Archive for March, 2007

>“If a man had as many ideas during the day as he does when he has insomnia, he’d make a fortune.”
– Griff Niblack

Associate Editor

It is a curse I have lived with for 20 years or so.
Since my teens, I’ve been an acute insomnia sufferer. For long stretches, days, weeks, a month — I go to sleep, fall right asleep, and sleep through the night.
But every so often — I just lay there — in the darkness; wide awake, with no hope of the sand man arriving any time soon.
Sometimes I can’t sleep because my mind will spin endlessly about the events of the day, some little act in the great film that is my life which I wish I could do over, fix, or re-shoot. Or I’ll obsess about the future, the kids, the threat of global thermonuclear war, the price of gas, whether the Tigers will ever win another world series. Other times, a song will get stuck in my head, and replay over, and over…and over.
I’ve come to grips with the fact that my body may be weary, but my mind is still working overtime. “There’s so much to do,” my brain shouts, “you can’t go to sleep now!”
It used to really bother me, not sleeping. I’d get all wound up because I couldn’t sleep, and it would aggravate my condition even further. I’d roll over again and again, and each time another hour would fly by on those little red numbers on my clock. I’d look at it, groan, and think: “if i can just fall to sleep now, I’ll get 6 hours of rest,” then, later, “if I fall asleep now I’ll get five good hours in,” and “If I just got to sleep now, I can get two good hours in,” and so on, until it eventually was six in the morning and I’d just give up.
The day after one of these episodes, I’ll walk the halls at work like a zombie, sucking up as much liquid cafeine, canned energy drinks, and pre-processed sugary snacks as I can, in order to get myself into a state where I can function at a bare minimum of efficiency. At some point, around two o’clock in the afternoon, the inevitable crash comes, and I have to fight to keep awake.
Later that night, despite the tiredness, when it comes time to go to bed, I will STILL have trouble falling asleep. Usually, after a week or so of this night-time torture, my body finally gives out and I go into a coma and sleep okay for another month or so.
The problem hasn’t gotten better in recent years. It’s gotten worse.
I only used to have insomnia about every six months. As I aged, it would happen more often; every three months, then two, then every month would inevitably bring a period of time where the blissful state of sleep just eludes me.
I used to stress out about the loss of sleep, so I made every attempt to rectify the problem. I tried exercising more, exercising less before bed, not eating after 6 p.m., eating after 6 p.m., cutting out caffeine, drinking less alcohol, drinking MORE alcohol, overdosing on Ny-Quil, herbal remedies…but nothing worked. I even got some of those pills from the doctor to get me back onto a regular sleeping schedule, which worked for a month or so. Then it was back to the same old routine.
I was faced with only one alternative.
I embraced the insomnia. I made it my friend.
Now, if I can’t fall asleep, I simply get up and do something. I watch TV, read a book, surf the Internet; anything to occupy my time until I can fall asleep naturally. And I changed my thinking about insomnia. Instead of feeling cursed, as I mentioned earlier, I try now to think of not being able to sleep as my own special super-power. Like the guys on the television show “Heroes.”
My new philosophy is not that I CAN’T sleep — it’s that I don’t NEED to sleep.
Yeah, that’s the ticket…
Since I incorporated this change in attitude, my mental state has improved. I snooze only when I’m tired.
When those no-sleep gremlins bite, I get up and use my newly found free time to do something I enjoy. I relax, unwind, or do whatever makes me happy. As the time ticks by on yet another restless evening, I no longer care. When 4 a.m. comes around, and I haven’t slept yet, I just think of all the free time I now have because of my special powers.
I am a brand new breed of super-hero. I am “no-sleep man.” While others must rest, I am tiling the floor in the basement. I am doing dishes. I am cleaning my workshop. I am writing a column. I am playing Xbox.
Sleep? What a waste! I laugh at slumber! Sleep is for mere mortals!
So, if you drive by my house at 3 a.m. and the lights are still on, you’ll know why.
And if you call me at 10:30 a.m. the next day, and I’m sleeping, don’t judge me. I’m not lazy.
No-sleep man was just on duty last night, that’s all.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at

