Sunday, July 30, 2006

A hell of a ride

I sat up watching Final Destination 3 -- my latest Netflix -- last night. I obviously couldn't watch it with Anna around and Heidi really hates those horror flicks anyway, so it was a good movie to watch after Anna'd gone to bed and Heidi was still in Atlanta. I've always liked this series of films, even though it really doesn't amount to much more than another in a long series of "dead teenager" movies. However, since the thing turning the teenagers into dead teenagers isn't some stupid unstoppable guy in either a hockey mask or a William Shatner mask, but is rather death itself, it has a cool factor that remains three movies into the series whereas the Halloween and Friday the 13th series are just parodies of the original movies.

Basic plotline: High school girl has a premonition of a fatal roller coaster accident which results in her and 6 of her friends being spared death by roller coaster. I have to say that this was a pretty cool opening scene, although it lacked the punch of the original's plane explosion. At the time that I saw the original Final Destination, I'd never flown before and after seeing that, I vowed I'd never fly -- it freaked me out that much. The second movies massive car crash was cool and very realistic. But the novelty of the roller coaster grabbed me from the beginning, so much so that I almost went to see this in the theater. Granted, it would have been the dollar theater, but the theater nonetheless.

Back to the plot -- since these kids cheated death by rollercoaster, death stalks them. One by one, they're picked off in bizarre accidents in the order they would have died had they stayed on the roller coaster. And there were some pretty original, pretty gruesome deaths to be had in this movie.

The thing I love about these movies is that they don't take themselves that seriously. They know that they're basically a gore fest and don't have any false pretenses at being fine cinema. I think it's possible for the horror genre to produce fine cinema (although, admittedly, it hasn't done so in recent memory) but the Final Destination series is just a bunch of films that are like going to the haunted house at Halloween. They're gory and gross and disgusting but make money hand over fist because that's what horror fans want. Plus, they're actually scary and also somewhat suspenseful, which is saying a lot considering that what follows the initial big accident is a series of rather predictable deaths. It kept me on the edge of my seat, wondering who was going to get killed next and how and if they were going to cheat death again.

I'm thinking I may have to get the Final Destination triple pack DVD set.

And I'm definitely not ready to send the movie back yet, as there's a feature that allows you to change the course of the movie by deciding whether or not a character gets killed or not. I really want to try out that feature!

Sunday love

One of the things I love most about Sundays is two of my favorite web sites update on Sundays. The first of these is LastFM. LastFM is the newest permuatation of what was once Audioscrobbler. Basically, you download a plug in for whatever music player you use (iTunes, Windows Media Player, or whatever) and all the songs you listen to are submitted over the internet to their server which saves the data in your "musical profile." This data allows them to generate music recommendations as well as tell you people who are listening to similar things. It also has a radio service that I've only explored a little bit but seems pretty decent. On Sundays, all of your week's listening is updated on your main profile page -- and I'm always interested to see what I've been listening to over the last week. Sometimes I'm surprised (like the week Liz Phair came out on top) but most times I'm not (typically, Madonna and Casey Stratton are my top two artists each week.) It's pretty cool, and you can check out my profile page here.

The other page that's updated every Sunday is the ever popular Post Secret. It really needs no introduction, other than it seems like every week without fail, there's a secret involving poop. I really don't get that.

Friday, July 28, 2006

iTunes meme

I found this mildly interesting, so I thought I'd blog it. It's making the rounds on Lastfm.

1. How many songs do you have in your iTunes?
As of right now, I have 12,039 songs.

2. How many days worth of music is that?
37 days

3. How much hard drive space does that take up?
57.15 GB

4. Sort by song:
1st song: '65 Love Affair - Paul Davis
Last song: Zoo Station - U2

5. Sort by time:
Shortest song: One Last "Whoo-hoo!" for the Pullman - Sufjan Stevens (0:06)
Longest song: The Madonna Re-Invention Club Mix (Edit) - Madonna (1:19:42)

6. Sort by artist:
1st song: Tearin' Up My Heart - 'NSync
Last song: Time of the Season - Zombies

7. Sort by album:
1st song: Tearin' Up My Heart - 'NSync
Last song: He Ain't Heavy...He's My Brother - Rufus Wainright

8. Top 5 Most Played Songs:
I Will Never Let You Go - Jackie Greene
Jump - Madonna
Sorry - Madonna
Get Together - Madonna
Like It Or Not - Madonna

9. Top 5 Most Recently Played Songs:
I Wouldn't Treat A Dog (The Way You Treated Me) - Cher
Feelin' (Love To Infinity Mix) - Gloria Estefan
Are You Mine - Stevie Nicks
Because The Night - 10,000 Maniacs
Hard To Handle - Black Crowes

