Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Last Night of Trip

Tonight is my last night back in Massachusetts. It's been a fine visit, which translates to: I could have been a lot busier running around stretching my fragile self much too thin, but I've opted to sleep in each morning and keep my socializing to a minimum. Granted, that sometimes disappoints those around me, but that can't be helped if I hope to keep my sanity on this trip. Tonight I'll be trekking to New Bedford to take in a live show by the Pearly Baker Band at a tiny watering hole called the Bullpen. I made sure to buy some ear plugs yesterday in preparation. You know how these crazy kids are with their rock and roll! Actually, the club is so small that the music is easily too loud and I'm probably already destined for a certain amount of deafness from my previous years of listening to "that crazy rock and roll" at loud volumes. I consciously try to keep the volume of my headphones lower these days, but when I'm listening to QOTSA or the Scorpions I cannot help but turn it up to 11.

My parents are picking me up shortly to treat me to lunch and then I'll spend some time with them before being picked up by my friend Tim, who is the bass player in Pearly Baker. I've enjoyed my visit, but I'm ready to get back home for Thanksgiving and the welcoming arms and my wife and son. Luckily, we don't have much planned for Thanksgiving except dinner at our friends house. That's at five o'clock and we'll have to get Justin back home at about seven, or shortly thereafter, to get him to bed.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Horror Films and Family Reunions

Tomorrow night I fly off to the east coast to celebrate my parent’s 60th wedding anniversary. They have no idea that I’m coming and I’m only there until Wednesday morning. As the zero hour approaches my stress threatens to increase accordingly. I don’t have much time while I’m there and that will be split between my parents and my friend Tim. I already feel like I’m being pulled in two directions and I’m not even there yet. I’m trying to put the whole trip out of my mind and concentrate on the little things, like cutting Justin’s fingernails, and feeding him lunch. While on the trip I’ll deal with the pressure of a family visit by depending on those things which have kept me sane most of my life: my books and music. I’m lucky enough to have an 80G iPod, so I pretty much have anything I may be in the mood to listen to contained in the little piece of technology. I’m also reading an excellent book by Carl Sagan, a boyhood hero of mine, called The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. I struggled for a few days to pick a book that I would probably be in the middle of reading on my departing flight, and I realized that rather than fiction I needed to fill my head with some truth. Cosmos, Sagan’s television series from the 1970s, was a great inspiration to me and I’m embarrassed to admit that this is the first nonfiction book that I have read by him. (I previously read his novel Contact, which was quite good and was made into one of my favorite films.) Part of the problem with spending anytime back in Massachusetts are all of the reminders of why I left in the first place. There is not anybody back there that can truly relate to, or is interested in, my interests and passions. I end up being the listening ear to everyone else’s interests and passions and that’s the way it has always been.

Well, now it technically is the day I’m flying to the east coast, so I better get my ass off to bed. I wasted the evening watching 28 Weeks Later, which was a horrible sequel to one of my favorite horror films of recent years. The story was ridiculous and after an hour I kept hitting the display button on my remote to see how much time was left. I nearly stopped watching, because I knew it was just going to get worse. With lines like “Oh man, this is F.U.B.A.R.!” and “I’m okay, it’s only a flesh wound” one might think that the screenwriters were trying to be funny. Danny Boyle and Alex Garland should be ashamed for having their names associated with this film in any way. Ugh!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Missing the Music

I was lying in bed last night, listening to some music before dropping off to sleep, when I started to think of some of the concerts I was missing this fall. Last year I saw the Zappa Plays Zappa tour, which consisted of Dweezil and some special guests (like Terry Bozzio and Steve Vai.) It was an amazing show, but I was stuck up in the nosebleed section of the Paramount theatre. This year I had a chance to get great seats on the floor, but then I realized that I would be in Massachusetts at the time of the show. I’ve also recently passed up opportunities to see Ween and Queens of the Stone Age. Two of my favorite bands and I’ve never seen either one live. I also missed seeing Suzy Boggus at the Triple Door at the end of the summer. Suzy Boggus is a fine country singer, who doesn’t fit into the usual mode. In fact, her last album was a disc of swing music. The Triple Door would have been a great venue to appreciate her voice, especially considering that the only time I had seen her live was at a fair in Adams, Massachusetts. I don’t remember the exact reasons for not attending these shows, but it’s not as easy as it used to be to get out of the house. Jen works nights and I’m a stay-at-home dad. We have a few people to call on for babysitting duties, but one doesn’t like to overtax their charitable offers. It’s like asking a friend one too many times to take you to the airport. Pretty soon you’re minus a friend.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Literary Scotland and Norway

Ah, Friday. There are many folks out on this rainy night, tipping back cold draft beer and exchanging looks of possibilities with strangers across the room. These revelers are enjoying the prospect of sleeping in on Saturday morning, with no prospect of punching the clock until sometime Monday morning. I haven’t had a Friday like that in many years. The cheesy rock band .38 Special used to exclaim that “everybody’s working for the weekend.” Not everybody.

