Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

It's New Year's Eve. At our house, we're doing dishes, folding laundry and listening to Cher's Believe CD on the iPod. Don't you all wish you were at our house for New Year's?

Jeff and Caryle are expected shortly - and, wouldn't you know it, it's actually snowing tonight! We're probably going to get a couple inches of the white stuff before it's all said and done. YAY! And a double YAY! to not having to go out in it tomorrow as I don't work! Things are definitely looking up.

Caryle's bringing buffalo wings and stuff for margaritas. Anna has already had some of her Cold Duck Sparkling Grape Juice that Heidi bought for her and she's bound and determined to stay up till midnight. But don't try to kiss her because she doesn't want any of that kind of stuff.

Beyond just fun fellowship, I have no idea what the night holds. But it will be fun. I'm all refreshed from an early evening nap on the couch and am in my exceptionally comfy flannel lined jeans so what more could you ask for? Well, don't really get me started, because I can think of some other people who I'd like to be here as well, ringing in 2007 with us. I wish them a wonderful 2007, which has already started for them.

Happy 2007 everyone! I'm not going to bother with a 2006 recap - just go back through the archives if you're really that interested. But here's to 2007 being a better year - not just for me but for everyone I love as well.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

What a day!

Today has been so full of things, I'm tempted to change the title of my previous post from "Lazy Saturday" to "Saturday chock full of things." It ended up being a lot more eventful than I ever anticipated.

It all started with Charlotte's Web -- Anna and I attended the 11:50AM showing at the Cinemark 12 here in Ames. And let me tell you, I don't know that we could have gotten a better adaptation of that story than the one we saw this afternoon. I grew up with that book - actually, more that story as I've only read the book a couple of times - and I didn't want to see them stomp all over it and take away all the magic that I remember from it. On the contrary, it did a fabulous job of capturing the spirit of the book, while expanding and adding to it as well. And, thank the heavens, there were no musical numbers as there were in the 70s animated version. There were a raft of celebrity voices that you didn't recognize until you were watching the credits. And I'm not entirely sure how they did the animals - only Charlotte seemed to be a purely digital creation - but it was just engaging fun for everyone - children and adults alike. Although I think my favorite part of the movie was when I leaned over to Anna and asked her how she thought Charlotte was going to save Wilbur from becoming Christmas dinner -- she thought for a second and said "She's going to spin a web around the farmer!" That's my girl.

Then I spent some time cleaning up my office - we're doing this house rearrange the end result being that we're going to turn Anna's old toy room into a spare bedroom. The futon from the toy room is eventually going to end up in my office, so in preparation for that, I tried to clean up some of the general clutter. I was only mildly successful - being distracted by last.fm and a phenomenal version of "Like A Virgin" that I found on the web. Apparently, it's the Confessions Tour studio demo of the live version of the song -- a working version of the song they used to get ready for the show. And it's nothing short of amazing. I sent it to a buddy of mine and he summed up very well my feelings for the song - it's a version that is true to the original version of a classic Madonna song with some elements thrown in to make it, well, shiny and new. While I have several versions of the live version - this near flawless studio version is a prize!

And then, tonight, we watched "The Runaway Bride" episode of Doctor Who that aired on BBC1 on Christmas Day in the UK. I do miss Rose a little bit, but David Tennant is such a good Doctor that it more than made up for the lack of Billie Piper. Heidi and I mourned the loss of Rose, and as some of our more steely British counterparts put it - they've been through the loss of a companion before so it's not as big of a deal to them. I thought the episode was pretty clever - pretty standard fare sci-fi, but that's not a bad thing. I was chatting with a friend tonight, and he says that David Tennant has really taken the role of the Doctor and made it all his own. And this is very true. David Tennant has such a boyish charm about him that really brings a dimension to the Doctor that I don't think Christopher Eccleston quite captured. He was always a lot more serious. And while I know many would argue that David Tennant could use a bit of seriousness every now and again in his portrayal of the Doctor, I think he does a damn fine job.

And now it's 11PM and I'm drinking grape juice out of a wine glass. It has all the same heart benefits without the alcohol! It's been quite a day. And the weekend is only 1/3rd over.

Lazy Saturday

It's Saturday, the New Year is nearly upon us, and...it's raining in Iowa. Or at least it will be (although apparently, Iowa warmth doesn't have anything on Arctic warmth.)

When I was growing up, it NEVER rained at this time of the year. To not have snow at this time of the year was completely and utterly unheard of. So far this winter, we have had exactly one dusting of snow, and apart from that, all the precipitation has been rain. Not even our beloved "mixed precip" as the local news loves to call it. (And honestly, not having ice and rain has been a blessing during these holiday travels.)

I do miss the snow a bit. It's a terribly unpopular opinion at work. I REALLY wanted a white Christmas because it doesn't really seem like Christmas if it doesn't snow. For people from the southern states, that's not such a big deal. For me, it kind of is. There's something incredibly comforting about being snowed into your house during a blizzard. Watching the snow pile up outside, seeing it come down, lit only by the streetlights - it's an amazing thing.

So I'm going to spend today with Anna. We're going to go see Charlotte's Web thanks to a movie gift card I got from the hospital during pharmacy week this year. I love going to the movie with her - although she inevitably turns to me at some point during the movie and says "Daddy, this movie is kind of long!" (She did that during Happy Feet and I had to agree with her.)

In the meantime, here's a picture my dad took outside their house several winters ago . This is what winter in Iowa should be like:

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Are you ready to jump?

It's been pretty crazy couple of days at chez Dan. I missed work today due to being sick, and the jury is still out on tomorrow. I've had a lot of time to reflect on things and how I'm feeling about life these days. The holiday season, combined with the end of one year and the beginning of a new one seems to foster that, no?

Heidi got a new hair cut today. It's a bold new look. And it kind of sums up what I want to do for the new year as well. I want to break out of the molds in which I've placed myself. I want to be bold and daring. So I ask myself, as Madonna has been asking for the last year, "are you ready to jump?" Because it's a jump. And no, it's not as dramatic as all that, but what would I be if I weren't dramatic?

I'm looking for the new me, or perhaps, the me that I'm never comfortable putting out there. The one I'm afraid that people will mock. The one that doesn't line up with the perfect father and husband. Not that I'm either of those as well. Sometimes, I think that a good chunk of my depression comes from what I feel like I "should" be in life. Beneath this mild mannered veneer, is a crazy person. And not the "psychotic-stalking" crazy, but something that is more than just a pharmacist. It's the part of me that wants like crazy to go out dancing. It's the part of me that demands to be heard and not just pushed to the side. It doesn't fit in with the popular conception that many people have of me - my nearest and dearest friends and family are really the only ones that know the me beneath the face. I'm getting better at being braver and more open.

And hair is an easy place to start. I want to do something different, but not something that looks like I'm a 34 year old man trying to be 20. I mean, that's not me. I'm a 34 year old man with a professional job and, like it or not, I do have to look that part. But I think there's a happy medium. It might sound like a mid-life crisis (dear Lord, I hope that this isn't mid life!!) but really, it's not. It's just a mental shift.

Sometimes I wish I lived closer to Mike, John and Paul - three great friends that I have made over the last year that live in the UK. Some people argue that online people cannot be as close as people in your real life. I would argue the opposite. These three fine folks have made the close of this year wonderfully fun and exciting. In a year of filled with high highs and low lows, getting to know these three is among the highest of highs.

So, are you ready to jump? I think I am. Is there a safety net down there?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Harlan County, U.S.A.

One of the things I did accomplish over the last few days has been watching the Netflix I just returned - Harlan County, U.S.A. It's another documentary, and another one by Barbara Kopple. She also directed the most recent documentary I watched - American Dream - and, well, wouldn't you know, she also directed yet ANOTHER documentary I want to see, that one being the one about the Dixie Chicks called Shut Up & Sing.

This one was about a mid-70s coal miner strike in Harlan County, Kentucky. The men who worked in the coal mine decided to join the United Mine Workers of America (UMW of A) and the company who owned the mine, Eastover Mining Company which in turn was owned by Duke Power, refused to accept the contract that the union had to offer them. Consequently, the workers went on strike. The conditions in which the miners live were atrocious - nothing more than lean-to shacks with no running water. The documentary shows meetings that were called to organize the picket lines and the taunting of scab workers as they crossed the picket lines. It demonstrates the utter depravity in which so many of the people live.

Not content to show the corruption within the power company which owns the mine, it also demonstrates the corruption within the UMW of A itself. Tony Boyle, the president of the union at the time, orders the execution style killing of his challenger to the presidency Jock Yablonski. Not only is he murdered, but his wife and daughter are also murdered as well. The effects on the health of the miners is also shown, specifically the developement of black lung in some of the miners.

I didn't know much about coal mining before I started watching this movie. I don't know a lot about the specifics of it after watching the movie. I don't know if the conditions reflected in this now 30 year old film accurately reflect the conditions in which miners live now. I would sincerely doubt it, but since organized labor has lost most a lot of its power in recent years, I wouldn't be surprised if little has changed.

What I loved most about this movie was its use of music - and this is no surprise to people who know me. The songs are all very O Brother, Where Art Thou - many of them featuring bluegrass legend Hazel Dickens. It left me with the impression that there are absolutely no songs about coal miners that are even remotely happy. And, well, who can blame them? I found out that the soundtrack to the film was available on iTunes and I bought it. Originally, I was only going to buy the Hazel Dickens songs, but 7 of the 22 songs were her, and for another 3 bucks, I could have the whole thing. And since I had 40 dollars in iTunes gift cards from Christmas, I thought, what the heck? And yep, all the songs are pretty damn depressing! But they are good. You have to be in a certain mood to listen to them, but they capture the spirit of the movie so completely and utterly, it's hard not to think of the movie when you listen to them.

Ultimately, I didn't like this movie quite as much as I did American Dream. I don't know, there was just something missing from the denouement of the documentary. The loose ends weren't tied up all that well, and I didn't get a very good sense of closure, but I certainly don't look at the movie as being a waste of my time. And I don't know what it was up against in 1976 Oscars, but it almost certainly deserved its Best Documentary Feature Oscar, an honor it shared with American Dream.

I wonder if Barbara Kopple can go for a three-peat with Shut Up & Sing this year. Time will tell.

When tomorrow comes

It's midnight on Monday night/Tuesday morning. I've been at the computer for about an hour or so and I haven't accomplished a damn thing. I was going to finish writing something for Paul over at The Zapping. Didn't finish that. I have to write some letters of recommendation for a guy that are due very soon. Did I finish that? Nope. I've been feeling the urge to meditate to try to center my life a bit. Another thing unaccomplished. I didn't even journal at all! Now, consequently, I feel pretty crappy. I feel like I wasted tonight. Apparently I needed to just sit and listen to music.

It doesn't change the fact that I want to do all of those things that I listed above. I especially need to get all those letters of recommendation done. I really hate deadlines. It seems like I can never meet them, no matter how hard I try or how good my intentions are. I'm kind of a man of endless tomorrows - it'll get done, I always have tomorrow. Only problem is tomorrow never gets here and the deadline does.

I think I'm sad that Christmas is over. And that's kind of funny coming from someone who never really got into it this year. The lack of money definitely didn't help. It was fun to see everyone, but now it's back to life as usual. There is a long weekend coming up next weekend, so that should be fun. Still, there's something that I can't quite shake - a sense of loss or something. I know - that's vague and difficult, but it's what I have at this point.

So right now, Annie Lennox is singing "Wait until tomorrow comes, yeah, yeah." Probably good advice, especially for a man with endless tomorrows. I'll finish all that stuff in the morning.

When Tomorrow Comes - Eurythmics

Monday, December 25, 2006

Have yourself an undead little Christmas

Well, all the gifts have been unwrapped and Christmas 2006 is nearly behind us. Work wasn't too bad - it wasn't very busy, but it was still 10 hours away from home which wasn't fun, but at least I don't have to work on Christmas again until 2009! I got some pretty cool stuff this year, even though it was a bit of a lean Christmas around here. I think my favorite thing that I got this year was what I got from Anna. Actually, Heidi found it, but Anna gave it to me. I always tell her that I want something scary for Christmas, which means she'll probably tell me she's pregnant the Christmas she's 15 (let's hope not!!) :)

Last year, she got me the Alien Queen from the Alien movies (which is perhaps the number one search term that people use to find my blog at random, and now I've just increased that likelihood.) This year, it was Flyboy Zombie from Dawn of the Dead. I had told Heidi that I wanted it, and sadly, it was out of stock on every site that I look at that has figures like that. Fortunately, she was able to find it on eBay.

I just love the detail they put into these things - the scattered money, the credit card, the what-looks-like-nail-polish bottles (it was a mall, after all.) And look at that dead guy on the ground! Anna says to me, "Daddy, that guy doesn't have any legs!!" Yeah, and he doesn't have much of a back either! You'd think that kind of stuff would scare her, but really, she's as fascinated with it as I am. I have to have SOMEBODY to watch scary movies with!

He makes a good companion to Plaid Shirt Zombie from the same movie. But I'm perplexed by the gun he has. I mean, everybody knows that zombies can't use guns! Sheesh!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The ghost of Christmas past

I found this picture while looking for something else on my hard drive. This was probably taken in roughly 1987 - I was 15. I'm the one standing along the right hand side of the picture in the white with blue stripes polo. I wonder what I was feeling so melancholy about.

And it looks like my brother is spitting out poison!

Merry Christmas!!

It's Christmas Eve, and I've wrapped all the presents I needed to (I think I will probably ALWAYS do that just before they need to be opened - I've had them for weeks now!) and while I have to work tomorrow, it's not all bad. I've had a good four days off, even though most of the time has been spent traveling to various relatives' houses across the state of Iowa. But the traveling is done and anyone else that we're going to see this holiday season is going to come to us, so that's a good thing.

Still, working on Christmas, especially Christmas morning, really does suck. Especially when you have a 5 year old.

We're going to unwrap presents from each other tonight - and save Santa for the morning (natch.) Some of them we've already exchanged as they were items of practical use while we were gone. Consequently, I only have one thing left under the tree, but seriously, it's not a big deal.

So Merry Christmas to anyone who reads this insane drivel day after day.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

More than meets the eye

The 12 year old boy in me is wetting himself. The 34 year old man in me whose impossibly high expectations cannot possibly be met is, well, nervous. A longer version of the teaser trailer for next summer's Transformers live action movie is out, and it actually has robots in it this time.

Color me undewhelmed. The robots are so dirty! And they don't look anything like what I would have thought the Transformers would have looked like! There's a quick glimpse of some rather colorful Autobots, but they look like any other version of super robots that we've seen in any number of other films.

Nervous as I am - still, it's ROBOTS IN DISGUISE!! You know I'll be there.



I suppose expecting the Constructicons and the mega-robot Devastator in the movie is too much to ask.

My Top 12 Songs of 2006

This was originally going to be a Thursday 13, but I just didn't have time to get it ready. And then tonight when I was sitting down to get it ready, I realized that there were only twelve songs anyway - so it wouldn't have even worked out as a Thursday 13 anyway. So here it is, my contribution to the year in music. There was only one inclusion criteria - it had to have been released this year. These are probably not the songs most people would have picked, but they colored 2006. So many other songs did as well, but were sadly not released this year, so they didn't make the cut. So without any further delay (and in no particular order)...

My Top 12 Songs of 2006

Jump (Extended Version) – Madonna
OK, a bit of a cheat as the song was actually released in 2005, but this version did see the light of day in 2006, so I feel like it counts. While the original version was pure pop perfection, it always felt like the song was a bit on the short side. This version fixed that – as well as including the fabulous outro used in the Confessions Tour. Nothing short of great.

New York New York – Moby (featuring Debbie Harry)
When I heard that Deborah Harry was going to be making a guest vocal on a Moby song, I just knew good things would come of it. I'm not the world's biggest Moby fan – in fact, I only like a few of his songs, but this song really rocks my world. I read somewhere that it is what "I Love New York" should have been. Personally, I find that a bit harsh – but I do adore this song. Debbie can do (almost) no wrong in my book.

Not Ready To Make Nice – Dixie Chicks
I really debated between this song and "The Long Way Around" as I think both tracks are top notch. What ultimately caused me to choose "Not Ready To Make Nice" – the Chicks' response to all their right-wing critics – is that initially, I didn't like it much. I felt like it was way too confrontational for a first single and that radio would never play it. Well, as it turns out, country radio is apparently not going to play them at all anymore, so it hardly matters. In truth, it's a perfectly understated "fuck you" song.

Minimal – Pet Shop Boys
I love songs that spell. It's that simple. M-I-N-I-M-A-L/Minimal, minimal. And bonus points for finding words that rhyme with minimal. I've always been a bit of a fair-weather Pet Shop Boys fan, but the entire Fundamental album – and most especially "Minimal" are among the strongest things they've released in years.

Kiss Me – Robbie Williams
I pretty much hated everything else I heard on Rudebox – too much rapping, too all over the place musically, but I have to say that this song is pretty good. Yes, it's a cover, but it's a very capable one. The thing I hate most about cover songs are that so frequently, they sound like bad celebrity karaoke. But I think it helps that the song is not one that is exceptionally well known (I didn't even know it was a cover at first) and Robbie does a good job on this. I will probably always have a bit of a love/hate relationship with him. When he's good, he's very very good, but when he's bad, he is horrid.

