Monday, October 30, 2006

Leaves

So yesterday, before the yummy and fun dinner with Jeff, Caryle, and Kathy, I decided that, as Babs and Donna Summer would say "Enough is enough! Time to rake the leaves in the front yard!" Heidi did this great blog post on the street where we live, featuring the great plentitude of trees in the neighborhood. They are beautiful - all these old trees as opposed to all those 5-10 year old ones in the suburban developments. They are majestic in their beauty, commanding respect and attention.

However, when fall gets here, they drop their leaves like crazy. And I swear to God, they all end up in my yard. I've detailed here before how much I hate doing yardwork, and raking is no exception to the rule. The only thing it has going for it is that it's usually much cooler when it comes time to rake, unlike when you're mowing in 98 degree weather with 180% humidity.

But it's still labor intensive and I am always capable of coming up with a hundred other things I'd rather be doing. But I did get some of the raking done yesterday. I'm not close to done - not by a long shot. I might have to have my dad bring his mulching mower over to finish the job, or just take it a little bit at a time. I don't think we're due for snow anytime soon (although you never can tell!!) so at least that's not complicating matters. Yet.

But what's a fall day without jumping in leaves? We did this as kids all the times, living on another tree lined street but for some reason or another, the wind always blew all our leaves into the neighbors' yards. So yesterday, I raked up some piles and let Anna jump to her heart's content. Here's the results of that endeavor.

And since the pictures only capture half the story, here's a quick video:



The innocence of youth - it's a beautiful thing.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Feels like the (very) first time

This afternoon has been one of cleaning house in anticipation of company and taking breaks to check e-mail or listen to a few songs here and there. But now that the cleaning is done for the most part (except for me still needing to shower! It's 4:45PM for the love of all things sacred!) I've decided to do something I haven't done in quite some time - listen to the Like A Virgin album all the way through. From start to finish, in order, no shuffle, no skipping, no nothing.

I'm half way through it right now, on "Love Don't Live Here Anymore" -- the end of side one when I had the vinyl album (which is now on the wall of my office.) And I'd forgotten just how good this CD is. It's Madonna just as she was becoming Madonna -- the cultural force that couldn't be stopped no matter how hard people wanted to stop her. Like A Virgin was the first Madonna album I ever bought - and I bought it fairly late in its charting lifetime - probably fall of 1985. "Dress You Up" had already run its chart course, and I don't think they bothered releasing any more singles off of it after that. But I had already sat up and taken notice of this lady people were calling a slut. Her "Material Girl" video had prompted me to buy the 45. "Into the Groove" had been all over the radio that summer. And honestly, in retrospect, I often wonder what took me so long to fall in with Madge.

Like A Virgin is by no means perfect, but it's a good slice of mid-80s pop. Madonna's vocals, while not great, are certainly passable, but it's the unforgettable hooks, the opening bass line of "Like A Virgin," the Mr. Roboto-ish vocals of the men in "Material Girl." And as most songs from this period of Madonna's career, they're almost impossible to separate from the visuals. Madonna cavorting in a wedding dress on stage at the very first VMAs. Madonna all decked out like Marilyn Monroe trying chastising some guy for giving her expensive gifts. And of course, the opening number of the Virgin Tour - "Dress You Up" - used as the video and still probably one of my favorite versions of the song.

Even the album tracks aren't too bad, although Madge's albums have always had their fair share of filler. I listened to "Pretender" for the first time in forever the other day and found it to be not quite as cheesy as I recalled it being.

And 22 years after its initial release, Madonna performs "Like A Virgin" live again this last summer on the Confessions Tour. I was in heaven.

Here's a little blast from the past, since "Stay" is coming up and I don't have much longer.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Idiocy

I'm not normally political on the blog, so please, indulge me if you will.

This is kind of the brother post, or perhaps, husband post, to Heidi's post about the idiocy on the front page of the Ames paper tonight. I was at work this morning, and the radio was on and it was talking about our stupid illustrious president's stop in Des Moines yesterday. And he was all up in arms about gay marriage. It's a hot button issue for conservatives. He was talking about the ruling in New Jersey that allowed the state legislature to decide whether or not gays should be allowed to get married. Using his usual scare tactics, he talked about how "activist courts" were trying to "redefine marriage" and threaten the sanctity of that great institution.

Jesus Christ! If one person could give me an example of how gays could threaten the sanctity of marriage more than the 50%+ divorce rate amongst heterosexuals, I'd love to hear it. How is allowing two people that love and care for each other the ability to enter into a legally binding relationship going to undermine families? Is it because these idiotic conservatives can't stand the thought of love taking more than one form? I wish we weren't so damn puritanical in our thinking.

I'm so irritated with the direction of our country. Camille Paglia is much more forgiving of George Bush than I ever could be. She says he was railroaded into the presidency because he was his father's son, but we're the idiots that elected the idiot. Twice even. OK, once. Or maybe not at all if you believe the conspiracy theories about voter fraud in the 2004 election.

I'm just going on now for no good reason and probably irritating any of my conservative friends (yes, I do have a few.) So to spite Bush and his homophobia, I'll be listening to Judy and Barbra and Madge and all that good pop music that makes this world a shiny happy place!!

And since we're having a mini-Take That party on last.fm, I'm going to play Robbie Williams' "Your Gay Friend."

End of political rant.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Supersonic

Today at work, I was back at the computer working on clinical stuff, listening to the radio (I know, I couldn't believe it either.) Anyway, it was one of those 80s lunch hour things, and I was amazed by the fact that they were playing Erasure's "Chains of Love." I didn't think that those 80s shows strayed very far from the usual suspects.

