Friday, May 29, 2009

In which I find a new career

Or at least, a new way to zone out while also making the house look better. My next-door neighbor offered the use of his father-in-law's pressure washer, and I've been slaying concrete-dwelling algae by the trillions. I'm not sure I'd want to make an actual career of doing that, since you do have to wrestle that hose around, and get splattered with detritus, but the chance to improve the looks of the house via an 11-horsepower Honda motor and a water spray strong enough to chip concrete makes me giggle.

The cleaning was done in preparation for Operation Childfest 2009, also known as Jacob's first birthday party, which takes place this Saturday. Friends and family are of course on their way, Mama Dunn has baked a cake, Publix has been commissioned to make a cake (for their first birthday, they throw in a free "smash cake" for the young'un to mutilate), and then I've laid in a 50-pound bag of sugar, just to make sure we maximize our glycemic potential.

I had to run to the Food Frolic yesterday to get the makings for Mama Dunn's cake, but before I did, I went to the ATM to get some cash, and to make sure something nefarious hadn't happened to my account. Lately, I'd had my debit card declined at a couple of places, when I knew I had enough money to cover the charge. But, just to be sure some Romanian kid hadn't hacked into my bank's computer, Hoovered up my money, and then went on a World of Warcraft spending spree, I pulled up to the drive-in ATM and got some cash ("Think in multiples of $20," the screen advises me, as if visualizing twenties is what they expect; my ATM is a New-Age spiritualist), as well as a balance. Yep, plenty enough money in there to cover the charges I'd been turned down for. Something had gone wrong in Skynet, and my card had been flagged as being plastica non grata. Oh well, at least I hadn't been cleaned out. I just needed to either get the card unflagged, or to get a new card. On to the Food Frolic.

I only needed a couple of things for the cake, plus some white seedless grapes for me (freeze them; they're the perfect healthy summer refresher), so I was at the checkout in short order. I refuse to be one of those people who waits until the cashier gives the total before getting payment in order--checks should just be outlawed, unless you're paying a bill by mail--so while the lady in front was finishing up, I loaded my stash on the conveyor belt and pulled out my wallet. My wallet that no longer held my debit card.

Slight pause while I gulped my heart back down my throat.

Okay, everybody stay frosty. I can handle this. I'll be out of the checkout line shortly, and the ATM is pretty much in the Food Frolic's parking lot. I'll see if I left the card in the car, then make the short drive to the bank and see if maybe I left the card in the slot. It might still be there, hanging out, waiting for me to return it to its rightful home in my wallet.

Nope. Gone. I don't know if the machine eats your card after it's in the slot for X amount of time, or if somebody else came through and got it, but my little buddy that had been swiped in a zillion scanners was no more.

But for once, I was prepared for just such an emergency. I grabbed my BlackBerry, scrolled down to where I had the toll-free number from the back of the card stored in the memory, and I had the card canceled and a new one ordered before I was out of the parking lot. So the moral of the story is to go, right now, and enter the numbers for all your cards in your phone. Wait. I guess the real moral would be to not be a doofus with your card. Yeah, start with that. Don't be a doofus with your credit or debit cards, and THEN go put those toll-free numbers in your cell phone.

Assuming we all survive (I'm fully prepared for Jacob to get overwhelmed and start crying well before the party even gets going), I'll give a recap of the festivities Monday. Also, hummingbird pictures!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Happy Wednesday!

What's that you say? Today is Thursday, not Wednesday? That can't possibly be right. If today's Thursday, that means I didn't post anything on Wednesday. So adjust your calendars accordingly.

Since this is Wednesday, the day after Jacob's first birthday, I thought I'd post an addendum to something I wrote a while back. They're a few advice tidbits, most of which I've learned the old-fashioned way: I've dumbed them into existence. For instance, I've got a scar on my right arm from a Kaiser blade, some folks calls it a slang blade, that took a neat slice out of my skin because, in technical terms, I was "being an idiot." That earned me a trip to the ER, seven stitches, and a scar that's only growing less visible because I'm freckle-farming it over. So right there's a lesson I can pass on to my son: Don't be an idiot with deadly tools. Feel free to apply that to your own lives, royalty-free.