Real Gone – Sheryl Crow
This track came from the soundtrack to the movie Cars, and I kept on hearing it on the radio – probably just about as much as I heard that hideous "Goodbye My Lover" only this song I actually liked. I had bought Sheryl Crow's last CD and when I kept hearing this song, I knew that it was Sheryl but couldn't find it on that CD. Anyway, the radio station that played it had an online thing on their website where you could go and look at what was playing – and that's how I figured out what the name of this song was. It's simply the best song Sheryl Crow has done in years.

I Don't Feel Like Dancing – Scissor Sisters
I was seriously tempted to pick "Paul McCartney" or "Lights" as I knew that a song from Ta-Dah simply had to make this list. Ultimately, I settled on this one as I don't think I've heard a song quite as immediately infectious as this one in quite some time. I think the Scissor Sisters avoided the sophomore slump quite well – so often second albums are overcooked and overproduced (best example – Ace of Base's second album The Bridge.) And why this song wasn't a hit in America is beyond me. Oh yeah, our musical tastes suck!

Mama’s Room – Under the Influence of Giants
I found out about this song via an ad on last.fm (prior to becoming a subscriber) and I admit that I was mostly intrigued by the name of the group. But I ultimately ended up buying this song off of iTunes and it was one of my most played songs this summer. I didn't really like anything else they did – at least not based on the sound samples from iTunes – but this is a great little pop tune.

I’m Walkin’ – Diana Krall
I know, I know. Not very pop. But Diana has never been about pop music. This song, I think is one of the myriad bonus tracks on her From This Moment On CD that came out in September. This is a cover of the Fats Domino song – and Diana sings the hell out of it. I always love it when she does upbeat songs. Her slow jazz songs are good, but the barn-burners are the ones I really love. This would be one those.

Together We Belong – Kim Wilde
(You may want to avert your eyes here, Mike.) I got a copy of Kim Wilde's new CD in September of this year and well, there is simply not a bad song on it. It is a fine example of a good pop album. Of course, it didn't hurt that she re-recorded six of her old hits so it had that already going for it. But "Together We Belong" is my favorite of the new songs – a very 80s vibe to it while being 21st century all at the same time.

Travelin’ Thru – Dolly Parton
This song should have won the Oscar this year. Period. End of sentence. My friend Mary did say when I expressed my regret over Dolly's lack of winning the Oscar, "yeah, but at least she has a nice rack." Mary, you crack me up! But seriously, this song was in exceptionally heavy rotation last spring, and it just serves to remind the incredibly songwriting legacy Dolly is going to leave behind when she dead and buried (and likely not decaying.)

The Ash Grove – Casey Stratton
If you would have told me at the beginning of the year that a Welsh folk song whose tune we sang in church growing up would make my year-end best of list, I would have laughed uproariously. But here I am. And leave it to Casey Stratton. Simply put, this version breaks my heart. And lifts me up. And everything in between. Casey's gorgeous tenor is perfect for this song. This song came from his collection of folk songs he released around St. Patrick's Day this last year.

As always, comments are encouraged and welcomed!!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Seasons greetings to cash

Heidi used this picture once on her blog, but it pretty much sums up how I feel about money right now. Especially at this what's-supposed-to-be-festive time of year which really, is all about the almighty dollar anymore.

So this is what I have to say about money, especially at Christmas, when there never seems to be any of it left, even on the day of payday.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Me and my girl

Tonight we had Caryle, Jeff, Kathy, and Janelle up for a festive holiday dinner and other various fun and games as well. We played Headbanz (which I haven't played in forever and we simply must play it more often!!) - and yes, that's the best link I could find for it! I ate too much and probably drank a little bit too much, but it was all good. And here's a picture that Heidi took of Anna and me.

Aren't we cute?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Compliment

Tonight after work I lugged the picnic table off the back deck onto the porch. And then I went out and cleaned out the garage so that you can actually open the passenger's side door when entering and exiting the vehicle. It wasn't all that hard - it mostly just consisted of moving things around a bit, prioritizing. I also got the snowblower out of the nether regions of the garage and moved front and center in the (increasingly unlikely) case that it decides to snow at some point in time this winter.

Heidi said that doing all that cleaning was the sexiest thing I've done in a while.

I know she meant it as a compliment, but I'm seriously re-evaluating my sexiness quotient.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Lives lived

First of all, let's hear it for my mom who is 60 years old today! YAY!!! You know what they say about getting older - don't ever knock it as it's a privilege denied to many. That, of course, did not stop Barbra Streisand from (allegedly) saying that "[she] hates being sixty!!" only to have it appear on the front page of the National Enquirer for Jeff, Heidi and I to make jokes about until we turn 60. Happy birthday Mom!!

I found out tonight while I was talking to her on the phone that my grandfather is in the nursing home and is now on hospice care. My grandparents moved off the farm where they had lived virtually their entire married life (60+ years - that number just seems to keep coming back, no?) in January to move to an assisted living facility in a nearby small town. They've had a bit of a rough go of things - their health, while not bad, has been in decline for several years and living on a farm like that, a big house to have to clean and keep up just didn't seem practical any longer. They started off in the independent living section of the complex, only to be moved to the assisted living section rather unceremoniously a scant 4-6 weeks later. So in the span of a month and a half, they moved twice. When they hadn't moved in over 60 years.

And I guess that just recently (like in the past week), my grandfather has deteriorated enough to have to move to the nursing home part. He has prostate cancer - as will almost every man if they live long enough - and has been through the ringer with treatments, both chemotherapy and radiation. I know that he's been in a lot of pain, and he was brought up to be rather stoic and tolerate things (not like me!) and so I don't know that people knew he was in as much pain as he was. Well, the whole point of hospice is comfort measures so he's on morphine now and I think his pain is pretty well under control. He's not going to get any more cancer treatment, he's not going to get any more blood transfusions. It's all about comfort. He gets disoriented, doesn't know who people are sometimes, but did know enough to chastise one of my single cousins the other day for not "having a woman." (his words, I swear!)

