Friday, December 26, 2008

Post Christmas Exhaustion

Justin is providing me with one of those evenings when I’m forced to get up and drag him back to his bed at least a half dozen times before he gives in. I had twenty-five pages to read in Old Man’s War and it took me an hour with him interrupting every five minutes. Doesn’t he know that my reading time is sacred? Apparently not! Now that I’ve finished my book it seems that he may be staying in bed for the night. One can only hope. Old Man’s War was what I expected. It was a standard sci-fi battle yarn that is fun while immersed in it. I was hoping for something above “standard.” There was a lack of character development, so that when minor characters started to drop off I had a hard time remembering their significance within the story. The premise is interesting and found myself compelled to keep reading the three-hundred plus pages, but I hope Scalzi’s writing improves over time. It was fun lightweight fare to read over the holiday.

Christmas was a blast. Justin truly enjoyed himself. Last year we were helping him unwrap his gifts, but this year he was an instant master. He only tore into one gift before Christmas day. His self-restraint was admirable. Now he is a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of toys. I have separated out a few that require time and assembly. If they are out of his sight he will not be chanting “Open! Open!” He has many puzzles (since that is his pastime of choice lately) and a Colorform funny face game that he cannot seem to leave alone.

I received a plethora of Criterion DVDs for Christmas. Jen was more than generous. I also received a new denim shirt that I can begin to wear well and wear often until it barely exists. Jen received a new digital camera with the hopes of reigniting her photography hobby. Unfortunately, Jen started her work week on the evening of Christmas and her last shift ends Sunday morning. It feels like our holiday was cut a little short, with Jen being at work. But our work weeks have never seemed to mesh with the schedules of most working folks we know.

The climate has warmed significantly and the snow is melting away. We still had some flurries this morning, but rain seems to be the dominant precipitation at the moment. Justin has an urge to make “snow angels” tomorrow, but he may end up making “mud angels” instead.

Now — if Justin will just settle down for the night — I can enjoy a few hours of television, while I begin the process of whittling down my choices for the next book that I will read.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve is Looming Large

Christmas Eve is looming large. I keep intending to sit at my desk and write a blog entry. I even have a few passages started, but then life happens and I’m taken away to other more important tasks. As I stated at the beginning: Tonight is Christmas Eve. When Jen and I became a couple we had to work out the exchange of Christmas gifts. I grew up with the tradition of opening gifts on Christmas day. In Jen’s family they opened their gifts on Christmas Eve. Our compromise was to exchange stockings on the eve and leave the remainder of the gifts for the actual holiday. This year our two-year-old son is quite excited about the whole process. We had been reluctant to leave any wrapped gifts beneath the tree, but he has shown some amazing self-restraint for a two-year-old. The tree and its ornaments remain the big glittering attraction in his eyes. He can no longer get behind the tree to do his communing. There are a plethora of gifts in his way. It’s difficult not to go overboard when we have a two-year-old son. The plus side was that we could look at the pile of gifts before we wrapped them and pull a few out to save for his third birthday, which is a only a month away.

So, we’ll be exchanging stockings tonight. It occurred to me that we were taking one of Santa’s magical tasks away from him: the duty to leave stockings stuffed with toys for young children. We were instead using our stockings as a teaser for what was to come on Christmas day. Justin has enough toys in his stocking alone to keep him busy for six months. I’m looking forward to see his reaction upon seeing Totoro’s head peaking from the top of his Christmas stocking.

We awoke to more snow this morning, and it was still coming down quite heavily. I called my doctor’s office to reschedule my appointment for next week. It didn’t make sense to stress myself with the drive to the medical center to recheck the effect of my high blood pressure medicine. A little counterproductive. So I’ll be seeing my doctor on the morning of New Year’s Eve instead of Christmas Eve. My wife’s response was, “at least you’ll be seeing her before the end of the year, instead of taking it of next years deductible.”

I have a few more items for Jennifer that need to be wrapped. I too many stocking stuffers, so some will become wrapped gifts, giving them an extra air of importance when the reality is that they are just “stocking stuffers.”

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday Morning Music

We got a couple of inches of snow in our Seattle neighborhood last night. I just finished serving Justin his breakfast (oatmeal, yogurt & fresh fruit) and now I need to take a shower, so that we can go out and play in the snow. But first some morning music from the Split Enz.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Wrestler

I always think of late fall and early winter as the time of year when some of the best films are released into theaters. For the most part the timing is to help these films get recognized by the award fests that are just around the corner. The studios want their films to be fresh in the minds of the Academy voters. Films released in the spring are usually forgotten about by now. This year it seems like there has been a dearth of good films out there. At least films worthy enough for the current ticket prices. I've been wanting to see "Happy-Go-Lucky (dir: Mike Leigh)," Synecdoche, New York" (Charlie Kaufman's directorial debut), and "Slumdog Millionaire" (the latest from Danny Boyle) and I still hope to catch those films before they disappear from the big screens. But on December 17th Darron Aronofsky's latest film will be released. I'm a huge fan of both "Pi" and "Requiem for a Dream," but I thought "The Fountain" was a beautiful failure. Now with "The Wrestler" it seems that Aronosky has resurrected the career of Mickey Rourke and has crafted a powerful drama set in the world of professional wrestling. This is a film that I will go out of my way to see.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

My Brain Hurts!

I've been thinking about blogging lately, but unfortunately those thoughts haven't actually caused me to sit down and set my fingers to typing. I've been wanting to write about my inner angst without actually revealing my inner angst, and that's a difficult task. The election is over, which has freed me up to do a lot more reading and to watch some movies and documentaries that I have been meaning to get to. But at the same time I find that I get up in the morning with the urge to check the latest political news and it's just not as vital anymore. That and the fact that the last days of Herr Bush are scary to examine. He's continuing his policies and "rape & pillage" right up until 11:59 a.m. on January 20th. And he is doing all this with the intention of making things difficult for Barack Obama to reverse.

After reading a three books in a row on philosophy and the mind, I have promised myself a fiction break through the holidays. First was Girl Factory by Jim Krusoe and a few days ago I finished The Spinning Man by George Harrar. Both of those books were excellent and kept me from watching much television. Now I am reading Firmin by Sam Savage, which is about a rat that lives under a bookshop in Boston and, after being forced to diet on pages from Moby Dick, or possibly Finnegans Wake, Firmin realizes that he is able to read. I'm only about 40 pages in, but the language is wonderful and Firmin's tale is filled with many literary references.

Today we took Justin to the Northgate mall with ideas of having his picture taken with Santa. This year would be the first year we have done that particular social ritual. I had an inkling that Justin would need to warm up to the idea and probably wouldn't accede initially. I was right. It's not that Santa didn't try. He tried persuading him with a candy cane, which Justin accepted...through the fencing that surrounded the jolly fat man. And then Santa showed him a Clifford book, but Justin was adamant that he was not ready to sit on the lap of a strange bearded man. I can't say that I can blame him. We decided to skip it and try again on another day. We then had lunch in the food court, which was plastered with about a dozen flat screen TV's broadcasting a steady stream of commercials. I nearly lost my appetite. Then it was down to Toys 'R' Us to allow Justin to overcome his fear of the Barney ride at the front of the store. He attempted the ride about a week ago, but was scared and wanted off. Since that time he hasn't stopped talking about it, so we gave him a chance to try again. That wasn't happening today either. He was kind of in a borderline meltdown mood all day today. He is getting excited about Christmas though, and all the paraphernalia that surrounds the winter holiday.

So I started my entry with the intention of giving a short excuse about my lack of blogging. Once I start writing though, I tend to go on and on. So I'll stop and leave you with a video explaining my mood of late.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Forgive Me Father . . .