Oh, how little I knew.

The DJ comes on and says that every now and again, she gets a request that just makes her laugh because she hasn't thought of the requested song in so long. And apparently, this was true of the song she was about to play. The song, you ask?

J.J. Fad's "Supersonic."

I was bowled over. That song had seriously disappeared from my brain utterly and completely. And now, here it was, back in after probably almost 20 years. It was like going by a car accident and not being able to help yourself. I had to listen to it. I couldn't turn off the radio.

And I can't believe I blew 99 cents buying the song on iTunes. I mean, you knew I would.

Thursday 13 -- Halloween version

OK, I'm bowing to peer pressure since both Caryle and Mike have done them. It's not terribly inspired, but it's seasonal and what I have. I admit to being intimidated by the thirteen aspect of it -- why did it have to be so blasted many? I suppose it's better than the Thursday 30.

My 13 Favorite Scary Movies (in no particular order)

1) Night of the Living Dead --
It's the granddaddy of all zombie movies. It was the first, and still, arguably, the best. It's been done and redone and parodied (Night of the Living Bread, anyone?) But for black & white zombie creepiness, nobody does it better.

2) The Exorcist -- This movie scared the shit out of me when I was in the 6th grade. And that was the edited for television version. It gave me nightmares and the demon voice was forever etched in my brain. And for all that, the story is also about a Jesuit priest losing his faith - a fact that gets lost in all the green vomit and heads spinning around.

3) Alien - It's been called a haunted house in space, and truly it is. But what I love about Alien is the thought that went into the life cycle of the alien. While the final adult alien is still a guy in a rubber suit, somehow, you're able to look beyond it.

4) The Grudge -- So many people I've talked to didn't think this movie was scary. I, however, had to turn the lights on in the living room when I was watching it. And that's really saying something.

5) Rosemary's Baby -- Simple, understated but scary as hell. A movie that scares you more with ideas than actual images. Mia Farrow is great, Ruth Gordon is a cross between Dr. Ruth Westheimer and a smurf (and got a much deserved Academy Award.) In the book, Rosemary's baby has a tail and little horns, in the movie, you never see him. So much the better.

6) Freddy vs. Jason -- I know, I know. I should be taken out and shot for liking this movie. But it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be and was actually quite good for your typical slasher movie. I've blogged about it before, so I'll let that entry speak for it.

7) Final Destination -- This movie will never be shown on a plane, that's one thing for certain. I had never flown when I first saw it, and after seeing it, I vowed I never would. Well, the things you'll do for Madge, I've been on a plane, but this movie (actually, the whole series) freaks me out. Plus it uses the John Denver song "Rocky Mountain High" to such great effect.

8) Stephen King's "It" -- A TV movie from 1990 that captured the spirit of the novel, if not the scope. Tim Curry is scary as hell as Pennywise the Clown -- a million times scary than the big rubber spider that It actually was (sorry if that's a spoiler. Personally, I'd rather have that part spoiled.) A great cast of TV favorites, it's about the best possible adaptation of the book we could hope for.

9) An American Werewolf in London -- This is the only movie I've ever seen where a guy who is a werewolf by night talks to corpses in a porn theater in London. And on that alone, it's a great movie. Featuring the Dr. Pepper spokesman David Naughton and the special effects of Rick Baker, it's also witty and fun as well as being scary. The ending's a bit abrupt, but we can forgive that, especially since it's another movie that uses music to great effect.

10) Dawn of the Dead (both versions) -- The original Dawn of the Dead a/k/a zombies in a shopping mall is a horror (and zombie) classic. It also features the only known zombie pie fight ever filmed. Horror fans cried foul when they heard it was going to be "remade" featuring the fast zombies a la 28 Days Later (a movie that just missed the list) but surprisingly, it was more a "reimagining" than a remake and both films can stand on their own merit. While the original is a great satire on commercialism in America, the second is just plain scary with an ending that is chilling.

11) Candyman -- I love this movie because, once again, it's a movie that scares you with concepts rather than blood and gore and dismemberment. Although there's a fair amount of gore in the movie, you're just never sure what's real and what's not. Based on a Clive Barker story, transplanted from London to the Cabrini Green projects of Chicago, its a hidden treasure. The cinematography is fantastic, which breathtaking views of Chicago and a very scary Tony Todd as the title character.

12) Phantasm -- This movie is just plain fucked up. That's all there is to say about it. A tall man from another dimension is stealing bodies to send back to his home world to make them slaves. Jawa-ish creatures run around the mortuary. And who can forget the ball? Confusing as hell, but scary, and it's supposed to be like a dream anyway.

13) Creepshow -- A horror anthology from George Romero & Stephen King based on the pulp horror comics of the 50s. Standouts are the segments "Father's Day" in which a father killed by his daughter on Father's Day comes back from the grave to exact his revenge and "The Crate" starring the incomparable Adrienne Barbeau in a great bitchy wife role. "Now get out of my way Henry or I swear to God, you'll be wearing your balls for earrings!" *cue monster in the crate*

So that's it. We'll see how I do on doing this weekly. Something tells me it won't be quite weekly, but this was pretty fun.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Helping me uncrank (a little)

I discovered this morning that the "Jump" single was available on iTunes. And it has the unreleased Madonna track "History" on it. I have seen this available for download on several mp3 blogs and have resisted the temptation to download it. (John, you understand this.)

"History" is not bad. It has the can't miss quality of being new and unheard Madonna. I can see why it was left off the album - I don't think it would flow with the rest of the songs as well. Plus it's so much fun to get new Madonna and had it been on the album - we wouldn't be getting it. So there.