As I noted in that initial post, there's a much better collection of advice available. These are just my feeble attempts at putting wisdom in my own words.

If you have a conflict with someone, and you two just can't seem to get along, ask him for help.
I read this in Bear Bryant's autobiography way back in the seventies, and it's never left me. Bryant was coaching at Kentucky at the same time as basketball demigod Adolph Rupp. The campus hasn't been built that could handle both those personalities and egos, and they inevitably clashed. Bryant ended up leaving, but he remarked in his book that he should have asked Rupp for a favor. That would have helped break the ice, would have let Rupp know that Bryant respected him, would have expressed Bryant's humility, and generally defused an explosive situation. (Thankfully for Alabama fans, Bryant's realization didn't come until it was too late for UK, which could have owned both the basketball and football worlds.) When you come to someone for help, you're letting them know that you've disarmed. It'll either work out some of the tension, or it'll drive them crazy. Either way, you're a winner.

Don't top everyone.
Everybody likes being the center of attention, and everybody has what he thinks is the all-time, gut-bustingest, jaw-droppingest, all-around phenomenalest story. When somebody has just delivered his such story, joke, anecdote, or pithy saying, let him win. Don't try to top it with, "That reminds me of..." or "You should have seen the..." Let the other person have his or her moment in the sun. Yours will come later.

The getting is always better than the having.
At least, it'll seem that way. You'll find that sometimes, when you finally get the very thing you've desired--new car, new job, girlfriend, electronics equipment, fabled hamburger--you'll be thrilled up to your uvula. Then, you'll find the strangest occurrence. What you thought was the thing you desired will leave you a little less than happy. A little empty, actually. You might even think you've made a mistake. And that's possible. We do sometimes devote far too much time and money towards something we'd be better off consigning to the "Eh, not so much" category. But most likely, you're just experiencing a feeling common to all of us. As C.S. Lewis (whom you'll love reading, if you're a son of mine) put it in Mere Christianity,
In this department of life, as in every other, thrills come at the beginning and do not last. The sort of thrill a boy has at the first idea of flying will not go on when he has joined the R.A.F. and is really learning to fly. The thrill you feel on first seeing some delightful place dies away when you really go to live there. Does this mean it would be better not to learn to fly and not live in the beautiful place? By no means. In both cases, if you go through with it, the dying away of the first thrill will be compensated for by a quieter and more lasting kind of interest. What is more (and I can hardly find the words to tell you how important I think this), it is just the people who are ready to submit to the loss of the thrill and settle down to the sober interest who are then most likely to meet new thrills in some quite different direction. The man who has learned to fly and become a good pilot will suddenly discover music; the man who has settled down to live in the beauty spot will discover gardening.
So don't be disappointed when the initial buzz wears off. Keep pushing on, and it'll get better.

Even a dead fish can swim downstream.
If everybody is doing it, maybe it's because it's a good thing. Most likely, however, everybody is doing what everybody always does, which is obey a herd mentality. Take it from a daddy who spent time working with cattle, a herd mentality isn't any mentality at all. Cows are dumber than a sack of toenail clippings, and so are people who go along with the prevailing wisdom. Never be afraid to say "No."

Hopefully, Jacob will do a better job of adhering to these things than his pater did.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

In which the progeny reaches the big 1

A year ago today, the Bat Signal went up: Baby on the way. This is not a drill. This is when heroes are made, people! Move it, move it, move it! We'd had one false alarm before this day, but when The Lovely Missus came down the stairs with that look on her face, I knew, or at least strongly believed, that we'd reached DefCon 1.

I can be on the hyper side at times, so I had figured I'd go into full-bore panic when the time came. I had visions of my turning into Ricky Ricardo, although I pray that I have never been, and never will be, as irritating as that character. Failing that, I figured I'd at least need a hardbitten, WWII Sarge type to give me a speech like, "Scared? Of course you're scared. does something to a man. I've seen men--strong men, men who'd charge Hell with a cap pistol and a paper hat if I told them to--reduced to a whimpering mess just by the sight of a mucus plug. (Dramatic drag off a hand-rolled cigarette.) But real men, they tough it out. They swallow the bile in their throat, steel their innards, resist the urge to leave the delivery room for the waiting room, even if the waiting room has one of those new flat-screen TVs with ESPN on, and the Coke machine dispenses really cold Cokes, and they face that baby! Now get in there and do your duty, Soldier!"

But it's a funny thing about stressful situations. When you, or at least I, have some control over a situation, I can have more facial tics than a Baghdad Airport baggage checker. But when the situation is completely out of my hands (and I don't have any obstetrical skills), I can throttle back and have a little faith. Such was the case when the Bat Signal was displayed. I got a little antsy, but on the way to the hospital, I didn't take any corners on two wheels, or force a busload of orphans into the ditch. That was a good thing, because not only did no one lose his life before the baby started his post-womb life, but it turned out we were settling in for a while. He was definitely about to start his one-man show, but not until later that afternoon. At one point--and I swear I'm not lying--I actually dozed off on the couch in the delivery room.

We thought for a while that TLM would be able to deliver naturally, but the poor young'un was cursed with a noggin like his daddy's ("I'm not kidding, it's like an orange on a toothpick"),so that was not to be. A C-section was called for, and preparations were made.

The only time I really got scared was when I got to go in the OR with The Lovely Missus, and she began having tremors ("birthquakes," I believed they're called) that were pretty serious. I couldn't see the festivities taking place on the other side of the curtain, so I wasn't worried about the baby, but I was holding TLM's hand, and it was like she was sitting on an industrial clothes dryer with an unbalanced load. That began to scare me after a while.

The whole "Open womb and remove baby" step probably didn't take five or ten minutes, but in my mind, it lasted longer than a Super Bowl pregame. Eventually, however, at 4:02 p.m., Memorial Day, 2008, the nurses handed me a wriggling, red, irritated, squinty-eyed bundle that was my son. Jacob Hayes Dunn had entered the world the rest of us inhabit.

Here's one thing I've learned on my first anniversary of being a dad. I'd always thought that having a child was a monstrous inconvenience and a major pain. You're talking to, er, reading the words of a man who didn't get married until two weeks shy of his fortieth birthday, so I was pretty used to living a relatively carefree, and 100% diaper-free, sick-baby-free, and middle-of-the-night-crying-free life. But, despite all my preconceived notions, having a child turned out to be...a monstrous inconvenience and a major pain.

Hang on. I'm not saying something that I never want Jacob to read, nor am I admitting that I'm a regular W.C. Fields when it comes to hating babies. I love my son. I'd kill for him. I'd die for him. When he's sick, I'd most gladly take his affliction in his stead. We've had a couple of Children's Hospital E.R. runs, and nothing will put your heart in your throat faster than pulling into that parking lot.

But make no mistake about it: Babies are tremendous burdens. And make no mistake about this: Tremendous burdens are not always bad things. We live in a push-button, customized world, where microwaving a Hot Pocket for 2.5 minutes takes FOREVER in our minds. If the A/C goes out, it's time to call out the National Guard to deliver emergency cooling, NOW! There are interstate highways full of people who have no clue how to change gears on a manual transmission, have never manually cranked down a car window. We've not only pursued the trouble-free life, we've dang near perfected it.

There's nothing wrong with pushing buttons or otherwise using modern conveniences, of course. But sometimes, we need some inconvenience to remind us it's not always about us. Not that I recommend getting much of your philosophy or theology from rock singers, but it's hard to put it more eloquently than Mick Jagger did: You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.

And I needed Jacob Hayes Dunn. Happy first birthday, son.

Friday, May 22, 2009

In which I decide to open a Chick-fil-A

Not really, since I might have the teensiest bit of trouble scrounging up the investment necessary to begin such an endeavor. Then there's the whole "Work all the time (except for Sundays)" part, too. But if I could overcome both those obstacles, I'd open a Chick-fil-A. Because if the one Jacob, Mama Dunn, and I visited today is indicative of the earnings potential, every franchise owner in the country can look the specter of recession square in the eye, pop the band on another stack of hundreds, and order up some more Bentley wax. Place was hopping like a hyperactive kangaroo treatment facility when we were there.

That's especially noteworthy, considering that the -A's offerings are mostly priced on the pricey side of the fast food spectrum. There's no dollar menu to be found. What you will find is, infallibly, a chipper, helpful staff and some fine chicken and waffle fries. (For any readers not living near an -A, my condolences. Please make arrangements to move, immediately. A year or so ago, when I read that James Lileks had just then had the chance to try a slice of poultry heaven on a buttery bun, I wept. The government really should do something about the gulf between the Chick-fil-A haves and havenots. You cannot consume an original grilled sandwich from there and remain an atheist.)

As I said, the place was packed, and Jacob loves him some people-watching. We fed him some chicken and fries, but that really wasn't necessary. He'd have been just as happy sitting in that high chair, taking in the excitement. His head was on a swivel, and his grin couldn't have been wider if we'd have installed a mouth-stretcher. And this is while he's too young to experience the playground. He'll be an addict once he reaches legal ball crawl age.

On the way there, we passed the median where the city of Pelham puts crosses and flags every Memorial Day. Try as I might, I can't think of anything to say about that that doesn't sound forced and trite. It's just extremely touching to be whizzing along in your car, relatively free from concern, breathing air-conditioned air, listening to an MP3 player playing over the car stereo, BlackBerry on your hip, and look over and see names of men and women who won't ever get the chance to do any of that. God bless the departed.

This weekend, it's a racing bacchanalia for the gearheads among us. Sunday morning, it's the Grand Prix of Monaco, which is pretty much the only F1 race I'll watch. (More passing, please.) Then there's the Indianapolis 500, which is pretty much the only IndyCar race I'll watch. (More, um, something, please. I'll have to get back with you with some specificity later.) I'm old enough to remember when the 500 was shown on ABC on a tape delay Sunday night, so you had to stay away from TV and radio if you didn't want to know the outcome. That was back in the Dark Ages, before the Intarwebtubules.

And then there's the Coca-Cola 600, which is the glute-numbingest sports event imaginable. I know there are 24-hour races, but nobody really watches all 24 hours. Right? If you do, my apologies.

Here's an interesting fact to keep in mind while watching the 600. A few years ago, I interviewed Jimmy Kitchens, who's from the Birmingham suburb of Hueytown. He was serving as Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s spotter, which meant that he watched races with 42 other spotters from high above the asphalt, on the roof of the pressbox or other structure. Spotters are most necessary when there's a wreck or when their driver is making a move in traffic (with the helmets and restraints NASCAR requires, it's darn hard to see out of a stocker, hence the added eyes), but they're also used during caution laps. They count down the driver as he nears his pits, they advise the driver and crew if there's any damage on the car, or they can go huddle with another spotter or two for some dealing as far as restarts or drafting or some such. So there's not really a slack time for spotters. And, since roofs aren't known for bathroom facilities, there's no chance to avail yourself of facilities. Just to be sure, I asked Jimmy if the spotters all stayed up there, all race, without taking a pit stop of their own. He assured me they did.

So, if you're looking for something different to do this weekend, watch the 600 from your couch without getting up and breaking the seal on your bladder.

