Wednesday, October 31, 2007

My little corpse

Another Halloween has come and gone, and we have enough candy to feed an army. And for once, it was Halloween in Iowa and the kids DIDN'T have to wear their coats over their costumes.

Anna was the Corpse Bride. I really like that movie, because really - if you get right down to it - it's a zombie movie. The Corpse Bride herself is the main zombie, there's even a dog zombie. Anyway, she loved it. And here she is.

The wig did not last the entirety of trick-or-treating, as I anticipated, but still, she had a great time which is what matters.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Another reason Wil Wheaton is cool

I'm thinking that only he would think to go a Halloween party as the Pimp of the Dead.

That's it, I'm really going to bed now.

Why? Because it's Sunday of course!

It is Sunday evening and bedtime is fast approaching for this guy that gets up at the crack of dawn every day to head to work. I am currently fighting the Sunday night melancholy that seems to come around a bit too often these days. I have not felt much like blogging over the last couple weeks, as is evidenced by the lack of posts and the lack of anything really substantial in the posts that do show up. As XO once told me, one should never be beholden to a blog - it should be fun and not a chore. Sometimes I want to start from scratch - delete the whole thing and just begin anew and rise like the phoenix from the ashes. But there's no way I could just hit the delete key and see 4 years worth of stuff vaporize as if someone dropped a nuke on it. It's usually about this time that I think about switching to Wordpress or something, but I inevitably stick with Blogger because it's what I know and where everything is and really, for a free service, it's pretty good.

Anyway, here's a few things I have been thinking about/reading/listening to/doing in the last week or so.

1) I am a slow reader, but I have been plugging away at Terry Pratchett's Pyramids. I am enjoying it quite a bit - it's only the second Pratchett I have read. Of course, in the time it has taken me to read 2/3rds of Pyramids, Heidi has read probably 7 or 8 Pratchetts. Darn her and her quick reading!

2) I also was at the library today and I picked up The Secret just for the nuts of it. It is a lot of hocus pocus mumbo jumbo Oprahfied stuff, but there is something at the core of it that I think is real and true. It is reminding me a bit of that What The Bleep stuff because it talks about willing things into reality. I admit to being intrigued by that but I am skeptical but willing to try just about anything once. The nice thing about those self-help books is that you can take what you like and leave the rest.

3) Via my friend Matt (who is not a blogger to my knowledge, but really, I think he'd be a good one!) I have been listening to some of Lindsey Buckingham's solo work and really, it is quite good - especially some of the stuff from Out of the Cradle - really, "Soul Drifter" is just near pop perfection.

4) I have also discovered the band Girlyman through Matt and what a find it is. Kind of a Nickel Creek meets the Indigo Girls, but probably equal parts pop and folk. The close harmonies are just a joy to listen to and pluck just the right strings in me. I will definitely be listening to more - as of right now, I managed to find the songs "Young James Dean", "Speechless", and "On The Air."

5) Dear God, I'm so far behind on my Netflix. I STILL haven't watched Black Sheep! What is wrong with me?

6) Saw IV opened to 32 million bucks this weekend. This virtually guarantees a Saw V - even though I have no idea if they left it open for a sequel (although I figure the answer to that is the same as the answer to "Is the Pope Catholic?")

7) Fall is whizzing by at an unprecedented pace. October is just about over, which is kind of sad because it's really my favorite month of the year and damn if I didn't spend most of it sick in some way or another! Oh well, all in all it wasn't too bad. And there's still a few days of it left, so I guess we better make it count.

8) Bill Maher hit the nail on the head in this op-ed piece in Salon. If you aren't a premium member, you'll probably have to click through an ad, but do it anyway.

I guess that's it. Not much really, but a few cool things.

More vinyl, more Babs

So yesterday, in amongst all the chopping up of wood and raking of leaves and other yard work that needed to be done, I found time to hit the Ames Public Library's twice-a-year (biannual? biennial? I can never remember) book sale. The book sale never fails to crack me up when I go there because there are just piles and piles of books that have been cast off by either the library or community members cleaning out their bookshelves, closets and anywhere else books might find themselves. (Those looking in our house might do well to start under the bed - that's where so many of mine seem to end up.) Anyway, the first day is a four hour "pre-sale" on Friday night where you pay 2 bucks and you can get in early and shop to your heart's content. The rest of the weekend is free admission and Sunday is "half-price day." It used to be "5 bucks a box day" but that was changed for some reason. In any event, people go crazy for this thing - people are scooping up books that I just can't imagine anyone would have a need for. One time, I was standing in line behind a guy that had a Washington, D.C. phone book from 1985. Seriously, when are you EVER going to have occasion to use that? And to what end? It amazes me. People walk out with boxes of books.

I never really find much of anything, although it's a good place to go if you're looking for cheap Stephen King paperbacks which I usually am. I picked up a copy of Nightmares & Dreamscapes yesterday - a collection of short stories that I have not read. It will probably take me two years to get to it considering the size of my to-be-read pile and the fact that I am not reading very fast these days, but still. I also picked up a couple of pulpy sci-fi books based on the Alien movies - Aliens: Earth Hive and Aliens: Nightmare Asylum which will probably be bad and will take me all of two minutes to read, but hey, at least I only paid 50 cents for them. Besides, most loyal readers here know that I can't pass up anything remotely Xenomorph.

But perhaps my biggest find was in the vinyl section of the sale. For sale vinyl at libraries usually consists of bad Christmas albums and generic classical albums. Well, did I ever find a treasure in there - so much so that I audibly gasped when I saw it for I could not believe my eyes.


It was a copy of Barbra Streisand's 1971 album Stoney End.

I love this album - it is definitely in my top 5 Streisand albums. It is also another of the quintessentially fall albums in the life of Dan. It has dual memories, as I discovered it in the fall of 1991 via the library, and then rediscovered it the following fall when I bought the CD. The purchase of this CD caused me to put off the purchase of Erotica, even though I had already decided that I wasn't going to run out and buy that album. (what was I thinking??) This album is a much more pop-oriented effort from Babs, leaving behind the lounge numbers and the showtunes, etc. and tackling Laura Nyro, Joni Mitchell and Gordon Lightfoot. OK, so maybe not as much pop as it was folk. Anyway, it marked a big departure for her. And I just love the song "Stoney End" even though I have really no freaking idea what the hell she's singing about.

I blame my parents for my love of this album because it's music very much in the vein of the 5th Dimension (who did a lot of Laura Nyro's songs) and I loved that 8-track when I was a kid. Their Greatest Hits On Earth is the first album that comes to mind when I think of my parents' record collection when I was growing up.

If you look closely at that pictures, you can see someone's name scrawled across the album cover which irked me a bit, but really, I was paying only a dollar for it. One can hardly be picky at that price.

At the rate I'm going, I really need to get a turntable.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Witches

I came across this YouTube video quite randomly, and it is fantastic!



My favorite part: Samantha Stevens saying "As we say in old Mexico..." and the hilarity that ensues after that.

(Heidi, watch this, it's hilarious!)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A predictable rant

For those of you reading from outside the confines of Iowa, be happy that you are not living here right now.

The phone has rung 5 times in the last hour (probably would have been more if I hadn't spent a half an hour on the phone with my brother) and EVERY SINGLE TIME it has been a political call. It has either been a political survey or an automated call from Hilary or Obama or whoever. It is damn annoying. It is still at least two months till the caucuses and it cannot possibly come soon enough. Perhaps this time around, it's the lack of a clear personal favorite like there was the last time, but this presidential election (which hasn't even really started yet) is really getting old.

So I've decided to whip out Heart's Dreamboat Annie tonight. And what that has to do with the above, I couldn't tell you. I do know that there's a new live version of Dreamboat Annie out today, and I went to iTunes and listened to the samples and really, all it did was make me want to listen to the original. So I saved my $9.99 and listened to the classic.

I bought Dreamboat Annie when I was in late high school, when really, all I knew of Heart was their late 80s arena rock band incarnation. I had no idea they did the kind of music that is contained on Dreamboat Annie! While it is rockin' stuff, it is so different in style and tone than the albums they put out from about 1985 on. Consequently, it did not impress me all that much and I put it away, nearly selling it on several different occasions (the horror!)

I finally appreciated Dreamboat Annie for the classic that it is in the mid-90s when I had a huge Heart renaissance thanks to The Road Home. On a record that contains such recognizable songs as "Magic Man," "Crazy On You, " and the title track, I think my favorite track is still "(Love Me Like Music) I'll Be Your Song." It has such a strong melody and the chorus is simply aces, referring especially to the "sometimes I'm not so strong/but even now I could be wrong" part. I love the nuances of Ann's voice - she is truly a great rock singer. (watch it here - it won't let me embed.)

I may or may not pick up the new live album. But mostly, it has reminded me of a classic album that I don't frequently think about.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A few random Phoenix pictures

We always have this tendency to go on vacation and take no photos. I don't know what it is, but it seems to always happen. We didn't take tons of photos in Phoenix, but we did take some.

You can't go to Arizona without taking a picture of the Saguaro cactus.

What amazed me about these things is that by the time they grow ONE arm, they are probably 70 years old. So some of these suckers are really old.

The next two pictures are just me being goofy. The first is me with a plate full of Fruity Pebbles (that were originally served up for a 1-year old baby that had come to Ryan and Olenka's barbeque) and a Corona. Frat boy lunch.

And then here's me two fisting. And no, I didn't drink to excess that night. Believe it or not.

Juice

All the orange juice that I've been drinking these days (two quarts on Tuesday alone!) got me thinking about Juice Newton. Don't ask me why. Perhaps best known for "Queen Of Hearts", a pop hit in 1981, few did 80s country-pop as well as Juice (well, of course, Dolly did it better, but she's DOLLY PARTON after all.)

Anyway, here's one of my favorite Juice Newton tracks. It's "Love's Been A Little Bit Hard On Me" from 1982. This video is classic. I love all the deadpan looks that Juice gives the camera. She is oddly attractive as well, kind of in that high school wallflower sort of way. And her boyfriend - if he wasn't a game show host in the 80s, he should have been.



I wish videos were this clever today. But perhaps it's just a product of the times. I don't know, but I still remember that shot of Juice in the wheelchair going down the side of the hill. It's etched in my brain, I tell ya.

I had no idea that this was a pop hit for Juice back then. (#7 Billboard Hot 100 in 1982) But that bridge is just to die for, as most bridges are, of course.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Got a highway to the sky

I'm on the mend and headed back to work tomorrow (90% sure of that.) It's truly amazing how when you're sick you feel as if this will most certainly be the illness that you expire from - or maybe that's just how I feel. In any event, I feel much better. I got some codeine cough syrup from work today and let me tell you, that stuff tastes so nasty there isn't anyone going to be getting hooked on codeine with that as the vehicle.

So tonight Heidi ditched us and went to see Stardust at the dollar theater (for 50 cents. FIFTY CENTS!) and while she was out, she swung by the Salvation Army store in search of a white sheet that she could dye to make a curtain for her office closet. She didn't find any sheets, but she did find another treasure - again at the rock-bottom price of 99 cents.

She found a vinyl copy of Streisand's 1980 album Guilty!

I know that it's not a rare album by any stretch of the imagination, but it has been too long since I listened to Guilty. Guilty has been all over my periphery these days, but mostly because of the fantastic song "Guilty" by De Souza & Shena. (hat tip to XO) No, it's not a cover of the Babs and Barry Gibb classic - even better. It's built on a sample of the album's final track "Make It Like A Memory" which always struck me as being a mish mash song full of disparate styles. Part power ballad, part disco stomper (well, the last minute or so anyway.) Anyway, do yourself a favor and check it out. It's on iTunes.

But back to Guilty. I remember being distinctly underwhelmed by it when I first heard it. For all the ragging I do on albums that are too long, this one is too short! Only 9 songs - give me a break. But I've since warmed up to it and truly, it's one of Barbra's best pop albums. She didn't make another pop record this good until 2005 when she did Guilty Pleasures, not surprisingly with Barry Gibb again. (I wrote about it here.)

So consequently, I had to import Guilty into iTunes so that I could load it on my iPod. And it's been playing ever since. And while I'm not usually one to go for remasters, the sound quality of this CD is pretty poor, so I may have to think about springing for the remastered version sometime.

I will most certainly stop talking about Barbra now for at least a little bit.

Thanks Heidi - you're the best wife ever!!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Black Death

Or something like that anyway. We are redefining sick around here. After several days of fevers, hacking coughing and generally just not feeling well, Heidi took Anna to the doctor yesterday. We are pragmatic when it comes to doctor visits for kids - we don't expect antibiotics like a lot of folks do. We were completely ready to pay our $15 co-pay to be told that she has something viral and she'll be over it in a few days.

As it turns out, she has pneumonia. And we traveled with her. Talk about feeling like the worst parent ever.

She's on Zithromax and is doing much better. Her cough has diminished markedly and she seems to be on her way to her old self again. She has missed 6 of the last 7 days of school (2 of which while we were gone to Phoenix) and even though it's just kindergarten, I feel bad that she's missed that much school. Hopefully, she'll be able to go back to school tomorrow.

And then there's me. I was a bit under the weather while we were in Phoenix, but nothing serious so I got up and went to work as usual. I had a hacking dry cough, but overall, felt pretty good. About 3:30 or so, I started to get body aches. No problem, I just loaded up on ibuprofen and Tylenol. But the last hour I was at work I sat in the chair shivering, my eyes burning up, and the better part of me knowing that I was not going to be at work today. When I got home, I was running at temp of 102 and alternated between (as Eddie Izzard would say) blazingly hot and fucking freezing. I sat with Anna on the couch watching her taped PBS Kids from the other day and then eventually just went to bed when she did.

Usually when adults are sick like this (especially young adults) you never know what it is - some virus you pick up from somewhere that comes and goes. The symptoms I've had - fever, coughing, sore throat, shivering, myalgias point to a very common threat. It is, without a doubt, influenza. I have not had honest-to-God influenza in a while, so I suppose it's my turn. There is a high likelihood that I will miss work tomorrow as well as I'm still feverish and DEAR GOD do my legs and arms hurt.

So that's us. Heidi seems relatively unscathed, but I'm kind of waiting for her turn.

In the meantime, the tree guys are finally here and they are felling the half dead tree in the backyard. Money = easy come easy go.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Home again, home again

A quick post before work this morning just to say that we made it back from Phoenix. A full report later (probably tomorrow) but we had a great time! Of course, we are all now feeling ill and I'm losing my voice. Our flights back were all delayed so we didn't get back to Ames until 2AM. Thank goodness I didn't work any earlier than 10 or I would never have made it.

More later.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Warner Bros. to Madonna: Drop dead

In what amounts to a very bitchy response to the word that Madonna is leaving Warner Brothers, her label for the last 25 years, for a reported 120 million dollar deal with Live Nation, Warner has played all the cards that I have thought they have been secretly holding for the last few years.

When faced with the very real possibility of losing a flagship artist (although one, granted, with much less clout than she used to have), they have chosen to be ageist and cranky, rather than wish her well in her new venture. Even though they will hold the continue to hold the rights to the previous 25 years worth of Madonna's work - which includes the stuff that will likely continue to sell well for many years to come as it contains the material from the days of white-hot fame for Madge, they still had to bring her ever advancing age into the mix (as if they have somehow miraculously stopped aging.)

What do I think? I don't know. As a long time, dyed-in-the-wool Madonna fan, I will continue to follow her and buy her work, whether she releases it on the WB label or whether it's downloadable from her web site ala Casey Stratton. And there are several female artists who have enjoyed considerable success in their autumn years, while not resorting to heading to Vegas.

I am smart enough to know that the name "Madonna" does not equate instant success like it used to. Hell, I don't even always like what she does anymore. But the fact of the matter is that she will always hold my interest because she is very savvy and (usually) knows what she's doing. Who knows, maybe, despite all my (and other fans') predictions to the contrary, her Pharrell/Timbaland project will sell like gangbusters and then Warner will REALLY be eating their words.

I kind of doubt it though. But whatever she chooses to do, I'll be along for the ride.

(PS, can I just say that being on vacation and being SICK is the worst possible combination!)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Ten years time

It's been a whirlwind of activity here in Phoenix - from our late night arrival on Wednesday to the early morning awakening so that Heidi could go get her implant (of the dental variey, you pervs!) Ryan saved us a bundle on it and did a smashing job as well.

But somewhere in all the craziness, we managed to celebrate 10 years of marriage. It's been a quiet celebration, as we really had the real celebration earlier this summer. I wanted to do a really eloquent post, but because I'm tired and it's getting late, this will have to do.

Here we are, 10 years into it...

And along with that came the toothless wonder...

I love you, Heidi - here's to at least 65 more (if you can handle it!)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Headed for Phoenix

In a few short hours, we'll be in the air headed to Phoenix (via Minneapolis.) My brother and his wife have really been wanting us to come down for quite a while now, and I guess now's the time. We're all packed and I don't think we've forgotten anything. I'm bringing the laptop so I'll try to do some blogging from Arizona, but you all know how that usually goes.

Anyway, wish me well!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

I wanna see you again and again and again

The new Debbie Harry album Necessary Evil is finally loaded on my iPod (the songs being of the non-leaked variety.) I knew that I wanted to post about this album in a bit more detail, and I knew that I had to use a picture of Debbie. I tossed around using one of the iconic Debbie photos that are now between 25 and 30 years old, but instead, I settled on a photo that I think is equally iconic. Yes, she's older in this photo than she was in all those old Blondie photos of yore, but NEWSFLASH, it's not 1980 any more and she's now 62 years old. Personally, I'm thrilled that she is still recording at all 26 years after her initial solo release.

Before I get into the actual record, I will say that I am incredibly biased by the fact that all of Debbie's solo work is measured against Def, Dumb & Blonde, which I consider to be her best solo album. (Yes, I know that Koo Koo is probably more universally loved by fans, but I'm still warming up to that album.) DD&B was another of the quintessential fall albums of my life, another that I bought in the fall of 1992 my first semester at Iowa. Granted, it was in the cut out bin for $3.88, but as I have said before, it was the best $3.88 I ever spent. DD&B is long and rambling and full of different musical styles, but for whatever reason, I can forgive that as the songs are quite good - a few are as good as anything Blondie ever did.

Necessary Evil, however, is too long. This is a common problem with albums today - this thought that one must by law fill up every moment on a CD is so pervasive it seems. Sometimes, brevity is the better part of valor - or something like that. 17 tracks carries the promise of an all-you-can-eat buffet, but it leaves you with the feeling that you wish you would have quit while you were ahead.

This is not to say that Necessary Evil is a bad record - on the contrary, I think it is more accessible than most of her solo material - especially "Two Times Blue" which I have blogged about endlessly all summer long (here, here and here.) While everyone else was loving "Umbrella", I was digging "Two Times Blue" which was, in my estimation, one of the slickest, most effortless pop songs to come down the pike in a long time. And while I knew radio would never pick up on it (how long has it been since Debbie or Blondie have had a radio hit?), it made me very excited for the album.

However, it is not representative of the rest of the album. Nothing else is as effortless or prompts you to go drive fast with the windows down. But there are still good songs on the record - especially the first 10 songs or so. "Necessary Evil" the song has a great DH rap - the line about selling the "last things on eBay" cracks me up and the 80s arcade game sound effects in the chorus are just perfect. "If I Had You" is one of the best ballads I've heard her do in some time (sadly, it does not top "Brite Side") and while much has been made in other reviews regarding the lyric about the devil's dick being hard to handle on "School for Scandal" that song is actually quite well done and is a solid rocker.

It's in the last third of the album that things start to really fall apart. "Needless to Say" is pretty, but does not stand out. "Jen Jen" is just plain weird and "Naked Eye" is rather boring. The final track, "Paradise" is much better, with a sexy sax, but Debbie seems a bit bored by the whole thing. Ultimately, what I think I would have done is whittled the record down to something a bit tighter - excised "Charm Redux" and "Heat of the Moment" which are Janet-esque interludes and not really songs. I probably would jettison the last few songs on the record and have the last song be "Needless To Say."

While it sounds like I'm underwhelmed by the album, truthfully I'm not. I'm mostly glad that she's put new material out there, when, at her age, it would probably be easier to just ride the nostalgia wave and play the oldies. As I've blogged before, there will come a time when she will no longer record in any form and that will be a sad day indeed.

Until then, whenever I look at the photos from this project, I'll remember Heidi's comment about how she's Anne Murray gone hard because of her haircut. Quite possibly the quote of the year. And I'll sign off with the video from one of Debbie's best known songs - and most sorely ignored from the True Colors Tour -- DD&B's "I Want That Man" Debbie as a vampire, no joke.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Get fresh at the weekend

A bunch of things that I've been thinking about but I haven't the time to give them each their own blog post.

1) Debbie Harry's new CD is FINALLY coming out on Tuesday. I am SHOCKED (shocked! I say!) that there is nary a mention of it in the Best Buy and Target ads this week. OK, well not really. I'm not even sure I'll be able to buy the physical CD here in Iowa so I will likely be buying it on iTunes. Full review coming soon.

2) We officially became Unitarian Universalists this weekend and I'm happier for it. I will never forget when I told someone that I was going to that church and they had always referred to it as "that cult church on Hyland." Well, I suppose that all religions are, in one way or another, a cult, but I think this fails the cult test on so many levels, it's ridiculous. In any event, we finally found a church home after a long time in looking.

3) The HIV/AIDS conference I went to on Friday was hugely helpful in catching me up on what's going in the field these days. There are so many new drugs coming out to treat HIV infection that I had no idea about. It has also reignited my desire to get involved in AIDS awareness even more than I already am. I have absolutely no idea how to go about doing it with a full time job and a young family, but I will certainly endeavor to find a way.

4) I am officially sick of it being so bloody hot. Although it is going to cool off this week into the low 60s - just in time for us to take off for Phoenix.

5) That's it. I'm off to take a nap.

Couldn't have said it better

Once again, blatantly stealing from PostSecret which I'm sure is not okay, but what the hell?

My sentiments exactly. The by the book life is, as Mary Chapin Carpenter might say - so damn boring!!

A monster by any other name

As was noted in a previous post, I was nearing the end of Relic and was, consequently very eager to see the movie. Relic the book is a taut, well written, well paced sci-fi/horror thriller that leaves you wondering until the very last page about everything. After viewing Relic the movie (which arrived from Netflix on Friday), I wish I could say the same about the movie.

I was already more than ready for my expectations to be dashed, but I did not expect them to be dashed as they were. Multiple characters that were essential to the story were written out completely or merged into one amalgam of a character. Conflicts that moved the story forward in the novel were excised to make room for other, less important, plot lines. And that doesn't even begin to address the great issue I took with their depiction of Mbwun, aka the Museum Beast, He Who Walks on All Fours.

Mbwun was the monster that was lurking in the subbasement of the museum - but in the movie, probably because they couldn't figure out how to pronounce the name Mbwun, they felt the need to change the name of the monster to the Kothoga, which, in the novel, was the name of the ancient Brazilian tribe that alternately worshiped and feared Mbwun. The book makes it very clear that Mbwun has a reptilian component, but also (for reasons that become very clear later in the story) a large simian component as well.

Apparently, the makers of the movie did NOT read the book, or at least, chose to disregard that portion of the book, because I felt that the creature was entirely too reptilian and not nearly simian enough for me. Here's a couple pictures of the Mbwun Kothoga (sorry) from the movie, one a close up of the face, another, a model based on what the monster looked like in the movie:

The only thing that I would call "simian" about this monster is the presence of hair. Apart from that, it looks kind of like a cross between the Predator and a lizard, along with a bit of Alien (Lord knows that the thing was slobbery enough to be related to the Alien.)

I had a much different view of the monster in my mind, although I will admit that they got the back half of Mbwun right in my mind. It's just that I expected something a little bit more like the monster in that Creepshow episode "The Crate" - something like this.

(Holy God, did that thing scare the crap out of me as a kid or what? Although I think the thought of being married to Adrienne Barbeau's character in that segment was only slightly less frightening.)

That would have captured the simian aspect of it MUCH better than the makers of Relic the movie did.

Finally, I did find a fan's conception of Mbwun while I was reading the book, which I think might have colored my mental image a bit. Probably a bit more simian than reptilian, but hey, you can't win 'em all!

So anyway, I will try to purge the movie version of Mbwun from my mind once I decide to pick up the sequel to Relic called Reliquary.

One thing I will say for the movie though - the exterior shots of the museum (Field Museum in Chicago) and the city skylines just made me want to go to Chicago again - and soon!

(P.S. Sorry if I caused nightmares amongst the more sensitive of my readers!!)

Saturday, October 06, 2007

90 minutes in Ponyville

It was a night on the town for Anna and me tonight. About 6 weeks ago, Heidi bought tickets to My Little Pony Live: The World's Biggest Tea Party as Anna, being a 5 year old girl just adores My Little Pony. The fact that they were around in pretty much their current form when my sister was Anna's age continues to blow my mind, but that's really neither here no there. In any event, last week Heidi asked Anna who she wanted to go with her, as we'd only purchased two tickets. Anna very deliberately thought about it and decided that it was going to be me because "I don't get to see my dad as much." So off we went tonight.

The show was passable entertainment for the 3-8 year old set. The funny things was that I fully expected it to be crammed with little girls and their mothers. But there were a surprising number of dads there as well - not usually alone with their girls, but along for the ride with their wives. I also spotted a few young boys as well, which REALLY surprised me as I didn't figure that any little boy would be caught dead at My Little Pony Live. But in any event, they had a pretty good turnout - about what they had when we went to see Clifford The Big Red Dog last February.

The storyline was predictably teaching a life lesson - this one being about working together to accomplish a big task - said task being the world's biggest tea party, natch. I got a huge kick out of the ponies though - and it took me a minute to figure out why. The costumes were so funny because really, the person was only in the front of the costumes - as if the back half of the pony was one humongous butt. The front legs were the only ones that moved and bent - the back legs were clearly just full of stuffing and consequently, they all kind of looked like they were paralyzed in the back half of their body. And then, of course, there was Rainbow Dash who spoke with this fetching British accent as if she were the Alexis Carrington Colby of Ponyville minus all the adultery and bitchiness and hostile takeovers of Denver Carrington. A musical number featuring Rainbow Dash, disco balls and a dragon doing the rap-record-scratching bit just made me laugh.

Mostly though, it was Anna that made me proud. She sat in her seat quietly when she was supposed to but was not afraid to play along with the characters on the stage. I looked at her a couple of times and wondered at what age this kind of thing ends and morphs into something different. I know - I always have to turn every good moment to something a bit bittersweet, but really, I was just savoring the moment.

And really, I've never seen a kid so happy to get a Mylar balloon and a streamer at the end of a show.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Ode to Iowa City

Tonight I'm in Iowa City. I'm here for the AIDS/HIV conference the UIHC is putting on tomorrow. I've been to it a couple times and it's usually very interesting - mostly, it makes me realize how little I know about the current treatment of HIV, which is mostly due to the fact that I don't deal with it very much day to day. It also is coupled with the reality that things change so damn fast when treating HIV and AIDS. So we'll see how it goes. I am usually very shy at things like this - I'd be better off going with someone, but then I'd just be irritated because I couldn't go to the Java House and sit and mooch free wireless and blog endlessly. Which is what I'm doing now. (and my VERY NICE hotel which has everything you could possibly hope for DOES NOT have wireless. How low end can you get?)

I have already had my St. Louis Blues au lait, which is required drinking when you come to Iowa City. Try as I may, I can't seem to replicate it at home, even when you bring the St. Louis Blues beans home with you to brew in your own pot. I am tempted to get another but that will mean I will be up until the wee hours and, well, I can't have that now.

Iowa City is so fun to come back to. I just love being downtown and amongst the folks that make Iowa City unique in Iowa. It is, for those that don't know, the liberal bastion of Iowa. It is also the place where I spent the bulk of my college years. It was really the first place that I tried out my own set of wings, so to speak, so it's always with great nostalgia that I come back here. So much has changed here in the last 15 years - as one might expect with a city as in perpetual motion as Iowa City is. It's funny to me that despite all the change, it still feels a bit like home. When we were getting ready to be serious about moving out of small town Iowa, we thought about moving back to Iowa City, but when we got right down to it, it had a "been there, done that" feeling to it. And truthfully, I think the reason that I love Iowa City so much is because I don't have to live here. Whenever you move someplace and get sucked up in the local politics (to whichever degree you choose to get sucked up), the bloom does tend to fall off the rose. So that is why Iowa City is so rosy to me. Plus the traffic here is just insane. I don't think that the roads here were ever designed to hold the number of cars that they do.

So I'm here tonight and as I walked through the Ped Mall, I saw all sorts of people - many former versions of me, but mostly, since it's Thursday night, the streets are full of college students headed to the bars, which was never me to any great degree. I mean, I went to the bars when I was in college - usually begrudgingly - but I did go. I think that if I have one regret in my life it's that I spent so much of it being unhappy. Dear heavens, what a chore I must have been to be around! - which is not to imply that I am not a chore to be around now from time to time. I guess that's all the more reason to not waste any more time and do more things like get earrings and straighten my hair and search out new and interesting people in all sorts of unexpected places.

