Tuesday, July 29, 2008

37 nuggets of knowledge about Dan

Thomas tagged me for this meme, and it looked kind of fun so I thought I'd play along. More than most of you probably ever wanted to know about me.

1.
Do you like blue cheese?
You know, I've never eaten it that I'm aware of, so I'm not qualified to answer that question!

2. Have you ever smoked?
No, I have not. That is not to say that there have not been days where I REALLY wish that I did.
3. Do you own a gun?
Only if you count squirt guns. Heck, I've never even shot a real gun.
4. What flavor Kool Aid was your favorite?
I guess I'll have to say Grape although I don't really remember specific flavors all that much. What I do remember is dumping in a motherlode of sugar when making it.

5. Do you get nervous before doctor appointments?
No, not really, although I deliberately try to zen out when they take my blood pressure.

6. What do you think of hot dogs?
On a grill and at the right time, they're all kinds of awesome. Otherwise, I'm reminded of the hot dog maker that we had as kids that left the ends of the hot dogs cold.
7. Favorite Christmas movie?
Does Gremlins count?
8. What do you prefer to drink in the morning?
Coffee, and I'm not talking Folgers. I am a bit of a coffee snob.
9. Can you do push ups?
A few. I'm really too tall to do them effectively.

10. What's your favorite piece of jewelry?
I'm a man of few jewelry options, but I'm going with my silver barbell earring that I got a year ago so it's a sentimental favorite. It's probably the one I wear the most . Although the black onyx one Heidi got for me is a close second.

11. Favorite hobby?
At the moment, it is blogging, but I am going to have to get something that is more concrete that has something to show for it in the end.
12. Do you have A.D.D.?
I may be the absent-minded professor, but I don't think that qualifies as A.D.D.
13. Do you wear glasses/contacts?
Glasses. I am not a candidate for contacts, my astigmatism is that bad. My favored Doctor Who glasses are currently out of commission as they got all scratched up and I'm wearing my less favored pair.
14. Middle name?
Scott.
15. Name 3 thoughts at this exact moment?
I can't believe I'm listening to a trumpet solo on iTunes (thanks Matt), I need to think about getting ready for bed because I work early tomorrow and my hair is too long.
16. Name 3 drinks you regularly drink?
Coffee, water, and Diet Mountain Dew.
17. Current worry?
How am I ever going to pay off my mammoth amounts of debt?
18. Current hate right now?
Humidity.
19. Favorite place to be?
With people I love.
20. How did you bring in the New Year?
At our house with a handful of good friends.
21. Where would you like to go?
London.

22. Name three people who will complete this?
Caryle, Paul, and Matt. As TKT said, no pressure guys.
23. Do you own slippers?
Yes, but I am in desperate need of a new pair.
24. What shirt are you wearing?
My red Blondie T-shirt Heidi bought me in London last year.
25. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets?
We don't have satin sheets, so no.

26. Can you whistle?
I can.
27. Favorite color?
Blue.
28. Would you be a pirate?
While keel-hauling and all that jazz sounds like a good time, I'd probably make a pretty bad pirate as I don't even like to camp!
29. What songs do you sing in the shower?
Whatever is playing on the iPod as it sits blissfully on the little donut speaker we have.
30. Favorite Girl's Name?
Anna (duh!)
31. Favorite boy's name?
Sam. If I had had a son, that would have been his name more than likely.
32. What's in your pocket right now?
In one is a receipt from the doctor's office for my copay when we took Anna in to have her injured thumbnail clipped off tonight. In the other is a receipt from the Pizza Ranch, which is where we went after the doctor because Anna was so brave!
33. Last thing that made you laugh?
This line from The X-Files, when Scully was comparing Mulder to Captain Ahab in Moby Dick:
Scully: "You're so... consumed by your personal vengeance against life whether it be its inherent cruelties or its mysteries, that everything takes on a warped significance to your megalomaniacal cosmology."
Mulder: "Scully, are you coming on to me?"
34. What vehicle do you drive?
Mazda 626 and Dodge Ram pickup.
35. Worst injury you've ever had?
The worst my body has ever rebelled against me was when my lung collapsed not once but twice in 1990, but that wasn't really an injury, so I guess it was when I ran into something at a department store and cut my eye open as a kid.
36. Do you love where you live?
For the most part. There is no perfect place.
37. How many TVs do you have in your house?
3, one of which is not even plugged in at the moment.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The world's gone crazy

(or is it just crazier than usual?)

I haven't had time to put my thoughts together into a coherent sentence or 20 about the shootings at the Unitarian Universalist church in Knoxville, TN. Fortunately, there are two other bloggers who have saved me the trouble.

First up, my friend Matt's take on it.

And then another that arrived to me via an e-mail put out by the UU Church we attend.

And finally, a Casey's store clerk was shot dead by her boyfriend here in Ames yesterday. I was at that Casey's store a mere 2 hours prior to that event. And the scary part? I went in and paid for my gas this time, which I never do. Sheesh - two hours, but still, too close for comfort.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Gutter adventures

We cleaned the gutters out on the house today. It has been long overdue as I don't think it was ever adequately done (read: at all) last fall after the leaves fell. It is a job that I truly despise, for it requires getting on a ladder and sticking my hands in muddy composty crap that is truly disgusting. However, we knew that today it was going to rain at some point and our next shot at it won't be until Heidi gets back from California, so we cleaned them.

It was disgusting. With a capital D.

And at the end of it, I was disgusting. I don't know that I have ever been so sweaty in my entire lifetime. When I went in to take my shower, taking my shirt off was like peeling an exceptionally stinky grape, that's how stuck to me the shirt was (again, sticking to me like clingwrap.)

Here I am, looking exceptionally pleased to be cleaning gutters.

Cleaning the gutters AND bringing sexy back, all at once. I know, I'm such a multitalented individual.

And if the photo is not enough, here's me going on and on about having to the job, with some prompting from Heidi. (it's kinda dark and small because Heidi held the camera the wrong way.)