Forgive me father for I have sinned: It has been over a week since my last blog entry. Since that time the national holiday known as Thanksgiving has come and gone. I’m now starting to spot Christmas trees alight through neighborhood windows. Last night we attended the parent/teacher meeting of our childcare co-op and there was a “white elephant” gift exchange, along with a table laid out with holiday goodies to eat. Jen and I are both pretty much done with our Christmas shopping. I just have to buy stocking stuffers for my wife, which, for some reason, I always find a difficult task. Luckily she has provided me a list with suggestions.

I had a nice break in Edmonds last week. I visited three book stores in three days, but only one of those is actually in the city of Edmonds. I also bought some gifts for Justin at Teri’s Toy Box, which is a great independently owned store that puts a lot of thought into their inventory. I also dined out quite a bit while I was away. In fact by the last night I was tired of restaurant food, so I opted for a Payday bar for supper from the machine in the hotel. The weather was pretty nice for the most part, and allowed for some nice walks along the docks. I always find it romantic to watch the ferries passing each other in the night.

Today I finished reading Girl Factory by Jim Krusoe. I devoured this strange tale in two days. If the strange and unpredictable interests you as a reader then Jim Krusoe is the author for you. He had only written two novels and I’ve now read them both. For most of the afternoon I have been trying to pick a novel to read. I promised myself that I would read fiction through the holidays, since I have been reading a lot of cerebral stuff lately. I just hope this isn’t one of those occasions when it takes me days to decide on another book. That’s the problem with having over two thousand titles in my library: too many good books to choose from.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

It's an Edmonds Kind of Day

Last night was the first night of three that I will be staying at the Harbor Inn here in Edmonds. Yesterday I spent most of my time in the Seattle area. I stopped off at the Seven Gables Theatre to pick up a DVD copy of The Kiss of the Spider Woman that I had won by answering a couple of questions online. It's the second DVD I have won through that method. I also went to Bulldog News to pick up the latest issues of my favorite skeptic magazines and then I had lunch at Samir's Mediterranean Grill. Then I killed about an hour at the University Half-Price Books, which was fairly easy to do. I walked out with a stack of six books, but three of those were from the dollar shelves. I then headed up to the Ravenna district for an appointment, but I had fifteen minutes to kill, so I stopped in at Ravenna Third Place. My old boss was behind the counter, so he was kind enough to give me 40% off the three remainders I decided to buy there. After my 2 p.m. appointment I headed north to the port town of Edmonds to check into my hotel. I walked uptown to have dinner at la Puerta Mexican Restaurant. The food was good and there was plenty of it, but I found myself sweating by the end of the meal. I remember when a spicy meal causing me to sweat was a good thing. Now I feel like I picked the wrong meal as I dab the sweat from my brow.

After returning to my hotel room I took a hot bath and then read a few more essays by Bertrand Russell. I then finished watching an episode of Columbo that I had started watching last month during my stay in Chicago. It was an episode from the first season with Robert Culp as the murderer. Then as I was trying to pick something else from Netflix to watch on the laptop, I fell asleep. I awoke at four in the morning to shut the laptop and lights off.

I was hoping today was going to be sunny like yesterday, but so far there is a bank of clouds hanging over the harbor. I'm currently trying to decide where I want to have lunch. The seafood joints are in the opposite direction of the Edmonds Bookshop. I think I would enjoy a walk down by the docks though, as I make my way towards Anthony's for some oysters, or mahi mahi tacos.

There is a great little toy store in town that I want to make sure I visit before returning home. If I don't do it today then it will be a must-do for tomorrow. I'm on a quest for some stocking stuffers for Justin.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Subwoofer Oblivion

I've been such a slacker lately when it comes to blogging. There is probably a variety of reasons for that. I have been getting quite a bit of reading done now that the election is over. It is over isn't it? Anyway, I'm heading up to Edmonds (a whole two exits north on I-5) for three nights starting Monday. Jen and I do this periodically to give each other some space. Edmonds is not far, but it feels farther. I think that's because it has it's own port and the downtown Main street area is quaint and lined with shops. They have a nice little independent bookstore that I am sure I'll patronize while in town. I'll have plenty of reading time, which is always welcome. I've just started Why I am not a Christian by Bertrand Russell. It's a collection of essays the British philosopher wrote regarding his views on religion. I think it will be a fairly quick and enjoyable read once I can sit down to it. After reading three heady nonfiction books in a row, I plan on immersing myself in fiction through the holidays.

My son Justin and I have had some good days lately, although he skipped his naps twice this week, including today. The result today was one fairly intense "night terror" episode. Night terrors resemble Linda Blair's performance in The Exorcist. The child is still asleep, but thrashing around like he's possessed. It's a little unnerving. Justin has recently been enjoying the pastime of puzzles. He now has a half dozen 24-piece puzzles that he assembles and disassembles many, many times a day. He gets giddy when he has found the spot for a particular piece, and prolongs the pleasure of attaching it until he's about to burst. Today while he was working on a puzzle I got the urge to open the panel on the subwoofer speaker that sits on the living room. I knew that Justin had stuck something in the port tube. That's the hole in front of the unit, where the sound comes out and a two-year-old's arm goes in. The photo below shows what I pulled out of the unit this afternoon.

There are four toy cars, a plastic strawberry, a orange game peg, two new cat collars, and a baby in a basket. Justin thanked me profusely for finding his cars. My wife and I had just been talking about how quickly his car collection had dwindled to a precious few. I had a nice father and son moment when Justin helped me reattach the electronic panel by turning the screwdriver. He really enjoyed helping to reinsert all twelve screws. He kept saying "another one!" After the toy retrieval mission was accomplished I covered the port hole with packing tape. Justin seemed impressed that his car couldn't penetrate the heavy clear tape. I'm sure right now he's dreaming of ways to get past the temporary barrier and drop more items into subwoofer oblivion.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Ocean is Blue and so am I

It’s been over a week since I’ve posted anything on either of my blogs. Maybe it’s the post-election doldrums. Maybe it’s just my overall feeling of blueness brought about by personal issues that are seemingly out of my control. Maybe I just miss being in the wacky world of retail at this time of the year. Last weekend we drove out to a favorite spot of ours on the coast of the Olympic Peninsula. We had reserved a cabin within a short walk of the beach and a forest of very large green trees. The only drawback was that we ended up with a cabin without a separate sleeping space for our two-year-old son. Needless to say, it was very difficult to get our son to sleep when he was so excited about being at the ocean. One highlight was spotting two bald eagles roosting in a large wind battered tree onshore. We couldn’t resist using the wood stove in the cabin, even though when we used it we had to open all the windows due to the heat. I believe that next week I’ll be going away for three nights on my own. The purpose is to give my wife some time at home on her own. She has been experiencing a dearth of quiet time to herself. I’ll also enjoy having a few days away to read and rest, but my emotions about the situation are a little dodgy at the moment.

Friday, November 7, 2008

A Musical Interlude

Sometimes late at night when I'm lying in bed, and trying to get to sleep, I have the uncontrollable urge to hear this song. I reach for my iPod on the nightstand and plug in. I find the dark and brutal song quite soothing. Maybe that's not a good thing.

Cute Justin Photos

It has been a busy last couple of months. Things are starting to cool down a bit. I don't feel compelled to keep up with the latest political news (as in checking certain blogs every fifteen minutes and watching Olbermann and Maddow religiously.) I had jury duty this past Monday and Tuesday, which allowed me to get two books read. Free reading time is a plus in my book. I read both The Road by Cormac McCarthy and A Prayer for the Dying by Stewart O'Nan. Both books fall into the anti-feel good category. Dark and somber. Those kind of books always appeal to me; and they helped balance the feeling of euphoria that Barack Obama's win gave me.

Speaking of President-elect Obama: Election night was quite the historic event. When Barack Obama gave his speech that night I got Justin out of bed to bear witness. He will be turning three in January, so I doubt if he'll remember much, if anything, about the night. When my wife arrived home from a co-op parents' meeting we all went into the backyard with some sparklers left over from July 4th and whooped it up. Tonight Justin remembered me getting him up, because he tried to use that excuse to get out of bed again. "Watch Barack Obama" he said to me. This was in addition to requesting water, crackers, different music, no night light, and a big hug. He took a big long nap this afternoon, so I'm not complaining.

