Saturday, June 23, 2007

Stupid Youth. . .

Man, am I glad I 'm not 21 these days. The pressures today's youth must feel--stuff we didn't have in the days of my all-night revelry. . .things such as wondering if your photograph would appear on the internet if you somehow got so wasted you passed out on a sidewalk, dress up above your waist. I'm going to make a guess that this is in a Whataburger parking lot someplace in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

With cell phones with cameras built in and instant access to great photo sites like Flickr, Photobucket and the like, now anyone's youthful indescretions can be a permanent part of the World Wide Internet Web.

Who knows. . .this could be our future President, 2024.

Daddy's little Princess. . .

Monday, June 11, 2007

Sopranos Finale

So, what'd ya think about the final episode of HBO's Sopranos--or, more specifically, what did you think of the final four minutes?

It was exhilirating to me. I guess each of us had our own idea as to how the series would end. . .I have to say that I didn't expect the "cut to black" ending that really resolved nothing. But was that so bad?

The tension leading up to the final scene in the family diner was palpable. I looked at the clock and saw there were only a few minutes to go. . .time for one final scene. . .how would the show go out? The longer the scene went on, I was sure that one of the shadowy customers in the diner would whack Tony, Carmella and AJ, and that Meadow's difficulty in parallel parking her car would cause the delay that would spare her life. You knew it was coming. Just knew it. Then. . .darkness. Guess I was wrong. Guess we all were.

Actually, the ending was perfect. Lots of folks felt cheated and ripped off, that they put several years into watching the show and deserved a big payoff. But anyone familiar with series creator David Chase's style knows that he rarely delivery what you think he should.

The series ended with so many storylines unresolved. So. . .un-Hollywoodish. As if that should be surprizing from a show that featured Tony talking to a fish. . .

Phil got whacked, and his head being crushed by his wife's SUV as he lay dead on the ground was actually the comedic highpoint of the evening (who even did this hit? Tony's guys or Phil's? And did Tony even know what went down by the end of the episode?).

AJ's depression seemed to evaporate as soon as he got another girlfriend. Maybe the exhiliration of being so close to sex and death at the same time when his Xterra burst into flames brought him around. . . who knows? But by the end of the episode, AJ--who earlier railed against consumerism, the wasting of our lives watching stupid TV shows, and the value a life spent fighting terrorism as a soldier (a career path that would lead to working for the CIA, or Donald Trump's personal helicopter pilot!) --instead found comfort in a new BMW, watching television on the couch, and having daddy setting him up with a job in the movie industry, as a prelude to daddy fronting him the money to open a nightclub.

In the end, nothing was resolved. Life goes on for the Sopranos. Tony still needs to take care of business, Junior continues to waste away into senility, Carmella is moving ahead on renovating a small house, Meadow continues to pursue her law career, and AJ, poor AJ, will probably, after starting his own nightclub (just as club owner Silvio did with the Bing), follow his father into the business.

Chase let us build up our own expectations, then tossed em in the trash.

Ultimately, what we got was just another day in the life of the Sopranos.

Or, did they all end up dying in a hail of gunfire just after the screen went black?

We'll never know.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Good job, dudes!

I. waiting to get into Babe's. . .

E. gives a thumbs up to around 9,000 calories of chicken, taters and corn. . .

Summer's here. The kids are out of school. So what better place to celebrate the start of summer vacation than Babe's Chicken. . . yum! Roanoke's finest purveyor of artery-clogging grease and fat is too good to pass up. . . so we eschewed our usual Friday visit to CiCi's Pizza (only the finest for our family!) to load up on fried chicken, creamed corn, mashed potatoes and fresh biscuits, all served in a brick building that a small earthquake could turn into dust.

What about the end of the school year? Our oldest son, E., "graduated" from Kindergarten last week. Actually, "graduated" is a little bit of hype. . .let's call it "promoted" instead. We can't express to him enough in words how proud we are of how much he accomplished in his first year in public school. His teacher, Mrs. S., was a wonderful influence on him. . .he sure learned a bunch, and his love of reading going carried right on through into summer--he's excited to attend a reading camp next week. This kid just loves to learn. . .he amazes us with what he's been able to absorb, and has become as interested in geography as his old man. Get him near a globe, map or "Google Earth," and it'll be hours before he comes up for air. . .

