Sunday, December 30, 2007

Happy Anniversary, Julie!

It was a ruthlessly cold night in Cleveland and the city streets were covered with ice. The church was still decorated with the red poinsettias from Christmas. Before the wedding, one of our friends was mugged and had her purse stolen. By reception's end, the bar would be out of booze and the groom was dragged around on the dance floor by his best man and cousin. One of the groomsmen spent the night puking in the bathroom and another member of the wedding party nearly came to blows with his brother. To say the least, it was quite a memorable night for everyone... including Julie and myself.

14 years later, we're still happily married and strong. Here are some photos from our wedding album.

Here we are, Mr. & Mrs. Malchus for the first time.

Budd and me before the wedding.

Julie and her sisters, Michelle (left) and Sue, before the wedding.

One of my favorite pictures of Steve and his future bride, Marianne.

Still one of the greatest pictures of Matt (with Julie's friend, Mary Helen). I can't remember him wearing such a huge smile anytime after this night.

Here's to another 14 years and a lifetime after that. I love you, Julie.

Friday, December 28, 2007

I don't know if I have ever listened to an entire Foo Fighters album, but he day hey put out a greatest hit record, I will be the first in line. The latest single from the band, "Long Road to Ruin" is an exercise in pop/rock excellence. For a band that was supposed to be a "side project" for the Nirvana drummer, the Dave Grohl experience has developed into one of the tightest bands around. Moreover, they have ecome of of the remaining groups from the 90's to still put out outstanding, radio friendly songs while many of their peers fell apart. I still wish Grohl played drums more often, but Taylor Hawkins is fine in my book.

It's been another one of those vacations when I plan so many things and none of them get done. Some day I will get it through my thick skull that when I'm on vacation, my poducivity shuts down, too. I will say that it has been wonderful just spending time with the kids and being a family in our own home for a week. Bittersweet because we're not in Ohio, but still comfortable being a family here in Saugus. Christmas day was great. Te kids loved their new bikes from Santa and the may gifts tey received. That night we went over to the Malchus' or a Christmas dinner with about 20 other people (whew). It took me until this morning to finally feel like I was over the 7 or 8 drinks I had that night.

I got to see "I Am Legend" with Villamor and I'm happy to say that it didn't suck. Halfway through the movie, I thought about what other actors I might be able to si ad watch alone on screen for an hour. There were only a couple. Will Smith was outstanding; a fine acting job on his part. It was only fter the movie ended that I began to question some of the plot holes in the picture. I am a big fan of the original Richard Matheson book, but I had no problems with the changes the made. It was an exciting, scary movie and it kept me on the edge of my seat. Yesterday we took th kids to see "Enchanted", which was cute and very sweet. Amy Adams is so fun to watch in this movie. The end seemed to come out of nowhere, but for the most part, it's a nice family movie. Still, between "Enchanted" and "Hairspray" (that other musical that the kids has seen and watched nonstop for weeks) I still prefer "Hairspray".

Our anniversary is coming up on Sunday. I believe we'll be going out to dinner. I actually looked into buying tickets to "Wicked" so Jules could see it again. Unfortunately I don't have a spare $500 laying around. Salt Creek it is!


Thursday, December 20, 2007

We're getting hooked up to broadband Internet this weekend and I can tell you it is going to change our lives. Julie does so much of her work for the PTA through email and the time she spends just WAITING for the dial up to connect she could be relaxing or recovering from her early morning shifts at the cafe. And of course, there are the countless times in which we get disconnected, usually in the middle of a download that should only take mere seconds, not twenty minutes. Worse, AOL is terrible. I shouldn't complain because I have gotten it free since I began at the network, but seriously, AOL sucks.

I'm pretty excited, too, because I'll be able to log on anytime and make entries to thunderbolt and work on my columns for Popdose. One of the reasons I have been so infrequent with entries to thunderbolt is because it feels so labor intensive waiting for our slow PC to hook up to the web. This all reminds me of the first computer we ever owned.

Back in '95, while I worked for Tony and Alterian Studios, I was cleaning out the storage loft above the shop and came across an old MAC. It was the type of model that was revolutionary back in 1991. Mt college roommate, Dan, owned a similar MAC and people we knew would come over all of the time to borrow it when they needed to type a paper. Anyway, this old computer was gathering dust in the loft and I inquired whether they (Tony) wanted it in a more dust free environment. It was actually Tony's wife, Cindy, who flat out offered it to me on the spot. Something like, "Oh, do you think you could use that?" Of course I said "yes".

