Saturday, December 29, 2007

Time and Aging

I’m tempted to say “the holidays are over” even though New Year’s Eve is Monday night. Suffice it to say that the holidays are over for us. Jen is working New Year’s Eve and the night after that. Those are usually her days off, but she is needed to fill in during the holidays. After entertaining her parents last weekend and then with two extra days of work this week our free time has been squeezed out of existence. The words “free time” are more likely to earn a chuckle than anything else these days. I’m usually so damn tired in the afternoon when Justin is taking his nap that I end up falling asleep on the couch. If I don’t fall asleep then I regret it later on. But when do I take an hour or so to read? Do I give up movie time in the evening in order to read? It sure would be nice to have a long weekend at Kalaloch to figure what to do with what little free time I have available to me.

Justin is sleeping soundly at the moment. He actually has slept progressively better each night that Jen’s parents have been gone. Justin is not used to someone unfamiliar being here overnight and all day. And I’m sure the vast array of Christmas gifts kept his little motor running overtime. Today he seems to be pretty much back on schedule, which makes life easier for all of us. He’s still putting this new high pitched scream of his to use a little too often. One ear piercing shriek is enough for me, but the frequent succession of them lately is a little nerve wracking. Especially when we’re trying to ignore this behavior, so that we don’t encourage it. We realized that he may have learned this shriek while we were attending the Christmas party put on by the clinic where Jen works. A coworker’s son was sitting across from us and he was being encouraged to shriek in public. (The opposite of the “indoor voice.”) I didn’t think Justin was paying any attention, but evidently he didn’t miss a decibel.

So now I have to decide whether to devote some more time to reading The Third Chimpanzee, or to try and get a movie watched before I go to bed. I have so many DVDs that I have acquired recently that I’d like to watch soon. Films like: If, O Lucky Man, 1900, Blade Runner, The Proposition, The New World. The list goes on. Last night I watched a film from Netflix called Topkapi, starring Melina Mecouri, Maximilian Schell and Peter Ustinov. It was a standard heist flick with action and comedy with a little romance thrown in for spice. In the end it seemed just a little stale. I’m sure upon it’s release in 1964 it probably felt a lot more hip and breezy. Ustinov is always good and the movie certainly had it’s moments. Using a four staring rating system I’d give it ***.

I’m sitting here listening to Dwight Yoakam singing the songs of Buck Owens and I’ve been writing for about a half hour. It would be fun to continue to sit here writing down innocuous thoughts, but time is slipping away. I’m nearly 50! The time I have left to read all the books in my collection is shrinking rapidly. And that’s assuming that I’ll live long enough to be a senior citizen in America. Jen’s dad was just telling me about all the great discounts that seniors get on movies and bus rides! And then there’s hearing aids and a medication schedule! Oh, and regular colonoscopies are right around the corner! I better stop. There’s no use spending the aging process writing about the aging process.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Musical Passings

Two musical passings happened in the past week. Dan Fogelberg died Sunday, December 16th at his home in Maine. He was 56 and died from prostate cancer. A week later on Sunday, the 23rd, Oscar Peterson, the great jazz pianist died at his home in Mississauga, Ontario, outside Toronto. I bought a few Dan Fogelberg records when I was an early teenager in my pre Led Zeppelin days. His music could politely be labeled “soft rock.” I still get a tear in my eye when I hear “Same Ole Lang Syne.” And Oscar Peterson was just one of the all-time greats. His two record interpretation of Gershwin standards are my favorite of his albums. Everyone should have the pleasure of hearing Oscar Peterson playing with Ray Brown and Herb Ellis.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Boxing Day

Happy Boxing Day to all you Canadians out there! I had wanted to post some thoughts on Christmas Eve and on yesterday, the actual holiday, but time just got away from me. It’s not that I didn’t have any thoughts. I did. It’s just that I was spending most of my time either wrapping presents, unwrapping presents, eating, or sleeping. Right now my in-laws are ensconced in front of the widescreen television watching Michael Moore’s Sicko. I asked them if they wouldn’t mind me holing away in my office to catch up on all this stuff that I don’t get to do when I’m parenting.

