Thursday, March 29, 2007

Traveling, traveling...leaving logic and reason

The end of the week is drawing nigh - which is a good thing despite the fact that we have to spend a good chunk of Saturday in Des Moines at a dance thing for Anna and a vast majority of the day on Sunday doing yard work. I just keep hoping that the weather holds out and we can finally pick up the branches that fell during that ice storm nearly a month ago.

But tonight I took Anna to the library as every Thursday night is "Family Night At The Library." Tonight it was pajama night. All the kids showed up in their pajamas with their blankets, pillows and stuffed animals. Even the library staff had pajamas on! They read stories about pajamas, going to bed and were going to sing a song akin to "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" but the plans for that were stymied because the wrong CD had been brought so the kids had to settle for "Where Is Thumbkin?" We also did a craft (Hi Jeff, I just used your favorite word!!) which involved writing your own bedtime story. It was a pretty fun. Personally, if I had been running the show, we would have finished the night by viewing the "Bedtime Story" video, but I think the kids might have been scarred for life by Madonna with her face all screwed up. I know I was when the video came out (although the fact that it was her first single since "Burning Up" to completely miss the Top 40 was infinitely more scarring!)

We've been going to Family Night for quite a few weeks now, and it seems like the same people always show up. There's never a huge crowd, mostly hard core library devotees I guess. I see the same people all the time, and yet, I don't know any of their names and I think we'd all rather die than talk to each other. Tonight I stepped outside my comfort zone and actually talked to another dad there tonight - his little boy who was all of 2 years old was running all over the place and had the attention span of a fly. I remember those days well - it's so nice now that Anna's older and I don't feel the need to watch her every move, resting easy in the knowledge that she has at least a few shreds of common sense and won't do anything too insanely stupid. I mean, I'm not so dumb as to think I don't need to keep an eye on her, but the difference between a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old is just amazing. So I struck up this conversation with this other dad, and the cool thing about talking to other dads at a thing like Family Night at the Library is that it's probably the one place where it's not awkward meeting people while carrying a stuffed bunny, a pillow and a Disney Princess blanket. OK, maybe just slightly awkward, but you know what I mean.

Here's the thing - I don't understand why it's so hard for men to talk to each other. And no, I'm not talking about deep, probing conversations, I'm talking about just "hey, how ya doing? My name is Blah Blah Blah, what's yours?" I watch kids interact, with no social programming and they just play together because it comes naturally. I think sometimes that we as adults, and especially as men, have lost that ability but not the need to interact with each other in a similar but distinctly "grown up" way. This guy seemed like a genuinely nice person, but still, having a conversation was not easy. How do people meet each other and start to talk? It does not help that I immediately assume that all other people will have nothing in common with me and think what I like is weird or silly. However, I recognize that as the Four in me - as Stevie Nicks says in "Bombay Sapphires" -- "here I am, dramatic!" - for it's me being an individualist and bearing the unbearable burden of never being understood. Such is the life of a Four.

We talked a little bit about how his son must keep him busy and he did the requisite shock at learning that Anna is only 5 (she looks practically 7 because she's so tall.) We bonded a bit over the shared journey as dads of young children, but beyond that, nothing much. Not that I was expecting anything, but it seemed like a good idea to step outside my comfort zone, to follow in my resolution to be braver and actually strike up a conversation with another person there. I figure, why should Anna have all the fun? Although in the end, I didn't even find out his name, which seems weird in hindsight.

Ultimately, however, I am left feeling a bit melancholy. I have plenty of friends - don't get me wrong - but there are times that I just feel so fundamentally separated from the male gender that it's not a surprise to find that the best male friends I have are on the internet - found through forums that reflect my interests, in a place where revealing you went to a Madonna concert is less likely to get you glares and excitement over the Bananarama remasters is more likely to be appreciated rather than mocked. Too bad they're spread all over this blue marble, but still, I'm glad to have them.

A needless want

I was getting ready for work this morning and was listening to Stevie Nicks' song "Blue Lamp" and I decided that somehow, some way, I want a blue lamp for my office. It just seems like an appropriate thing to have - an homage to my long time Stevie fandom, wouldn't you agree? I did a quick Google search for "blue lamp" and found a few cool ones - this one is pretty cool, but not really me and at FIFTEEN HUNDRED DOLLARS most certainly not in my price range (or of any sane person for that matter.) Perhaps I'll just look for a blue light bulb.

I do love the song "Blue Lamp" and I love how the blue lamp shows up again in the otherwise meh "Welcome To The Room...Sara" from Tango In The Night. I remember trying like crazy to find "Blue Lamp" on CD - I had it on a mix tape that a guy I met on ISCA back in the day gave to me. I was not willing to purchase the entire soundtrack to Heavy Metal just to get one song (even I have my limits) but then it was all rendered moot when Enchanted came out.

Expect more Stevie posts from me this week - I'm totally in the mood for Stevie, inspired in no small part by the release of Crystal Visions - the CD/DVD I have yet to purchase as I could not find it anywhere in Ames. Borders has it on order for me, so hopefully soon!!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

When days turn to weeks

Despite the fact that this title could very well be a description of how often I'm blogging these days, it is, rather, the tag line for 28 Weeks Later -- the sequel to 28 Days Later, a very capable zombie flick from several summers ago. Watching this trailer, it makes me realize how seriously this movie did NOT need a sequel.

However, you know I'll be there.

Click here for the trailer.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Coloring

Last night we had Caryle, Kathy, Mary & Jeff up for some good old fashioned dyeing of Easter eggs (although no one in this house eats hard boiled eggs, it's still a law that you have to dye Easter eggs) and we also told everyone to bring a coloring book and colors and we'd have a coloring party as well. This, of course, pleased Anna to no end. Adults coloring? Grown people partaking in an activity that she loves? Could it possibly get any better than that?

While a lot of people brought actual coloring books purchased from Wal-Mart or Target or wherever, I was not content with what I found when I went out looking. So I took full advantage of the "Coloring Book" feature on the Kodak software that I have with my digital camera. Basically, it takes any picture and turns it into a coloring book page (with varying degrees of success, I will admit.) I had a tremendous amount of fun finding pictures. In any event, here is photographic documentation of our labors. The scanner is still on the blink, so I took pictures of all of these.

This is the first one I colored - the poster for Brokeback Mountain. I decided it didn't have enough color in it, so I made Jake's cowboy hat gold and his jean jacket lavender. *shrugs*

Heidi colored this one of Doctor Who and Rose - this was a picture actually available on the web, so I didn't have to apply the coloring book effect to a screen shot from the DVD.

Caryle colored this one of Hello Kitty in Holland.

Another one that I found on the web was this one of the Charlie Brown gang. This one was done by Heidi.

Lest you think the adults had all the fun, here's one that Anna did. Rainbows and unicorns - two of her favorite things.

Straight from the "Papa Don't Preach" video, here's Madge in her Italians Do It Better shirt. Unfortunately, I colored her eyes such that she looks as if she is either drugged or has a glass eye. Sorry Madge. :(

And finally, here's the one Jeff did. He bested us all with his coloring of Alexis, Blake and Krystle from Dynasty. The background is purple because after all, they are, as Jeff said, Denver royalty. Notice Krystle's roots - she really needs to go back in for a coloring.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Echoing Heidi

And by that, I mean "FIE ON NETFLIX!!" I had queued up the first disc of Maude: The Complete First Season so that I would have it to watch over my long weekend. When I did this, it was "available now." Now, inexplicably, that available now status has turned to "short wait" which means that Netflix skipped it and I'm getting American Psycho instead. Granted, that's not all bad as it's a movie I've wanted to see for some time now, but still! I was all excited for some early 70s sit com action this weekend, and now, it's not to be. I guess, at least they didn't send me the second disc in the series so that, God forbid, I'd have to watch them out of order.

To paraphrase Maude, God'll get you for that, Netflix!

In the meantime, enjoy this picture of Bea Arthur as Carrie from "Sex In The City" that I found while Google image searching for Bea Arthur as Maude.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

I'm not religious, but I feel so moved

I've been listening to a God-awful amount of American Life this week - thanks in no small part to my new found obsession with the song "Nothing Fails." In fact, "Nothing Fails" has the dubious distinction of being my 20,000th song scrobbled on last.fm (and I admit, I did it kinda sorta on purpose but I have a feeling that, with as much as I'm listening to it these days, it had a pretty good chance of happening anyway.) In any event, American Life has been spinning on my iPod quite a bit the last few days - so I thought I'd take a few minutes to reflect on an album that divides many a Madge enthusiast.

When American Life came out back in 2003, Madonna was still riding the wave of Music (sorta) and another collaboration with Mirwais seemed to be pretty logical. There was a lot of net buzz - complete with the bogus (and infamous) "What the fuck do you think you're doing?" tracks on Kazaa that were masquerading as "American Life" the song. The song itself didn't really do much for me on first listen. And dear God, the rapping - may the heavens preserve us. Madonna certainly did not miss her calling as a rapper. But it was a good little song - if unconventional. It isn't really a typically structured song, and perhaps worst of all, it really lacks a bridge (which I think is what makes all good pop songs.)

Well, then the album dropped, and there was the hideous cover art with Madonna looking like Che Guevera. Really, the whole packaging was just bad idea all around, but I went with it. Madge has never (well, hardly ever - "This Used To Be My Playground" notwithstanding) let me down. And really, the album is not bad. It's not typical Madonna, that's for certain. But like I said, I went with it. It fit my mood at the time and so it spoke to me on some level.

Of course, the album debuted at number 1 on but then dropped like a rock because, well, it had no hit at radio and really, Madonna had long since passed her peak as a mainstream, relevant artist to the teenage crowd that were buying the albums. People like me are always going to buy her records, no matter what, but let's face it, it's what the kids are listening to that's popular. As of right now, it's Madonna's only album to NOT go platinum. And to think, Jeff and I thought she had reached her nadir when "Oh Father" missed the Top 20. Heaven forbid!

Looking back on it now from four years out, I can appreciate it more now than I initially thought I did. For most, this is Madonna at her most self-indulgent. I don't think that most people tune into a Madonna record to hear about her spiritual journey. But guess what? It's her record, she gets to do whatever the hell she wants. I truly think that American Life was the record she needed to make at that time - fans be damned. I have a feeling she approached the recording of this album much like she does touring - the fans have to come to me, damn it. It took me a while, but I think I'm there.

Of course, for me, "Nothing Fails" is the glorious centerpiece of the album. It evokes "Like A Prayer" in many ways, the most obvious of which being the gospel choir. But it is also one of Madonna's most confessional songs. While traditionally I've always been a bit suspect of Madonna's "price of fame" or "it sucks to be famous" songs, this one is probably the one where I started paying attention and really saw the sincerity behind it. I know that many still mock it and think it's yet anothe shrewd reinvention or calculated career move, but I think so much of that is reflected in her work now, and it gets tough to fake that after a while.

Another high point for me is "Mother & Father" - probably the closest the album gets to a "dance" track with it's stuttering "I've got to give it up/Find someone to love me." Again, it has an unfortunate rap and perhaps the single worst Madonna lyric ever in: "My father had to go to work/I used to think he was a jerk." It's amazing to me that Madonna is still writing songs about the death of her mother so far into her career, but I suppose, being a mother herself, that event has taken on a whole new meaning that it never carried prior to her becoming a parent. It's also amazing that rather than taking the form of a slow thoughtful ballad, it was an uptempo track complete with vocoder.

Is it a perfect Madonna record - no way, far from it. "I'm So Stupid" still is pretty stupid. I love "Love Profusion" - but it's the probably the worst example of Madonna's "chewing yous" - I've got chew under my skin - ooh, gross! And "Die Another Day", while good on its own, does not fit the album very well. It smacks very much of record company pressure to put it on the album so that the album shipped with an already identifiable hit. However, in the company of the other confessional songs on the album, it sticks out like a sore thumb.

Confessional. It keeps coming back to that. Madonna claims she's not religious in "Nothing Fails." I have no doubt - for I know what she's talking about. I don't consider myself religious any longer, but that doesn't mean I'm not on a spiritual journey. And in a lot of ways, Madonna's going ahead of me - maybe not on the same road, but ahead just the same.

In my final analysis, American Life is a bit of a modern day Like A Prayer without the pop sensibility. The subject matter simply overpowered the music in many ways, two things that Like A Prayer combined effortlessly.

Conversation

Tonight while having "tea" with my 5 year old:

Anna: (trying to put the lid on her plastic Disney Princess sugar container) Daddy, this thing is really buggered!

I'm not sure where she picked this up. I'm also not sure whether to be aghast, amused, or somewhere in between.

True story.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Airborne reptiles

So over the weekend, I finally watched Snakes on a Plane. I am VERY late to the Snakes on a Plane party as I no longer go to movies in the theater unless they are animated and rated G. Also, having talking animals helps, and since the snakes in this movie couldn't talk this was not a movie that I was able to see in its theatrical run (although, come to think of it, large portions of it featured animated characters, but whatever.)

Honestly, I did not go into this movie with the low expectations that I usually go into with these types of movies (see: Freddy vs. Jason and Alien vs. Predator.) I admit that my expectations were lessened some based on that generally negative reviews it got, but please people, it's a movie called Snakes on a Plane. What are you expecting? A deep character study? While some projects do end up surpassing what could be considered an unfortunate title (Exhibit A: Buffy the Vampire Slayer), I got exactly what I expected out of this movie. A plane filled with an ungodly number of snakes.


I do give the filmmakers credit for having a good story underneath the general reptilian carnage, but honestly, it was the snakes on the plane that we were waiting for, and boy, did it deliver! Short version of the set up: Young surfer dude witnesses a mob hit, Samuel L. Jackson saves his butt, asks young surfer dude to be a witness for the prosecution. Next thing you know, they're on a 747 from Honolulu to L.A. and said mobster decides the best way to kill off the witness is to fill the plane with hundreds of different types of venomous snakes. And snakes don't attack unless provoked you say? Not if you've sprayed the leis with snake pheremones to make them "go crazy."

I've been watching movies like this for most of my life, and I consider myself pretty jaded when it comes to this. I mean, ok, I had to turn the lights on in the house when I watched The Grudge and The Exorcist still scares me, but I didn't expect the genuine scares that were present in Snakes on a Plane. Most of the scares were of the "gotcha!" variety, but still, they got me. I jumped in my chair on several occasions. There was one particularly good death scene featuring some kind of poisonous boa constrictor, but I wouldn't dream of spoiling it (and just as soon as you forgot about it, it makes a cameo appearance in the final act.) So, yeah, scary as well as entertaining.

A word about this movie though - if you have even the slightest case of ophidiophobia, please do yourself a favor and do not watch this movie. I don't feel strongly either way about snakes, but watching this movie had me squirming around and just sure that there were snakes on the floor.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The holiday season is finally over

We've been stuck in a snowy pattern since Christmas this year. We've had lots of snow followed by cold temps that have kept the snow around, unlike years past where it's fallen and then subsequently melted within a few days. So it's been a bit of a trick getting our outdoor Christmas lights down. Sure there have been times when I've had the chance to do it, but either the mood did not strike me or the opportunity never arose for me to actually take them down. The fact that the lighted deer in the front yard were being put into the mating position by neighborhood kids was the final clue that perhaps they needed to be brought in before NEXT Christmas rolls around.

Now don't get me wrong. The tree has been down for months. All signs of the holidays inside the house were banished to the basement in January. And we certainly weren't turning the lights on at night, so we weren't being that annoying. But it was getting to be a trifle ridiculous that the Christmas lights were still up. I wonder what the mailman was thinking. There's a house that I walk past every day to and from work that still has candy cane decorations up. At least I can take comfort in the fact that we're not that bad.

Music lyrics meme - part two

It's been a while since I did this music lyrics meme and because I'm feeling very lazy, I decided to try this again. It's always fun, but as Madge would say during "Hung Up" - this is the audience participation portion of the show. I want you to play along with me - and that includes the lurkers out there! Here's the meme:
Step 1: Put your iPod/MP3 player or iTunes on random.
Step 2: Post the first line(s) from the first 20 songs that play, no matter how embarrassing the song. (I took out any instrumental songs, natch, as well as any song where the title is uttered in the first line, so it's not entirely the first 20 songs that came up.)
Step 3: Post and let everyone you know guess what song and artist the lines come from. Those guessing the songs should post in the comments or shoot me an e-mail.
Step 4: Strike out the songs when someone guesses correctly and post the title in bold after the stricken song when it is guessed.
Step 5: (for those guessing the songs) If you look up the lyrics on Google or any other search engine, that's called cheating, so don't do it!
So here are the songs:

Song #1: I gave you three years of my life/You always said I'd be your wife

Song #2: I'm in love with you/You silly thing/Anyone can see ("Nothing Fails" by Madonna -- Yuri)

Song #3: If you've done nothing wrong/You've got nothing to fear/If you've something to hide/You shouldn't even be here ("Integral" by Pet Shop Boys -- Yuri)

Song #4: When I met you in the restaurant/You could tell I was no debutante ("Dreaming" by Blondie -- Yuri)

Song #5: Another question in me/One for the powers that be/It's got me thrown and so/I put on my poker face.

Song #6: You can call me a sinner/Or you can call me a saint ("Like It Or Not" by Madonna -- Yuri)

Song #7: I've had enough of this parade/I'm thinking of the words to say

Song #8: Would you change your mind at the very last moment?

Song #9: I'm sitting here alone up in my room/And thinkin' 'bout the times that we've been through ("Born To Make You Happy by Britney Spears - John)

Song #10: There's a lot of tension in this town/I know it's building up inside of me

Song #11: Eyes are black and skin so white/She moves so easily into the night

Song #12: Watch out sister, watch out brother/Watch our children while they kill each other ("Love Is A Good Thing" by Sheryl Crow -- Aunt Phetamine)

Song #13: Look over yonder what do you see?/The sun is a risin' most definitely

Song #14: I'm beside myself 'cuz I don't know and you won't tell

Song #15: Baby I never gave my heart to anyone/Oh no/I used to think that love was a game/I used to make it just for fun

Song #16: Love - that's worth fighting for/And that's what this is/How, how could I want more/Than the warmth of your kiss?

Song #17: Early morning light had come/Watched you turn as if to go/With no way out, I gave up the ghost.

