Thursday, August 30, 2007

Red state, schmed state

Sure, we Iowans may have voted for George W. Bush in the last election, but who's to say we're really a red state? Our legislative and executive branch are both Democratically controlled, and apparently, we have some judges who interpret the Constitution to apply to everyone - and not just a select few. Observe:

Iowa Judge Says Marriage Not Just Man, Woman.

Well, hallelujah. It's about damn time.

Of course, such a thing brings out the trolls and the Bible quoters, but I do honestly believe we will look back in 50 years and realize that this is NO DIFFERENT than the civil rights movement of the 1960s. It just has a different face.

I have never been so happy to have a Democratic governor in this state, because you can bet that had Jim Nussle been elected governor, he would have put the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage on the fast track. And if we had had a Republican controlled legislature, we might be looking at that as a reality.

Do I think that gay marriage will be legal in Iowa? I'm not sure. Despite the fact that I don't think we are a red state, we are most definitely purple. There is a lot of conservatism in Iowa, mostly due to its rural nature. Western Iowa is VERY conservative. Even the county in which I live would almost undoubtedly vote predominantly Republican if it weren't for Ames. And if you look at the unscientific polls on the news site in the above link, you'll see that people react strongly on one side or the other. And we're pretty evenly split. So yes, there will be opposition. But I think that the ball has started rolling and I look forward to, at the very least, civil unions for my gay and lesbian friends.

It's not about religion folks. It's about equal protection under the law. You cannot grant rights to some of your citizens and not to others. Period.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Chakras and auras and enneagrams, oh my!

So tomorrow night, I am going to go to the first in a series of classes on chakras. It is taught by Heidi's yoga teacher and she went to the class on Tuesday morning. Word on the street is that it's a good class. I'm very eager to take this class as I'm starting this book called Wheels of Light which is all about chakras and auras and healing energy. There is a part of me that thinks "OK, this is WAY too new-agey for you, Mr. Science Head" but I think that there is a lot to be learned from the things that Heidi and I call "woo." Because really, if a tiny molecule that you can't even see can lower your blood pressure or cure an infection, why is it such a stretch to believe in living energy and auras and what not.

I took a test once in a book called What Color Is Your Aura? and I will never forget that I am a crystal aura. I remember a crystal aura being the "chameleon aura" - in that it takes up the colors of those around them. To put this in a more literal sense, people with a crystal aura tend to suck up energy from other people - both good and bad, so it's really important to surround yourself with only the best possible influences. I know for a fact that when people who are bad for me are around me, I become a much worse version of myself. I have been learning over the years not to suck up other people's problems - "not my pig, not my farm" as Heidi's friend Sue would say. That is usually easier said than done, but I'm getting better.

But anyway, back to chakras. I'm eager to learn more about them because I feel like it is the key to understanding a better way of thinking. From the very little I've read about them, I can tell that my chakras are not in the healthiest state. I feel like they're blocked in many places and that the key to unblocking them is understanding them better.

It all boils down to my enneagram, as usual. I'm a four, and as a four, I'm all about the drama. As my wife and fellow-four says, the drama that we work up together, heck, we should be selling tickets. But my hope is that through a better understanding of the chakra and a little bit more of an internal focus, I'll be able to to tone down the drama a little bit - or, as Carly Simon would say, "turn down the noise in my life."

So we'll see. I'll report back tomorrow - it better be good as I postponed a much needed haircut to go to the class. But then again, after doing the bills tonight, it might be wise to postpone it till the next paycheck.

New Dolly

Dolly's new record isn't due out until next year, but the new single is already up for download on iTunes. Dolly says that this is a "mainstream country" record, and judging from the song "Better Get To Livin'", there's little doubt that she'd like to break back onto the country charts. I love the use of the classic script "Dolly" logo - I can't remember the last time we saw that!

But more than that, the song has a bridge that would make a certain "middle eight" loving blogger go weak in the knees.

Bless Dolly - even though she's pretty much nothing but plastic these days, I still love her to death.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Only when I'm dancing can I feel this free

I communed with my 15-year-old self last night.

