Needing a fix

When you try your best but you don't succeed
When you get what you want but not what you need
When you feel so tired but you can't sleep
Stuck in reverse

And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can't replace
When you love someone but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?

I could barely get myself out of bed this morning ...

I've had a throbbing knot in my neck that feels as big as a baseball, and can't get it to go away ...

I keep biting the left side of my mouth and can't seem to control it or stop it ...

Sarcasm sucks, especially when you're not in a mood to take it ...

I wish I could do something to unleash all of the visions and ideas building inside me ...

Minute issues I had hoped wouldn't come up, have ...

Since when did it become so hard to get a simple sandwich at Subway ...

I have too much to do, too much on my mind ...

Spectacles of the Turin Games

Memorable in deed.

Maybe it's my age. Maybe it's a lack of good TV. Maybe I was just bored.

Never can I recall being so consistently captivated with the Olympics than I was during these last two weeks. Our living room or a Washington, D.C. bar. Not a night went by that I wasn't watching them. Somewhere.

Now that they're over, I give you my top five favorite memories ...

1) Lindsey Jacobellis. Only she knows whether she was show-boating. No matter, the snowboardcross final that ended with her falling and surprising all of us out of our minds was one of the most exciting races -- and finishes -- of the games. And Jacobellis accepted her Silver graciously and humbly ...

2) Apolo Anton Ohno's perfect race ... and just about every other speed skating event throughout the Olympics. I never knew speed skating could be so exciting, until now ...

3) The American Boarders. From the 'Flying Tomato' to Hannah Teter and her glowing interview with Letterman, no one seemed to be having more fun and enjoying themselves more than these 'kids.'

4) On just the second day of the games, Norway's Frode Estil fell just out of the starting gate of the the 30-kilometer pursuit. He had to replace a broken ski and appeared to be done. Until ... his teammates raced to the front of the huge pack of skiers and slowed down the pace, so that their fellow skier could catch up and take his deserved spot. He won a silver medal. It's the stuff the Olympics are made of ...

5) Those American skaters ... While everyone was so focused on Michelle Kwan's misfortune and Sasha Cohen's 'what should've been,' Kimmie Meissner and Emily Hughes were quietly solidifying their Olympic futures.


Virtual ticketing chaos '06

It's 10 a.m. Let the madness begin.

Chicago Cubs tickets go on sale today. Thus, for the third consecutive year, I've somehow managed to take a vacation day from work. And I will wait. And wait. And wait. In the utter frustration that is the 'Virtual Waiting Room' ...

You see, the Cubs have this nonsensical, unfair system of putting all the ticket-holder hopefuls in this so-called waiting room. (Well, the Brewers have it too, but who cares about them ...) And then they invite you randomly inside the ticketing center to buy your tickets for one game. Assuming you can finish your transaction in the two minutes or so they give you, you get your tickets and then they kick you back out into the virtual waiting room to wait for your chance at tickets to another game. Or you can just leave the virtual room and go back to your real life ...

But see, the problem with the system is every year, somehow, someway, the thugs of ticket scalping, the brokerage firms, the internet hackers and all the people who couldn't name the Cubs starting outfield manage to cut through the system. And before you know it, the most attractive games are sold out and those tickets are appearing on eBay for thousands of dollars. And if you don't have your tickets by the end of the weekend, you can virtually forget getting any at all ...


Two years ago. I waited until almost 11 p.m. But got really lucky and managed to get a good pair of tickets to a Cubs-Mets game in May and then one ticket for myself to a Cubs-Braves game on the second-to-last day of the season.

Last year. Not so lucky. I waited until almost 7 p.m. And all I came away with was a pair of lousy upperdeck seats to a Cubs-Pirates game in July. ... Oh, I got my retribution last June, however, when my buddies and I swiped a pair of tickets to one of the biggest games of the season. Cubs-Red Sox. Directly behind home plate. Just under the overhang. Oh, it was nice.

And this year. I wait again. And pray.

I'm hungry. I need to eat some breakfast.
* * *
UPDATE No. 1: It's now 11:34 a.m. Still haven't eaten breakfast.

And I'm still in the virtual waiting room.

The first sellout has appeared on the screen: July 1, Cubs-White Sox. No surprise. And it's ok really. I have other plans that weekend and no major desire to see that series.