We won't be going up this weekend for Christmas, but I am going to make a point to get up there sometime in January to see them.

He's 90 years old next January. Sometimes I marvel at the changes he's seen in his life. I wonder if I'll see that much change in my life. Perhaps - I mean, I have seen a lot in my 34 years. But the scope of change in the last 90 years - well, it's just amazing.

A perfect subject line...

As most of you know, I took a cue from Casey Stratton and I am amused beyond words by the subject lines of some of the spam e-mail messages I get. And just today, I got one that is perfect for the enneagram four that is me. The subject line was "outrage wasn't synthetic." Now anyone who knows and/or loves a four knows the drama that can go along with it - and believe me, there is nothing to a four about their outrage that would ever be synthetic. However, those surrounding the fours realize just how synthetic the outrage actually can be sometimes.

After all, it just one psychological drama after another.

Monday, December 11, 2006

American Dream

Like I mentioned in my previous post, I stayed up late last night watching the documentary American Dream, which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 1991. I don't even remember how I heard about it, but as soon as I heard the subject matter, I knew that I needed to see it. The movie was about labor unions - more specifically a local labor union in Austin, Minnesota and how it went toe-to-toe with Hormel, a large meatpacker and the people that gave us Spam.

The year is 1984 and Hormel has a record profit that year. How does it respond? It cuts the wages of the workers at the Austin plant from $10.69 an hour to $8.25 an hour. Needless to say, this doesn't go over well with the local union. What follows is lots of footage of labor negotiations, the labor union bringing in a bigwig from New York City to help them in their cause, and ultimately, a strike that drags on for months and months.

It's important to keep a film like this in historical perspective. Labor unions have always had, up until just about that point, enjoyed a huge amount of leverage and power. In many ways, this was a good thing - a large group of people that don't have a whole lot of power individually forming a large group that can exert huge amounts of control and influence. By the mid-80s, the influence of labor unions had waned considerably. And this is on full display in this film. The national union wants the local union to accept a compromise, and they flatly refuse to do it. And with that refusal, goes the last little bit of bargaining power they had.

As I watched the documentary, I could see both sides of the coin so clearly. I could see why the workers were pissed. I mean, why cut wages when profits were at a record high? But in many respects, the workers themselves are the ones to blame for their predicament, which ultimately ends in a lot of them being out of work. By flatly refusing to compromise, the executive board of the local P-9 union effectively sold out its members, giving up their bargaining power, giving the company no reason to negotiate with them.

It was hard to watch at times - I've never been a union man, so the dedication that a lot of these men and women show to the union, even in spite of hunger and financial ruin is remarkable. Many speak of not being able to cross the picket line because they come from a long line of union workers. The anger and hatred that the strikers had for the "scabs" that crossed the picket line was very real and palpable. But I couldn't blame the ones that decided to put their families ahead of the union. It wasn't an easy choice for any of them. One man's brother virtually disowned him for crossing the picket line - that's how deep the issue went for so many of them.

I love seeing the history of those times - late 20th century history fascinates me. As I've detailed countless times before, I find it a complete travesty that our high school students know more about Charlemagne than they do about Richard Nixon. I realize that teaching recent history is difficult, as the proper amount of time has not passed to give it the clarity that is frequently needed to teach it objectively. But that doesn't mean that history teachers get a free pass and should get to glance over recent history - for these are the times we can learn the most from. One need not look any further than the growing parallels between the Vietnam War and the Iraq War to see a prime example.

So I highly recommend American Dream - especially if you're as into late 20th century history as I am. There's also a short film on the DVD in the bonus features called Children of the Night which is about children that died in the Holocaust. And talk about depressing - it is perhaps some of the most powerful 17 minutes I've ever watched.

Up earlier than I expected

I stayed up till 1AM last night finishing up American Dream - more on that later - but when I finally did go to sleep, I dreamt and dreamt and dreamt. The dream I remember the most had Darren Hayes in it. I always have star-studded dreams, I don't know why that is. The reason Darren Hayes was in my dreams last night probably had a lot to do with the fact that I was listening to Savage Garden on my iPod while I slept last night.

Anyway, I had this dream and in it Darren Hayes was a patient at Hospice of Washington County. It was weird, because it was kind of like a flashback dream, where you saw all the events leading up to the present piecemeal throughout the dream. I don't know what kind of disease he had - it was kind of AIDS-like, but I really don't think it was that. I just remember that they were giving him dexamethasone IV every 6 hours (which probably suggests some kind of cancer with brain metastasis) and that he was all loopy and was just singing random parts of his songs. The fact that I was hearing parts of the songs in my dreams almost assuredly has to do with the music playing on my iPod. But it was weird. I remember being very sad, and a lady from work was in the dream with me and was sad too - someone who wrote such good songs dying and all. As usual, no lack of dramatics or anything.

Mostly, it was just a silly dream, but it was very vivid. And begged to be written down. At least there were no zombies in it.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Not the post I was shooting for tonight

I had it in my head that I was going to write a very intricate and detailed blog post tonight, but alas, my brain can't handle it. So instead, I offer this. I can't stand James Blunt. I cannot tolerate his music. I really really can't stand it. During the last two days at work, I have heard that hideous "Goodbye My Lover" song no less than seven times. One of my co-workers and I have started referring to it as "our song" because we both feel like throwing up whenever it comes on.

Seriously, the whining - not good. It's almost as if he's so aware of his sensitivity as to negate the fact that he's being sensitive. It's much the same thing as when someone sets out to write a song to be played at weddings, rather than just accidentally writing one that ends up being a wedding staple.

But let me tell you, if I never hear that song again, it'll be too soon. Same thing goes for "You're Beautiful." Ugh. I mean, I know I'm not the target demographic for his music, but it's just not appealing AT ALL.