10. First song to come up on shuffle
Crazy For You (Live - ReInvention Tour) - Madonna

11. Now search...

a. "sex" -- how many songs come up?
50

b. "blood" -- how many songs come up?
38

c. "death" -- how many songs come up?
4

d. "hate" -- how many songs come up?
25

e. "love" -- how many songs come up?
1146

f. "you" -- how many songs come up?
1724

g. "it" -- how many songs come up?
3260

h. "fuck" -- how many songs come up?
6

i. "existentialism" -- how many songs come up?
Zero

Soul Kiss

Note: I was rummaging through some old Word documents on my hard drive this morning and came across this gem. This was written back in the day when I was going to put CD reviews on my web page. It was kind of fun to read, so I thought I'd reproduce it here.
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For most recording artists, there comes a point in their career where they tire of the same old same old, where putting out albums becomes routine and uneventful. To try to counteract this malaise, it’s common practice for artists to complete reinvent themselves, or at least revamp their sound. More often than not, established artists with a trademark sound find themselves adapting that sound to fit in with current trends and fads.

Such is the case for Soul Kiss, a 1985 album by Olivia Newton-John. Olivia who had racked up success on both the country-western and pop charts with hits such as “Let Me Be There,” “Please Mr. Please,” and “Physical”, released this misguided but delightfully guilty pleasure right around the time that Madonna was starting to hit the scene (from my nearest calculations, “Like A Virgin” was released just prior to or around the same time as this CD.) The attempts to make over Olivia’s “goody-goody” image with a sexy veneer prove to be unwise.

Musically, the album is fairly strong. “Toughen Up,” a composition of frequent Tina Turner collaborators Terry Britten & Graham Lyle, starts out the CD on a good note, with a pseudo-reggae style and fun lyrics on female empowerment. This segues into the title track, which was the first single from the album. This song is a sexy ballad where Livvy is repeatedly “getting down on [her] knees” to thank her baby—yikes! “Queen Of The Publication” is completely nonsensical but is perhaps the most fun song on the CD. With synthesizers layered over the driving beat of a typewriter(!), the song details a story of how Olivia, who works for a sleazy tabloid will do anything to get the dirt on her subject, and hence will become the “queen of the publication.” “Emotional Tangle,” a fairly straightforward ballad which, while it can seem to find no other rhyme for “tangle” than “angle”, features an excellent vocal performance by Olivia. Livvy tries to shock us once more before the halfway point with “Culture Shock,” a song-story about Olivia involved with two men (one assumes) and imploring her boyfriend to consider something that the Olivia who sang “I Honestly Love You” would never even dream of! “I know it’s unconventional/Radical, but practical/Why can’t the three of us live together?/It’s a culture shock/But it’s the only hope we’ve got!” Besides being the obvious theme song for a “Three’s Company” reunion, the song is laughable and the “shock” probably wasn’t even that much of a shock back in 1985 and certainly isn’t shocking at all now.

Track 6 is “Moth To A Flame.” This song boasts complex lyrics and classic 80s synths, which make it one of the better songs on the CD. Considering the quality of “Moth To A Flame,” it’s too bad that it had to be followed by “Overnight Observation.” Olivia hit a new career low with yet another song-story of Livvy’s late night trip to the doctor’s office. The doctor thinks that Olivia needs to be held overnight for observation, all the while serving martinis, turning the lights down low, and asking his patient to take off her shoes and slip into something comfortable. Don’t worry—Olivia escapes with her virtue intact! On track 8, Olivia duets with late Beach Boy Carl Wilson on a song with (again) a shocking title—“You Were Great (How Was I?)” As usual, the innuendo is lost if you really listen to the lyrics of the song. Instead of being about a one night stand (as one might expect from the tone of this whole album), it’s about a love that’s faded (“something went wrong/between hello and goodbye”). While a capable song, it founders under sloppy production and subpar vocal performances on the part of both singers. The album kicks into high gear one last time with “Driving Music”—a tale of a taxi cab driver that listens to the radio station while on the night beat. “Driving Music” could have been a very successful single for Olivia, had the Soul Kiss project in general not been such a dismal failure. The last track is “The Right Moment” which is a dramatic ballad, featuring Livvy in the extremely high end of her range. Generally, I skip the last song, preferring instead to end on a high note.

While the songs on their own are generally subpar, this album has somehow stood the test of time with me. As I alluded before, Soul Kiss is guilty pleasure #1 for me. I recognize the album as being a product of the 80s, but most especially as being a product of Olivia trying to revamp herself into something a la Madonna. Unfortunately, this didn’t work out quite the way the record company wanted, and marked the end of Olivia’s mainstream career. People magazine summed it up best when in reviewing this album pleaded with Olivia to put her shirt back on!