In the meantime, I've reviewed half the newspapers I let stack up over the last week and completed a load of laundry.

And God bless iTunes for playing my virtual radio station as I wait in the virtual waiting room.

Back to thinking about eating something.
* * *
UPDATE No. 2: 12:19 p.m. In a stunning virtual surprise! -- I have secured two tickets on the third base side for the April 8, Cubs-Cardinals game (that's the Cubs' second home game of the season, for those of you scoring at home. The home opener was sold out several minutes ago, along with the rest of the Cubs-Sox series and the July 29, Cubs-Cards game ...)

Whew! ... I guess having two computers going with a half-dozen windows open on each and all of them set to the virtual waiting room really does pays off ...

Back into the waiting rooms for round two ...
* * *
UPDATE No. 3 12:54 p.m. Ok. This virtual ticketing chaos has now turned into a virtual coup.

In the last 20 minutes, I've secured tickets to two, yes two! more games -- lower deck tix to a May 27 game against the Braves and to a Sept. 2 game against the Giants.

Now, who's talking about an unfair ticketing system ...

This virtual man is closing shop and enjoying the rest of his virtual day, virtually happy. No. Virtually thrilled!!!!!


Snow!? Seriously!?

So yesterday we had beeeeeeeea-utiful weather. So warm I drove home from work with my window rolled down. I said to Kates: 'I think I'm convinced now we won't see any more snow this year.'

9:30 this morning. Snowflakes the size of golfballs start flying from the sky. Coming down so hard it was as if someone was throwing them from the sky. Like a crude attempt to annoy me. And it worked.

15 minutes later. It's over. The sun is shining as bright as lightning. And there's no trace of any white stuff.

... Just another day in the craziest winter I've ever experienced. If this keeps us, we can probably expect temperatures in the 70s for the weekend, followed by another eight inches the weekend after.


Images of D.C.

Up at 5 a.m. Friday. Left zero degree weather in Wisconsin. Lake Michigan is just as beautiful from the sky. Nearly landed at Reagan National at a 90-degree angle. 62 degrees, sunny and no snow. Rediscovered why the Metro is way cooler, and so different from the CTA. Stood inside Ford's Theatre and looked at the bed where Abraham Lincoln died. Had the best cheeseburger ever at Hard Rock Cafe. Saw the White House and walked down Pennsylvania Avenue. Stood at the base of the Washington Monument and got dizzy from looking straight up. Cold cafeteria supper. Went to union conference meetings. And fell asleep watching the Olympics.

Up at 7 a.m. Saturday. Cold shower. Scrambled eggs, toast, sausage and crisply burned bacon. Eight hours of union meetings. Reuniting with a great friend. Lots of walking. Awesome conversation. Breath-taking scenery. A once-in-a-lifetime view of the Capitol. A good bottle of beer. In bed at 12:30 a.m. eastern time.
Up at 7 a.m. Sunday. Another cold shower. More Scrambled eggs, toast, sausage and crisply burned bacon. Union meetings and role playing so intense I was terrified. Lost appetite for lunch. More terrifying role playing. More union meetings. A juicy steak for dinner. Relaxation and reading. Grey's Anatomy. Fell asleep watching the 11 o'clock news.
Up at 8 a.m. A leftover breakfast bar. Three final hours of union meetings. Reunited with a great friend for the afternoon. The Lincoln Memorial. The Vietnam Memorial. The Korean Memorial. The World War II Memorial. Arlington Cemetery. Cool, crisp air and a perfect evening sunset. Nearly strip-searched at the airport. Arrived back to near-zero degree weather.
A long weekend in Washington D.C. Unforgettable.


Who shot Harry?

It just gets better and better ...

What if Cheney Wasn't the Shooter?

And from The NY Times, some cutting and interesting insight to Cheney's command: Handling of Mishap Creates Strain in the White House


'Odds are' Sosa will retire

A couple years I would have been sad to hear this news ...

Now? Given the circumstances surrounding Sosa over the last couple years? Not so much.

Agent: 'Odds are' Sosa will retire


Yount follows family path

A good read for Brewers fans about what the Yount family is up to these days ...

Comics, Media Take Their Shots at Cheney

Letterman, Jon Stewart and Craig Ferguson all were hilarious last night ...

And it's so easy to joke about. But as I watched each show, I couldn't help from wondering what we'd be saying had Cheney's hunting partner died ...

... then we learned this afternoon that he had a heart attack.

The beat goes on.

RIP my 'Love Monkey'

NBC gave 'Ed' an untimely death ...

... now it seems as though CBS has brutally murdered 'Love Monkey' after just three episodes. THREE episodes.


...and they're replacing it with what else!? The horribly overrated, unrealistic, blood and gore of CSI.

Double ugh.

I'm disgusted. And speechless.

From the Chicago Tribune: See no `Monkey': Show put on hiatus


Dissecting Grey's Anatomy

Following up on Part II of last week's big time Super Bowl episode ...

... As if the whole episode wasn't dangerously there already, the whole Preston having an anxiety attack thing was a little much.

... Meredith nearly gets her head blown off and the next scene we see is Shepherd and Burke walking out of an elevator as clean as the morning sun without a clue to what happened just outside their O.R.s?! Seriously!

... and because I don't have the time (or energy) to sit here and lament the rest of the episode, I'll leave it up to The Seattlest.

I say Turin, You say Torino

The other night I said 'Turin' and Kates was like 'What!? It's Torino!'

I then had to explain the whole Turin/Torino thing to her, which she was unaware of ...

It's an interesting debate nonetheless -- although I think it's nonsense that Ebersol chose to go with 'Torino' for NBC's coverage just because he liked the way it rolled off the tongue.

Gimme a break ...

Firing away at Cheney

Since I'm not near as witty as some of the more well-read bloggers talking about the whole Cheney fiasco, I give you this, and patiently wait for the many hard laughs I'm sure I'll savor watching Letterman tonight ...

The first shooting involving a vice president since the time of Aaron Burr has lit up the blogosphere with political jokesters lampooning Vice President Dick Cheney's weekend hunting accident as "Quailgate."

"You know who's doing a 'there but for the grace of God go I'? Scalia," wrote comedian Al Franken on his Web site, referring to Cheney's longtime duck-hunting friend, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

The Internet sprouted with offerings of "Dick Cheney hunts people" T-shirts and comments about calling the vice president "Deadeye Dick." There also was a version of the vice-presidential seal featuring a shotgun-wielding Elmer Fudd in hunting gear, with the inscription: "Be vewy vewy quiet, we're hunting I-wackies." (more)

... And while I'm looking at the best of today's cartoons, I couldn't help from posting this one too ...


The life we lead

Since Kates and I both will be busy on Valentine's night with work-related things on Tuesday, and since we have little extra money to spend, we celebrated our Valentines last night by having a wonderful homemade dinner (salads, steak and baked potatoes, what else!) and doing a puzzle together while watching the Olympics.

Then we both zonked out on our couch. ... How romantic are we?

* * *
The other night, while watching TV, Kates and I caught a vintage popcorn commercial featuring Orville Redenbacher...

'Ah, Orville,' I sighed after it finished. ... Then added, 'We should name our kid Orville.'

'Yeah, we could call him Orve!' Kates' eyes lit up.

I continued. 'Orve! Oh, Orve. Couldn't you just see little Orve walking around the house? His little glasses and dark curly hair?'

We looked at each other and burst out laughing.

* * *
Remember our litte popcorn escapade that nearly burned our house down last fall? Yeah, now my buddy Brian kinda knows how I felt. Only he nearly burned down the office building ...

I arrived back at the office just after it happened, so I wasn't there to see it, but the story goes: He placed a bag of popcorn in the microwave and set the timer for two minutes. Then he walked out of the kitchen to answer a question. ... when he returned to the kitchen, it was full of smoke, he opened the microwave and found the popcorn bag burning...

Luckily (or not ...) no fire alarms were triggered, and I arrived within minutes afterward to the smell of burnt popcorn spewing into the newsroom.

...But perhaps the funniest moment of it all came nearly an hour later when a wide-eyed and bewildered pressman came up to the newsroom to inquire what had happened. After we told him, he told us the presscrew had just finished tearing apart our press and ripping paper stock apart, thinking there was a fire in the press room.


Olympic memories

The other day, my friend Brian asked a bunch of us whether we cheered more for the winter Olympics or the summer Olympics ...To Brian's complete surprise we all answered: the winter Olympics. (Course, he's a huge volleyball fan, so it's no surprise he's a close summer games watcher.)