It was rather odd actually. We went out last night to The Garden, which is the gay and lesbian nightclub in Des Moines. I had never been there before - although Heidi had, by herself, on a night when the dancefloor was not open. She met the owners in true Heidi fashion and ended up getting a tour of the place. So it was little surprise when she announced that was where she wanted to spend the evening of her birthday. And I was certainly game - although I was a bit nervous as well. Would I stick out like a sore thumb? Would I be the oldest person there? The answers to both were no.

So anyway, back to this communion. It happened at quite an odd time really. The dance floor opened at 10pm - we had gotten there just before 9 and had spent the time with Caryle, Kathy, Mary and her date Jim in the front bar watching the videos that are displayed on one large screen and several smaller screens throughout the bar. It was so much fun watching videos again - it's something that just doesn't happen much unless you're actively searching for them online. Most of them were for songs I had never heard of before - but really, so much the better. And what better place to be exposed to new music than in a gay nightclub? Suffice to say, I came home that night and made a few purchases based on videos I saw.

Once the dance floor opened, I went in and inspected. It was more of a dance pit, surrounded by chairs and tables along with a bar. Along the edges were "stages" kind of a la American Bandstand (only nowhere near as kitschy) where people could also dance. I listened to some of the stuff that was being played and, sadly, did not recognize much of it. I had asked the owner earlier what kind of music gets played, fearing that it would be all hardcore trance, etc. but he characterized it as mostly top 40 remixes and house remixes of older songs. Still, as one that is not overly familiar with top 40 these days, I wondered if I'd recognize anything.

We danced to a few mindless trancey remixes that were fun, but still, it had nothing on Neo in Chicago, where every song was one I knew that we all sang along to - I mean, seriously, how often does one get to dance to "Rip Her To Shreds" while surrounded by people that appreciate it as much as you do? But as Heidi and I were sitting on the edge of the dance floor, listening to generic dance beat after generic dance beat, suddenly, I heard something familiar, calling out to me from nearly 20 years prior.

"No one looked as I walked by
Just an invitation would have been just fine."

Dear God, it was Stevie herself, beckoning me back out to the floor.

If I had told my 15-year-old self that at 35 years of age, he'd be dancing to a dance remix (officially commissioned even!) of "Stand Back" at a gay nightclub in Des Moines with his wife, he surely would have laughed in my face - well, after he got done asking what a dance remix was. But it was so surreal, so perfect, it blended my past in with my present and my future. It was as if, for that brief period of time, everything made perfect sense, as if things that had happened in my life were preparing me for that moment of union. The only thing that I would have changed is I would never have let "Stand Back" segue into the next song without hearing the "I need a little sympathy/Why don't you taaaaaaaaaaaaaake me home?" section. I was waiting for that part and it never happened.

I know, I'm probably making the random play of a song in a club into a bigger deal than it was, but I can't shake it. And while I had been comfortably loosened by liquor, I was not at that point (or at any point in the evening) drunk. So you can't chalk it up to alcohol. There were other songs played that night, including a perfect trifecta of the Freemasons' remix of Beyonce's "Green Light" followed by a remix of Rihanna's "Umbrella" and then topped off by "Hung Up" which required me to go get Heidi from the front bar and make her dance with me. But none moved me like Stevie's 20 year old song.

It was not all dancing though. There was also a drag show which featured a great Cher impersonator that I actually had the courage to go up and tip a buck to. Apparently, there's an even better one coming to The Garden in two weeks time which we plan to go see as well.

It was all for Heidi's birthday, but I got a lot out of it too. While I didn't talk to anyone outside of our party, it was great to meet Mary's friend Jim who is officially another cool straight guy. But I also learned a lot about myself - last night was LIVING, living in the now and not being afraid. It's so easy to get caught up in birth, school, work, death that you forget that there's so much to be experienced in the now. In many ways, it was being set free, if just for a bit.

I loved my first trip to The Garden. I don't think it will be my last.

(what I love most about this remix - and most of the other ones on iTunes, is how much it respects its source material. I think this is rather rare in remixing nowadays.)