I got some great things for Christmas, but — like most consumerist Americans — there are always a few items still desired on the day after. I took a breather from entertaining relatives today and drove over to Silver Platters. My intention was to pick up a couple of discs by this band called Sasquatch and maybe one by Mondo Generator. Very heavy music with crunching guitar riffs. Instead I walked out with new albums by Suzy Bogguss, Stacey Kent and Rachel Sage. Talk about being at the other end of the musical spectrum! I still couldn’t quite get myself to purchase the latest discs by Steve Earle or Wilco. The highlight of the shopping experience was getting a free CD, because I had amassed enough credit from previous purchases. It’s some kind of frequent buyer program. After shopping for music, I walked across the parking lot to purchase a cherry pie from the Marie Callender’s restaurant. It was a stop that never got made on Christmas eve.

This afternoon I ordered a copy of the new DVD documenting the Zappa Plays Zappa tour of last year, and in particular their show at the Paramount that I attended. The DVD is two discs and over three hours, so it sounds like they have included the complete show. It’s a little pricey at $35, but I’m sure I’ll enjoy reliving the concert again and again. I also ordered a DVD and live CD from the Suzy Bogguss site. I'm making up for missing her recent show at the Triple Door in Seattle.

And even though I gave into my consumer cravings a little today, I did get some great gifts yesterday. Jen gave me a big surprise: the POV 20th Anniversary Collection, which contains 15 documentaries that have been show on the PBS show P.O.V. It’s an impressive collection and I’m sure it’ll take me a while to work through it. I received two other DVDs: Cool Hand Luke and the four disc collector’s version of Blade Runner. Lots of good viewing ahead. I also received some excellent books including the writings of Thomas Paine published by the Library of America and an Everyman’s Library edition of Darwin’s Origin of Species and Voyage of the Beagle. My parents sent me a T-shirt commemorating Jolly Cholly’s, which was a local amusement park I used to go to when I was just a tyke.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Happy Winter Solstice!

The big Christian consumerist holiday is nearly upon us. Other factions make their meager attempts at winter celebrations such as Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, but in America Christmas rules. By Christmas I mean Santa Claus, flammable trees strung with electrical lights, the annual tradition of at least one horrendous Christmas movie, and the high tension stress brought about by forced familial interaction. Oh, and it’s the day that Christians celebrate the virgin birth. Mary, an unwed teenage mother, couldn’t possibly have been having pre marital relations with Joseph. That burgeoning belly bump must have been brought about by miraculous means. And all of this excessive consumerism that surrounds me must have originated with those “wise men” bearing gifts for the babe in the manger. Frankincense and Myrrh has become the Nintendo Wii and an assortment of plastic gift cards. My own little Christmas in damp North Seattle will be brightened by the joy on our son Justin’s face when he gets to tear open his assortment of colorfully wrapped gifts. Last year he wasn’t quite one-year-old at Christmastime, so he couldn’t really appreciate the event. This year he’s a walking, talking marvel and he’s not quite two. We used restraint buying gifts for him, but of course surprises arrive from across the continent, so Justin will be overwhelmed. Luckily, we’ll soon be moving him downstairs into a bigger bedroom with his own toddler bed. He’ll have more room for his toys and art supplies, but it also means that he’ll . . . er, I mean we will have to readjust to him being in a “big boy” bed. He’ll no longer be contained by the wooden bars of rickety crib. Soon he’ll be driving!!