This evening I decided to forgo watching television, since I spent two and a half hours last night watching the movie Hamsun, based on the last years of the Norwegian author Knut Hamsun. Instead I finished the novel I had been reading for the past week: Looking for the Possible Dance by A. L. Kennedy. In recent times I believe that I’ve stated that A. L. Kennedy is my favorite Scottish author, but then I’d have to admit that she’s probably the only Scottish author that I’ve read. I had previously read So I am Glad and Original Bliss and quickly discovered that Kennedy has the uncanny ability to peer into the darkness of human souls and she certainly doesn’t shy away from the violence that sooner or later seeps into all of our lives. Looking for the Possible Dance is her first novel and she already seems to have mastered her ability to lay bare the pain that often accompanies love. I could really feel the sense of desperation in that small Scottish fishing village. Margaret Hamilton, the main character, works at a social centre aiding the unemployed. She was raised by her father, who begins the novel by telling her daughter that the moon looks down on us all and tells us living is the only thing that matters, “everything else is a waste of time.” Margaret is in a constant low level state of mourning for her father, while at the same time trying to shape a relationship with Colin, who hopes to someday marry her. The book jumps back to various points in Margaret’s life while she takes a train from Scotland south to London. It was a wonderful book filled with the tenderness and fragility that make us innately human.

As for Hamsun, the movie I watched last night, it was better than I had hoped for. On the recommendation of my friend Adam, I had read both Pan and Hunger by Knut Hamsun. Hunger is considered by many to be one of the forerunners of modernist fiction, featuring an internal monologue with no plot in the usual sense. I also highly recommend either of these two works. The film Hamsun does a fine job of trying to detail the later years of Hamsun’s life when he gave moral support to Hitler during the Nazi occupation of Norway. It helped to expose the grays between the intense black and white issues of right and wrong. It also has some marvelous acting by Max Von Sydow as Hamsun and the Danish actress Ghita Norby as his wife Marie.

Getting back to Friday and all it’s psychological implications — I actually had a very nice Friday. Jen got home from work this morning declaring that she was able to sleep seven hours while working at the emergency clinic last night. She was feeling so energetic that she decided to take Justin to the Burke Museum in the U-district and then out to lunch. I utilized that time taking a stroll to the library with our dog Molly to pick up some CDs that I had on hold there. Then I drove to Silver Platters and bought the latest discs by Dwight Yoakam (Dwight Sings Buck) and Jim Lauderdale (The Bluegrass Diaries), followed by treating myself to lunch at Marie Callender’s restaurant. Jen and Justin had a good time at the museum, but it wasn’t the most kid friendly of the local museums, so Jen spent a lot of time try to keep Justin from touching the displays.

So now begins the task of picking the next book that I will read. I only have just over two-thousand titles to choose from. I suppose the decision would be easier if I only owned a dozen books, but where would the fun in that be? Will it be The Jesus Machine: How James Dobson, Focus on the Family, and Evangelical America are Winning the Culture War, or maybe Everybody Smokes in Hell? Ah, so many books, so little time. The story of my life.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

After Innocence

I watched an excellent documentary last night entitled After Innocence. It details the lives of several men who had been wrongly imprisoned — in some cases up to a couple of decades — and then exonerated through DNA testing and the hard work of some lawyers working for nothing. I wouldn’t exactly say that the lawyers worked for “nothing.” The reality is that they were working for justice and seeking the truth. The fact that they didn’t get paid makes their efforts that much more noble. This film ties in with a play that I saw a few years ago entitled The Exonerated, in which the stories of six former death row prisoners, who were released from prison after their convictions were overturned, are told. I also read Mike Farrell’s memoir a few months back. Besides being an actor (most notably as B. J. Hunnicut in M*A*S*H), Mike Farrell is a human rights activist and a life-long opponent of the death penalty.

The idea of someone being innocent until proven guilty is a fallacy in this country. We as human beings are so quick to judge others, whether it be because of their looks, or their beliefs, or their cultural background. Doughy ignorant citizens are happy enough that the “bad guys” are behind bars. Out of sight, out of mind. I’m sure this type of mentality is the reason that the powers-that-be have recently legalized torture (They did this by changing the definition of torture. Now it’s only torture if the subject is at risk of organ failure or death.) and thrown away the valuable tool called habeas corpus. Doughy ignorant Americans are having their civil rights stripped away right before their eyes, but the magic of misdirection and distraction keeps everyone riveted by the latest reality show with cell phones glued to their ears, and iPods grasped in their sweaty palms. Global warming becomes a ploy by Al Gore for publicity. Complicated international relations just becomes a battle between the good guys (us of course!) and the bad guys (everyone who is not with us.) Somehow it’s become more important for people in this country to attempt to save unborn children and vegetables hooked to life support, rather than actual living breathing humans, who have been shunted aside by our cold dispassionate society.

So, a rambling entry spurred on by the watching of the documentary After Innocence. Tonight I took a break from the stresses of conscientiousness by watching four episodes of The Next Iron Chef. Over the past year I’ve come to enjoy Iron Chef America and this new show is a competition to pick a new Iron Chef.

Well, it’s just past two in the morning and even though I get to sleep in tomorrow . . . tomorrow is now today. I best get some rest.