Reiman Gardens adventures

So on Wednesday, Anna and I went out to Reiman Gardens here in Ames. It's a horticultural garden affiliated with the university that is really gorgeous. Reiman Gardens is in the city limits of Ames - in fact, it sits in the shadow of Jack Trice Stadium, home of the Iowa State Cyclones and is just off Elwood Drive which is a main drag out to the highway, so it's kind of funny that you're in this serene place yet, you can still hear traffic and, if you were there on the right day, the roar of football fans.

It has a butterfly sanctuary that Anna adores. She always wants a butterfly to land on her -- except when she's on the lookout for dead butterflies that she can pick up. I tell ya, that kid is a study in contradictions. One minute, girly girl. The next minute, looking for dead things.

It was hotter than hell the day we were there. Anna wanted to go look in the pond for frogs - something she'd seen the last time she was out there with Heidi.


Unfortuantely, there were none to be had. I think it must have been too hot - heck, if I were a frog, I think I'd be swimming or at the very least, in the shade. We did, however, see dragonflies and tadpoles which was enough for her.

And no visit to the gardens is complete without her rolling down the hills like a maniac. I had figured out how to set my camera on "paparazzi mode" i.e. take 3 or 4 pictures in quick succession, so I got some pretty good shots of her rolling down the hills. The unfortunate thing is that 90% of them have her back to me. But below is one of the better ones.

We left after only about an hour because we were so damn hot. We spent the rest of the day at home.

Coming up ... Glidden pool adventures.

Pop culture from the great beyond

Finally, Blogger is back up and running -- what was up with that. I've been meaning to blog about The Entertainment Beat with Frances Gumm for quite a while. Like most of the best things on the internet, I'm not even sure how I stumbled across it. Anyway, it's a one man podcast done by this guy named BillyBoy. The show is hosted by one "Roger Darling" and Judy Garland (Frances Gumm being her actual name.) BillyBoy apparently does all the voices. Judy is frequently joined in studio by her friends Carol Channing, Bernadette Peters and Gollum(!).

Judy comments on everything in the pop culture. One episode had an Oscar nomination round table. Another had an interview with Madonna with Judy asking the questions while a real Madonna (apparently interview clips taken from an actual interview strategically selected to sound like responses to some of Judy's outrageous questions) responded. And yet another was a run down of the Tony Awards, which I really didn't give a shit about as I don't really get into theater at all.

But perhaps the best episode of all was the last one they produced where Judy, Carol, Roger, Bernadette and Gollum recreated, in its entirety, the episode of The Golden Girls where Dorothy's lesbian friend Jean visits and proceeds to fall for Rose. Gollum played Sophia, Carol was Blanche, Bernadette was Rose, Roger did Dorothy (and it was amazingly like Bea Arthur) while Judy played Jean. It was a hoot. It doesn't hurt that that episode is freaking hilarious. For example (paraphrased):

Sophia: Jean is a lesbian.
Blanche: Well what's wrong with that, isn't Danny Thomas one?
Dorothy: Not LEBANESE, Blanche. Lesbian!

And what's really funny is BillyBoy's impression of Judy only periodically sounds like Judy. It more frequently sounds like a drunk Blanche Devereaux. So maybe Judy should have played Blanche in the podcast.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Outsiders

I stayed up last night and watched my current Netflix, The Outsiders: The Complete Novel. The Outsiders was a movie I watched about a million times as an early teenager, first on HBO, then after I taped it, on VHS tape. I first read the book in 6th grade for a reading class. I think my experience with the movie is probably very typical for guys my age. It was a great "boy" story, plus the fact that it was a little bit naughty (the language, the violence) made it just that much more appealing.

When I heard that they were recutting the film to include extra scenes, I immediately added it to my Netflix queue. I hadn't seen the movie in probably 15 years, so what a great way to revisit something that was so important to a certain period of my life. And I have to say that the new scenes are good -- in fact, it had been so long since I'd seen it I couldn't even remember how it started. With a new beginning, I was even more confused. But when I finally saw what had originally been the beginning (Ponyboy and Johnny meeting Dallas on a Tulsa street corner), it was like something was dragged out of my subconscious.