Personally, I just can't get over how perfect Confessions On A Dance Floor is. I think it's the sequencing of the tracks that gets me. I know that Jeff will disagree with me as he feels Madonna always has a tendency to lose it at the end of the CD, but I just can't imagine any other order of tracks for Confessions than the way it is. And any other song on the CD would just be intruding on this perfection. I mean, yes, some of the lyrics are God-awful, but I think what I love most about Confessions is that it is so truly joyous and happy. Even when Madonna is being all introspective and "look how bad fame is", the music is still happy.

Plus, Anna loves the hell out of it.

So I'll be playing "History" quite a bit for a while. It's really growing on me the more I listen to it.

Crankpot

That's what we call Anna when she acts (and probably feels) like I'm feeling today.

And yes, I'll admit it, I am a bit on the cranky side this morning. I am mostly irritated with my re-entry into the real world. It's not my job that frustrates me, it's the whole act of working. I'm getting incredibly irritated with anything that demands my time to do something I'm not 100% behind. Part of that, I think, stems from me not really wanting to live in the real world right now. I can't decide if this is a bad thing or not. I mean, on one hand, a little bit of escapism is good, but when all you want is escape? Is that addiction? Is that dangerous? I can't tell.

I suppose the fact that I can recognize that I'm trying to escape a little bit too much means that I'm not all that far gone. But for right now, I'm wanting to do nothing but sit at the computer and listen to music and surf mindlessly. I have this unfortunate habit of tsking the mindless watching of television all night after work. I can't understand how people can do it. But isn't that, essentially, the same thing as what I want do, just using a different size screen?

I don't know - I suppose it's just a phase. I'm sure I'll be right as rain in a few days, but still, I can't help but feel a bit on the cranky side today. Not at anyone or anything, but at life in general. And giving myself permission to be cranky is the first step. The second step is to not get all caught up in it. Not doing so well on that second step. It's a doozy.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Housewares slaughterhouse

Seriously, that was the subject line in a spam e-mail I just got. I'm getting this image of cow carcasses hanging next to the dishes and bathtowels and curtains in Target.

And, true to form, not even close to a Google Whack. 19,100 hits!!

Who writes this stuff?

Video from the weekend

Here's the two videos that I took at the show this weekend. I know, I'm blogging a lot about Casey. Give me a couple days and I'll be back to the mundane details of my life.

Here's "Dog's Mercury" (which the beginning is chopped off of, unfortunately)



And here's "Live To Tell" (no disco cross - he couldn't hang from the cross AND play the piano, for crying out loud!)


Is he good, or what?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

One last little bit about the weekend

Perhaps one of the best things about the weekend, Casey show aside, was the arrival back at home. Our last.fm crew, Heidi, Mike, John and Caryle had all hatched a Casey listening party to celebrate my safe arrival back home (Mike was the ringleader.) They had all changed their avatars to pictures of Casey, which prompted me to change mine to the picture I had taken at the show. They were all listening to Casey (mixed in with liberal amounts of Olivia Newton-John as well!! Heidi, voluntarily listening to Olivia. I thought I'd never see the day.)

It brought a huge smile to my face and just reiterated that I am where I am supposed to be in my life. It's fun to visit Chicago. Oddly enough, while I was walking around, I noticed how many people there are and how it's still possible to be lonely amongst all those people. Being in Iowa with the women in my life is where I'm supposed to be.

And surrounded by a great community of people from all over the world - as close as in the same house, just down the Interstate, and across the Atlantic. You guys are the best. Madge says it best (sorry, Mike I'm stealing your line) -- music really does make the people come together.

Casey at Uncommon Ground

I suppose now's as good a time as any to blog my Casey Stratton show experience. Let me just start with this - it was worth all the aggravation and irritation that I had with Amtrak and the subsequent driving that I had to do in order to be there. But there's a lot more to the story than just that.

I got into Chicago about 8 hours after I started after being stuck in I-90 rush hour traffic for the better part of 90 minutes. That's one of the most hilarious things about driving in Chicago - the speed limits are one of two things. They're either a speed "suggestion" because everyone is just going whatever the traffic is taking, or you're stuck in traffic and the thought of going 5 miles an hour, left alone 55 miles an hour is pretty much a pipe dream. But I finally got to Doug's apartment in the Lakeview district at around 7:15PM and I was exceptionally glad to park the car and not be driving until the next afternoon. We went out for pizza and then headed back to his apartment so I could get ready to go.

I left the apartment around 9:30PM to get to Uncommon Ground. It was only about a mile and a half away, but I figured I should probably just cab it. So I hail a cab on at Belmont and Sheridan and I get in and say I want to go to Uncommon Ground. The cabbie asks me where that is, at which point I'm thinking "isn't that your job?" I really couldn't remember the address of the place - I knew it was on Clark Street and knew is was in the 3000s. But beyond, that I was just guessing. I said it was at 3300 Clark. We get there, and I realize that I'm way off because we're not close enough to Wrigley field so I tell the cabbie that I thought it was 3900. He kind of chews me out because if he had known that, he'd have gone a different way and I'm all "what do you care? You're getting a bigger fare!" Still not 100%, I call Heidi on the cell phone and she looks it up on the net -- it was 3800 Clark, so I wasn't that far off.

I get out of the cab and almost immediately realize that I had forgotten my goddamn camera at Doug's apartment. For a brief moment, I entertained the notion of not going back to get it, and then I was all "no, that's the only reason I brought the camera!" So I hailed another cab and went all the way back to Doug's apartment and picked up the camera. And the whole thing starts over again, except this time I know the address so I don't have to have the whole uncomfortable interaction with the cabbie.

