Thursday, November 27, 2008

I Am Thankful For…

Since it is Thanksgiving Day and Pat has already presented us with his list of what he is thankful for, I felt obligated to contribute my list. The thing is, it is not really a list per se. In fact, one sentence pretty much sums it all up for me. I am thankful for angels. Let me explain.

For many, an angel has religious connotations. Whether the religion is Christianity, Judaism or Islam, an angel is a spiritual supernatural being. I personally believe in spiritual angels. However, the spiritual angel is not the only type that I am thankful for. Once again, let me explain.

The New Oxford American Dictionary provides the following definitions of angel:

1. a spiritual being believed to act as an attendant, agent, or messenger of God, conventionally represented in human form with wings and a long robe.
2. a person of exemplary conduct or virtue.

Based on those two definitions, I would hazard a guess that we all have some sort of angels to be thankful for. Think about it for a moment and I am sure that you will begin to identify the angels in your own lives.

They may be the spiritual type based on your religious beliefs. Being Catholic, growing up I learned about Raphael, Gabriel and Michael. Another concept taught was that of guardian angels. Yet another sort of spiritual angel could be a loved one that has passed on. In that respect, I am thankful for my late grandma, Ermalinda Vagnoni. She was an angel while here on earth and remains one to this day.

The second definition of angel provides for a wide range of possibilities. I am sure that growing up, all of us has had a teacher or a coach that made a difference in our young lives. Maybe they helped you with something you could not comprehend or helped developing a certain skill. Maybe they just helped you fit it. Now as adults, this angel may be someone that has had a similar impact on your child’s life.

An additional variety of angels are role models. Once again it could be a teacher or coach, but personally, my “role model” angels are relatives. Not necessarily any one in particular, but a combination of the qualities of many. For example, I am thankful for my parents. They have shown me how to love, care and respect others. Also the entire Vagnoni clan for demonstrating how important family is. Funny thing about Italians. Finally, in the category of role models, I am thankful for my aunt Terri in California for illustrating how significant it is to not only listen, but to understand.

Yes, both types of angels are there to help us. A case in point is the angels that helped my godson Alex survive the 2007 holiday season. The spiritual kind guided the earthly angels as they fought from December 8th to Christmas Eve to keep him alive. A ruptured AVM (arteriovenous malformation), resulting in hemorrhaging in his brain, had both sets of angels working overtime. I am extremely thankful for that.

Where would we be without our angels? Who really knows? I know that I am thankful for Dr. Alfred Habel for helping me to delay what is inevitable for all human beings. I don’t know if he would appreciate being called angel, but he surely qualifies as one.

I am willing to bet that as you read this, you are coming up with people in your lives that fit the bill as angels. It could be a boss or a co-worker. Perhaps it is a clerk at a favorite store or your mailman. Is it the guy next door that you have known all your life or is it the stranger that was there when you needed help? Angels come in many shapes and forms.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a very valuable type of angel – the friend. My “friend” angels are all over the world. Literally. From Kenosha, Wisconsin to Farmington Hills, Michigan. From St. Paul Minnesota to San Juan Capistrano, California. I even have an angel with an English accent. They are all angels for various reasons. They are there for me without being asked. And I am thankful for each and every one of them.

I truly believe we all have angels in our lives, whether we know it or not. Maybe you have a different name or term for your angels, but they are still angels nonetheless. So be thankful for them. Not only on Thanksgiving Day but every day. Until Next Time…

Monday, November 24, 2008

It Ain't Fair!

When I was young, oh so many years ago, I got used to certain things. Sure as I grew up, new things were introduced to me, but I still wanted my old "standards" to be there as well. When the things that I had grown accustom to would change or go away, it left me sad and a little angry. If I enjoyed something, I wanted it to be around forever!

In my young mind I felt that if something was good and provided me with, not only enjoyment, but also a sense of security, why should it be taken away from me? With my juvenile intellect I just could not comprehend this loss that I was experiencing. It didn't matter to me what the reason was, it just didn't seem "fair".

Over the years, I have learned that, usually, "fair" isn't part of the equation. In fact, having grown up (well, sort of), I have come to cringe when I hear adults bitching and moaning and declaring something is not "fair." Don't they get it? Things change for the good and, far too often, for the bad. The sooner that we as a mature human beings quit expecting life to be "fair", the easier it will be for us to deal with the changes in our lives.

Certainly there are different levels of change in our lives. Changes that take away things we once treasured. It may be as simple as something that makes our life more comfortable or pleasurable. It may be a relationship ending or a change with our occupation. The most emotional is when we have to adapt to a loved one being taken from us.

