Monday, January 25, 2010

At a Loss...

It's not so much that I'm at a loss for words. It's more a lack of time really. Isn't that always the story? My son stays here on Monday night, and his habit of late has been getting up at 5:30 am, and requesting a game of Zingo, or the "fighting game"between Cars characters. You'd be surprised how easy it is to play the "fighting game" while half-asleep. He loves the Zingo game. It's like bingo, but it matches things like a house, or a tree instead of letters and numbers.

My son had his 4th birthday party on Sunday afternoon. There was a gaggle of toddlers milling about, choosing different activities to occupy their time. I stayed for an hour, and during that time I did not witness any meltdowns, or fights. Justin was quite tired, and a little overwhelmed by all the guests, but he held up well. He even got his second wind after all the guests left, and was able to try out many of his new gadgets.

Justin's life is already filled with gadgets, and he's constantly asking to use the computer. I have to be on the lookout, because he changes things in an instant. I realized the other day that some of my icons were missing. It was let icons be bygones. He drags and drops things where they shouldn't be. And this is on my new computer no less. Things will be a little different starting next week when I move into a house with an office. There will have to be a secret knock or password for admittance into my office.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Iced Tea and Frank Zappa, with a Dose of Ornette Coleman for Good Measure

Iced tea and Frank Zappa. Two sure fire ways to wind down from the work day. I have found over the years, that listening to discordant music ( I would prefer "pleasantly discordant") when I'm suffering from an unusually high level of stress is actually very comforting. There are those that find Frank Zappa's music a little jarring, especially his instrumental pieces. Some of Zappa's influences include Edgard Varèse, and Igor Stravinsky, R&B and doo-wop groups, and jazz artists such as Eric Dolphy and Ornette Coleman. I remember lying in bed awake during the adoption process that gave us our beautiful son; listening to the music of Ornette Coleman greatly helped to ease the anticipation and stress about the unknown. It was almost as if the battling sax and horn on the album "Science Fiction" matched the irregular rhythms of my own stress level and they cancelled each other out, leaving me calm and relaxed. Something like that anyway.

I saw Ornette Coleman in performance with Pat Metheny at the Berklee School of Music in Boston. It must have been 1986, or 87. I went with a good friend of mine, who was a fan of Pat Metheny. Metheny and Coleman were performing tracks off their collaborative work, "Song X." By the end of the show the music had taken me to heights much higher than the balcony I was seated in. I had never heard of Ornette Coleman, but on that night I felt that I had seen a musical god. I had heard jazz before, but not the world of jazz in which Ornette Coleman lived. My friend's response was at the other end of the scale. He was used to the more pleasant melodies of Pat Metheny and his composing partner Lyle Mays. Sometimes you hear their music on the Weather Channel.

As far as iced tea goes: my commercial brand of choice lately has been Lipton "Pure Leaf™" iced tea with lemon. It's sweetened, of course, but not obnoxiously so like Snapple©. I prefer my iced tea unsweetened with lemon. Shaken not stirred. And if you want it right you've got to do it yourself. I remember at the end of last summer, a co-worker called to ask how one could tell when sun tea was done. Hmm. That's a good question.

I don't know if Ornette Coleman drinks iced tea, but he has lived long enough to be recognized as a musical genius, instead of a pariah, as he was early in his career. On February 11, 2007, Ornette Coleman was honored with a Grammy award for lifetime achievement. His music is still relatively unknown in his own country though. Here is an excellent piece on Ornette Coleman. It's in two parts.





Just for the heck of it...click on the Snapple© link. Go ahead. What harm can it do?

Changes

I woke up this morning with a Yes song in my head: "Changes." There are major changes afoot in my life right now. Of course, there have been major changes in my life throughout the last year (divorce, new job, new residence, new Significant Other.) My next "major change" involves moving once again. This time I will be moving into a house with my new Significant Other (owner of the Pink Robe.) It also appears that I will instantly becoming part of a new family, because my S.O. will also be bringing along two of her children. They are both nearly grown and out of the house, but in this economy it may be a few more years (decades?) before they are out on their own. The house we will be renting is also bigger than my little subterranean abode. I will have my own office! That means peace and serenity for all, at least in that little household.