I wrote two scripts on that old machine. And eventually I gave it to some other struggling writer who didn't have the cash to pony up for their own computer. The thing about that MAC was that it took 10 minutes to power up. I could turn it on then go make a pot of coffee and scan through the headlines. And, obviously, everything had to be backed up constantly on floppy discs.

I look back on those lean years and I feel like we were just kids. Now, I'm closing in on 40 and mentally, I still feel like a kid. And damn if the times aren't still lean. With the new year approaching, I have to do something about that.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Saturday cup of joe

So many things have taken place this week that it's difficult to choose what to write about. The Mitchell report on steroid/HGH use in baseball is the hot topic right now. Yesterday, every front-page headline across the nation had a headline about the Senator's findings on the rampant use of performance enhancing drugs in baseball. To many of us, it wasn't so much that he'd discovered steroids and human growth hormones were juicing baseball players; it was the names of some of the games superstars, many of which are known as "good guys", that was such a revelation.

I must say that I didn't realize Major League Baseball had installed a drug policy on steroids back in 1991. It would be another seven years, at least, when Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa pursued the record for most home runs in a season that the whispers about roids began to creep up in conversations on a regular basis. And it wasn't until Barry Bonds became a name that every American knew that baseball seemed to start taking the problem seriously. Now, there may be some people who knew this was going on all along and they may say to me that, Scott, we were talking about steroids back in the 80's. But you see I'm an average fan. I follow one team and read only a couple of national columnists (when I can find the time). So, as an average fan, I'm telling you that this scandal did not begin until the late 90's.

As fans, us average joes watched with wide eyes, as records were broken. Home runs. Strike outs. Games saved. It was exciting to see and it brought this great game back into the national spotlight after falling into the shadow of the NBA and the NFL. Now, the great game has been embarrassed and they will have to work hard to repair its public image. Still, that doesn't mean people are going to quit on baseball. People need to be entertained and in the summertime, baseball is still a reasonably cheap way to occupy a weekend afternoon with the family. Better than paying to see a movie you may or may not like (sitting in sticky seats and watching on fuzzy screens). It is easily forgotten that baseball is entertainment. These guys on the field are paid a shitload of money to make us smile, cheer, boo and scream. In other forms of entertainment, drug use is always overlooked, especially if the end product is art ("Nevermind" or "Exile on Main St." anyone?). Why should baseball be any different?

This game is supposed to represent America. And America is every bit as messed up and troubled as baseball. So the major league owners and the players have to clean up their image. They will. And the game will once again flourish (even though other forms of drug use will still go on in the game).
What else can be done? Owners and players must learn from the mistakes and find a better way to play the game. And we, as fans, must be able to forgive these players (at least the ones we like) and let the game move on. That is what's best for baseball and that is what's best for America. I mean, it's not like these baseball people took us into a war that couldn't be won.

George W. Bush was no longer an owner of the Texas Rangers when that happened

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

So I've been putting off making an announcement about future Basement Song posts until I had an exact idea when they would begin appearing again. If that sounds like I'm suddenly under the thumb of some corporate mastermind dictating when I can write I don't mean to. A few months back, probably around the time I wrote mt last entry, I was approached by my friend Jeff, who was the operator of Jefito, one of the best music web sites on the Internet. A number of things transpired and he had to begin rebuilding his site from the ground floor again. However, he decided that instead of focusing primarily on music, he would expand and cover all facets of popular culture. In addition, he also decides to branch out and act more like an editor in chief and lasso a group of his favorite bloggers and put them under one roof. Thus, "Popdose" was born.

Yes, you guessed it, he asked me to begin writing Basement Songs editions for Popdose on a weekly basis. I quickly accepted, not realizing the kind of pressure I would be putting myself under. Even now as I write this entry, my stomach is churning thinking that I have to turn in something to the other editors pretty soon for when the website goes live on January 1. Uh, yeah that's right, I haven't written shit yet.

Nice, Malchus. I would claim that I've been super busy, or that I write best under the gun, but the truth is that I'm nervous as all hell knowing that more than 10 or 20 people are going to be reading what I think and feel. On top of that, I'm supposed to write about television and occasionally about movies. What was I thinking?

Fortunately, this WGA strike continues and my TiVo is nearly empty. There is nothing but crap on my 200 channels from Direct Tv, so I have plenty of time to pour my thoughts on to the web.

Anyway, as the day approaches, I will make sure you all know that Popdose is up and running. Don't worry, though. I won't desert thunderbolt. I know there are some of you who actually enjoy reading about my misery and shortcomings. And you just love my whining and complaining. You especially love my spelling errors and terrible grammar. I know my friend, Blake, must cringe every time he reads a new post. But, he's an English teacher and I'm merely an English butcher of the language.


