Sunday, July 29, 2007

Rise of the machines

As Bill Cosby (or, more accurately, Bill Cosby's wife) might say "I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF THIS!!" This is a day that I would really just as soon forget.

The electronics in our house are rising up and revolting, I swear to God. I went to put in a DVD for Anna earlier today, and the damn thing didn't open. Didn't turn on. Didn't do anything. It did not help that just two weeks previously, our other DVD player up and quit in the middle of The Illusionist, necessitating bringing up from the basement my sister's DVD player that she left after she moved to Canada. The loss of that particular DVD player was especially sad as it was our region-free player. Without that, what would we watch our Series One Doctor Who discs on? More of an inconvenience than anything else, but still annoying. And as far as I could tell, there was no way to unlock my sister's DVD player, thus making it region free.

Well, when that DVD player died today (are you keeping up with which DVD player is which?) we had a bit old *sigh* moment and decided that there are very few things in the house that we can't live without, and a DVD player is one of them. So I did a little investigation and found a cheap one at Best Buy that I could unlock to make region free. Thirty bucks. No problem. Heidi went out and bought it. I set it up, unlocked it and we were all back to normal. The part that I didn't mention is that the one that had died previously (my sister's, not our former region free one, which was given away at the garage sale to an intrepid soul that thought he might be able to make it work) magically started working again. Let's pour a little more salt on the wounds.

We contemplated taking the new one back, but honestly, we do like our region free DVD player so we kept it. We sat down tonight to watch a movie and it was working fine. It started to get late and Anna was getting tired so Heidi got up to help her brush her teeth. I started pushing buttons on the remote control and inadvertantly pushed the button that changes it to progressive scan. This totally FUBARed the DVD player to the best of my knowledge. I tried EVERYTHING I could think of to fix this. I can't get it to work. Motherf*ck.

So finally, I decided, screw it. I set up the old one. I boxed up the other one. I dug through the garbage to find the receipt. It's going back to Best Buy tomorrow after work at which point they will either tell me how to fix it or they will take it back and refund my money. A part of me doesn't want a DVD player that temperamental as Anna is not always the most careful when it comes to her DVD remote control manipulations. So who knows.

I know that I'm being dramatic, but there are so many things going on around here these days - the general anxiety that everyone has surrounding Heidi's upcoming trip, the fact that I have to work at all during the time that she's gone, necessitating a lot of driving around to try to get Anna to and from my mother-in-law's. It is also coming off the craziness that was the garage sale. Overall, this weekend has been far from relaxing. Thank goodness I have Tuesday and Wednesday off.

In any event, I'm sitting here listening to Mary Chapin Carpenter's live cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing In The Dark" which is, simply put, lovely. It is calming me a bit. However, I am going to go take an Ativan and go to sleep. Here's hoping tomorrow is a bit better than today has been. Or at least less stressful.

Figure 8 as double 4 (8 random facts meme)

I was recently tagged by a fellow blogger (V over at Gravity & Fusion) for the 8 random facts meme. Initially I wasn't tagged, but it seemed like fun so I thought I'd do it anyway, commenting as such on his post. After that, I was officially tagged. So here goes.

1. first, post these rules
2. post 8 random facts about yourself
3. write a blogspot about those facts
4. tag and name 8 more bloggers
5. tell them that they're tagged at their blog

Fact 1: As a child, I flunked dunkers.

My parents spent (and wasted) a lot of money on swimming lessons for me as a kid. I remember being afraid of the water as a kid, but the story that sticks out in my head was when I was in the "dunkers" class. All you had to do to pass dunkers was put your head under water. Do you think I could manage that? Not a chance. Since then, I've lost my fear of the water but I'm afraid I'll never be much more than a passable swimmer and will never fully shake my fear of drowning.

Fact 2: I love daisies.

Daisies are the most perfect flower, with their yellow centers and long white petals. I'm trying to grow a daisy plant in the backyard flower bed and I'm just hoping it doesn't get choked out by weeds.

Fact 3: I have a severe soft spot for Diet Mountain Dew.

And lucky for me it's Diet Mountain Dew and not regular (which one of my coworkers at a previous job referred to, rather uncouthly I might add, as "diabetic piss") I don't know if it's the caffeine, the carbonation, the flavor or some combination of the three, but it is a serious weakness. When I was purging caffeine a while back, it was the Diet Mountain Dew that I missed the most, not the coffee.

Fact 4: It took me 32 years to get on my first airplane.

And it was only my brother's wedding in Phoenix that did it. Although if it hadn't been that, my date with Madge for the Re-Invention tour would have delayed my first flight by a mere 10 days.

Fact 5: Despite all my efforts, I simply can't get into Mika.

I just don't get him. At all. Sure "Grace Kelly" is catchy, and I really love "My Interpretation" for it's kiss-offness and attitude, but I don't get the rest of it. He seems like yet another pop star by committee with not an ounce of spontaneity and that really gets under my skin. I was waiting at Best Buy today to do a rapid exchange of my THIRD iPOD of the summer and the "Love Today" video was on. And it just didn't do anything for me.

Fact 6: Even though I am an introvert, I am always looking for new people.

And it's not because the newness wears off of the people in my life and I feel compelled to seek out something (or someone) shiny. I don't think that I could have stayed married to the same woman for 10 years if that were the case. But I guess I really think that if we get only one go around in this world, why not have as many people touch your life (and vice versa) as you can? You can't have the same intensity of relationship with all of them, naturally, but it's ok.

Fact 7: I am giving some thought to going back to being clean shaven.

My biggest reservations: 1) Anna has no memory of me without a beard (other than from photos from when she was a baby.) 2) Heidi really likes it. and 3) The maintenance on a beard is so much easier than on a clean shaven face. Plus it saves money on razor blades like you would not believe!!

Fact 8: It may sound crazy, but I am thankful for the internet because it has allowed me to find my community.

If this were 15 years ago, I wouldn't have the privilege of knowing so many of the people that feel like family to me. It's been so wonderful to be able to find a lot of people that have similar interests but also expand my horizons. Now I just have to figure out how to transfer some of that community into real life flesh and blood. Reading Heidi's book that she just finished there is this colorful cast of characters that are always supporting each other and there for each other. And yes, I realize it's fiction. But certainly that exists somewhere, right?

And I'm generally shitty at tagging other people as even the unpopular kids don't talk to me. ;) But if Caryle, Yuri, Lucas and Paul wanted to have a go at this, I'd be eager to see their lists!!

Garage sale surivival

I had every intention of blogging the garage sale from yesterday, but I'm going to save myself the trouble and just direct you to Heidi's blog. It sums it all up perfectly.

Friday, July 27, 2007

And the light that shines through the shining night

Would you just LOOK at what Anna got at Target today?


Why, it's a blue lamp! The blueness of it does not come across all that well in the picture, but it is a beautiful shiny blue that she loves and I think is gorgeous. Now I want a blue lamp even more than I did before. I actually had a blue lamp in college - long before I realized the significance of the blue lamp, but alas, it was garage saled or junked long ago.

And speaking of blue things, when I was cleaning out my office the other day, I found something that I had plum forgotten that I even had! It's my 7" limited edition blue vinyl pressing of "True Blue." Behold.


I am thinking of having it mounted and framed as I'm not likely to ever have a record player again, and even if I did, why would I play it? Additionally, a quick eBay search showed that it was really not worth very much, so it's not like I'll sell it. And besides, even if someday it became the most valuable Madonna collectible EVER I would probably still not consider selling it. It's probably the one true collectible item that I actually own.

So we'll see what happens. The garage sale is tomorrow and people had better buy some of the stuff we're selling. I survey the stuff that we're trying to hawk and I think to myself "who is going to buy this stuff?" But as someone at work pointed out to me the other day, you'd be amazed at what some people will buy for a quarter. Or less. Seriously, this stuff is priced to sell.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Delayed? Again?

Well, word from Arjanwrites this morning is that Debbie Harry's new CD has been pushed back to JANUARY of NEXT YEAR which I realize is just a delay of a few months, but WTF? I know that I'm probably one of about 10 people eagerly awaiting this release, but still!

And for those who doubt the genius that is Debbie, head over to Arjan and download "Two Times Blue" for free (and guilt-free) - it's my song of the summer, topping even "Umbrella" (I know, blasphemy.)

Monday, July 23, 2007

Long time gone

I was bound and determined to NOT let July slip by without updating this blog. I think summer breeds blog-breaks (cue a "we were on a break!!" joke.) I have no real excuse for not blogging - I have had several topics I've seriously wanted to blog, some that I really need to blog, but for the most part, I just have not been moved to do so. Part of it is I have been caught up in my Netflix these days. We have had some very rapid turnarounds on Netflix these days which is good because it makes up for the times that you get one and it sits around for a month and you've just gotten to pay 25 dollars for the privilege of it gathering dust on your TV.

We're also getting ready for a garage sale this weekend and the act of getting rid of the JUNK in this house has been so liberating. I threw out so much stuff yesterday while I was cleaning out my office, it was unreal. We had so much trash on the curb for the garbageman this morning - Al Gore would have just shaken his head and walked away. I must admit to feeling a bit bad about all the trash, but what was I supposed to do? As a blogger friend pointed out to me, my soul is undoubtedly lighter for it and I will never miss any of it.

I have also been undertaking a "ceiling project" in my office. My ceiling is extremely pourous and also very ugly, so when I first moved my computer and all the accoutrements into this room, I started tacking up various pictures and things on it - mostly things that Anna has drawn for me and pictures that have a lot of meaning for me. My ultimate goal was to cover the whole thing and have it be an always changing reflection of me - who I am, where I've been and where I'm going. Well, I ran out of staples at one point and was too lazy to go and check with Heidi to see if she had any. And then there was ***insert excuse here***. Well no more. I'm trying to get a picture ready for what I've done, but it's not ready yet. In the meantime, I'll leave you with this teaser.

More to come later, I promise.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Vineyards

I think I'm going to come back as a grapevine in my next lifetime - they seem so peaceful. We spent the afternoon at Prairie Moon Vineyard and Winery today. They have live music and spirits every Sunday afternoon all summer. It was blazingly hot (only because the sun spoke with such authority) but once it went behind the trees, it was very pleasant and relaxing. There was a nice breeze and we brought one of Anna's friends with us so that she would have something to do other than be bored.

But look at this grapevine? Doesn't it just look happy to be there? (shamelessly stolen from The Amazon Iowan)

It's nice to just relax on a Sunday, especially when you have the specter of a work week before you. But for now, I'll just try to live in the moment and not in tomorrow - as there will be plenty of that then.

In the meantime, if you can't feel like a grape vine, at least feel like Blair here. I swear, he's still living, just a contortionist.

This is a man's world

Nestled in between Cher's 80's cheese bombast (not that there's anything wrong with that cheese bombast) and her subsequent rebirth as a dance diva for the end of the millenium is an album that is nearly forgotten. And this is a crying shame, because in my estimation It's A Man's World is one of Cher's best efforts. The album is an interesting bridge between those two phases of her career for it is neither cheesy nor dancey. It is certainly one of my personal favorite Cher albums - even though sometimes even I forget about it.

Cher's approach for this album was pretty simple and straightforward. It's basically a pop rock album with several covers of songs originally recorded by male artists - Don Henley, James Brown, The Walker Brothers, and Marc Cohn among them. And it actually works quite well - a female covering songs originally performed by males. She takes the songs and really makes them her own. It helps that some of these songs are not the best known songs in the world - much like Annie Lennox's Medusa - so the ghost of the original is not as pronounced. However, even on well known songs - especially "Walking In Memphis" - Cher takes the source material and gives it her own unique Cher stamp, giving the piano driven mid-tempo song a hint of a dance beat.



Doesn't Cher just look like a spider in that bus doorway? Like she should come crawling out with eight legs or something!!

What you REALLY need to know about this album - besides that it is an exceptional one - is that there are two versions of it. The version released in the UK contains 3 extra tracks - "The Shape Of Things To Come", "Don't Come Around Tonight" and the hilariously titled "I Wouldn't Treat A Dog (The Way You Treated Me)" - the latter of which turned up on the "One By One" maxi-single. It also contains the ORIGINAL album versions of 5 songs including the first single "One By One." All of these original album versions are so much preferable in my opinion than what was to come with the US release of the album. By the time Reprise got around to releasing It's A Man's World in the US, it was decided that in order to better market the album, some of the tracks needed to be remixed, stripping them of their pop-rock influence and giving them a R&B vibe. You have to bear in mind that this was the mid-90s and R&B was HUGE at that time. However, the decision to do this was ill-advised. For example, the Don Henley track "Not Enough Love In The World" DOES NOT AND SHOULD NOT need an R&B arrangement. You don't get much more pop-rock than former Eagle Henley, and when I finally heard the original version (thanks to the now defunct allofmp3), well, I basically don't ever need to hear the US version again.

Similarly, "One By One" is so much better in its original incarnation. While not offensive in it's remixed form, I love the almost "industrial" sound of the original. The original mix of the chorus is also SO much better than the remixed version. For so many years, I was convinced that it was a completely different vocal take but the more I listen to it, it's just the instrumentation around it that makes it seem different.

This was also one of the first Cher albums that I recall having CD maxi-singles aimed at clubs. "One By One" was remixed by Junior Vasquez and the follow-up single "Paradise Is Here" had several top notch remixes, the best of them being the Eurodance Mix.

Paradise Is Here (Eurodance Mix) - Cher (mp3) - Limited time only folks!!

While this album did not have the worldwide smashing success of Believe, it is so worth a listen. Matthew Rettenmund recently said on his blog while discussing Deborah Harry and her upcoming album:
I am going to cherish every out-of-the-ballpark performance, wobbly note, triumph and failure because at some point, she is going to stop performing and a chapter of my youth will retire with her.

And that's pretty much how I feel about Cher. She's 61 and at some point, the music will stop, be it because she just is tired of doing it or because she has died. And that will be a sad moment for me. It will probably take a while for me to come to terms with the fact that, when that inevitable day arrives, there will never be a new Cher song or record again. I have a feeling I'm going to cross that bridge with many artists that I admire as they (and I) get on in years. All the more reason for Cher to record a new album, and soon.

But even when that day arrives, we'll be able to look back on an amazing body of work, warts and all. And believe me, there are some big old verucas in there. But It's A Man's World will stand as an underappreciated gem of a record. And one all fans of Cher should search out. Just make sure you get the highly superior UK version.

(props to xo for urging me to post this and providing additional inspiration. And thanks for helping me replace those tracks!)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

So much for "the war on terror"

Despite the fact that we've been at war for practically 6 years now, a new government document says that al-Qaeda is now better poised to launch a terror attack than it has been since pre 9/11. Great going Bush. Way to keep us safer.

What a putz.

When will this nightmare of a presidency be over?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A ghost picture

One more quick blog post before bed (I work at 7 AM tomorrow - as Paul would say, boo you whores!) Look at this picture:


This is a picture that seriously freaked me out as a kid. This photo was taken at the Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England in the late 60s. The staircase is called the Tulip Staircase. What started life as an innocent photo of a gorgeous spiral staircase takes a decidedly X-Files turn. WTF is that? It looks like it has three eyes. And is the body human? Or animal? Or what exactly? Needless to say, this is a very famous ghost photo, and one that was in all the books I ever checked out as a kid on ghosts. No matter how many times I see it, it still gives me the heebie-jeebies as if I were still 10 years old. I don't know why, but it does. It's kind of like I don't know exactly why I was scared by The Grudge, but I was.

What is even freakier is that the negative has been examined and it shows no signs of tampering. When I die, I hope that this mystery (along with the several conspiracy theories I'm dying to know the real story behind) is solved for me immediately.

I may have to blog more to push this picture a bit further down the page. Sorry Heidi!

Turning turning twisting

Sorry for the lack of updates recently - I have no real excuse other than the muse has not moved me. Perhaps I needed a break from blogging - I think that this is one of the longer breaks I've taken in recent months. Back when I started this blog, it wasn't uncommon for me to have weeks and weeks with no updates.