Song #18: Let's go down by the grapevine, drink my daddy's wine/Get happy

Song #19: When your world is full of strange arrangements/And gravity won't pull you through. ("The Look Of Love" by ABC - genkiboy)

Song #20: How do you document real life when real life is getting more like fiction each day? ("Rent" from the Broadway Musical -- Caryle)

Guessing right gets you a link from me to your blog (watch out, your site might be overwhelmed with traffic) and I'll post all the answers on Friday night. If you're interested in doing this on your own blog, by all means, do so, and I'll post a link to your lyrics meme.

Have fun - it's not as easy as you might think!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

If a blog falls in the forest...

I sent an email last night to a dead man.

The other day, I found out that a guy I knew only virtually passed away. Or maybe he did. It's hard to say. Here's the story.

I "met" Keith on a men's issues list that I was really into a few years back. He lived in Michigan and was a fellow Madonna fan. His posts were incredibly articulate and well-thought out, which was a welcome relief from the usual posts - which lacked coherent thought as well as punctuation and sentence structure. We e-mailed off list a few times, not much, but enough for me to call him a "virutal friend." Although we were similar in many ways, we were exact opposites in a way that was huge for me at the time - I was a liberal Democrat and he was a staunch Bush-supporting Republican. But the similarities outweighed that huge difference and we had a pleasant online friendship, with frequent exchanges on the list and less frequent off list interactions.

Time passed. We moved to Ames. I changed e-mails and whenever I tried to e-mail him, he would attempt to e-mail me back and it would bounce from my gmail account back to him. I gave him my MSN address, and eventually got a reply from him, but for whatever reason, did not reply to it. By the time I got around to replying, his e-mail was dead and I figured I'd lost contact with him for good.

Fast forward to last summer, and for some reason, I found myself thinking about how Keith was doing. I went back to the men's list where we had initially met and put out an APB for him - if anyone knew how to get in contact with him. Kevin replied to me off list and had done a fair amount of Google-search and had found a couple e-mail addresses. I tried one and lo and behold, within a few days, I had a reply from him. This prompted a flurry of e-mails. He talked about how he had been blogging and I read his blog. I always knew that Keith had a past and something he was running from, but it wasn't until I read his blog that I fully realized how tortured by his past and his inner demons he was. I will not detail them here in the interest of his privacy. Some of the things that he detailed on his blog made me sad, other made me frightened but it was real and honest and in many ways refreshing.

Or was it? Keith had this habit of writing these long blog posts detailing some horrific event and then he'd add a caveat a few days later saying that he made it all up and something like how do you separate truth from fiction?

The last time I heard from him was August 14th. After that, the e-mails just dried up. I didn't really think too much about it until he started writing on his blog about how he had been diagnosed with a glioblastoma multiforme stage 4. His brain tumor was ridding him of his past, he wrote, so that he didn't have to dwell on bad decisions or choices that took him down a dark path. In ways, he was thankful for it.

When I read about this, I couldn't decide if this was yet another exercise in creative writing or if this was actually happening to him. I know, I'm probably going straight to hell for that, but given his track record on his blog, I was very doubtful that he was actually dying. While reserving a spot inside my brain for the possibility that he actually was dying, I figured that this was an elaborate cyber-death - a way of signing of of his blog with a bang rather than a whimper.

Well, the other day I went to his blog and there was an entry saying that Keith was gone and that he passed away two weeks ago. I presume it was written by his wife, but perhaps not - it could have been written by a friend or whoever. I haven't been able to independently verify his death by finding an online obituary or anything (Kevin, you have superior Googling skills than I do - perhaps you can?) but I'm willing to accept this as proof that he has passed. I e-mailed him, even though he had died, just saying Godspeed.

In any event, Godspeed and sweet dreams Keith. May your death grant you the peace that eluded you your whole life.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Been sick

True to form, I finish two overnight shifts and I get sick. I'm not sure that they're entirely related as Heidi was sick prior to me and she didn't work the overnight shift (although with Brooke here she definitely was sleep deprived since they were up till all hours talking and writing and what not.) Anyway, that's why blogging has been a bit light these days. I'm feeling a bit better today - not quite 100%, but that might be a bit too much to ask. In the meantime, here's a picture that I took when Anna and I went on a date a week ago last Saturday night. We went to our fave pizza place Pizza Pit, followed by a trip to Dairy Queen and then Borders. It was really fun and we had a great time. But here's our self portrait at Pizza Pit.

Monday, March 12, 2007

True Colors

Heidi and I decided to splurge and we're going to go to the True Colors Tour in Chicago on June 12th. It's kind of a combination 10th anniversary present for us and 35th birthday present for me. The tickets were not cheap, but please, look at the lineup! It's Cyndi Lauper, Erasure, and Deborah Harry. Plus some other artists that I don't know, and a chance that Rufus Wainwright might be there as well. But Deborah Harry!! Yet another person on my ever shortening list of people I need to see live before I (or they) die.

We're sitting in row Z of the middle orchestra section in the very cool looking Auditorium Theater. So it's not like going to a Madonna concert where you're so far away she looks miniscule on the stage. I can't wait!!

Like I said, a bit expensive, but what the hell? And it's for a good cause.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

SBIT: Klute edition

It's 11:18 PM - I went to bed at 9PM, but now, I'm decidedly awake. I'm not sure what's up with this. I was very much asleep, but then, I woke up because I was hot and I haven't been able to get back to sleep ever since. Oh well, I'm trusting my body on this one. Not much else to do.

So consequently, this week's photo will be accompanied by quick commentary. This is one of my favorite pictures from my childhood - my brother is very fond of calling this the photo where Mom has a Klute haircut.

Techincally, it should be the Bree Daniels haircut, but you get the idea.

I actually watched Klute a couple summers ago shortly after reading Jane Fonda's autobiography My Life So Far (which was a great read that I chronicled here.) Not a bad movie, it IS a bit dated, but it was definitely worthwhile.

And for all those who may be wondering, yes, that is me. That was as my hair was changing from the blond that it was early in my life to the brown that it is now (mostly - every day there's more and more gray in that brown.)