Associate Editor

The Detroit Red Wings acquired Todd Bertuzzi from Florida just before Tuesday’s trading deadline, supposedly adding the tough forward they wanted to help them in the Stanley Cup playoffs. This begs the question:
The 6-foot-3, 245-pound Bertuzzi hasn’t played since he had lower back surgery in November, after being sidelined for more than two weeks by a herniated disk. So what can he bring to the team?
He has only one goal and six assists in seven games after being acquired last summer in a trade that sent goaltender Roberto Luongo to Vancouver. Babcock can’t possibly want him for his goal producing ability,then.
Could he be adding him to the staff for pure goon factor alone?
Let’s not forget how hated this man is in the NHL and among hockey fans, alike. While playing for the Canucks, Bertuzzi attacked Colorado’s Steve Moore in one of hockey’s ugliest episodes — if not the ugliest ever — in March 2004.
On Feb. 16, 2004, during a Vancouver-Colorado game, player Steve Moore injured Vancouver Canucks team captain Markus Näslund by striking him in the head with his elbow while Markus Näslund was reaching for a puck ahead of him with his head low. Markus Näslund suffered a minor concussion and a bonechip in his elbow as a result of the hit. The attending referee did not call a penalty on the play. The hit was later reviewed by the NHL and no suspension or further discipline was administrated to Moore. This drew the ire of many Vancouver Canucks as their captain was sidelined with a concussion for three games. Canucks head coach Marc Crawford publicly criticized the non-call by the referees on the incident.
It was a missed call, and a bad one at that, I’ll admit. But it didn’t warrant what happened next.
During another Vancouver-Colorado game three weeks after the Naslund hit, on March 8, 2004, Steve Moore fought Matt Cooke in the first period. Late in the third period, Bertuzzi began following Steve Moore down the ice attempting to instigate a fight. When Moore ignored him, Bertuzzi punched Moore in the side of the head. Anyone who saw this could describe it only as a “sucker punch.”
Then, the hockey world watched in awe as the fight escalated well beyond what is the accepted norm for hockey brawling in any era of the game.
Bertuzzi grabbed hold of Moore’s jersey before driving him headfirst into the ice. Watching the replay of this hit — by far the cheapest one I’ve ever witnessed in the sport — was sickening.
As a result of the hit, Moore suffered three fractured vertebrae in his neck, a grade three concussion, vertebral ligament damage, stretching of the brachial plexus nerves, and facial cuts. For this, Bertuzzi served a 17-month suspension, glossed over and almost forgotten due to the 2004-2005 lockout, which resulted in a lost season of hockey for everyone.
So, I ask again, what exactly were coach Mike Babcock and manager Ken Holland thinking when they picked up Todd Bertuzzi?
In exchange, the Panthers acquired forward Shawn Matthias and up to two conditional draft picks in the deal. If Bertuzzi signs with Detroit when he becomes a free agent after the season, the Red Wings will part with one pick this year and another next year. It hardly seems worthwhile to lose picks in order to keep a much-loathed goon like Bertuzzi on the roster.
Hopefully, the wisdom of this strange transaction in the 11th hour of the trade deadline will somehow be made clear in the coming months and with the start of the NHL playoffs in April. Because, for the time being, the Wings’ front office has me scratching my head on this one.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at:

Associate Editor

• Heat — No, not the one you’re thinking of with Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino. This Heat is a 1972 film starring Burt Reynolds and Peter McNichol of Aly McBeal fame. Reynolds plays an ex-soldier-of-fortunish character in Las Vegas, taking “chaperone” jobs, fighting with the mob, and trying to get enough money together to move to Venice, Italy. He takes the nebbish, nerdy computer magnate McNichol under his wing, teaching him how to be a tough guy. The film is filled with tons of action, and even though it is definitely dated, it still has some raw appeal, a buddy film feel, and a great action-filled ending.

• Lone Wolf McQuade — Before there was Walker: Texas Ranger, there was J.J. McQuade, played by Chuck Norris in 1983, during the height of his career. McQuade is the archetypical renegade Texas Ranger who wages war against a drug kingpin (played extremely well by David Carradine; even more evil than his Kill Bill character) with automatic weapons, his wits and martial arts after a gun battle leaves his partner dead. All of this inevitably culminates in a classic martial arts showdown between Norris and Carradine, and the accidental death of the woman they both love. The question is finally answered: Who is tougher, Caine from Kung Fu or high kicking movie tough guy Norris?

• Battle Beyond the Stars — The classic film Seven Samaurai has be remade time and time again as films like the The Magnificent Seven, a film I’m not embarrassed to love. It’s the formula you’ve all seen before: a band of diverse heroes in outer space are assembled to defend a planet of peaceful colonists from an armada of aggressors. If the special effects look familiar, it is because you’ve seen the same space sequences recycled in other low budget SF films. This Roger Corman classic stars Richard Thomas, The Waltons’ John-boy, the great Robert Vaughn, playing the exact same character he played in The Magnificent Seven, and George Peppard, who was a long way from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and much closer to his stint on TV’s The A-Team. It’s typical Corman cheese, with a predictable ending, but what can I say? It’s a formula that works.

• Can’t Buy Me Love — Grey’s Anatomy’s Patrick Dempsey is Ronald Miller, typical school nerd, who everyone ignores, especially his extremely hot next door neighbor, popular girl Cindy Mancini, played by Amanda Peterson. It’s a simple plot. Cindy borrows a suede outfit belonging to her mother without her permission. At a party someone spills red wine on it and she has to come up with $1000 to buy a new one in order to avoid getting into trouble. Ronald offers to buy the new outfit in exchange for her to pretend they are dating so he will become popular. This all works until Ronald starts getting a big head due to his newly found cool status. In the words of one of the characters in the movie, he “goes from totally geek to totally sheik.” He learns a very valuable lesson, and still gets the girl in the end, who finds out that she really likes him for who he is, and not who he pretended to be. It’s all very sweet and satisfying. I saw this on a high school date in 1986 with a girl who was a cheerleader. I didn’t fare as well as Ronald.