I'm taking Monday off, so until Tuesday, y'all be safe, and remember why it's called Memorial Day.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

These baby feet were made for walking

Jacob is getting closer and closer to being a full-fledged walker, although I really don't know why. The boy can crawl faster than I can run. I'm not kidding, I need to take him to a track and put a clock on him through the 100 meters. That's the same reason I'm not sweating him turning into a walker, even though everybody says that's when the trouble starts. Until he's old enough to lace on a pair of running shoes, he's pretty much gotten to his top speed already.

The inaugural birthday celebration draws nearer and nearer. He'll hit the big 1.0 Tuesday, but we're celebrating the following Saturday. (Don't tell him. We're keeping the calendars covered up so he won't notice.)

It's funny to watch him with the dogs. You can tell they know he's not actively trying to hurt him, but they also know that he has yet to learn the difference between "pet" and "grab," which is not a good thing for the hairy among us. A Pekingese is just a four-footed handhold to him, so they've gotten really adept about sidestepping his advances. It only took a few handfuls of hair for them to learn. Bonus cuteness: When he has torn some hair out, he turns to one of us as if to say, "I did good, didn't I?" That's a good thing, because it gives the canines time to bolt for sanctuary underneath the kitchen table.

Following up on the "The Big Bang Theory" post from yesterday, I've just gotten around to watching the final episode of "King of the Hill," which ran Sunday night. I love, love, love that show. Or, more accurately, loved, loved, loved that show. It's been running a few cylinders short the last few years. I figure the ratio of good shows to bad has been 1/5 for the last few seasons. Even the final show was kinda "meh." I didn't get that whole Canadian house-swapping deal.

That's not surprising, though. It's hard to come up with a suitable closer. Really, the only great season finale I can remember was the one the geniuses at "Newhart" came up with. Absolute perfection.

I'll miss KOTH, though. (Warning: Pop culture sacrilege imminent!) I've never been a "Simpsons" fan. Sorry, but it just never did it for me. I know that pop culturists love to talk about how there's real family love beneath all the Simpsonness, but I think they're projecting and rationalizing, and a few other pop psychology terms I can't remember right now. "Family Guy" can be hilarious, but I stopped watching when I saw the neighborhood pedophile appear. I'll watch some out-there humor, perhaps more than I should. But making jokes about sexual predators of children just takes it too far. And "American Dad," of course, is completely unwatchable.

Bring back "The Brak Show," is what I say. (Also, pummel the web dweeb who came up with that eye-scorching background.) "Open up your headhole, Slappy, and listen while I testify" has earned a permanent spot in my cortex.

But I digress. KOTH was a great show because you know that this family did love each other. Sure, Peggy was a little on the prickly side, and Hank had problems exhibiting his love ("Bobby, if you weren't my son, I'd hug you"), but they stuck together, I'll tell you what. You always knew that, no matter how tragic Bill got, no matter how clueless Dale got, or how rapaciously Boomhauer got, Hank was always going to bail them out. It didn't matter if he wanted to bail them out, he had to bail them out. It was just the right thing to do, even if your dad was a shinless misanthrope who'd killed fitty men.

There was so much else to like about KOTH. The repeated Chuck Mangione references and appearances. Khan Souphanousinphone, Sr., the jerky neighbor with the heart of, well, not gold, exactly, but not bile, either. Joe Jack's referring to everyone, regardless of gender, as "Honey." The guest stars like Brad Pitt (who was an excellent Patch Boomhauer) and Matthew McConaughey as Rad Thibodeaux (pronounced "thib-uh-do-axxxx").

There were some classic lines, too. In the interest of fairness, I've limited myself to only lines I can recall, verbatim, without googling. I've already mentioned the "if you weren't my son" quote. Here are a few of my other favorites.

"Son, you're teasing the gorilla in the monkey house."
"Are you gonna leave quietly, or am I gonna have to carry you out baby-tantrum-style?"
"Just when I think you've said the stupidest thing ever, you keep talking!"
"Soccer was invented by European women so they'd have something to do while their husbands cooked dinner."
(Hank, while preparing to pray) "Lord, Hank Hill here, Methodist."
(Hank, commenting on Bobby's love for Christian rock) "You're not making rock and roll better, you're making Christianity worse."