Survival

As Madge would say, a little up and down and all around, it's all about survival. And I survived the two overnight shifts. They were not bad as overnight shifts go, but I will definitely be glad to be back to something a little more predictable and less hard on my body physically. It's never the staying up all night that is bothersome, it's what happens to the rest of my life that is hard.

Yesterday, as I was drifting off to sleep, I think I dreamt about zombies. Well, I know that I visualized them in my head, but I'm not sure that I was asleep enough to call it a dream. In any event, it was incredibly vivid. A lady that I know from work was all bloody around her mouth from chomping on human flesh, and down in the OR suites, the walls were splattered with blood. Then I had this vision of Heidi being bitten by a zombie while she was trying to get out of the car at home. And I remember feeling sad - which I suppose is better than uncontrolled joy, especially since she reads this!

I do not know why I continually dream about zombies. I would like to believe it means something deep and meaningful. Mostly, I think it just means I'm weird and have had too little sleep. Not to mention the fact that I watched about half of Shaun of the Dead on Thursday, so I'm sure that had NOTHING to do with it.

OK, I have an appointment with my bed. That's where I'll be.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

One down, one to go

I successfully survived the first of my two overnight shifts - YAY! It wasn't too bad, not terribly busy and I got a lot of other work done as well. I went into it with not nearly enough sleep as I woke up yesterday at 12:30PM and really didn't sleep again. I'm about ready to fall over. Yet here I sit blogging. Priorities, I tell ya.

We listened to 100.3 The Bus last night as I didn't bring my iPod for a variety of reasons. But they played some of the most eclectic stuff. I finally heard the original version of "Train, Train" - a song that I know only in its Dolly Parton bluegrass form. I also heard not one but TWO Heart songs ("Love Alive" and "Kick It Out") The station was definitely in a classic rock mode - and I'm pretty sure that's not its general format. No matter. I think I'll bring my iPod tonight. Of course, that requires me to make a playlist that contains things that I will not die of embarrassment if they come up randomly.

So off to bed for me. Hopefully I sleep well. I will need it.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Not ready to make nice? Well, no wonder.

It's 2AM and I've just finished the Dixie Chicks documentary. Holy shit.

There are not words to describe how I feel after watching this movie. I could write reams and reams about the hypocrisy of country radio or whether or not Natalie Maines should have said that she was ashamed that the President of the United States was from Texas. I could even talk a lot about whether the response to the Chicks' music was appropriate or not.

What I do want to talk about is how these three women, while being members of the biggest country band in recent history and are probably wealthy beyond their wildest dreams, are still human beings. The cruelty and hypocrisy that WAS shown by their former fans was unforgivable. The hateful and hurtful things that people said in the name of freedom was appalling. I followed the controversy at the time, but had no idea it was as bad as it was. It's no small wonder that Natalie didn't even want to go back to county radio at all with this record.

Perhaps the hardest part to watch was the part that talked about the death threat that Maines received prior to a Dallas concert. These women were visibly shaken by this and an off-the-cuff remark by an entertainer should not provoke that kind of response in an adult human being. The other part that really got to me was kind of a throwaway moment where a mother was trying to get her toddler to say that the Dixie Chicks suck. I couldn't believe my eyes.

In many ways, we have ourselves to blame. The celebrity culture is thriving today - you can't go even go to reputable mainstream media outlets without being offered a "front row seat for the Britney breakdown." The media was complicit in this - it was a sexy story that had legs and especially when the war was going well in its early stages, the Chicks really looked foolish. But foolish or not, I hope the people that were featured in the documentary disparaging the Chicks look back at this and are ashamed of their behavior. However, I have a strong suspicion that they probably look at it with smug admiration.

What a difference time can make. Vindication is theirs - although don't look for it from country radio.

If I were the Chicks' manager at this point, I would tell country radio to fuck off and record a rock album in the vein of Sheryl Crow (which, really, Taking The Long Way was sonically very similar to a country-flavored Sheryl Crow album) and then do killer dance remixes of their singles for the gay audience--a significant number of which embraced them as their country audience deserted them for the freedom of speech that is part of what is good in America.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Up late with Babs

I'm going to try to stay up for most of the night tonight - in an attempt to switch my body clock around to working overnights for the next couple nights. As I've blogged before, this is actually quite fun as it reminds me of my days as a college student when I would routinely stay up till 3AM on the weekends and then sleep till noon the next day. I was such a night owl that Jeff would call me up at 2 in the morning simply because he knew that I'd be awake. Of course, there was one time that he did call and I had actually gone to bed at a decent hour and I tried to answer the phone. Actually, I don't remember answering the phone, but rather, suddenly, I was talking to Jeff on the phone with him saying "I'll just call you back in the morning." I probably sounded like a Neanderthal.

I spent a lot of time awake when I probably should have been sleeping back then. Of course, most of that time was spent listening to music and sitting at the computer writing. And this was in the days before the net. Once I got a dial up connection to telnet to the ISCABBS, I found myself in a world that I only dreamed existed. I remember sitting up listening to the very CD that I'm listening to tonight - Streisand's 1967 CD Simply Streisand. It was probably one of Babs' least well received of her 60s albums, but for some reason, it hits all the right notes with me. It is so damn short (29 minutes) and never even gets to mid-tempo, but still, it's classic. It's another example of how music can transport you back in time, just like you're stepping into the Tardis. You put it on, and you walk out into the past. It's so palpable you want to reach out and touch it, but you know that you can't. This album is very much that way for me. I think I bought it within the first few days that I was down at the U of Iowa and so it reflects how I was feeling then - lost in the shuffle, but ready to change that. I spent a lot of time in my single dorm room listening to it -- I was beyond help, I was such a geek. I was talking to XO earlier tonight about how music can also be used to get you through difficult times, and I agree with this. I do this to a rather large extent - music has always been where I've run to feel safe. I'm just wired that way - there's no getting around it. Consequently, so many songs have a bittersweet quality to them. Sometimes the bitter outweighs the sweet - and then I have a hard time listening to them again. But for the most part, the sweet part wins out.