Monday, December 10, 2007

Led Zeppelin roars back to life

I'm usually pretty cynical about reunions of bands, especially groups who haven't performed together for over 19 years. But I have to tell you, I am so frickin' stoked about this Zeppelin show that took place in England tonight. My first reason is that it came together for a good reason. Ahmet Ertegun shephearded the band on to Atlantic Records and let them do their thing. They never had hit singles and rarely got air play on the radio, but they were the biggest band in the world! So when they were asked to participate in the charity concert in honor of Eretegun, it was a no brainer for the three surviving members.

And then, when asked if they could play an hour, they had to say 'no' because an hour wasn't long enough! Dude! Unlike past excursions as a "band", they took this show very seriously.

The recent Rolling Stone cover featuring Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones had me feeling like a 9th grader again (which is when I discovered Zeppelin). And reading the NME review of the show that just got posted has me salivating at the possibility of a reunion tour.

I know, I know, it will never be a true reunion because Bonzo's dead. But you're talking to a guy who went to see the freaking Firm, just for an opportunity to catch Page live and still using the bow! To see all three? Dude.

If you're not a Zeppelin fan, I'm sure you're just skimming through this entry. But those of you out there, what group would you pay top dollar to see give it one more go around?


Saturday, December 08, 2007

Yesterday, amazing and hopeful news about stem cell research was released to the world. The article below was written for the 12/7/07 L.A. Times and mentions cystic fibrosis specifically. Although they are years away from experimenting on humans, this is the kind of news parents pray to hear every day.

Stem cells reverse sickle cell anemia in mice

Rodents treated with reprogrammed adult cells show vast improvement after three months. The therapy is several years away from being applied to humans.

By Karen Kaplan
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

December 7, 2007

Taking the next step in a series of breakthrough stem cell experiments, scientists have cured sickle cell anemia in mice by rewinding their skin cells to an embryonic state and manipulating them to create healthy, genetically matched replacement tissue.

After the repaired cells were transfused into the animals, they soon began producing healthy blood cells free of the crippling deformities that deprive organs of oxygen, scientists from the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Mass., and the University of Alabama at Birmingham reported Thursday.

"It really works beautifully," said Kathrin Plath, a researcher at the Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA, who wasn't involved in the study.

The experiments, published online by the journal Science, confirmed the therapeutic potential of a new class of reprogrammed stem cells, which can be custom-made for patients without creating and then destroying embryos.

"This is a platform for any one of dozens of human genetic blood diseases, not just sickle cell anemia," said Dr. George Q. Daley, a stem cell scientist at Harvard Medical School who wasn't involved in the research.

The strategy should work to treat hemophilia, thalassemia and severe combined immunodeficiency disease, the so-called bubble boy disease, Daley said. He and others said it would also apply to disorders linked to mutations in a single gene, such as muscular dystrophy and cystic fibrosis.

Scientists ultimately hope to use a similar approach to create cardiac cells to treat heart attack patients or nerve cells that could cure spinal cord injuries. Finding an abundant source of stem cells that could be used as a personalized biological repair kit is the ultimate goal of regenerative medicine.

The technique is still at least a few years away from being used to treat people, scientists said. Before it could even be tried, several rounds of animal experiments would need to be done.

Researchers will also need to overcome some key technical hurdles, including finding a way to reprogram adult cells without using genes and viruses that could cause cancer.

But as a proof of principle, the study is sure to lure more researchers into studying the new class of induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells.

"There's going to be this tsunami," said Paul J. Simmons, director of the Center for Stem Cell Biology at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. "One would have to predict that the pace of observations made using iPS cells is going to rise exponentially."

The study is the latest in a string of significant experiments published in the last five months involving a new approach of reprogramming adult cells so that they are capable of growing into any type of tissue in the body. They have captivated researchers, ethicists and politicians looking for an alternative to embryonic stem cells, which can be difficult to work with and are fraught with ethical problems.

Japanese researchers pioneered the new method, which involves turning on four genes that are dormant in adult cells but active in days-old embryos. Once those genes are activated, the cells essentially forget that they have become skin cells, and they then behave like embryonic stem cells. Because they are derived from a patient's own cells, there is no risk of tissue rejection.

In June, three research teams showed that the technique worked reliably in mice. Last month, two groups demonstrated that it also worked with human cells. But it remained to be seen whether the cells could serve as the raw material to grow replacement parts for patients.

The researchers started with sickle cell anemia because it has a simple origin -- at a key point on the hemoglobin beta gene, patients have what amounts to a misspelling in the chemical letters of DNA, commonly known as A, C, T and G. Instead of having at least one A, they have a pair of Ts. As a result, the gene makes the wrong amino acid, resulting in red blood cells that are curved instead of round.