Speaking of Justin . . . My main reason for posting tonight is to put up some recent pictures of Justin. These include his first haircut, Halloween, his Super Obama T-shirt and a couple others for good measure.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Tears of Joy

The networks announced at 8 p.m. PST that Barack Obama would be the 44th President of the United States. It took a minute to sink in and then I couldn't hold back the tears. I got my two-and-a-half year old son out of bed to share the moment. To see the seas of joyous faces across this country, who have helped to change the face of America. Most pundits are at a loss for words. Let's just savor the moment.

h/t bob cesca

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Recovery of the Soul

It was a week ago last Wednesday that I had surgery. The actual surgery went fine and I didn’t feel a thing. I arrived at the hospital at 9:30 a.m. as directed. I imagined having ample time to read before the actual surgery, but since I was accompanied by my wife and two-year-old son, reading was out of the question. It was nice to have my family along though, right up until I ambled into the surgery room. It was smart to bring the mini-DVD player along for Justin, because when his attention wasn’t on the little screen he showed obvious concern for me. When I undressed to put on the Bair Paws® gown Justin stated “Daddy take a bath.” And then when I donned the blue bonnet he declared “princess hat!” Then it was a matter of lying on the recliner with an IV drip and being kept quite warm, while Justin watched My Neighbor Totoro and acted out the various parts. I was visited by two different nurses, two anesthesiologists and finally my doctor (AKA Dr. Personality.) The first anesthesiologist’s job was to ask me a few questions and to determine whether I had had any allergic reactions to anesthesia in the past. He also gave me the choice on having a local, or being out for the procedure. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to be out. If I had my way they would have given me the gas coming in the door, but that wasn’t an option. Soon I walked into the surgery room, with the aid of a nurse, who carried my IV and I got up on the table. The anesthesiologist said that she was going to give me some oxygen to breath as a shot of courage. I replied that we all needed courage and that was the last thing I remembered until I awoke in post-op.

Soon I was joined by my wife and son. The only thing left was for me to pee before we could leave the hospital. Don’t ask me what the ability to pee has to do with “enhancing the soul” of a human being, but that was my task. It is never more difficult to pee than when the pressure is on. After two cranberry juices, four waters and a nurse telling me that she would have to stick me (catheterization) if I couldn’t go, I was finally able to go. The statement by the nurse was more than enough impetus to prompt my bladder to do its job. I was provided a wheelchair and Justin rode with me as Jen pushed us to the parking garage. By the time we were in the car on the way home it was 4 p.m..

I pretty much stayed in bed for the next couple of days. I was kind of looking forward to being in a “Vicodin haze,” but my prescribed pain medication ended up being Oxycodone. It dulled my pain and allowed me to sleep, but it didn’t give me the urge to listen to Dark Side of the Moon, while simultaneously watching The Wizard of Oz.

Tomorrow I head back to Dr. Personality to make sure that everything is healing well, and that my newly enhanced soul can take the possibility of John McCain pulling a win out of his ass this coming Tuesday. Next week I have jury duty, which I have been dreading more than my surgery. The day after election day I have another doctor’s appointment to recheck my high blood pressure, and I will be visiting the dentist to get a cavity filled. I am looking forward to a break from my myriad of maladies, and I will be getting that when we take a trip to our favorite spot on the coast in mid-November: Kalaloch. It’s still the best soul enhancing experience around.

And now a musical interlude with Gnarls Barkley's "Who's Gonna Save My Soul?"

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Soon to be in a Vicodin Haze

Tomorrow morning I head into my much anticipated "soul enhancement" surgery. Just my luck I chose to watch Daniel C. Dennett last night, and he called the whole idea of a soul just "foolish." Anyway, my wife and son will be accompanying me to the hospital, and I'm hoping that they will be able to occupy themselves at a nearby park while I'm under the knife. I should be home in the early afternoon and in a Vicodin haze for the rest of the day. I've already warned Jen (my wife) that I will not talk to my parents when their inevitable call comes tomorrow evening. My parents did call tonight to wish me the best, and my mom said she would pray for me. I pointedly told Jen later that if anything dire happened she was to call my mother immediately and tell her that her prayers didn't work.

Justin chose today as one of those days to go without the usual nap. I really needed those two hours to myself to read and rest, but it just didn't happen. Tomorrow he will need to be occupied for a time, while I'm being checked into day surgery, so we will bring the portable DVD player. Lately he has been quite obsessed with Pee Wee Herman, but if we brought that show along he would be dancing through the hallways. Instead we'll bring My Neighbor Totoro, which usually transfixes him for its entirety.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Short and Sweet

Since I spent the past hour or so writing for my other blog my entry here will have to be short and sweet. Well, at least short. I watched the Red Sox defeat Tampa Bay tonight 4 to 2 to force a seventh and final game in the ALCS. Varitek and Ortiz finally awoke and started to earn their salaries. Game 7 is tomorrow night, but we have guests for the evening that have absolutely no interest in baseball, so I may just have to set my DVR to record it for later viewing.

I’m about a hundred pages into Blindness by José Saramago. It is a compelling read, which is unfortunate for me since I don’t seem to have much reading time these days. Blindness is so good that I picked up two other works by Saramago at Half-Price Books in the last couple of days. I don’t know when I’ll ever get to them, but they’re on my never-ending list of books-to-read.

This morning when I awoke I had a plan. Justin and I would head to Half-Price books, and then to lunch with a stop at the playground on the way home. It all worked perfectly except that Justin just wasn’t tired enough when we arrived home to take an afternoon nap. He was downright wired after all that activity. Like the other times he has gone without a nap during the day he has awoken with night terrors tonight. One an hour for the last three hours. The night terrors don’t bother me quite as much as they did when I didn’t know what was going on. It’s heartbreaking when your child is screaming in terror, and when you try to console him it just make it worse. Now I realize that he is actually still asleep even though his eyes are wide open. I just watch over him to make sure he doesn’t hurt himself until the episode is over.

I could continue to type into the night, but I’d still like to watch something on TV tonight beside baseball before I collapse. I’ll just do what every other blogger seems to do when they don’t have time to write: post a couple of videos.

Oh, the humanity!

Friday, October 10, 2008


I am now in Chicago for the FFRF convention. I arrived late yesterday afternoon, and -- after figuring out the shuttle/bus situation -- I arrived at the Hyatt Regency at about 7:30 p.m. very travel weary. The traffic was your typical big city mess at rush hour, with accidents and crazy drivers. I tried to pass the time by counting Obama stickers on passing cars. I figured that I would see oodles of them, since he is their senator, but I only counted four. After checking in and eating at one of the hotel's four restaurants (Mama something-or-other, typical Italian fare) I fell back into my room exhausted. I did manage to see both Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow's show, and catch up with my favorite political blogs before I fell asleep.

This morning I was determined to sleep in, since this is the only day out of the three when I would have that opportunity. I initially awoke at 8:30, but returned to dreamland only to re awake at 11:30 a.m.. I reminded myself that I was still on west coast time and to my body it was merely 9:30, so my guilt was assuaged. It was a gorgeous day outside and I left the hotel and headed toward the (obvious) Frank Gehry structure a few blocks away. I found out that the structure was part of what is called Millennium Park and I spend some time walking about and taking pictures. Whenever I saw someone frolicking with their young child I immediately missed my son Justin. He's been talking up a storm on the phone with me since I arrived, although I haven't a clue what he's saying. After enjoying myself at the park I went in search of a late lunch. It was difficult not to find someplace so crowded that the patrons were spilling onto the outdoor dining. I wanted something quiet and found a non chain Mexican restaurant called Cocina Barro that was just what I required.

