Sunday, September 27, 2009

It's all about the cakes

Every now and again, nostalgia for our summer vacation creeps up on me. Is something that is only 3+ months old a candidate for nostalgia? Ordinarily, I don't think it would qualify, but for whatever reason, this does. I can't think of any other word to describe the feeling that I get sometimes when I think about it. I'm pretty sure that a significant contributing factor to this is that I just got done reading Heidi's latest novel which saw the story's two main characters recreate a good chunk of our trip west.

Tonight, I'm craving Du-Par's.


I don't know how this is even possible. I just got done with supper and would explode like Mr. Creosote if I ate anything else. In fact, that's how I felt after I got done eating the pancakes at Du-Par's. But it was one of my favorite "little moments" on our vacation. Everything from the the seedy 50s ambience of the place to Barbara our waitress who sounded like she had smoked 10 packs of Marlboros prior to coming in to work that doy - it all coalesced into one of those experiences I'll not soon forget. If I have but one regret, it's that I didn't pick up a Du-Par's coffee cup.

We couldn't even finish the pancakes - the portion size was so huge. But even knowing that, I still wouldn't order any differently because they were the frickin' best pancakes I've ever had in my life.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The thing is, time was

One of the ways that an iTunes library will always be inferior to physical CDs, records, tapes, etc. is that songs are much more likely to get lost in a sea of music when they are digital files. Even on my iPod, which contains about 25% of the music on my computer, I really favor probably a 10% chunk for frequent listening. There are so many hidden gems in my iTunes library that have simply been lost in the shuffle.

Anyway, I found a song this morning that I had forgotten about and I immediately added it to my favorites list. It is The Williams Brothers "Some Become Strangers". Actually, in my world, it's their cover of Stevie Nicks' "Some Become Strangers", but that is not really accurate as they wrote it, even though Stevie recorded it before them. I have spent the last 15 minutes looking for an embeddable version of their video for the song, but I can't - a state of affairs I always find utterly ridiculous. Anyway, I think it's gorgeous, moody and very autumnal. Watch it here. Seriously. Do it.

What I think is funny about this is how similar and different it is from Stevie's version, which she recorded for Rock A Little in 1985. Listen to Stevie's after you listen to theirs and you'll see what I mean.



I can't decide which I like more - obviously I have much more history with Stevie's version. I think it's funny how there's differences in nearly ever line of the first verse between the two versions. Plus I love the Stevie stamp of "I don't really need this in my life! / Why don't we forget about it?" at the end of the bridge which the Williams Brothers wisely did not use.

I am trying to find a copy of the album this song came from but - to no one's shock, it is not available for download on either Amazon or iTunes. The only copies for sale are used copies. I will NEVER understand why anything is out of print now. The artists will not make money off of sales of used copies, whereas if they put it up on iTunes for $7.99, I would have already purchased it and they would have my money. But the record companies are too busy going after 30 second song samples to actually be paying attention to what consumers want. (Earth to the music industry, that's called FAIR USE!)

Anyway, this is a perfect song for this gray weekend. Hopefully I can find some more of their music.

(I found their second album, The Williams Brothers, on iTunes hidden amongst the discography of the gospel group of the same name!)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I'm still here

Six years ago today, I opened a Blogger account and made the first post on what would eventually become the 1200+ post blog you see before you today.

I am going to go on record as saying that even after all that time, I still love blogging. It seems increasingly irrelevant in the day and age of Facebook and Twitter. Writing something longer than a 140-character tweet or a 420-character Facebook status update seems so last season. Everybody seems to be on the social networking sites now and going to a blog to read something just seems to be so much less on the cultural radar than it used to be. And over the last few months, I've had more internal blogging drama than you can shake a stick at (most of which I have made a concerted effort to keep OFF the blog).

I tell the story a lot of how a friend of mine, when I said I was starting a blog, predicted that it would last no more than 2 months. And when I started blogging, I wasn't sure what I would write about, so I wondered if they weren't on to something. Although I had journaled a lot in college, I had kind of fallen off the journaling bandwagon by then and I wondered if I would have similar (lack of) follow-through with blogging. But I'm happy to say that much like Barbra Streisand said in 1994 "Good times and bum times/I've seen them all and my dear/I'm still here."

Blogging for me is a funny exercise. It is the most natural extension of me that I know of - I tell people a lot that if you really want to get to know who I am and what I think about, read my blog. When I meet new people and I feel like there's something more than just a casual acquaintance lurking in there, I will frequently give them the link. Oddly enough. as eager as I am to give the link to new and old friends, I am also hesitant, especially now that the blog is so huge and intimidating. I'm also intensely private about it as I have detailed before in previous posts. I don't give the link to just everyone and sometimes I worry that people will read what's written here and say "ok, he's just too strange for words." But I suppose those people probably weren't worth my time anyway.

Many people blog with a purpose - I'm not sure that I do. A good example of "blogging with a purpose" are the large number of music bloggers I have met over the years and whose blogs I read, link to and enjoy. They have features and themes and I am frequently very envious of that. I wish I had that kind of discipline. But I'm really not that kind of blogger. Sure, I write a lot about the music that I'm listening to, but I would find that limiting myself to any one topic would be ultimately unsatisfying. One friend of mine likens reading my blog to reading an online diary, which may be true but is not really intentional. While it may read that way, rest assured that I am aware (perhaps hyperaware) of the difference between journaling and blogging.

So on my blog's birthday, I want to thank everyone who reads. I would continue to write in this space even if no one ever read it, but I will say that knowing that people read this does my heart good. Sure, I get a lot more feedback for shit I post on Facebook, but in the end, this is about me. And how many places in your life can it really and truly be all about you?

Ultimately, I may not know what this blog is about, but I do know that it needs a special locker for the hat.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The call

For as long as I have known my wife, she has been writing. For nearly that long, she has been trying to publish her works. She has been working on various manuscripts over the course of the time we've been married - one famously written in a week just prior to Anna's birth. Earlier this summer, she wrote what became a 60,000 word novel (novella to her as her full length novels are usually over twice that length). Once she got done editing and polishing it, she submitted it to a couple different small publishing houses that she had researched, thinking that the fit might be a good one. Yesterday, she got the 21st century equivalent of "The Call."

She called me at work yesterday afternoon saying "I need to read you this email." Basically, the gist of the e-mail was that Dreamspinner Press was interested in publishing her novel in both paperback and e-book format! So come most likely December of this year (she was thinking probably April or July of next year), she'll have a book that she wrote available for purchase. For those wondering, it is a male/male romantic fantasy with paranormal elements. I've read it. It's very good and I'm not just saying that. OK, I'm biased, but it IS good!

I have always teased everyone that my goal is to have her live out her dream of being a best-selling author so that I can live out my dream of being a kept man. Well, I better not quit my job just yet. Let's just say that we're not ready to go from me earning the main income in the house to her earning the main income. But it's really not about the money. It is, as someone told me earlier today, more about the milestone. I can't overstate how proud and excited I am for her. I love it that she is following her passion, despite the frustration and aggravation that getting your work out there can be.

I'll be sure to post a link here for folks to see when it's on the Dreamspinner web site. In the meantime, we're going to celebrate. I am so proud of her accomplishment. So many people dream of writing and publishing a novel. She has done it.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Keys to the kingdom

The house never seems larger or quieter than when you're home alone in it.

Well, technically it's me and 5 cats, but still. Heidi and Anna are gone to her mom's for one night and before everyone gets jealous and thinks I'm having a bachelor weekend, I worked till nearly 9PM tonight and have to be back at 7AM tomorrow so I am already up well past my bedtime for that. But still, it's such a rare thing to have the house to yourself. This is something Heidi has frequently during the day when I am at work and Anna is at school, but me, not so much.

But the thing is, I almost didn't even have a roof over my head tonight. You think I am joking. I'm certainly not.

One thing you have to know about me is that I am horrible about bringing my keys with me. I don't drive to work as a rule and therefore, it doesn't usually occur to me to bring my car keys. The unfortunate thing is that my house key is on the same key chain as my car keys. Heidi is usually home when I leave and home when I arrive back home, so somewhere along the line this whole "you know, it would really behoove you to bring your car and house keys with you wherever you go" thing has been trained out of me. I'm almost as bad with my wallet, especially when going to work which means I hardly ever have cash when I am at work, which is both good and bad.

Anyway, because they were going to be gone, Heidi gave me a gentle reminder today to please remember to bring my keys because the house will be locked up tonight when I got home. And to my credit, I did remember to go grab them. To my discredit, I set them down in the bathroom and forgot to pick them back up again. Amazingly, Heidi saw them laying there on the counter in the bathroom on a stop back at the house that she had not planned to make (she had forgotten to pack headphones for Anna) and brought them to me at work, which is a story in and of itself.

Had she not made this stop, I would have been wandering the streets. I would have had no keys to get back into the house. I had no car keys to drive the hour to my parents' house to pick up the spare set. I had no wallet to, in the worst case scenario, go stay at a motel and buy a change of clothes for tomorrow (of course, I would have had to walk to the motel.) And I would have had to be back to work at 7AM tomorrow.

I don't know what gods or energy or alignment of planets made this work out, but I am thankful for it. The moral of the story is that we need to have a set of keys with someone here in town, which Heidi has made my job. And that I need to get my act together, but we already knew that.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Watch where you walk 'cause the sidewalks talk

About a week ago, I got a letter from the city saying that there was one block of my sidewalk that constituted a safety hazard. I keep wanting to refer to it a public health hazard, but knew that wasn't the term they used. It's not like the sidewalk had H1N1 or something. As near as I can figure, the reason it got flagged as a safety hazard was because of how uneven it was which would make it treacherous for just about anyone I suppose.

I figured that this was more than I could do on my own (duh), but I called my dad to see if this is a job he could help me with or if I needed to hire someone to do it. He expressly forbade me from hiring someone, saying that it was a one-day job that we could do together. Time was a bit on the short side as they're getting ready to take off to Arizona for 3 weeks next week, but he found time in his schedule to come help me with this. For someone who is retired, he works harder than a lot of working people I know!

The first step was to get the concrete out of the ground, which proved to be quite a bit more difficult than we anticipated. For one thing, it's hard to tell from the picture but the square is HUGE. It's at least twice as big as your standard sidewalk square. It also went much deeper into the ground than I thought it would - nearly 4 inches. That's a damn lot of concrete. My dad had a masonry blade for his saw (they look like little 45rpm records!) and cut through a good bit of the far end of the sidewalk. However, this was getting us nowhere fast because the saw kept overheating and we weren't even half way down through the depth of the sidewalk. We ended up going out to the rental place and renting a cement chipper tool (basically a bit on the end of a long pole that uses momentum to break the concrete) which helped carve out just enough that we could get a 4X4 piece of wood in. After that, we used an axe to break up the rest. These photos kind of give you an idea.

(you can see the cement chipper tool we rented in the bottom right hand corner)

After using an axe this afternoon, I can say with great certainty that I would make a shitty ax murderer because I would likely just drive the axe into the wall next to my intended victim. But anyway, we got all the concrete broken up, cleared out and prepped the hole for the new concrete.

Even though he had brought something like 500 pounds of concrete along with him, it wasn't enough to do just this ONE square. So off I went to Lowe's in his Jeep (which, with the top off and the windows down was great fun to drive) to buy more. I bought 400 more pounds of concrete. We used all but 80 pounds of what I bought. So yes, one square of sidewalk = ~820 pounds of concrete.

You've already seen me breaking the concrete, now here I am edging the wet concrete, a more delicate but no less important job.

So as you can see, I worked my ass off today. But don't kid yourself - I did probably less than 50% of the work. My dad mixed the concrete, shoveled the concrete and did a large portion of the filling in and smoothing of it. When it was all said and done, it was about a 4 hour job. And we got lucky with how easily the old concrete came out. That could have been 4 hours by itself. Four hours of work doesn't seem so bad, but concrete work is HARD WORK - don't let anyone tell you any different. Words cannot possibly express how happy I am that I do not have to do this kind of manual labor for a living. I would be dead if I had to. I am sore and tired tonight. But the satisfaction I got from it is priceless.

Here's our finished project - still a bit wet, but Anna, Dad and I all put our handprints in it, because you can't do a concrete job without doing something like this.

Too much information

I love and hate Facebook, much like I love and hate Twitter (although my fondness for Twitter is nowhere near my fondness for Facebook). What I love most about Facebook is that it has allowed me to be in contact with people that I have lost touch with over the last 20 years, as well as family members and friends that I see every day. I will readily admit that I also enjoy looking at people's photos and reading status updates and following links that they post. Heidi always gives me a bad time for being a snoop, and yeah, I kind of am but I prefer to look at it as being interested in what makes people tick. It's people's little idiosyncracies and weird interests that make them interesting, not the boring suburban face that we all put on to a degree. It is cliched, but even though our similarities bring us together, it's our differences that so frequently cement friendships.

I have always said that I am pretty deliberate about what I put on Facebook - even moreso than I am on this blog. I like the way Heidi puts it (paraphrasing here) in that if people are reading my blog, they're here by choice. It's also a much more limited audience. Facebook, on the other hand, is full of people from all areas of my life - family, friends, old acquaintances, online friends and, most importantly, people I work with. And I feel like discretion is the better part of valor and balls-out honesty on Facebook is just not appropriate. So as a consequence, my most thoughtful, deep-thinking stuff always ends up here, going out to a much smaller audience which sometimes kind of bugs me but really, that's probably for the better. People reading here know what to expect of me and know that I will cycle into periods of intense self-reflection and then cycle out of them and blather on about Madonna like a fool.

But I've also found that even simple status updates elicit too much attention. For example, I changed my status to "Dan is drinking for diversion and thinking for himself" Friday night because I had heard that Joni Mitchell song and thought it appropriate for the weekend. But I got so many comments on that status from co-workers in real life that I'm tempted to go back and delete it, even though it is certainly not anything to be ashamed of. I guess I just don't like going in to work every day and having my status commented on. It is these kinds of things I think about when I am tempted to show someone I work with my blog. I don't think I would mind in the abstract - there are some I would really like to show it too, but I do believe that you have to draw some sort of a line between your personal and professional life, and sometimes, even Facebook is too much of a violation of that rule.

As usual, I am full of contradictions. I am irritated by both too much and not enough attention. God, am I high maintenance or what? ;)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Unexpected

I always say that I have unexpected musical tastes for a mid-to-late 30s guy. But really, once people get to know me, predicting what I will like when it comes to music gets pretty easy (female, hooky melody, good beat that you can dance too). Of course, there are notable exceptions, but this description can sum up about 85% of what I enjoy. But every now and again, I love to throw in a curve ball, and this is where Polish "jazz" singer Basia comes in quite handy.

I should not like Basia, yet I am completely unable to resist her music. She is the type of artist that probably gets played on those annoying Sunday morning "smooth jazz" radio shows that used to be so popular back in the late 90s when I used to listen to the radio. But somehow, Basia manages to blend jazz, bossa nova and elevator music into a such a palatable package. It hurts not one little bit that she has a unique voice and the type of vocal chops that are sadly missing amongst many of the divas and would-be divas these days. She released a trio of albums in the late 80s/early 90s, culminating with 1994's excellent The Sweetest Illusion which pretty much defined the last two weeks of that school year and is my favorite of all her albums. But after that, there was nothing but a live album and the obligatory best-of package. After that, Basia seemed to disappear.

Until now. In yet another unexpected turn of events, I found out the other night that Basia has a brand spanking new album, It's That Girl Again - and it's been out since March!! Well, I went to eMusic and picked it up and started listening to it. I was underwhelmed at first, feeling like it didn't really hold a candle to her previous work, even though it had everything I'd come to expect from a Basia album. But that's when I got to thinking about my reactions to all of Basia's previous albums. Although I enjoy the hell out of all of them now, I remember disliking each and every one of them on first listen, even The Sweetest Illusion. The fact of the matter is that all of Basia's albums are growers, and really, this is a good thing.

My far and away favorite of the songs is the album opener "If Not Now, Then When" which is guaranteed a place on my year end best of list. I love how Basia is so clever in vocal stylings, she has a way with a lyric that few artists can achieve. Other standouts are "Blame It On The Summer" and "Everybody's On The Move." Really, the whole first 2/3rds of the album is high quality. After that it falters some, starting with the song "Winners" which sounds like "weiners" the way she sings it. But give me time, and I'll grow to like even that.

Still 66.6% of a Basia album is better than no Basia album at all. It's one of my favorite releases this year, especially since I have been so underwhelmed by music this year. It was even better because I didn't know it was coming. In this day and age of leaks and hearing an album 3 weeks before it is released, this was so refreshing.

Naturally, this new album has prompted a great deal of renewed interest in previous Basia albums. "Time & Tide" was her breakout and still one of my favorites.
And she is gorgeous in this video.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Cursed objects and big hair

So I've been slowly (and I mean SLOWLY) watching Friday The 13th: The Series via Netflix. It's still one of those TV shows that I can't believe is on DVD in that it is one of the more obscure late 80s television shows. I remember it being at least better than average, and, as I so frequently say, so much better than a show called Friday the 13th: The Series has any business being.

That having been said, I am only on the second disc of the first season, and man, they don't hold up nearly as well as I thought they would. The acting is bad, the special effects cheesy and the writing only so-so. Under normal circumstances, I would have stopped watching after episode 2 or 3. But something keeps me coming back for more - I'm not really sure what it is. Part of it is that it is great fun to watch on my iPod. I have taken to converting the DVD to iPod format and watching it that way. Watching it in small 20 minute bursts on break or lunch at work or before bed is so much easier than sitting in the living room watching it on the TV. Must be something about that 2 inch screen.

The other thing that kills me about this show are the characters. Granted, we are only in the early part of the first season, and the first season of just about any show is usually not indicative of the rest of the series. Every show has to find its legs, try things out that might or might not work, fail miserably and/or succeed wildly. But these characters are fricking hilarious. The best is Micki - played by one-named wonder Robey - who really can't seem to act her way out of a wet paper bag. Along with her cousin-by-marriage, Ryan (with whom there is this odd and uncomfortable bit of sexual tension), they are kind of the Scully and Mulder prototypes, only I don't think either of them is the skeptic.

The other thing that's hilarious about Micki/Robey is her damn big hair. It was the 80s, after all.



(and apparently Ryan's counterpart to Micki's big hair is the skinny tie)

So against my better judgment and at risk of further sullying great teenage memories, I will continue on with this show. I swear it was better than this, and really, it's still better than HBO's Tales From The Crypt which was so bad on the rewatch I just couldn't do it. (kudos to Matt for being able to though!)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

We just run through our lives

If I have a guilty pleasure (who? me?), it's definitely Savage Garden. Actually, it's not a guilty pleasure, because I'm not ashamed of it at all. I think that Darren Hayes is a great pop lyricist (one need look no further than some of his post-Savage Garden solo work) and my God, does that man know how to write a good hook. Everybody thinks they can write a pop song, because it's so easy, right? Wrong. That's why there are so many bad ones. But Darren Hayes KNOWS how to write a good one.

Admittedly, I was not a huge Savage Garden fan when they were together, but when I started listening to Darren Hayes' solo work, I found myself listening to more and more Savage Garden. I was not a huge fan of "I Want You" (which was overplayed where I worked at the time) but I do have a big old soft(ie) spot for "I Knew I Loved You".

But my most favorite of all Savage Garden songs is, without a doubt, "Hold Me". It was one of the first songs I submitted to the CD thing that I do with Matt and Bess, mostly because I think it is such an amazing pop song. And Darren Hayes does falsetto so well...well, don't take my word for it.



This is does not appear to be live to me (although the video says it is), but so much the better because I love the album version. There was a great live clip of this song from one of Darren's solo shows (A Big Night In), but I can't find it on YouTube anymore. What I loved about it was how exuberant he was and how much that exuberance slipped into me while I was watching it.

A lot of people give me grief for my decidedly "non-guy" taste in music. To hell with them. I'd rather be happy listening to this than unhappy trying to listen to stuff I hate. Because this kind of stuff really does make me happy.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Step by step

I've posted these pictures on Facebook, but the overlap between here and there is not 100% and besides, if I'm good for anything, it's telling a story over and over again.

We noticed last fall that our front steps were dangerously loose and close to falling apart. One look at the photo below and you can see what I mean.


Whenever we would walk up them, we got in the habit of treading rather carefully so as not to put a foot through the wood. They were not treated and God only knows how old they were. Anyway, last fall, my dad brought over some torque screws and we reinforced them as best we could, hoping to get us through till we could actually replace them. It worked quite well but as the summer progressed, I noticed that they were getting pretty loose again and I was waiting for someone to fall through them. So we decided it was time to fix them.

Now, I say we, but really, it's my dad. He is, much like Sylvester McMonkey McBean, the fix-it-up chappie - only he doesn't go around bilking us out of money, nor does he deal in belly stars. Left to my own devices, I would have no idea how to even attempt this kind of project. Imagine my surprise when, about a month ago, we went to Lowe's and purchased the wood for the project, I found out that the wood was already precut! They sold risers already! And pieces of lumber cut for the precise purpose of being stairs. Will wonders never cease.

One of his big stipulations of the job is that we not buy the material and do the job on the same day. So about a month passed before we seriously got down to business last Sunday. He brought over all his tools (except for a crowbar - he says that he always forgets one thing) and we set to ripping the steps out.

There they are, completely removed and ready for the new risers. Nothing ever goes quite according to plan in a job like this, and we had to head to Lowe's for braces for the risers and they had to go in a slightly different place than the original stairs. For me, this is a "oh shit" moment. My father relishes the challenge. And he rose to the challenge quite well. I helped out and actually did learn a lot from the process, but as you can see, I was clearly mostly around to make things pretty.

But I did do real work as well!

All in all, we were able to get everything but the railing done that day. We were planning to use the original railing as the wood was not rotten, but we had made enough alterations from the original design that it needed to be recut on a table saw, which I decidedly do not have. My dad came back yesterday to finish the job, just as I was about to get ready for work. As I recall, his words to me were "you get to work and make my Social Security, I'll finish the steps." That seems like a good deal to me!

Here's the finished project.

That's the cool thing about my dad - he is always willing to help me with just about any project that I have. He has this uncanny ability to do these house things that for whatever reason, I just don't have the knowledge base to get them done. For that, I am more grateful than words can ever express. But since he helped me with this, I can honestly say that I could probably replace those steps myself if I had to. Too bad that they way they're built now, they should last another 20 years!

My dad says that if you become a specialist (as in, you specialize your knowledge and get really good at one thing), it's almost impossible to be a generalist. Life today does not really train generalists or jacks-of-all-trades. Part of that is because the days of the shade tree auto mechanic and other such things are long gone. But my goal is to try to learn as much as I can so that I can do some of this stuff on my own.

Next up: quarter round.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Indoctrination FAIL

Heidi summed this up so well on her blog, I am cutting and pasting it right here because there are a lot of people that read me that may not read her blog

Anna saw the Obama address today: her class and several others went to the Media Center to watch. Her comments on it were that it made her late for lunch and so she only got to eat two things and was hungry all day. I asked her if she liked watching him talk, and she said, enthusiastically, yes! Then I asked her what he talked about. "I don't know," she said. "My back hurt from where I had to sit and I didn't pay attention."

So much for the indoctrination of the second graders. Or at least this one.

I caused a bit of a shitstorm on Facebook the other day when I posted a link from Politifact which examined Obama's school address and the furor that surrounded it. A person from my high school days chimed in declaring the awesomeness of FOX News which brought out MY liberal base. Everyone was pretty respectful for the most part, although I admit to gritting my teeth and having to work to be nice. But 44 comments later, I had to put an end to it because it was just people saying the same thing over and over again and honestly, I was tired of policing it. I had better things to do!

Seriously, of all the trumped up faux controversies...

P.S. For all wondering, the bat tested negative for rabies. Peace of mind is currently running at $40.30. Anna is relieved that shots are not in her future and frankly, so am I.

Monday, September 07, 2009

There's a bat on ice on my front porch

Yes, you read that right.

Anna came downstairs crying tonight saying "Dad, there's a bat or something on my bed!!" I was certain that she was incorrect and overreacting. This is way past Heidi's comfort zone so it fell to me to go investigate. Sure as shootin', there's a bat on her headboard bookcase. It looked pretty dead to me, but still. I have to admit, that bats are outside even my comfort zone, but it was time to, as my brother would say, man up and take care of the problem. I got an empty ice cream bucket from the basement to go up and trap it. I was nervous that as soon as I tried to scoop it in there, it would take off flying. Fortunately, it didn't move a muscle as I shoved it into the bucket and put the lid on. Then I put the bucket in a cooler with ice packs and put the whole thing on the porch.

I called Iowa Public Health as I couldn't remember if there's a time frame in which you must test a bat for rabies after it's died. They called me back and were very pleasant. They said that the way I describe it, it doesn't meet their criteria as a human exposure, but if I want to have it tested, I'm certainly more than welcome to take it to Iowa State and pay somewhere between $35 and $50 for it. This is absolutely happening. There's no way of knowing if there was any exposure to us - chances are VERY slim that there was any kind of bite that took place, although bat bites are so small you can be bitten in your sleep and not know it. The last time this happened to us (2002), Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Public Health both discouraged me from having it tested. I bucked both of them and took it to the disease lab in Iowa City.

The shithead was rabid. We all got the rabies series, which contrary to popular belief is not 82 shots into your stomach or your penis. It's a 5 dose series in your deltoid, but still, fun times.

So you can see why I don't mess around with bats and guessing whether they may or may not have rabies. As I am so fond of saying when it comes to rabies, you guess wrong and you guess DEAD. That is not hyperbole or overreaction. It's the truth.

The fortunate thing is that even in the unlikely event that we all have to get rabies shots again, its an abbreviated course of 2 shots which is still 2 shots too many for Anna's taste. But this is one area where I am immovable.

We are behind on Blair's rabies vaccination through an oversight on our part. So he's going in to the vet as well tomorrow morning, no questions.

Suddenly, I'm very glad I traded into the evening shift tomorrow because my morning is going to be full up, as Tinky Winky might say.

However, at least we have new Bananarama to listen to tonight to balance out this bat ridiculousness.

(image via)

Pumpkins

It's the unofficial "last day of summer" today, even though the autumnal equinox doesn't hit for another 15 days. Really, this summer has been kind of a weird one. It started off with the big westward vacation which, while fun, set the bar pretty damn high for everything else that happened this summer. Add this to the fact that it was really a pretty mild summer as Iowa summers go, and everything just kind of seems off kilter.

No matter, though, because now we're headed into fall and I love fall. Fall always reminds me of that line in You've Got Mail where Tom Hanks says in an e-mail to Meg Ryan "Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address." Yep, I have always loved fall. What's not to love? Cooling temperatures, leaves changing color, and Ames comes to life again after its summer dormancy by virtue of the returning ISU students. I don't like football, but I love football weather. But of all the things associated with fall, I love Halloween the most.

And it's because of this long time love of Halloween that I, for years, tried to grow pumpkins. I started when we lived at our previous house. I dug a garden in the yard and planted either pumpkin seeds or baby vines - I can't recall which. I would plant them and water them and tend to them all summer, only to have one of two things happen. Either the vines would be attacked by vine borers or the flowers would bloom but never produce fruit. One year I actually got small pumpkins on the vine, but unbeknownst to me, they were of the mini-pumpkin variety. So after years of failure. I gave up. I bought pumpkins along with everyone else from the grocery store.

Well, last fall, Anna went over to my folks and there was a pumpkin decorating contest somewhere in town. Anna decorated the pumpkin, left it there, and then it rotted. My father threw it in his peony patch to get rid of it. Through absolutely no effort on his part, it grew into a vine. The last time I was over there, I was amazed to see it flowering and taking up pretty much the entire patch. But he wasn't putting any energy into it, so I figured he wouldn't be any luckier than I was.

Wrong. Here's what they brought yesterday.

A fully grown pumpkin from his own vine! I thought, surely he must have hand pollinated the flowers. Nope. Just that lucky. AND there are three more growing. It would be easy to really dislike the man if he weren't such a great guy.

So maybe next summer I'll try my luck again. But I'm not expecting much.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

I don't care, with Cher you can't go wrong

It's been a Cher kind of Labor Day weekend. As I've detailed before, it's not all that hard for me to get on a Cher kick, for there's just so damn much to choose from, it hardly matters what your mood is - there's invariably something there for it. I listened to Cher pretty much all morning yesterday, and vowed today that I would listen to something else. Alas, the underrated "Love & Pain" is playing in the background as I write this.

I stumbled across something in my iTunes library that I had completely forgotten I even had. It's the version of "I Got You Babe" that Cher & Sonny Bono performed on David Letterman back in 1987.



I love this because it perfectly sums up the complexity that is not only Sonny & Cher, but any two people after a divorce or a breakup who try to remain friendly. And I remember it being one of those "who would have ever thought THIS would happen?" moments. I still think Cher has missed the boat by not performing this live with a virtual Sonny. Cheesy? Of course, but the audience would have eaten it up.

I'm almost ashamed to say it, but I'm also exceptionally fond of this performance of "I Got You Babe".



If it were Madonna doing this, I would be embarrassed for her. But it's Cher. She can do pretty much whatever the hell she wants. I am much more forgiving of Cher's perceived missteps than I am of Madonna's - perhaps because I expect more from Madonna. I'm also just beyond-the-pale excited whenever there's new material from Cher that I really don't care how good or bad it is. She's one of those artists whose passing will be Michael Jacksonesque for me, even if she lives to be 160. I do wish she would record a new album though, but I just don't know if that will ever happen. She seems to be content releasing greatest hits albums. And perhaps she has earned that right. She has been, as she said, an evil frickin' diva for 40 frickin' years.

(Now, if someone would just get their act together and release The Cher Show on DVD, I'd be a happy man.)

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Possessed

How in the hell did I miss out on this?


Clearly, I need to be paying a little more attention to Entertainment Earth, or at least get on their e-mail list. Not that I have 37 bucks to blow on this, but it would make a nice addition to the horror crap I have collected over the years.

Truth be told, it's probably too scary for Anna, and the movie is DEFINITELY too scary for Anna. If it featured Father Karras' dead mother sitting on the bed, there's no way on God's green Earth I'd buy it (the one part of the movie that still gives me the willies).

(via)

Friday, September 04, 2009

Walking the borderline

As I was walking home from work last night, "Walking In Memphis" came up on the iPod. For the record, it was the Cher version, not the Marc Cohn original. I know that Heidi prefers Cohn's version, but Cher's version is just so good. Th reason it's so great is because it's so unexpected (even though the remixes suck beyond words) and Cher really made it her own without disrespecting the source material. Anyway, it got me to thinking about how, years ago, when I was in school at Iowa State, Jeff and his then girlfriend Holly and I all renamed "Walking In Memphis" to "Walking on Campus" because we felt like that pretty much summed up our lives at that point.

There were grand plans, if I recall correctly, to give the song all new lyrics, but I don't think it ever happened. The one that I remember was how "saw the ghost of Elvis" became "saw the steps of Beardshear." Beyond that, nothing. But listening last night, I was amazed that we never changed "They've got catfish on the table" to "Porcupine meatballs on the table" - porcupine meatballs being a favorite of the ISU food service at the time.

Oddly enough, I have also rediscovered The Chapin Sisters' cover of Madonna's "Borderline". Actually, I am amazed at how many times this song has been covered. (Confidential to Casey Stratton: Have you ever thought of covering this song live?) Listening to that song made me think of how my brother Ryan rewrote that song a la Weird Al when were kids, changing it to "Front Line." He had the whole song changed with it sung from the point of view of a soldier in a war. Sadly, the only part I remember is "you just keep on spilling my guts all over the front line." What can I say? We were kids. And we thought we were brilliant.

It's no secret that "Borderline" is one my favorite, if not THE favorite, Madonna song. I think it's just a perfect glimpse of the brilliance that was to come out of her. Not to get started on my "Celebration" video rant again, but if that video contained even one drop of the brilliance in the "Borderline" video, I would have been so much happier.



And that little outro is probably my favorite 6 seconds that Madonna ever recorded.

See, I'm not all sour on Madonna! Just lazy Madonna.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Holden on

Earlier this summer, I read this article in the NY Times about Holden Caulfied, the main character in the classic J.D. Salinger novel The Catcher in the Rye. I meant to blog it for weeks after reading it, but the words were never there and after a while it seemed, like so many other posts, the ship had sailed and I never did it. I don't know what got me to thinking about it again today, but I decided to give the article another read. The piece uses the recent court decision blocking a non-Salinger penned sequel to The Catcher in the Rye as a springboard to discuss the relevance of the novel in modern times. She uses many examples to argue the point that, while Salinger has been fiercely protective of his creation over the years, the ultimate losing battle was keeping Holden fresh for the youth of today. Many young readers today view Holden, who spends a drunken weekend in New York City sometime in the late 50s, as a whiner with no ambition who is completely unsympathetic and someone with whom they can't relate. Choice quotes from the article illustrate this quite well:

"[Students] can’t really feel bad for this rich kid with a weekend free in New York City."

"In general, they do not have much sympathy for alienated antiheroes; they are more focused on distinguishing themselves in society as it is presently constituted than in trying to change it.”

and my favorite...
Ms. Feinberg recalled one 15-year-old boy from Long Island who told her: “Oh, we all hated Holden in my class. We just wanted to tell him, ‘Shut up and take your Prozac.’ ”

I was really late to The Catcher in the Rye party. It had been on my cultural radar all through junior high and high school, but it was never required reading so I never read it. I didn't actually sit down and read it until I was 20 - when I devoured it in a weekend in the last month of school when I really should have been studying for finals. I was captivated by it, for reasons I can't really articulate all that well. What I can say is that I was at a time in my life when I was feeling very "Holden-ish", in that I felt like I was surrounded by phonies and felt isolated by the life I had made for myself. Looking back, so much of it was self-pity and manufactured drama, but I think that despite all my efforts to pump up the drama of the situation, a germ of truth lay beneath it all. So seeing that feeling mirrored back at me was reassuring but became the equivalent of an echo chamber.

I really related to Holden's feeling of being an outcast in society, surrounded by people who did not have his best interest at heart. I was charmed by his honesty and penchant for being revealing. I longed for the chance to go off like he did, to wander the streets of a big city and have a "come-what-may" attitude. So reading that on the page just made me feel transported, which is what any good piece of fiction will do for you. I also remember being so exceptionally fond of the relationship Holden had with his sister - even going so far as to see shades of my own sister in Phoebe. I still recall vividly the scene where they are walking on opposite sides of the street because she is pissed at him and refuses to walk with him. I don't know why that sticks with me, but it does. Shortly after reading The Catcher in the Rye, I read Jay McInerney's Bright Lights Big City which I have designated on of my all time favorite books. Labeled by many reviewers as an update to The Catcher in the Rye, it features yet another disaffected protagonist kicked in the gut by life whose reaction to life's traumas and dramas seems much more passive than active.

I have not reread The Catcher in the Rye in ages, and I'm almost afraid to because I'm afraid that I would probably fall in with today's youth in decrying Holden's lack of ambition and willingness to blame everyone but himself for his problems. Times change, and hopefully, we change with them. But I think we can still learn by way of Holden's very poor example. Holden is the ultimate settler, allowing life to happen to him rather than grabbing it by the balls and taking charge of his life. Despite what the article said, there are still youth that feel this way, and I think that by pointing this out and using it as a way to start the discussion about not just letting like happen to you, you could end up revitalizing the novel for new audiences. Yes sometimes you have to accept the status quo, but if there's any one thing I have learned in my life it is DON'T FUCKING SETTLE. You will always regret it. And then, the next step would be doing something about, because talking about taking charge of your life is not the same as doing it, but at least the discussion would have been started.

I may have to give Catcher a re-read, but I'm totally re-reading The Amityville Horror first.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Huge face

I haven't done a video blog in a while and I thought "what the hell? Let's shake things up a bit." And since the whole point of doing a video blog is to not have to write anything, let's get on with it. (It was not this dark when I filmed it. Oh well.)




Here's the back of it that I mentioned in the above video. I think that's the coolest part of the shirt.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Blast from the past

I have this long history of eagerly awaiting the arrival of the mail. When I was growing up, I actually wrote letters to a lot of people so I had a reason to obsessively check the mailbox during every commercial break of "The Young & The Restless." As an adult, I find myself still kind of excited by mail delivery, even though it's usually just bills and other things I don't particularly give a shit about.

I'm kind of in a "where's the mail, dammit?" mode because I ordered a Sticky & Sweet Tour shirt from the Live Nation store during a one day $9.99 sale. As I said on Facebook, I absolutely won't spend $30-50 on a crappy tour shirt that cost 50 cents to make, but I will spend 10 bucks. (I was looking for a link to it in the store, but it's apparently sold out. This is the one I bought.) Anyway, that didn't arrive today, but this did:

It is nothing less than a Blond Ambition Tour era postcard! I don't know if it's actually from that time period or not, but who cares because I love that photo! It is one of my all time favorite photos of Madonna. As it turns out my friend Matt found it at a record show he went to this weekend and knew that I would love it. And at only a buck, the price was right. I think it's frickin' awesome.

Semi-relatedly, Madonna's new video is available for free on iTunes right now. I think you almost get your money's worth with it at that price. I'm sorry, but if she isn't going to put any effort into making videos any longer, she just needs to STOP DOING THEM. I know that not everything can be a "Vogue" or "Express Yourself", but seriously! When was the last time she had anything approach the greatness of even some of her late 90s videos? This one is even lamer than the "Give It 2 Me" video was! (even though I kind of liked GI2M at first)

And then, to add insult to injury, there is a "deeeeluxe" (Heidi will get the reference) edition of Celebration on iTunes which is the single most horrific example of money grubbing I have witnessed in quite some time. OK, at 30 bucks, it's probably a deal. You get the two disc set, 30 videos and two bonus tracks, one being a remix of "Celebration" and the other a never-before-heard American Life b-side. I will NOT be purchasing it, mostly on principle but also because this is one rare example of me actually wanting the physical CD vs. the digital copy. I simply cannot justify spending the money twice this time around (like I did with Confessions and Hard Candy). Plus, there is a DVD coming out with FORTY SEVEN videos on it + I already own all those videos on the video collections already out. Paying all that extra dough for what boils down to one song? Forget it. The record company is begging for that to be pirated like crazy.

OK, I'm done bitching. For now. I'll be back tomorrow or the next day with a word or two or fifty about a couple of new releases to really be excited about.