Now back to Yes. I've always been a fan of the British prog rock band, but I only saw them once live, and that was the tour for "90125," which also happens to be the zip code I moved from last. This tour was minus Steve Howe, which still depresses me. Instead we had Trevor Rabin on lead guitar. In my humble opinion, Rabin wasn't qualified to carry Steve Howe's guitar case. Other than that the show was entertaining in a pop music sort of way. The "90125" album is infectious, but is closer in musicality to the band Asia -- which included Steve Howe and Carl Palmer in their lineup oddly enough -- than to the heady progressive melodies of Yes.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

For the Record

Scott Brown, former Playgirl model and current tea bagger, has squeaked out a win in Massachusetts. It's slightly hard to believe that he will be the next elected senator after Edward Kennedy, but the results are in, and Coakley has conceded. Let me just state for the record that I am glad that I do not live in Massachusetts anymore. I will not even bother to call my parents to needle them about the results. It's not worth it. In a country where Rush Limbaugh,Glenn Beck, and the Queen of Stupidity herself, Sarah Palin, get more airtime than your average intelligent person, it's no longer "What's the Matter with Kansas?" but more like did 8 years of the crass criminality of the Bush administration turn us into a nation of idiots? Maybe so...maybe so.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

I Have Returned

It has been over a week since I last posted, and that was a cheat; putting up a video instead of writing a full post. If I remember correctly I was counting down the days until my three day weekend on the coast. I returned from the Olympic Peninsula on Tuesday afternoon after a wonderful three days in a cabin by the sea. We even had high wind warnings and driving rain while we were there, ensconced in our cozy cabin. We kept the room quite warm with the wood stove, but my pink-robed Significant Other brought an electric blanket for good measure. She is okay with roughing it, but she has her limits.

It seems that most of my visits to Kalaloch in recent years have been rewarded with bald eagle sightings. This time was no exception. We were sitting at a vacant campsite, watching the tide roll in, when a huge eagle swooped up from the beach. He appeared to peek into our car as he soared up into the higher reaches. The flock of seagulls left behind seemed pedestrian compared to the great raptor.

We ate at the Kalaloch Lodge one night, but it was quite pricey. I'm just a measly bookstore employee. When the meals start to price out at a hundred dollars than it's time to start eating crackers and cheese in the cabin. Luckily we came prepared with a plethora of snack foods. Our bluff cabin didn't come with a kitchenette, but we still managed to heat some things on the wood stove.

Today I have a day to myself. A tweaking of the schedule brought my son back to his mom's house last night instead of this afternoon. I may post again later, but I have the entire day, which gives me plenty of opportunities to fill it with productive things, like cleaning the bathroom...or reclining on the couch and reading "Pride and Prejudice." Hmm, I wonder which I will choose?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

WTF?

Is it just me, or do Christians have a persecution complex? Why are they constantly complaining about bias against them? Their leaders live lavish lifestyles tax-free. They are able to commit adultry and find forgiveness more easily than in other religions. This is straight from the theologically wise mouth of Brit Hume.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Countdown to Kalaloch

Two more days of work, and then I'm off for four days. Three of those days will be spent in a cabin by the sea. It's romantic. It's peaceful. And it's out of cell phone range. There is a payphone booth behind the general store. I bought five books tonight with the rationalization that I needed books to peruse this weekend. I'm nearly a hundred pages into Pride and Prejudice, and I'm enjoying it, but I need some extended reading time. There will be plenty of time to lounge about and read this weekend in a cabin by the sea. I love being by the ocean in midwinter. For one thing it's less crowded, and there is just something more wild about the sea in the winter. It's the season of storms. That's when drift logs kill! You've got to look out for those sneaky bastards!

For the past week I have been loading music into my computer. The big reason for purchasing this new PC was to have more room for music. I went from a measly 110GB to 1TB. I was also given a new iPod recently, which has double the space I had in my previous version. So I've been poring through my folders of CDs, looking for fresh tunes. And to be able to take all this music with me this weekend is a real luxury. I don't mind doing without a TV, or phone, but three days without music is an awful quiet three days.

Well, it's past midnight, and I have to decide whether I want to watch "The Hangover" for the third time in a week and a half, or read a few chapters of Pride and Prejudice. Vulgar high jinks versus Victorian high jinks. It's a tough choice.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

"The Hangover" and "Avatar"

I've seen two very good films in the past week: "The Hangover" and "Avatar." One is a gritty reality based film, and the other one is directed by James Cameron. "Avatar" costs over $300 million to make, but the majority of that is up there on the big screen, especially if you're wearing 3-D glasses while watching it. "Avatar" was an amazing and ground-breaking film visually. The special effects were seamless, and innovative. The storyline on the other hand was right out of some politically correct B-movie. We cannot really expect much more from the writer and director of "Titanic." Why is his ego so big that he refuses to hire a professional screenwriter? He is an amazing director of technical films, that show off the latest and greatest in CGI; but his stories are simplistic Manichean views of the world (universe.) Luckily, the eye candy onscreen distracts you from the fact that the story is the same-old same-old. All that being said, "Avatar" is a four-star movie for the visual effects alone. This is a film to see on the big screen, and preferably in 3-D. Think about the lame storyline later.

I kept intending to see "The Hangover" in the theater, and I easily could have, because it was at a theater mere blocks away for months. I bought it when it was released on DVD, believing the hype and reviews that it would live up to my expectations. It's another in a recent spate of successful R-rated comedies. This was in not connected to Judd Apatow, but it has that feel. It doesn't back away from edgy adult humor and succeeds hands-down. I was never a fan of the Farrelly Brothers films ("Dumb & Dumber," "There's Something About Mary,) because I thought they were both vulgar and juvenile. Fart jokes only go so far, unless you happen to be four-years-old. The Apatow related comedies of recent years are both funny and smart. And one other thing they have in common is a heart. Films like "Superbad" and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" have their poignant moments, and that's because the writing makes you care about the characters.

"The Hangover" is -- on the surface -- your typical R-rated comedy aimed at college-age, beer-drinking males. (Four guys head to Las Vegas for a bachelor party.) Where is rises above that genre is in the inventiveness of its storytelling; and its straight-out laugh 'til-you-cry funny. Some of the funniest bits involve a baby, but it's not used as a gimmick for cute "Aw" moments from the audience. If anything it plays against that, even off-handedly referring to "Three Men and a Baby" at one point. Basically, guys wake up after a night of hard partying in Las Vegas and do not remember a thing. They must trace their steps from the night before and try find the groom of the party, because he's missing. Justin Bartha plays Doug Billings, the missing groom. He's kind of the Zeppo to the other funny Marx Brothers. Thankfully, he's off screen for the majority of the movie. Not only is the groom missing, but there is a chicken strutting about the room, and a baby in the closet.

"The Hangover" is definitely a disc to rent, if not own. And "Avatar" is without a doubt a film (like last summer's "Star Trek") to be enjoyed on the big screen.

Friday, January 1, 2010

And So It Begins...

The new year has begun. Now we all have to start remembering to write 2010 on our dated documents. The bookstore was open regular hours, because there is nothing that Americans like to do more on holidays then go shopping. That is why we have things like Memorial Day and Veteran's Day sales. The holiday becomes just becomes another reason to consume. There does not seem to be any national holiday where everyone takes the day off. Ironically, many folks have to work on Labor Day. Most years I work on Veteran's Day, even though I'm a veteran.

The American culture of useless consumption is much more evident when one works in retail. One thing I've learned: The customer is not always right. And sometimes they are actually insane. Downright certifiable. The whole Black Friday thing -- people getting up before sunrise in order to take advantage of a sale -- is something I'll never understand. Remember George W. Bush's advice to the country after 9/11? Go shopping. And people think Obama is the anti-Christ? Insane.

I suppose I'm a snob in some person's mind, because I consider working in a bookstore to be a higher calling, at least in the world of retail. It's always fun to commune with other book lovers. I wish more people would read outside of their safety zone. I keep a log of every book I have ever read, and I'm happy to see a progression of sorts. Over the years I have been reading more classics, philosophy and science. The whole idea of reading a science book used to intimidate me. Now I just take what I can get out of it, and not worry about the rest. Gradually, the more I read on certain topics, the more concepts start to become clear.

I was asked by a co-worker the other day if I made New Year's resolutions. I scoffed and said no. She chuckled and said that she didn't think I was that type of person. I took it as a compliment. If one is going to vow to change some part of their life, why wait to do it on one day of the year? It's like only being thoughtful and generous on Christmas. But there is always the Christmas in July sales!

* * * *

The last year was filled with changes for me, including divorce, new housing, new job, and a new relationship. Those are all pretty high up there on the stress charts. I have still more changes ahead. Life is filled with changes, but sometimes it's just more noticeable. Overall, I'd say that I've been quite happy with the changes in my life over the past year. I'll be mentally and emotionally adjusting to these changes for some time to come, but I smile a lot more these days and that's important. I have a beautiful son, who will be turning 4 in a few weeks. I'm quite happy to be back at Ravenna Third Place, but most of all there is a certain owner of a particular pink robe who continues to fill my days with joy.

For those of you, who enjoy the symbolism of the New Year, have a happy and safe one.