And apparently, I'm not alone - this from Wikipedia (all bow before the infallible source):
A survey conducted this year reported that Blunt was the fourth most annoying thing in the UK, beaten only by cold callers, queue-jumpers and caravans
Wow.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Daily drudgery

I'd like to say that a day off from work allows me time to do all sorts of fun and cool things that I don't get to do otherwise. Sadly, what a day off from work allows me time to do is all the mundane things that need to get done and there's no ready-made excuse for me to get out of them.

So this afternoon is going to involve getting the oil changed in the car, going to the library and driving up to Story City to get Anna some new dance shoes. And probably cleaning up the kitchen (it looks like the dirty dish bomb went off) and tidying up in general. And given the fact that it's already noon, I suppose I should get my butt in gear and get working on it.

I am going to try to finish my Netflix that I have out right now -- American Dream -- which I started last night but became too sleepy to finish. It's a documentary - one that pretty much just makes me sad - but that's another blog post altogether.

Don't you all want my life?!? It's soooo exciting!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Thursday 13 - Partridge in a pear tree edition

OK, this is totally predictable, but I'm going to do it now and get it out of my system. For this week's Thursday 13, I've decided to list my 13 favorite Christmas songs. And not just my favorite Christmas songs, but my favorite versions of those favorite songs. There are a lot that didn't make the cut, but I think this pretty much covers it for me.

  1. Sleigh Ride – Boston Pops This is the definitive version of “Sleigh Ride” for me – save perhaps the Captain Kangaroo version that I had on an LP when I was a kid. It was played to absolute death the first year that the radio stations started playing Christmas music 24/7 between Thanksgiving and Christmas. But I still love it.
  2. With Bells On – Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers One of the other Dolly/Kenny collaborations (“Christmas Without You”) came on the radio at work the other day and I said “Ah, you just don’t get much better than Kenny and Dolly, now do you?” The tech I was working with just kind of looked at me like I was crazy and I said “You think I’m kidding, don’t you?” and just left it at that. I love this song. It’s one of the new classic Christmas songs.
  3. Santa Baby – RuPaul I’ve already blogged this, but yes, it is the total package. T.P. honey, the total package.
  4. Joy To The World – Whitney Houston Everybody has done a version of “Joy To The World” but I think Whitney’s is the best. Perhaps it helps that she’s backed by a gospel choir, but this one is just a barn burner.
  5. Christmastime Is Here – Diana Krall I know, it’s sacrilege, but I really don’t like the version of "Christmastime Is Here" on A Charlie Brown Christmas. Those kids singing really grate on my very last nerve. Fortunately, Diana Krall has recorded a sultry, cool as ice cubes version of this song. And it’s fabulous with a capital F.
  6. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Judy Garland You needn’t look past the original version of this song to find the best. Although many have tried, no one has been able to do this song better than Judy Garland.
  7. I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas – Gayla Peevey Anna loves this song. Last year, she got a toy hippo in her stocking. I’m thinking of buying her a hippopotamus of some sort for every Christmas just to create one of our own traditions. For the story behind the song, click here.
  8. The Chipmunks Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late) – The Chipmunks Another one that Anna loves. She loves it so much, she wants to hear it in July. And I defy anyone to not get that “hula hoop” part stuck in their head.
  9. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – Cher & Rosie O’Donnell Ah, what better than a discofied version of this song. Forget the U2 version on A Very Special ChristmasCher knows what to do with this song. It was recorded around the time of her Believe album, so you get a lot of vocoder and heavy dance tracks. It would probably be better if it were JUST Cher (Rosie’s vocals are kind of annoying) but it is Cher doing a Christmas song, so I’ll just be happy.
  10. The Night Before Christmas – Carly Simon This is another modern Christmas classic. For some reason, this one really appeals to me – plus I always have a soft spot for recently written Christmas songs that have lasting appeal, saving us from the moldy oldies every year.
  11. Feliz Navidad – Celine Dion I know, I know. This is beyond a guilty pleasure. But there’s something about Celine Dion singing a Spanish language Christmas song with her French Canadian accent that just cracks me up.
  12. My Favorite Things – Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass Speaking of cracking up over a Christmas song – a few years back, Heidi and I were driving around on Christmas Eve looking at Christmas lights and this song came on the radio. Talk about a loungy version of “My Favorite Things!” I spent a lot of time trying to figure out who did that song, and finally, I figured it out and got my hands on a copy of the track. Yet another guilty pleasure.
  13. River – Casey Stratton Perhaps the most perfect version of this most melancholy of Christmas songs. Casey’s voice suits this well – as just about everything else he chooses to record, but I’m just being biased.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

When the music feels like this

I was walking home from work tonight listening to Darren Hayes (natch) and the song "Spin" was on. And it pretty much summed up how I feel about music. I know it is TERRIBLY LAZY BLOGGING (and also very high school) to blog song lyrics, but give me a break, I haven't done it in forever and these really hit home. Once again, if a pop song doesn't know how you feel, what's the point? You can buy this song on iTunes by clicking here.

----------------------------------------------
Governments elected, nobody votes.
Politically correct, isn't that a joke?
We censor music then give children guns.
On CNN, still fighting to death over Jerusalem.
A four letter disease still makes us run,
Can't comprehend that you can die from Love.

Can I start things over, and change your mind?
Can a single melody press rewind?
Can I move your feet, make your heart skip a beat?
Can a simple tune flow through you?

When the music feels like this,
When you lose control you gotta go with it.
Ten feet high, flying above the sky.
Your problems don't exist, when music feels like this.

No money left in Africa
Starvin' to death in Bosnia
We close our eyes and hide a nation's cries
And in the West, TV Possessed and weight obsessed
The media dissects, infects
We think real life is reality TV

Can I have your attention and press rewind?
When the DJ spins, will it change your mind?
Can I move your feet, make your heart skip a beat?
Can a piece of me flow through you?

When the music feels like this,
When you lose control, you gotta go with it.
Ten feet high flying above the sky.
Your problems don't exist, when music feels like this.

