Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sleep and dreams and Charo and Will Young

I came home from work tonight and fell asleep on the bed in my new office. It was a very surreal sleep because I heard the music that was playing pretty much the entire time I was asleep and had very bizarre dreams as well. The weirdest thing that I dreamt was I sat down to my computer and fired up Yahoo IM and not only did I have about 50 people on my contact list (in reality, I have exactly two people on that list, one of whom lives in the same house as me), but Charo was on that list. Yes, THAT Charo, and yes, she was online. What prompted my subconscious to think of Charo is absolutely beyond me (it's not like I've been watching reruns of The Love Boat or anything!), but I had to laugh when I woke up and realized what I had dreamt.

In completely unrelated news, Will Young's Let It Go leaked today and really, all there is to say is what XO said. Any album that dares channel 1960s Dionne Warwick horns on a track is okay in my book. It is the perfect antidote to some of the stuff I've had going on recently.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Deck and Darth

Over the last few weeks, my father has been helping me rebuild rebuilding my deck. It was in kind of bad shape when we bought the house, but that's what happens when you buy an old house. During the last 5 years, he has replaced boards that have threatened to give way and ones that have. This summer, though, it was apparent that there were more bad spots in the current deck than there were good ones, so a concerted effort to replace the lion's share of the boards was made.

Well, as of yesterday the work for 2008 is completed. And it looks fan-effing-tastic. Take a look:

Now we want to have people over just to sit on the deck!

I wish I had a "before" picture to show the dramatic transformation of the deck. However, we didn't do the entire deck. So this picture kind of shows what it used to look like vs. how great it looks now.

The top portion of the deck and the outward facing boards are on the 2009 schedule. But for now, we are no longer in danger of falling through the deck whenever we step out onto it.

And what became of all that rotted deck wood? Well, Heidi and I became complete sweat bombs this morning and loaded most of it into the back of the pickup. The longer boards that didn't fit are piled up neatly in the yard. I have grand designs of cutting them up into smaller boards and fitting them into the back of the pickup as well, but we'll see. For now, that's where they are, awaiting a better paycheck (the next one) to be taken to the physical plant for burning. Please note that there are multiple opportunities for tetanus now in the back of my pickup.

It looks so good, and I can't thank my father enough. He came over on days that I wasn't even home to do the work! Every time I tell him that he doesn't have to come and do upkeep on my house while I'm at work, he says that he's just earning all the Social Security that I'm paying right now! Well, however he wants to look at it. He rocks.

When he came over yesterday to finish the work, he also brought my Darth Vader Collector Case that I had been looking for when we were back home for Mom and Dad's 40th. Mom must have found it and it still has 99% of the figures in there. The only ones missing are Leia Organa and Jawa. Many of them are broken or missing pieces (too much time in the sandbox most likely) but they were well loved.

It has been, all in all, a good day off - not to mention a productive one. Not only did we move all that wood but I also cleaned out the grossest utility sink in all of creation and hooked up the converter box for the TV since we have no plans to get cable prior to the great Digital Switchover in February of 2009. We now get three PBS channels.

Not sure what the rest of the day holds, but it has been just the kind of day I needed. But it is 2:05PM and I still have not showered. I need to remedy that very soon.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I'm even more than 4 and a half

My 5th blog birthday was yesterday and I was too bowled over by the Will Young song (and busy with other stuff, like seeing the as-bad-as-we-thought-it-would-be The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor) to even notice!

I kind of did a blog retrospective post with my 1000th post, but Heidi encouraged me to mark the 5th birthday of my blog with something. So here's something. Barbra, from My Name Is Barbra, singing "I'm Five/Sweet Zoo." Anna loves this shit.

(Don't be put off by the bad opening, wait till she gets outside.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Grips so tight it shatters

I haven't really been bowled over by any new music for quite a while. Not sure what that's all about, although I have been a bit off my game for a week or so now. But then a new Will Young song landed in my inbox last night. And it is fantastic. It is in the running for XO's song of the year. Paul has a lot to say about it, as well as a lot about Will Young in general. It is assured a spot on my 80 minutes year-end list.

Every now and again, a song falls into your life at just the right time speaking to just the right circumstance, and "Let It Go", like Darren Hayes' "Hero", is one of those songs. One of the things I struggle with most is, well, letting things go. I can intellectually rationalize to myself that there is nothing I can do about this, that or the other thing and that I need to just release it. So I do. And then I run over and pick it back up again and hold tighter than I previously did. At least that has been my history.

So for a lot of reasons, I'm incredibly cognizant of patterns like that right now. Today at work, when the day seemed to overtake me and I was trying to save the world, I went to the library and sat with my iPod for 15 minutes at lunch and listened to this song over and over again. Suddenly, it was as if I were a teenager again rewinding the tape to hear the same part of the song ad infinitum. The sentiment was just right there.

Let it go, let it go, 'cause it's out of my control...
Grips so tight it shatters, only thing that matters...
Heaven knows just what I'm stressing for
Let it go, let it go.

Easy to say, quite another to do. I'm fond of saying that if a pop song doesn't know how you feel, there's really no point to it. And even though, yes, those are cliched lyrics, well it certainly doesn't make them any less true. Although his use of the word "stressing" bothers me a bit, but only because it reminds me of a college friend who used that word obsessively when describing his exam preparation.

The best music takes you back and moves you forward. "Let It Go" accomplishes all this in a mere 3:40.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

It happens to divas too

Because I can't stop watching this and it's the ONLY part of the tour I have watched on YouTube (honest!)



The goods are at 0:49. The stiletto heel in the air is the best part! Although I suppose I should be happy that she didn't injure herself, forcing her to cancel the rest of the tour. 35 days and counting!

Junk the morgue

In the last hour, Heidi and I have successfully brought up a lot of the crap that was in my basement office and placed it on the bed in my back bedroom office (which I am lovingly referring to as "my dorm room" because it really does feel that way!) Right now, my mission which I must accept is to go through it once and for all and decide what gets kept and what gets junked. Here's something to give you an idea of the enormity of my task.

A lot of it is junk that I have been carting around for nearly two decades - and the oldest stuff isn't even up here yet. A box full of MAD magazines and other sundry stuff remains in storage in the nether regions of the basement. My goal is to free myself of the shit that I am holding on to for no good reason or for reasons other people have put on me. I'm going to spend the next half hour doing that and then I'm going to get ready to go the meditation group at UUFA again. We'll see how well I do. Once the whole dorm room is done, I'll post pictures.

But at the rate I'm going, who knows when that will be.

Holding back the years

Today is my sister Wendy's 29th birthday. She has but one more year before she joins Ryan and me in the 30s. She is spending her birthday in Yellowknife, NWT, Canada which, from what I hear, is already seeing snow! Fortunately for her, from the sounds of it, she'll be moving back to the States this December and living in L.A.

Just because I'm always good for this kind of thing, here we are sometime in the early 80s.

What was with my big brown collar?

And here's one that I shamelessly stole from her Facebook page. I saw it a couple weeks ago and did a double take because I could have been looking at my very own daughter!

I mentioned this to Wendy and she replied that "Anna is my Mini-Me!" You can definitely tell Anna has 50% of my genetic makeup - or at least the genes from my side of the family. Here they are together at my Mom and Dad's 40th Wedding anniversary holding the baby of a cousin of ours.

In honor of Wendy's birthday, I decided to post this song that always reminds me of her. It is Wet Wet Wet's "I Can Give You Everything." (mp3) It was the B-side to the "Love Is All Around" single and we ended up liking it more than the song she bought the single for! It was either that or Basia's "An Olive Tree" complete with its Gremlin chorus at 2:42 and Basia swinging on a vine a la Tarzan at 4:25! Mem'ries, light the corners of my mind.