But here I am. I have to say that the week has been relatively exciting in some rather mundane ways. I have given up pop (or soda or Coke depending upon where you're from) for now in attempts to severely limit my caffeine intake. I realized how poorly I'd been sleeping and figured that the massive amounts of caffeine that I'd been taking in during the day probably played at least a small role in that. I seriously would drink pop all day long - which is not good for circadian rhythms, teeth, or my pocketbook. So that's been good. Instead of replacing pop with coffee, I've replaced it with water and I'm doing pretty well so far. As Sheena Easton would say, so far, so good, I've been moving right along just like I should. It's not like I'll never drink pop again, but I am feeling a lot better for not drinking it all the time.

I have been a bit overwhelmed by the fact that so many jobs around the house that really are my responsibility have been left undone. I still have to recaulk the upstairs tub, and all I can think of is how there has got to be water running down the walls. Seriously, I don't think it's that bad, but you know me, Mr. Worst-Case-Scenario. And then there's the whole thing with Anna headed to kindergarten this year. I cannot remember to call the doctor's office to get her an appointment for a physical which she NEEDS before she can start school. It seems like the only time I can remember it is times like now when it's 10:45 PM and well, you just can't call the doctor's office at this hour. Part of it is me bucking the system because I just hate having to schedule appointments because it just feels like they're herding cattle when you go to the doctor. But my indignation will be small consolation when it comes time for kindergarten to start and she can't go because she doesn't have the proper shots. So tomorrow, I shall endeavor to remember that.

And then, I come across news tonight that Debbie Harry's new record has been delayed by 6 weeks until the end of September. DAMN YOU SALAZAR!! Of course, the word from Debbie's site is that the new release date was "necessary" to allow Debbie to work around some previous committments. I suppose I can believe that, but it still sucks. When I told Heidi that it'd been delayed by 6 weeks, of course the line "they won't be able to send us the inventory invoices for Ajax Warehouse for another 4 to 6 weeks" immediately jumped to mind.

So it's been an interesting week. If you've been stopping by and there have been no posts, I am truly sorry. I'll try to be better. Hopefully we'll be back to regularly scheduled blog programming soon.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Independence Day!

It is the Fourth of July here in the U.S.A. aka Independence Day. It was always one of my favorite holidays as a kid. But I haven't truly enjoyed it in the way I did then in quite a long time now. I think that has a lot to do with the fact that I a truly ashamed by what this country has become under George W. Bush and his circle. However, I am still proud of the ideals upon which this country was founded and hope that someday, hopefully soon, we can get back to those ideals and (as Susan Powter would say) STOP THE INSANITY. Hopefully, it happens before we go to war with Iran.

In the meantime, here's MY favorite version of the National Anthem.



I don't know what it is - I think it's Cher's understated performance that really does it for me.

Happy 4th to everyone - play hard and play safe.

(inspired by Yuri - happy Fourth buddy!)

Monday, July 02, 2007

Wading...for you...just wading

Since I had today off, I took Anna to the wading pool down at one of the city parks this afternoon. She is truthfully getting a bit big for it - I think that she would probably enjoy a real pool more than just a simple wading pool, but this is cheap and easy and there's very little chance that she will drown in (a maximum of) 18 inches of water. So to the wading pool we went. She was ready to go long before I was - complete with goggles in case of a flash flood.

Anna is a giantess among the kids down there, even though she is not all that much older than some of the kids there. Sure, there are a lot of really little kids - 2 and 3 year olds, but there are a few 4 and 5 year olds from what I can tell. But she literally towers over all the kids there - so much that I'm sure the other parents are looking at me disapprovingly, muttering under their breath "why is that 8 year old here with all these little kids??" It's because she's TALL, that's why. It will serve her well later, even if she will be unable to buy clothing.

She does truly love it down there - although the novelty of having me there instead of Heidi proved to be too much of a temptation to resist. She kept on coming over every 2 minutes to talk to me which interrupted my reading and consequently, I didn't get a whole lot of reading done. Oh well - what can you do? And how can you be upset when someone is as happy as this?

