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.