Now that Simply Streisand has hit its end, I'm headed into Stoney End which is another one of my favorite Babs albums. This one is also one that I first listened to at about that same time - I special ordered it from Musicland if you can believe that. In these days of instant music gratification, it's hard to think about having to wait a week for an album to come in. In fact, I didn't even think about how in years past, I would have had to wait until after work to pick up the new Mary Chapin Carpenter CD, I just bought it off of iTunes at 5 in the morning and I had listened to most of it before I even left for work. But Stoney End is Barbra doing Laura Nyro so you can't go wrong. However, it also features a version of "If You Could Read My Mind" which would send Caryle into fits, so we won't speak of that any longer (although I do like that song.) Regardless, I have very vivid images of listening to "Time & Love" on my Walkman while heading down to Bruegger's for bagels on Sunday nights when there was no food in the dorm. If only people could have heard some of the unlikely stuff that was coming out of my headphones back then. Of course, the stuff that comes out of my headphones from my iPod is equally unlikely.

I have that Dixie Chicks documentary Shut Up & Sing out from Netflix right now and I think I might go up and try to watch some of that. I'm afraid that if I sit down in front of the TV, I'll start to fall asleep ("Whatever you do. Don't. Fall. Asleep.") That's the thing about trying to stay up, especially when you really do need to go to bed. Stop moving - or stop using your brain at all and it goes into complete shutdown mode. But we'll see.

The buddies of blog

I've been blogging for several years now - it'll be 4 years come September or something like that. Looking back, I'm not sure what prompted me to start blogging. And whatever it was, I'm certain that my motivations have changed since then. When I started this blog - which has been through a couple name changes - I never really intended for all that many people to see it. At first, it was kind of a journal for me. I remember having been impressed by the candor (and alternately, shocked by the narcissism) of those that posted online journals in the days before Blogger. I was amazed by how anyone could read their innermost thoughts, but also kind of WTF-ing the fact that they thought that their lives would be interesting to anyone beyond themselves. It was Camille Paglia who perhaps not-so-famously wrote about blogging:
Blog reading for me is like going down to the cellar amid shelves and shelves of musty books that you're condemned to turn the pages of. Bad prose, endless reams of bad prose! There's a lack of discipline, a feeling that anything that crosses one's mind is important or interesting to others. People say that the best part about writing a blog is that there's no editing -- it's free speech without institutional control. Well, sure, but writing isn't masturbation -- you've got to self-edit.
While I think this is harsh, I will admit to having given the world perhaps more than my fair share of bad prose. And ill-informed ideas. But in the end, this is not what writing a blog is about for me.

As I said, initially, I didn't tell anyone about my blog. I had no idea how many people found my blog via random Google searches. Slowly but surely, I started letting people know about it. I started putting it in the sig line of my e-mails, filling it into the "web site" section of various web sites I joined. And finally, I started telling people I knew about it. I still don't tell people I work with - if they find it, that's all well and good, but I'm not about to go and spread the word. I fear that I would freeze up and not be able to write another word. I've also started commenting on other blogs that I have been a long time reader of - and it was then that I realized the true fun of blogging. I was creating a network of people - other bloggers - whose blogs I go to religiously day after day, sometimes commenting, sometimes not. I've met a lot of people via blogging that I wouldn't have had a chance to meet otherwise.

The first of these blog friends was Scott of the now defunct (by his own choice) Saltwater Pizza Blog. Unfortunately, he seems to have fallen off the face of the earth. But since then, I've met these fine folks as well.
  • P. Viktor, whose poetry and pop culture reviews always make for fascinating reading.
  • Paul at thezapping.com, another fabulous friend from across the pond who has turned me on to a lot of music I might never have heard otherwise. That plus giving me fashion tips and just generally inflating my ego by his kind words.
  • XO, who I met via Paul, who is many ways a musical twin, but also knows many genres and artists that I don't know. Also he is the keeper of all the best ways to travel in the UK - knowledge that I plan to use to my advantage some day.
  • Aunt Phetamine, who I only just met (thanks to a random Casey Stratton blog search), but is a fellow midwesterner and loves some great music as well. So sorry to hear about the kidney stone!
  • And last but certainly not least, is Yuri of Olga Loves Yuri who thinks we were probably separated at birth. And I wouldn't be surprised. We just started e-mailing and reading each other's blogs, but it's prompted a flurry of e-mails that has just been the best time ever.
Looking up at that list, it appears that music is the connection - as Madge says, music makes the people come together (or as Anna sings it, "Music/Makes the boys/Come together/Yeah!") It's too bad the world is such a big place - I can only imagine what a night at Dublin Bay with the above mentioned folks in attendance would be like. Here's to you guys - thank goodness the internet makes the world just a little bit smaller.

P.S. And you know what's crazy, this doesn't even mention the fab people I've met via last.fm.

Monday, March 05, 2007

New Chapin

I had absolutely no idea that there was a new Mary Chapin Carpenter album coming out tomorrow! That makes me very excited! It's called The Calling and I found out about because All Music Guide sends me an email every week of the new releases coming out. Mostly, I just scan and delete as most of the stuff I really care about I already know about, but somehow, this just totally slipped past my radar.

I listened to 30 seconds of a track on iTunes called "On With The Song" (which was, according to All Music Guide, written for the Dixie Chicks) and if I weren't going to download the whole album tomorrow morning first thing, I would buy that song tonight.

AMG has given it a stellar review, and I'm very excited about it, as you can tell. Her last album Between Here And Gone was quite simply, the best work she'd done since Stones in The Road 10 years prior. It wasn't really a barn burner, but it was a solid record with thoughtful lyrics and melodies that could melt you. This one, however, promises to rock. And based on "On With The Song" I can't wait to hear more.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

SBIT: Three generations of men

I never posted a SBIT picture last week, and much apologies for that.

This week's picture is a picture of my grandpa, my dad and me. I was all of probably a few days old in this picture, and my father looks very young. My grandpa looks exactly as I remember him. What has prompted me to post this picture is I have come to the stark realization that I have pretty much zero chance of carrying on the family name. This is not an important thing to me in the slightest, but it gave me pause nonetheless. As the parent of only one child (and one increasingly likely to stay that way) and with that child being a girl, the name ends with me. So I guess it's up to my brother and his wife to start having boys.