I do not mean to diminish the effect or misery that changes have caused in any others lives. Having experienced all of these changes in my life, I didn't like any of them. I fully understand that there is no "fair" guarantee in our life here on earth. But it doesn't mean that I have to like it. I accept it, but I do not embrace it.

Sorry for being so cryptic. I have written this column in anticipation of something that is about to change in my life. Nothing major, just something that over the past seven months I have grown very fond of. I have a very strong sense that it is about to be taken from me, for it has already begun to change. And you know what? It ain't "fair!" Until Next Time…From the Booth.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Survivor Gabon - Recap Nine

Survivor Gabon Week 9 Recap - WARNING! Possible Show Spoilers In This Column! Tonight was a good, old-fashioned episode featuring classic Survivor elements with just enough new touches to keep things fresh and entertaining. Then despite all of that, why am I feeling so crummy?

The episode starts in typical fashion, recapping last week’s events. After the recap, we see Randy, Bob and Corrine discussing their hopeless situation. We are then reminded that the alliance of Kenny, Crystal, Matty, Susie and Sugar will be calling the shots from now on. With that in mind, for no good reason, Bob decides to tell Sugar about the fake Immunity Idol that he fashioned while on Exile Island. I thought Bob was a physics teacher…

Tree mail sends the members of Nobag to a Survivor Auction, a vintage favorite. Randy spends $180 on beer and peanuts and Sugar forks over $340 for peanut butter and some chocolate. Not to be out done, Susie plunks down $300 for a hot bath, while Matty gladly pays $400 for a burger and fries. Randy still feeling a bit peckish, outbids his tribe mates for a $280 plate of spaghetti and garlic bread.

Kenny bids and wins a surprise item, which ends up sending Bob back to Exile Island. Corrine shells out $500 for a message in a bottle, which is to remain, sealed until the next Immunity Challenge. The final item is a $20 platter of chocolate chip cookies that must be shared with the rest of the tribe. Randy ponies up the cash and shares the sweet delights with the rest. Sugar, having a great hatred for Randy, gives her cookie to Matty.

Randy, who didn’t care for Sugar to begin with, is really ticked off! So mad that he comes up with an ingeniously devious plan, which he shares with Corrine. Randy figures that Bob must have found the Hidden Immunity Idol by now and since every one in the alliance already hates him, he will be an even bigger jerk and really piss them off. Then when Bob comes back from Exile Island he will talk Bob into letting him have the Idol. What a stroke of genius! Be careful what you wish for Randy…

The next order of business is the Immunity Challenge. Bob returns from Exile Island and Randy stares at him, desperately wondering if he does have the Hidden Idol. Jeff Probst describes that the challenge will consist of carrying three bags of puzzle blocks across balance beams. The first 3 contestants to finish this task go onto the finals where they must set up the blocks on bridges dominos style while negotiating “trip” ropes. If the domino blocks are set properly they will release a flag that declares the winner.

Before they start, Probst tells Corrine to open her bottle from the auction and read the message inside. The message tells Corrine she is automatically in the finals of the challenge. This means only 2 spots are up for grab in the balance beam portion of the task. Matty finishes first with Kenny barely beating Bob for the third spot in the finals.

The competition is fierce between the trio and Kenny is triumphant and has earned Individual Immunity. Back at camp Sugar convinces Bob to give his fake Idol to the dimwitted Randy. Our resident airhead giggles over the cruel scheme. Thinking Bob has the real Hidden Immunity Idol, Corrine is next in line to tell Bob he has to give it to Randy. Bob does as he is told and hands it over to an elated Randy.

As can be expected, Tribal Council is somewhat of an anti climax. Probst listens as members of Kenny’s alliance discuss what a jerk Randy is. Sugar is especially opinionated, using words like alcoholic, bigot, chauvinist, etc. You get the point – she doesn’t really care for the man. She giggles during the entire voting process and the inevitable happens with Randy becoming the third member of the jury.

I know it sounds like it was a first-rate episode, but I still felt crummy at the end. And it wasn’t even the chocolate chip cookies. Usually at this point in the season I have a good idea who I want to win the million dollars. But I don’t!!! I honestly can’t pick a favorite for season 17.

Matty is nondescript and doesn’t realize he will be the first one ousted once the alliance has to get rid of one of t’s own. Kenny keeps making hat stupid rat face and those weird noises. Susie doesn’t know when to shut her mouth. Crystal isn’t as vocal, but when she does speak it is usually to whine. Plus, I still want to see video of her winning in the Olympics.

Corrine is a loathsome creature driven purely by contempt for others and at this point, Sugar simply nauseates me. She has gone from airhead to obnoxious. That leaves me with Bob. I thought I could pull for him, but after they showed the coming attractions where he was lying to Corrine, well I crossed him off the list as well.