Friday, August 24, 2007

34 -- not just a Dave Matthews Band song

It's also how old Heidi is on Saturday!! She has done her own birthday post already, and I'll redirect you there as it's (as usual) very literate and well-written. We have big plans to drop Anna off with my folks tomorrow morning and then head to Des Moines for fun and excitement. Good food at Court Avenue Restaurant and Brewery followed by dancing at The Garden which was Heidi's request. As she said, it's a new adventure, something we don't usually do - especially not at our rapidly advancing age. ;) So we'll see how it goes.

Happy birthday honey! I love you so much, and, in the words of Sprial Starecase - more today than yesterday, but not as much as tomorrow.

Farewell Bat Boy

We hardly knew ye. Yes, I was SHOCKED when I opened up Salon tonight and found out that Weekly World News is suspending its publication. How sad - it was truly a highlight of the grocery store checkout line. I think I actually bought an issue once - seriously, what was I thinking? The headlines were always the best, but perhaps the best ever was the tiny mermaid found in a can of tuna. In Iowa of all places. I can't believe that the local news networks didn't accidentally pick up on that one, much like the Chinese press did on the news of Congress demanding a retractable dome or they would relocate to another city.

Now we shall be stuck with stories of dubious truth concerning Lindsay, Paris, Nicole, Jessica, etc. - none of which are even half as interesting as Bat Boy. Or Satan escaping from an oil well fire. Or global warming being caused by aliens stealing our icebergs for parties.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

The creeping ennui

...or, that's how we're referring to the blah that has overtaken us in the last couple weeks. It seems very appropriate, although naming it does little for figuring out what to actually DO about it. I think that it will help me to say it out loud, for all the internets to hear: I will not retire in Iowa. I will likely not even work the remaining years of my "working years" in Iowa. I know that screws up my retirement (currently counting on the state run IPERS program more than anyone can even imagine) but you know, you can't live your life waiting for retirement. At least I can't. If other people are content to do that, bully for them, but I just can't.

This is a time of transition for us but mostly in terms of parenting. With Anna going off to school, we enter a new phase of her development (and I kind of outlined my nervousness about that in the last post) but other than that, there does not seem to be much other transition. As a video from my youth would say: Birth, school, work, death. But God help me if that will be my lot.

I know, I talk big and rarely follow through. That's a problem. I don't know what to do about that. It's like I wake up and then, almost immediately, fall back to sleep, lulled by the trappings of whatever in the world is singing the lullaby. It's been difficult (this week especially, when I feel like I'm still recovering from the overnights I worked) to try to stay conscious, to listen and to be alert for things.

One thing that I did do that was very New Year's Resolution for me (i.e. be braver!) was I called up a friend of mine the other night to whom I had never actually spoken before and had quite a wonderful chat. I admit, Heidi dared me to do it, but I still think it counts.

Anyway, back to the creeping ennui. It is like a vine that just grabs you and sucks all your passion for living right out of you. I'm not talking about physical "life" but the act of living. It makes it hard for me to get excited about much of anything - even the new Madonna leak has been a bit of a blah event (it helps not one bit that even though the song is not horrific, it confirms a lot of my worst fears of her working with Timbaland and Pharrell.)

It seems like, as Darren Hayes would say, the great big disconnect. And this is, of course, nothing new and similar to the previous post where I imagined people groaning over me obsessing about sending Anna to kindergarten, I can hear similar tsks screaming "ohnonotthisagain!" Well, it's my effing blog, so lay off.

At any rate, I think I've blathered on enough - but the concept of the creeping ennui reminded me of a feature I read in MAD Magazine as a kid - "Horror Films Based On Real Disasters" (or something like that. I'll leave you with a sampling - I think The Creeping Ennui would definitely make an updated feature.

Little steps toward kindergarten

So hot on the heels of losing her first tooth, Anna "started" kindergarten today. I use quotation marks around that as she only went for an hour and both Heidi and stayed with her the entire time. Officially, it's called Kindergarten Glimpses, which I am fairly certain is designed to get kids into kindergarten gradually as well as allow parents to meet the teachers and feel a little more comfortable with the classroom. It went pretty well overall - she didn't want to leave when it came time to leave, and that bodes fairly well for Monday. The only variable not tested was our absence, which I think will change the dynamic significantly, but I still think she'll be fine.