Being in the Java House is always so comforting, because for as much as it has changed, it really has stayed the same by and large. It is a place where I learned to drink coffee outside of the black type. I spent a lot of time people watching here, wondering what people's stories were. Even tonight, I find myself doing that, even though the world here is so different than it was in 1995. People gab endlessly on cell phones and nearly every one here has a laptop. That was so decidedly not the case then. I was not able to bring 2100 songs in my pocket back then - mostly I was relegated to bringing my CD Walkman and hoping that I got a seat by an outlet. Now, who cares? Every seat's a good seat.

Every record store that was in downtown Iowa City is now defunct except for Record Collector, which is too bad. I bought so many Madonna bootlegs in this neighborhood! But now, the internet has rendered that obsolete (so much the better, now they're free.) The place where Heidi and I had our first date and where we eventually became engaged is now an upscale hoity-toity restaurant instead of being the Great Midwestern Ice Cream Shop. The public library where I spent so much time (and where I first heard "Walking on Broken Glass" believe it or not) does not even resemble the place that I haunted with such delight. They have a gorgeous new facility that I swear is at least 3 times as big as it was before. We left this area just before it opened, which was good. For honestly, that is not my public library, even though it beats the socks off of Ames' library. I even went in there tonight and while I felt a pang of what once was, mostly, it is a part of me that has moved on.

And I do miss the old fountain in the Ped Mall - affectionately called the "Three Ladies Peeing" (I can't wait to see what typing that does for blog hits.) Witness:

I know, I'm in deep here. I'll wrap it up here soon, mostly because I have to get back to the hotel and plug the computer back in, as well as my iPod.

Iowa City, I do love thee. Even though it does have a bit of a holier than thou attitude and I could never live here, I will always have a soft spot for it. You are a part of who I am today.

Oh, your hair is beautiful

I found out last night when I arrived home from work that the lady who cuts my hair had to cancel my haircut for next Tuesday. Turns out she had to go testify in court or something - like that's any type of excuse. ;) I mean, my hair has needs, judicial system be damned. Seriously though, after being cranky about the canceled appointment and then even crankier about her inability to squeeze me in any time between now and when we leave for Phoenix next week, Heidi hit upon a brilliant idea (as she is prone to do, most especially in situations such as that one.)

Once upon a time I used to get my hair straightened. I remember the first time I ever got it straightened - I was in awe of how good it looked. It was the hair I wanted my whole life but was never able to achieve thanks to a curl gene that kicked on right about the time I hit puberty. Mostly, I just wanted the Tobey Maguire look circa 2000, but I digress. Hair straightening involves putting some pretty damn harsh chemicals on your hair and burning you scalp a bit, but man, it was so worth it. I loved it. However, it was expensive, and when we moved to small town Iowa, I kind of shied away from it as it didn't seem to be working as well, plus I was kind of tired of the rigamarole every 3 months.

So anyway, last night, Heidi thought, since I couldn't get my hair cut, she would go out and look for the hair straightening equivalent of a home perm. After she left, I got on the web and read horror story after horror story of home hair straightening gone wrong - with the results usually being serious scalp burns, hair falling out, or it just simply not working. I thought, surely she won't find anything, so nothing to worry about. Not so.

After I got done putting Anna to bed, I found out that she had indeed found it and so I figured, even with the horror stories, what the hell? So in the kitchen, with me sitting on Anna's little step stool, Heidi straightened my hair last night. There's a great picture of me with a Target bag clothespinned to my head which will decidedly NOT be going on the blog. Suffice to say, the stuff was stinky and most surely toxic to most every living thing, but I put it on my head anyway. There was a comical moment with Heidi trying to find enough hair on my head to put between her hot iron - even though I consider my hair right now "long" it probably doesn't qualify for that definition in anyone else's book.

Predictably, my hair resisted it, but ultimately, it acquiesced. And behold:


Heidi doesn't like it right now because it's flat but part of that is because I can't wash it till Friday night. But still, I think it made me magnificent.

Now, I want to see how long I can grow it out. Not like I'm going to grow a mullet or anything, but much like the addition of the earring (to which, for all my stressing, the most common reaction at work was "Have you always had that and am I just noticing it?") I am trying on a new version of me. Dan 2.0 if you will. Maybe Dan XP.