The acting is pretty solid for a young cast. They capture the feel of the period pretty well, and it avoids a lot of the 80s cliches that were so pervasive in films of that time. At times, you feel like you're watching a movie made during the 60s rather than the 80s. And that's a credit to the director and the cinematographer. So much cheese came out of the 80s (not that there's anything wrong with that) and I'm glad that this movie avoided that. It is funny seeing a very young Tom Cruise as a greaser, and whatever did happen to C. Thomas Howell (answer per IMDB -- not much of any significance since Soul Man except for apparently a role in 24.) And Emilio Estevez as Two-Bit Matthews steals pretty much every scene he's in ("I hear they stamp your face into gorilla cookies!", eating beer and chocolate cake for breakfast among other things)

But what really was a deal breaker for whether I would buy this version or the original was the new music inserted into the movie. The score has been completely excised and replaced with songs from the time period. Well, the presence of these songs is very jarring and out of place, at times even obscuring the dialogue. It just didn't work for me. I'd rather have the original version and miss the extra scenes than have to deal with the insertion of these songs.

I think what I like best about the story of The Outsiders is that in the midst of all these tough guys is Ponyboy, the "sensitive" one. But he's also tough. It's good to try to convey to boys that it's okay to be sensitive and "feel things differently" as his brother Sodapop says.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Airport and zoo adventures

Well, Heidi's in Atlanta and after dropping her off at the airport this morning, Anna and I spent a good chunk of the day at Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines. It's a pretty little zoo, and I've blogged about it before, but it was what we did today so it's getting blogged about again. For being a little zoo, it has some pretty cool animals. While it doesn't have an elephant (for shame!), it does have some cool giraffes (and they get pretty close to you, too), a lion and two lionesses, a Siberian tiger (there's only 300+ left in the wild!) and, much to Anna's delight, a petting zoo absolutely brimming with goats for her to pet and feed. I think Anna could have spent the entire day with the goats, and every time I tried to redirect her and have us go see something different, she'd say to me "But Daddy, I love them!"

Consequently, we spent a lot of time in the petting zoo dealing with goats of all colors and sizes.

She also rode a camel (not a Bactrian camel, as she told me -- that factoid courtesy of Zoboomafoo, I'm certain.)

Generally positive reviews. "Bumpy but fun..." -- Anna

It was pretty hot today, so we came back from the zoo mid-afternoon. We sat around being lazy in general. I read some of The Revenge of Gaia, which made for some interesting reading material after having just been to the zoo where seemingly every animal was endangered. I agree that we've pretty much wrecked this planet for every species of living thing save humans (and we're working on that now) but so far, the book seems like an environmental version of the book The Long Emergency. I mean, I agree that global warming does appear to be happening and we need to do something about it, but the book is making me feel like shit for having brought another life into the world. Pretty much the same way The Long Emergency made me feel.

We rounded out the night playing Barbie Beauty Boutique on her computer (which she refers to as "the Barbrie makeover game) while we listened to the Olivia Newton-John DVD of her early videos in the background. They're some of the cheesiest things in the universe, and even the excuse of "it was the 80s" doesn't really give them a pass. I mean, I don't think there was an 80's cliche that ONJ didn't fall for, hook, line and sinker. Bear witness to these:



But I do love this one -- because she is, well, totally hot.



But what's up with that construction worker touching his buddy as Olivia runs by in her leather pantsuit? Am I supposed to believe that actually happens?

And I got Anna to bed around 9pm (even though she insisted on wearing her footie pajamas in July.) All in all, a good day.

Monday, July 24, 2006

It's life's little victories...

...that make life worth living. I finally finished the Puzz 3D of the John Hancock Center yesterday.

It was a bitch to put together, but as it came together, it (obviously) got easier and easier. And while it claims to glow in the dark, I would have to say that the glowing in the dark feature was rather disappointing. But it's still cool. I'd like to get an Empire State Building, but I'm rapidly running out of real estate in my office for things like this.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Night owl

Really, I should just go to bed. I'm up way too late for my own good once again.

I'm feeling better -- my voice is slowly coming back. I'm tired, but I know that if I go up to bed, I won't be able to sleep. I did that last night, spent nearly 90 minutes tossing and turning, trying to get to sleep although I was tired as all hell. I listened to my iPod, trying all differents styles of music, finally falling asleep to the sounds of Casey Stratton's new B-side collection Rescue Andromeda: Whirlwind Medusa B-Sides. I remember hearing "House of Jupiter" but nothing beyond that. The next time I woke up, the music was off. I love it when music that I'm listening to on my iPod at night ends up in my dreams. That hasn't happened in a long time, and I sure wish it would happen again. Perhaps tonight. Man, I sound like my 4 year old wishing she could have the Teletubby dream again, or the dream about the balloon that followed her around telling her that it loved her.

I'll be a single parent this week, and I'm looking forward to it. It's a lot of work, and every year it's different. I look back on the first year that Heidi went to nationals and Anna actually took naps. Well, naps are a thing of the past -- have been ever since we moved to Ames. We have a few fun things planned, but mostly, we're just going to wing it and see what happens.