My reservations were for 10, originally I made them for two people because I didn't know if Doug would want to go. He was tired from working all day and decided not to go so it was just me. This was a bit on the awkward side as I'm not usually one that goes to things by myself. So I decided to drink Merlot until I didn't feel uncomfortable any longer. Me being who I am, it didn't take too much, and man was the Merlot good - especially considering it was from California. Before too long, I was actually making polite conversation with the total strangers sitting next to me, telling them all about him as he was getting ready to play.

The show was fantastic. Unfortunately, his "show curse" struck again and his keyboard stand was broken, so he had to set his keyboard on two tables. But the show was so utterly fantastic. It was bizarre, because in many ways, it felt like he was playing the whole show just for me which is utterly ridiculous, but I suppose any good performer can make a fan feel that way. Of course, then you get to a certain level of celebrity (like Madonna) and well, you just don't feel that way, but there's still a touch of it. Even at the Confessions Tour, I had that feeling - not quite like I did at Casey's show, but it was there.

The song selections were great - like I said, it was all my favorites. But most importantly and amazingly of all, he played BOTH of the songs that I requested on his message board a couple weeks ago. "Dog's Mercury" from the Lily Sleeps album and a cover of Madge's "Live To Tell" complete with a shout out to yours truly. I have video of both of the performances which I'd love to embed on the blog via YouTube, but I really feel like I should get Casey's permission first as it is his show. I tried PM'ing him on his message board, but for reasons completely unknown to me, I can't get the message to move out of my outbox and into the sentbox. Perhaps he has private messages turned off on the message board. I suppose I certainly can't blame him if that's the case. Edit: He told me he doesn't have a problem with me sharing the videos, so I'll blog them sometime tomorrow or the next day - whenever I get time.

But it was exceptionally cool to have "Live To Tell" go out to me. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy.

And after the show was over, he did the usual signing of CDs and meet-and-greet of the fans, and it was great, because he's been to this blog (!!! -- I KNOW!) he knew of all my troubles with the train and driving and whatever so that was really cool. My goal was to NOT do a Kevin Costner a la Truth Or Dare and call the show neat. (Neat? Anyone who calls my show neat has got to go!) And we just talked a little bit up by the front bar and I got to be all fan boy and gush about his music and get my picture taken with him and everything! See exhibit A at left -- even though I wish I had taken a better picture!! I'm so glad to report that Casey is as cool in person as he is on his blog and on his records. He's very down to earth and seems to love interacting with the fans after the show.

It's so great that someone whose music means a great deal to me is also a very decent human being as well.

I bought a CD of the show that night - I almost didn't, opting to wait for it to be released in his digital store, but I found out today via his blog that it's not going to be released because of the amount of distortion (apparently, the sound guy recorded it too loudly.) I noticed the distortion when I was listening to it - I didn't think it was that bad, but I am probably a touch biased. I am glad that I bought it - it's a great aural souvenir of the night.

Thanks Casey for a great show and a great experience. It was totally worth the trip.

And incidentally, Amtrak finally got to Chicago at 11:28PM that night. 8 hours and 8 minutes behind schedule. Glad I drove.

Plaid shirt zombie

Although this sounds like it could be a post about me in college, sadly, it's not. (or perhaps, happily, it's not.)

I will blog my experience at the Casey Stratton show on Friday eventually here - but it's a long post and this is an easy one-off. I spent most of Saturday morning walking around Boystown in Chicago. It's an incredibly vibrant neighborhood with so many different kinds of shops and restaurants and I swear, a Starbucks (or Caribou Coffee) on every corner. But it also has some really cool things you'll not find anywhere else. Perhaps one of my favorite places to go in Boystown (aside from Borderline Music) is Gaymart Chicago. And while it does have a lot of rainbow souvenirs and what not - it also has some of the coolest pop culture stuff ever. I got two of Anna's birthday presents there (Corpse Bride figures - Victor and Corpse Bride) and found an Elizabeth Swann figure to add to Heidi's burgeoning collection of strong women.

But it took me going into Chicago Comics to find something that I was looking for. Originally, I was going to pick up this Medusa figure from Clash of the Titans to add to MY ever burgeoning collection of figures of movie monsters:

It was 30 dollars, and I was all set, but then, I saw this:

It's "Plaid Shirt Zombie" from the original Dawn of the Dead!!! What a perfect, and I do mean perfect addition. Hard as it might be to believe, in all the figures I've managed to collect over the last few years, not a single one has been an honest to God zombie. And that just seemed wrong. And plus, he was half the price, so it seemed like a real no brainer to me.

Anna already thinks he's pretty cool - she is so gonna be my scary movie watching buddy when she's older.

All in all, I probably would have rather had Fly Boy Zombie. And now it appears that he's sold out, so perhaps eBay may be my only hope on that front.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Back in Iowa

I made it back from Chicago tonight - I've spent 14 of the last 36 hours in the car, but it was so worth it. Casey's show was great, but I'll blog more about that this tomorrow, I'm wiped. Until then, here's a picture I got from the show. I took the red eye out of it - with it, Casey looked like he was possessed!!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Train tickets cancelled, Chicago here I come.

The train won't get into Chicago until almost 9PM tonight, so I just decided to say "screw it" and drive. I'm making a playlist filled with Casey, the best of British pop from Mike, John & Danny, and some other surprises in the middle. Heidi's making me a Kate Bush playlist for my iPod. I should be set.

