Sunday, October 28, 2007


Over the past few years, I have begun to notice a trend in the world of holiday decorations. It is that of inflatable decorations.

I can't help but wonder if the kids get to have all that much fun, helping mom and dad decorate the yard with these new inflatable, lazy-friendly devices.

Sure, the tackiness of Christmas decorations have come a few notches down thanks to these things, but I really feel like kids of these lazy parents are missing something. Heck, how much fun can it be to plug in a cord? Boom, your done decorating.

We already have the Christmas trees that fold up like an umbrella, with the lights already in it (Honestly, I do love this) but my entire life growing up I can remember that huge box of a seemingly endless supply or fake pine branches, all color coated, wondering if I will ever be smart enough when I grow up to figure out how to set one of these up.... considering I was and am color-blind...

But this inflatable craze has opened up the doors for these lazy homeowners to celebrate other holidays that aren't normally associated with large, tacky yard decoration.

Take Thanksgiving for example. There is this house in my neighborhood that has a huge inflatable TURKEY that they keep out all November. Whatever happened to the few stacks of hay and a few pumpkins? Some rich folks would take the time to set p a scare-crow! But now it is a huge turkey wearing a pilgrim hat!

And, you can bet that this month, my neighborhood is littered with air-filled Halloween fun. One house has an inflatable snow-globe with witches and bats and such inside... a SNOW GLOBE!

Easter bunnies with air pumps up their rear have replaced the colored eggs hanging from trees (thankfully I guess) and Christmas? Forget about it. They are everywhere. I am just waiting to see who will be the first person in my neighborhood to put up an inflatable Uncle Same on July 4th.

I will say one good thing about the inflatable decor... it comes down fast an easy. No lie there are two homes in my neighborhood that has large Christmas wreathes with lights on them hanging on the side of their home until April, and another came down in June. Some decoration is so hard to put up, homeowners don't feel like bring them down.

Monday, October 15, 2007

the origins of the Midnight Cafe

I found this on Brews page, It was on his "About" page and it reminded me of a time gone by. And I had forgotten the origin of the name "Midnight Cafe." It was one of the many things Mullins said one night... many of which can't be repeated, all of which had us glued to his every word... Here is the text of Brew's "About" page...

Gather round my friends, and hear a tale of the great Midnight Cafe. A tale so sacred and mysterious it has never been told before. It is a story so profound it may just change your life!

Like so many things, it started when I was in college. Most nights, starting anywhere from about 11 until about 1 in the am and often running well into the wee hours, me and some buddies would congregate into our friend, Mullins’, dorm room. We would sit on the bunk bed, or his variety of old, broken down chairs, or flat on the floor. Candles would burn, music would play, things would be done that can never be repeated.

Mainly we just sat around talking about the things that college boys talk about - religion, philosophy, music, movies, and girls. Mostly girls.

Then there was the food. We were always eating. Every now and then one of us would bring back something good - say leftovers from a fancy restaurant if we happened to have a date, or good home cooking if one of had recently gone home - but mostly we ate really cheap crap. There were the typical vending machine junk like Snickers bars, and Twinkies, but we’d often make a grocery store run and get some cheap Carl Buddig ham with some cheddar cheese and a loaf of sour dough bread.

It wasn’t good food, but we made it a feast anyways. There is something very communal and worshipful about eating with your bare hands as a group on the floor of a college dorm room. We bonded there, us men. It is impossible to describe just what happened on all those nights, but somehow we became all intimately connected.

We had fun. Tons of fun doing all sorts of goofy, childish things. We made movies and watched movies and played all sorts of music at all sorts of volumes. And laughed. We were always laughing. But it was more than that too.

As the night would draw onward, conversations would often turn serious. Sure the talks were still about girls most of the time, but as young, single men, conversations about girls are often quite serious. We were all looking for something more in life, and the desire to share that life with someone was quite heavy on our minds.

We talked about God and religion and spirituality. We talked about life and careers. We talked and talked. And in that talking we shared. In that sharing we connected in ways I’ll never be able to explain with the feeble words such as I know. It was something important. It was something meaningful.

I’m still friends with those guys. Even though we’ve all moved out of the dorms and across the country, and world. We’ve all gotten married and started families. Yet we still talk and blog and visit one another as often as we can. I suspect they will remain my friend for as long as I live. I suspect we’ll see each other in the next life too.

One night, while we were all gathered around on the floor, eating Carl Buddig and sourdough bread the phone rang. Well, really the phone would often ring. Nearly every night. And when it would ring Mullins, in his own goofy, lovable way would answer with some lame joke.

“Mullins house of fun.” he’d say. Or “Mullins dance emporium with plenty of naked ladies, where clowns are always welcome.”

That night as he answered the phone he gazed upon all of us with mouths full and said “Midnight Cafe, can I help you?”

And it stuck. From then on we were the Midnight Cafe. It was so obvious. So right. Of course we were the Midnight Cafe. What else would we be? Not only would we gather around midnight and eat, but there was a certain quality to it. There’s something about a cafe that conjures so many images up. The dim lights. The smoke. The friends gathered around greasy food. And when you are in a cafe at midnight, well there’s something special about that. There’s something magic about staying up late with good friends, bearing your hearts and souls.

Since that time I’ve always kept the name tucked into my pocket. My user names have almost always been some variation on the Midnight Cafe. Whenever asked for a company name - say for a form or some such thing - I inevitably call my made up company Midnight Cafe Productions. As I thought about the name for my blog, no other name would fit.

It had to be the Midnight Cafe.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Christopher Walken Has A Blog

And it is.

Ok, it really isn't written by Christopher Walken, but it is hilarious.

Waking up at 4:44am with no hope of ever getting back to sleep thanks to the new love of your life can be fun!

Wait... no, it can't.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


This week I played substitute teacher for a fifth grade science class. It was my first foray into the world of substituting, but hopefully not my last.

For many years of my life I believed I wanted to be some sort of educator. Some sculptor of young minds. I toyed with the idea of being a youth minister, a college professor, or a high school teacher.

Instead I became a corporate, working schlub. I’m not really complaining about that as I’ve made some good money, gained a lot of experience, and had a lot of fun. I’ve been doing that for so long I kind of gave up the idea of being a teacher.

Truth is, I don’t really know how to relate to young people anymore. I’m not an old koot who sits around talking about the kids today and how we did things “back in my day.” I just realize that I have my own life and interest, and those things are not shared with the youngsters.

So it is kind of strange that I am now finding myself as a substitute teacher.

I got the call early Monday morning. The teacher was stuck in Taiwan due to the typhoon and I was needed to substitute Monday through Wednesday. I arrived a little while later with no more information. I walked into the administrator’s office, was given some lesson plans the teacher had e-mailed over, a key to the office and was shoved in the general direction of the class.

That’s it. No instructions on discipline or class times or anything really. Here’s your key and your lessons, now go teach.

I arrived a few minutes before the kids and quickly looked over the plans. Homeroom is first. They come in for twenty minutes in the morning then scatter off to their first class. I was instructed to talk to them about typhoons.

The kids came in, loud and rambunxious. Immediately there was a chorus of “where’s Mr. Homestead?” Quickly though they settled down and took their seats. I explained where there teacher was and we started talking about typhoons. For the most part the class was really good. They were attentive and quiet and they all wanted to talk.

That first twenty minutes went by quickly and I was relieved that it went so well.

The bell rang and the kids got their stuff and lined up at the door. I sat at my desk and looked over the notes for what I was supposed to do next. I had no idea what was next, actually. I assumed a class would come in, but I didn’t know when and I didn’t know for how long.

Lost in those thoughts my kids got really quiet. Then there were whispered arguments. Finally someone piped up “are we dismissed?’

Oh, I guess I’m supposed to dismiss them. And so I did.

A few minutes later a new boy popped his head inside the classroom and asked if they could come in. Once I said yes, the whole lot of them came bustling in. I guess I’m not only supposed to dismiss class, but give the new ones permission to come in.

We were supposed to discuss different study techniques and they best ways to prepare for an exam. My notes were pretty well laid out, and so it was easy to follow. Again, these kids were mostly good. They were a little more involved with each other, and a couple of times I had to ask some of them to be quiet, but mostly they were attentive and wanted to talk.