And I. finished another year at Mom's Day Out. I'm sure he'll miss the teacher, his naps, and especially his girlfriends from class! He's turning 3 in a few weeks. . . amazing how fast he's growing up.

It probably just SEEMS like it will be a long summer, looking at it from the first week of having the kids home all the time. . .but I'm sure it'll just flash by. What will we do to keep 'em busy? Endless trips to the swimming pool and swinging and climbing on the backyard gymset can only take you so far! E. and I. have swim lessons lined up, and then there's a couple of weeks in July when we're going to Colorado. . .

Anyway, congrats kids. Your Mom and Dad love you, and want to share your accomplishments with the rest of the world.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Air Tractor

Driving back from west-central Oklahoma Thursday evening, we (MSR, LCL, and BEK) were treated to a beautiful sunset, which lit up a supercell thunderstorm blowing up on the dryline far to our east like an orange beacon.

We were south of Altus, and the scene demanded a photograph. Serendipity happened to bring us to a halt roadside near a field where a crop duster demonstrated his trade, and after a couple of adjustments of location, we ended up in a great spot not only to include the Air Tractor AT502 doing his aerial gymnastics in our photos, but to have a couple of "close encounters" at the end of the field. The pilot slipped over us so close we could've nearly spat on the underside of the plane. We were close--not quite "North by Northwest" close, but close enough to make us question whether or not we really wanted to be right under this aerial applicator as he dumped God-knows-what on the fields.

Afterwards, we mused on this way of making a living. Certainly, short of flying in an air show, these pilots are the closest thing left to true barnstormers. The job seemed romantic--dipping and climbing and turning and diving over the fertile lands (check out this video on You Tube--simply amazing editing and music, and scenes of these planes flying at night to boot, headlights on, guided by GPS). It is dangerous work--it's said there's no such thing as an old crop duster pilot. One of us surmised that a HUGE set of balls were required to do this. We all agreed. It was dusk, and there were power lines and a tall radio tower near by, not to mention trees.

You gotta respect these pilots. What a show. And here's the photo (click on it for a full-sized view).

Friday, June 8, 2007

Let the Bitch rot!

Wonder if she wore her panties in the squad car?

HOORAY FOR JUSTICE! I'm glad that Los Angeles Judge tossed the bitch Paris Hilton back into the slammer Friday. . .and I hope he goes above and beyond the law and extends her jail sentence to life, no parole.

I guess she couldn't handle the stress and pressure and claustrophobia of being in a jail cell. . . she prefers the quiet, wide-open spaces of nightclubs instead. Perhaps her cell would be more accomodating with some strobe lights, a mirror ball, maybe some coke-snorting skanks in the corner, some loud house music. . .

What's with these fucking Hollywood kids? I've never seen such a group of self-obsessed, spoiled little babies. You never saw Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland behaving like this, by cracky! (when did this all start, anyway? Was it Sean Penn and Robert Downey Junior and the rest of the Brat Packers? Hell, this current behavior trumps all that. . . )

It's a shame Paris will have to spend her time in jail, isn't it. Too bad she couldn't serve it at home with an ankle bracelet on house-arrest. . . I'm sure she'd serve out her sentence alone, at home, quietly reflecting on the wrong she'd done. I'm sure she would have kept her friends away, told them not to come over all hours for parties. I'm sure she'd not have a personal chef around the place, and to send her personal trainer home. And I'm sure she'd sleep alone and resist the temptation to shoot a video of herself Honkin' on Bobo. (But, that'd bring up an idea for a great new video series, once--if--Joe Francis gets out of jail in Nevada and his probably-violated-repeatedly butt heals. . how about "Girls Gone Wild--LA County Jail?" I think Nicole Ritchie is headed that way later this month. . .and Lindsay Lohan not too far behind. Maybe a jail sentence is the rite of passage for all young celebrities these days. Somehow, Britney Spears managed to avoid jail time, but I think the cops should just haul her wide cellulite-laden ass into the slammer anyway, just on principle, for the way she treats her kids.