All in all, I am so glad that I have a daughter. I have no doubt that I would have loved a son as much as I love Anna, but for some reason, I feel like a very good dad to a daughter. Our doctor and family friend where we used to live told me that men like me need to have daughters, and I forget her reasoning now, but she equated me to her husband, who is also very much like me in many ways, but also not in many ways as well. I love having a little girl as I don't think there's anything quite like a daughter's love for her father. I'm sure that there will come a time when I stop being the coolest dad ever and become the biggest embarrassment on the planet to her, but we'll cross that bridge when we get there. I sometimes think I would have been a poor father to a son as I'm not at all athletic - so much so that I don't even pretend to like sports and really don't even attempt them anymore (as opposed to what I did in college.) I know there's more to boys than athletics (I mean, look at me for proof positive of that) but you know what I mean.

Being the parent of one child is also an interesting experience - because she is the only one, I feel very acutely in tune with her needs. I remember the old Bill Cosby routine where he says that parents of one child are not really parents at all - if something breaks, you know who did it. While I realize it was a comedy routine, it was still one of those things that makes you think. I'm amazed by parents of more than one child. I'm in awe of how they manage it. Some days, one child combined with every other aspect of my life completely exhausts me. A lady I used to work with said that one child is heaven, two children is also fine because there's one for each parent, but three children is total anarchy. We had three kids in my family, sometimes, I don't know how my parents did it.

Anyway, enough of my rambling. I love my kid so much.

The return of the mug

As some of you may recall, last summer my Confessions Tour mug took a rather unfortunate run through the dishwasher. Now, I had put it in the dishwasher before and nothing had happened to it, but this particular time, there was a nick in the Confessions Tour decal that allowed water to get completely under it. Consequently, it was all wrinkled and pretty much wrecked. It was peeling off and just looked awful. So we gave it a proper burial (i.e. pushed it to the back of the cupboard) and I tried to pick up the pieces and move on.

Well, with our nice tax refund, I decided to replace it from Fanfire - and it just arrived last week. YAY!! So once again, a small piece of the universe has returned to normal. No, it's not the mug that made the trip from Las Vegas with me, but at least I have one again!!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Maniacs -10,000 of them

I have a bit of a history with 10,000 Maniacs. It all started in 1988 – it was a year that I started to look beyond the radio for my source of music and discovered a lot of other bands and artists that didn’t necessarily get radio airplay but were producing some good music. My friend Kelly was a huge influence in that realm. She never really went for all the pop music that I was listening to – and she did a good job of tolerating all of my insane babbling about Madonna and Stevie Nicks. I don’t talk to her near enough these days, but as is usually the case, life has gotten in the way and we’ve kind of lost contact. I have her gmail address, and there’s nothing stopping me from e-mailing her, so who knows what my excuse is. Probably pure and unadulterated laziness.

It was in the fall of 1988 that I purchased the Maniacs breakthrough Elektra release In My Tribe. I’m not even sure what first exposed me to this album – although I think it might have been the video for “What’s The Matter Here” which was getting some airplay on MTV at the time. It was my junior year of high school and I just absorbed it completely and utterly. I also knew the song “Like The Weather”, of course, it was the closest thing that the Maniacs had to a radio hit at the time. For whatever reason, the album just seemed to resonate with me.

“Like The Weather” remains one of my favorites to this day. It is, quite simply put, the bounciest pop song ever written about depression and seasonal affective disorder. I didn’t realize the subject material at the time, but perhaps subconsciously I did. I think I must have been dealing with depression even then, and a song like that would really hit me. It has another great bridge –
Do I need someone here to scold me
Or do I need someone who grab and pull me out of
Four poster, dull torpor, pulling downward?
For it’s such a long time since my better days
I say my prayers nightly, “this will pass away.”



There is simply not a bad song on this record – “Gun Shy” – a song about a young man going off to the army which reminded me of my friend Rick who was joining the National Guard, “Hey Jack Kerouac” was full of references to the Beat Generation, “A Campfire Song” features a brilliant countervocal by Michael Stipe (my first exposure to him at the time) and “My Sister Rose” details a wedding day in a joyous way.

Blind Man’s Zoo was the Maniacs follow up to In My Tribe in 1989. In many ways, it’s In My Tribe, Part 2. Only thing is, it’s nowhere near as good. While the social issues covered on In My Tribe were handled with a bit of subtlety, no such precautions were taken on Blind Man’s Zoo. Listening to it is like being beaten over the head with a litany of social issues set to music that is subpar to that featured on In My Tribe. This is not to say that there aren’t highlights from this album for me – “Eat For Two”, with its minor key and driving piano tells the tale of a teenager, pregnant and alone. And “You Happy Puppet” is perhaps some of the best “jangle pop” I’ve ever heard. However, I don’t care much for “Trouble Me” which got extensive airplay at the time – I don’t know, it just never really grabbed me. I know that my father really liked it though.

After the relative disappointment of Blind Man’s Zoo, my perception of In My Tribe was sullied – so much so that I sold the CD of it that I had bought. Never fear, I eventually repurchased it (and got “Peace Train” off of Napster since it had been deleted from later pressings of the album.) However, it was with much trepidation that I purchased Our Time In Eden. I bought it primarily on the strength of “These Are Days” which was impossible to escape in the fall of 1992. And yes, that song was and still is fabulous, although it has been a bit overused and is a bit of a pander to nostalgia of youth – that’s what caused so many of my college friends to have a sudden interest in the Maniacs and Natalie Merchant (who was, even then, preparing to fly solo – and Natalie’s solo work is something I’ve never been able to get into.) And there are several very good songs on this record – I’m thinking specifically of “Circle Dream”, “Noah’s Dove”, and “Eden.” However, there is a problem with this record – at least for me.

The problem is that it is so closely intertwined with the Unplugged CD which I played continuously for a while the following year. And then my college roommate, with whom I shared a close but antagonistic relationship picked up on this CD. And he played it. Non stop. Continously. So much so that I couldn’t stand to listen to it anymore. And plus, it reminds me of that time, feeling bad about myself and being depressed and lonely so it’s with great effort that I still listen to “Because The Night” – the last Maniacs single with Natalie and oddly enough, their most successful. A sad way to end my association with the Maniacs. Last Tuesday, I tried listening to bits of Our Time In Eden which I picked up from the library and it was like I was transported in the Tardis back to those times. It was so unpleasant, that I had to turn it off.