If I had to pick my favorite five episodes, I'd go with these:

5. "Propane Boom"/"Death of a Propane Salesman." (A two-parter.) Competition from the Mega-Lo Mart costs Hank his job, and he's forced to take a position at the Mart. When Boomhauer attempts to comfort Hank over the propane explosion that killed Luanne's boyfriend Buckley ("Hey"), he gives a long, mumbling, Boomhauerian soliloquy that's of course indecipherable. Hank replies, "That's what we tell ourselves, isn't it, Boomhauer?" Slays me every time.

4. "A Fire-fighting We Will Go." Hank and the boys become volunteer firemen, then burn their own firehouse down. During the investigation (conducted by a fire chief played by Barry Corbin), the boys all give their version of what caused the fire. When Boomhauer tells his version, all the other characters speak Boomhauer. This episode also has the last TV appearance of Buddy Ebsen, who voiced Chet Elderson.

3. "Return to La Grunta." Luanne purchases a "dolphin encounter" for Hank at the posh La Grunta country club. While encountering the cetacean, named Duke, Hank is, well, um, he's the victim of unwanted physical advances. When Hank finally breaks down and tells Peggy about it, Peggy wants to know if the dolphin, you know, has regular equipment and all. Hank replies, "It's a mammal, Peggy."

2. "A Beer Can Named Desire." Hank gets an opportunity to throw a football through an opening in a giant Alamo Beer can at the Superdome for $1 million, or for $100,000 if he lets Dallas Cowboys legend Don Meredith throw the ball. On the way, the crew drops Bill off at his family plantation in Louisiana. There's a matriarch there (played by Meryl Streep) and three widowed Southern belles (played by the Dixie Chicks), and Bill's fey cousin Gilbert ("ghille-bear"). When Gilbert says, "I've always been a creepuh. Violetta says I creep like the kudzu that's slowly but surely strangling our Dixie," I convulse. Every time.

1. "Aisle 8A." Hands-down the funniest episode of all time. Khan has to go to Hawaii for a conference, leaving his daughter Khan Jr. with the Hills. Khan Jr. "becomes a woman" while her parents are away, and Hank is forced to take her to the hospital, and then to the Mega-Lo Mart for supplies. While he's at the hospital, he hints that the hospital should give her the supplies. "If she had a cut, you'd give her a Band-Aid, wouldn't you?" Then, once at the Mart, Khan Jr. goes down the feminine supplies aisle and breaks down, forcing Hank to go down the aisle, too. Classic, killer funny.

There are other great episodes, like "The Redneck on Rainey Street," where Khan (who forgets to put a cover sheet on his TPS report) stops being an office drone and becomes a redneck. That episode includes a version of Tom Petty's "Rednecks" performed by the Drive-by Truckers.

And there's "It Ain't Over 'Til the Fat Neighbor Sings," where Bill joins the Harmoniholics, an all-male singing group. In that one, Dale, attempting to shame Bill into leaving the group, says, "This chorus is the feces produced when shame eats too much stupidity!"

But there's no use crying over spilt animation. The show was past its prime, and Mike Judge has moved on to "The Goode Family," which looks like it has promise. I love the fact that the do-gooding Goode family wanted to adopt an African baby, and ended up with a white South African named Ubuntu. Plus, there's reruns, and my collection of DVDs. In my heart and mind, Hank is still in his prime, out in the alley, and he always will be. Yup.

Blogging will happen today

Just had a few things come up this morning that have me running behind. Check back later for your usual dose of life-changing greatness from me.

There I go again, pulling my facetious muscle.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Whatever happened to the Bermuda Triangle?

No real reason for titling this post the way I did, other than the fact I'm watching "Airport '77," and the 747 the bad guys are hijacking was just referred to as entering the Triangle. Back in the seventies, you couldn't pick up a reputable newspaper (Enquirer, Star, etc.) without a reference to the Triangle. It was a big supernatural vortex where boats and planes disappeared quicker than free Foghat tickets. Then one day, I guess Erich von Daniken lost interest, and the Triangle was phenomenon non grata.