And that's actually a semi-candid shot! Candid in the fact that it was unposed, semi- in the fact that she was fully aware she was having her picture taken.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

This is the Zodiac speaking

I just finished reading Robert Graysmith's Zodiac - the book upon which last spring's movie of the same name (starring one of Paul's faves, Jake Gyllenhaal as Robert Graysmith) was based. Anyone who knows me well knows that things like serial killers and generally gross things fascinate me, and this has certainly been no exception.

For those who don't know, the Zodiac killer was a psychotic serial killer that terrorized the San Francisco Bay area in the late 60s and early 70s. Officially, he killed seven people. He claimed to have killed 37. And he was never caught. Graysmith was a political cartoonist at the San Francisco Chronicle at the time that the Zodiac was actively killing - and then sending cryptic letters to newspapers with ciphers that claimed to contain his identity.

I remember seeing a show on HBO or something about unsolved crimes when I was a kid and the Zodiac was the last segment in the show. That part never really stuck with me - the part with Lizzie Borden freaked me out beyond words, but that didn't stop me from watching it over and over again until I was so numb it didn't bother me any longer. But I'm a sucker for late 60s/early 70s history as well as being intrigued by serial killers. So this book/movie combination was pretty much a no-lose combination for me.

I had wanted to go see the movie when it was in its initial run, but lack of time prevented me from doing so. Consequently, I didn't see it until it came to the dollar theater and honestly, that was fine with me. It's not a movie that I absolutely had to see on the big screen (as opposed to a certain robot movie that is more than meets the eye coming out this week.) It is a very well directed, well written and well acted psychological thriller. It is full of people talking - not a lot of killing, blood and gore, although three of the murders are reenacted in the film. Because of the fact that it is more of a drama rather than a slasher pic, it probably had a hard time finding an audience. There's no (obvious) special effects and not a lot of car chases or action sequences. I, however, was riveted by the story. I felt that it did a very good job of distilling down what was basically 25 years worth of history into 2 and a half hours.

Even though Jake Gyllenhaal did not age one single bit during those 25 years, he turned in a great performance as a man obsessed with the Zodiac. I have no real idea how true the film was to Graysmith's actual authoring of the book, but the Graysmith portrayed by Gyllenhaal was intriguing and someone easy to become emotionally invested in because of his clear demonstration of a man pursuing something that he feels is a calling. I don't know - but especially considering where I am in my life right now, I always seem to plug into that kind of thing and occasionally find it where it may not have been the primary aim of the filmmaker/author/storyteller.

Once I saw the movie, I knew that it wouldn't be long before I picked up the book. And thanks to an Amazon.com gift certificate, I did just that. And it was the original artwork copy of the paperback, not the movie tie-in thankyouverymuch. I'm not sure why I didn't want the movie tie-in, perhaps it seemed to be jumping on a bandwagon? In any event, I got the book about a week ago and I finished it yesterday. I really tore through it - it was a very well written book. It was similar to the movie, of course, but there were certain things that the book went into greater detail than the movie did.

Perhaps the part of the book that freaked me out the most was the section that went into all the other murders that the Zodiac might have committed. They were almost all young women whose bodies were dumped in creek beds and ravines. One that hit particularly close to home was the pair of 13 year olds that were killed on their way home from the ice skating rink one Saturday afternoon I have no idea why that affected me more than any of the other senseless murders, but it really did. Perhaps it was because that's closer to my own daughter than any of the others were.

As it turns out, although Graysmith has written what many call the definitive account of the Zodiac murders, there are many that take issue with him - especially with his conclusions as to the identity of the Zodiac. I am currently reading Graysmith's follow-up to Zodiac called Zodiac Unmasked which names Arthur Leigh Allen as the Zodiac killer, even though he maintained his innocence up until his death in 1992 and DNA evidence exonerated him. I am a bit nervous that I may Zodiac myself out and not end up enjoying this book as much as I did the last one, but I'm in the mood to take a chance.

So even if it's revisionist history, it's still fascinating. And worth a look. The DVD comes out (completely sans extras, the rat bastards) on July 24th. And the book, of course, is probably available at your local library.

(pics courtesy of Crime Library - a site that can scare the shit out of me if I read it late at night in the dark)