One boy seemed intent on bragging. When I asked him where he usually studied, his answer came out “in front of my 27” widescreen LCD television.” Later when I asked when he studied he said something like “after watching a really funny movie, and playing a really violent video game.” Everything he said seemed designed to show how much cool stuff he had.

Later he mentioned that his parents lived in Canada and he was staying with his grandparents. Suddenly this made sense. I suspect his grandparents didn’t have the slightest idea how to control him, and his kept sending him expensive gifts because they felt guilty for shipping him to China.

Mostly though, the kids were good.

Another class ended and this time I dismissed them and invited the new bunch to come in. This class too was good, and I was getting the hang of maintaining control while encouraging everyone to talk.

It was after this second period that my wife came to visit. She also pointed out where the schedule was. Finally I had some idea of who was coming in and when.

The rest of my classes went really well. Fifth grade seems amazingly well behaved. There was only one other problem child, and he wasn’t that bad. Mainly he just wouldn’t pay any attention to either his classmates or me. He doodled, he did other homework, he chatted with his neighbors.

These are the kids I have no idea how to handle. Most kids realize that when they are talking they aren’t supposed to and thus a little talking too quiets them up. Most kids recognize an authority figure. This kid was either oblivious or didn’t care. I wanted to punch him in the face. I wanted to shake him hard. Mainly I left him a lone unless he got disruptive to the rest of the class. Then I’d ask him to be quiet, and he would. For about two minutes.

For day two I was to give them an assignment. They were to divide up into groups and prepare part of the chapter for a presentation. This was to help prepare them for the exam next week.

That was easy. I split them up, gave the instructions and then simply made sure they kept the noise levels down.

There were no problems at all in any class.

Wednesday was tougher. They had to give the presentations and I had to grade them. I don’t know how to grade. I don’t know what is a reasonable presentation for a fifth grader. I was lenient.

I have to admit I’m a little sad today not being in class. It was an exhausting, irritating experience in many ways. Sometimes I wanted to scream, storm out, and set fire to the bunch. Most of the time though they were a joy to talk to and laugh with and get to know.

Three days isn’t a very long time but I think I connected with some of those kids and that’s pretty special.


Sorry Jamison I cannot comment on the shanghai blog either. I can only comment on my midnightcafe blog.

The kids are mostly made up of employees from the company that built the school. It is an international company and thus the kids are very international. They have an english track and a chinese track. I taught at the english track so all of the kids spoke english. A lot of them are Chinese Americans, some of just regular Americans and a few come from other countries but have learned English in one way or another.

The New Midnight Cafe

After I just wrote a comment saying that the blog is dead and that I won't be writing anymore, here I am writing. This is really just a pimp for my new blog, so don't get too excited.

After talking and talking and thinking about having my own webspace and url, I finally went and done it. The Midnight Cafe ( is now formally open for business.

I had hoped to get some action, but unfortunately that url has already been taken. After more consideration I decided to add the "the" to the front. It is a little more awkward, but hopefully easy enough to remember.

I won't be writing any random personal bits at the Cafe (that still belongs to the Shanghai Cafe.) Basically I'll be writing my reviews and pop culture essays with a strong sprinkling of random links that I find interesting.

I like it, and I hope you guys will too.

PS Thanks to Kellie for working on the banner. Though it will probably still be worked on.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Baby born

I got a call at 2:30pm yesterday (Tuesday) that Jodi's water had broke. I presume by this time a baby has been born. Pray for Chuck, Jodi, and baby. No news other than that.

**The following was written by Brewster who cannot make comments on blogspot blogs, and thus must make an addition here.***

Apologies to Charles and Jodi and the new baby. Don't mean to take up space on the announcement. But I did want to comment on Ryan's comment.

Basically Jamison got it right. There were only four of us who really ever did a lot of posting in the first place, and it seems we all have other things to do right now.

I hate to say that I told you so about this blog, but I kind of did. (PS Jamison I just used the "labels" to find that link.)