Happy birthday sis! Hope it's a good one!!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Plague House

Does that, or does that not sound like a new PBS series? Anyway, it's kind of us right now. I have somehow managed to get the autumn cold that I always get. Heidi was in bed at 8PM tonight after having spent most of the night in a chair under a blanket denying that she was sick. Anna has been kind of under the weather for the last couple of days, but she is by far the healthiest of the three of us.

If I felt just a little bit better, I would be going out to Hy-Vee to get these because I am craving them:

They're Dots! And they're ghosts! Everybody else probably has already seen these, but I have not seen these until this year.

I was also amazed by the fact that the Tootsie Roll Industries plant in Chicago produces 16 MILLION Dots a day! That's a damn lot of Dots.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

It is the walk

All day today I have been slowly moving my office from the basement to the spare bedroom in the back of the house. The reasons for this are manifold. The primary impetus is to remove myself (and my electronics) from the flood zone, but other reasons include the fact that it is colder than hell down there in the wintertime as well as the fact that I am so far away from everyone else in the basement I may as well be living in my own house. I think Heidi has gotten tired of yelling down at me and I can understand that.

Because things like this can never just happen around here, we naturally had to do some quick sanding and sealing of the hardwood floor in the spare bedroom. To be honest, it really needed it. No one had done a thing with it before we bought the house besides damage it. There were paint stains and water stains all over it. No longer. Heidi sanded it. I sealed it. It is beautiful.

So like I said, I have moved my desk and computer upstairs and I think I'm gonna like it. It's odd to have to be conscious of how loud my music is because Heidi is watching Battlestar Galactica in the next room. I don't have half my shit up here yet, but I think this is as good a time as any to thin some of the stuff that I have been accruing. I started with T-shirts that I wear to bed. Some of those T-shirts I have been carrying around for over a decade. I finally threw away the Iowa City Public Library: A Century of Service T-shirt from 1997! Also amongst the cast-offs were my Dean For America shirt, a shirt from my dorm floor in college and a "heavy metal" t-shirt consisting of that section of the periodic table. Yeah, geek. We knew that already.

I also went to a Mindfulness and Meditation session at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship tonight. I have been meaning to go to those for months now (they have them every Sunday night) and I finally went tonight. It was kind of weird, I will admit, mostly because even though I try to meditate on my own, frankly I kind of suck at it. Tonight was no different. No sooner did I sit down and try to calm my mind than EVERY PART OF MY BODY started itching. Then my leg started cramping. Then I couldn't get my back to straighten up. Once I finally got situated, I found myself having to get up and do walking meditation - something I had read about but never done. All in all, it was a good experience. One thing stuck with me though. Right before we started walking, they read from Thich Naht Hahn. The passage was "there is no happiness walk, happiness is the walk." How easy it is to forget that. So frequently, we figure that this thing or that thing will make us happy, only to be disappointed. I shall endeavor to remember Thich Naht Hahn's words during the upcoming week.

In the meantime, here's an actual artist's depiction of Heidi and me moving furniture in my new office today.


I gotta quit smoking that pipe, I tell ya. It's going to be the death of me.

I told Heidi I was getting rid of the Iowa City Public Library T-shirt and she talked me out of it! It's back in my drawer.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Stop the Palinsanity!

I'm sorry, but I cannot fucking believe this:

When Gibson said if under the NATO treaty, the United States would have to go to war if Russia again invaded Georgia, Palin responded: "Perhaps so. I mean, that is the agreement when you are a NATO ally, is if another country is attacked, you're going to be expected to be called upon and help.

"And we've got to keep an eye on Russia. For Russia to have exerted such pressure in terms of invading a smaller democratic country, unprovoked, is unacceptable," she told Gibson.


WHAT THE FUCK?

This person is NOT ready to be the vice-president if she thinks that war with Russia is feasible in any way or form. You do not pick fights with a nuclear power. Perhaps the neocons are so drunk on power that they think they can invade any country in the world. I cannot believe that she said that. What kind of message does that send to other countries? Even though she is not in political power, you can bet that leaders around the world are listening. Hopefully this gets legs and the media jumps all over it and this is the end of all this ridiculousness.

Do the neocons just want endless war? Because let me tell you, a war with Russia would be over in about an hour.

Where is Susan Powter when you really need her?

Monday, September 08, 2008

M

This is the blog's 1000th post. I can hardly believe it.


I like to look at this spot on the internet as "the little blog that could." I started out rather without an agenda, and I carry on without one, writing about whatever the hell I feel like writing about. I will never be a big star from blogging or writing, but it gives me great pleasure to come here several times a week and gush about whatever I feel like. And it still is amazing to me that people read it. Not many, mind you, but I really don't care.

Now that I have posted the 1000th post, I can stop wondering what I will do for the 1000th post and move on!

EDIT: Adding up the numbers in the archives on the side of the blog gives only 997. I'm pretty sure this is because I have deleted exactly 3 posts in the nearly 5 year history of this blog. They count, even though they no longer remain. And anyway, it's what the Blogger home page told me. It's not like I counted!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

It sounds like a whisper

I told a couple friends earlier this week that as the summer transitions to autumn, I find myself naturally drawn to music that is quiet and introspective, sometimes even depressing. I don't know why that is, although the obvious answer is that the music matches the season. This year especially, when with apparently no warning we plunged into the 60s for highs immediately after Labor Day, the quietness of some of the music I have been listening to has seemed more than appropriate. It was amongst all this that I rediscovered Tracy Chapman.

Tracy Chapman always reminds me of my high school friend Kelly. She was probably the best friend I had in high school and although we didn't always see eye to eye on everything, we always had a healthy respect for the other's opinions - at least as much as you can when you're 16. She was the Miss 120 Minutes to my Mr. Top 40 Pop and we each had broader horizons for it. I first heard "Fast Car" during the summer of 1988 on MTV (can you imagine MTV playing that now?) and immediately thought of Kelly and how she would like it too. If nothing else, I knew that she would certainly not be like another of my friends who saw the video on MTV and laughed hysterically at Chapman's hair and husky alto. I remember just falling in love with the song - it was so somber and so lyrically complex and so...unexpected during that summer. I couldn't wait for school to start so that we could discuss it because, oddly enough, we would frequently lose contact over the summer, only to start right back up in the fall as if we'd never been apart.

"Fast Car" is to Tracy Chapman as "Luka" is to Suzanne Vega in that it's the one that everyone knows. (Suzanne Vega wrote a great piece about "Luka" and the "two hit wonder" phenomenon here. It's amazing.) And really, I still like it a lot although it doesn't frequently make it into heavy rotation unless I'm listening to the album. I wonder how Tracy Chapman feels about "Fast Car" after all these years. Does she feel obliged to play it? I hope she feels like Suzanne Vega does about "Luka" because just because it was popular does not mean that it should be punished, especially when the songwriting is so brilliant. The part of "Fast Car" that has always stood out for me was its bridge, which is technically not a bridge because it is repeated 3 times.

I remember when we were driving, driving in your car
The speed so fast I felt like I was drunk
City lights lay out before us
And your arm felt nice wrapped 'round my shoulder
And I had a feeling that I belonged
And I had a feeling I could be someone, be someone, be someone

That bridge is the heart of the song for me. In the end, I am so glad that it is repeated 3 times because I always want to hear it just one more time.

I bought the Tracy Chapman album from one of those BMG or Columbia House club things (which I remember MAD Magazine refering to as "slightly harder to get out of than an Iranian jail.") and really, you'd think that "Fast Car" would be it and the rest of the album forgettable. But the whole album is so cohesive, so well written and produced, that it's hard to separate the songs from the whole. It really is a product of the moment, one that is organic and not something that you could hope to produce if you were consciously trying. The album speaks softly, but is angry in many places speaking to racial and socioeconomic injustices in the way that only folk music can.

Personally, it's the quiet songs about relationships on the album that have always stood out for me. And among these, the album track "If Not Now..." (download) remains, to this day, my favorite track on the whole album. "If not now, then when?" she muses, declaring "A love declared for days to come/Is as good as none." It's odd...lyrically, it is very simple, a complete contrast to "Fast Car" but when you're listening to it, you don't notice that. Perhaps it's the simplicity that draws you in, the simple feelings that pretty much any human being can recognize.

During our junior year of high school, Kelly and I kept a handwritten journal together in a series of Mead notebooks. We'd pass it back and forth between us and take turns writing in it. I still have those and the other night I pulled one out because I remembered that we had talked about Tracy Chapman in those pages. I remember sitting in the stands at Carroll High home football games reading Rolling Stone magazine (which Tracy Chapman had made the cover of) while everyone else was watching the game. I remember how she had her copy of Percy Bysshe Shelley with her at all times during those days. I also remembered how she had written the lyrics to the Tracy song "For You" in one of the entries she made in that journal. "No words to say/No words to convey/These feelings inside/I have for you." What exactly she was trying to say with those words, we can't know now. If they were meant for me, I was certainly oblivious to it. But that would be giving myself way too much credit. We wrote song lyrics in there all the time.

I really don't know where Kelly is these days or what she's up to, but I do miss her, in the way that you miss someone that influenced you in ways you didn't even recognize at the time. But that's the beautiful thing about music, it can take you backwards, forwards or stand you still, frozen in time. And whenever I listen to Tracy Chapman, I get a little bit of all three. 20 years out from its initial release, it remains timeless.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Just a Backwoods Barbie

I honestly can't believe that the McCain campaign has not decided to use Dolly's "Backwoods Barbie" for Sarah Palin. But that would, of course, require Dolly to OK the use of her song (or would it?) and I think there is a greater chance of pigs flying out of my butt than that happening. Dolly is very evasive about her political affiliation, claiming that she's not political but "very patriotic." However, I don't think she is fooling anyone and I would daresay that her politics land left of center. She still has my favorite response to the "do you support same sex marriage" question:

And when asked whether she supports same-sex marriage, she jokingly responded, "Hell yes. You people should have to suffer just like the rest of us!"


I'm sure that would not be Palin's response.

I have tried to be quiet on the blog about political things as 1) it usually gets me into trouble and 2) I feel like half the time I go off half-cocked and don't make sense, which leads to #1. But anyone who thinks that Palin is qualified to be the dog catcher, let alone the vice-president of the United States is, as Celine Dion would say, seriously misled. She would be, with not one iota of foreign policy experience (except for the fact that Alaska is close to Russia) second in line for the presidency - the president if something happened to McCain. Hmmm...for whatever reason, that does not make me feel any better about how she might handle the Georgia/Russia crisis. Talk about on the job training.

Ultimately, the choice of Palin speaks very poorly about McCain's judgment, which I think helps the Democrats immensely. But I've seen defeat snatched from the jaws of victory before (see 2000 and 2004) so I will not believe it till I see it. If we vote them into office, we will get exactly what we deserve.

I just hope we're smarter than I think we might be. I thought we were smart in 2004, and we weren't. Let's hope we learned from that experience.

And because I can't end on such a sour note, here's my favorite shot of Dolly from the Backwoods Barbie tour book. I would seriously die if I were walking through the woods and saw Dolly Parton FISHING in that outfit.

(click to make bigger - totally worth it.)

Disappearing post

I have no idea why, but my Top 80 minutes of the summer post below disappeared today. I have restored it, thanks to the wondrousness that is Google Reader. Perhaps I inadvertently deleted it, but I doubt it. I would bet that it is just a Blogger glitch (NO! That NEVER happens.)

Thank heavens I was able to restore it, because it took forever to write!

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.