Better luck next time, I guess. Perhaps I’ll let another 15 years go by and see how I do then. In the meantime, I'll be sticking to In My Tribe - it's like a comfortable old friend that knows exactly how to interact with you and you know just what to expect from them.

Friday, March 02, 2007

You're indestructible

I was kind of surfing around YouTube tonight in an increasingly futile attempt to find old music videos and I came across this one - Spandau Ballet's "Gold."



I'm not sure a band that looks this clean cut could have made it at any other time than in the early 80s, don't you think?

Believe it or not, I'm actually the proud owner of Spandau Ballet: The Singles Collection. I purchased it in the spring of 1993 because I really really wanted the song "True" on CD, and well, it was probably the best value for my money. This was in the days before iTunes (obviously!) and trying to buy just ONE SONG was nigh onto impossible. I suppose I could have looked for a cheesy 80s compilation that had "True" on it, but that was more work than just picking up their greatest hits. Sometimes, when I think about life before the net, I just shudder!

Surprisingly, it isn't all that bad. Sure there is filler (and plenty of it) but it's fun early 80s Europop filler. And there are some absolutely fabulous songs on there - "Gold" being one of them. Others that really tripped my trigger were ""Round And Round" and "Highly Strung" (which has a killer sax in it.) And the best part of "Gold" is the "you're indestructible" part because the guy sings what is a 5 syllable word on, really, 3 notes. Wendy and I always used to laugh at this because it was kind of the counterpart to Mariah Carey making a 1 syllable word hit 58 different notes.

Spandau Ballet is a one of those early 80s bands that no one even remembers anymore, but I'm sure glad that I picked up that CD!

And just for fun, here's a DJ remix of "Gold" that I found back in the Audiogalaxy days. Totally unofficial as far as I know, so totally ok to share.

"Gold (DJ Rico Mix)"

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Thursday 13: Netflix Edition

I wasn't going to do a Thursday 13 this week - hell, I haven't done one in forever, but then I got hit with a wave of inspiration and decided what the heck. So here it is.

The Last 13 DVDs I've Gotten from Netflix (starting with what I have at home now):

1) C.S.A - The Confederate States of America -- This is a mockumentary that depicts events that might have been had the Confederacy won the Civil War and reinstituted slavery in the North. It plays like a TV show that you're watching from the British Broadcasting Service because there are even faux commercials - the first one is for Confederate Family Insurance, protecting family and property (cut to an African American man trimming the hedges) for blah blah blah years. As a history buff and a big fan of "what-if" type stuff, this is really interesting to me, although ultimately it's flawed as the goal of the Confederacy was never to take over the North, but to establish their own country. I'm about half way through this one.

2) The Departed -- This year's Best Picture Oscar winner. I got it on the pretense of watching it prior to the Oscars. Didn't happen. And now, I'm not really in the mood for it, so I sent it back unwatched. I really hate it when I do that.

3) Bram Stoker's Dracula -- I hadn't seen this movie since it was out in theaters in 1992. Obviously, there was good reason for that. There was enough melodrama to sink a ship and the scenery chomping would have been forgivable had there been decent character development and pacing. Mostly, it just plays like bad 90s nostalgia. Heidi reviewed it in detail here.

4) Hard Candy -- OK, this was a good movie. Excruciating to watch at times, but still very good. Patrick Wilson plays a 30 something photographer who meets up with 15 year old Haley who he met in a chat room. Sounds like he's a predator, right. Well, maybe. But Haley has a few tricks of her own up her sleeve. Definitely worth watching and I have to say that admire Patrick Wilson for taking these meaty roles when he could just become the next Matthew McConaughey.

5) An Inconvenient Truth -- For all the cries of liberal bias and bad science, this was probably the best horror movie I've seen all year. Dear Lord, what ARE we doing to our planet? Definitely worth a look.

6) Harlan County, U.S.A. -- A movie about the plight of coal miners in 1970s Kentucky. See my blog post here for a more in depth look at it.

7) American Dream -- This was the Oscar winning documentary about striking workers at a Hormel plant in Minnesota that was directed by the same director that won the Oscar for Harlan County, U.S.A. I still think she was robbed that her latest documentary Shut Up & Sing (which is probably the next movie I'll get from Netflix) wasn't at least nominated for Best Documentary this year. Although it wouldn't have won (nothing could stop the freight train that was An Inconvenient Truth), it would have been a nice nod to this two time Oscar winner. Again, a more in depth look here.

8) Morvern Callar -- I tried to like this movie, but I couldn't do it. Perhaps it was just not the right time for me to watch it, but I couldn't do it. I watched about a half hour of it, and when the dialogue was so sparse and quiet that I realized I didn't know who half the characters were, I turned it off and sent it back.

9) Resident Evil: Apocalypse -- A sub par sequel to a great zombie movie. There were some good moments, but I really liked the original Resident Evil a whole lot more. Rumor has it there's another sequel in the works. You know I'll watch it - it IS zombies, after all.

10) Resident Evil -- My sister has been on my case to watch this movie for a very long time now. Usually, video games turned into movies don't fare very well (see Super Mario Bros. and Tomb Raider) but this one was very good. Of course, the fact that it was a zombie movie helped its cause immensely. There were some very good genuine scares and it was also very atmospheric as well. Plus, it had just about the best ending scene in a zombie movie that I've ever seen - even though it was an obvious set up for a sequel.

11) Strait Jacket -- Ah, it's a Joan Crawford "so-bad-it's-good" flick. Joan's been in the insane asylum for 20 years ("20 years of pure hell!") after axing her husband and his mistress. But now she's been released and is going to live with her grown daughter. Only now, there have been a series of ax murders that look remarkably like Joan's doing. Are they?

12) Severed: Forest of the Dead -- Yep, another zombie movie, and another one that I reviewed in detail before. Not a bad zombie movie. It was trying very hard to be 28 Days Later but it was still very capable.

13) Alice: TV Favorites -- Join Alice, Vera, Flo & Mel at Mel's Diner. And you can be assured that Flo will say "Kiss my grits!!" at least once per episode. Too bad there aren't complete seasons out there of Alice. It was always one of my favorite shows growing up.