The actual FFRF convention activities start at seven o'clock tonight, so I still have a few more hours to read (I'm nearly done with Choke) and get some more rest before tonight's events. After my late lunch I doubt that I'll be hungry enough to eat before the convention starts, but I'm fairly confident that there will be plenty of late dining to choose from on a Friday night in Chicago.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Morning Music

Many mornings I wake up with a song in my head. Most times the song comes to fruition while I'm standing in the shower with the hot water beating against my skull. This morning the tune is "My Wave" by Soundgarden. Last week I awoke with Weird Al Yankovic's "My Bologna" ringing through my brain. I'm happy that today my synapses are in rhythm Soundgarden.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Silly Quiz Time

I haven't had much spare time lately, but I did finally finish the second mega-serious book in a row in preparation for my trip this week to the FFRF convention in Chicago. After having my head swimming in philosophy, religion and politics for the last two months I'm looking forward to reading some fiction. I already have three titles lined up, because the films versions are already out or soon to be released. The first on my list -- which I've already started -- is Choke by Chuck Palahniuk. The second and third books in my to-read queue are Blindness by José Saramago and The Road by Cormac McCarthy. All three are books that I have wanted to read since their initial release and now with the movie versions "rearing their heads" I have an added incentive. Both Choke and Blindness were released to theaters in the past couple of weeks, and both have gotten mediocre reviews. That is probably the best reason to read the books first, because 9 times out of 10 the books are superior to the film versions. A notable exception was another book by Palahniuk called Fight Club, which even he admits was a better film than a book. I am almost a hundred pages into Choke and I'm enjoying it immensely. It is certainly not a book for everybody, especially readers with delicate sensibilities, who are easily offended.

I plan on bringing a laptop with me to Chicago when I travel this Thursday, so that I can blog about my experiences at the convention. Most of those blog entries will probably end up on my other blog, because, after all, it is a national gathering of heretics and infidels. I felt so comfortable among that crowd of reasonable freethinkers when I attended my first convention last year that I swore that I would make a yearly ritual of it. I'm hoping that FFRF follows through with their plans to hold the 2009 convention in Seattle, so that I can save on travel and hotel costs.

Politics and the state of the world has been weighing quite heavily on my mind lately, so I was happy to find a meaningless quiz today to take my mind of the heavy stuff for a bit. The purported purpose (say that three times fast) is to tell the quiz taker what Beatles album they are. My results are below:

"You Scored as Magical Mystery Tour
You are a free spirit who is somewhat a hippie but you clean yourself. You'd love to see a positive anti-war country that does not use up all of the natural resources."

Take the quiz yourself.

I may be aging myself by even being slightly interested in what Beatles album my personality may resemble, but hell, the blog where I discovered the quiz is written by someone ten years younger than me. I even had my favorite Beatle when I was a youth: John (of course) with George a close second. My two favorites from the fab four are both now dead and we're left with Paul, his dyed hair and his horrible choice of a third, ex-wife; and Ringo, who is seems like a fine bloke, but I never thought of him as an exceptional drummer.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Goodbye Paul Newman

Paul Newman died last Saturday at his home at the age of 83. He had been battling lung cancer for some time. Not only was Paul Newman one of our greatest actors, but he was a class act with a huge heart. I count the first PG rated movie I saw in a theater as the begining of a serious film addiction, leaving lightweight kid's fare behind. That first "adult" feature that I saw was "The Sting" with Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Last Christmas I was given a DVD copy of "Cool Hand Luke," which is my favorite Paul Newman film. Other favorites are "The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean," "Nobody's Fool," "Hombre" (based on an Elmore Leonard novel) and the two Lew Harper detective films "Harper" and "The Drowning Pool." Here's a little clip from "Cool Hand Luke" in tribute to the life and career of Paul Newman:

My Morning Jacket

Last night I saw My Morning Jacket perform at McCaw Hall and before the concert was over I knew that it was going to one of the best I’d ever seen. It was certainly the best concert I have seen since the Beck and The Flaming Lips tour of 2002. I only have two albums by My Morning Jacket (“It Still Moves” and “Tennessee Fire”), and I didn’t consider myself a huge fan; but I had always heard that they needed to be seen live to be truly appreciated. I’m fully on board with that notion now. They came onstage at 8:30 and played for two hours straight before taking a very short break, returning for a 20 minute encore. The theater was filled with enthusiastic fans of all ages (“brothers and sisters” as lead singer Jim James stated.) Earlier in the evening — when the babysitter arrived — I jokingly stated that we were going to a “Rock Show!” and I wasn’t disappointed in that respect. The smoke machines were cranking full bore; the light show was impressive and would have enhanced any previously ingested hallucinogenic. Most fans stayed standing throughout the show. I think that I can now confidently say that I am also a huge fan of My Morning Jacket. I even came home with a $30 t-shirt and I usually disdain buying the overpriced merchandise at any show. For those of you unfamiliar with this band that I am heaping high praise upon they released a DVD in 2006 called Okonokos, which documents a live performance recorded at San Francisco's Fillmore Auditorium. Until you throw that disc in your Netflix queue here is a taste of My Morning Jacket.

This is one of those crappy cell phone videos, but I think it does a good job of capturing the excitement and enthusiasm I experienced at the show last night.

The original video done for the same song, "One Big Holiday."The silhouette puppets remind me of the classic German animated film The Adventures of Prince Achmed.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Music in My Head

Sometimes I awake with the strangest songs in my head. I'll be standing in the shower and find myself singing something like "My Bologna" by Weird Al Yankovic. One might think that the original --"My Sharona" -- by The Knack would be the song that would get stuck in my brain, rather than the parody. There's something about the line "I always eat too much and throw up" that causes it to pop into my mind at the oddest times.

When I say to my wife, "guess what song I have in my head?" she has learned to say, "No, no! Don't tell me. I don't want it stuck in my head!"

Friday, September 26, 2008

Apple Pie!!!

Justin and I had a fine day today. After breakfast we headed to Cal Anderson Park on Capitol Hill to meet up with some friends and their kids. There was four of us there (plus 5 kids) and we all used to work at the Bailey/Coy bookstore nearby. I think that only one of us works there now. The playground at the recently re-sculpted park is very nice with a padded rubber surface. The surface did frustrate Justin a little though, because his latest pastime has been to pick up wood chips from the ground at our local playground and toss them down the slide. Ad infinitum. After about an hour at the playground we all decided to head to the Broadway Grill for lunch. My friend James and his son Jasper, and Justin and I, walked the half-dozen blocks to the restaurant, while the others decided to drive. I held Justin's hand and James held his son's hand. Jasper soon also wanted to hold Justin's hand, so I felt like we were off to see the wizard as we walked north on Broadway. Justin ate fairly well at the restaurant, but when Meridian, one of the little girls with us, got up and began to dance to the piped in music Justin just couldn't hold back. He just loves to dance. Dancing for Justin includes a lot of jumping and the pants he was wearing, along with the pull-up diapers just couldn't keep up. I looked over and he was standing there with his pants and diapers around his ankle, looking up as if to say, "What the hell just happened?" I soon as I remedied the situation he was back to the dance floor.

After we left the Broadway Grill and headed back to our car I started to inform Justin that we would be stopping to pick up an apple pie and then head home for his nap time. He seemed okay with that and started to repeat it back to me. All good. We made our way over to Marie Callender's and bought the pie, but when we got to the car it was obvious that he thought we were going to eat the pie at that moment. He had a slight meltdown, but he relented when I promised him that he could have some pie when he woke up from his nap. (I didn't bother to include the fact that he would be having pumpkin pie rather then apple, because the apple pie was for someone at my wife's place of business.)He slept really well -- nearly three hours -- and the first words out of his mouth when he awoke were "apple pie!" He had probably been dreaming about it and had obviously remembered my promise. I pulled the pumpkin pie out of the fridge, exclaiming it goodness the whole time, and cut him a piece. The switch didn't seem to matter. It's all "cake" to him.

