly because it was a kid-oriented vacation, but I thought I'd write about some things that struck me about our week-long journey to the wilds of Cali.

1. Driving for seven hours anywhere is a chore. Driving seven hours with two small children is pretty much suicidal. Even if they're pretty good kids, as ours are. If we want to get information out of terrorists, we should put them in a mini-van with about six kids and make them drive cross-country without a portable DVD player.

2. Speaking of portable DVD players, Krys bought one before our trip even though I didn't really think it was that great an idea. We did use it, but not until late in the trip when they were really being punchy. I think that's a happy medium. I asked my mom about driving all over Europe when I was their age, and she said we were generally good. So why can't modern kids shut it?

3. It was really pleasant to drive through an urban area that had to be molded around hills and valleys and natural impediments instead of simply thrown out in grid patterns. I didn't like LA all that much, but at least it had some character, unlike this boring-ass place where I live.

4. As much as I didn't really like Los Angeles, I can see why so many people live there. Every day was overcast, but it rained only very briefly, and the temperature hovered in the 70s all the time. You could actually go out and do things, and at night, it was ridiculously pleasant.

5. Whoever came up with FastPass is a freakin' genius. For those of you who don't know, FastPass is a ticket you can get at the rides in Disneyland and California Adventure that allows you to come back at a certain time and not stand in line. It's a beautiful thing. You do have to wait until that certain time (usually between an hour and three from the time you get the ticket) to ride, but you can go do other things while you wait. I love FastPass.

6. Of course, neither park was all that crowded. The weather may have factored into this, and the fact that we were there during the week. I don't know. However, the longest wait time for a ride (the wait times are extremely mutable, but not too far off) was 60 minutes, and I only saw that twice (at Splash Mountain and Space Mountain). Usually the wait times were between 25-40 minutes, which isn't that bad. Of course, we used FastPass a lot, so it didn't matter!

7. I hate to admit this, but one of the extremely few benefits of having a person in a wheelchair in your party is that you very often get on the rides much sooner, as in immediately (they allow you to go through the exit). In fact, that and handicapped parking might be the only benefits to having a child in a wheelchair. Yeah, it doesn't make up for everything else.

8. Newport Beach is nice.

9. Man, food is expensive in Disneyland. I know that's stating the obvious, but man!

10. The worst job for a "cast member" (which is what they call those who work at the parks) besides, you know, cleaning the toilets, has to be herding the folk every night just before the fireworks display. Krys and I went back to the park on Friday night after the kids were asleep just to get away from them for a while, and we came off a ride in Tomorrowland minutes before the fireworks. We were herded around the center cul-de-sac that ends at the castle and which was packed with people toward Adventureland and Frontierland and back down Main Street, because the brick walkways were, as the cast members patiently explained, not a viewing area. We managed to duck under a rope separating us from the real viewing area and therefore had a decent view of the fireworks, but anyone trying to stop on the walkway was chided by the cast members. Apparently sometimes they actually have to get physical because people are not listening. Nothing like that happened on Friday night, but it still has to be the suckiest part of their day.

11. California Adventure closes on most nights at 9 p.m. That is, as the kids say, lame.

12. There are a lot of fat, ugly, slovenly people in this world. I know, I'm one of them, but come on! Well, I'm at least not slovenly. But when we hear about the obesity problem in the United States, it's probably because the researchers went to someplace like Disneyland. Man. I don't like to call people fat and ugly (I don't mind calling someone "slovenly," because it's not that hard to look decent), but it's true - there are a lot of them at Disneyland. And not a lot of hot chicks. What was I supposed to do with my time? Pay attention to the children?

Check the other blog for longer posts about our vacation. There will be photographs!

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Yeah, so I should probably explain where I've been

My five readers want to know!

I'm a bit off the grid this week. Obviously, I have Internet access, as I'm posting this, but the family and I went off to beautiful Anaheim, California, to visit Disneyland with my parents. So we've been a bit busy, and by the time I get home at night, I'm really too tired to write anything. I wanted to post an odd picture every day that we were here, but I forgot the cord that attaches the digital camera to the computer (it's my father's PC), and the chip doesn't fit, so I can't even do that. I do have some fun pictures, however, so I'll post those when I get back.

I know I might lose even my five readers now, but I'll be back on Sunday. Have a nice (rest of the) week.

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