This is so exciting!! But so much to do before I can leave. I'll report back here on Saturday night/Sunday morning.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

One if by land, two if by land

This is a follow-up post to the one I did just a bit ago. The more I think about it, the more I know in the deepest part of me that I will be driving to Chicago tomorrow. Yes, that makes me nervous. However, the trick is to let go of the fear RIGHT HERE and RIGHT NOW. This has the potential to be an incredibly great adventure - and I just can't say "Oh, I'll just stay home." I don't like that option in any way or form, so I'm discarding it immediately.

It's frustrating, because I've never really had this kind of trouble with Amtrak. I know that there are horror stories galore about how awful it is and how it always runs behind and it's never on time and yeah, there is certainly an element of truth to that. It's frustrating because I was being all responsible and not driving and, damn it, they let me down. This is the exact reason why people don't take Amtrak. And while I understand that they do everything they can to provide service, it's sad because really, the government tries to cut their funding every time you turn around. As they said in that movie The End Of Suburbia, we have a rail system that Bulgaria would be ashamed of.

So I'm going to go to bed now, and get excited about how I'm going to be able to spend all that time by myself. Granted, it won't be alone on a train reading my book, but it'll still be Dan time. It'll be fun and Doug doesn't live that far away from Uncommon Ground so it'll be really easy. And besides which, I'm not high maintenance (really!) and all I really need is a place to put my weary head. There are some things I haven't figured out yet, but I'll cross those bridges when I get to them.

It's going to be great. And I'll leave you tonight with a quote from Frank Herbert.

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind killer.
Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone, there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

Aggravation

So we're about 24 hours from the Casey Stratton show in Chicago and unfortunately, some bad news has already come calling (literally.) I got a call tonight from Amtrak telling me that the train is RUNNING 5 HOURS LATE!! (Mechanical problems, so they told me.) I had logged on and checked the web site earlier in the day, and already, at that point, the train wasn't going to arrive in Osceola until 11:30AM or so - some 3 hours late. I wasn't too nervous because it still showed us arriving in Chicago around 6PM. The show's not till 11PM and my reservations are for 10PM, so y'know really, anything no later than 9PM really is ok. However, the lateness is starting to trickle down and now the train is arriving in Osceola at 12:15PM and in Chicago at 6:45PM. There is a chance that they might make up some time overnight, but they're certainly not going to make up 4 hours.

*sigh* So I'm going to get there late. No big deal. I'm really just going for the show + I have some time on Saturday to do some other stuff. However, if the train gets a whole lot later, I may have to do the previously unthinkable and drive to Chicago. It's a 6 hour trip +/- an hour or so, depending on how fast you drive and which route you take and all that. It's not an option I savor as that is a HELL of a long drive by yourself and I'd be a bit nervous driving in downtown Chicago by myself. I mean, I've done it before, but it's just not something that I really relish the idea of. But if it comes down to it, I will. I've only been planning this trip for a month now and to bail would just be a real let down.

I finally got a hold of Doug, my friend who I'll be staying with, so at least that's done. I had started doing a preliminary search for hotel rooms with no luck whatsoever.

And another check of the Amtrak web site shows the train getting into Chicago at 7:04PM now. Much later, and I'll definitely be driving. Time will tell, I guess.

Alien Sweetberry

OK, as most people who read this know, I'm definitely what you would call an Alien geek. And I can't help it. There's so many places to totally geek out over the Alien, be it it's complex life cycle or the WTF physiology (acid for blood? what does it eat?, etc.) that I can't really help myself. What helps me cope with this is to know that there's people even more geeked out about it than me. Case in point, the Anchorpoint Essays.

But this, truly takes the cake. It's a perfect amalgam of my normal Dan geekiness over all things Alien and the "Dan's the father of a 4 year old girl" part of my personality. Anyone who knows anything about the Alien knows that when it gestates inside its host, it takes on characteristics of that host. That's why most of the aliens in the first two movies were bipedal (after gestating inside human hosts) and why the one from Alien 3 was a quadraped (after gestating inside a dog, or, in the alternate version, an ox.) It also explains the end of Alien vs. Predator as well. So, for those who have wondered about what would happen if a facehugger found itself around a My Little Pony, wonder no more.

OK, now HOW COOL IS THAT?????

Now I wish I had one.

(via Metafilter - and if you think I'm geeky, check out the comments! Although, of course, I'm right there with them.)

(photo credit -- check here for making of pictures!!)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Death of two things near and dear.

I have no doubt that Heidi will blog this later, but her iPod has died. May it rest in peace. It's going to Best Buy today and it will either come back fixed or it will come back as a new one as it's still under warranty (at least Best Buy's warranty.) Sometimes I really hate iPods, but I love them more than I hate them. The fact that I can carry 3000 songs in my pocket is just so damn cool, but I hate how the battery eventually dies, and I think that Heidi's is likely a hard drive failure as I tried to restore it and it froze up her iMac after appearing to successfully restore.

And for me, the thing that died for me today was my Confessions Tour mug. I had been very good about not putting it in the dishwasher, but a few times when I'd been lazy, I'd snuck it in there. So yesterday, when I'm loading the dishwasher with about a million dishes, I get lazy and stick it in there. I get it out of the dishwasher this morning and my heart just sank, for this is what I saw:

You probably can't see it all that well, and you can click on the above image to enlarge, but the decal on the black cup is all wrinkled and now it's pretty much wrecked! Goddamn cheap tour merchandise. As Jeff would say, "I can't have nothin' nice!" I'm probably going to order one from Fanfire because I really really liked that mug.