Later on he was good enough to allow me to watch the debate even though he needed his Pee Wee Herman fix. As long as I assisted him with laying the track for his trains he was willing to hold off on Pee Wee's Playhouse until tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

If It's Tuesday, This Must Be My Day Off

Each week my hard-working wife gives me two whole days off from being a full-time parent. Sometimes I take advantage of this time by seeing a movie. Last week I saw the excellent independent feature Frozen River, starring Melissa Leo. Sometimes I just hit a couple of my favorite bookstores and splurge a little. Recently I picked up at least a half dozen new titles, including The Making of a Philosopher by Colin McGinn and a nice used hardcover of Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres.

Today I chose relaxation as my pastime. I got another chapter read in the tome that I’m currently in the midst of. It’s a great journalistic exposé called The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power by Jeff Sharlet. It’s the second book in a row that I’m reading in preparation for my upcoming trip to the Freedom From Religion convention in Chicago. The Family is filled with frightening data concerning backroom deals made by this secretive Christian organization. Sharlet will be speaking at the upcoming FFRF convention, along with Daniel C. Dennett, Eleanor Clift and others.

I also managed to squeeze in a two hour nap after dispatching a door-to-door magazine salesman. This evening — as always — I caught Countdown with Keith Olbermann and The Rachel Maddow Show, which managed to beat Larry King in the ratings last week. (I would not miss those suspenders in the least, never mind his endless softball questions.) I also managed to see the Mariners come from behind to break their 12 game losing streak. So all in all I had a good day off.

* * *

Last week Jen was at a veterinary conference in Phoenix from Wednesday through Sunday, so Justin and I were on our own for a few days. It wasn’t too much different from when Jen works her 14 hour nightshifts at the emergency clinic Thursday through Saturday, except we didn’t even get to see her for the usual hour a day. Justin and I had a good time even though he was battling the latest virus that toddlers seem to pass around so freely. On Saturday we spent the morning building a monstrosity with his blocks. He didn’t need much help from me. I ran to get my camera before he got into his crash mode and he was very willing to have his picture snapped. He even said “cheese” and gave me a big smile. He’s just so darn huggable.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Daddy's Heartbeat

My son Justin had a rough day today. The poor guy has been battling a cold for the past week, and I’m sure he’s tired of me chasing him down to wipe his nose every ten minutes. We took our dog Molly to the dog park today and by the time we finished and got back to our car Justin was in full atomic meltdown mode. He asked for a fruit wrap (it’s actually called “fruit leather,” but I prefer my own term), which I gave him after cleaning his hands. (I was trying to keep him from picking up rocks from the ground, because dogs pee freely on those same rocks.) He promptly threw the fruit wrap to the floor and pulled his shoes and socks off, while crying and pulling on his bottom lip with his fingers. By the time we got home he had a full-blown tantrum, including hitting his head on the floor. I calmed him down enough, so that he could eat his lunch. When he sat down to eat his macaroni and cheese he exclaimed, “Oh boy!” After lunch I laid him down for his nap and he slept for almost three hours. When he awoke I was hoping that he had a fresh outlook on life, but he lost it again when I cut up an apple to feed him. He ate really well today and seems to be sleeping well, so I’m expecting that he’ll be feeling much better tomorrow.

On another note: Jen was demonstrating her stethoscope for Justin recently and he was enjoying listening to my heartbeat. Lately I’ve been playing the only album put out by the “super group” called Little Village. The first song is called “Solar Sex Panel” and when it comes on Justin immediately says “daddy’s heartbeat.” I took it as a complement. It’s nice to know that my heart has a good beat and it’s easy to dance to. Little Village was comprised of the members John Hiatt, Nick Lowe, Ry Cooder and Jim Keltner. When they toured in support of their disc I was lucky enough to garner front row seats. The unlucky part was that I was accompanied my soon-to-be ex-wife, but that didn’t diminish my enjoyment one bit. Here is Little Village performing “Solar Sex Panel” on David Letterman from way back in 1992.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Speaking of The Flaming Lips

From The Soft Bulletin here is the video for "Race For The Prize."


I watched a fun documentary last week called Lipstick and Dynamite with a subtitle of Piss and Vinegar. The title refers to women wrestlers and particularly the very first professional female wrestlers, many of whom wrestled man at the beginning of their careers to prove themselves. There were about half a dozen women they focused on, including the Fabulous Moolah, who I had actually seen wrestle a few times in my youth. Moolah, whose real name is Lillian Ellison, is the focus of the film, mainly because she took over the management of women wrestlers early in her career and made a fairly lucrative career off of it. All of the women have interesting stories, from growing up on a farm in Custer, Washington to lion taming. It’s a subculture similar to carnies, or the B-movie producers who used to peddle their exploitative films themselves city to city. I had remembered being interested in this film when it came through the Seattle International Film Festival a few years back, but what reminded me of it was seeing the obituary of wrestler Killer Kowalski in the NY Times recently. Walter “Killer” Kowalski was another wrestler I had seen in my youth when I used to attend professional wrestling matches at the old Jack Witschi’s Sports Arena in Attleboro, Massachusetts. Back then one used to pay $3 for bleacher seats and $4 for the more cushy seats close to the ring. Grizzled fans filled the place on the weekends, drinking beer from plastic cups, their cigar and cigarette smoke rising to the rafters. In those days it was common to have lady wrestlers on the card, along with midget wrestlers. At the end of the obituary for Killer Kowalski were related links, and one link was to the obituary for the Fabulous Moolah, who had died at age 84 in November of 2007. She died in the hospital after shoulder replacement surgery, possibly from a heart attack or blood clot. Lipstick and Dynamite is a fun documentary filled with interesting characters and wild stories. One might wonder what career path these independent women might have chosen had they come of age a few decades later.

Another good documentary I watched recently is The Flaming Lips: The Fearless Freaks. I’ve been a fan of The Flaming Lips for quite a few years and was even lucky enough to see them on their tour with Beck back in 2002. I remember the first time I heard some cuts from the classic album The Soft Bulletin. I was driving a rental car and listening to KEXP here in Seattle. That album is chock full of soaring sounds and emotional vocals, and it feels like an epic. The documentary is not what I expected. The director, Bradley Beesley, was a neighbor of Wayne Coyne’s when Wayne was in art school in 1991. He has been filming the Flaming Lips ever since. There are some poignant moments as we meet various family members of the band, who have had their own ups and downs, including prison terms and suicides by other family members. There is not a lot of concert footage, but the personal stories of the band more than makes up for that. This is the kind of documentary that even non-fans can enjoy.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Literary Superstar Gone

I was shocked to read this evening that David Foster Wallace is dead at 46 years of age. Apparently his wife returned home to find that he had hanged himself. Wallace was best known for his epic postmodern novel Infinite Jest. Here is a link to the obituary at the New York Times.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Justin's Language Skills

I'm still trying to figure something out today. I have a Barack Obama yard sign that I haven't put out yet. It's just outside the front door leaning against the wall. Justin and I were leaving the house to walk over to the playground, and Justin spotted the sign. He pointed to it and said, "Barack Obama." I said, "How did you know what that says?" I asked because he's two and a half years old and not reading yet. He pointed again and said "Obama." Is he hiding the fact that he can already read? Jen said that maybe he sees the words on TV and connects it with Barack Obama, but even if that's the case it's pretty impressive. Now I'm teaching him to say "bad man" whenever he sees John McCain. Is that too partisan for a two-year-old? Maybe I'm aiming too low. Maybe I should teach him "cantankerous old fart" instead of "bad man."

