Sunday, July 31, 2005

Mass grave

My sister snapped this photo while she was out west last fall. There's something about labeling something a mass grave that is equal parts intriguing and freakish. This particular mass grave happens to be at Little Big Horn National Monument in Montana.

All I can think is I can't imagine being there if zombie scenarios actually ever came true. But I suppose it's only the recently dead that are reanimated in most zombie scenarios. *shrug*

Friday, July 29, 2005

Sheep = stupid farm animals

Anna has a pair of books called Sheep in a Jeep and Sheep Out to Eat which just crack me up. The sheep in these books are completely and utterly clueless. In Sheep in a Jeep, they completely trash a jeep and in Sheep Out to Eat, they trash a tea shop because they add pepper to food and start sneezing. Various calamity ensues in each book, but Anna and I think that it's hilarious. Maybe we're just easily amused, but this is how kids books should be done.

The reason they're so great is because sheep truly are the stupidest of all the farm animals. Despite what the BBC might say on the subject, my wife is a born and bred Iowa farm girl and her word is pretty much law on all things agrarian around our house. And she says sheep are definitely deficient on smarts. Our friends Barb and Chip have a bunch of sheep at their farm and every time I've seen them, they're just standing around in the pen braying (or whatever it is that sheep do) waiting to be fed. And as far as I'm concerned, any farm animal that would live up to the lemming myth (see this article) qualifies for all time stupidest farm animal.

So we got another one of the sheep books when we were at the library the other day--this time Sheep Trick or Treat. Not nearly as good. The sheep have gotten smarter.

Smart sheep do not good humor make.

Random fact about me

I've never been able to stay up for 24 hours in a row. And it's certainly not for lack of trying either. Hell, I couldn't even stay awake for 24 hours at either my junior or senior prom. I also stumbled across an old journal of mine from 1992 where I was on spring break and was staying up all night and sleeping a good chunk of the day. Well, one day my goal was to stay up till 11:06 AM so that I could say that I was up for 24 hours. I didn't make it. I think I ended up going to bed around 9 AM, just two hours shy of the mark.

Totally Diva

To continue with my recent Annie Lennox fest, I got the DVD Annie Lennox: Totally Diva from Netflix the other day. I sat up and watched it last night. While not the best collection of videos in the world, they mostly fit the songs. They weren't elaborate productions that we come to expect from the likes of Madonna, but they were very Annie.

They had the videos for the singles--"Why" and "Walking on Broken Glass" (although the fantastic video for "Little Bird" is conspicuously absent.) I always loved the many different Annies that came out to join the real and obviously very pregnant Annie on stage. But additionally, there were videos for all but one of the other songs. Even the CD bonus track "Keep Young & Beautiful" had a video. Like I said, they weren't spectacular (except for "Walking on Broken Glass" and all of it's Dangerous Liasons garb.)

But my favorite of all the videos was for probably my favorite song on Diva--"Money Can't Buy It." It features Annie with a towel over her head singing with herself in the mirror. And that's pretty much it. The whole thing was very Joan Crawford and I can't wait to show the video to Jeff. And if the whole mirror duet thing wasn't enough, she even breathes on the mirror and plays with the condensation. What a concept, right?

Gotta love good old Annie Lennox.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Jagged Little Pill (Acoustic)

Bought Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill Acoustic tonight on iTunes before Anna and I drove to Carroll. I had seen it at Starbucks in Iowa City a week or so ago but balked at spending $17.99 for songs that I technically already own. But when it became available on iTunes today, I couldn't resist the $9.99 sticker price. I always like Jagged Little Pill although mostly I started listening to Alanis because of the Madonna connection (Alanis is on Maverick Records, the vanity label Madonna started around the time of Erotica.) The album is classic 90s and listening to it 10 years later (and believe me, I haven't listened to it much in at least the last 5 years or so) was kind of a weird experience. I've always felt a little bit bad for Alanis because of the massive success of JLP. It's her Thriller--selling a bajillion copies with no hope of any follow up--no matter how good--coming even close to selling a comparable amount. Consequently, everything she's done since has been seen as a failure, or at the very least, underperforming. And that's sad because "Thank U", "Uninvited" and the absolutely brilliant "Surrendering" (from Under Rug Swept) are as good as anything on JLP.