*sigh* Things in life are so fleeting. I guess that's why we're not supposed to get attached to things.

Must clean the house now as my folks will be here soon.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Casey Stratton turns 30

A mere 4 days before I trek to Chicago to see him in concert, Casey Stratton is hitting the big 3-0. In his honor, it's all Casey, all day on my last.fm page. I'm even going to let it play while I'm at work tonight.

And how did I come across Mr. Stratton in the first place? Well, it was through the music blog, arjanwrites.com. There was a post on that blog about how Casey Stratton seemed a lot happier now that he wasn't signed to Sony and was releasing music on his own terms. Naturally curious, I clicked on the link to Casey's MySpace page to listen to what kind of music he made. I downloaded the track "Fission" and listened to it. I was spellbound. At first, I had the (very common) reaction of not knowing whether it was a man or a woman singing. But it was beautiful. And it was at that instant, I was pulled in.

As of this minute, I have 18 hours worth of his music on my computer, and I haven't even bought everything yet. Not bad for an independent artist. If you haven't heard of Casey, heard over to his web site and he has some free audio - including "Fission", the song that roped me. And play a few tracks for him as he enters his 30s.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

O Brush! O Hush!

Tonight Anna and I read one of our favorite books before bed - The Color Kittens by Margaret Wise Brown. And surprisingly, it's not a book that I ever had read to me as a kid -- it's a book that Heidi remembers. Most of the books that I love reading with Anna are ones that I read growing up, but this one, well, it's just so darn cute that you can't really resist it.

Basically, the book is about how the color kittens, Brush and Hush are trying to make green paint. And in the process of mixing paints, they make all sorts of different colors - pink, orange, purple, brown. It's great for kids learning their colors and it has a gentle not-quite rhyme that makes it great fun to read aloud.

Anna always has to point out to me which one is Brush and which one is Hush (Brush uses a paint brush to get paint out of a bucket, Hush uses his paw.) But I think my favorite part is the part where the color kittens are sleeping and they dream a dream of a purple land by a pale pink sea.

Every time I see that picture, I wish I lived on that little island. I'm not sure why. It's probably pretty ridiculous, but it just seems like a nice place to be. So peaceful and serene.

Probably not what the author was after when she wrote the book, but that's what it does for me. Whenever we read it, I can't wait to get to that part.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Blogging Basia

It's been quite some time since I've sat down and listened to Basia. She is one of those acts whose music should be so cheesy, because it hems so close to "smooth jazz" *gags*. And when I say "smooth jazz" I'm not talking things like Diana Krall (who is much more in the vein of classic vocal jazz) but I'm talking things like Kenny G and Dave Koz and all those other things they would have played on the Jazz Patio on whatever radio station that was out of Cedar Rapids. But somehow, she manages to pull off the style of music that she does - and not only does she pull it off, she pulls it off with panache.

I first heard of Basia one morning when I was in high school sitting at the breakfast table watching "Good Morning America." She was a guest on there and sang the song "Time & Tide" which I immediately fell in love with. I got her debut CD through one of those "buy 9 CDs for the price of 1" CD clubs that were all the rage then. And initially, I didn't like it. But as it turns out, it was a rather slow burn.

By the time her second CD came out - London Warsaw New York - she had actually eked out a minor radio hit in "Cruising For Bruising" and I was really into her. It took her an ungodly 5 years to put out her next (and, so far, last) CD The Sweetest Illusion which, well, ranks in my top 20 favorite CDs of all time. Like most good music, it's made even better by memories from the time and this is no exception. I was in the last little bit of my 4th year of college and was breaking out of some pretty negative social situations that I had gotten myself stuck in. I was learning how to enjoy just being by myself, and Basia's great CD made that so much easier. Not that it was easy - it involved separating myself from people that I thought had been good friends and iin actuality, weren't. But listening to songs like "Third Time Lucky" and "An Olive Tree" were just the antidote I needed at that time in my life.

And of course, there's also the copious use of song lyrics as saved games in Wolfenstein 3D which my sister and I played relentlessly that summer. But that's another story altogether.

You can imagine my excitement when I realized that Basia was coming back, sort of, with a Matt Bianco CD. I've already blogged this CD once, so I won't bore you with the long harangue, but it was great to have new Basia music to listen to. And surprisingly, I keep coming back to Matt's Mood despite the fact that really, it's only mediocre -- certainly, I like Basia's solo stuff better.

So I don't know what the point of this entry has been, other than to go on about an obscure Polish singer. One that I happen to like a lot, and one that I frequently forget about.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Two can play at that game...

Heidi posted a great stupid picture of herself yesterday, so I thought I'd reciprocate, because a lot of the people that we having a bad day yesterday were mutual friends. So, why not do my part?!?!

Here's a picture that Heidi snapped of Anna and me in my office the other night after work.

There I am wearing my Donkey Kong shirt that Heidi bought for me at Target (I really wanted that shirt!!!) and Anna eating her peanut butter sandwich - the staple of her very limited diet.

And this was two days pre-haircut, so sadly, it's not the best picture ever of me, but what can you do?

Shower scene

(I just realized that the subject line of this post has several pop culture references. OK, maybe two, but still!)

Today, my biggest accomplishment has been the recaulking of the shower. As many here may recall (and if you don't scroll down two entries), I braved Lowe's the other day and bought this tape like substitute for caulk (love?) that we had previously put down in the shower, but was unfortunately too wide for the corners of the shower. Well, after one of the sides fell down, Heidi went to pull it up and THE ENTIRE rest of the substitute for caulk came up as well. It was at this point that she realized that we would have been in exactly the same situation had there been nothing in the shower. She detailed all the information to me in an e-mail while I was work Monday night. The subject line was "argh!" And whenever I get an e-mail with the subject line of "argh!" from her, I take a deep breath and then click open.