I was reading some old journals tonight that I kept when I was in college, and I nearly posted a retro-post, you know, same date, only a different year, but I couldn't find anything exactly from July 23rd and everything around it was mostly me bitching about this or that and it wasn't terribly interesting anyway, so I decided against it. One of the entries I read reminded me of the night Kelly came to Iowa City on a whim and we ended up at the Airliner drinking beer with me bitching about my roommate at the time, feeling very drunk as I walked home. I was about to write that those were fun times, but really, they weren't.

And anyway, I recognize the difference between blogging and journaling. Although I don't keep a journal like I used to, if I did, the blog would be for blogging and the journal for journaling and ne'er the twain shall meet.

In lighter news, I found a copy of the new Scissor Sisters song online this morning and it freaking rocks. It's called "Don't Feel Like Dancing" and it makes me very excited for their new CD due in September.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

And speaking of Kylie...

I found this video for her absolutely fantastic song "Giving You Up" which I had never seen before. Check it out. I was nearly wetting myself.

Doctor Who binge

I'm taking a break from a Doctor Who, Series 2 marathon. Heidi's already watched the whole thing so this is (at least) her second time through it. You see, I like Doctor Who -- Heidi's pretty much obsessed with it. I especially like David Tennant as Doctor Who. He's so much fun and clearly, he has a lot of fun with the role. I was telling Heidi that David Tennant seems like a guy I'd like to hang out with, have a meal with or something like that. He just seems like he knows how to have fun. Perhaps it's that sense of little boy that he conveys -- something that I think speaks to every adult male. For inside every adult male, there's a 12-year old boy that's been buried by years of adult responsibility and expectations just dying to get out. And I think David Tennant at least does a really good job of pretending to be that way. Of course, I could be completely wrong and Tennant could be a first class ass, but Heidi says that from everything she's read and seen, he seems like a nice guy.

I only have 4 more episodes to go in the series -- unfortunately, I already know how it ends. It was impossible to avoid, but even so, I won't spoil it here for those Stateside fans of Doctor Who who haven't seen Series 2 yet. Anyway, I really do love the show. There's something about the writing, the character, the Buffy meets traditional sci-fi feel of it that really appeals to me. And that's coming a long way from the first time I watched it and was completely unimpressed. Granted it was a VHS copy of a Region 2 DVD that had really bad audio, and once I got a chance to watch them on our own Region 2 DVDs, it made all the difference in the world. I mean, it does take a little getting used to listening to actors speaking quickly in an English accent. At times, it was almost like it was a foreign language which is weird because it's English, for Pete's sake!

But one of the episodes today ("The Idiot's Lantern") had perhaps one of the best pieces of subtle writing that I've witnessed in a while. The Doctor is trying to thwart the plans of the "alien-of-the-week" and has the following exchange with a minor character:
Tommy: You don't even know where to start looking! It's too late...
Doctor Who: It's never too late, as a wise person once said. Kylie, I think.
How many sci-fi shows would have the nerve to put in a pop culture reference to Kylie Minogue? Not many, I daresay.

And because I can't share the "Never Too Late" mp3 (darn DRM technology), here's the YouTube video.

Another sign of age

I came across this article the other day -- or a version of it anyway -- in the Ames paper. It talks about how the younger generation is less enchanted with e-mail and going more with instant messaging and text messaging. And I have to admit that it is probably yet another sign that I'm no longer a part of the "younger generation." I can count the number of times I've actually text messaged on one hand -- and that was several years ago. I find it laborious and annoying and I'd so much rather just type an e-mail as opposed to having to use a phone keypad to send a text message.

And as far as instant messaging goes, I'm a little more into that, but not nearly like I used to be. There was a time that every time I sat down to the computer I had to boot up Yahoo! Instant Messenger. Now, it's not even loaded on my computer. However, I do like Google Chat which is integrated with Gmail -- it helps me stay in touch with a few friends that I don't see very often but also have Gmail.

But overall, I'm pretty happy with e-mail. Of course, I can't remember the last time I actually sent someone a letter via the USPS (although I was tempted recently when I was trying to find a friend that I'd lost track of electronically but had found a snail mail address for.) I don't get tons of e-mail -- as a direct contrast to my wife who can literally spend an hour just trying to sort through all her e-mail. At times, it makes me jealous, as I really wish I had more in my inbox than an occasional Classmates.com spam -- at least on a more regular basis. But the fact of the matter is that I'm not always the best e-mail correspondent as it can take me forever to respond to an e-mail that I get.