The CD doesn't break any new ground--although I didn't really expect it to. Alanis has done acoustic versions of these songs before most notably on Alanis Unplugged but even her Grammy performance of "You Oughta Know" was acoustic the year she cleaned up at the Grammys. And, of course, it's not like we haven't heard these songs before. But what it did remind me of was how brilliant the last half of the album really is. Pretty much starting with "You Learn" and going all the way through the rest of the CD, it's standout song after standout song.

Listening to "Ironic" today (all the "there's nothing in the song that's ironic!" debates aside) just serves to show how much Alanis is defined by this album and (arguably) this song. And I had to chuckle when she changes the line "it's like meeting the man of your dreams/and then meeting his beautiful wife" to "his beautiful husband." Way to go, Alanis! "Not The Doctor" (another great song from the last half of the album) is altered from its original version by making the verses in a minor key and the chorus in the regular major key.

But perhaps the most remarkable change is the bulking up of "Your House"--the hidden track at the end of JLP. Originally an a cappella, it benefits greatly from the addition of instrumentation. The song is solidified and fully a part of the album. And the lyrics--well, they're a heartbreaker.

Definitely worth the 10 bucks I spent on iTunes.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

CD Spotlight -- 7/24/2005

It's been a long time since I've done my CD spotlight--I think the last one must have been several months ago. Anyway, I was looking through my CDs the other day and there was Savage by Eurythmics staring back at me. I couldn't remember the last time that I'd listened to it, but it's one of those CDs that even though it doesn't get listened to very often I could never dream of parting with it.

I can still remember seeing the first video released from this album--the tres bizarre "Beethoven (I Love To Listen To)" which featured Annie Lennox dressed up as a dowdy housewife and her alter ego sexpot. I sure didn't know what to make of it because it was a radical departure from stuff like "Missionary Man" and "Thorn In My Side" (released just a year or so prior.) I mocked it publicly, but privately, I was intrigued. It's one of those songs that really didn't have a prayer of making it at radio--even then, when radio was a little bit more forgiving than it is now. As quickly as "Beethoven" appeared, it disappeared from MTV and they started playing "I Need A Man" which had Annie dressed up as the same sexpot as "Beethoven" did.

By then, I'd determined that I was going to buy the album (which I bought on cassette tape one Sunday afternoon in January of 1988.) And I immediately loved the album. The whole album is a little bit more experimental than what Eurythmics had been doing--they kind of abandoned the whole straight-forward rock thing that they'd done for a couple albums. I think it was with Savage that I truly began to appreciate Annie Lennox's talent. I'd had the album Revenge and was never all that impressed with it--mostly because not much else on it sounded anything like the singles--but without the burden of hit singles, Savage appealed to me on a level that I hadn't expected. Songs like "You Have Placed A Chill In My Heart," "Shame," and "I've Got A Lover (Back In Japan)" were just the thing that my introverted 15-year-old self needed. Plus my friend Kelly liked Savage as well, so that just made it even cooler.

Funny thing, it's the only Eurythmics CD (apart from Greatest Hits) that I still have. I've purchased others and subsequently sold them. It's the one Eurythmics album that still speaks to me in pretty much the same language it did back in 1988.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Crumblin' down

As my father would say, good riddance to bad rubbish. Knapp and Storms Halls, two "suitcase" dorms on the Iowa State campus here in Ames were imploded on Tuesday. I think my brother lived in Knapp when he was in college (he lived in one of the "Towers" as they were referred to here) and I'm sure he'd agree with my assessment that rather than spending all that money on explosives, they could have just used a lighter to light all the residual alcohol vapors. To say that the Towers were the party dorms doesn't really do it justice. They weren't actually on campus, more like 6-7 blocks south of campus so their separation from campus seemed to fuel the party atmosphere. I, mostly, just thought they were damn ugly. Kind of like low income housing projects from the 60s in the middle of Ames.