You must be wondering if I feel so crummy about the way things are going, why do I continue to watch. I will tell you why. Because this is Survivor and I love it! I just hope that next week isn’t a review show. We will have to wait and see. Until next time…From Gabon.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A First

As some of you might know, I have been writing for the DailyKenoshan since the beginning of May. That is where a majority of my "columns" come from. By my subject matter, you can probably tell what interests me - sports, music, television, etc.

This past week I decided to expand my horizons and try something new. This week I interviewed and wrote a column about a local radio personality, Bill Lawrence. I was very pleased on how it turned out and really enjoyed doing it.

Because of the length of the article, over 1,100 words, I did not want to reprint it here as well. If you would like to take a look at it, please click here. Please leave a comment if you do happen to read it. But be gentle, remember it is my virgin voyage into the world of interviewing!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Survivor Gabon - Recap Eight

Survivor Gabon Week 8 Recap - WARNING! Possible Show Spoilers In This Column! Tonight’s episode provides us with a totally new, never seen before challenge. But don’t worry, it is also chock full of Old-School Survivor elements. Plus, Jeff Probst finally utters the words everyone has been waiting to hear!

The episode opens with Kota’s Kenny feeling the power and Bob experiencing extreme anxiety, pinning his chances for survival on a merge of the two tribes. Over at Fang, it’s just a lot moaning and groaning about starving and having no more rice.

The tribes are gathered for the Reward Challenge, but alas no merge. Kota is visibly upset when they see that Fang has eliminated Marcus. Corrine and Sugar are the most verbal calling their opponents stupid. Charlie is simply crestfallen.

The challenge is slingshot golf! The tribes have to propel their balls towards the hole using huge slingshots, not unlike the ones you see at sporting events used to launch t-shirts into the crowd. Want to know what they are playing for? A trip to an authentic Gabonese ceremony/feast complete with authentic Gabon natives.

Fang wins the 3-hole competition, but not without Randy, Matty and Charlie bitching at each other while Sugar stands by smiling, staring off into the jungle. The reward is pretty standard Survivor fare. The only unusual part was during the dancing portion of the ceremony. Seems Randy senses that one of the natives was coming on to him and announces, “That’s the first time that’s happened in 20 years.” Shut up Randy.

Kota’s Bob has the distinction of being the first player, other than Sugar, to be sent to Exile Island in the last 6 episodes. Despite solving all the clues, he cannot find the Hidden Individual Immunity Idol. Resigned to the fact that Sugar has it, he goes old-school and makes a fake Idol! Shades of Ozzy from season 16 Micronesia. It was great! I think a tear rolled down my cheek.

After the reward has concluded the Immunity Challenge is next on the agenda. The tribes gather, Probst takes the Immunity Idol and then announces that they are now playing for individual immunity and those much awaited words finally come out of his mouth, “DROP YOUR BUFFS!” That’s right, at long last the tribes have merged!

The challenge is to make a fire strong enough to burn through the twine above your station. Each Survivor is given a flint, a machete, kindling and some sticks. Shockingly, only Susie and Sugar are able to create fire, with Susie emerging victorious.

Back at camp, the newly formed tribe is elated to find rice, beans, fruit and even some canned goods. The next endeavor is to come up with a name for the new tribe. Someone comes up with the bright idea of spelling Gabon backwards and the tribe is christened Nobag. They paint a flag featuring the new moniker and proudly sport their new buffs.

With all the fun stuff behind them, the Survivors decide to back to the real task, deciding on whom to eliminate. Randy bluntly expresses. “There’s no way I’m staying with Crystal, either she goes or I do.” Kenny, still feeling somewhat omnipotent, declares, “I’m like a little rat in the corner.” Then proceeds to make a disturbing rat-like face and some strange noises. Corrine states the obvious, "Sugar is such a moron!”

Despite Sugar not being Mensa material, she is the swing vote. For the first time in years, I have no idea who is going to be ousted at Tribal Council. The discussion is very volatile, with Randy and Crystal going at it. Sugar says something dumb and Kenny tells a big, whopping lie. Charlie attempts to be the voice of reason with little results. It’s time to vote.

Probst tallies the vote. The first four are for Crystal, who begins to cry, joining the already misty-eyed Sugar. Out of nowhere the next four votes are for Charlie. With everyone on pins and needles, Probst proclaims Charlie the 10th person eliminated and the second member of the jury. At least Charlie has been reunited with his buddy Marcus.