She is growing up very quickly - and I realize that sounds very stock and trite. Of course, everyone's children grow up faster than they'd like. I admit, I have a hard time sending her off to kindergarten which is completely ridiculous and I can hear the sneers out there in the blogosphere already. She has to grow up - she has to get out there and try. And as a parent, I can't deny her the opportunity to experience life in all its forms, even the pain. That's hard to reconcile as her father, but it's essential.

Anyway, here's her official first day of school photo:

(She asked me after I took the picture if you could see the gap where her tooth used to be. Check.)

Afterward, we trekked up to Story City for pizza at the Pizza Ranch (soon to be opening in Ames as well!) and then hit the Story City Carousel. It was rainy but warm and humid (gotta love Iowa in August.) The Story City Carousel is one of only 300 wooden carousels left in the United States - it was painstakingly restored in the early 80s and is quite a draw for central Iowa.

Here's a shot of us on the carousel - look quickly, it'll likely be one of the few beardless pictures of me from this time period. I'm pretty sure I'm growing it back as I really miss it!!

And I just had to snap a picture of this as well - one of "clownish gargoyles" that adorn the edges of the carousel.

It's the stuff of nightmares, folks.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

One down, 19 to go

Someone is missing something.

Heidi and I were in a big discussion last night when Anna comes barrelling into the room saying "Guys, I GOTTA tell you something." And then she sticks her hand out with her little tooth in it. This tooth has been loose for months, so it is quite a relief to Anna for it to have finally fallen out.

The tooth fairy did come last night, leaving a Sacajawea dollar, but thanks to a note that Anna left for her, took a British pound instead of the tooth (and considering the exchange rate, the tooth fairy came out ahead.)

One last look.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

It's a dark road

While I was initially in agreement with a friend of mine that it would have been better to kick the album off with something a little bit higher energy, I have ultimately come to the conclusion that "Dark Road" is a perfect Annie Lennox single. While I enjoyed Bare, nothing on there even came close to this.

Monday, August 20, 2007

One more night

**cue the Phil Collins**

I have one more overnight to work tonight and then I'm done with work until next Monday. All in all, it hasn't been terribly bad. The nights have not been busy and I have slept very well considering. Heidi has been an absolute saint because she's been so understanding and so effective at keeping Anna away from the bedroom while I'm sleeping. She even made a sign for the door that said "DAYSLEEPER. DO NOT RING BELL OR KNOCK." for while they were gone and I was sleeping. That, of course, made me want to listen to the R.E.M. song of the same name. (I'm so suggestible.)

I will be glad for this to be over, but the money will be nice when I get paid next week. I know for a fact that I could never work the graveyard shift full time if for no other reason than I'd never see my family. Also, it just plays hell on your body. I know someone has to do it, and bless those that do it, but it's just not for me (paradise.)

Beardless pictures coming. Although it may be short lived as I do miss my beard. But I do love the 5 o'clock shadow option.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Missing something

I shaved off my beard today. It was very much a "are you ready to jump?" moment, made very spur of the moment. I am only having slight remorse over the loss of my facial hair.

They plus side is that I effectively shaved 10 years off my face. The minus side is I think I have a VERY round face, something that was hidden very well by facial hair.

Pictures to come, if I feel like it.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Rambling all the night

I'm not sure what spirit moved me tonight - it was quite possibly the wine - but I was listening to some Loreena McKennitt tonight and dang, but she's good. I will always associate "The Mummer's Dance" with our honeymoon in 1997 - ten long years ago! We picked up The Book of Secrets at Borders on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. We listened to it practically non stop - and we didn't even know that "The Mummer's Dance" was actually a minor radio hit (albeit in remixed form.)

I remember being blown away by the fact that Loreena McKennitt was FORTY at that time - on the cover of the CD, she looked like she was all of 22! Of course, if she was 40 then, she's 50 now, and she doesn't record nearly enough. She is also so exotically beautiful - she does not have traditional good looks, but she seems tall and regal. I have no idea how tall she actually is so I could just be making shit up.