Wallace and Wilson, the two Towers left standing are not scheduled for implosion despite the fact that they aren't being used as dorms anymore. Apparently, they're going to be used as extra hotel space for university events. Personally, I'd feel kind of cheated if I came to the university for something and they put me up in an old dorm that wasn't good enough for students. Plus, you'd have to use communal bathrooms. Eww!

Wendy and I attended the implosion--it was a once in a lifetime thing. I mean, how often do they implode a high rise building in Ames, Iowa? It's been the talk of the town recently--so much that at work the other night, somebody brought up the exploding whale, which really speaks for itself.

RIP Knapp and Storms. You were damn ugly.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Everything here is edible...

Wendy and I went to Charlie & The Chocolate Factory last night. I've been a little bit nervous about the movie ever since I saw the teaser trailer a few months back. Honestly, I wasn't sure that Johnny Depp could pull off Wonka, and after seeing the trailer, it looked like my instincts were right. It seemed like Johnny was just being a little bit too weird this time around. Well, I can say that even though my instincts seemed right, they couldn't have been more wrong.

This movie was one heck of a lot of fun to watch. As a kid, I loved the Gene Wilder version, but I think this one is even better. It's tighter, better paced and completely lacking in the ridiculous songs that do nothing but slow down the story ("Cheer Up, Charlie" springs immediately to mind.) And Johnny Depp is the perfect Willy Wonka. Now I can see why Gene Wilder was being so bitchy about the remake--this movie is simply better than his, and truer to the source material to boot.

It's been years since I've read the book--probably grade school--but I remembered enough about it to know that it was a lot darker than the 1971 version of the film (which Roald Dahl apparently hated.) I had completely forgotten about how Vercua Salt was a bad nut--and not a bad egg like the 1971 film portrayed. And it's easy to see why they went with geese laying golden eggs instead of a room full of squirrels sitting on stools testing and shelling nuts. The technology simply didn't exist then to do that convincingly. But I was glad that the squirrels were back--it was a great scene, just a little bit scary, but not so scary that kids will have nightmares.

That's kind of my take on the whole movie--darker (but not too scary) and better. I'd expect nothing less than dark from Tim Burton, though. However, the best part of thew hole movie is how they put my favorite scene from the book into the movie--notably absent in the Gene Wilder movie. And that's the scene where the other kids are leaving the factory, restored (for the most part) to their original selves. I remember reading that scene in the book wishing I could see what happened to the other kids and now, well, you can.

Heidi will probably want to see it, and Anna would probably like it too, although I'm tempted to not let her see it until she's old enough to have heard the story. But who knows. A good summer film that lived up to its potential, in spite of my reservations.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Barbarella: Queen of the Galaxy

So the other night I watched Barbarella on DVD from Netflix. Although I've actually wanted to watch the movie for a long time--my folks actually saw this movie at a drive-in if memory serves me--I blame the Jane Fonda book for driving me to actually queue the movie up in Netflix and watch it. Now that I've finished watching it, I'm not quite sure what to say except that it was mostly pretty bad.

I wanted to like it--really I did. I love all that stuff that's all kitschy and over-the-top. But the kicker is, it has to be done with a little bit of class. Barbarella fundamentally lacked class. It was weird, it was almost as if it were trying too hard to be all kitschy, which seems weird because it's not as if it were a throwback like Austin Powers or something. It was actually made during the late 60s when shag carpeting was all the rage. (That was my favorite part of Barbarella's ship, the orange-brown shage carpeting that lined it.)

There wasn't much to the plot--Barbarella was sent to find the scientist Durand Durand before he unleashes his positronic ray and threatens the peace of the galaxy. I loved the parts where Barbarella was asking people "Tell me, have you seen Durand Durand?" and I always wanted to say, no, but I have a couple of their CDs. Barbarella changes clothes almost as much as Cher on the Farewell Tour and has relations with several different people--all off screen of course (it was 1968 after all.)

I think my biggest trouble was that Jane Fonda playing Barbarella was like Judy Bernly playing Barbarella. Judy Bernly is the first role I ever saw Jane Fonda in and so it's really stuck in my head. Every time I hear Jane Fonda's voice, it's inextricably linked to Judy Bernly's.