So since today was my day off, I ended up going back out to Lowe's (insert violins playing here) and buy regular caulk (3 tubes even!) and a smoothing tool. I bought three tubes because I thought I would need two, and there was certainly no way in hell that I was going to get 90% of the way through the job and run out of caulk. Plus it was only 3 bucks a tube, so what the hell?

I spent about 45 minutes this morning caulking -- using the precision of a surgeon as this is seriously the last time I want to be doing this for a while -- and overall, it wasn't that bad of a job. It was mostly the anticipation of having to do it that was driving me crazy, as is the case with most household chores that I don't want to do.

But it's done, and now all I have to do today is get my hair cut. And then the rest of the day, who knows. The possibilities are endless.

(photo credit)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Nine years

Today's our anniversary. And I was going to just post something like "Happy Anniversary to the old ball and chain!" And then Heidi one ups me and posts this. I could never ever in a million years ever write anything better (there's a reason she's the writer in this family) so I'm not even going to try.

Instead, all I'll say is that I'm the luckiest guy in the whole wide world. I love you too, honey.

(OK, I wasn't really gonna post that about the ball and chain.)

Monday, October 09, 2006

Home Improvement Warehouse

I had to go to Lowe's this morning to buy some of this pseudo-caulk stuff for the shower as the stuff we bought the last time was too wide for the walls, and it officially fell off this morning while Heidi was in the shower. And I'd have sooner hacked up my own body into little pieces than have gone to Lowe's. I pretty much can't stand Lowe's, which stands in stark contrast to almost every other American male that I know. For one thing, it's huge. And I never know where anything is. They call it a home improvement WAREHOUSE for a reason.

And for as big as Lowe's is, I can never seem to find anyone to help me find what I'm looking for. I walk up and down the aisles aimlessly, trying to find someone with the red vest and a name badge, but either they have all run away, fearing my completely ridiculous question, or the ones I can find are helping other people, who very likely need help less acutely than I do.

When I finally get someone to help me, I spit out something barely intelligible, "Can you tell me where the caulk stuff that's like tape that you lay down in showers is?" The guy doesn't even respond to me but starts walking away from me and I'm all like "Did he even hear me?" but I chose to follow him anyway. And his only words to me were, "You were walking right past it." Gee, thanks. Nothing like already feeling like an idiot and then having it pointed out.

But I have the stuff to fix the shower which helps, and I also have the entire Saint Etienne Foxbase Alpha CD to take with me on my iPod to work. Plus new Ace of Base, well, 2002 Ace of Base that's new to me. Talk about a guilty pleasure!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Wisdom of Starbucks

I have never really paid all that much attention to those "The Way I See It" quotes on Starbucks cups -- my biggest recollection of them is how the religious right got all up in arms about Armisted Maupin's quote about being gay, and suddenly, Starbucks was promoting that "nasty homosexual agenda." *rolls eyes*

But today we got a coffee at Coral Ridge Mall in Coralville and this was the quote on it:

The Way I See It #150

All unhappiness and stagnation result from a feeling that you are at the mercy of the world and the people in it. But what a joy it is, what a major shift to strength and power, when you no longer wait around for others to favor and love you, for others to flatter and reward you. Reward and flatter yourself, favor and love yourself.

– Kira Salak, Writer and National Geographic Emerging Explorer

For me, this really hit home. Of course, it didn't hurt that Heidi and I were just talking about this kind of thing not 3 hours earlier at her mom's and also in the car on the way to Iowa City. I need to print this off and pin it to my computer monitor or wall or somewhere where I see it every time I look up because it ever there was sage advice, this is it.

It's good to be home. The traffic wasn't the greatest on the way back - a lot of semis out and lots of people just trying to get back home from wherever their weekend destination was. But it's good to be back in my own house at my own computer where I'm a little more in control of my environment.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Nothing too terribly exciting

That pretty much sums up today in a nutshell. And it's been so nice. I've spent most of the day doing absolutely nothing of any importance and I have really needed it more than I knew. I started out the day by doing my now-required pilgrimage to the Washington square to look at the Goodwill store for cheap paperback books. It was a gorgeous morning and the sun was out so that was a great therapeutic substitute for my light box. Sadly, there were no books that I deemed worthy of even 88 cents, which is pretty sad because just about any book is worth at least that (except for anything post Owen Meany John Irving - ew! He's really lost it--or at least lost me, it's hard to tell which.)

I also hit the public library to see if it had improved any since we lived here -- an no, it really hadn't. They had increased the size of their DVD collection - to a whole 3 shelves! But overall, I was reminded at why, when we lived here, I had a reciprocal library card to the Iowa City Public Library and drove 30 minutes to go to the library.

And that reaction was pretty much typical of all my reactions to being back in Washington. Although it's infinitely easier to come and visit here now that we no longer own property here, it still feels very much like we dodged a bullet by leaving when we did. The town is simply too conservative for us. Not like Ames is a liberal bastion (that would be Iowa City) but it's a pretty good fit for now. Heidi always talks about wanting to move some place like a little seaside cottage in England or something like that, and while that, admittedly, is attractive, it's also completely unrealistic at this point in time. Although it is fun to dream, no?