Anyway - I will always listen to "The Mummer's Dance" and think of Heidi.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Misery, dead ahead?

I came across this article this morning declaring: WHY THE LATE-30s ARE A MAN'S MISERY YEARS. Normally, I wouldn't give much thought to an article like this for it has undoubtedly distilled some larger point down into something mass consumable and something that will make for good copy. But for whatever reason, I keep coming back to this article today.

The article basically states that men ages 35-44 inevitably have a midlife crisis. Oversimplistic? Almost certainly. However, the staggering piece of information I take from this article is the following:
Researchers found that it takes men until they reach the age of 65 to start enjoying life as much as they did in their late-teens and early-20s.

Holy shit! 20 years is damn long time to be unhappy.

I guess I wouldn't have given it another thought save for my discontent these days. Heidi and I have been talking a lot and I feel like whatever we're doing right now, while safe and comfortable, is decidedly NOT living. It's being asleep. It's something, but it's not life. I feel like I have been hoodwinked by making all the "right" choices and doing the "smart" things. Truth is, I am never happier than when I am living life a little bit on the edge. Is it scary? You bet it is. But it is living.

This runs so much deeper than I can even begin to describe. Suffice to say I will NOT spend the next 20 years unhappy, waiting for retirement. What the fuck kind of life is that?

Hope & Glory

It has taken 31 years, but Ann Wilson is finally releasing a solo album on September 11th, 2007. Up until now, she has hesitated the call of a solo career in addition to her career as the lead singer of Heart, a fact made all the more odd since she has had a couple of "solo" singles culled from soundtracks - "Almost Paradise" from Footloose and "Surrender To Me" from Tequila Sunrise. Many vocalists from equally successful bands (i.e. Stevie Nicks, Phil Collins) successfully juggled both, but for whatever reason, we've not seen much from Ann Wilson solo beyond those two singles and a handful of album tracks.

And Ann can sing...actually, no Ann can belt which I have talked about here before. So I was very excited at the prospect of a solo album. That excitement was dampened a bit when I found out that it was an album of covers. Can an album of covers EVER be fantastic? It's possible, and some cover albums have certainly approached greatness, but an album of covers rather than a strategically placed cover or two amongst other tracks is almost always a bad idea.

Well, I am sad to report that for the most part, the album is very fair to middling. The choice of covers is partially to blame. Most of them are classic rock late 60's/early 70's tracks which are, I suppose, logical choices for her, but they seem very uninspired, deviating very little from the original arrangements. Also, Ann herself seems very subdued - she really doesn't belt all that much! Even on the cover of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" - a song where she could have belted to kingdom come, she really doesn't. So that's disappointing as well.

But perhaps the biggest disappointment of all is the plethora of supporting artists. While it is natural to expect Nancy Wilson to make a guest appearance, do we really need Wynonna, Deana Carter, Gretchen Wilson, Elton John, and Shawn Colvin (among others)? Again, a few strategically placed guest artists would have been preferable to this. In this respect, Hope & Glory reminds me of Dolly Parton's Slow Dancing With The Moon which was reviewed by one reviewer as Dolly supporting herself with flying buttresses of who was hot in country at the time. Seriously, Dolly doesn't need that, and frankly, neither does Ann. The voice should speak for itself.

All that being said, the album is not BAD. It's just not great. And there are moments that are certainly good. Her cover of Youngbloods' "Get Together" is good but it is mostly just nostalgia for me as we sang that song in high school chorus. And CCR's "Bad Moon Rising" gets a bit of a bluegrass treatment which is also good.

I guess I was just expecting to be blown away by Ann's solo album, and I certainly haven't been. Of course, it's been a while since I've been blown away by a Heart album (although they have had some KILLER songs on those otherwise blah albums.) So perhaps she was just a victim of my inflated expectations.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The summer's top 20 (and a half)

It's that time of the year again - time to look back on the summer's songs. I feel comfortable putting this list to bed mid-August as anything else that comes out is more likely to be a fall song than a summer song. This is, as usual, in no particular order.