Ask me about the summer Olympics and it's hard for me to come up with anything outside of the Dream Team in Barcelona in 1992, and some vague memories of the Atlanta games in '96 (I was too busy enjoying one of the greatest summers of my life, I guess ...).

But the winter games...

That conjures up memories of watching the '84 games on a tiny black and white TV set that sat on a chair in the corner of our dining room during supper ...

I remember the '88 games in Calgary, and Dan Jansen and Bonnie Blair, Katarina Witt and Debi Thomas, Brian Boitano and Brian Orser, my mom video taping virtually every classic minute ... (and that instrumental Olympic theme that I fell in love with the moment I heard it for the first time, and have since burned on to a CD.)

I remember the '98 games and Tara Lipinski ...

I remember the amazing Salt Lake games of 2002, with Apolo Anton Ono and Jamie Sale and David Pelletier and, of course, Sarah Huges, which might stand, arguably, as my favorite Olympic moment of all time ...

So let the memories of 2006 begin. My favorite images from tonight's opening ceremony (although the heart configuration is pictured below, I couldn't find a shot of my most favorite moment of the night -- when all the human artists formed a skier AND moved as if the skier was actually in motion! VERY cool...)

New Blue Jay Molina fumes at Angels

After all, I was surprised the Angels let him go as easily as they did, too ...


Spring fever

So I drove to work today amid bright sunshine, smiles, only a slight chill and feeling as though spring was about to begin ...

I got into my office, started up my computer and got settled into my work area. Barely two minutes had passed when a cohort groaned and several of us looked out the window to see GIANT SNOWFLAKES FALLING FROM THE SKY!

You've GOT to be kidding me.

I mean I've heard about this lake effect snow, but this is crazy. ... It continued ALL MORNING LONG. And I was insane enough to drive home for lunch in the whiteout that had become our poor, tortured city. ... All the while there were reports of sunshine and NO snow just miles away.

... and by the time I returned to work about an hour later, the sun was shining brightly as if we were returning to the tropics again.

Crazy, indeed.

* * *
My cohorts and I were happy to learn today that Mike Tirico, Joe Theismann and Tony Kornheiser will be anchoring the new (and probably not-so-improved) ESPN version of 'Monday Night Football' ... actually we all agreed we're more happy that Stuart Scott and his -yo-yo homey jargon won't be part of the new MNF. ...It was unanimous. We can't stand him and he's a big reason we don't watch 'Sportscenter as much as we used to.

Seriously? ESPN made a smooth move by putting Kornheiser -- one of my absolute, all-time favorite writers for years -- in the booth.

Plus, it gives Al Michaels a chance to reunite with John Madden for what should be a promising new era of Sunday night football on NBC.

* * *
A few observations of tonight's Grammys ...

... Best moment of the night: Kelly Clarkson's tearful acceptance after her win for 'Since U Been Gone' Hey, my eyes welled up too. ... 'She's like a real person,' Kates said. ...'And that's why she's so likable,' I followed.

...Was it just me or did Alison Krauss look stoned as she and her band accepted their award for best country album?

... I still don't get all the hype about John Legend and his 'Ordinary People' ... Although, he got some points from me for being so cool and humble during his acceptance speech.

... The all-star tribute to Sly & The Family Stone was, well, pitiful ... except for Ciarra and Marroon 5's slick performance of 'Everyday People.'

... Kanye West and Jamie Foxx's performance -- drum, bugle corps., and all -- was awesomely entertaining. But why the heck was Foxx not singing his Ray Charles hook?

And Bono's acceptance speech after U2 took the album of the year honor was the classiest speech of the night. ... very nice.
Damon thanks Boston in full-page ad

Reality TV sets sights on Bonds' daily doings

Ok, ok ... this could be entertaining. Although I do shudder and sympathize with the thought of his Giants teammates having to endure a season of cameras in their faces...

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing ESPN's take on Ripken's 'Season' and I suspect a season-long doumentary, done in a similar fashion, would be extremely fascinating, no matter how much we love to hate him ...
One year later, Giambi celebrates comeback


Music’s big night

Less than 24 hours to go. Yes, folks, these are my Oscars, if you will. Forget movies, forget the Foreign Press, forget all the talk about who’s dress is hot and who’s not. In my mind, this is the only awards show worth watching and the night I wait for each February.