We found out a couple of days ago that Jen’s parents will be joining us for Christmas. They are actually flying out on Christmas day and will be staying for three nights. We’ll put off opening the majority of our gifts until they arrive in the late afternoon and Justin has awoken from his nap. We can empty our stockings and Justin will probably get to open the blocks he received from Jessie, Bob and Victoria. Those will keep him busy until lunch and the nap, which usually comes right after. Justin’s not quite old enough to realize that we’ll be withholding the pleasure of his opening the entirety of his gifts until much later than is agreeable with most children. I’m feeling a little bit of stress accompanying the visit by my in-laws, but that’s natural. I actually get along with them quite well. It’s more the finding out a mere week before Christmas that you’ll have visitors and knowing the cleaning that should get done, but probably won’t get done before their arrival. I’m am glad that Justin will get to reacquaint himself with this set of grandparents and maybe Jen and I will actually get a little free babysitting out of the deal for one evening . . . maybe.

I finished reading Atonement a couple of days ago and it was quite enjoyable. It’s the second novel by Ian McEwan that I’ve read, the first being Enduring Love, and he’s quite the master of dark psychological drama. I look forward to seeing the film adaptation of Atonement, but I think I can wait for the DVD rental. I’ve been struggling with what to read next — Not an uncommon problem for me — and I think I’ve settled on The Third Chimpanzee by Jared Diamond. It’s just a bit of nonfiction about man’s origin and his effect on the planet. I had been tempted to read some more fiction, preferably under two-hundred pages, but my mind has been drawn to a lot of weighty subjects in this past year and I think I’ll gain more satisfaction from reading the anthropological work by Diamond. It’s more work reading nonfiction. There’s no plot to keep me turning the pages. In fact, I find myself rereading entire sections to try and ensure that I’m getting it. The end result is worth it though. I look back on my reading this past year and I feel like I’ve big step forward in my thinking, at least in certain areas.

I found out today that the lecture series that I enjoyed attending so much this past fall will be extended for five monthly lectures through the spring. With the presidential election heating up the religious rhetoric has also been ratcheted up. We now have Mike Huckabee, the ordained Baptist minister from Arkansas, leading the pack of Republican yahoos; and Barack Obama participating in a "40 days of Faith and Family" tour. Now more than ever we need to shore up that faltering wall between church and state. This government was founded to be for All the people and not just the Christians. Look it up.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Sunday Afternoon

A week from Tuesday is Christmas day. Luckily, Justin is only two-years-old, so I haven’t had to try and explain the meaning of Christmas, or who the fat guy with the white beard is that he keeps seeing everywhere. We haven’t even attempted taking Justin to the mall to sit on Santa’s lap. We know him well enough to realize that he’s not about to sit on some stranger’s lap to have his picture taken. Opening gifts on Christmas morning will certainly be more fun this year than last. We put our Christmas tree up last week and have a barrier around it, so neither Justin or the cats can get to the decorated greenery. I did mention to Jen though that next year we might want to wait until Christmas eve to put the gifts from Santa under the tree.

I’m getting out of the house for a little while tonight for movie night at a friend’s house. I’m not sure what we’ll be seeing, but it’ll probably beat staying at home and babysitting Justin’s two-year-old playmate, Daniel. My official nights off from parenting duties are now Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Last week I had my last of the Wednesday University lecture series to attend. This week I’m relatively free, which means I’m still hoping to get out and see a movie, or two. I’m Not There is still at the Varsity. Unfortunately, the Varsity doesn’t have matinees during the week, which means I might need to go out at night! I’m trying to plan some schedule where I would see a late matinee at the Metro maybe, and then have time for supper in the U-district before the seven o’clock show of I’m Not There. In the meantime, Justin will be napping soon and I’ll have a little time to read some more of Atonement (I’m two-thirds of the way through) and maybe take a little nap of my own.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

'Tis the Season of Phlegm

If it’s past midnight then it must be the blogging hour. I’ve been battling a cold virus for the past week and a half and I’m ready to be free of it. The worst was seeing my son Justin coughing and hacking. He would look up at me and point to his eyes and then say “eyes” to let me know that his eyes were irritable. At times after a particularly racking cough he would look at us with a crooked smile as if to say, “shit, this is no fun!” He’s gotten through the worst of it. In fact, he’s become quite cranky in the last day or two, which just proves that he’s feeling better.