1) Two Times Blue - Debbie Harry
While these are in no particular order, it's no surprise to me or any readers of this blog that Debbie is at the top of the list. "Two Times Blue" is, quite simply, the song of the summer for me and one of the very best pop songs I have heard in a very long time. It's on the fast track for song of the year, folks.

2) Fall For You - Kylie Minogue
While the veracity of the Kylie X leaks is still in question, I think the question mostly lies in when were they recorded and for what album. And regardless of which album this track was nixed from, I'm so glad that it saw the light of day. I recall hearing this shortly after hearing Madonna's "Hey You" and this song washed that awful taste out of my mouth right away.

3) 4 in the Morning - Gwen Stefani
This is really the first song from The Sweet Escape that I have liked. I admit - I was put off by the awful "Wind It Up" which played like a really bad novelty tune. But this song has actual structure and melody and is quite pleasant. The hook in the chorus is subtle but no less addicting for that subtlety. It'll be interesting to see how she does when she records with No Doubt again.

4) Freedom - Erasure
The first of two songs that are not actually FROM this summer, but nonetheless, due to repeated plays, came to be part of this summer's soundtrack. A lesser known track from Erasure, but one of my new favorites.

5) Makes Me Wonder - Maroon 5
I'm not sure that there was anyone that didn't like this song back when it was first released. What a surprise from Maroon 5 - throwing a bit of disco into the mix and churning out one of the most unforgettable earworms of the summer.

6) My Interpretation - Mika
My non-love for Mika is well known, but this song was sent to me by a friend at just the right time when I was dealing with a situation I would have rather not dealt with and it just fit perfectly. You can keep your "Grace Kelly", just give me "My Interpretation."

7) I Wanna Fall In Love (Remix) - Dolly Parton

In the 70s, everyone had to try their hand at disco. Dolly Parton was no exception. Thank heavens for that.

8) I'm A Lover - The Revelations
XO turned me on to The Revelations' "If I Called You On The Telephone" which was just pure magic. "I'm A Lover" is one of the better tracks from their full length release.

9) Tears Dry On Their Own - Amy Winehouse
I admit, I was resisting Amy Winehouse big and bad. I did NOT want to like her. Then Heidi went and gifted me the album for my birthday. I gave in. I listened. And I liked what I heard. Yes, "Rehab" is over played, and I'm not sure if she'll have much beyond this album but sonically the album is unique and ubiquitousness of Amy Winehouse this summer merits her a place in the Top 20.5.

10) Green Light (Freemasons Remix Edit) - Beyonce
Another XO contribution to the summer soundtrack (can you tell who's heavily influencing me these days?) Let me make this clear - I really don't listen to Beyonce, and the album version of this is, in the words of XO and Yuri, shiteous. But this remix completely remakes the song into something completely and utterly appealing. You're holding up traffic - green means GO!

11) Umbrella (The Lindbergh Palace Radio Edit)
"Umbrella" was everyone else's song of the summer. I liked it enough, but it couldn't top "Two Times Blue." This is perhaps my favorite remix of the track.

12) Do You Know (The Ping Pong Song) - Enrique Iglesias
Certainly not the best Enrique Iglesias song ever, but the only one to feature a ping pong ball.

13) She Called Up - Crowded House
Time On Earth is a somber record, there's no doubt about that. But this song breaks that mold nicely.

14) Duel - Sophie Ellis-Bextor

My general rule of thumb on remakes is you have to make them your own. Hence my disapproval of the completely unnecessary Fergie remake of "Barracuda." Well, I'm eating my words here. Sophie does pretty much a by-the-numbers remake of this Propaganda track and she blows it out of the water. Of course, those big synthy strings in the chorus help so much it's not even funny. This was a very late addition to the soundtrack, but it has earned its place.

15) Inconsolable - Backstreet Boys

Go ahead and laugh. I kinda like this song. Sometimes I really miss the melodrama of the boy band days. It's not going to win any songwriting awards or anything, but you can't beat the melodrama.