So without further ado, here’s the predictions from the AP music writers ...

And then mine …

Record of the year ...
Horns: Moody’s probably right but you can’t deny the crazy amount of time ‘Golddigger’ spent on the charts and it’s mongo catchiness. Plus, Kanye has been a critical darling since before last year’s Grammy’s and I can’t foresee voters rewarding the cartoony (not to mention the headachy) Gorillaz.

Album of the year …
Horns: I gotta lean with Bauder on this one. I don’t care how many octaves Mariah can sing, I’m surprised the album has sold as well as it has. About Stefani and Kanye … yeah. And McCartney’s album was good, but overrated. …and I haven’t the heard the U2 album, sooooooo …

Song of the year …
Horns: Nekesha, you couldn’t have said it better. … I can’t recall Springsteen’s song and, not being a big Springsteen fan, I’m not about to go download it on iTunes. All I ask, Grammy voters, pleeeease don’t give it to John Legend. ‘Ordinary People’ is the most overrated song of the year, and I can’t understand why people are still talking about it.

New artist …
Horns: How can you possibly predict John Legend will be around in 10 years? Keane is alright, but Fallout Boy has a lot more potential.

Female pop vocal performance ...
Horns: Hands down. Kelly Clarkson should walk away with this one for ‘Since U Been Gone.’ Once it’s in your head, it refuses to let go. Her performance of it is powerful. And yes, it should have been up for record of the year. … the whole album is pretty good too (see album of the year).

Male pop vocal performance ...
I’ve only heard ‘Fine Line’ and ‘Lonely No More.’ I’m a huge Rob Thomas fan and he’s one of the greatest musical minds of his era, but I think ‘Fine Line’ is a better song.

Album of the year ...
This is a tough one because I adore Fiona’s ‘Extraordinary Machine’ and Sheryl Crow’s ‘Wildflower’ (who you calling dull, Bauder!?) The other contestants are good, but ‘Machine’ is by far the more creative and imaginative album. And that’s why it’s been playing in my office stereo for the last two weeks.

Rock album ...
I'd love to see Coldplay in a landslide … but U2’s legend, unfortunately, may loom to large.

R&B album ...
Don’t know, don’t really care.

Rap album ...
Eminem and Kanye’s stuff has been good. I’ll go with Kanye.

Country album ...
Another don’t know, don’t care. But I will say Faith Hill’s ‘Fireflies’ is awful compared to her more memorable work.

Alternative music album ...
Blah, blah, blah. (I’d like to see it go to Death Cab For Cutie).

And while we’re on the subject …

…Another cool episode of ‘Love Monkey’ tonight. I gotta find some of that Wayne kid’s music (Although I know his real name’s not Wayne …) It’s got a sweet beat.

Tonight’s 'Scrubs' episodes also had a catchy soundtrack … not to mention they were HA-larious and they featured the adorable and talented Mandy Moore -- aka Zach Braff's significant other.

… And finally, an interesting revelation. But does anyone think the music execs care really care what the consumers think? Shaaa right. ...At least, the return to singles is kind of refreshing.


Tonight's Grey's Anatomy ...

It builds ...

And it builds ...

And it builds ...

And it builds ...


... and we're left waiting and longing for next week's episode.

The sign of a great TV show, I guess.

Oh Meredith, what DID you do!?!

Congratulations Steelers

You deserve it Bill Cowher ...

... and he won't have to worry about his legacy anymore.

As for the first half...

...7-3, Steelers lead at the half ... even though I think the replay of Roethlisberger's touchdown run showed he didn't quite make it in and it should be 3-0, Seahawks ...check that. The offensive pass interference call on the Seahawks in the end zone early on was a cheap call. 10-0 Seahawks.

Best play so far: There haven't been many -- but I give it to Roethlisberger's scramble-then-look-for the-line-of-scrimmage-and-throw 37-yard pass to Hines Ward.

The roll-call of Super Bowl MVPs during the pre game... chilling, and lots of memories.