When the music feels like this,
DJ take control and grab a hold of me.
Spin that wheel, tell me how to feel.
I like the shape I'm in, when music feels like this.

Bringin' the beat back, stompin' the floor.
Dancin' like a booty never bounced before.
Poppin' to the back beat, up on the one.
Smack Jack Freakin' now you're overcome.

When the music feels like this,
When you lose control, you gotta go with it.
Ten feet high, flying above the sky.
Your problems don't exist, when music feels like this.

When the music feels like this,
DJ take control and grab a hold of me.
Spin that wheel, tell me how to feel.
I like the shape I'm in, when music feels like this.

Let the music in
Let the DJ spin
Let the music in
Cuz the music should feel
Like this
Let the music in
Let the DJ spin
Let the music in
The Music Feels like this
------------------------------

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Better late than never

I am totally late to the Darren Hayes party. Especially for being a Casey Stratton fan - for a large number of his fans also seem to like Darren Hayes. I always liked Savage Garden enough. They had some really catchy radio hits in the late 90s-early 2000s. In fact, "Truly Madly Deeply" was etched forever in my brain while I was working part time at Drug Town in Iowa City when I was getting my Pharm.D. I swear, that song was played about every two hours. That and "Stop" by the Spice Girls. And while "Truly Madly Deeply" is not one of my favorite Savage Garden songs, it is certainly not one that I turn off when it comes on my iTunes or whatever.

But up until recently, I really haven't had all that much time for Darren Hayes as a solo artist. I had checked out his CD Spin from the library a while back and hadn't been all that impressed. But I recently had a Savage Garden renaissance - not exactly sure what brought it about. But anyway, I decided to give Spin another listen, and it's a fantastic pop album. Very much in the vein of Savage Garden, it kind of balances between upbeat pop numbers and ballads. Personal favorites are the fabulous "Like It Or Not" which mentions Samsonite bags in the lyrics - hard to hate a song that can manage that - and "Crush (1980 Me)" which I've always kind of liked and still holds up well.

Based on the strength of this, I picked up Darren's second solo CD The Tension & The Spark. I had read that it was not as pop oriented as Spin had been, and I was ready for it. And they were right - it's not as pop. But that doesn't mean it's not good. I'm still digesting it - but I do think the album kicks off great. The first four tracks are all winners - and "Dublin Sky" would have been a great single. The album is definitely a grower - it doesn't grab you right off the bat like the best Savage Garden song did.

So now I'm very eager to see if he'll do anything else - according to Wikipedia (and we all know that Wikipedia is completely infallible) he's parted ways with his record label, but plans are to release a new album in 2007. If he does, it'll be an automatic purchase.

I love discovering new and good pop music - even when it's just new to me. And that's what I love about sites like The Zapping! and XO's Middle Eight. They introduce me to music I might not otherwise hear. And then, of course, there's my UK connections - Mike and John. Words can't express my gratitude for how much my musical horizons have been expanded thanks to those two guys.

So better late than never to the Darren party. I know Heidi says that it all sounds the same to her - and I suppose there's a bit of an argument there, but it all sounds so good!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

One more Whitney post...

...and then I promise I'm done for a while. I imported The Preacher's Wife CD to my computer last night - God, I hadn't listened to that CD in ages. And I'd forgotten how good it was. Especially the completely and utterly FABULOUS "Step By Step." And I'm not talking the heinous remix version that's on the Greatest Hits CD (and also, come to think of it, on The Preacher's Wife CD) but the original album version.

Talk about a perfect pop song, but of course, I'd expect nothing less from Annie Lennox. Although I have to say that it's a bit more upbeat than I've come to expect from her recently. But I guess it was pre-Bare so perhaps she was feeling better the day she wrote that song. I was listening to "Step By Step" as I was getting ready this morning and I fear I would have made a complete and utter fool of myself had there been a camera in there as the song hit the part of my spine that made it impossible for me to NOT dance around the bathroom like a maniac. And now I've just humiliated myself to the entire blogosphere. Oh well, no matter.

Anyway, listen to Whitney's "Step By Step" here. And then listen to Annie's. Surprisingly, I prefer Whitney's, although Annie's does have merit.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

I'm asking you because you know about these things

I just spent the last hour plus playing with Anna while we listened to the DVD of Whitney: The Greatest Hits that we have from Netflix in the background. I just love watching these old video collections - probably because I remember spending countless hours in my adolescence watching MTV and knowing every single song that came on. I saw some videos so many times, I practically had them memorized. So seeing these videos again is always a ball.

I would not classify myself as a Whitney Houston fan - at least not in the same way that I am a Madonna fan. I had all of her albums at one point in time, but I eventually sold most of them off as I either just imported them to my computer or really grew weary of them. I mean, how many times did I hear those songs from The Bodyguard. I think I'm just now getting to the point where I can listen to them again. I was not extremely fond of her hard right turn into R&B with the My Love Is Your Love project, but admittedly, it did generate some really good singles in "It's Not Right, But It's OK" (perhaps the only song I've ever heard that uses caller ID in the lyrics) and the title track. And truthfully, I only really cared for the radically remixed versions of these songs that appeared on the CD maxi-singles.

But watching this video collection reminded me of what a good run of singles Whitney actually has had. Love her or hate her, she did put out some really memorable pop singles. I still love "How Will I Know" - a song that is forever linked with it's very cheesy mid 80s video, with the paint splatters and show choir dancing.



As for the Whitney album, it was a bit on the predictable side - looking back at it from a 20 year vantage point. But it was some pretty great predictable stuff. I mean, yeah, "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)" was totally overplayed. The video is very 80s cheeseball pathetic (including a guy that looks like Tony Danza - on screen for a fraction of a second.) But the song I totally love from that album is "Love Will Save The Day" - especially as it appears on her Greatest Hits CD from 2000. That version is a great little Jellybean remix that just makes me wistful for 80s extended remixes - when remixing a song didn't mean completely altering the song structure just for the sake of doing so.