I was so sick last week that I ended up missing one of the Wednesday lectures that I’ve been enjoying so much (Religion, Politics & the Modern America Presidency.) The last of five lectures is this coming Wednesday. Plus there’s going to be a little book signing party on campus before the lecture. I had planned on picking up Professor Domke’s new book anyway. I might as well get a signed copy and have the chance to chat with him a little. I’m also hoping to get out to a matinee Tuesday or Wednesday to see I’m Not There, which is still at the Varsity. So having a phlegmy cold is cramping my style.

Tonight I watched The House Without a Christmas Tree, which was originally broadcast on television in 1972. I remember the film having quite an impact on me and I ordered a copy as soon as it was release on DVD. It’s the kind of intelligent family drama that doesn’t get made for broadcast telelvision anymore. The acting by Jason Robards, Mildred Natwick and especially young Lisa Lucas is exceptional. It actually quite a melancholy movie, but it earns its heartwarming ending. I was disappointed to see that it’s not carried by Netflix. It’d be a great disc to send my parents. Christmas will be here in just over a couple of weeks and I haven’t had to go to the mall once. I’d like to decorate the house a little, including a Christmas tree. This year I think we’ll be erecting a barrier around the traditional tree. I’m hoping that the plastic fencing will keep both Justin and the cats out of the tree. Sometimes hope is all we have.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Rat Behind the Screen

I have been remiss in keeping up with my blog. One might think that I was suffering from PTSD after visiting friends and kin in Massachusetts. That would not be an entirely true statement. Actually, I’ve just been busy being a stay-at-home dad, and for the past three or four days I’ve been quite sick. The trip back east went fine and I managed to keep my sanity by limiting my trips and visits. I even managed to sleep in until nearly 11AM a couple of days (of course, that’s east coast time and my inner clock was still set to the west coast, so technically I wasn’t really sleeping in.) There is still no one back there that shares my interest in freethinking or left wing politics. Everyone is caught up in their own spectrum of activity and that’s understandable. The flight back was even stress free, considering that I was flying on the day before Thanksgiving with a flight change in Chicago. I even had an empty seat next to me on both legs back to Seattle. I can’t remember the last time that happened.

I’m going to make this a short entry tonight, because it’s already nearing midnight. But I want to get back in the habit of posting more regularly. Sometimes the problem is that I have too much to write about and not enough time to prepare my thoughts for posting. I just finished watching a B-movie from 1992 called The Resurrected. It was based on a story by H. P. Lovecraft and written and directed by Dan O’Bannon (Return of the Living Dead and writer of the original Alien.) It was a decent low budget horror flick with some inventive special effects including some stop-motion work. Last weekend I got out to see No Country for Old Men, the new “American Classic” from the Coen Brothers. A couple of days later I got ambitious and saw a matinee of Dan in Real Life, which was a disappointment and should have been a rental at best (which is exactly what my friend Adam said, but I had to see for myself.) It has some great talent involved including actors Steve Carell and Juliette Binoche and it was written and directed by Peter Hedges, whose directorial debut was the smart and funny Pieces of April (certainly the last decent piece of work that Katie Holmes will ever do.) Hedges also wrote the novel What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, so to find Dan in Real Life saturated with movie-of-the-week clichés was quite disappointing. I also had a chance to see Ratatouille recently and it will rank up there as one of my favorite films of 2007.

Well, if this is going to be a “short entry” that I had better stop. Oh, it snowed today! And I don’t want to forget to mention that when I saw Into the Wild at the Neptune I saw something I hadn’t see before. As I was sitting there staring at the white screen before the film started I noticed some dark shape in the lower left corner of the screen. Then the shape moved and it became a large rat that then crawled out from the screen. I subtly glanced around to see if any of the other dozen or so people in the theater noticed, but it seemed that I was the only observer of the rodent. After about five or ten minutes the rat returned to his home behind the screen. I’m assuming he had filled up on greasy popcorn before taking in yet another showing of Into the Wild. I’m sure it would have preferred that Ratatouille was on the bill.