Best commercials so far:
a Full Throttle Energy Drink -- 'Let Your Man Out'
a FedEx -- The Caveman
aThe Budweiser commercials -- they're all good, as always. But my favorite -- 'The Super Fan'
a Mobile ESPN -- 'Sports Heaven' ...how could your jaw not drop at the sight of that guy walking among all those athletes -- from every spec of the sports world -- whizzing by!
a CareerBuilder.com -- The Monkees ... classic!
a Lost highlights -- set to Robert Palmer's 'Might as well face it you're addicted to Lost...'

And the Rolling Stones halftime performance? ... They may be old, but they can still play.

Steelers by 10

... So I'm settling in for the Super Bowl. Less than an hour 'til kickoff ...

My prediction: The Pittsburgh Steelers take it 31-21.

Sure, I have a soft spot for the Seahawks with Mike Holmgren coaching and all the Packer transplants. Plus, the Seahawks seem to have sort of that nice-guy, Cinderalla-story mentality, having never been to a Super Bowl and winning their first playoff games this year since 1984. Deep down, I'm feeling like I'd like to see the Seahawks win ...

But ...

I think the Steelers are too good. They've got the playmakers and Ben Rothsleseigerbutterbugger -- or something like that -- is just too calm under pressure. My gut is that Hasselback and Seattle will crumble under the pressure, no matter how well Holmgren has tried to prepare them ....

...Ah, but who cares about the game. We all know we're looking forward more to the commercials and the epic (hopefully) 'Grey's Anatomy' episode ...

Stay tuned ...

Sunday Reads ...

Some of the TV-related stories I found most fun and interesting to read this week ...

a Comedy Central orders up a 'Pale' male with a twist ... Kates and I finally got around to watching a copy of Gaffigan's show, which we had recorded on the 'ol DVR. Just as 'devastating' as his commentary from a female watching the show was his bit about 'Hot Pockets.'
a Term-limited 'West Wing' ending in style ... It certainly was a good one. Admittedly, it's time for it to go, but the finale is sure to be memorable.
a 'Mother' gets extra attention from CBS ... Ya think? It's a great show that -- thankfully -- is keeping the barely-breathing sitcom genre alive right now ...
a The iPod helps turn the fortunes for "The Office," which is becoming a hit for NBC ... another no-brainer. We've been faithful watchers since the beginning and thanked God every Tuesday night -- and now Thursday nights! -- that NBC didn't pull the plug on it ... (ahem ... Pull the plug on 'Earl.' Seriously.)
a Elfman plays against type on ‘Courting Alex’ ... another catchy new sitcom. Hey, we might have something going here ...
a 'ER' finds its pulse ... it was indeed a good episode. Too bad you missed it ...
a Found money in 'Lost' ... Great! As if it's not exhausting enough now to keep up with all the clues and plot twists! ... But I love the concept of having more than just TV to advance the story!
a Perry, 'West Wing' Creator to Team Up ... intriguing.
a 'Saturday Night Live' is not dead ... and it may never die.


When the spirit moves you

From Pope John Paul II’s personal message to a bronze cast of his hand -- or even being in the presence of his signature staff -- it’s nearly impossible for me to describe the feelings I felt today have walking through the 12 impressive galleries of Vatican artifacts at the Milwaukee Public Museum.

I guess you could say I got the chance of a lifetime today. I’m not Catholic, but I won’t deny the aura surrounding the Vatican and all its history. And as much as I’d jump at a chance to stand in St. Peter’s Square, it’s doubtful I’ll ever get that chance. So today, I did the next best thing ...

From now through May at the museum, glittering chalices and tiaras, colorful papal portraits, intricately embroidered silk vestments, marble sculptures and handwritten letters are highlighting some 300 pieces, weaving together 2,000 years of church leadership from Saint Peter to last spring’s election of Pope Benedict XVI.

The exhibit, "Saint Peter and the Vatican: The Legacy of the Popes," is one of the largest displays from the permanent collections of the Vatican museums, and includes many artifacts never-before-seen publicly. Its Milwaukee visit is the only Midwest stop and the last of three North American stops before the artifacts are put away and shipped back to the Vatican.

It’s an event that follows two years of planning for Vatican and Milwaukee officials, and an exhibit they are touting as an extraordinary artistic, architectural, cultural and historic experience, as well as a spiritual one.