Those sickle-shaped cells clog up as they travel through the body, blocking blood flow to the small vessels that feed the brain, kidneys and other organs. Tissues die because sickle cells can't deliver enough oxygen to keep them healthy.

Some patients can be treated with a bone-marrow transplant, which allows the body to make normal red blood cells. But only about 5% of sickle cell patients are able to find a donor, said Dr. Timothy M. Townes, chairman of the department of biochemistry and molecular genetics at the University of Alabama and one of the study's senior authors.

Townes figured that embryonic stem cells might help the 95% of patients who couldn't find donors. But the process would be complicated.

First, scientists would have to clone embryos using the patient's own DNA. Then they would switch one of the errant Ts to an A. Stem cells would then have to be harvested from the modified embryo and used to make healthy bone marrow for a transplant.

But before scientists were able to do that, the first paper on reprogrammed iPS cells appeared.

Townes teamed up with Rudolf Jaenisch, a stem cell researcher at Whitehead and MIT, to see if iPS cells would work in place of embryonic stem cells.

They took cells from the tail of a 12-week-old mouse with sickle cell anemia and used viruses to turn on four dormant genes that are active in days-old embryos. One of those genes, c-Myc, has a tendency to cause tumors, so after the cells had completed their transition back to an embryonic state, the researchers deleted it.

Then they corrected the genetic flaw that causes sickle cell anemia by engineering a string of DNA that had an A in place of a T but was otherwise identical to the original. It was swapped into place with the help of an electric shock.

The researchers grew the iPS cells into bone marrow stem cells by exposing them to special growth factors and culture conditions. When the cells were ready, they were transplanted into three sick mice that were genetic twins of the donor mouse.

Twelve weeks later, the mice were producing the normal version of hemoglobin beta protein, and virtually all of their red blood cells were round. Their body weight and respiratory capacity improved. Their urine, previously watery due to the disease, had normal levels of electrolytes.

None of the mice developed tumors, a sign that the threat from c-Myc had been eliminated.

Plath said it was encouraging that the skin cells could be reprogrammed, genetically altered and able to yield their therapeutic benefits in a relatively short period of time.

"If this is ever applied to the human system, you need this to work fairly fast," she said. "You can't waste three years waiting for the cells."

Jaenisch is now using the same approach to treat other diseases, though he declined to say which ones.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Julie's new job began yesterday and it was quite a morning. Jake woke up at 4:00 with her and stayed awake (very upset) which means we all stayed awake from 4 am on. Today was 100% better as Jake must have realized that sleeping in until 7:00 is better.

I'm wiped, though. I got home last night and had to go over to Vill's to design the dvd cover art for "King's Highway."

What's that? I haven't told you that KH has been picked up by an independent distributor and will be released in 2008? Must have slipped my mind.

Actually, I was waiting until the paperwork was signed by lawyers (which it is) to actually begin discussing it on the old thunderbolt. I can't believe the day is finally coming. I can tell all of my friends and family to spend their hard earned cash on something I created (with the help of many other people).

As I have more details I will let you all know. But for now, let's all crack open a bottle of our favorite beverage and raise a glass to "King's Highway".


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Sorry I haven't been doing so well on keeping up the blog posts. Beginning tomorrow I am going to make another effort to write every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. That way all of you can plan your lives around ME!

Julie's folks returned from their trip to Big Sur and we spent one last night together before they had to return to Ohio. It was a festive night, but also one full of sadness. That we won't be flying back to Cleveland for Christmas is a drag. The past few years we have managed to eek out the money to get back there. Not this year. Although, we're not that different from most middle class families. Who can afford a $700 ticket?

The harsh reality of this day and age is that most families need double incomes to survive. Somehow, our family has kept our heads above water for the past five years. But times have gotten tight, my friends. Julie begins a second job tomorrow. She'll be waitressing at a new breakfast cafe opening near our house. She has to be there by 5:30 am. I'll be taking over all morning kid duties (i.e. getting them ready for school and walking them to school). I believe we're all going to be every tired, both physically and emotionally, for the next week so. Julie, in particular. She loves have that morning time with Sophie and Jacob. In addition, there will be some days in which she'll also go to her evening job.

I used to watch reruns of "Roseanne" and think, do people really have to survive this way? The answer is yes. I pray that the new position brings in enough income that she can quit the evening job. For now we're going to see how it goes.

I'd write about how worthless I feel that she has to take on extra work, but this isn't about me. She's the hero in this situation. What it has done is given me more drive to get a god damn script sold and another film project up and running.