So what to do? Who knows. I'm fine with getting older and not being hip and cool anymore -- hell, I never really was so what's to lose. So I guess I'll stick with my e-mail and Google Chat.

Frog in my throat

Somehow or another, I've managed to almost completely lose my voice. Well, I really shouldn't say that, as I can still talk, but I sound awful. But I have, as Anna would say, a definite frog in my throat. Which, of course, made me think of Michigan J. Frog from One Froggy Evening. Although it's not a very original opinion, that cartoon has to rank as one of my favorite of the Looney Tunes shorts. It's hilarious to me that the only words in the cartoon as sung -- not just spoken, but sung -- by a frog that apparently is immortal.

I'm trying not to overreact to my loss of voice -- I keep thinking it's strep throat, even though my throat doesn't really hurt (except when I wake up) and I don't really have any other symptoms of sickness. But it figures that I'm not 100% healthy as I'm about to spend a week off work.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Cords

I don't understand how cords get so tangled up in themselves when they're not even moving. I just got done replacing Anna's computer monitor which was inexplicably non-functional this afternoon. I mean, it wouldn't even power on. So as near as I can figure, it just had sudden monitor death and it'll be headed for the scrap yard. So I swapped it out with one of the old ones we had in the basement, but while I was swapping it out, I untangled the biggest cord mess I'd seen in a while. Are there little Boy Scouts back there practicing their knot-tying abilities?

And no sooner did I finish with that than I came downstairs to replace my computer speakers. The right speaker was as non-functional as Anna's monitor, and I had a spare set of speakers (which I had completely forgotten about!) And the cord mess involved in switching those out topped the one I had just had. After some colorful phrases, I managed to get them untangled and now all is right with the world again.

And I can't believe I just wrote a whole blog post about computer cords. Someone shoot me now!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Lazy and hazy

OK, I've pretty much been inside all weekend as the outside is unfit for human habitation. It's nearly 100 degrees today, humid and the whole thing kind of gives me a headache.

I've been pretty much a bum all weekend -- not doing anything of any great importance, although I did get my Netflix watched less than 24 hours after it arrived. It was Valley of the Dolls. I'd read the book last summer/fall and enjoyed it a great deal as I usually do those campy, guilty pleasurish things. Well, the movie was pretty bad. I mean, if I hadn't read the book, the plot would have been completely incoherent. They pretty much just picked out scenes from the book and filmed them with no sense of narrative or continuity. In the book, the three main women were good friends and all this was very carefully plotted and explained, but in the movie, they were just all thrown together randomly and you're kind of like "how the hell do these people even know each other?" And huge sections of the book were excised, things that were so essential to the story. And Helen Lawson was pretty much non-existant except at the beginning and the end. But it does have some of the best bad movie lines I've ever heard, plus the hour long documentary about the making of the film and its status as a camp classic was extremely entertaining -- especially listening to how when E! correspondent Ted Casablanca cleans his toilet bowl, he imagines Neely O'Hara flushing Helen Lawson's wig down the toilet!

Other than that, I've been listening to music like a madman, watched a little bit of Dave Gorman's Googlewhack Adventure which was entertaining until I grew weary of sitting and went up to fold laundry. Anna and I worked a little bit on our John Hancock Tower Puzz 3D and right now she's up playing Pirates! on her computer with Heidi.

Here's a picture of us being lazy playing Zoo Tycoon at my computer.

So as you can tell, things have been pretty quiet for the most part around here this weekend. Hence, the pretty boring blog entry.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Up way too late

As the subject line says, I'm up entirely too late for my own good. Morning will be here before I know it and I run a great risk of being exceptionally sorry for what is currently so fun (as is common with most really fun things.) I've mostly been up listening to music, reading blogs, and just generally enjoying my space. This is a good thing. The week has been a challenge as people from all sides have invaded my space and it's good to just be me for a while.

Jeff and Caryle came up tonight to watch Mommie Dearest, which was great fun. Anna, however wouldn't stay in bed which proved frustrating, but that's life with a 4 year old. We chatted away until almost 1AM about everything under the sun -- mostly about college days. How I wish I had done things differently, but you couldn't pay me to go back to them at all.

But perhaps the best news of the night is that Casey Stratton is going to be playing a show in Chicago on October 20th!! It's a Friday night, and I might try to go. I'm not sure if Heidi and Anna are going to be able to go, but I definitely want to go. His show, while definitely not Madonna's show (I mean, who else but Madonna could put on a Madonna show?) was great fun when he came to Ames a year ago. I wish he would come back to Ames as it's easier to go a mile than all the way to Chicago, but it does seem that he's only playing bigger metropolitan areas on this tour. I'll probably take the train, which would be cool and then just cab around. Stay someplace relatively cheap and come back the next day or so. Or maybe Sunday. Depends on when I would leave.