However, my favorite part of the whole movie was the opening credits--and not for the reasons you might expect. While I chuckled at the zero-gravity strip-tease what made me laugh uproariously was the theme song. It was a classic late-60's easy listeningish song that dared to rhyme "Barbarella" with "psychadella" (which isn't even a word, which reminds me of the "Golden Girls" episode where Dorothy expounds on how the word "intrauterine" doesn't belong in a song, but I digress.) Needless to say, I sound captured that sucker. It's hilarious.

Audioscrobbler reset

I reset my Audioscrobbler stats today. I really wish I hadn't had to do it, but they were incredibly skewed because sometime last week every song that I listened to was submitted 7 times for every 1 time that I actually listened to it. This made me look like a much more die-hard Liz Phair fan than I actually am (not to mention fan of the theme song from the TV show "Maude".) I mean, I like Liz's self-titled poppish album, but not so much that I'd listen to 115 Liz Phair songs in a week. *sigh* So anyway, gone are all my stats, but it'll be fun to rebuild them again.

Wendy and I are off to "Charlie & The Chocolate Factory" tonight. I'll let you know what I think.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The end of the world as we know it

Do you feel fine?

I stumbled across the site Exit Mundi - A Collection of End-Of-World Scenarios which makes for some fascinating reading. Most timely was the scenario about the oil peak, which only served to make the book The Long Emergency (which I recently read, and blogged a Salon article relating to it) even more real. That book seriously freaked me out. Wendy read it too and we agreed that it was a deliberately painting the worst-case scenario, but man, we all know that oil is a finite resource and getting the last half of the oil out of the ground will be a lot harder than getting the first half. And with demand up around the world, how long will it last.

And of course, there's a zombie scenario.

(via Metafilter)

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Madonna at Live 8

I'm late in blogging my reaction to Madonna's performance at Live 8 over the 4th of July weekend, but I offer up as my excuse that I have only recently seen it. Not that you could expect to see it on MTV or VH1, but thanks to the wonders of the web and various Madonna fan sites, I was able to watch it on my computer.

And wow. I was nervous at first, because I was just as sure as anything that she'd be beholden to sing "Imagine" which seems to be her stand-by song for benefits these days. But miraculously, cooler heads prevailed and she picked three songs out of her catalog that worked really well together. The combination of "Like A Prayer," "Ray of Light," and "Music" really did it for me. As expected, I was tickled to death that she chose to do an old song, but she's been doing "Like A Prayer" a lot recently so no big shock there. I loved her being just a little bit naughty "OK, this is where everyone sings along. And I wanna hear you fuckers!" and she seemed to be having a great time up there. It just makes me wish that damn Re-Invention Tour DVD would hurry up and get released already!!

The fact that she didn't totally suck was refreshing. "Imagine" in the set list might not have doomed her to complete suckitude, but its absence assured greatness. One thing I will say, Maddy's really showing her age these days--but at least she's growing old with a little bit of grace and not going out and having tons of plastic surgery like other divas (*cough* Cher *cough*) have. (And that's no disrepect to Cher. If Anna heard I was dissing Cher, she'd find a new daddy.)

Can't wait till she tours again in 2006!!

Is there anything Google *doesn't* do right?

First, it was their search engine, then it was Gmail. After that came Google Maps (with the way cool satellite feature.) Now it's Google Earth. Still in beta, but what a beta it is. I only wonder what it would do if I had a better video card in my computer.

Check it out. Totally worth it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Jane's life ... so far

I just finished Jane Fonda's autobiography My Life So Far (the title of which just cracks me up because it smacks so much of Jenny Fields' working title for her autobiography until it morphed into the much better A Sexual Suspect.) Truthfully, Jane Fonda has never interested me a terrible amount, but I saw her on the talk show circuit promoting the book and I was really impressed with what I saw. Whatever you think of Fonda's politics, here's a woman who has truly lived. She hasn't been half-assed about it in any way or form. From where she is in her life now (she's 67, which just totally blows my mind) she can look back on a heck of a lot.