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Humor as a Diversion

Jonathan Katz plugging Dr. Katz on Letterman:

Friday, September 5, 2008

Just Stuff

Next week I will start attending lectures at Wednesday University once again. Last fall the topic was religion and politics with Professor David Domke. The upcoming lectures, also by Domke, will cover politics and the media. The last lecture will be the day after the 2008 presidential elections. The series is already sold-out and a recent mailing warns that attendees should arrive early to ensure seating. I’m excited to once again be hearing the political analysis of David Domke. He has written two significant books in recent years, God Willing? Political Fundamentalism in the White House, the "War on Terror," and the Echoing Press (2004, Pluto Press), and The God strategy: How religion became a political weapon in America with Kevin Coe (Oxford University Press: New York, January 2008.) I was interested to learn, while attending the last series, that David Domke considers himself a believer, and his wife is actually a pastor. So he doesn’t come at the topic from some angry atheist mindset (not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

This Sunday is my 12th wedding anniversary. The traditional gift is silk, or linen. The modern gift is pearls. Hmm. I was thinking more along the lines of a greeting card. Maybe even one of those expensive “blank inside” cards. Actually, we may have babysitting lined up for Sunday evening, allowing us to go out for dinner and a movie. The reply e-mail was “almost definitely yes,” so I’m not holding my breath. These guys have fallen through before.

Justin peed in his potty today. That was big news on the parenting front. I tried very hard to be enthusiastic and told him how proud I was. I tried to make a show of giving him a special sticker to stick on the lid of his potty. He was more interested in running into the living room to jump on the couch naked. He has been consistently taking his naps on time for the last three days. And it’s been a little easier to get him to stay in bed at night. We’ve been making regular trips to the local playground, where Justin has recently become reluctant to go down the slides. That is until daddy starting going down the slide today. He had to follow me then. He also says “hi!” and “bye” to everyone we meet, whether they’re cognizant or not. He’s a sweet kid and he’s becoming an amazing talkative little boy right before our eyes.

And now . . . Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Brief Respite

Like many other sane people, I am getting quite tired of hearing about Sarah Palin and her fundamentalist ways. Bush phoned in his tribute to John McCain last night and looked pained when he actually had to endorse his former rival. Fred Thompson came on with his Hollywood tan to praise McCain's military service and to utter "P.O.W." a half dozen times. He admitted that being a P.O.W. didn't qualify McCain to be president, but it did show his character. What character would that be? That McCain crashed his jet and was captured by the enemy? At least this time the chicken hawks were not tearing down the military veteran on the other side. Fred Thompson may not have served in the military like John McCain, but they do have the common bond of trading in their previous wives for blond trophy wives.

Since I reserve this blog for the more inane items in my life I'll leave the bitching about politics for my other page. I was perusing my favorite bloggers this morning and found another person trying to keep her mind off the soap opera known as Sarah Palin and her ever-growing brood. Thanks for Aaryn Belfer for turning me on to this awesome short film this morning. This woke me up.

Spider from Qoob TV on Vimeo.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Books and Births

I guess that technically I could say that I’ve finished reading Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell, but I’m determined to get through the essays contained within the appendix before setting it down. Dennett is a philosopher, so Breaking the Spell seems to raise more questions than it answers, but it succeeds in showing that critically examining the origins and effects of religions are not only possible, but quite necessary. I read this tome in preparation for attending the Freedom From Religion convention, which is the second week of October in Chicago. Daniel Dennett will be speaking and receiving the Emperor Has No Clothes Award. Also speaking will be Jeff Sharlet, who has recently written a book called The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. This book exposes a secret evangelical organization called Ivenwald, a Washington-based fundamentalist group living communally in Arlington, Va., whose public face is the National Prayer Breakfast. This network of extremist evangelicals has networks that reach into not only our own government, but also sometimes accompanies U.S. officials overseas. I had been planning on reading this next, also in preparation for the upcoming convention, but I may need to take a break in between books. Maybe I should read a quick mystery before delving back into the (oft times depressing) world of politics and religion.

On a more domestic note: Justin is talking up a storm these days. We can’t keep track of all of the new words he’s using daily. He also seems to be getting more imaginative with his playing. He still loves to dance and sing. Today he even had me up and dancing to the Traveling Wilburys even though I haven’t been in a dancing mood for months.

We had our friends Patti and Rich over on Wednesday evening to watch some Battlestar Galactica and to visit with them before the birth of William. Patti had a appointment with the doctor the following day and was told “not yet,” but by the time she had gotten down to the parking lot her water had broken. They are now proud parents of a health baby boy. We’re hoping to visit them this Sunday.

Missing Shows

I was actually in my bed, listening to the latest Weezer album (the red one), when I remembered recently getting an e-mail announcing their concert date in Seattle. I realized that I would really like to see Weezer live, so I came downstairs and turned on my computer to check on date and availability of the show. It's on Saturday, October 11th. I will be in Chicago for the FFRF convention. Oh well, I'd much rather be inspired and intellectually stimulated by the speakers at the FFRF event than being at home in order to catch one live show at Key Arena. Last year I missed getting great seats for the Zappa Plays Zappa tour, because I was in Massachusetts surprising my parents for their anniversary celebration.

Jen and I did manage to get out last Tuesday to see Intimate Exchanges at the ACT Theatre. I had bought tickets a few months back after watching The Norman Conquests by the same playwright Alan Ayckbourn. The Norman Conquests is a great BBC adaptation that stars Tom Conti and Penelope Keith. I first watched this three part production when it was originally broadcast in 1977. When I found the DVD available on I just had to have it. Luckily I now have an all-region DVD player, so that I can enjoy titles like The Norman Conquests, which is otherwise not available to U.S. audiences. I was pleasantly surprised to see Glittering Prizes released a few weeks ago in the U.S., which also stars Tom Conti and is from that same era. I'm happy to remember that I was watching good British programming like this when I was in high school. My copy of Glittering Prizes should be arriving from Amazon in a few weeks.

Well, now that I've realized that seeing Weezer this fall is not doable I will end this blog entry before I end up on some other tangent that keeps me up for another hour.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Night Out . . . of My Mind

Here’s something that really bugs me about parenting of late: Tonight I had a baby-sitter on duty from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. I took the evening to attend an Atheist Meetup (Sacrilege!) in Ballard. I got home just after 9, hoping that Justin would be well on his way to a good night’s sleep. I was wrong. I made the near fatal error of opening his door to check on him. Now I’ve spent the last hour trying to get him to stay in his bed and go to sleep. My night away becomes yet another frustrating evening trying to get him to GO TO SLEEP! It would be one thing if his lack of sleep at the beginning of the night would translate into him sleeping later in the morning, but no such luck. I’ll be downstairs at 6 or 7 in the morning trying to convince Justin that he’s tired enough to sleep for another hour or so. What I’m really saying is “Daddy is so friggin’ tired. Could you just do me the favor of sleeping until 8:30 a.m., so that I can at least feel somewhat human?” Oh well. What did I think being a stay-at-home dad was going to be about? Rainbows and puppies?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Music as a Soothing Balm

These days I'm doing most of my ranting and raving on my other blog. I try to keep my Destined for Banality blog for more trivial matters. The problem is that nothing seems trivial to me these days. Everything seems to carry so much weight. I sometimes feel like I'm swimming in a sea filled with skein of seaweed and it's difficult to make any progress. It's especially at times like these when my music keeps me afloat in this dark morass. Lately I've been listening to a lot of Weezer, but one of my favorite bands in the recent years has been the Queens of the Stone Age. Some members started out in a band called Kyuss, but QOTSA have morphed quite a bit since then, using musicians such as Mark Lanegan (of The Screaming Trees) and the Foo Fighters Dave Grohl to fill out their sound. I consider their album Songs For the Deaf to be one of my favorite albums of all time. It's downright perfect and certainly a disc I should not be without on the proverbial desert island. But their latest album, Era Vulgaris is really starting to grow on me. Sometimes when I'm lying in bed late at night trying to get to sleep after another day in George Bush's America this is the music that lulls me to sleep.

Ah, nothing like a little "Battery Acid" to calm my frayed nerves at the end of the day. You can have your Braham or Kenny G to help you drift you off to never-never land, but I'll stick with QOTSA.