Depending on what era you identify with most, the first sections of the exhibit can be slow as visitors see the origin of the Tomb of Saint Peter and later the building of the basilicas over that tomb. The exhibit is arranged chronologically by the eras during which each of the Roman Catholic Church’s 265 popes served, the galleries immerse visitors with historic sculptures, paintings, ceremonial vestments and other significant objects that have helped shape the papacy. Timelines of key events in Christianity also dot the gallery walls, along with reproductions of Vatican walls, doors, ceilings.

However, I found myself captivated with a fragment, believed to be the only existing piece of a larger cloth, used to adorn an apostle’s grave. Woven in the 7th century and given as a gift to Pope Leo III, it shows the Virgin Mary sitting on the royal throne and an angel greeting her. Also nearby are several rare mosaics and the Mandylion of Edessa, a third- to fifth-century image on linen, considered the oldest known representation of Jesus.

But it’s after walking through a re-creation of Michelangelo’s primitive Sistine Chapel scaffolding that the magnificence of this Vatican exhibit started blowing me away. There’s a display of intricately carved ivory pastoral staffs, the blazing red silk biretta worn by Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, (later Pope John Paul II) and a similar skull cap worn by Cardinal Albino Luciani (later John Paul I).There are papal thrones and chairs coated with velvet. A three-tiered tiara first worn by Pope Gregory XVI in 1835. Last-of-their-kind red satin slippers worn by Pope Paul VI for liturgical purposes and his red and gold threaded gloves. And the miter Paul VI wore in 1964 on the day he retired the papal tiara out of respect for the poor.

Then, in another room are objects of mass, like the chalice of Pope Pius IX, encrusted with 1,000 diamonds and used by Pope Benedict XVI during his first masses after being elected pope last April. There’s Pope Leo XIII’s handbell, and a silver and bronze pitcher and plate from the era of Pius IX.

And eventually, dramatic music carries you through the finale of the exhibit, highlighted by Pope John Paul II’s pastoral staff and a bronze cast of his hand, which visitors are encouraged to touch as they exit.

Without a doubt, no matter where you come from -- whether it’s culture, arts, literature, architecture that interests you -- it’s an exhibit’s that bound to leave you breathless.

* * *
Tonight, I was left breathless again …

For another story, I was sent to a local man’s home to discuss a recent mission trip he took to Mississippi to aid in the ongoing cleanup from Katrina.

The man, Steve, whose 41, married and has two boys, told me how after seeing the endless images of the destruction after Katrina hit, simply writing a check and forgetting about it was the last thing he wanted to do. So instead, he and a group of 10 men actually traveled to Mississippi to help. And dissatisfied with the short amount of time they could spend then, they went back again last month.

At a church the group installed ceramic tiling in the new church’s entryway. Crews also refurbished two previously unserviceable bathrooms, installing toilets, stalls and sinks. They also assisted an 80-year-old man, who lost his wife about a year before Katrina, and a woman in her 70s, who lost her husband to cancer in December.

And those were just a couple of the experiences that helped put life in perspective for Bryant. He recalled one man who appeared deflated when he learned Steve and his partners were not insurance reps. He saw neighborhoods that had been wiped out for miles, and cars left parked as they were the day Katrina arrived. He recalled the sight of a man walking through a neighborhood with his son, who was climbing on the ruins of a neighbor’s home. And another man remarked to the group how the aftermath of Katrina blurred the lines between residents who previously were divided into low, middle and higher income classes. ‘You may have been driving a BMW before and I was driving a beater. Right now we’re both walking,’ he said.
And the pictures, he showed me. Oh, the pictures. Cars parked in driveways as if the storm his yesterday. Homes shifted from their foundations, and in some cases, large trees serving as their only support. A boy’s desk sitting along in a field. Boats on front yards. …The damage and devastation is still so miraculous nearly six months later, it’s unbelievable.

And yet, while others complain the media isn’t reporting enough about Katrina’s aftermath, some are insisting the media are dwelling on it too much. I believe, those journalists that have not given up on covering Katrina and continue pressing this administration about it are the real stars and should be commended. And the other night, NBC’s Brian Williams could not have put it better, laying it out so eloquently and explaining what good journalism is all about …
Tonight, one of the great American cities is partially in ruins, and many of our fellow citizens are hurting and have nothing left. In some places, nothing’s been done yet.

And so, while we are reading the mail, we also have a job to do. And a big story to cover. Along with the news around the nation and the world each day, we intend to keep covering it. (more)