Next week should be promising. The battle between Randy and Crystal will surely continue to escalate. Corrine will probably become bitchier. It’s about time for Susie to start shooting her mouth off again and Sugar will remain the lovable airhead. I can’t wait. Until next week…From Gabon

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Survivor Gabon - Recap Seven

Survivor Gabon Week 7 Recap - WARNING! Possible Show Spoilers In This Column! Lying, cheating, backstabbing, hating, conniving, half-truths, promises not kept, scheming, deception. I’m not talking about the Presidential campaign, that’s over! I’m talking about Survivor Gabon. Yes indeed, Old-Time Survivor is back! Plus, we have the ubiquitous twist.

This week’s episode starts out with the typical planning and strategizing at both the Kota and Fang (rhymes with thong) camps. Tree mail arrives and the tribes are told to bring only their personal items and make their way to the beach. Both tribes are ecstatic, surmising the long awaited merge has finally arrived. It also sounds like a meal is possible as well.

Well, they were at least half right, there is a meal waiting for them. A veritable feast fit for a king: chicken, meat loaf, mixed nuts (yes, mixed nuts), a cornucopia of fresh fruit and wine. Randy sits on the beach with a class of wine and declares himself the king of Gabon.

During the meal, the survivors were given a clue for yet another Individual Immunity Idol. Randy finds it in about 7 seconds. He doesn’t want it and the other nine decide that the Idol is evil, not unlike the apple in the Garden of Eden. So they put it in a bottle and toss it in the ocean. Okay, they aren’t that bright.

Remember I said the gang was half right about their interpretation of the tree mail? What they got wrong was the part about a merge. Much to their chagrin, the merge did not emerge. The twist! Instead of a merge, they draw numbers to form two new tribes. The new Fang crew consists of Matty, air-headed Sugar, Corrine, King Randy and Charlie. The updated Kota clan is made up of Crystal, Ken, Marcus, Susie the bigmouth and Bob.

Back in their respective camps, the new tribes’ members proceed to form new alliances and make promises they have no intention of keeping. Old-Time Survivor! Crystal, the Olympic Gold Medalist, promises Marcus she will never write his name down at Tribal Council. Moment’s later, she stares into the camera and basically states she just lied and would slit his throat in a heartbeat. Outwit, Outplay, Outlast. Don’t ya love it?

The Immunity Challenge is an endurance test. Each survivor must support a wooden pole on the back of his or her hands. Lower your hands and the poles fall and you are eliminated. The survivor who lasts the longest wins immunity for their tribe, sending the opposing tribe to Tribal Council. World-class athlete Crystal lasts exactly one second with Sugar holding out for 10 seconds. Not long after, six more survivors fall to the wayside, leaving only Matty (Fang) and 58-year-old Bob (Kota) remaining. Bob finally succumbs and Fang is victorious.

Kota goes back to camp and the plotting and lying begins. Crystal makes a deal with Marcus to vote out Ken. While Marcus is informing Susie of the plan to get rid of Ken, Crystal is making a beeline to Ken and they plot to oust Marcus. Ken and Crystal then go to work on Susie. The lies and the backstabs are flying. This puts Susie in the powerful position of swing voter. She decides to eliminate Marcus the 28-year-old doctor from Atlanta.

It appears that the group of survivors from season 17 has finally gotten it. They are at long last lying, cheating, backstabbing, hating, conniving, telling half-truths, not keeping promises, scheming, and deceiving each other. Ah yes, Old-Time-Survivor! Until next week…From Gabon

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Big Day…

Well, Tuesday is the Big Day. November 4th is the day when America elects the man that will end the eight-year presidential reign of George W. Bush. Politicians and pundits alike are calling it the most important election in America’s history. Yes, it certainly is a Big Day.

I won’t debate the significance of November 4th, 2008. That would be ignorant and somewhat hypocritical on my part. Knowing the gravity of this date, I have made sure that my vote would be cast, having recently done so through the Absentee Ballot process.

Having already done my democratic, oops (Freudian slip) - patriotic duty, I have done all that I can to contribute to the immense importance of Tuesday. No more answering those annoying phone calls urging me to vote for a particular party. Although, I will eagerly watch the election returns Tuesday evening, personally the Big Day has lost a bit of its luster.

Seeing that November 4th isn’t quite as big a day for me as it is for others, I have decided to make Monday my new Big Day. Yes, November 3rd is my choice for the Big Day. The reason for this choice is that it is the birthday of my friend from England, Bev Cooper.

I have known Bev for about 3 years and she is a wonderful, dear friend. All friends are special and should be treasured. Please don’t take your friends for granted. They are too precious. Happy Big Day Bev. I close with the words of Pete Townshend.

A friend is a friend
Nothing can change that
Arguments, squabbles
Can't break the contract
That each of you makes
To the death, to the end
Deliver your future
Into the hands of your friend

Until next time…From The Booth.