Saturday, August 9, 2008


I have been remiss with my blogging, but with good reason: my parents had been visiting for just over two weeks. A parental visit will sure knock one's routine out of whack. They flew back to Massachusetts early last Tuesday morning. We're still readjusting, getting our chakras back in alignment and evening out those biofeedback waves. We had originally hoped that my parents would be able to care for Justin a little, while we got some projects done and maybe even had a little time left over to go out on the town. But my parents seemed to have aged recently and Justin is a handful for us, never mind foisting him onto my elderly parents. We did get out last Sunday evening for dinner at Little Thai in the U-district, and some post dinner shopping at Half Price Books.

It's getting quite late and I just finished watching Jean-Luc Godard's Weekend for the second time this week -- this time with the commentary track. I'm also about 100 pages into Daniel C. Dennett's Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. It's a dense philosophical treatise that so far is just postulating questions pertaining to whether science can and should study religion. I'm reading this tome in advance of seeing Dennett speak at the upcoming Freedom From Religion conference. I'm also simultaneously reading a self-help book entitled Getting Real: Ten Truth Skills You Need to Live an Authentic Life. This book knowingly incorporates a lot of Zen type thinking and applies it to being more honest in the moment. It sometimes veers into typically sentimentalist self-help territory, but there are some good communication skills to be gleaned from it.

Getting Real and Breaking the Spell . . . it's all about the truth baby. The truth is out there and it will set you free. At least until truth gets redefined by the corporate powers that pull the puppet strings of our meager existence. Meanwhile I need to seriously consider getting to bed. I promise more inane blog posts soon.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Time For Some Weezer

The band Weezer was formed way back in 1993 by songwriter/bandleader Rivers Cuomo. Their sound might best be defined as "power pop," similar to bands like Cheap Trick and Fountains of Wayne. Cuomo was raised in Massachusetts, but moved to Los Angeles in the late 80's to attend college. Periodically over the years Cuomo has taken a hiatus from the band to return to Harvard to further his education. Three of Weezer's six albums have been eponymous releases, distinguished and forever known by the color of the album cover. Hence the latest release is known as The Red Album. I acquired this album just last week and I haven't had much time to listen to it at length and at the proper volume (11.) But from what I have already heard it sounds like their most solid effort in years. Keep in mind that I'm not a Weezer fanatic by any means and know them mostly from their Spike Jonze videos, which helped propel their debut album superstar status. But they seemed to have a problem over the years maintaining that level of visibility. Cuomo has been known to be a recluse, which probably just means that he chooses to avoid the insanity that commonly goes hand-in-hand with the entertainment business.

Below are a couple of videos from Weezer. The video for the song Pork and Beans is especially good, but YouTube is preventing users from embedding the video, but here's the link. The video features many "stars" of the YouTube channel.

Say It Ain't So from Weezer's debut album, also known as The Blue Album

An acoustic version of Troublemaker, which is the first track on the latest album by Weezer.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Computer Woes Be Gone

A few days ago I was prompted when I opened iTunes to download the latest version, so being the automaton that I am I said “yes, send me the latest version of your praiseworthy program.” I then hooked up my iPod to download a Frank Zappa disc into it. It was at that point that my iTunes froze up and continued to freeze up every time I connected my iPod to it. My computer was seeing my iPod (affectionately named eXistenZ), but whatever my new version of iTunes saw in my precious eXistenZ caused it into go some type of autistic deep freeze. Well tonight it seems that my iTunes problem seems to have fixed itself. Well, that's not entirely true. I tried downloading a previous version, but that wouldn't even open and it scolded me, because my computer had some file from a newer version of iTunes. So I uninstalled that version and reinstalled the latest version. I hooked up my iPod and it froze again. Just on a whim I put in a Frank Zappa CD to see if the iTunes might see it. Keep in mind that the program was frozen. Well the disc seems to have cured some unknown digital ailment, because all of a sudden it saw the iPod and started syncing with it. It was actually kind of romantic. Like long lost lovers reuniting (even though it had only been a couple of days.) This was after researching for days for possible solutions and trying many different variations on a theme.

I have less than one-hundred pages to read in Mitch Cullin’s A Slight Trick of the Mind. It’s a novel featuring a ninety-three year old Sherlock Holmes, wandering through his gardens and tending to his bees. There are some mystery elements — after all it does star the great detective himself, Sherlock Holmes — but for the most part it’s a meditation on aging and the fragility of memory. How does Holmes, the once great cogitator, handle losing his acute sense of logic and intellect? I’m quite enjoying A Slight Trick of the Mind and am pleasantly surprised that it’s more than just a light entertainment.

My parents arrive from Massachusetts tomorrow afternoon. We figure that they will both be quite exhausted after that long tortuous trip known as a cross-continental flight. Our game plan is to stop at Marie Callender’s for some good wholesome American food and then get them settled into the Extended Stay America just off Aurora. After getting them checked we’ll head to a nearby park to attend the baby shower of a friend, who is expecting her first child in early September. By then we should all be exhausted . . . except Justin. He’ll probably still be awake and ready to rock and roll when we finally arrive back home. Ah, the vim and verve of a two-year-old

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Iceland and Izzard

Today I started reading the novel Iceland by Jim Krusoe and got more than halfway through it before the day was done. I got the book free when I was a bookseller. One of attractions of the novel is the fact that it’s published by Dalkey Archive. They’re just a really cool press that publishes a lot of international fiction. Iceland is a very strange tale about Paul, whose doctor recommends that he shop for a new organ, because his has a mysterious degenerative disease. When he enters the building that houses the available organs he instantly and feverishly falls in love with Emily, whose job is to swim with the organs to keep them stimulated. [Major Spoilers Ahead] Soon Paul is impulsively taking a trip to Iceland with his Leo, who had recently cleaned Paul’s living room carpet. Valerie, Leo’s wife of twenty-five years and a alcoholic kleptomaniac, has recently died and they had always meant to go to Iceland. Leo explains that Valerie was some sort of “Icelandophile” and he had purchased two tickets to Iceland just before she died. Paul, feeling somewhat put off by Emily, decides that a week long trip to Iceland may be just what he needs. Unfortunately, soon after they arrive Leo dies when he falls into an active volcano. During that tragic side trip, Paul falls in love with their guide, Greta. Greta and Paul marry and have two kids, Inga and Ingo. Soon the marriage runs into trouble though, when Greta has an affair with her Icelandic Sagas teacher. In order to reaffirm their marriage and family, Paul decides to take the family to the final resting place of Ragnar, Iceland’s greatest saga writer. Ragnar’s final wish was to be interred in the center of Iceland within a block of ice. While visiting this dingy and icy tomb, Paul’s wife and children are killed in an avalanche. Paul manages to take shelter beneath a nearby overhanging rock and survives to grieve the loss. I have a feeling that the last half of the book will be just as bizzare.

Last night I finished reading Death by Black Hole by Neil deGrasse Tyson, which was a pleasant diversion from some of the heavier reading I’ve been doing lately. Tyson has a goofy sense of humor and does a good job presenting some very complex ideas to the layman (me!) Now if I can get back to regularly watching my science courses from Great Courses, some of this stuff (black holes, supernovas, anti-matter, and so forth) may start to make sense.

Part of the reason that I plowed through half of Iceland today is because I’m looking forward to reading some more great nonfiction. With my parents visiting in just over a week though, it seems to make sense to stick to light reading until they’re gone. For some reason I think my powers of concentration will be lessened by their proximity.