The book is divided into three acts, much like Fonda describes her life. The first act is mostly her childhood and early adulthood--up until the age of about 30 or so. The second act (which is the majority of the book) chronicles her life from 30-60 and goes into a lot of depth about her political activism ("Hanoi Jane") as well as her career choices. I sometimes felt like her movies were skimmed over in favor of "meatier" things like her Vietname war protesting, but in retrospect, it really shaped the person that she became so it's easy to see her focusing on it heavily. Truthfully, what I was really looking forward to in the book was the part devoted to the making of 9 to 5, one of my all-time favorite movies that still has the capacity to make me laugh out loud to this day. ("It looks just like Skinny & Sweet, except for the little skull and crossbones on the label!")

The last part of the book is devoted mostly to her marriage to Ted Turner (a really fun read--too bad it ended poorly for her) and her "spiritual awakening" for lack of a better word. She became a Christian late in her life and one of the really interesting parts of the book talks about how she's met and become good friends with a lot of conservative Republican Christians--people she would have dismissed out of hand earlier in her life. She wrote something like "earlier in my life, I would have never gotten close enough to see the fundamental similarity between us" or something like that anyway.

It was a pretty quick read and a great summer read. I love a good biography and this really satisfied my craving. I always love to read a good story about someone who has completely not wasted their life.

In the meantime, we're gonna need a special locker for the hat.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Complete assholes

I know that sometimes I can get a little carried away with my political beliefs and pretty much damn anyone who doesn't believe as I do, but this absolutely takes the cake. These people are complete and utter assholes, as if we needed anymore evidence.

Heidi's current WIP features a gay subplot that's going to have as its antagonist a pastor of a local religious right congregation. So she went to the Fred Phelps site God H@t3s (purposely obfuscated so that search engines won't get my site when that particular search term is entered) to get a better idea of what her antagonist in its worst possible form might look like. She was sickened. And rightly so. Not only do they have the standard idiotic anti-gay rhetoric, they actually have the balls to celebrate the London bombings! I'm not even going to link to the page--if you want to see it, you know how to get there.

For the love of God, have these people no soul? I guess the answer to that is pretty obvious.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Inappropriate stick choice

So yesterday was the 4th of July. Jeff came over last night and stayed really late (which was lots of fun.) We grilled hamburgers and I got a fire going in the fire pit. Every time we put a fire in the fire pit, Anna wants to roast marshmallows--never mind that she won't eat them, she just wants to roast them. So I tell her to go get a marshmallow stick from the brush pile. And this is what she picks out for her marshmallow stick.

She eventually found something a little more appropriate.

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Monday, July 04, 2005

Laura's Working 9 to 5

I found this incredibly hilarious mash-up of Scissor Sisters' "Laura" and Dolly Parton's "9 to 5" this morning while surfing around the web. It's called "Laura's Working 9 to 5." What makes it even funnier is that in my wife's current WIP, she makes reference to one of the characters thinking that "Laura" sounds like "9 to 5." Too funny.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Justice O'Connor

I got home from work today and Heidi immediately informed me that Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was retiring from the Supreme Court. Not totally unexpected but still surprised it wasn't Rehnquist. But after all, she is 75 and God help me if I'm still working at 75. (With any luck, I'll be 58 when I retire thanks to IPERS and the rule of 88.) And that's another 25 years yet and that seems like a hell of a long time to work.

I'm not going to do what many will expect here and rant about how this is terrible for our country because of the right-wing extremist that Bush will try to appoint to the court. While I think he'll probably try to appoint a right-wing extremist, I'm not so worried about that. What I am worried about is what the upcoming bloodbath of a confirmation hearing will do to our country. For this reason and this reason alone, it is IMPERATIVE that Bush nominate a moderate. Anything else threatens ripping this already fractured nation down the middle beyond repair. It's gotten so bad in this country that both sides of the fence are equally culpable in the schism that divides left and right. Something has to start healing this country, and a deeply partisan confirmation battle for the Supreme Court will not start us down that road.

Some on the right would say that us liberals should just wise up and realize that most of the country voted for Bush and supports his policies. There are days I feel like that, but that's not the answer. There's room enough in this country for both opinions, but we can't go on divided like this forever.