All in all though, a good Sunday. Believe it or not, getting that job done was completely satisfying.

It hasn't been long enough

A few weeks back, Heidi went with our friend Jess to see Missy Higgins live at People's Court in Des Moines. But the biggest surprise of the evening was that she actually enjoyed the opening act more than the headliner. The opener was Eric Hutchinson, and as soon as she got home, she told me I needed to check out his music. Actually, I had already done that because I saw that Jess had updated her Facebook status to "...needs to check out some Eric Hutchinson when she gets home" or something like that. What I found is a singer-songwriter very much in the vein of Jason Mraz and Ben Folds (both of whom, for the record, I only sorta like) but with his own style lurking just beneath the surface.

Apparently, Eric Hutchinson was signed to Madonna's now-defunct Maverick Records and his record was set to be released right as Maverick imploded and was absorbed back into Warner Brothers. Consequently, it didn't get released. But he finally has a full length album available called Sounds Like This and it is a great debut. It is a compact little record, clocking in at just under 38 minutes, which is so refreshing in the days of 79 minutes albums just-because-they-can. His song writing is quite good and the arrangements are catchy. It sounds like he doesn't have too much trouble with the collaborative process, which can be tricky sometimes for singer-songwriters because even though he is on an independent label, his debut is not self-produced. [Edit: Looks like his label is a subsidiary of Warner Bros., so it's not quite as indie as I thought.]

Highlights on the album for me are the opener "OK, It's Alright With Me", "Oh!" (which many have compared to something a young Billy Joel might record), and "All Over Now." But really, the whole album is solid.

Honestly though, if you want to know what sold me on Eric Hutchinson, it was the story Heidi brought home from the show. During the concert, he mentioned that one of his songs "It Hasn't Been Long Enough" would have been a good song for Cher in the Believe era. The audience was apparently unconvinced that Cher could turn this acoustic ditty into a disco stomper circa 1999 complete with vocoder. So he proceeded to prove it. (not from the Des Moines show, but still, you get the idea.)



A man cut from the same cloth as me (at least in that respect!) Now I wish he would record a full version of that!

Anyway, check out Eric Hutchinson. He's well worth your time and money. Plus his CD is $7.99 on iTunes (and $6.99 at Best Buy!)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Sticking to me like clingwrap

The subject line pretty much describes everything in the last few days because it has been so damn humid! But today the humidity broke and we opened the house up. I'm sitting on the porch with the laptop listening to the laptop iTunes library on shuffle. It's some pretty eclectic stuff as it's an amalgam of Heidi and me.

I made it through my overnights relatively unscathed. I was very tired after they were done, and was never so excited to be unwanted than I was Friday afternoon when the people at work were doing okay enough for me to NOT have to come in at 3PM. Since then, I have been mostly catching up on sleep. I slept for 12 hours last night, from midnight to nearly noon so consequently I'm not really tired now. Although if I went up and got in bed, I would probably fall asleep instantly.

Great quotes of the last few days:
  • "Turn the kitchen light off!" --Heidi, to me on Friday morning after I got home from work. We were laying in bed around 8:30AM and she was waiting for me to turn my bedside lamp off. Great hilarity and laughing ensued. Bonus points if you get the reference.
  • "I'll meet you in the beginning of the Dewey Decimal System." --me, to Heidi when we were at the library on Friday afternoon. Perhaps the geekiest thing to have ever crossed my lips, and that's really saying something.
  • "I can't say he does anything for me. His eyes are too small, and too scruffy! The boys may have him." --Heidi, on Darren Hayes when I was watching The Time Machine Tour.
Anna spent a few days with her grandparents and we went to pick her up today. On the way back, we stopped at the Glidden Aquatic Center which is perhaps our favorite pool within a 60 mile radius. When she was little, she took great advantage of the kids' slide, but now she is all about the big slides. There is a spiral type slide and also a flat one that is just huge that you can go down in tandem. Anna and I had great fun while Heidi sat with the laptop in the shade rereading her manuscript. The thing I really like about going to the pool is that no matter how out of shape I think I am, I am never the worst looking person there. Ever. So that's good for my ego because we all know how fragile that is! I also jumped off a diving board for the first time in years, so it was good.

If you have not seen Stevie Nicks cover Dave Matthews' "Crash Into Me", you simply must. I love her little monologue prior to the song. She is at the top of her game right now. I just wish she would get her butt into the studio and record a new solo album!

The plan tomorrow is to go to Prairie Moon Winery for the afternoon after doing some yardwork, but it looks like the weather might have other plans. 50% chance of rain does not make that kind of thing easy to do.

I'm catching up on Casey Stratton's podcasts and really, the last one was fascinating. Of course, it didn't hurt that he answered a question from yours truly, but the story of him recording his album Lily Sleeps is amazing. I can't even get my head around the idea that 90 songs came from those sessions! Anyway, he answered my question about one of my all time favorite Casey Stratton songs "Dog's Mercury." I was curious as to the origin of that song. I was hoping for something more profound, but I'll take what I get. You can subscribe to Casey's podcasts here.

And with that, I think Heidi and I are off to bathe in 90s nostalgia. We Netflixed "NewsRadio" which, while not quite as good as we remember it, is just light and fluffy enough that it is fun to end the day with. I had no idea it was on for five seasons!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

It's gonna take a time machine to get it right

And if that's the case, then it's fortunate that Darren Hayes' The Time Machine Tour showed up today! I was too cheap to purchase the ultra mega deluxe edition (although I would have liked to have bought that one), but I think the bare bones will suffice just fine.

The only complaint that I have about it is that it is kind of dark, in the sense that the lighting is not very bright. However, I read in a recent interview with Darren that he did that intentionally. Apparently, when filming tours, shows need to be "overlit" to provide for appropriate light for filming. He really didn't want to do that and spoil the show for those that we in attendance at the show they filmed, so we're left with a concert DVD that seems almost underlit in many spots. Oh well, it hardly matters. At least it looks like a live show, in comparison to the DVD of the Confessions Tour which decidedly does not. (But I try not to bitch too much because at least we got a DVD of it!)

In the meantime, XO did a brilliant interview with Darren on his blog the other day and it is required reading if for no other reason than to see how important it is to have well written questions when interviewing someone.

And here's a couple of YouTube clips, not of the tour since I really couldn't find any good ones (although you can find them on Darren's web site)

"On The Verge of Something Wonderful"


One of my favorite of Darren's songs, even though it is kind of lightweight "Crush (1980 Me)"


How I wish I could have gotten to the one of the Borders stores appearances when he was in the US last year. Oh well, twas not to be.

Boot to the head

Or rather, a shoe at the TV. Heidi and I just got done watching the first season of Ugly Betty and I seriously had to suppress the urge to throw my shoe at the television. There were so many things wrong with the season finale that I don't even know where to start. But, as Julie Andrews says, "let's start at the very beginning." So that's what we'll do. (TAKE NOTE: Here be spoilers, although I think it's hard to "spoil" something that was on TV a year ago. But if you're thinking of watching Ugly Betty and you haven't, you'd probably be wise to skip the rest of this post.)

Heidi and I have been enjoying Ugly Betty immensely as it is a great fusion of the hour long drama with some great laughs. It is exceptionally well written (for the most part) and also is just campy enough to keep us coming back without us rolling our eyes at its ludicrousness. The show details the comings and goings of Betty Suarez, normal girl from Queens, as she works for the fashion magazine MODE, home to decidedly non-normal people. Betty is the assistant to the editor-in-chief, a himbo that sleeps with anything in a skirt but who also happens to be the son of the CEO of the company that owns the magazine. There's some great secondary characters, especially the Scottish seamstress/designer Christina (she's very Stevie Nicks-ish in many ways), Joan Collins wanna-be Wilhelmina Slater (played fantastically by Vanessa Williams - who knew she had it in her?) and her flamingly gay assistant Marc ("I'll put out a Gay.P.B. with the assistants" is still probably the single best line of the whole season.)

I said that it kind of straddles the fence between being a comedy and a drama, but really, its best moments are when it is being funny. However, there are several poignant moments that can get you *right here* if you're not careful. Most of them involve Betty's nephew Justin who may or may not be of a certain sexual orientation, but his mother loves him dearly no matter what, and even his streetwise, mostly absent father came around to defending him by the end of the season. There is also the whole drama of Betty's father being an illegal immigrant and the budding romance between Betty and Henry, the geeky guy from the accounting department.

Most of the time, the writing is just great. Every now and again, we found ourselves watching it and kind of scratching our heads because it just wasn't the best. We referred to those episodes as "the drunk writer" episodes. Well, they must have really tied one on for the season finale and then done some coke off the big old glass table in the living room because they wrote shit in that came out of nowhere. In the space of an hour, we had:

1) Henry and Betty finally getting together, only to have his ex-girlfriend show up pregnant. He leaves to go back to Tuscon with his ex.
2) Hilda (Betty's sister) and Santos (her son's father) happy at last and planning to get married, only to have him gunned down in a convenience store robbery. Oh, and he missed his son performing in "West Side Story" to boot.
3) Daniel (Betty's boss) and Alexis (his brother who is now a post-op male-to-female transexual) involved in a car accident after the brakes to the car had been cut. They were driving their father's car and Alexis had paid off a hitman to take out their father. Oops! Now they're in the car.
4) Betty's father is stuck in Mexico because he can't get his visa and confronting some ambiguous "revenge" threat.
5) And in the only non-tragic but still out of left field plot development, Amanda is Fey Sommers' daughter. WTF?

That is not to say that it all sucked. There was a GREAT (as in hilariously great) bit where Marc had been traded away to another employer so that Wilhemina could get the wedding date that she wanted. Cut to Wilhemina reminiscing about all the times she had had with Marc as Vanessa Williams sings "The Way We Were" over it. That, my friends, is camp at its finest.

But mostly, it was the biggest WTF there ever was. Why the need to be so fucking melodramatic? I know that it's traditional to have cliffhangers at the end of the season, but at least build toward it! Don't just pull shit out of thin air in the name of being dramatic or tragic and expect me to go along for the ride. It has made me exceptionally wary of Season 2 (which is not out on DVD until September) although you know I'll at least start it because I want to see how this resolves. Even though it pissed me off.

I am not opposed to seeing tragedy, but at least don't have it blindside me. That just makes me angry and want to throw my size 11s at an expensive piece of electronics.

It's like they took a page out of the Joss Whedon handbook (a man who has lost A LOT of credibility with me in recent years.) I didn't even watch Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog, but judging from the kind of reaction my wife had to the end of that, I don't ever need to see it.

I know there will be people that disagree with me, but that's what I think and I'm sticking to it.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Summer nights

It is amazing to me that July is nearly over. Well, it's over half over and before you know it, it will be August. We went over to Carroll today so that Anna could go to the circus with my mom and dad and Heidi and I could go see The Dark Knight. The movie is highly recommended - seriously, the buzz around the movie is right on the money. I'm not sure I'm willing to call it a better superhero movie than Spiderman 2 (which I thoroughly enjoyed), but it was very good. Heath Ledger is almost assured to get an Oscar nomination and the rest of the cast turned in good performances as well. But seriously, it was Ledger's movie.

After the movie, we had a lazy afternoon at my folks' house which mostly consisted of me being a layabout and also taking a serious nap. There is something about their house that just inspires me to sleep. I don't know what it is for sure, but I nap there almost without fail every single time we go to visit. I think it has something to do with it being the house I grew up in. I feel pretty lucky to still be able to visit the house I grew up in, the one in which I spent my non-wayward youth, for a lot of people don't have that option. My mom and dad are in the process of renovating the house room by room and they are doing a great job. Although I was upstairs while I was there and stopped by the upstairs bathroom and I swear that hasn't changed a lick since I was a wee child. It has the same carpet, the same wallpaper, the same non-functional sink, the same black towel shelf with rust stains from where I would set glasses of water or whatever. It was oddly comforting. I know they're going to gut that room next, and it makes me a bit sad, but honestly, it needs to be updated! I would give my eye teeth for their claw foot bathtub, but seriously where would we put it?

As we were getting ready to leave, my dad noticed that the passenger's side front tire was pretty much flat. We pumped it back up again, but then we found the culprit. A screw had lodged itself in the tire which made it pretty much impossible to drive on that tire all the way back to Ames. (As Heidi so appropriately put it, "we've been screwed!") Anyway, we contemplated putting on the donut and just driving slowly back, but then Mom and Dad told us just to take their car and they would take care of the tire sometime this week. I am goddamn lucky to have such good folks that, even at the age of 36, still want to take care of me and my family. So we drove their car back and got home around 9:30PM.

On the drive back, I was thinking about how Sunday nights were when I was in high school. Mostly, they didn't mean anything. The only difference between the week and the weekend in those days was that "The Young & The Restless" wasn't on on the weekend. That changed quite a bit in college as every summer I had a job that was Monday through Friday and it was a reasonable approximation of the working world (although I could still wear jeans to work which decidedly does not fly at my current job) so there was a difference. But even then, that money was just gravy and not the stuff that keeps food on our table and the lights on and the roof over our heads. Those were simpler times, but I would not go back to them given the chance.

In addition to The Dark Knight, I saw The Incredible Hulk with Matt on Friday night which was leaps and bounds better than the Ang Lee version. We went out for coffee afterward to deconstruct the movie and then I hit Hy-Vee to pick up some Damp Rid to battle the latest deluge to threaten the basement. I was on the way back from the West Ames Hy-Vee (which, from this point forward, will be referred to as "the ghetto Hy-Vee") and was listening to 100.3 The Bus since I had forgotten my iPod at home. A song I had not heard in an absolute age came on the radio - one that had nearly fallen off my radar altogether. It was the 1985 Clarence Clemons/Jackson Browne duet "You're A Friend Of Mine." The Bus will truly play any song, I swear. But what a good song to hear. I must have grabbed it in the Napster days because you certainly can't purchase it digitally anywhere.

So a good weekend. We're three episodes from the end of Season One of "Ugly Betty" and I've picked "The X-Files" back up again. Scully is as hot as ever, and even more so in this shot:

All she has to do is say "I couldn't find anything in my post-mortem exam to suggest anything supernatural" and she'll have me. Scully, I love it when you're all rational. It makes me weak in the knees.

And can I just say that whenever there's a scene on "Ugly Betty" featuring the subway, I just go "le sigh." I heart New York.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Stop the press! Who is that?


It looks like Heidi and I are FINALLY going to see a summer movie this weekend when we head to Carroll to see The Dark Knight. There's no denying that the buzz surrounding this movie is good. I'm very eager to see it and hope that it lives up to expectations. I especially am excited to see Heath Ledger's take on the Joker. I just read the graphic novel The Killing Joke based on something I read in EW last week, so I'm kind of into the Joker right now.

But all this talk about Batman has made me wax all nostalgic for the 1989 Tim Burton version of Batman -- not so much for the actual movie, but more for its Prince soundtrack. Its an example of one of those CDs that I always intended to buy, but never managed to. I have always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Prince, and its a rare album of his that I can actually sit through. So once the Batman fever of that summer of 1989 died off and the single "Batdance" had run its course, the album itself kind of fell off my radar. But I found myself really wanting to hear it last week, so I went down to my local library, and voila!

As a Prince album, it was kind of critically maligned. And probably for good reason. It doesn't seem like many of the songs were written specifically for the movie (although movie dialogue abounds in quite a few of the songs.) But all in all, it's not a bad album. OK, so the songs are by and large ones that Prince had sitting in the archives looking for a home. But even songs like "The Future" and "Vicki Waiting" while not terribly memorable are leaps and bounds better then the crap he's putting out these days.

It is not Purple Rain by any stretch of the imagination (can you believe I have still not listened to that record in full? Must remedy that soon.) and not even a Girl 6, but it is a half-way capable movie soundtrack and even works for me as a Prince album. I love the songs "Partyman" and "The Arms of Orion." Every now and then I get that line about "searching for a lover in the sea of tranquility" stuck in my head for completely unknown reasons! Even the crazy mash up of musical styles in "Batdance" plays well today, although it is slightly more than a novelty tune (the "Batman" sung in the style of the campy TV show cinched it for me.)

I don't know that this kind of venture - allowing one artist to completely do the soundtrack to a movie that they weren't in - would really fly very well today, although it has been done. Mostly, this album plays like good late 80s nostlagia, which is not an altogether bad thing.

(No Prince songs or videos are linked to in this post lest Prince sue my ass into the next galaxy.)

Jeff's questions

These 5 questions came from my friend Jeff who I have known and been friends with for 22 years! That seriously boggles my mind to think about. To paraphrase Cher, I'm not sure how that's possible as I'm not even 22 years old yet, but I digress. As I am fond of saying, some of my first memories of Jeff are being in high school P.E. class and while the rest of the class was participating, we were talking about the "La Isla Bonita" video. Since then, he has been my never-failing partner in crime for all things Madonna. Here we go.

1. Other than being women, what is the common link that Dolly, Madonna, Olivia, and Barbra possess that make them appeal to you?

You can throw Cher into that mix as well, but you know, I'm not really sure. The common thread that runs through them, as I detailed on my big gay iPod post is that they are all gay divas. Not that every gay man in the world listens to those artists, but let's face it, that's their core fan base. And then me. Truthfully though, what appeals to me about all of them is they have their own style, except for maybe Olivia who has always kind of followed trends, but she was my first celebrity crush so she gets a pass for that. That, and they are all strong women with opinions and what's not to like about that? I have never been a fan of women who are shy, shrinking violets with no opinions.

Plus, these women have tremendous back catalogs which make for exceptionally fun listnening. Regardless of my mood, I know I can find something in their libraries to match it.

2. Why were Joyce and LaJean so bored? What happened?

A bit of background on this one: Joyce and LaJean were 5th grade teachers at our elementary school. They had rooms right next to each other and the way the school was built, there was a little space between each classroom and both Joyce and LaJean put their desks right next to it so they could talk through that space. Anyway, they had packets that we had to do, units, if you will. And it kind of alternated, one packet was in Joyce's handwriting, the next one would be in LaJean's and so on and so forth. Joyce was one of my favorite teachers in elementary school, but there can be no denying that she was not what you would call a ball of fire.

Anyway, what do I think happened? Easy. Burn out. It happens to everyone in every career. Probably the best thing that happened to them was when LaJean moved up to the middle school. That forced them out of the packet strategy and into something new (I hope.)

Personally, I like to think they were just pissed that they were ineligible from winning Calendar Clue.

3. If there was one acceptable characteristic of yourself that you had to give up in order to continue living, what would it be?

I'm not really sure how to answer this, because it boils down to what about myself that I like do I like the least. I suppose if I had to give it up to keep living, I'd give up about anything, but I suppose I could live without my height, although I do love it!!

4. If Cher and Madonna made an album together, what three re-make songs must they record together?

Well, for that to happen, Cher would have to stop doing a nearly 10 year old tour in Vegas (SERIOUS disappointment over the set list, folks. So much for it being a "brand new show") and Madonna would have to "be a little more magnanimous and a little less of a c*nt." (Cher really said that about her! Believe it!) Of course, an album like that would be an instant purchase as well as an instant camp classic. And since it would be a camp classic, why not play up the camp factor? As for three remake songs, the first would be "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)" - haven't we been talking about that for years? Second would be a remake of "Islands In The Stream" with a pumping disco beat behind it. Lastly, I think they should cover the song "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better" from the musical Annie Get Your Gun. It was rumored that Madonna and Barbra were going to be doing that on her Back To Broadway album in the mid 90s, but it fell through. Who better to resurrect it than Cher and Madge?

5. If you had to become someone else you personally knew for the next five years, who would you choose to be and why?

This is a cop-out, I know, but I would miss being me too much to do this! This is not to say my life is this rosy thing that is without ups and downs and all arounds, but at the end of the day, I am very glad to be in my own skin.

Although being Lonnie K. would be fun if for no other reason than to drive that big-ass truck he drove back in the late 80s. But 5 years? No chance.

Here ya go, Jeff. One of our faves!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Zombies in the garden

Via my sister Wendy (who is back in the U.S. the first of part of August), here is something that would look completely natural in our front yard. But for some reason, I can see Heidi not agreeing with me.


My only beef with it is that I don't know that I've ever seen a zombie dig its way out of the ground. But I'm flexible.

Forced to choose between this or the Godfather horse head pillow, it would be a hard call. Although I SWEAR I will have that horse head pillow some day.

(via)

Questions from Heidi

It is past time to start answering some of these questions that came my way via Heidi, Jeff, Caryle and Mary because of the 5 questions meme. At first, I thought about putting these on my dust-covered LiveJournal that I only keep around for commenting on other people's LJs, but then I decided, no, I'll just do it here. So here we go. The first set of five questions comes from Heidi because that's just the way it is.

(Incidentally, if you choose to comment on this post, don't expect questions from me. I'm tapped out. But far be it for me to discourage comments.)


1. So, be honest. WHY do you think David Tennant is so attractive--I don't just mean to you or to me, but in general. I'm talking the whole package: the person, the physique, the everything.

Leave it to Heidi to start out with asking a question that concerns my mancrush, David Tennant. I'm not ashamed and totally comfortable admitting to that! There are many reasons why I think that Tennant is just so damn cool (and why he ends up being my avatar more often than not.) First off, he comes off as a big kid, someone who will sit and talk the minutiae of whatever obscure 12-year-old boy thing you can think of until the cows come home. You can tell this by the pure and unadulterated joy he so obviously gets from playing the Doctor. He also has the geeky cute and cool thing down to a science. I could only hope to reach Tennant levels of that! He also proves that tall, lanky guys that are not built CAN be famous. Plus, I would pay large sums of money to have his hair.

Naturally, I don't know Tennant and will almost certainly never meet him (never say never), so who knows if any of that is accurate. Mostly, he just seems like a genuinely nice guy that would be cool to hang out with, someone who would be a cool friend to have and meet up for lunch every so often. And then talk 12-year-old boy things to death.

But he could be a total dick (although I doubt it.) There's a reason why it's best to keep your distance from your heroes.

2. What is the best movie/fiction monster, and why is it the best one? (You define what best is, btw.)

This is an easy one and the answer to this will come as no surprise to most people: zombies. Zombies are truly the best movie monsters of all, although as I was telling Thomas, it is much more of a challenge to translate the visceral terror of a zombie apocalypse in a book than it is in a movie. The reason they are the best movie monster is really twofold. The first reason is they are us. How many people have bitten it (no pun intended) in zombie movies because they made the mistake of thinking that some shred of humanity remained in their zombified loved one? The fact that any of us could be a zombie makes it truly terrifying. Also, the exponential growth of the zombie mob ensures their survival. What they lack in speed, they make up for in numbers.

3. You get a one night stand with no repercussions with one member of the BVTS gang. Who do you take with you into the closet? Or are you holding out for Scully?

While the natural tendency would be to say Cordelia aka Charisma Carpenter (not that I would ever dream of turning her down either), I think I am going to shock the hell out of everyone and pick someone unexpected - Jenny Calendar. Although not technically a member of the Buffy gang, she did play a key role in Season Two and since anyone in on the whole "Buffy's the Slayer?" thing is immediately a member of the gang, I think it counts. She had this whole sexy yet nerdy, smart and down to earth thing going on. She was spunky and independent which beats the hell out of some weeping violet. And when she turned out to be part of the gypsy clan that cursed Angel, well, who saw that coming?

But yeah, I'm totally holding out for Scully.

4. You are in charge of a U.S. federal agency for one day and you have the full power and money to do ONE thing. You can build a bridge or set up a train or pay off something or fire somebody or reverse a decision. Full power over everything, and it's lasting, but you have ONE shot. What do you do?

My inclination is to do something like keep a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage from ever seeing the light of day in the U.S. Constitution, but since that does little to actually change people's minds, I would probably get into the Transportation Department and get light rail going in this country like it should be. We don't all need to be driving our cars to get everywhere we need to get to!

5. Best moment from your childhood: the one that makes your heart glow just to think of it. Could be obscure or could be a recurring event.

Well, it's not the Branded bike, that's for sure! Although I'm not sure I would trade that memory either, even though it is not a warm and fuzzy one.

I think it's probably that summer of 1986, age 14. It was my favorite summer of music of my adolescence. I was about to head into high school. True Blue was released, for God's sake. We took a family vacation to the Grand Canyon and listened to more Bee Gees and 5th Dimension than should be legal. I watched "One Day At A Time" reruns on Channel 8 every weeknight at 11. Sure, it wasn't all roses, but I always think of it fondly and really, it's the reason why I like this music video so much.



It was the very first Heart video I ever saw! Ann's hair is insane, but just thinking of it reminds me of that summer.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Free alchemy

This is a quick, on the fly post. One more day of work and then I'm off work for two days! YAY! Hopefully I'll be able to finally get around to answering all the damn questions that have been asked of me by people participating in the 5 questions meme. Hopefully, but as usual, no promises.

In the meantime, I found out quite by accident this morning that the audiobook of The Alchemist is available on iTunes for not one single red cent this week! You will now all do yourself a favor and go to iTunes and download it. And then listen to it and take the lessons therein to heart. I have varying degrees of success with doing that, but much like the Amazon (and Barbra Streisand, oddly enough), I am a work in progress.

So I am off to work. A full update and real blog posts coming soon to this spot.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Carnt sleep

(yes, that's spelled right, although I have no idea why it is spelled that way)

I kind of predicted this would happen, but it didn't happen in quite the way I thought it would. It's 1:45 AM and I am awake and am not able to sleep. I had slept a bit, but woke up and then the Cat Howl of Death blared from downstairs so I went down to investigate. The next thing I know, I'm scooping cat litter in literally the middle of the night and have woken myself up beyond my ability to go back to sleep. And at this point in the night, I hesitate to take anything to sleep for fear of the inevitable hangover in the morning.

Sleep and I have such a fickle relationship. It's not something that I get nearly enough of, but it's something I wish I could do without. I just think of all the things I could get done if I didn't have to sleep. Actually, what would probably happen is I would just have more time to waste. I am thinking of things that I have to do that I am not getting done because my time management skills have been poor of late and how I'm going to probably have to use the day off I took Monday to work on stuff I need to be finishing for work.

So here I am, and I went through the flower essences and found a couple that I thought would help send me off to dreamland. They really do work, at least in my personal experience. I vowed I will be back in bed at 2AM and, heaven help me, I need to be asleep shortly thereafter because my alarm is going off at 6:15AM. That will be so much sooner than I want it to be.

But that having been said, having listened to "Carnt Sleep" several times while writing this, I just can't get over how much I like Sarah Cracknell. She reminds me of Debbie Harry, but somehow, the comparison doesn't really connect.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Songs worthy of eardrum puncture

The other day, my friend Mary posted a list of songs that she basically never needs to hear again. She even went as far as to say that she'd rather puncture her eardrums than hear them. It got me to thinking about the songs I would put on that list. So here we go, in no particular order (except for number one.)

1) Margaritaville / Jimmy Buffett
Dear God, I can't even stand the opening notes of this heinously awful song. Him nibbling on his goddamn sponge cake! Of all the songs on this list, this is by far my most despised, most hated song. The reason I hate it so much is all I can think of are my memories of a bar full of drunken frat boys singing along with it, especially that part in the chorus where Buffett sings "some people claim there's a WOMAN to blame." God, talk about a song that if I never hear it again it will be far too soon.

2) Goodbye My Lover / James Blunt
I could handle "You're Beautiful" to a certain point, even though that song ended up annoying the crap out of me as well. But it wasn't until "Goodbye My Lover" that I really decided that I would probably never voluntarily listen to a James Blunt song ever again. This song was all over the radio and we would hear it CONSTANTLY at work. They played it so much in an 8-hour shift that the techs teased me whenever it came on. I mean, I like angst in songs, but this was too much for even me.

3) Unplugged / 10,000 Maniacs
Yes, the whole album. I do love the 10,000 Maniacs, especially in their Natalie Merchant incarnation, and I like the studio versions of all of the songs, but I just can't abide by this album. I blame my college roommate. He found my copy and played it and played it and played it and played it and played it until I wanted to be physically sick. He bought his own copy and then I promptly sold mine. I can stomach "Because The Night" but seriously, I still twitch when I see this CD at the library.

4) Betterman / Pearl Jam
Released in 1994, this is one of those songs that took the brunt of my coming to terms that I was just not going to be able to connect on that deoxyribonucleic level with current music like I had in the past. This was really the only Pearl Jam song that I actively disliked, and it kind of soured me on all their other songs as well (although I have warmed up to "Evenflow" thanks to Guitar Hero.) It was also another song my college roommate overplayed. Truthfully, it's amazing that we were able to get along at all considering the disparity in our music tastes, but we did nonetheless.

5) Me Against The Music / Britney Spears & Madonna
Talk about a song designed by a committee. Even this die-hard Madge fan can see that this song ir pretty much utter crap. The only part of it that I like is the bridge where Madonna sings "Hey Britney, you say you wanna lose control." And even there, Madonna sounds nasal and annoyed to be singing at all. She seems to be phoning this performance in and it was just all around a bad idea. I can barely believe that Britney and Madonna might be teaming up for the Sticky & Sweet Tour. Say it isn't so!

6) Wind It Up / Gwen Stefani
The lead single from The Sweet Escape is just shiteous. I understand the cute-sy idea of building a song around "The Lonely Goatherd" and I suppose that would be good for an album track, but as a single? Please. Gwen just about lost me with that whole record until I heard "4 In The Morning" which made the summer 2007 best-of list.

7) Ain't No Other Man / Christina Aguilera
I think that this song encapsulates all the worst things about Aguilera's music. She has a great singing voice, so why is it that she mostly just shouts or growls when she sings? And this song also has no real discernable melody as well as herky-jerky beats. This combination left it not particularly memorable except in the worst possible way. I tried several remixes of the song as well to see if maybe it was just the production. Alas, it was the song.

8) Butterfly Kisses / Bob Carlisle
OK, let's get one thing straight. I'm not afraid of sappiness in small doses or songs packed full of sadness and other emotion. What I don't like are songs that use that sappiness and sadness as a full-frontal assault. "Butterfly Kisses" which chronicles the relationship between a father and his daughter from her birth to her marriage just makes me want to cringe. It's TOO obvious. It's TOO over the top. As the father of a daughter, you'd think I might have a soft spot for it, but no. I am also not a fan of songs that are naked in their attempt to become wedding dance standards. If I had a dollar for every time this song was the father-daughter dance at a wedding reception, I'd be rich. For the record, Heidi's father-daughter dance song was Fine Young Cannibals' "She Drives Me Crazy."

9) Comfortably Numb/ Pink Floyd
Again, bad college memories with this one. All I can think of are guys on my dorm floor blasting this song after their finals are over. The song has been redeemed slightly by Scissor Sisters' cover of it, which I'm sure would make a lot of those guys thunder "why are they messing with a CLASSIC? Their version sucks!" Perhaps that's part of the reason I like the SS version so much.

10) Mambo No. 5 / Lou Bega
I know that every era has its novelty songs, but didn't it seem like the late 90s/early 00s had more than their fair share? This one is forever tainted by VH1's Pop-Up Video that put in a picture of Monica Lewinsky every time he sang "A little bit of Monica..." I know it was supposed to be a fun little summer song, but seriously, the song just grates on me.

OK, I am off to sleep. Perhaps all this cranking on pop music is a result of sleep deprivation.

But I wouldn't bet on it.

Down with the (home)sickness

It's 1:16AM and I'm still awake, although I think I am going to have to throw in the towel at 2AM. I am simply too tired and the beer did not help my cause (but damn, did it taste good.) Truth be told, it's the nap just before work that's the most essential part of the equation.

Heidi went to pick Anna up at the rendezvous point in Oskaloosa today one day ahead of schedule. This has been a strange trip to Camp Grandma for her. It started out with her being on the verge of tears the entire morning before she was to leave. It really threw us for a loop because usually she is all fired up to go to Heidi's mom's house and doesn't really look back. But this time, something was different. We're still trying to figure out what exactly it was (we have our theories) but truly, the world may never know. She called last night saying that she wanted to come home and since it was 10PM, there really wasn't any chance of that happening last night, but Heidi talked to her again this morning and she still wanted to come home today. So she's home.

There are times that you see glimpses of yourself in your kids, and this has been one of those times for me. I remember getting very homesick when I went away to places. I never went to summer camp or anything like that, so I didn't have that experience to toughen me up. I remember leaving for college and being VERY homesick. And that's a little bit fucked up because most people in that situation were probably ELATED to be out from under their parents' constant scrutiny. Part of the problem was that I went to school just far enough away from my hometown to make it "real" but also just close enough that going back for the weekends was a feasible alternative to staying. Not that I was one of those people that lived Monday through Friday in the dorms and then went back home every weekend - far from it. But I did head back about once a month. It wasn't till I transferred to the University of Iowa that I left in August and came back for Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks, left again in January, came back for spring break, and then not till the end of the year. Really, that was the best thing that ever happened to me. I became a lot more self-sufficient in that time frame than I had in the previous two years of college prior to my move to Iowa City.

Anna will have to toughen up a bit. She won't have a choice when it gets to be the end of July and Heidi goes to L.A. for 10 days, during which time I have exactly 2 days off. But I guess it's my job as a parent to encourage her and to tell her that she can do it. I will endeavor to be up to the challenge.

I am glad that she's home though. Even though Heidi and I had fun being on our own with no child for a day or two, there is a big void in the house when she's not here.

OK, I think I probably need to sleep.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Even the nights aren't better

I know that what little cred I had just went out the window because I dared use an Air Supply reference in the post title, but deal.

The weekend is over and I, sadly, have to work the graveyard shift (9PM till 7:30AM) on Tuesday night. This is usually not a big deal for me. I kind of like getting ready to work overnights because I stay up until 3AM and then try to sleep as much as possible the day of the overnight shift. I usually get a lot of TV watched or blog posts written or other such stuff, so that's a good thing. But for whatever reason, I'm just not looking forward to it this time. I think the problem is that usually the graveyard shift is a one time thing that you do and then you don't do it again for 8-12 months. But because of the way things work, I get to do one shift Tuesday night, and then in two weeks, I get to do two more! To say that it kind of kills the whole month of July is probably worthy of Heidi's "Drama Queen" LJ avatar. But it is disruptive. It messes up my sleep cycle which is always pretty precariously balanced as it is.

I'll get by, no doubt about it. I always have and always will. If you're going to work in health care, you just have to expect this from time to time. But the timing of working the graveyard shift is just not the greatest this time.

And as far as the questions for the 5 questions meme goes - I am going to give it my best shot to send them out to everyone who replied tonight after work. I mean, I'll have to force myself to stay up anyway, right?

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Sparkle, Neely, sparkle!!

We had a pretty good 4th of July here. We did all the usual things -- the parade in the morning and fireworks at dusk. The best part about fireworks is that we can just walk down the block and watch them from the 6th Street hill. Even though they are shot off a ways away from there, it affords a decent view of the pyrotechnics.

Of course, there were also sparklers and snakes. Anna prefers the new-fangled, 3 stage sparklers. Me, I'm much more partial to the old fashioned sparklers that sparkle for a minute and then go out. I also have very little time for snakes because they are messy and leave what appear to be permanent stains on the cement. We did some at our house in Washington the first year we lived there and when we moved 5 years later, the stains were still there. Mommie would not approve. No doubt she'd make me get out the Old Dutch and SCRUB.

Anna had a good time though. Her grandma (Heidi's mom) has been here the last couple days and today she's going to go back with her and spend a couple days at Camp Grandma. Heidi and I are going down to Jeff's for a Star Wars themed party that promises to be fun.

Anyway, here's a couple of pictures of Anna "sparkling" (but not like Neely) as well as some amazing pictures of the fireworks display that my mother-in-law took. Apparently she has a "fireworks" setting on her digital camera. Who knew?

Friday, July 04, 2008

In the evidence of non-brilliance

Madonna herself said it best in "Mother & Father": I've got to give it up. As much as it pains me, I'm giving up my continued defense of Madonna's Hard Candy. Perhaps I could if Madonna bothered to actually PROMOTE the album apart from a couple of one-off shows and some sub par videos, but no. I know she's touring in support of it, but she would have done that anyway. Plus, by the time she actually hits the road, the album will probably be off the charts and will have run its course.

I'm afraid I'm going to have to agree with XO and say that Hard Candy really is STALE Candy. It has not aged well in the two months since its release. As an album, it just doesn't hold up to repeated listens. There are several excellent songs on it, and a couple latter day Madonna classics, but mostly, I just don't find myself going back to it again and again like I should be a new Madonna album. Hell, at this point in 2003, I was still listening to American Life like crazy, and we all know how well received that album was. Last night when I went to take Rampage back to Family Video, I put Hard Candy in the car's CD player and didn't even make it through "Candy Shop" before I was putting Confessions On A Dance Floor in to cleanse my palate.

Someone on the Madonna listserv that I was on ages ago once said something that has really stuck with me - and that is you can ALWAYS tell when Madonna does something half-assed. In a year that has seen her adopting a child, directing a movie, making a documentary and launching a clothing line, making an album seemed to be far down the priority list. The very thing that has made her famous since the early 80s took a backseat. She neglected the music.

I have been a Madonna fan for nearly 25 years and I approached this album with a great deal of trepidation. I was nervous about it from the get go. As soon as I heard she was collaborating with the hot producers of the day rather than finding producers and turning them into the hot producers (a la Stuart Price, Mirwais, etc.), I knew we were in trouble. It struck me as very un-Madonna. Rather than setting trends, she appeared to be following them. When "The Beat Goes On" and "Candy Shop" leaked last summer, it seemed my worst fears were confirmed. For the first time in her quarter century career, she seemed to be going somewhere that I could not follow, at least not very easily.

Still, I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. Initially, I did like quite a few of the songs. I'm recognizing that now as a similar feeling to being caught up in the initial giddiness of a crush, with what happens to the relationship being more accurately determined after the giddy phase has passed. Well, we're here folks. And honestly, there are four songs that do it for me and that's about it. The new Madonna classics on this album are "Miles Away" and "Devil Wouldn't Recognize You." These two tracks have been played over and over again and when I remove them from the context of the album, I really do enjoy them. "Give It 2 Me", the next single which looks poised to flop here in the US, is also quite good, but I vastly prefer the Oakenfold remix edit that was on the iTunes deluxe edition of the album. This mix strips the song of of its R&B aspirations and makes it what it should be - a dance floor stomper that takes no prisoners and doesn't look back. Additionally, "Dance 2Night" still sounds good, even though, as Adem pointed out in the comment section to my original Hard Candy post, she does sound a bit bored singing it.

This will probably amaze and piss off and cause *gasps!* from my pop blogger friends, but my harshest words are actually saved for "4 Minutes." In the final analysis of "4 Minutes," I view it as no more than a novelty song, not all that dissimilar from a "Walk Like An Egyptian" or "Woolly Bully." It may have been a huge hit for Madonna, but it broke no new ground, found her sitting in the passenger's seat on the kick off single from a new album and those goddamn horny horns just grate on me. I know that it was her most successful single since "Music" in 2000, but at what cost? And how much of that radio play resulted from the Justin factor?

Despite the fact that I am ultimately disappointed by the album it is designed to promote, I harbor not a single regret over having purchased tickets to the Sticky & Sweet Tour. I have no doubt that the tour will be fantastic. Madonna has never done a tour half-assed, ever. I think that while the set list will be Hard Candy heavy, there will also be a liberal sprinkling of 80s hits and fan favorites. She is smart to do this. Even though she would like to distance herself from the hits that made her who she is, those are what people want to hear. Rumours that she will be double-dutch jump roping in heels as well as including my all time favorite Madonna song, "Borderline", leave me with high hopes that the tour will be as good as all the other tours I have attended. I have yet to be truly disappointed by any of Madonna's live shows and perhaps hearing some of these songs performed live will put them in a new perspective and allow for a new approach.

This is not the first time that Madge and I have fallen out. I have reported in this blog over and over again about how I severely cooled on Madonna in the wake of "This Used To Be My Playground", still a song I feel to be a low point for her. It even caused me to put off the purchase of Erotica. However, the eventual purchase of Erotica launched my fandom in a new direction and pretty much sealed my fate as in for the long haul.

No worries - I have not been replaced by a pod person and I'm not about to abandon Hard Mandy (as the UK tabloids are calling her.) I am not, however, someone who will defend everything that my favorite artists do when I do not like it. And this is the case with Hard Candy.

So if you're looking for me, I'll probably be listening to American Life. I am grooving on "Mother & Father" these days!!

(although I will more likely be listening to Deborah Harry. She turned 63 on Tuesday and I plum forgot!!)