• Bring it On — For some reason, I seem to like films that only 15 year old girls should like, such as Mean Girls, Freaky Friday,and this feature, which was released in 2000. I read this script when it was first written, while working as a lowly talent assistant in Los Angeles when it was under the working title Cheer Fever. At the time, I couldn’t believe a studio was making a movie about cheer leading.
It breaks down like this. The Toro cheerleading squad from Rancho Carne High School in San Diego has got spirit, spunk, sass and a killer routine that’s sure to land them the national championship trophy for the sixth year in a row. But for newly-elected team captain Torrance (Kirsten Dunst), the Toros’ road to total cheer glory takes a shady turn when she discovers that their perfectly-choreographed routines were in fact stolen from the Clovers, a hip-hop squad from East Compton, by the Toro’s former captain. This is high-drama for the high school crowd.
While the Toros scramble to come up with a new routine, the Clovers, led by squad captain Isis (Gabrielle Union) have their own problems — coming up with enough money to cover their travel expenses to the championships. With time running out and the pressure mounting, both captains drive their squads to the point of exhaustion: Torrance, hell bent on saving the Toros’ reputation, and Isis more determined than ever to see that the Clovers finally get the recognition that they deserve. But only one team can bring home the title, so may the best moves win.
It’s like watching a live-action teen novel. But for some reason, the tension of the competition keeps me drawn in. I would deny ever watching this film if anyone ever asked me, it is such a guilty pleasure.

Associate Editor

When did people stop being polite? Americans are an angry, confrontational, in-your-face group of people.
And it shows.
It’s difficult to put a finger on how this started. And what do we have to be so angry about? We live in the greatest country in the world and enjoy the many splendors of living in a free democratic society.
If a theater patron forgets to turn off their cell phone and it rings during the previews, someone in the crowd yells “turn that @#$% thing off!” If someone accidentally distracts a golfer in another group while he is teeing off, coarse words are exchanged. If someone gets up to take their child to the bathroom during a sporting event, a fan yells “down in front!”
We’ve all seen all of these things happen — and more.
How hard is it to introduce yourself politely and ask nicely for someone to turn off their phone, please be quiet, or say “thanks for moving out of my way so I can see the game, I appreciate it?”
We’ve become a rude society, especially with strangers, the very people we should use a higher level of etiquette towards.
But what counts as rudeness today? Do Americans have a shared definition of what is rude? In a recent survey called “Aggravating Circumstances,” funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, researchers took a detailed look at what Americans think about courtesy, manners, rudeness and respect.
Not only do eight in 10 Americans in the study say a lack of respect and courtesy is a serious problem, but six in 10 say things have become worse in recent years. A surprising 41 percent admit that they’re part of the problem and sometimes behave badly themselves. More than a third (35 percent) admit to being aggressive drivers, at least occasionally, while 17 percent of those with cell phones admit to using them in a loud or annoying way.
We’ve all been witness to the road-rager or the public-place cell phone loud-talker. Some people just need to be politely reminded. We all make mistakes. But too often we treat each other with disrespect in these situations.
Customer service situations were prominent in the survey’s findings. Three-quarters of those surveyed said they’ve often seen customers treat sales staff rudely — while 46 percent also say they’ve walked out of a store because of the way the staff treated them. Nearly everyone surveyed (94 percent) said it’s frustrating to “call a company and get a recording instead of a human being,” and 77 percent said telemarketing is “rude and pushy.”
Yet the news isn’t all bad — many positive experiences occur in the marketplace. Nearly half of those surveyed say they often meet people who are kind and considerate in stores and other similar places. Many Americans say things have gotten better in showing respect and consideration to African Americans (59 percent), people with physical disabilities (51 percent) and gay people (50 percent). Large numbers acknowledge, however, that treatment of those groups still needs improvement (45 percent for gays, 42 percent for African Americans, and 34 percent for the disabled).
The warmth and support shown after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks raised hopes among many that Americans would reconsider what was important in their lives. I visited New York for the first time exactly one year after the disaster, and was astounded at how many people stopped to help me navigate the subway in Manhattan when I was unsure of which train to take in order to meet a friend.
Having lived on the East Coast myself and personally witnessed the infamous “New York attitude” associated with this group of people, I had to say I was pleasantly surprised at how this tragic event pulled together a whole city and helped them to return to a state where they were a little more considerate of their fellow man.
The Pew survey echoed my feelings. Almost three-quarters of those surveyed said that people had become more caring and thoughtful to others because of the attacks. But only 34 percent said the feeling would last a long time; 46 percent thought it would only last a few months and 18 percent believed it was already over.
With war raging, and other issues here in America taking the forefront of our daily concerns such as the economy, gas prices, joblessness, and the like, it’s easy to put our manners on the back burner. Yet most human enterprises proceed more smoothly if people are respectful and considerate of one another, and they easily become poisoned if people are unpleasant and rude.
As the old saying goes, politeness goes far, yet costs nothing.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at: