Sunday, May 23, 2010

Baby it's tonight

It's a fact of my life - some songs stick around forever while others get buried in the years that pass between first listen and the present. One of the latter type of songs recently bubbled up - pretty sure it was during my last bunch of overnight shifts. The song was Jude Cole's "Baby It's Tonight." It had been so long since I had heard the song that I had to Google the lyrics to remember who sang it.



Liking a song like this is kind of indefensible, even though it is catchy and has a good hook. But what's worse is going and buying the entire album that the song is on (A View From 3rd Street, for those wondering.) But it was on eMusic and I swear, buying music from eMusic feels like stealing - although it isn't - so it's never hard for me to justify getting music from there. I mean, it wasn't all that long ago that I went on a Samantha Fox buying binge, all thanks to eMusic.

When I first picked it up, I didn't really like anything on it, aside from "Baby It's Tonight." It just didn't click with me for some reason. But for some reason, in the last week, the clicking has commenced. It's good pop music - a bit Bryan Adams-ish for my taste, but I still enjoy it more than is probably legal. As the allmusic review insinuated, there are several good songs that even a couple years earlier would have been all over the radio. The songs are actually pretty smart considering it's just pop music from the dawn of the 90s. Although this may be a bit of a slam, it reminds me of Alannah Myles' debut record which contained the ubiquitous "Black Velvet." Straddling the line between rock and pop, it is actually quite satisfying.

Yeah, the video screams 90s, but he's kind of cool in a douchebaggy (props to Matt & Lance - just doing my part) sort of way which is, oddly enough, the coolest kind of cool there is.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Still trying to save the princess

After months of eyeballing it, today I finally purchased Dragon's Lair for the iPod Touch. For those that don't know, Dragon's Lair is a Don Bluth animated video game from 1983 in which you control the movements of Dirk the Daring through an enchanted castle in an attempt to rescue a princess from the clutches of an evil dragon. When I was a kid, this was the creme de la creme of arcade games. Instead of herky-jerky graphics, it was pretty much a full fledged cartoon that responded to your controls. What could be better?

In all honesty, a lot. I think most of the times I played Dragon's Lair as a kid, the game lasted an average of 1.3 minutes. This was especially distressing because instead of costing a single quarter, it was 50 cents per play which ate up your Adventureland pocket money twice as fast. I could never figure it out. The technology drew you in, but control of the character was so different from every other arcade game we blew our money on that it never gave me a good game playing experience. Mostly, I walked away from it with a bad taste in my mouth and feeling cheated out of my money.

After my early 80s experiences, I never really thought much about Dragon's Lair until I bought a PC version of the game in the mid-90s. It was only then that I really figured out how to control the knight and even then, it was after massive amounts of fail. I managed to maneuver Dirk past all the main obstacles and make it all the way to the dragon's lair, but try as I might, I could never defeat the dragon, and since 90s technology is pretty much incompatible with late 2000s technology, I figured I had missed my chance at ever beating the game. But as is so often the case these days, Apple saved the day.

I spent quite a while this afternoon playing Dragon's Lair on the iPad. Even though it's an iPod app, it looks pretty good on the iPad. I actually can't imagine playing it on something as small as an iPhone, but hey, any port in a storm. Gameplay is just like I remember it except instead of a joystick, there's arrows and a sword button on the screen. In a turn of events that would have made my quarters last a hell of a lot longer as a kid, the controls light up in the direction you're supposed to move Dirk just before you need to do so. This kind of ticked me off at first because after all I'm way too cool to need help! But after a few rounds of getting my ass kicked even WITH the controls that light up, I rethought my position.

Could it get repetitive? Oh sure. Is it frustrating as all get out in some places? Definitely. But it still takes me back to days when my biggest problem was running through my allowance in 15 minutes in the back of Hy-Vee plugging quarters into video games. And the best thing of all? The app is only 99 cents. That's right - for less than the price of a cup of coffee, you too could be playing Dragon's Lair.

Oh, yeah, except you have to have that pesky Apple technology which costs decidedly MORE than the price of the most expensive cup of coffee.

Friday, May 21, 2010

This sweater is old and faded

I was going through some old photos the other night - we were a total fail in making a baby book for Anna and as soon as we get done doing the scrapbook of our vacation from last year, we're going to try to do the same thing for Anna's infancy. Anyway, I found a bunch of pictures from Anna's first Christmas. This one blew my mind.

Every now and then you see a picture of yourself that just makes you think "Damn, when did I get old?" I look at that picture now and can't even remember having that much hair that was NOT gray. But from the some-things-never-change file, I still can dice green peppers like no one else.

But it wasn't even my relative youthfulness and the actual presence of color in my hair that got me - it was that sweater. Man, I LOVED that sweater. I remember that I got it at Kohl's - it was on a mannequin right at the front of the men's department. I had had my eye on it for a while but never felt like I could afford it. Then magically, one weekend, the sweaters were all on sale and I decided I wanted it. Sadly, they didn't have it in my size except for the one on the mannequin. So I had one of the employees take it off the mannequin. They probably were all "what the hell" but hey, they were making a sale.

I'm pretty sure I still have that sweater - I think it's at the bottom of the cedar chest. I don't really wear sweaters as much anymore and I know that it's not in the best of shape but I think I might have to figure out a way to resurrect it next winter.

But that doesn't mean I'm going to dye my hair. I like the gray just fine.

(post title inspiration here)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Headless

So the other day, I was doing a little bit of rearranging in my office. It's been a long time since I reorganized the shelves upon which so many of the pop culture/horror figures I've managed to collect over the years stand and I figured why not now? I had decided that I wanted to try to group all the Alien figures in one space on a short bookshelf next to my desk. I had just enough room and they were all standing comfortably next to Doctor Octopus my mom found at a flea market and the glow-in-the-dark zombies that I got for Christmas.

Standing comfortably until the other morning when I came back in from my shower to discover one of the Aliens had taken a head-first dive to the floor and gone from this:


to this:


I have always been a little bit disappointed with this figure even though he is highly detailed and very cool looking. It was a constant battle to get him to stand up, always trying to find the magic combination of standing on one foot, patting your head and rubbing your stomach in an effort to encourage him to stay upright. Up on the high shelf, he was very precariously balanced. He actually seemed to stand up better upon relocation to a lower shelf, but I can only assume the magnified vibrations of footsteps in the floor (not to mention the trains that go through several times a day) proved to be too much.

It's probably nothing a little super glue can't fix, but it still kind of sucks. I have half a mind to super glue him to his base to prevent this from happening again. But such a quick fix didn't stop me from looking for a better, more sturdy replacement. Sadly, there is not much to be had that doesn't cost a pretty penny. (The Dog Alien is especially coveted.)

So I guess until I get my lazy butt to Hy-Vee to buy some super glue, in space, no one can hear HIM scream.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Not gonna give in to it

For whatever reason, today just never really seemed to start. And oddly enough, it's not because did what I normally do on my day off from work - sleeping easy, doing nothing. (It's attractive.) I was oddly productive today, getting out to the grocery store pretty much first thing, followed by mailing a package and depositing a check. I also finished my proof from Dreamspinner that I've been working on. But for whatever reason, I just can't shake the funk off today.

I think a lot of it has to do with the weather. It's COLD today. 51 degrees for May 10th is unseasonably cold. It FROZE the other night - something that while not unprecedented is also not common. It's gray and rainy and were this a fall day, I'd be reveling in it. But instead, it's supposed to be spring and it today feels like a step backward. From what, I'm not sure, but a step backward nonetheless.

Another thing that is really getting me is that despite having 8 days off of work, I am still operating on a significant sleep deficit. And I've finally figured out where my sleep deficit comes from - it comes from my early shifts. It's not so bad getting up at 5AM, even though I vowed when I was in college that I would never have a job that required me to report to work prior to 9AM. Life never goes quite like you expect it to and your ability to adapt to it is directly proportional to your success. But getting up at 5AM requires me really to not only be in bed no later than 10PM but honestly, I need to be sawing logs by 10PM. That just doesn't happen. In my younger days (read: my early 30s) I could handle this, but it's been one of the first real signs of aging that I've felt. So I end up going to bed at 11:30PM or midnight and wondering why I'm tired the next day.

Of course, all this sets me up for failure because not being well rested affects pretty much every other aspect of your health - both physical and mental. It messes me up and takes the smart part of my brain offline and puts the more primitive parts of my brain in charge. This is exactly what leads to anxiety, depression and general crabbiness.

I went out with Heidi to the chiropractor this morning and I was listening to Olivia Newton-John, having been put in the mood by last week's Glee, and the song "Not Gonna Give In To It" came on. It's a latter day Olivia song, recorded long after her hit-making days were behind her. It comes from the album Gaia, which was written almost wholly in response to her experience with breast cancer. I love this song because it has a positive message without seeming like a platitude - this isn't "a smile is a frown turned upside down" territory. I like the honest confession that we really are alone in our troubles. Others can support us, but we're ultimately the ones that have to do the work. Witness:

And I feel so alone
For although you care
No one else can share
It's my own misery
In the end it's all up to me

I never even knew this song until I saw Olivia in concert with my sister Wendy in 2005. The performance of this song was electrifying and fit in well with all the oldies. While this performance isn't quite as good as the one we saw, it's the best one I can find on YouTube.



Really, I live a charmed live. I'm amazingly lucky, but much like everyone else in the world, it's not always a walk in the park. It's times like these that I remember what my grandfather always used to say "Life is great as long as you don't weaken." And to tell you the truth, that's really just another way of saying "I'm not gonna give in to it."

Grandpa and Olivia - what a strange pair they would have made!

Friday, May 07, 2010

Chrissy

So can you tell I'm not on vacation any longer? Gone are the days of 2 posts a day and we're back to the once a week blogging that seems to be customary these days. Vacation was good - not stress free by any stretch of the imagination - but still good. In many ways, it was good to be back at work.

The biggest unintended excitement of last week was the demise of one of our water heaters. Mid week last week while I was washing the dishes, I noticed that while the faucet was only half way between hot and cold and the water was so hot that I couldn't put my hand under it. Now I don't know much about things like this, but I do know that wild fluctuations in water temperature are a sign that the water heater is about to go. It seemed to calm down over the course of the week, but by the weekend, there was no hot water on that side of the house. It came back eventually, but it was intermittent throughout the weekend. Also telling was the presence of a water around the base of the heater. It was leaking and yeah, it was dying.

So we put a call in to the plumber to have them come take a look at it. It didn't take long for us to get the diagnosis - new water heater needed. Before too long , we had a new water heater to replace the old dying one and all was back to normal. I really didn't know how old the other one was - I just knew that it was OLD - so I asked the plumber to look up and see how old it was. Turns out it was installed in 1972! That's right, the year I was born, making it 38 years old. The fact that a water heater lasted 38 years just tells me that they don't make 'em like they used to.

Of course, I have only one association with 38 years. For those in the dark, that's how long Dorothy and Stan Zbornak's marriage lasted before ending in a bitter divorce. Dorothy references the length of her marriage in many a Golden Girls episode, so it's only natural that it's the first thing I would think of. When Heidi e-mailed me to inform me of the new water heater, I e-mailed back with "38 years of memories and laughter and fighting!" Man, that show still holds up after all these years.

So in honor of that, I've named the new water heater "Chrissy" because that was the name of the woman for whom Stan left Dorothy after 38 years. Let's hope that our relationship with this Chrissy lasts longer than Stan & Chrissy's relationship on the show did.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Year of 25 Books: #8 - Warriors: Into The Wild

When Anna heard that I was trying to read 25 books this year, she 1) thought that sounded pretty paltry because she had to read 100 chapter books in order to get her iPod touch and 2) jumped at the chance to pick one of the books when I gave her that option. What she came up with was the first book in Erin Hunter's Warriors series, Into The Wild. She had just finished it and had been regaling me with tidbits from it and thought I would enjoy it as well.

The Warriors series is told from the point of view of wild cats that make up four forest clans - ThunderClan, WindClan, ShadowClan and RiverClan. The clans coexist rather uneasily, with the forest hunting grounds divided up amongst them and rules in place that keep them from hunting in each others' territories, with specially trained warrior cats patrolling the clan boundaries. But times are hard in the forest. Prey is scarce and hunting grounds are shrinking due to "twoleg" (human) encroachment. ThunderClan in particular is in trouble as they are outnumbered and lacking in kittens to train to become warriors in comparison to the other clans. Into all this comes an ordinary house cat, Rusty, who enjoys his "kittypet" status but also longs for a freedom that he can't articulate.

After getting into a skirmish with a ThunderClan cat on the edge of the forest, clan leaders Bluestar and Lionheart invite Rusty to leave his privileged life behind and join the clan. He does so, is given the name Firepaw, thus setting the stage for the rest of the book.

Into The Wild is, for the most part, pretty well written. It has a strong narrative but I'll admit that I had a hard time getting into this book. However, I'm not exactly the target demographic. I can see why kids like it, especially those that like animals (cats in particular.) It's a quick and easy read that's filled with action and adventure while making sure to get some good lessons on loyalty, friendship and facing your fears in for good measure. In many respects, it reminded me of a cat version of Watership Down, a book I have never read all the way through but watched the animated movie of a million times as a kid.

A couple things bothered me about the book. The first was the excessive use of strange names for the cats. For example, we have Bluestar, Lionheart, Firepaw, Ravenpaw, Graypaw, Tigerclaw, Runningnose, Yellowfang, Longtail and Brokenstar, just to name a few. How kids can tell all these cats apart is beyond me. Even toward the end of the book, I was having a hard time figuring out who was who. It reminded me of when I was reading Lord of the Rings and trying to navigate all the similar names in order to figure out why I should care about any of these people. The second thing that bugged me a little bit was the amount of violence. Several cats do die in this book, frequently rather unexpectedly. The descriptions were not graphic by any means, but frankly, I was surprised that didn't bother Anna more than it did. I can see a sensitive kid being disturbed by it.

Anna is trying to get me to read the next book in the series, but I think I'm going to take a pass on that one. I have more books than I can ever possibly read in my to-be-read pile, and 272 pages of talking warrior cats was more than enough for me.