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.