But something to look forward to, I guess. If it comes to fruition, that is. I mean, traveling across the U.S. to see Madonna is one thing. But it is only Chicago, which is hardly leaving home.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Dead Man's Chest

Saw Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest this weekend. I wasn't expecting to like it as I'd heard almost nothing but bad reviews of it in the run up to the weekend. It had a pretty middling 52% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and I just wasn't sure that they could replicate the first movie without either completely redoing it or taking it in a direction that I just didn't want to go.

Well, I'm happy to report that all my fears were for nothing. Even though there are serious pacing problems in the first 45 minutes, it's pretty much just rollicking fun. Nothing serious, nothing overly pretentious, and it certainly doesn't take itself to seriously. Some of the action sequences go on (and on and on and on) for way too long. The plot is a bit of mess and could have certainly used some tightening up, but since it's basically the first part of one big movie, I'm willing to cut it some slack.

The effects are pretty good -- they do what effects should do which is enhance the experience, not become the experience. I think that's where King Kong ultimately stumbled, although I do love that movie as well. It was just a little bit too much in love with its special effects -- cripes, the second act of that movie could have been excised from the film and been submitted to the Academy in the Best Animated Feature category. Pirates probably had one too many giant octopus attack scenes, but overall, I didn't think it was completely overdone.

The movie is basically a live action cartoon, as Heidi said. It's just the kind of summer entertainment that we've all come to expect. Much like my wife, I like it a lot better in hindsight than I did while I was actually watching it. I'll probably catch it again when it comes to the dollar theater.

Random iTunes

I've been really into my party shuffle feature on iTunes -- it picks songs I haven't heard in forever (or, if you were one of Heidi's old teachers, in a coon's age.) The last song to come up was Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now" which will forever be associated with Shaun of the Dead for me -- the only movie where zombies get beat up to the voice of Freddie Mercury.



It also played the rarely heard in the last 10 years Spanglish version of Madonna's "You'll See" and "Everything Changes" by Kathy Troccoli which I can hardly believe is 15 years old now. And the song that's currently playing? It's "Diamonds" by Herb Alpert, featuring Janet Jackson.

And this morning while I was in the shower, while my iPod was on "shuffle all tracks"I kept on getting live Madonna tracks, even though they probably make up barely 10% of the songs on my iPod. I think that iPods are actually sentient beings that take on the personality of their owner. Heidi says that the way they're designed, they likely could become "magnetized" by the energy surrounding the owner. Hey, I believe it. My iPod and I have a pretty good understanding of what I want to hear, and it usually complies.

Of course, the fact that it's loaded with music that I like has nothing whatsoever to do with it, right?

(updated with a faster YouTube link)

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

When Wednesday is Monday, and John Wayne Gacy

Since yesterday was Independence Day, today, which is actually Wednesday feels so much more like a Monday. Wait a second -- didn't I already do Monday this week? Independence Day was a lot of fun. A huge parade down Main Street, large amounts of candy thrown from floats (so much so that some of it was still laying in the street afterward -- a sure sign of candy saturation), a neighborhood block party where we barricade the streets so the kids can ride their bikes up and down the street at the speed of light without fear of being taken out by an SUV and finally, fireworks with Jeff which we don't even have to get in the car to go see. They're a little bit far away, but it beats having to take a 4 year old into a port-a-potty, pluse she enjoys them even though they're so far away.

And based on this picture, do we really think it's wise to let kids play with incendiary devices such as sparklers? Yowza!

So yeah, it feels like Monday this morning and I had a brief reprieve because I got called to change my shift from 8 to 10, which is good and bad, but overall good for this morning as I'm still trying to shake off the Ativan hangover -- last night I was so tired, but couldn't shut my brain off, so I ended up using my little sleep friends -- a prescription of 30 lasts me probably 18-24 months. However, I didn't get enough sleep, so I still woke up in the middle of a benzodiazepine induced haze. But fear not, I'm emerging from it pretty well.

I've been listening to a lot of Sufjan Stevens these days -- I picked up his Come On Feel The Illinoise! CD from the library. It was one of those CDs I'd resisted for a while because it was all over the blogosphere as THE BEST CD OF 2005!!!!! which immediately makes me skeptical. But I came across some free mp3s of his and while it didn't blow me out of the water or anything, I decided to check out the CD from the library. It's quite good, I mean, thematically, it works for me (all songs about Illinois.) The songs have a tendency to run into each other such that I'm not able to tell one song from another, plus they have these amazingly unwieldy titles like "A Short Reprise For Mary Todd, Who Went Insane, But For Very Good Reasons" and "They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back From The Dead!! Ahhhh!" But musically, it is interesting and I do enjoy some of the songs a great deal.