I'm saving the "Airport" movies for another post, though. Today, it's all about my favorite new show, "The Big Bang Theory." How exactly has this excellent comedy escaped my attention until a couple of weeks ago? I'm putting each and every one of you on report for not alerting me, and I'm noting in your permanent record that I was very, very disappointed in you. For shame.

I will share a tad of the blame, although in my defense, a healthy dose of cynicism at Hollywood's ability to turn out a decent comedy nowadays is a supremely defensible position. "Gary Unmarried," "The New Adventures of Old Christine"--well, I think I've made my point. I'll stipulate that "The Office" has generated chuckles at times, but I just can't get into it. I think it's the fact that it's taped without a live audience, and part of comedy is the danger of performing before a few hundred disapproving sets of eyes. (I know that comedies filmed before live audiences are edited, but that doesn't completely do away with the pressure of nailing a line. It's not like the actors can do take after take, like they can without an audience. Sooner or later, the folks from Iowa and Minnesota will grow weary of the continued re-takes.)

But "The BigBang Theory," which will henceforth be referred to as TBBT, has it all. Filmed in front of a live audience. References to things like Munchhausen's Trilemma.
Leonard: What do you mean, you're moving out? Why?
Sheldon: There doesn't have to be a reason.
Leonard: Yeah, there kinda does.
Sheldon: Not necessarily. This is a classic example of Münchhausen's Trilemma. Either the reason is predicated on a series of sub-reasons leading to an infinite regression, or it tracks back to arbitrary axiomatic statements, or it's ultimately circular, i.e. I'm moving out because I'm moving out.
Leonard: I'm still confused.
Sheldon: Leonard, I don't see how I could have made it any simpler.
Plus, there's the absolute persnickety genius perfection of Jim Parsons' Sheldon. When it comes to a person fitting the role, I have to go back to Don Knotts' Barney Fife to find a more perfect fit. He's preening and self-important, but he's also likable. Try pulling that off the next time you think your thespian chops are stout.

I despised "Roseanne" (the show, not the pers--never mind), so I only became aware of Johnny Galecki when I saw the criminally underappreciated "Suicide Kings." (Rent it. You'll love it.) He's perfect as the love-bumbling, brainy-but-approachable Leonard. He's like a younger George Costanza, if Costanza had had a heart. And a brain.

I'm less enamored of Simon Helberg's Howard Wolowitz or Kunal Nayyar's Rajesh Koothrappali, although both of them have their moments. And I'd prefer they ditch Sara Gilbert's Leslie Winkle completely. She seems completely out of her element in a brainy sitcom. (I know she graduated from Yale with honors, but those honors were in art. Not impressed.)

But the show truly won my heart when I heard things like Sheldon's statement that, "Like a modern-day Napoleon, I've been exiled to the Elba of the stairwell." Or Sheldon's correction of Penny's statement that he and Leonard had "a little misunderstanding" by saying, "No, Galileo and the Pope had 'a little misunderstanding.'" Who's writing these most excellent references, Dennis Miller? In a sea of sophomoric "humor" on television, it's beyond refreshing to see such genius.

Especially since that genius is swaddled in some weapons-grade stupidity on CBS' part. For one, they have just announced that they're moving the show from 7 p.m. central time on Mondays to 8:30 p.m. Way to hide the show, CBS. It's always great to slot a great show in the slot normally occupied by "Rules of Engagement."

Secondly, CBS has decided that a show geared toward geekery won't have full-length episodes posted online, only clips. Because there's no way that geeks in 2009 could ever find an alternative way to get those episodes. So instead of sitting down in front of a computer monitor and watching ads, those geeks will be torrenting episodes completely free of ads. Or so I hear. I personally have no idea how such things take place. Nope, not me.