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.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Book Buying on my Birthday

Usually I don’t need a reason to go shopping for books, but because today is my birthday it seemed appropriate to indulge myself a little today. I started my day with a game plan, figuring on hitting the University Bookstore for some new titles and Half-Price Books for some used bargains. A had a list of a dozen or so titles, but there were four in particular that I was expecting to find at the U Bookstore and I wasn’t disappointed. I walked out with Kluge by Gary Marcus, Your Inner Fish: A Journey Into the 3.5 Billion Year History of the Human Body by Neil Shubin, Please Don’t Remain Calm by Michael Kinsley and The Crowd Sounds Happy: A Story of Love Madness and Baseball by Nicholas Dawidoff. I also found a copy of Steven Pinker’s Words and Rules on the remainder table. Before heading over to Half-Price books I stopped at Aladdin Falafel on University Ave. and had a chicken gyro. After lunch I made a quick stop at Cellophane Square and picked up copies of Ayo - Joyful, Lizz Wright - The Orchard, Merle Haggard - The Bluegrass Sessions and I finally found a used copy of Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica. At Half-Price I found a few more bargains, including the Norton Critical Editions of Dickens’ Hard Times and Hardy’s Tess. I spent the evening with a bottle of Goo Gone, removing the annoying Half-Price stickers.

I celebrated my birthday with Jen and Justin last night, since Jen started her work week tonight. They made a chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting for me, with Justin doing the majority of the decorating. He also enjoyed eating the cake and couldn’t stop moaning in delight as he chewed. Justin crashed fairly early yesterday, having not taken a nap, so he didn’t get to help me unwrap my gifts from Jen. I received a nice Woolrich rain jacket, in green of course. I also got a new timepiece to carry in my pocket. I’ve never worn a watch, but I’ve always had some type of clock, digital or otherwise in my pocket to depend on. She also got me a documentary I specifically requested called The Atheism Tapes. The two discs are comprised of six interviews that had been conducted by Jonathan Miller for his BBC documentary called A Brief History of Disbelief. Last night I watched the interviews with Colin McGinn, Steven Weinberg and Daniel C. Dennett. Miller prompts some great discussions from his subjects. This set makes a nice companion to The Four Horsemen DVD, which I bought earlier in the year.

The titles I’ve been bringing home from my book buying excursions are evidence of my current state of mind. It used to be a rare occasion when I read a nonfiction book, and then it was usually related to nature or Buddhism. Now the first sections I check out in bookstores are science, religion and politics. I’m craving knowledge and truth and have even started to watch home courses from the Great Teaching Company. I still love reading a great novel. Something that I can lose myself in for a few weeks, or a month. But lately I’ve been craving something more than I can glean from fiction, even in the best literature. I don’t want to fade into old age and senility without having made an honest effort to try and figure out this world I find myself in. Being a new parent with a young child, who is just about at the age when he will start to ask a lot of questions about the world around him, has also prompted me to try and educate myself a little further. It also just feels mentally invigorating to start to tackle some of the big questions in life, and to do that research involved in that type of quest.

So, I have more books for my overflowing shelves, but not any more time with which to read them with. Oh well. That’s the curse of every avid reader: There’s just never enough time for the multitude of books to be read. Tonight I could have been finishing Wuthering Heights, but instead I chose to watch They Live by Night, starring Farley Granger and directed by Nicholas Ray (Johnny Guitar and Rebel Without a Cause.) It was a great little noir film from 1948 based on the novel Thieves Like Us, by Edward Anerson. Robert Altman filmed a version of the novel in 1974, starring Keith Carradine and Shelly Duvall. They Live by Night is notable for being the directorial debut of Nicholas Ray, who biggest claim to fame was directing James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause.