Tuesday, December 27, 2005

It's gonna be light

Blogging, that is. Expect some light blogging for the next week or so. My computer's on the blink -- I think it's the motherboard -- and so I'm currently writing on my 4 year old's computer sitting on her little chair at her little table. So don't expect much. But fear not, I shall return soon.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Ailing Christmas tree


Well, thanks to our cats, our Christmas tree has had a stroke. The above picture isn't the greatest (click to see a bigger view -- it's hard to get a picture of Christmas lights no matter how hard you try) but the entire upper right hand side has no lights any longer. And I sure can't figure out what the hell happened. A part of me doesn't even want to fix it -- exceptional amount of work for only one more week till Christmas -- but I suppose I probably will.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Brokeback backlash begins

I kinda figured it wouldn't take long for the right-wing in this country to come out swinging against Brokeback Mountain now that it's racked up some impressive critics' awards and is all but assured a bevy of nominations at this year's Academy Awards. I had read somewhere that conservative groups were deliberately not fanning the flames of controversy as to not draw too much attention to the story's gay plotline. But once awards started getting heaped upon it, they had no other choice.

I wonder how many of the people speaking out against it have actually seen the movie. I've read the short story upon which the movie is based and let me tell you, while the story is definitely about two gay ranch hands, there's so much more to it than that. It's about relationships, it's about the inevitable heartbreak that comes from trying to be something that you're not. It's about how even had Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist had the words to express their feelings for each other, the societal mores of the time would have squashed them like a bug. But ultimately, to me, the story is about missed opportunity, and how much it can hurt when the opportunity you missed was true love.

I'm lucky -- I get to spend every day with the woman that I love more than anyone in the world (with the possible exception of my daughter, who I love in a completely different way.) But I think that for so many people in this world, gay or straight or somewhere in between, true love misses them, whether by a mile or an inch. In the short story, the ache just emanates off the page. I couldn't help but feel pain and heartbreak for Ennis and Jack. I won't let Heidi read the story before we see the movie because I think that the movie experience might be diluted for her if she knows specific plot points.

I really wish there was more tolerance in this country. I mean, I'm by no means the most tolerant person in the world -- my feelings toward the extreme right-wing and "religious" right in this country would mark me as a liar were I to make that claim. But I just hope that someday people will realize that love is love, and the validity and importance of that love is not cheapened or less valuable by who they choose to love.

Blogging 2005


This image has been making the rounds in the blogosphere, but it doesn't make it any less funny. My personal favorite -- I'M THIRTEEN AND EVERYTHING SUCKS!!

Monday, December 12, 2005

How many copies do I really need to own?

Madonna, how much of my money are you eventually going to get from your Confessions on a Dance Floor project? I bought the regular CD the day it was released because I wanted the continuous mix, but I also wanted instant gratification that morning so I bought the unmixed version of the CD on iTunes for $9.99. Overall, that only cost me $20.00 because the CD was on sale at Target for 10 bucks.

I vowed that I wouldn't purchased the limited edition that's coming out tomorrow. Even though it has a bonus track "Fighting Spirit." And a year long membership to her official fan club ICON which would gain me access to yet another bonus track called "Super Pop." And I'm not one to join fan clubs because they're mostly just ways to suck money out of fans. Additionally, I'd get the 40 page book with more photos from the photo shoot.

*sigh* I guess she'll probably get more of my money. But I'll wait to see if someone buys it for me for Christmas first as I told Heidi that's a good thing to tell people to get me if they're having trouble. That way, Madonna would get someone else's money for a change!

Christmas time is here

We got all our Christmas stuff up last weekend and it's nice to actually have snow this year. Anna has no concept of the fact that Christmas is still two weeks away so she continually asks "Is it Christmas yet?" She loves the ornaments and Heidi and I love getting them out every year because it's like a trip down memory lane each year. Rather than being all anal and having deliberate themes for our tree every year (I remember one year my mom didn't have anything but Santa ornaments on her tree), we enjoy having the mishmash of ornaments that we have. It really represents us--a mishmash of all our life histories.

I don't really want much for Christmas and have had tons of fun shopping for people this year. Anna's so easy to shop for and everyone just showers stuff on her as she's the only grandchild in either of our families. I asked her to pose by the tree for me when we put it up, so here she is in Santa hat and everything.



Into Thin Air

I finished reading Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air last week. It was an amazingly fast read--truly one of those books that I couldn't put down, staying up way too late because I just had to read to the end of the chapter. I'm not sure what got me to pick up this book in the first place--I'm not really all that much of a fan of stories with guys climbing mountains acting all macho, not really being a macho mountain-climbing type of guy myself. Perhaps it was the $1.00 price tag at 1/2 Price Books in Minneapolis--that combined with the fact that I had really enjoyed Krakauer's book on Mormon fundamentalism, Under The Banner of Heaven. Whatever the reason, I read it and sure am glad that I did.

The story takes place in 1996, with Krakauer joining a guided expedition to the top of Mt. Everest. However, during that season, a freak storm came upon their expedition on their way down the mountain, resulting in the deadliest season on the mountain since it was first summitted in 1953. Krakuer, being a seasoned climber, goes into great detail about the specifics of the climb and you meet a colorful cast of characters (mostly the macho, mountain-climbing type guys.) Although there are a lot of characters, I never really found myself wondering "OK, now who is that again?" as is common in a lot of books such as this. And although there is a lot of techincal mountain climbing jargon, I never found it difficult to understand what Krakauer was talking about.

Krakauer (obviously) survived his encounter with Everest, but many people that he considered friends didn't make it. Krakauer's "survivor's remorse" was heartbreaking. But then again, I'm always impressed with men that aren't afraid of their emotions. And even though Krakauer strikes me as the macho, mountain-climbing type, there were also some very touching parts of the book as well.

It will never pass for high art, but Into Thin Air is an amazingly great read and I highly recommend it. After finishing it, I Netflixed the TV movie version of it. I wasn't expecting much (heck, it was 90 minutes and the book is 300 pages!) and on it's own merits, it wasn't bad, but as most movie adaptations of books go, it just can't compare.

Friday, December 09, 2005

2005 Song

As usual, I don't usually go for these online quiz things, but this one's clever.

Your 2005 Song Is

Hollaback Girl by Gwen Stefani

"This shit is bananas B-A-N-A-N-A-S)"

For you, 2005 was the Best Year Ever.


It's funny, I didn't even like "Hollaback Girl" the first few times I heard it. But like any good pop song, it drove its way into my brain and didn't leave for a good chunk of the summer.

Friday, December 02, 2005

World AIDS Day

This is the Obelisk of Buenos Aires, Argentina--and look what they've done to it for World AIDS Day (which was actually yesterday.)

It really is too bad that AIDS has dropped off the radar for a lot of people. It's still killing people, it's still spreading. Bottom line--the drug cocktail didn't put an end to it.

The book that really made the AIDS epidemic real to me was Randy Shilts' And The Band Played On. While not the most unbiased piece of journalism ever written, it is a riveting read and definitely worth the time it takes to read it. I remember how negligent our government was at the time, in large part because the disease was killing the undesirable components of society. And don't even get me started on the criminal negligence of the nation's blood industry. How many hemophiliacs died needlessly because of them? Read it. It's a great book.

In the meantime, head here and light a candle. For every candle lit, they donate a dollar to AIDS research.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Blog name change

So I've changed the name of the blog -- the URL is still the same, but I felt like I wanted something different, something not so lame and boring. Maybe what I've titled it is just as lame and boring, but at least it's something different.

I'm tired and worn out right now, which isn't good for a Sunday night before a full work week, but I'm sure I'll make it through. Feeling very listless and adrift these days--not sure what that's all about. Time, I'm sure, will tell.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Diana Krall -- Christmas Songs

Well, it's that time of year again, and I've purchased my first Christmas CD of the season. It's Diana Krall's Christmas Songs. I've kind of been itching for Diana to do a full length Christmas CD--the teasers from the Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas EP a few years back were good enough. And besides, it was only a matter of time until someone of her vocal caliber recorded the Christmas standards.

This CD is a pretty decent one -- all the usual suspects are here. "Let It Snow!", "I'll Be Home For Christmas," "Sleigh Ride," and "Jingle Bells" (two versions of "Jingle Bells" on the iTunes version.) She also pulls out some unexpected ones, like "Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep" and "Christmastime Is Here" from A Charlie Brown Christmas. The arrangements, unfortunately, are a little bit more in the vein of The Look Of Love, that is to say, snoozy and orchestral, although she does cut loose one several of the tracks and gives us some good upbeat jazzy Christmas music. But Christmas music is, by definition a little bit on the snoozy side, so the arrangements actually work out all right.

Probably my biggest disappointment is that "Christmastime Is Here" appears to be exactly the same version that was previously on the Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas EP. That being said, I'm not really sure what else she'd do with it other than what she's done, but it does smack a bit of laziness--kind of like Whitney Houston recycling Christmas songs from The Preacher's Wife soundtrack for her Christmas CD a couple years ago.

So it'll get a lot of play this year, although it'll be neck in neck to see what gets more play, Diana or Casey Stratton's Winter Fields.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

And speaking of zombies...

This real life shot (gakked from planetdan) could possibly pass as a shot of zombies out of control.


After looking at that picture, I think I'm glad that I'll be working tomorrow and not out at the mall or any other place like Target or, heaven help us, Wal-Mart. Although I wouldn't mind getting my hands on a copy of Meet The Fockers for 5 bucks at Best Buy. We'll see how that works out.

Land of the Dead

The (relatively few) people that read me regularly (when I'm blogging at all) know that I adore zombie movies. It's really really hard to screw up a zombie movie in my estimation, and I recently Netflixed the latest in Romero's Dead series, Land of the Dead. I missed it in theaters last summer, mostly because I was lazy and didn't get myself out to the dollar theater when it was there ever so briefly, but I don't think I missed out on much watching it on DVD.

The thing that's cool about Romero's Dead series is that even though they are kind of their own stories, they are related to each other. And this is a perfect progression for the zombies. The zombies in Land of the Dead are starting to organize, communicate and are forming the beginnings of an undead society, so to speak. Which is not to say there isn't a great deal of flesh-eating going on in the meantime.

Perhaps the best part of the whole movie comes early on in the movie. While Dawn of the Dead may have had the zombie pie fight (never seen in any zombie movie since), Land of the Dead had the zombie brass band, and I only wish I had a picture of it to post (believe me, I tried to find it--too bad I sent the movie back to Netflix or I'd screen capture it.) Apart from that, we have the story of a Donald Trumpish guy that has boarded up an unnamed American city from the marauding undead hordes, saving the inside of a ritzy skyscraper for the best of society, leaving the rest of the city to get by on its own. Well, you know from the outset that the zombies are going to find a way in and even though you know it's bound to happen, it's still fun watching how it plays out.

It was good to see some classic slow-moving and intestines-chomping zombies after being treated to 28 Days Later (oh, sorry, not zombies, just infected) and the remake of Dawn of the Dead. Both movies were very capable and I own both of them, but there's something about Romero's zombies that you can't compare. And believe me, there was plenty of guts being eaten in this movie. It got to even me at times.

Another plus for the movie--the use of digital effects and blue screen was apparently prevalent according to some of the special features on the DVD, but these effects were not apparent during the movie. It's always good when the effects don't draw attention to themselves and announce their presence as if they're wearing a "look at me! I'm a digital effect!" sign around their neck.

Even though Ryan saw it and wondered what happened to Romero, I still thought it was a capable entry into the series, probably on par or slightly inferior to Dawn of the Dead and definitely superior to Day of the Dead. *sigh* If only they'd called it Dusk of the Dead.

Now's about the time that Heidi would be saying "just how many ...of the Dead movies does the world actually need?" To that, I say (in the immortal words of our ridiculous leader,) bring 'em on.

Turkey Day 2005

I feel as if I'm about to slip into a diabetic coma from all the food I ate today, but oddly enough, I really don't feel as if I've overeaten. I just totally OD'd on sweets, as per usual. God help me, but I just can't get enough of the sweet potatoes! They're definitely my favorite.

It wasn't an overdone holiday this year, just the three of us + Wendy and my mom and dad, but it was fun. Ryan called in the middle of the afternoon and talked to everyone so that was pretty fun. We all settled in after the big meal (and the even bigger clean up which was performed by none other than yours truly) with a viewing of X2: X-Men United which I haven't seen in forever.

So now it's 6:30 and I'm pooped out + I have to work tomorrow and Saturday (but not Sunday.) That's not so bad, I guess. I can't expect to have a 4 day Thanksgiving weekend every year.

Truth be told, I have a lot to be thankful for this year. Our house in Washington is sold (finally), we're probably going to be taking a trip to Europe this spring, and things are mostly on an even keel.

Oh, and it's been the best fall ever for music. But that's another entry altogether.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

I'm still here...

...just not blogging. Haven't felt much like blogging, even though there sure has been a lot to blog about. I guess I'm just not feeling the best right now. Never fear, I'll try to write more later.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Fall is in the air

Not just in the air, I guess. It's pretty much everywhere. The maple tree on the side of the house, which is always the last to turn and lose its leaves did so seemingly overnight. The leaves are coming down in droves now. It's a gorgeous bright yellow. One day I'd love to get one of those maples that turn red. Maybe when we cut down the dying ash in our backyard. Whenever that might happen.

I swear, fall would be my favorite time of the year if it weren't for SAD. It makes it so I barely even notice fall anymore. That and the fact that "fall weather" is such a non-descript term. I mean, it's November 1st here in Iowa, and it's going to be 70 degrees before it's all said and done. Craziness. The day Anna was born (mid-November) it was 80+ degrees! So who knows. To be honest though, fall probably is my favorite time of the year though, in spite of SAD.

But like I've been saying, it's been the best fall ever for music, so in that respect, it's been great. And then I find out that Casey Stratton is going to be releasing 100+ songs for digital download on his web site! How great is that? All those CDs of his that go for astronomical prices on eBay are now available to regular Joes like me who don't have unlimited funds. It's really exciting. I just hope he tours close to here when he goes out on the road again. It was so fun seeing him at the M-shop last April. I'd love another shot at seeing him live. So new Casey, plus his latest CD Divide is shipping next week as well. I'm in heaven.

Well, it's getting close to time to go to work. I'm a bit on the sick side today, so we'll see how it goes. I'm sure I'll make it through.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Amityville Horror


In addition to taking Anna trick-or-treating, Wendy and I watched the 2005 remake of The Amityville Horror. The Amityville Horror was one of the first grown-up books I remember reading. I read it in the 3rd grade--I begged my mom to let me check it out from the library even though I knew it would probably scare me. It goes a long way toward explaining my obsession with things scary. She caved, and sure enough the first night I was too scared to sleep. My friend Kelly remembers me reading it very vividly--she says it's one of her first memories of me--me reading that book and all the flies on it.

While the story was billed as a "true story" at the time, it's pretty much common knowledge that the whole thing was a hoax, a money making scheme by George & Kathy Lutz, the owners of the house for those 28 days. As near as I can tell, the only thing that's true is that Ronald DeFeo, Jr. did kill his family in the house. Everything beyond that, pure fiction. Well, that fiction still scared the hell out of me as a kid. It was made into a movie in 1979 with James Brolin (a/k/a Mr. Barbra Streisand) and Margot Kidder. It wasn't very good, and, to be honest neither is this one, but it was still freaky and had more than a few good scares.

To say that this remake is based on a true story is akin to saying that the movie was based on my life. Even if you take the novel as gospel truth, this film takes a lot of liberties with its source material. First thing, it demonizes George Lutz much more than the house. In the novel, the house is the evil thing. And while it affects all the members of the family, at no point does George go as far over the deep end as he does in this movie. Another disappointment, NO RED ROOM!! Yeah, there's other stuff, but I was really wanting to see the red room again. And it left out all the black gunk in the toilets, the marching band in the living room, the hooded figure that tried to keep them from escaping that final night.

For all the liberties it took with the story, I was shocked to see how well-shot the movie was. It was atmospheric and very "horror-movie-ish" so that worked in it's favor. We enjoyed it enough--not enough for us to wish we had our hour and 29 minutes back, but I'm not sure I ever need to watch it again.

I'll stick to the book. In the meantime, I wonder if Jim and Babs watched the original on Halloween, or if they dug out his other horror flick--The Car.

Another Halloween behind us

So last night was Halloween and I took Anna out trick or treating--actually I did the first part and Heidi did the second part. After much discussion and changing of minds about what she was going to dress as this year (first it was Cher, then it was Wonder Woman) she finally settled on Sleeping Beauty. Although the wig is very Sandy from Grease. Maybe we'll keep the wig around and let her go as that some year. *hehe*

She had a lot of fun--we're lucky because we live in a neighborhood where you can still go door-to-door without fear. People in the neighborhood know each other so it's a real fun time for both kids and parents. Anna was still scared of a lot of the scary costumes, which doesn't surprise me. She's still pretty nervous around scary things--at least things that are scary to her. The most tense moment came when we went to a house where the guy giving out candy was wearing one of those headless costumes. That really freaked her out. So to Anna, guys wearing a headless costume are scary, alien chestburster not so much. She's even named my plush chestburster Durtle and refers to it as her sister. Crazy stuff.

So she got the expected haul of candy and now we'll have enough chocolate in the house to kill a small horse for weeks to come. I'm already sugar overloaded--I think it's pretty much an inevitability come Halloween. I remember so many Halloweens as kids where I ate so much candy that I was sick, but not as bad as the Easters where I ate so much candy prior to the 6AM church service I wanted to be sick. That's put me off Easter candy to this day (except for jellybeans which are still yummy.)

One more picture--here's Anna with her loot. She's looking a little more disheveled here and was about 15 minutes from unconsciousness.


Monday, October 31, 2005

Not sure what to think of this...

It's one of those "spit the coffee across the keyboard" mornings thanks to Post Secret...

What's that all about???

God, I love Post Secret. Even though half the time I wonder if the secrets are made up.

Monday, October 24, 2005

A CD lives up to its title

I've been fond of saying that this is the best fall ever for new music. There's been something new released just about every week in the last couple months that I've been interested in--and it's going to get capped off with Confessions On A Dance Floor on November 15th. But one of the CDs that's been getting all sorts of play on my iPod this fall is Barbra Streisand's new CD, Guilty Pleasures. I was a bit leary of this CD, as she really hasn't released an album that I've liked since 1994's The Concert, and that wasn't even new material! I mean, let's see, we've got 1997's Higher Ground (yawn!), 1999's A Love Like Ours (even more yawns!), 2000's Timeless: The Concert (a pale imitation of 1994's The Concert), 2001's Christmas Memories, and 2003's The Movie Album (how about singing some songs from some movies some of us have actually heard of, Babs?) So needless to say, it's been a rough 11 years for me as far as Barbra's music. Say what you will about her politics, she's definitely got the voice.

And the voice is what shines through on Guilty Pleasures. It's the most successful attempt she's had at a solid pop album since, well, Guilty. The biggest problem with most of Barbra's latter day albums have been all the songs sound the damn same, and while there's a few songs on here that get dangerously close to that, I feel like even the ballads are distinct enough that they don't just blend into one long insipid cheesefest. She clearly benefits from Barry Gibb's songwriting, and even though the production is a little bit to clean and pristine, it's okay because the songs are interesting in and of themselves.

The highlights for me are definitely "Stranger In A Strange Land" and the disco number "Night of My Life." I had given up on ever hearing Barbra cut loos like that again, and even though some argue that the track is a train wreck and that Barbra can't sustain a disco track, she does a pretty good job. Gibb's harmony vocals give her support and she seems to be having fun recording for the first time in forever.

Her perfectionism and pristine production aside, it's a very capable record that definitely exceeded expectations considering her pretty dismal track record over the last 11 years for me.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

First impressions on "Hung Up"--since I know you're all waiting with bated breath.

1) A great sample. It's a perfect example of how a sample should be used--it's there just enough and it's not like it's just Madonna singing over ABBA.
2) A wonderful return to pop music by Madonna--and pop is something she does so effortlessly. Say what you will about American Life, but that album was decidedly not effortless. It's an album that I end up having to make more excuses for than anything else. I think this is going to be decidedly different.
3) I love the throwback to the Prince duet from Like A Prayer--"Time goes by so slowly for those who wait and those who run seem to have all the fun."
4) I think it's going to be huge in the clubs. I still can't quite decide whether radio will pick up on this or not. For her sake, I hope they do. She can't really afford another commercial failure.
5) And I agree with what someone posted on a Madonna message board--"Hung Up" did the impossible--it made "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!" even gayer than it already was. *hehe*

It's been played 5 times on my iPod and 8 times on iTunes. And I'm sure it'll get played a lot more in the weeks to come.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Who knew insanity and murder could be so dang happy?

This is pretty good, and yeah, it's a lame blog post since it's probably on everyone's blog now, but it's still funny.

The Shining Redux

I especially like the use of "Solsbury Hill."

(via Cynical-C Blog)

Monday, October 03, 2005

Chester

Here's Anna playing one of her new favorite games--chester (or even better, sometimes it's just "chest.") It's too funny to correct and I figure, what the hell, she'll figure out it's called chess soon enough. My m-i-l took this picture the last time she was visiting us. We taught her the names of the pieces which she mostly remembers--"look Daddy, this is the pawn--pawn starts with 'p'!!" And the way you play, the black pieces have to go on the black and the white pieces go on the red. Hey whatever works.

Have you seen my civil liberties lately?

I finally got my hands on the Disappearing Civil Liberties Mug this weekend in Iowa City. I purchased it on Friday when we were all hanging out downtown, but I put it down somewhere and apparently forgot to pick it back up again. So I went and bought it again on Saturday on our way back home.



The mug has the Bill of Rights on it, and when you fill it up with a hot liquid, portions of them disappear--thanks to the Patriot Act, so the box says.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

And I wonder why...

...some people might think I'm gay, even though I'm not. This is the image from the back window of our car a couple days ago.

Not posed or anything--just how the books happened to be situated as I buckled Anna into her car seat.

Farm Boys

Just finished probably one of the best books I've read in a while--Farm Boys by Will Fellows. My wife had read it as part of her research for a novel she's working on in which one of the characters is a gay man farming his dad's land. She couldn't put it down and told me after she finished it that I really had to read it. And she was right. It was one of those books that once you start, you can't put down until you've finished it--or at least you don't want to.

Fellows put ads in gay papers in large cities throughout the Midwest in order to get the subjects for his book. He interviewed around 75 gay men who had grown up on farms in the rural Midwest. What follows are narratives describing their experiences growing up gay on farms where it is usually not the best environment for being different in any way, let alone homosexual. The stories range from a couple pages to long, drawn out descriptions of rural life. The men were anywhere between 30s to 84. It's an exceptional read.

I couldn't get over the similarity of the stories--isolation and loneliness figured prominently for many of them. Some moved to large cities after high school, others either stayed on the farm or moved back, unable to get the farm completely out of the boy. At times, it's heartbreaking--I'm thinking specifically of the stories involving the man who died of AIDS and the man who committed suicide shortly after his interview after battling a lifelong clinical depression. Other times, you just want to stand up and cheer the bravery of some of these men.

I would encourage everyone to read this--you don't have to have a rural background to follow it, and you certainly don't have to be gay to enjoy it. The voices of these men really resonate--I think that everyone who is unsupportive of gay rights or homophobic or whatever you want to call it should read this book. It put a very human face on what to many people in the rural Midwest is still a foreign and threatening concept.

Read it. Today.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Divide


This is the first of the promotional shots from Casey Stratton's new CD Divide due in October. I pretty much can't wait for this CD--his music is some of the most beautiful music I've ever heard. And the unfortunate thing is that he doesn't have tons of music available as he was an indie, then got signed to Sony, then parted ways with Sony to be indie again--so what music he does have is not readily available. According to his blog, he's going to be making a lot of old stuff available on iTunes, so that'll be cool.

Casey's music is, to me, much like what Mary Chapin Carpenter's music was to me in college. I always said that Mary Chapin Carpenter could have been singing about my life, only she was female. Casey's music is a lot like that--he's not afraid to put real feeling into his music. And I think that's what drew me to his music.

Monday, September 26, 2005

*crickets chirping*

Sorry faithful reader(s), it's been forever since I've updated this thing. For whatever reason, I haven't felt moved to blog so much in the last couple weeks. Probably had something to do with coming down with both otitis media and otitis externa last week (ouch, now I know why babies bawl their heads off.)

Here's some things I've been up to that hopefully I'll blog about in more detail later.

1) Bought the new Barbra Streisand album. It's awesome.
2) Hurled Morgan Spurlock's Don't Eat This Book across the room. I liked it better the first time when it was Fast Food Nation.
3) My sister and I are going to go to see Olivia Newton-John at the Paramount Theater in Cedar Rapids. A childhood dream come true!!

Monday, September 12, 2005

Leaving The Saints

I just finished reading this book--Leaving The Saints by Martha Beck. While I wouldn't say that it was life-altering or anything like that, it was definitely an interesting read. Beck left the Latter-Day Saints a/k/a the Mormon Church in the mid-90s. She also claims to have been sexually abused by her father--a guy who is rather high and mighty in the Mormon Church. The book chronicles her search for the spiritual in her life, a journey that started with her return to Utah after several years of living on the east coast and ended with her being virtually completely cut off by her immediate family.

Books like these are always to be taken with a grain of salt. As a friend of mine says (who is a member of the Reorganized LDS church) "This person left the church, so they're obviously not going to be kind to it." I kept that in mind while I was reading it and every time it got a little bit sensational, I remembered that she is an ex-Mormon and well, that kind of speaks for itself.

But the interesting thing is that she isn't universally damning of Mormon culture. She praises it's inclusion, love, friendship and celebrates this. She does not shirk on the details of how her ward members immediately treated her as persona non grata once her husband resigned his membership which (rightly so) saddened her. I was amazed to hear stories of how her daughters Mormon classmates bullied her and ignored her (her oldest daughter was the only child truly affected by their resignation of membership)--I guess childhood cruelty really doesn't discriminate.

I've always been slightly puzzled by Mormon doctrine--not that I claim to be an expert on it or anything. My Lutheran pastor stepfather-in-law refers to it derisively as "Christianity gone to seed." I'm not a Mormon, but I have a good friend who is one and so I've learned a lot more about it than I might have otherwise having been friends with him. I have a healthy respect for it as being a good choice for a lot of people, but just not for me. Still, I'm always a little bit perplexed when I read things about a Mormon masterplanet, the Heavenly Mother and how good Mormon men will become gods of their own planet. I'm tempted to think "How can educated people believe this kind of stuff?" But the flipside to that is "How can educated people believe that a man died on a cross and then CAME BACK TO LIFE?"--a belief that I have and I consider myself to be an educated person.

I guess religion is all what you make it--Mormonism works for some people, not everyone and certainly not for Beck. Christianity may work for some, but not for everyone. Probably my favorite part of the book was it's dedication which went something like this. "They say that religion is for people who are afraid of going to hell and spirituality is for people who have already been through it. This book is dedicated to the latter." I'd have to say that my religion is starting to resemble spirituality much more than traditional Lutheranism. We haven't been to church in forever, but I don't feel separated from my God at all. I do despise how the fundamentalist Christians in this country have hijacked the concept of God, so much so that you can hardly mention that you consider yourself a Christian without having to back pedal and say that you're not a homophobic cretin who believes that the Earth is 10,000 years old more concerned with saving cells in a Petri dish than actual living and breathing humans in New Orleans right now. OK, probably an overstatement, but you get the picture.

A good book, definitely worth the read--obviously I was much more interested in her spiritual journey than I was in her allegations of sexual abuse. The spiritual journey was the part of the book that spoke to me.

The boys' club

I took Anna to the park on Friday night after work (and after I'd napped--going into work at 6AM always stretches me to my limit consciousness-wise.) It's a fun park to go to--just around the block from our house and there's almost always neighborhood kids there for Anna to play with. Well, on Friday night, it must have been "Dads take their kids to the park night" because that's all that were there--fathers taking their kids to the park. And initially, it was kind of cool, but ultimately, it made me feel sad.

It was so cool but so disheartening the way that the other dads just casually drifted into conversation with each other, while I remained on the sidelines. I've never had very much luck bonding with other dads in social situations but this experience just solidified it in my mind. This stems primarily from my complete and utter inability to talk about sports. It's not that I'm just not that into it, I just don't give a shit about it. The only sports event that even remotely piques my interest is the Iowa-Iowa State football game (which was this last weekend) and that's mostly from living 33 years in Iowa.

As I followed followed Anna around the playground, sticking closely to the perimeter so as not to affect her interaction with the kids, I overheard the conversation that two of the dads were having--and sure enough, it had to do with sports (talk of rugby in England) and beer. I sighed a little bit because it was as I had expected. And it's not that I think I'm all holier-than-thou and above all that conversation. I'm not even expecting "deep and meaningful" conversation. I just wish that masculinity was defined by sports and alcohol--something I refer to as "the boys' club."

The boys' club is one of the reasons I'm so glad I work with women by and large. I'm not expected to know the score of the latest game and macho posturing is kept largely to a minimum. And this exclusive club has its roots clear back in high school--I realized a few years ago that I'd been trying (in vain) to fit in with something that I simply cannot.

That realization is freeing, but it's also a little bit sad and a little bit frustrating. But mostly, it frees me to be who I am with no apologies.

WTF is wrong with me?


OK, I've been listening to the Garth Brooks song "Callin' Baton Rouge" way more than is reasonable. It doesn't seem to matter that I don't even really like Garth Brooks all that much -- probably because I remember hearing "Friends In Low Places" way too many times at bars while I was in pharmacy school and plus I've never really liked male country stars either (way too twangy.)

Plus now, Garth Brooks is only going to sell his CDs at that bastion of the devil Wal-Mart. Even more reason to not like him or his music. Let's hope Trisha Yearwood can talk some sense into him.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

I'm hanging up on you...

I found a 30 second sample of the new Madonna single "Hung Up" this morning and I'm peeing my pants. It even has an ABBA sample! (the flutes from "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)") If this is any indication as to what her new album is going to sound like, I'm so there.

Like there was ever any doubt.

(link via Mod Fab)

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Criminally negligent

I have tried to stay silent in my blog about the tragedy that has befallen New Orleans this week, but the events of the last few days have forced me out of my silence. And before anyone labels me a left wing nut-case, trust me that if it were a Democratic administration presiding over this complete clusterfuck of a disaster response, I'd be just as livid as I am now.

People are dying in New Orleans, living in squalor and filth. Babies are sick and dying. The poorest among us are being ignored and neglected by our government. This is appalling and anyone who does not think that it is appalling must be a little bit less than human. These are our countrymen, and we can't figure out how to help them. We have our bumbling idiot of a president "looking forward" to making the trip to New Orleans--what a jackass. And then he thinks that rolling up his sleeves and taking off his tie is response enough from him. What a freaking loser.

The response to this disaster is a national tragedy. We should be ashamed of our government and it's lack of timely response to helping people in need. Our government should be ashamed of itself and should say so to America. It owes us that much. It owes every last person sitting in the Superdome (a/k/a Helldome, Shitdome, etc.) an apology for not giving a shit and letting this go on for 6 days after the hurricane hit. And it's not like we didn't know that it was coming. We had ample warning. Of course, since Bush doesn't read newspapers, he probably didn't know. But there are plenty of people that should have known better.

The true heroes of this disaster and the ordinary everyday citizens that jumped in their cars and went down to Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama to help--no questions asked.

And if our God-fearing leader really thinks that these are "expendable" people, he would do well to remember the words of the Bible "how you treat the least of my children is how you treat me."

For shame. I'm off my soapbox.

Friday, August 26, 2005

A moment

I was laying in bed with Anna tonight while she was going to sleep. This is a pretty common thing as she's kind of in a stage right now where she doesn't want to go to sleep by herself and needs/wants someone to stay with her until she falls asleep. And I really don't mind because I'm usually kinda tired myself and it's a good way for us to be together, especially after I've been at work all day. Well anyway, we were laying in her bed and we were watching Cher's Believe Tour DVD on her TV. In a fit of I-don't-know-what, I asked her, "Anna, will you always watch Cher with me?" And she threw her arms around my neck and said "Yeah, daddy!"

It's moments like those that melt my heart and that you can't put a price on.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Feels like I'm going to lose my mind...

For reasons not-quite unexplained, I've really been into "Borderline" these days. It's one of the best of Madonna's early works--one I really wish she would perform live now. There were a few weeks when rumors coming out of Madonna message boards were saying that "Borderline" was part of the Re-Invention Tour set list. Alas, it did not end up being on the set list, much to my chagrin. Although "Burning Up" (another of my faves from the early days) did make the list, I would have loved to hear "Borderline."

So this morning, before Anna got up, I put on The Immaculate Collection DVD and cued up "Borderline." For kind of a throwaway video (in sharp contrast to videos like "Like A Prayer," "Vogue," and even lesser known tracks like "Deeper & Deeper" and "Bad Girl") it really holds its own. Perhaps its because its one of those original videos from around the time that MTV was born. Sometimes it's hard to tell which came first, Madonna's videos or MTV. They were a perfect match--of course, now that MTV doesn't play videos, it's not surprising that her later videos have less of a pop cultural influence.

I'll always love "Borderline." It was probably the song that brought me into the Madonna fold. And she looks so darn young in that video! It's almost hard to believe it's the same person.

(And for those of you following along, the reason I'm so into "Borderline" these days is due in no small part to Rob Thomas, who covered "Borderline" for some acoustic concert somewhere, an mp3 of which inevitably ended up on the web and consequently in my collection.)

Here's to hoping that she heals quickly from her tumble from the horse, and that when she tours in 2006 she'll be playing "Borderline" at long last.

(picture courtesy All About Madonna)

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Another one for "the more things change..." file:

I found out the other day that Barbra Streisand is releasing a new CD in September called Guilty Pleasures. This is cracking me up because this CD is a "follow-up" of sorts to the 1980 CD Guilty. Both CDs were collaborations with Barry Gibb, both CDs featured a cover shot of Babs and Barry. Guilty Pleasures is even using the EXACT SAME FONT & FORMAT for the album title. Check it out:


Those of you who know me well know that I'll be purchasing this CD first thing on September 20th. (I wonder if I have the day off work that day.) This is kind of exciting because while I don't expect any barn-burners a la "The Main Event/Fight," it has the potential to be a little more exciting material that Babs has put out in the past few years.

I e-mailed this to Jeff and he called me last night and he said "My God! It looks like Barry has his hand up her ass or something! And did they get him out of the nursing home?!?" Time may have not been good to Barry, but at least Barbra rethought that Ogilvie home perm.

Salon.com | Is Dolly Parton antiwar?

Salon.com | Is Dolly Parton antiwar?

This is a great article that's making the rounds in the blogosphere. It's currently the most blogged Salon.com article. While the author kind of hems and haws around it, I'd wager a fair amount of money that Dolly has more liberal political leanings than most other country singers.

The author mentions how Dolly probably "cannot afford to go all Dixie Chicks on her red-state fan base." I'd say the red states are a tiny fraction of her fan base. Anybody with as much of a gay following as Dolly undoubtedly has is almost 100% not subscribing to the neo-con philosophy the current government has put on the country.

Go Dolly! I knew there was more to like than rhinestones, big boobs and tragic-comic songs like "Evening Shade" and "Daddy's Moonshine Still."

Suspend me in time


Yesterday I was at the park with Anna. She was having a great old time playing on an old fire engine with some other kids while I read my book and listened to my iPod. Well, while I was sitting there, the Olivia Newton-John song "Suspended In Time" from Xanadu came on. And I couldn't help but think back 25 years when I first saw that movie. We bought the soundtrack (on 8-track tape even!) on the way home from the movie and I listened to it until it was worn out.

Here I am, 25 years later, *still* listening to "Suspended In Time" (this time on a digital music player) watching my nearly 4-year old run around. Am I suspended in time? It sure feels like it sometimes. The more things change, I tell ya.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Great mail today

I got my Casey Stratton live at the Intersection CD in the mail today!! I was a little hesitant about buying it--only because they said it had "bootleg" sound quality (i.e., it was recorded from the audience) so I wasn't sure that it would be worth 28 bucks, but heck, it's helping Casey pay his rent so what the hell? Well, it's really awesome. 2 CDs--an hour and 50 minutes total. Casey sounds great and it just makes me eager as hell for DIVIDE to come out this fall (October 11th if all goes according to plan.)

Probably my favorite part of the whole CD is that I finally have a decent recording of "Opaline" until DIVIDE comes out. I remember hearing that song when Casey performed at the m-Shop here in Ames and turning to one of the other Yahoo! group members and saying "Which CD is that from?" because I knew that there was a lot of stuff that I hadn't heard. Alas, it was from the upcoming CD. Someone captured video from that concert and put it on the web but the sound quality was not the greatest, so this is fantastic. I can't wait to hear the studio version.

This baby is going into heavy rotation on my iPod, I can tell already.

(photo courtesy of A Shift Inside)

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Power puff skeletal remains

Over here, there's a guy who has drawn the skeletal systems of popular cartoon characters. This one, is by far my favorite.


Check out those eye sockets!! It's almost as if something from my nightmares has manifested.

Summer Upbeat Mix: Volume 1

I’m finally getting around to posting my Summer Upbeat Mix track list. I know there’s at least one person eager to read it and I’ve been exceptionally delinquent in getting it on here. Personally, I think it’s probably the best one that I’ve ever done—and I thought last year’s was pretty dang decent. So without further adieu, here’s volume one.

  1. New Order – “Dracula’s Castle” I downloaded a handful of tracks off of New Order’s new CD, Waiting for the Siren’s Call. Wendy is a big New Order fan, but I’m pretty much a fair weather one. I love “True Faith” and “Bizarre Love Triangle” but hadn’t really listened to much else by New Order. Well, I couldn’t resist a track with the name “Dracula’s Castle” so I bought it based on the 30 second sound snippet on iTunes. A great return-to-form for New Order.

  2. Amy Grant – “Happy” I got this track from Jeff who had bought Amy Grant’s CD Simple Things and been disappointed (as he usually is with impulse CD purchases.) Admittedly, it’s not her strongest outing, but this song kicks off the CD and is a great one. Easily one of her best secular pop songs in a great long while.

  3. The Killers –“ Mr. Brightside (Romantic Radio Edit)” I got turned on to The Killers via the fantastic Jacque LuCont remix of “Mr. Brightside” on iTunes. (Incidentally, if that remix is any indication at all of what might come of his collaboration with Madonna, November just got that much further away.) This remix came from arjanwrites.com, which I read because it has great links to new music. I love how the song got kicked into high gear + you’re never entirely sure who Brandon Flowers is talking about.

  4. Gloria Estefan – “Cuba Libre” One morning as I was waking up, Heidi was playing the all-dance CD Gloria did a few years back. And for some reason, this one stuck with me. I’ve always been fond of Gloria’s Spanish language stuff, especially recently because her English-language stuff seems so uninspired. I heard “Always Tomorrow” in Borders the other night and was reminded how bad she can really be, but this song is really fun.

  5. Amber – ”Above The Clouds” This song plays over the end of last episode of the third season of “Sex & The City.” I tried like mad to figure out what the name of the song was and then one day, I stumbled across the information online (and I remember Googling it quite seriously.) Unfortunately, it wasn’t available on iTunes. Fortunately, it was available at the local library.

  6. Sinead O’Connor – “Mandinka” This is a bizarre song that I added because I rediscovered it this summer. It makes no freaking sense. But I love it. Oddly, it wasn’t the first song by Sinead O’Connor I heard—it was “I Want Your (Hands On Me)”—featured rather prominently in one of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies—can’t remember which.

  7. Everything But The Girl – “Missing (CL McSpadden Unreleased Powerhouse Mix)” A great remix of EBTG’s classic 90s song “Missing.” Truth be told, I think I’m probably more fond of the original version of “Missing” (i.e., the non-dance one) and I’m amazed that I don’t have it somewhere in my MP3 collection.

  8. Dave Matthews Band – “American Baby” I came this close to buying the new DMB CD, but when I heard that it was copy protected and couldn’t be transferred to iPod without significant effort, I pretty much said “Screw this, I only sorta like them anyway.” I bought this song off iTunes as a prerelease. It’s not really “upbeat” so to speak, but it’s a good summer song. I’m surprised I didn’t hear more of than I did. Of course, I barely listen to the radio at all, so I really haven’t the slightest idea how it did chart wise.

  9. Casey Stratton – “Blood” Casey Stratton is my discovery of the year. He’s another artist I discovered thanks to arjanwrites.com and I have pretty much bought up just about everything I possibly can that he’s recorded in the last 4 months. I purchased his absolutely great major label debut, Standing at the Edge, off iTunes piecemeal using winning Pepsi caps and there was a time earlier this spring that I didn’t listen to anything but Casey. I even got Heidi to listen to him, and our musical tastes don’t always coincide all that well. I love this song so much—the minor key, the syncopation, everything about it (ok, save maybe the heavy breathing at the end.) I saw him perform it live here in Ames last April where I picked up a couple of his old CDs when he was indie. And he’s going to be indie again, having severed his relationship with Sony in favor of promoting himself. Check out Casey. He’s freaking awesome.

  10. Tina Turner – “Nutbush City Limits (The 90s Version) This was always one of those “eh, it’s ok” songs on Tina’s Simply The Best collection. But years later, I just couldn’t stop listening to it this summer. My one recollection of this song from college is being at this friend of my roommate’s house and he was playing this song saying “I just have to play this for the DJs down at the 620 (local gay bar in Iowa City.) And it’s got a pretty fun dance beat. Plus you just can’t beat the first line “Church house/gin house/school house/outhouse.” It makes me laugh every single time.

  11. Dolly Parton – “Rocky Top (Live)” I’ve been dying for a recorded version of Dolly doing “Rocky Top” forever. I downloaded a version of “Rocky Top” back in the Audiogalaxy days labeled as being Dolly, but ended up being the Osborne Brothers. Well, this one just kicks ass. Dolly is as cornpone as ever on this opening the song with a reference to the previous song on the set list, “Little Sparrow”: “Now personally, I think I should have called that song “Little Pigeon”—took a big dump on his head and flew to Rocky Top.” And she sings the hell out of this. But my favorite part of the song is after the song’s over and she says “Whoo! That was a high note there on the end. My thong’s a-ridin’ up.” Disturbing to think about Dolly wearing a thong.

  12. Gwen Stefani – “Hollaback Girl” This was a song that I absolutely hated when Gwen’s CD came out. I thought it was annoying and stupid and I just never got into it. But, by God, they made it a single anyway and then the damn thing crawled into my brain and stuck there. Some great mash-ups have been done with this song, my personal favorites being the mash-up with “I Am A Man of Constant Sorrow” from O Brother Where Art Thou? and the one where they combined it with “Need You Tonight” by INXS. I’ve really grown to like this song a lot now, which is saying a lot considering how much I hated it to start with.

  13. Scissor Sisters – “Filthy/Gorgeous” I love the Scissor Sisters. They are so campy and over the top, I just can’t get enough of them. And this is Heidi’s favorite Scissor Sisters song. It became the theme song to one of her characters in her WIP, so we listened to it A LOT this summer. Anna even sings along to the chorus, which is equal parts disturbing and cute.

  14. Delerium – “Underwater (Mauve’s Dark Vocal Mix) This song played over a Club Babylon scene in the second season of “Queer As Folk” which Heidi and I are devouring on DVD courtesy of Netflix. Heidi’s been into Delerium for a while now, and their remixes are really great. I’ve never even heard the original version of “Underwater,” but this one was worth a purchase on iTunes. Come to find out, it also made the cut for the “Queer As Folk” Season Two soundtrack which I’m sure we’ll acquire eventually.

  15. Billy Joel – “The Entertainer” This is one of my favorite obscure Billy Joel songs. Well, not really obscure because it is on his Greatest Hits CD, but it’s not one you think of when you think of Billy Joel. It’s basically a cynical take on fame and the music industry—and the really funny thing about it is that it’s such a damn happy song. It came from one of Billy Joel’s first albums, so apparently he was a quick learner in the music biz. I love it because the synthesizer music reminds me of a kid’s show that played on PBS when I was a kid called “All About You, my sole memory of which is the episode about how you shouldn’t hide in refrigerators.

  16. Green Day – “Holiday” Until earlier this year, I had never purchased anything Green Day had ever done. But I downloaded the whole blasted American Idiot CD off iTunes because it appealed to my liberal sensibilities and because I loved the two lead off singles. And this just follows in the footsteps of them. I love how angry they are and how satirical the whole CD really is. Definitely a highlight of the summer.

  17. Madonna – “Guyom’s 77 Track Megamix” It is absolutely not hyperbole when I say that this is hands down the best Madonna megamix I have ever heard. It clocks in at only seven and a half minutes, but it is so tight and so well blended it’s hard to remember that it’s not an official release. While I think the 77 track thing is a bit of a stretch (I count only 7 or 8 songs that are prominently featured), it is the mixing of “Vogue,” “Deeper & Deeper,” & “Express Yourself” over what is basically the bassline and instrumental of “Music” that is the truly amazing thing. I never get tired of listening to it.

And with that, I’m done for now. This took a damn long time to write, so Volume 2 may be a few days in the offing.

File under: Most unlikely break in a cold case

Where's Judge Crater? Letter offers clue.

I was surprised to stumble across this information on the web yesterday--and I can't even remember how I did it, probably via Drudge Report or something (I know, I know, my liberal sensibilities shouldn't be able to handle it!)

When I was a kid, this was one of those cases that totally fascinated me. I was obsessed with missing persons, unsolved crimes, etc.--probably still am, otherwise why would I be blogging about this? I remember reading this book in the Fairview Elementary library -- Missing: Stories of Strange Disappearances -- that had a chapter on Judge Crater. I must have checked that book out a hundred times--that and The Haunting of America.

Personally, I'm not sure why there was ever much doubt about what happened to Crater--it seems like a fairly straight-forward organized crime hit to me. Much like Jimmy Hoffa's disappearance, it's like "Duh! The Mob got him of course!" (although there will always be other theories.)

So maybe this missing person case from my childhood (and oddly enough, way before I was even born) will finally be solved. I'll sleep a lot easier at night. ;)

iPod stats


Got this from another blog and thought it seemed like fun:

Top 10 on my iPod:
  1. 501's -- Let The Night Take The Blame
  2. Barbra Streisand -- Here We Are At Last
  3. Helen Reddy -- Peaceful
  4. Casey Stratton -- Lament
  5. Crowded House -- She Goes On
  6. Diana Krall -- Black Crow
  7. Eurythmics -- Brand New Day
  8. Robbie Williams -- Beyond The Sea
  9. Annie Lennox -- Why (Live Piano Version)
  10. Barbra Streisand -- On A Clear Day (You Can See Forever)

Random 10 on my iPod:
  1. Jewel -- Intuition
  2. Madonna vs. The Human League -- The Power of Human
  3. Deborah Harry -- Lip Service
  4. Casey Stratton -- Ocean
  5. Blossom Dearie -- I Won't Dance
  6. Gary Jules -- Mad World
  7. Mary Chapin Carpenter -- Grand Central Station
  8. Chris Botti -- 1984
  9. The Pointer Sisters -- Jump (For My Love)
  10. Erasure -- Reach Out

Saturday, August 20, 2005

5 bucks a gallon for gas? Expert sees it in 2006

5 bucks a gallon for gas? Expert sees it in 2006

Last night when we were in Iowa City, I was a little bit dismayed that it cost 28 bucks to fill the not-even-empty tank on our Mazda 626. It makes me exceptionally happy that we don't have a gas guzzling SUV and that I'm not filling two gas tanks like we used to be.

This is a little bit frightening. Gas prices are going up, but nobody in the country is doing anything different. I was watching something on one of the Sunday talk shows last weekend that gas prices currently are high enough for people to bitch about it but not high enough to change their driving habits. In other words, it translates into oil companies making money hand over fist.

And the crazy thing is that there's no coverage in the media how gas prices are going to trickle down into every part of the economy. Wal-Mart depends on cheap gas to be able to rape and pillage the countryside, er, I mean offer low prices on consumer goods. How long will they be able to keep that up. And, like it or not, Wal-Mart has become something of a bellwether for the economy.

It'll be interesting to see where this goes. It may just be a blip, but if not, I predict it will expose suburban sprawl for what it is--the worst misallocation of resources in the last century.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

SOLD

It only took 18 months, but as of 3:30 pm today, our house in Washington was officially sold. The closing was today, I had to cough up around $12,000 to sell the house (still trying to work my head around that one--paying to sell a house.) But I guess that's what you get when you invest in property in a small town.

No matter what happens now, at least I'm out from underneath it. It's someone else's baby now. The "long overdue" business that Heidi and I had to attend to in Washington was the unearthing of St. Joseph--it seemed like incredibly bad karma to keep him buried in the yard after the house was sold, even though it took him long enough. Personally, I don't think it was St. Joe at all. About mid-July, we drew a cartoon of the house on a Post-It Note and stuck it on the bathroom mirror, with the word SELL written on it. We figured, with that kind of thing on the bathroom mirror, it won't ever be far from our minds. And call me crazy, but more things happened with that house since we did that than in the 16 months prior.

I'm glad to be out of Washington. When we were there last weekend, it seemed so much more redneck than it ever did when I lived there. I remember thinking to myself, "oh man, I dodged a bullet not having to send Anna to school here."

So goodbye house. It was the first house I ever bought, and I'm not likely to ever forget it. But I'm sure glad I'm not paying the mortgage (and utilities and insurance and taxes) on it anymore as well as the house I own in Ames. 18 months of that was more than enough.

This is the nadir, I guess. This is the most (I hope) that I will ever owe. We can only climb out from here.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Superhero

I don't usually do these blog quiz things, but I couldn't resist this one (gakked from Casey Stratton's blog)

Batman
Congratulations! You scored a super 65%!
Cool, calm and powerful. Whilst your actual super abilities may not be anything too dazzling, you have earnt the respect of both friends and enemies in response to your amazing fighting skills, strategic combat and experience.

Luckily you have access to the greens which can fund all your majorly cool gadgets, vehicles and weapons! Also, you're reluctant but still accepting to the idea of having a teammate/side-kick, which just makes everything a whole lotta fun, doesn't it now!

On the down side, you've probably suffered some sort of trauma at a young age (that's why we don't talk to the old man near the swings, kids).

Similar to the Wolverine, your past is a base for your current motivation, undertaking some kind of personal vow in search of justice. All in all though, you're one tough nut. There's not a lot of people who have the minerals to go up against you, and you're experienced enough not to get cocky and let the little things like never finding happiness get you down!



My test tracked 1 variable How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 58% on Heropoints
Link: The Which SUPER HERO are you Test written by crayzee69 on OkCupid Free Online Dating

Friday, August 12, 2005

Small town Iowa

We drove down to Washington, IA tonight to see my in-laws and to sign some paperwork pertaining to our house here. While we were driving down here, I was wondering why rural eastern Iowa doesn't seem as Texas Chainsaw Massacre as rural western Iowa. I mean, they're the same state, not all that different of demographics (although the eastern half of Iowa does seem to be a little bit more urban--well as urban as you can get and still be Iowan) and peppered with the same type of small towns that pretty much make up the whole of western Iowa. And I think that the biggest reason it's not all Leatherface scary is that it's not flat. It's that simple.

Driving through towns like What Cheer, West Chester and Sigourney made me realize how happy I was to leave small town Iowa. It's not like I sit around in Ames and pine for the days of living in Washington (although I do miss the Chinese restaurant here) replete with its local politics of name, rank and how many relatives you have buried in the local cemetery. You can live in a small town for 60 years and still be a stranger to most and "that new guy" to pretty much everyone. There was a time when Heidi and I thought that we were small town people, having been raised in small towns. But it seems that any more, the liberal/progressive politics that we feel so strongly and living in small towns are pretty much mutually exclusive. And let's face it, rural Iowa is pretty conservative and that's not likely to change. We can talk all about how Iowa's a swing state, but the fact is that if you look in places like Story County where Ames is--Story County went pretty solidly for Kerry, if you look at the results from the individual precincts, it was mostly just Ames (the "city area") that voted Kerry, the rest went pretty much solidly Bush. I remember reading something around the time of the election that even Illinois, which is pretty darn blue and almost a sure bet in the Democratic column, would pretty much undoubtedly be a red state if it weren't for Chicago.

So rural Iowa = red. But, unfortunately, rural Iowa also = dead and dying. It's everywhere you look when you drive through small towns. We've abandoned our small towns for suburbs to big cities--and our big cities have become donuts. I shudder when I think about living in a small town again. It frightens me how insulated they are and how much they can cut themselves off from the outside world. It makes me so glad that I left the one we lived in, no matter how much it might cost me in terms of dollars. It was worth every last penny.

But still, it's sad to see small towns shriveling up and blowing away in the wind.

Blog in a coma

Like a main character from that Robin Cook novel, my blog seems to have slipped into a late summer coma. Not to fear loyal reader(s), I should be back shortly. Work's been really busy and plus, Heidi and I are finishing up some long overdue business (more on that in a few days.)

I did get my brand new 20 GB iPod with a color screen and everything, so that's news, I guess. My original iPod that I bought about 16 months ago finally died, or more accurately, the battery finally died. When I bought it last year, I bought one of those product replacement plans from Best Buy, so all I had to do was jump through about 14 flaming hoops, send my old iPod back and they sent me a voucher for the full purchase price! So the upgrade was at basically no cost to me. It doesn't get much better than that. The only part that sucked was I was without my iPod for about 2 weeks, but I managed.

I think the thing I like best about the new iPod is the cute little album artwork. But that's me being a music geek.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Undead in SF

Zombies descended on San Francisco last weekend.

Personally, this is my favorite of the pics. Althought this one is definitely a close second. Would zombies really need to wear glasses?

(via Metafilter)

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Mass grave

My sister snapped this photo while she was out west last fall. There's something about labeling something a mass grave that is equal parts intriguing and freakish. This particular mass grave happens to be at Little Big Horn National Monument in Montana.

All I can think is I can't imagine being there if zombie scenarios actually ever came true. But I suppose it's only the recently dead that are reanimated in most zombie scenarios. *shrug*

Friday, July 29, 2005

Sheep = stupid farm animals

Anna has a pair of books called Sheep in a Jeep and Sheep Out to Eat which just crack me up. The sheep in these books are completely and utterly clueless. In Sheep in a Jeep, they completely trash a jeep and in Sheep Out to Eat, they trash a tea shop because they add pepper to food and start sneezing. Various calamity ensues in each book, but Anna and I think that it's hilarious. Maybe we're just easily amused, but this is how kids books should be done.

The reason they're so great is because sheep truly are the stupidest of all the farm animals. Despite what the BBC might say on the subject, my wife is a born and bred Iowa farm girl and her word is pretty much law on all things agrarian around our house. And she says sheep are definitely deficient on smarts. Our friends Barb and Chip have a bunch of sheep at their farm and every time I've seen them, they're just standing around in the pen braying (or whatever it is that sheep do) waiting to be fed. And as far as I'm concerned, any farm animal that would live up to the lemming myth (see this article) qualifies for all time stupidest farm animal.

So we got another one of the sheep books when we were at the library the other day--this time Sheep Trick or Treat. Not nearly as good. The sheep have gotten smarter.

Smart sheep do not good humor make.

Random fact about me

I've never been able to stay up for 24 hours in a row. And it's certainly not for lack of trying either. Hell, I couldn't even stay awake for 24 hours at either my junior or senior prom. I also stumbled across an old journal of mine from 1992 where I was on spring break and was staying up all night and sleeping a good chunk of the day. Well, one day my goal was to stay up till 11:06 AM so that I could say that I was up for 24 hours. I didn't make it. I think I ended up going to bed around 9 AM, just two hours shy of the mark.

Totally Diva

To continue with my recent Annie Lennox fest, I got the DVD Annie Lennox: Totally Diva from Netflix the other day. I sat up and watched it last night. While not the best collection of videos in the world, they mostly fit the songs. They weren't elaborate productions that we come to expect from the likes of Madonna, but they were very Annie.

They had the videos for the singles--"Why" and "Walking on Broken Glass" (although the fantastic video for "Little Bird" is conspicuously absent.) I always loved the many different Annies that came out to join the real and obviously very pregnant Annie on stage. But additionally, there were videos for all but one of the other songs. Even the CD bonus track "Keep Young & Beautiful" had a video. Like I said, they weren't spectacular (except for "Walking on Broken Glass" and all of it's Dangerous Liasons garb.)

But my favorite of all the videos was for probably my favorite song on Diva--"Money Can't Buy It." It features Annie with a towel over her head singing with herself in the mirror. And that's pretty much it. The whole thing was very Joan Crawford and I can't wait to show the video to Jeff. And if the whole mirror duet thing wasn't enough, she even breathes on the mirror and plays with the condensation. What a concept, right?

Gotta love good old Annie Lennox.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Jagged Little Pill (Acoustic)

Bought Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill Acoustic tonight on iTunes before Anna and I drove to Carroll. I had seen it at Starbucks in Iowa City a week or so ago but balked at spending $17.99 for songs that I technically already own. But when it became available on iTunes today, I couldn't resist the $9.99 sticker price. I always like Jagged Little Pill although mostly I started listening to Alanis because of the Madonna connection (Alanis is on Maverick Records, the vanity label Madonna started around the time of Erotica.) The album is classic 90s and listening to it 10 years later (and believe me, I haven't listened to it much in at least the last 5 years or so) was kind of a weird experience. I've always felt a little bit bad for Alanis because of the massive success of JLP. It's her Thriller--selling a bajillion copies with no hope of any follow up--no matter how good--coming even close to selling a comparable amount. Consequently, everything she's done since has been seen as a failure, or at the very least, underperforming. And that's sad because "Thank U", "Uninvited" and the absolutely brilliant "Surrendering" (from Under Rug Swept) are as good as anything on JLP.

The CD doesn't break any new ground--although I didn't really expect it to. Alanis has done acoustic versions of these songs before most notably on Alanis Unplugged but even her Grammy performance of "You Oughta Know" was acoustic the year she cleaned up at the Grammys. And, of course, it's not like we haven't heard these songs before. But what it did remind me of was how brilliant the last half of the album really is. Pretty much starting with "You Learn" and going all the way through the rest of the CD, it's standout song after standout song.

Listening to "Ironic" today (all the "there's nothing in the song that's ironic!" debates aside) just serves to show how much Alanis is defined by this album and (arguably) this song. And I had to chuckle when she changes the line "it's like meeting the man of your dreams/and then meeting his beautiful wife" to "his beautiful husband." Way to go, Alanis! "Not The Doctor" (another great song from the last half of the album) is altered from its original version by making the verses in a minor key and the chorus in the regular major key.

But perhaps the most remarkable change is the bulking up of "Your House"--the hidden track at the end of JLP. Originally an a cappella, it benefits greatly from the addition of instrumentation. The song is solidified and fully a part of the album. And the lyrics--well, they're a heartbreaker.

Definitely worth the 10 bucks I spent on iTunes.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

CD Spotlight -- 7/24/2005

It's been a long time since I've done my CD spotlight--I think the last one must have been several months ago. Anyway, I was looking through my CDs the other day and there was Savage by Eurythmics staring back at me. I couldn't remember the last time that I'd listened to it, but it's one of those CDs that even though it doesn't get listened to very often I could never dream of parting with it.

I can still remember seeing the first video released from this album--the tres bizarre "Beethoven (I Love To Listen To)" which featured Annie Lennox dressed up as a dowdy housewife and her alter ego sexpot. I sure didn't know what to make of it because it was a radical departure from stuff like "Missionary Man" and "Thorn In My Side" (released just a year or so prior.) I mocked it publicly, but privately, I was intrigued. It's one of those songs that really didn't have a prayer of making it at radio--even then, when radio was a little bit more forgiving than it is now. As quickly as "Beethoven" appeared, it disappeared from MTV and they started playing "I Need A Man" which had Annie dressed up as the same sexpot as "Beethoven" did.

By then, I'd determined that I was going to buy the album (which I bought on cassette tape one Sunday afternoon in January of 1988.) And I immediately loved the album. The whole album is a little bit more experimental than what Eurythmics had been doing--they kind of abandoned the whole straight-forward rock thing that they'd done for a couple albums. I think it was with Savage that I truly began to appreciate Annie Lennox's talent. I'd had the album Revenge and was never all that impressed with it--mostly because not much else on it sounded anything like the singles--but without the burden of hit singles, Savage appealed to me on a level that I hadn't expected. Songs like "You Have Placed A Chill In My Heart," "Shame," and "I've Got A Lover (Back In Japan)" were just the thing that my introverted 15-year-old self needed. Plus my friend Kelly liked Savage as well, so that just made it even cooler.

Funny thing, it's the only Eurythmics CD (apart from Greatest Hits) that I still have. I've purchased others and subsequently sold them. It's the one Eurythmics album that still speaks to me in pretty much the same language it did back in 1988.