Tomorrow night Jen and I will be seeing Eddie Izzard perform at the Paramount downtown. We saw him do his Sexie tour a couple of years back and were disappointed. We had seen many of his previous shows on DVD and were impressed with his witty barbs aimed at politics and religion. The Sexie show lacked any of that wit and instead concentrated on Eddie’s recent acquisition of life-like removable fake breasts to wear beneath his clothing. I’ve read some of the reviews of the current tour and I’m excited to report that it sounds like he will be back to skewering religion with his humor and wit. I’m hoping for exceptional show, because Bill Maher happens to be performing the same evening, and I don’t want to walk away wishing I’d seen him instead.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

A Plethora of Clint Eastwood

My parents will be arriving for their visit two weeks from tomorrow. My mother has already decided that they would pack everything they need in two carry-on bags. This decision was prompted by some airline’s new policy of charging for all checked luggage. Keep in mind that they will be staying for two weeks. She called a few days ago very concerned, because she had just heard that the airlines were now going to charge $15 for each carry-on bag. She was thinking of sending their carry-on bags by UPS instead, because it would be cheaper. I implored her not to worry and that it probably wasn’t even true. And if she was that concerned that I would pay the $15 dollar bag fee. She then brought up the possibility that they would be charged a second time when they changed planes in Detroit. Oy Vey! We have them booked at the Extended Stay America just off of Aurora, because we no longer have a guest room; and because we’re determined to keep our sanity. I just hope that the hotel is far enough away from where the hookers hang out on Aurora. We’re actually quite looking forward to their visit. I think it’s important for them to have some quality time with Justin. During their stay we’ll be taking a three-night trip to Vancouver Island. When I first saw Butchart Gardens my first thought was how much my parents would love the place. We’ll also be taking in a Mariners vs. Red Sox game while they’re in town. I know my dad will be thrilled to be able to see his Red Sox play. It’s nearly impossible for mere mortals to get tickets to a Red Sox game in Fenway these days.

I think I can safely say that I have a plethora of Clint Eastwood movies on DVD now. Jen was nice enough to give me the Ultimate Dirty Harry box set for my birthday last month. The set includes a two-disc edition of the original classic and plus the four sequels it spawned. It also contains a bonus disc with the documentary Clint Eastwood: Out of the Shadows. Besides the discs there is other ephemera such as a 40-page hardcover retrospective book, replica wallet and police ID, Scorpio poster and San Francisco map detailing the manhunt, six collectible art cards, and production letters. Quite a little box of goodies for the Dirty Harry fan. Also released on DVD recently were a couple of reasonably priced Clint Eastwood triple-features. One of them contains Every Which Way But Loose/Any Which Way You Can/Honkytonk Man and the other set includes Firefox /The Gauntlet/The Rookie. I couldn’t resist them for $15 each at Best Buy. I now have twenty films starring Clint Eastwood on DVD. I also have Letters From Iwo Jima, that Eastwood directed. There are a few films in there that I’ve never seen, including the last couple of Dirty Harry sequels. If I intentionally passed it over then it’s probably not worth wasting two hours with. But who knows? One day I may actually have some extra time and I can spend it watching Clint Eastwood’s worst films.

And now here's something we hope you'll really like . . .

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Goodbye Kittykins

Yesterday was the day we “put my cat to sleep.” I had adopted Kittykins about six months before I met my wife Jennifer and at the time we guessed her age at about two. So we estimate that she was about 16-years-old. That translates to approximately 80 in equivalent human years. She was feisty right up until the end. On her last day of life she escaped from the backyard (which is fenced) to the front yard (which is not) three times. She was the only cat that was allowed to lounge outside in the sunshine. She’s also the only cat we have that has had her portrait painted. She still has two eyes in the painting, although she lost one of her eyes to a some mysterious ocular degenerative disease. Most of her teeth were gone, although she sometimes would grab a hunk of our dog Molly’s food to chew on. She was always picked on by our two male cats Bobby and Lyle, but she stood her ground. She didn’t take any shit from anyone.

It was tough letting her go yesterday. I knew that her kidneys had been failing for a while. My hope was to have Jen bring some euthanasia solution home and we could let Kittykins go, while she laid in the sunny backyard. Unfortunately death sneaks up on us. All of a sudden yesterday Kittykins was noticeably worse. Jen took her into the local emergency clinic and found that her kidney values were horrible. We could perk her up with a couple of days fluid and rest and then have to give her sub-q fluids daily and even with those measures we could only hope for a few more months of life. I didn’t want to see her suffer, so I made the decision to end her life before she went downhill any more. Hell, she only weighed five pounds yesterday! So, I said my goodbyes and left the exam room before the doctor injected the euthanasia solution into the IV catheter.

Now the house seems so quiet without her meow. She used to sit on the dining room table and beg for canned cat food, only to eat a few nibbles. And I keep looking for her out of the corner of my eye, feeling like I should let her inside before it gets dark. She was my cat for fifteen years. I’m going to miss her.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Dinner and a Movie

It was dinner and a movie night for us tonight. This was our week to drop Justin off at his friend’s house for a few hours, so that Jen and I can get out and do something fun sans child. Tonight we had dinner at Pancho Villa’s (They changed the name to Mr. Villa’s quite a while back, but I refuse to recognize the change for political reasons.) After dinner we drove north to see “In Bruges” at the Crest Theatre. It was the second time I had seen it, but I was happy to see it again with Jen. I’m sure it will end up in my frivolous top ten list at the end of the year.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Goodbye George Carlin

George Carlin, legendary comedian and witty observer of social mores, died Sunday at the age of 71. Below is a clip of his legendary "Seven Words" act. Enjoy.

Friday, June 20, 2008

"Hey Hugo!"

Yesterday was Thursday, which meant that I had someone to watch Justin for five hours. It’s a weekly thing now, which enables me to catch a movie once in a while, or to attend a freethinker’s meet-up. Last night I saw The Visitor at the Harvard Exit. This is the second film written and directed by Tom McCarthy, whose wonderful debut film was The Station Agent, which I’ve seen at least a half dozen times by now. The Visitor is a wonderfully quiet film about a college professor, who drives down from Connecticut to New York City to give a talk at a conference, only to find that his apartment in NYC had been illegally rented to a couple about two months before. The couple staying at his apartment are illegal aliens: a woman from Senegal and a man from Syria. Like The Station Agent, The Visitor keeps its story focused on the relationships that build between these people from disparate backgrounds. A musical friendship is formed between the stodgy widowed professor and the young man from Syria, who happens to play the drum. I can see why this film has been at the Harvard Exit for over two months now. It’s a special film that reveals the human side of Homeland Security’s crackdown on illegal immigrants.

I’m about one-hundred pages into Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Death by Black Hole. I keep thinking that I’ll set it aside at some point to start a novel, but I can’t seem to decide on what fiction I want to read next. Tyson’s book of essays is a nice diversion before I delve into something heavy like the shady past of John McCain (The Real McCain), or another book on religious history and criticism. I enjoyed reading a couple of classics recently (Wuthering Heights and All Quiet on the Western Front), but I cannot seem to decide on what novel to read next. I keep browsing through various titles like Was by Geoff Ryman, Peace by Gene Wolfe, and other books that are lying about my room.

I have two films from Netflix to watch soon. One is The Other Boleyn Girl and the other is Eagle vs. Shark. As much as I like (is “lust” a more apt term?) both Scarlet Johansson and Natalie Portman, I think I may just skip The Other Boleyn Girl. It was more my wife Jen that wanted to see it. I’m more psyched to see Eagle vs. Shark, now that I’ve become a fan of the HBO series Flight of the Conchords.

I gave Justin a bath tonight and he seemed ready to go to bed afterwards. He’s still lying in bed, listening to his new audio version of the Frog and Toad tales by Arnold Lobel. I have expected him to be awake until nine or ten tonight, since he slept for about three and a half hours today, but he seems ready to sleep. He did wake up at five this morning, which was about three hours too early for his daddy. We went to the library earlier today and stopped at the toddler playground, which is situated behind the library. There were a couple of three-year-old boys there (“We’re almost four!”) who had been playing with an imaginary friend named “Hugo.” When Justin arrived they claimed that he was “Hugo” and proceeded to call him that for the remainder of the time they were there. Their mother tried in vain to get them to say “Goodbye Justin” when they left, but they insisted on “Hugo.” I found it quite funny myself.