16) Sunday Girl (Radio Mix) - Erasure
Erasure opened their set at the True Colors Tour with this song, which opened their latest album A Light At The End of the World. And even though I would daresay that most of the people in the audience were there to hear the hits, it's amazing how well it blended in with those hits. And no, it's not a Blondie cover, although that would be so fantastic, I couldn't even begin to articulate it.

17) Frank & Ava - Suzanne Vega

For most people, Suzanne Vega began and ended with "Luka." Well, there's more to her than meets the eye. She really seems to be channeling Sheryl Crow on this song which was taken from her latest album Beauty & Crime.

18) Listen All You People - Darren Hayes
This Delicate Thing We've Made is quite possibly the album of the year. And if not, Darren Hayes gets serious bonus points for moxie and for keeping a double album from coming out completely overcooked. This is one of the most joyous songs on the album, which is really an ode to understanding and unity - something everyone desperately needs now.

19) Chelsea Rodgers - Prince

It has been AGES since I've heard a Prince song this good. Seriously, it's so good it could have been on the Girl 6 soundtrack.

20) The Key - Casey Stratton
While The Crossing did not live up to my expectations, the songs left off the record continue to astound me. "The Key" makes me feel like a teenager all over again, with the requisite drama--"I gave you the key/To understand me/A combination of my strength and my fragility." I think Casey must have been reading my high school journals and I mean that as a compliment (even though the angst in my high school journal seriously should have been measured in angstroms.)

and finally....

20.5) What The Fuck Was That? - Evil Dead: The Musical
At 1 minute, 45 seconds, it does not really count as a full song. But what a riotous minute 45 it is! A duet between the two male leads as they figure out that everyone around them has been turning into zombies. It is practically operatic, and the fact that they work in "pre-ripped Abercrombie", "Necronomicon" and "I've got some Shelly on my shoe!" all into the same song is just...well, fabulous.

Bearing gifts, part 1

One of the fringe benefits of Heidi's trip to London are the fab gifts that she brought back for me. There are few people who know me as well as she does, and her uncanny knack for knowing exactly what I want, even if I don't, is perhaps one of her most endearing qualities. Anyway, I could have done a big mega-post of the gifts she brought from London, but instead, I decided to do it piecemeal.

Take a look at who's keeping watch over my keyboard these days.

Yep, straight from Forbidden Planet, it's the Doctor, wearing his specs that look a great deal like my own.

And given my love for zombies, it seems only appropriate that the Gelth zombie be mine as well.
(even though she was decidedly washed out by the flash on the camera)

And now you can all see what a messy desk and shelf I have! More to come in the days ahead. I'm on an 8 day stretch at work and the last three are overnight shifts so we'll see how I do.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Girl 6

As I mentioned in a previous post, one of the movies that Heidi and I saw in the theater when we were first dating was the Spike Lee tribute to the phone sex industry, Girl 6. While Heidi was in London, I got this movie from Netflix and rewatched it - 11 years after we first watched it at the Coral IV theaters (which is now New Pioneer Co-Op) in a practically empty theater save the high school kids in the back two rows.

I remember it being quite good - and actually, on the rewatch, I was amazed at what I had forgotten. The basic outline of the story is that of Judy, an actress who unable to get work decides to lend her talents to a phone sex operation - a phone sex operation, I might add, that looks cleaner and better lit than I ever imagined a phone sex operation to be. While Judy excels at it and makes a lot of money off of "regular" callers, ultimately, it affects her more than she wanted it to and in ways she did not predict. Playing alongside the main story is the continuing saga of a little girl who fell down an elevator shaft in her building - which reminded me very much of the Coma Baby in Bright Lights, Big City in the way that it mirrored the path of the protagonist and served as a metaphor for her struggles.