I also walked past our old house this afternoon, and I found myself wondering when I would walk past it and not feel like it's my house with strangers living in it. I saw a lot of the things we did to it - like the fall mums that we planted in full bloom, the clothesline in the backyard, the place to hang the garden hose and I felt a little twinge of, not really regret, but mostly what was a simpler time. It certainly was cheaper to live in Washington, but the cost to my psyche was overwhelming. I told Heidi, in typical four fashion, that living in Washington any longer would have killed my soul (no drama, once again!) and while that's not entirely true, like most exaggerations, there's a kernel of truth at the core of it that rings true.

You can't really look back on decisions you've made in your life -- well, you can, I guess, but it doesn't really do you a whole lot of good unless you're going to draw some kind of life lesson or conclusion from the things you've done or experienced. I've made a lot of mistakes in my life and I try not to dwell on them. However, there are invariably those nights where I'm feeling especially melancholy or introspective that the parade of "Dan screw-ups" marches by and I have to look at them, almost relive them in many ways. Those are hard times - and I'm not always certain what to do with them.

Learn from them, I guess. And don't repeat them. After all, you should never have to learn the hard way twice.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The best meal ever

Tonight we're back in Washington, IA to visit Heidi's mom and her husband. We got here around 8PM tonight and we immediately took off for the square, ostensibly to go get Chinese food. However, we got sidetracked along the way and ended up at Cafe Dodici which I've always wanted to eat at and well, we figured what with our ninth wedding anniversary coming up on Wednesday, why not go out and celebrate?

I've always thought that it was an Italian restaurant, but in reality, it's not. It's more of an international cuisine type place, and man, was it ever good. We started off with a bottle of red wine called Cinnabar merlot which really hit the spot and complemented the food very nicely. The main entree was a filet mignon with a raspberry sauce and potatoes and vegetables. And Oh. My. God. How good was it? I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Of course, it didn't hurt that the wine was really starting to affect me by that point. Good thing we walked down because I was in no condition to be driving!

We also had some creme brulee which was exceptionally yummy (I've never tried that before) and then some coffee to cleanse the palate -- coffee is good at just about any time.

The damage? One hundred and nine dollars. Plus a thirty dollar tip to the absolutely fab waitress that we had that just made the night all that much better. Did I have the money? Hell no! It went on the credit card. But, as Cybill Shepherd says about L'Oreal hair color "I'm (we're) worth it!"

Happy anniversary, honey. Here's to ninety more.

Monday, October 02, 2006

When it rains, it pours

Disclaimer: This is not a depressing post.

I just got an e-mail from the library that World War Z is in and ready for me to pick up!! YAY!! I probably would have purchased that book had I had a single dime to spare out of the last paycheck, but truthfully, I'd rather read it first and see if it's any good -- although all the reviews have been great.

But as is usually the case when I have multiple books on hold at the library, I just picked up The Road which I had also placed on hold and am only a measly 50 pages into that. So what to do? I know I pretty much suck at reading two books at once (one inevitably gets neglected) and if I take The Road back, chances are I won't ever check it out again. Do I try to read both at the same time? And then this whole dilemma is complicated by the fact that I have YET ANOTHER book on hold that will probably be coming my way soon which I want to read equally badly - This Is Your Brain on Music.

The only factor in this whole thing that's making it easier - and this pains me to say - is that The Road is really not that good. Never has post-apocalyptic fiction been so boring. At least so far. The book is getting raves but for me, it's got about another 20 pages before I bail. I'm going on the fact that it was on the "must-list" in this week's Entertainment Weekly. But the further I get into it, the more I feel like it's a book I should be enjoying, rather than one I actually am.

So I guess it's off to the library for me. Zombies!! YAY!!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Sheryl Crow update!

So while I was in the midst of a Sheryl Crow listening binge this morning brought on by "All I Wanna Do", I was reading her page on Wikipedia. And I came across a most interesting bit of knowledge -- she was actually an elementary school music teacher before becoming, well, THE Sheryl Crow. This absolutely floors me - I mean, she was "Ms. Crow" at one point (but only if you're nasty?) She had the potential to become Ellen Severin (my elementary school music teacher) but instead opted for multimillions and international renown. Who can blame her, I guess.

And as I was telling Heidi this tidit this morning, I came up behind her and, being my usual goofy self, started singing "This ain't no disco, this ain't no country club either!" To which she replied (quite cleverly, I might add) "This is I-A! (Iowa)" Which is how I'd sing it if I ever did that song at karaoke. That is, if I did karaoke.

And besides, we all know that the world began in Eden, and ended in Los Angeles (that one's for you Mikey.)

And now, I'm officially done blogging about Sheryl Crow, but I'll probably have to listen to her a bit more to work her out of my system.

Laziest lug in the world

This is how I feel this morning.

I am so lazy today. I've been listening to music on the computer for the last 2 hours and I haven't made even the slightest move toward eating breakfast, (so maybe the Jabba picture doesn't completely represent my state of mind today) getting showered or doing anything remotely productive. Today has to distinct possibility of just floating by, with nothing of any consequence being done. My goal is to NOT let that happen.

I'm not sure what I want out of today. I imagine at some point I should attempt to mow the yard (that lovely job) and I know that Heidi and I want to watch either "Angel" or "Life on Mars" later today which sounds good to me. I stayed up watching "The X-Files" last night and let me tell ya, they're starting to lose me a little bit. One of the episodes I watched ("Grotesque") just had really bad writing, and the next one was the first of a two parter ("Piper Maru"/"Apocrypha") which didn't even tempt me to stay up and finish the set. *sigh* That's too bad - part of the problem is they're splitting Mulder and Scully up too much. They need to get back together and on the same page. Fear not, I shall persevere.

For now, I think I'll attempt to joing the land of the living and get something done.