One that particularly appeals to me is "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." The reason for this, I think, is primarily because what a freaking weird subject for a song! For those who may not know, John Wayne Gacy was a serial killer who lived in the Chicago suburb of Norwood Park in the 70s. During that time, he killed some 33 young boys, burying the majority of them in a crawl space underneath his house, disposing the rest in the Des Plaines River. They called him the Killer Clown because he frequented neighborhood parties dressed up in full clown regalia to entertain kids.

I think the only reason I even know about John Wayne Gacy is because he was the "favorite serial killer" of a pharmacist that I worked with when I was in college. Not that Jerry was a serial killer or anything, but I think it must have been around the time that Ted Bundy was executed and we were talking about serial killers.

John Wayne Gacy is pretty much an unredeemable figure in my mind and the mind of most people, but Sufjan Stevens throws you a curve ball at the end of the song with the lyrics:
And in my best behavior
I am really just like him
Look beneath the floorboards
For the secrets I have hid
I highly doubt he's buried teenage boys under the floorboards of his house, but I think he speaks more abstractly -- about feelings or emotions. I know I've certainly hidden things beneath floorboards, I think we all have if we're honest with ourselves.

The odd morbid pop-culture connection, plus the unexpected dose of human honesty makes "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." my favorite song on the CD.

Listen to: Sufjan Stevens "John Wayne Gacy, Jr."

Sunday, July 02, 2006

I love Wikipedia

The merits of Wikipedia can be argued till the cows come home, but as a fun time waster, you can hardly beat it. Web surfing is so last season, now I'm all about Wikipedia surfing. It's the ultimate in stream of consciuosness, only you actually get educated in the process. My mother-in-law doesn't particularly care for Wikipedia, and since she's an educator, that doesn't particularly surprise me. Apparently, teachers and librarians don't want kids using Wikipedia as a source for their papers, speeches, etc. There's a certain amount of validity to this, since Wikipedia is open source and anyone can edit it -- whether they know jack about what their writing is entirely up for debate at times. My argument against that is that there are enough people that watch it like hawks that most of the crap ends up being removed pretty quickly.

So far, I've only contributed one little piece to Wikipedia. It's in the entry regarding J.G. Ballard's The Drowned World. They had the Madonna song "Drowned World" being released in 1999. Everybody knows that it's 1998. Well, at least they do now that I've edited it.

And just when I think I've seen everything, Wikipedia goes and impresses me yet again. I mean, could there possibly be a better pictorial representation of kitsch than this?
Perfect, I tell ya, just perfect.

Off to see Superman Returns this afternoon -- hopefully it'll live up to its hype. I have confidence in Bryan Singer to do it right.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Filthy gorgeous

Well, the house has been transformed from filthy to gorgeous. I've been in charge of the basement, which includes my office, a bathroom that my sister used when she lived here (and Anna and I use periodically when we're down here) and a spare bedroom. The trouble with the basement is the sheer amount of cobwebs and spiders. So there's a bug bomb going off in the spare bedroom to kill anything remotely insect-like and I've spent a large amount of the morning sweeping up cobwebs into the vacuum.

I've cleaned up my office quite a lot -- it degenerates quite rapidly as Anna brings her toys down and plays and also gets out anything she can possibly find. And before the day is out, I'm going to have hung up my Confessions Tour poster. (Heh, "hung up" -- I'm so funny!)

The steps are swept, all the bathrooms cleaned, the beds all made -- now the only thing we need is for entropy to kick in again.

Dirty weekend

I'm so tickled just to have a weekend where I don't work! I've worked the last couple weekends, and while working weekends isn't all bad (because you do get days off during the week which is always novel) I still prefer not to work the 10 hour days.

But we can't be lazy this weekend because we have large amounts of cleaning to do because Heidi's mom is coming this weekend and plus the house has descended into a filth as neither of us have had the wherewithall to think about it. But now, we're both feeling like it's something we can tackle and the immediacy of house guests has pushed it up the priority list a little bit. So that'll undoubtedly be the job of the day. I cleaned the shower yesterday for the first time in I can't remember so it looks pretty good now. I also scooped and changed out cat litter (or, as Anna would say, cat glitter) after work last night so that dirty job is done.

Heidi's done a lot in the last couple days -- mostly while I've been at work, so kudos to her. But since we're both here this weekend, I guess we'll both be working.

And as a reward to ourselves, on Sunday, we're planning to go to Superman Returns with a couple friends while Heidi's mom babysits. Yay! We get to be adults! Now that's novel!