I really can't make any comments here anymore, well mostly. Every now and again China lets me view/comment on blogspot blogs, but it is random and rare. So as a general rule I simply can't. This makes me have no desire to post anything discussion worthy. This eliminates anything on politics or religion. That leaves either random fun links or personal things.

I have the Shanghai Cafe for personal things and The Midnight Cafe for the fun links.

I suppose I could post the personal stuff here too, but it seems redundant. If anyone is interested in my life in China just go there. If I thought there was a chance of revival here, I'd still double post. But really, at this point we're basically dead. Without the return of at least a couple of major players we'll remain that way.

So sorry Ryan, I don't know what to say. You are welcome to write posts here. And anyone else still reading is encouraged to write.


Keep it alive Jamison! I'll try to add some things soon. Not being able to comment sucks. I think I may just do it this way, or maybe I'll add a comment posts after the original post. Does adding comments to the post totally suck to everyone?

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A new bully is in town

Not sure how many of you even read this blog anymore. Hopefully, you are all lurkers, just not posters or commenters...

There is a different kind of bully at schools than the ones we were used to. And I have learned this from working at a school and it is kind of sad.

Gone are the days when a furrowed-brow bully would pick on a 'nerd' at school. At least in those days, the bully was 'brave' enough to confront someone face to face. Today's bully hides behind a keyboard and computer screen. Blogs, MySpace, Facebook, and the like are the new "playgrounds" where bullys pick fights. And why not? No parents, no teachers, no rules, and a host of other cowardly kids backing them up all the way.

No holds barred is the one rule on this playground. Language so harsh Jerry Springer would have to think twice before having them on as a guest on his show.

What happens these days is that one bully will decide one kid is fat for example), and say so on their page (whatever kind of page that may be). Parents are usually not as involved in their kids' lives as they once were, so parents don't see it (And some don't even care, as my experience has been), teachers and administrators only hear about it through other kids and parents (who wish to remain nameless as they prefer to fear a child bully rather than help a bullied child from being bombarded with self-confidence-destroying words), and so the cycle continues.

News stories abound about this kind of stuff. Just Google the words facebook bully school. You may find a story where some kids got expelled from posting horrible and horrific words and phrases of teachers and faculty members. The school felt justified as it was not only a private school, but in a round-about way, it violated their rules of conduct. However, many kids protested. Skipping class, pulling fire alarms to get more kids out of class and into the protest, and forcing the police to get involved.

So you have several ways to look at this. Protect children, or protect "Free Speech", But would my democratic friends consider "Hate Speech" to be "Free Speech"? It seems you can't say anything about homosexuals, African-Americans, or Latinos anymore in this country without losing your job. In essence, you are not allowed to be racists but more realistically, you are just not allowed to use certain words when refering to certain social groups... We are either confused about the phrase "free speech" or it no longer exists. I think it still exists, but there is a line. Kids ages 11 to 16 are venerable more than we remember ourselves being. Words DO hurt. It was one thing for us to be made fun of in class, or on the playground, but today, kids are being made fun on on the W O R L D wide web. And others who, in the past, would have stood idly by and let the bullying occur, now get into the act. Again, why not? No parents, no teachers, and they are hiding behind mask of, what they believe to be anonymity. I personally don;t think it is wrong for a school to get involved if students or faculty member are the target of hateful speech. Especially if the school is private.

Though, there is nothing anonymous about a private blog or networking site page. If ONE person can see it, it is no longer private. Printers can work miracles today, and so can pressing that handy little "Prt Scr" button on your keyboard. You know the one, the one you have probably never used?

On a related note, kids are just now starting to realize that employers and colleges that they seek to enter search the web for these applicants. In some cases before the first interview. See my latest articles on this subject here and here. Even if a kid wrote some "bully" type 5 years ago once they apply for a college, Google has this cool thing that can "cache" sites. I am afraid in the near future we will have a generation of hateful kids, many of which didn't get into the college they wanted to get into, or didn't get a job because they couldn't resist putting that video of them dancing drunk when they were 15 on YouTube.

Sorry for the downer, just raise your kids to be nice folks. Maybe we can beat this thing one family at a time.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Vent vs fan, silent film

A comedic take on my sons new love