The only Whitney Houston CD I still own (besides the greatest hits) is I'm Your Baby Tonight which I still think is one of her best efforts. It was the first hint that she was going to go a bit more R&B and shy away from pop (eventually.) It also had the great fortune of being released during my freshman year of college, a time in my life when I was very musically impressionable and I have many, many great musical memories. I listened to this CD so many times, I'm sure my roommate got sick of hearing it. Sadly, it was underrepresented on the DVD - I hear there's a video of "My Name Is Not Susan" but all I could find on YouTube was this "live" version (but it was a show that I actually saw in Ames back in 1992!)



And try as you might, you simply couldn't avoid Whitney during The Bodyguard portion of her career. I still, to this day, remember reading in Billboard that Whitney was covering Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" and about how it was "undersung." When I heard the song, I seriously wondered what version of the song the reviewer had heard. It got to the point where I could not listen to that song. And while I'm sure it made Dolly millions, I wonder if it will always be associated with Whitney, rather than Dolly. Hard telling.

I didn't think I had quite this much to say about Whitney. Like I said, I hardly consider myself a fan. I do find her descent into drug addiction and self-destructive behavior concerning, but it seems like she might be ready to climb out of that hole. I think if anyone deserves a Mimi-like comeback, it is probably Whitney, who I prefer vastly to Mariah Carey. I know that will annoy Mariah fans. Deal. It's a matter of personal preference. And there's no changing that. Will it pacify you to know that I really did like a lot of the music off the Glitter soundtrack? Total guilty pleasure.

So here's to Whitney. Watching her videos this afternoon was much more fun than I anticipated.

A day late

Yesterday was World AIDS Day. It's been 25 years since the first cases of what would later become known as AIDS were reported in otherwise young, healthy gay men. And while we have drugs to help prolong life, we're no closer to a cure today than we were at the beginning of the epidemic. What a fucking crying shame.

AIDS today seems to have lost some of its status as a disease, now that it has been painted as a chronic condition that you can manage like diabetes or hypertension. Even 10 years ago, I remember some stupid guy in my class telling me that AIDS was a "Hollywood" disease - something trendy to support that wasn't as big of a problem as was being made out. To that, a resounding fuck off! The fact of the matter is that while it is no longer the death sentence that it once was, it's a different type of death sentence. The drugs are not magic bullets. They are not side effect free. I read somewhere online this week that a person who becomes infected with HIV in their early 20s can reasonably expect to live to their early to mid-40s. This reflects an incredible advance in the treatment of HIV and AIDS, but the person still has 30-35 years cut off their life!

And it wouldn't be World AIDS Day if I didn't pimp Randy Shilts' And The Band Played On which will always be the definitive (if biased) version of the early days of the AIDS epidemic. Rather than reading like a boring history text, it reads with the viciousness of a horror novel, one you truly hope is not true, but you know damn well that it is. It captures the horror and disbelief of those days with such crystal clear precision. It shows the criminal negligence of the nation's blood industry. It demonstrates the right-wing hypocrisy of the US government of the time, an administration that put an emphasis on Christian values, all the while averting their eyes from a growing public health issue, because it was primarily affecting a segment of the population they didn't give a shit about. It paints medical science in a very poor light, putting international acclaim above the good of the public.

If you haven't read it, read it. NOW. If I didn't already have two books going right now (well, really three books) I'd pick it up and start rereading it.

And go here to light a candle. Do it. Seriously.

A special locker for the hat

So tonight Caryle, Heidi and I all gathered around the TV for a late evening viewing of one of my top 5 favorite films - 9 to 5. This week on last.fm, we all had 9 to 5 avatars (I was Violet pushing the corpse through the hospital) and we decided that a screening of the film was definitely in order.

I ADORE this movie. I have probably seen it literally a hundred times. I still remember the first time I saw it - January 1, 1982 on HBO. Yes, it was probably a bit adult for me at 10 years old, but I loved it. (No, I didn't get the joke about M&M's until much later.) It probably had a lot to do with the fact that I loved Dolly Parton, even then. And she is so good in this movie. She's Dolly, but yet, she's not. She really does ACT in this movie, even though the role is really a version of herself. And while I don't think she's a great actress, I do think she's great in this movie. Of course, the fact that she's there with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, well, it's just a match made in heaven.

But what is so great about this movie is, as Heidi pointed out while we were watching it, is the writing. It's a very tight little story with a lot of foreshadowing and all the best gags are set up in the first 30 minutes of the movie, even though you don't realize it until later. The last act where Mr. Hart is tied up in his bedroom has always been, for me, the weakest part. Perhaps it's because it comes after the FABULOUS middle act involving the rat poison in the coffee. It looks just like Skinny & Sweet, except for the little skull and crossbones on the label! And don't even think about suggesting to pull over at a restaurant, because Violet just wants to know where they can lay their hands on some cement!

A special blog shout out goes to Jeffrey Douglas Thomas who plays Dolly's husband in the movie, Dwayne Rhodes. You would have thought that he'd be able to parlay that big break into something else, but alas, 9 to 5 was all he ever did.

A classic film. Truly, it is. It's a bit dated, yes, but that is half of it's charm. And for those of you who haven't seen it, well, for shame, but here's the clip with the M&M's joke that I didn't get until MANY years after my initial viewing.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Who can turn the world on with a smile?

Last night, I was reading Casey Stratton's blog and he was talking about how he had been watching all these Mary Tyler Moore episodes and had the theme song completely stuck in his head. And then he went and recorded a version of it that's available on his blog for download!

It was stuck in his head, I read about it, and, like any good earworm, it infected me as well. I've been singing it in my head all day at work, and just now have managed to evict it.

But in any event, head over to Casey's blog - where you can download his version of the Mary Tyler Moore Show theme song, and his newest holiday song "Snow Is Falling."