It's a good thing, I guess, we have all this young celebrity angst. It helps us forget about the real problems of the war. immigration, health care and the like. But maybe it's about time to send em all to Fallujah and put em on daytime patrol without body armor.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

1981 Trip, Day 5: That's one big-ass hole!

Lots of wire, but where are the electrics? . . .

June 10, 1981: We spent the first half of this day checking out Utah's biggest hole. Actually, the largest Open Pit copper mine in the world, Kennecott Utah Copper's massive Bingham Canyon operation. Statistics are so large as to be meaningless, but for those who need to "know it all," check out Don Strack's excellent history of the place. Since the 1920s, rail haulage of both copper ore and its overburden was the domain of electric locomotives, but by 1981 when we visited, dieselization was rapidly taking hold. Most of the operations in the pit were dieselized with "vista cab" EMD GP39-2's, and the "low line" haulage railroad between the ore yard at Copperton and the smelters at Magna had been dieselized as well with EMD's standard mainline heavy freight locomotive of the time, the SD40-2. Really unfortunate, for the old "Magna Motors" that shuttled around the clock in pairs since the railroad was built in the late 1940s were really a sight to see. We stopped off at the visitor's center overlook and photographed mine operations for a bit. The maze of electric wires all over the place in front of us made getting a clean shot difficult.

SD40-2's on the ore haulage approach Copperton yard. . .

After photographing a deadline of stored electric locomotives above the Dry Fork shops in Copperton, we drove a few miles out of town to photograph a broadside view of SD40-2's 105/103 on a trainload of empties bound for Copperton. . . this scene today is dominated by a huge slurry concentrating plant, part of the pipeline/conveyor belt infrastructure that totally replaced the rail operating in the late 1990s. Soon after arriving in Copperton, the locomoitves ran around to the rear of their train, grabbed their caboose, and coupled it to their outbound train. We trespassed just a wee little bit to take roster photos of 105/103, then stuck around as they awaited the car knocker's release in the yard, the towering mountain of overburden tailings in the background. Amazingly, we weren't thrown out. At the time, Kennecott was operating for than 25 loaded trains a day to the smelter complex.

The 103/105 prepare to leave with a loaded train. . .

Roster view of the 105: We weren't thrown out!

While the pit and mainline haulage operations were freshly dieselized, rail operations at the Magna smelter complex had been for a long while. . . long enough for exotics like Alcos and Baldwins to have been built new for the operation. Near a handy highway in Magna, a worse-for-wear RS3, No. 3 sat waiting for us to trespass once more to photograph it. No problem with frowning workers here--the 3 spot was a remote control locomotive, but it didn't look to be in operating condition on the day we encountered it. Turns out, No. 3 was a bit of a celebrity, repainted into a red, white and blue scheme for the 1976 Bicentennial celebration. It must've been painted fairly quickly afterwards, as its standard green and yellow paint looked like shit. The 3, by the way, is preserved at the Feather River Rail society in Portola, California.

Looks like hell, but it's still an Alco RS3!. . .

The afternoon was spent visiting Keith's Hobby House on the near south side of downtown, along with Douglas Hobbies Salt Lake's only true hobby shops. A great memory of my years living as a kid in Salt Lake was the magic one felt walking down the stairs into the nicely finished basement model railroad department. Keith really had a great shop--lots of kits, a PFM sound system set up for demonstration, a full repair shop, and a wonderful brass case. And all the magazines that one could wish for. . . it's safe to say that Keith's is one reason I became a railfan!

It was getting late, and we had miles to go: eastward we went past Park City (back then just a run-down ghost town) to Echo Canyon and the Union Pacific mainline. We gave UP a couple of hours to present us with all the trains we could handle, but Echo Canyon was unusually quiet. We only saw one train, a westbound in cloudy light with Western Pacific power behind the leading UP SD40-2. So inspired, we headed east, bound for South Pass, Wyoming, a campground under the stars, and a morning encounter--we hoped--with US Steel's South Pass ore-hauling railroad and its matched set of F-units.

Skunked by clouds with our only train: UP in Echo Canyon. . .