Anyway, while the movie is good, mostly for the incredible 90s nostalgia (a phenomenon that I am only now starting to appreciate) that it exudes in nearly every frame, ultimately, it's not about much. I suppose it's more of a character study on Judy (who is "Girl 6" at the phone sex operation) than anything else, and I can appreciate that. However, when you compare it to some of Spike Lee's other work, it doesn't really pass muster. Theresa Randall is very good as Judy, and Spike Lee shows up as her best friend and next door neighbor with a serious addiction to sports memorabilia. And proving once again that Madonna is best in supporting and cameo roles, she briefly appears as the manager of a strip joint/phone sex operation that Judy interviews for. Madonna looks very severe and is both convincing and hilarious in the role - describing the sexual fetishes that the callers are into in graphic detail. It was worth rewatching for those two scenes alone.

Perhaps the best part of the movie was the soundtrack, which consisted exclusively of Prince and Prince-related songs. A couple of the tracks are new, most of them are previously released, but for whatever reason, they really fit the movie. I ordered the CD today from Amazon for a paltry 5 dollars (after it was not available for instant gratification on iTunes and I realized cobbling the soundtrack together from various Prince collections would be more costly!) There are several songs that were in the movie that are not on the soundtrack - mostly songs that I already have like "Sign O The Times" and "Nothing Compares 2 U" but no worries there are I'll probably just end up making a playlist and going from there.

So Girl 6 - not the greatest movie ever, but for pure nostalgia, it was worth the watch. Phone sex, in the day and age of practically free porn all over the net, seems positively quaint.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Who cares if she can't spell?

Anna came running into the kitchen today saying "Daddy! Come look at what I wrote on the computer." This is what I saw.

If that is not the most beautiful thing in the world, I don't know what is.

(For those that need translation of 5-year-old spelling it says "Me and dad are best together. We [have] lots of fun. I love Dad.")

Zombie fish

Blogging has been light this week - mostly because it's been back to reality. We picked Heidi up from the airport in Minneapolis on Wednesday followed by an interminable drive back to Ames. And then it was back to work for me on Thursday. So that's where I've been.

However, I have been reading Brian Keene's The Rising (as is evidenced by the sidebar) and let me tell you, it takes the zombie genre and turns it on its ear. Short version is that instead of the normal zombie apocalypse involving mindless shuffling hordes of the undead, these zombies are intelligent. They can TALK to each other, they drive cars, they use guns. As a zombie purist, I would think that this kind of take on zombies would be heresy, but oddly enough, it works. And not only does it work, but it is VERY scary. Part of that is the exceptionally good pacing in the book. Keene knows just how to end a scene - such that you're satisfied by it, but want to keep reading so that you can get back to it.

Perhaps my favorite part of the book is the zombie animals - yep, you read that right, even the animals are zombified! The best of all was the zombie tropical fish in the beginning of the book, a scene that painted such a vivid picture in my head that I'm not likely to forget it anytime soon. Just suffice to say that the fish broke the aquarium glass. Yes, you have to suspend your disbelief, but please, the world is populated by the undead in this book. Suspension of disbelief is part of the price of admission.

Word is that they're working on a movie version of The Rising. This makes me alternately excited and nervous, as I'm not sure there's a way to transfer all the scariness that is the novel and put it on the screen. I think it's scarier because it's what I imagine, and seeing it played out in 3 dimensions on the movie screen will be cool in a Lord of the Rings movie way, but I fear the fear will not transfer well. Oh well, time will tell.

In the meantime, since we're talking about fish, here's one of Anna's favorite songs on her iPod playlist. It's Barnes & Barnes' "Fish Heads" (yes, the intro is waaaaay too long, but once the song starts, it's nothing but insanity.)

(image via)

Monday, August 06, 2007

And now for the video

The video for my song of the summer, Debbie Harry's "Two Times Blue" has finally seen the light of day after nearly a month of teasing on her official web site. And it's beautiful.

Debbie Harry - Two Times Blue

Add to My Profile | More Videos

Watching this instantly transported me back in time to when videos REALLY MATTERED for songs - when the concept was important and the execution even moreso. This video, IMHO, is better than all the Confessions on a Dance Floor videos put together. In fact, we haven't seen Madonna do this with video since, well, probably "The Power of Goodbye" (although feel free to correct me if there's something I've forgotten.)

And I've also heard one of the remixes for "Two Times Blue" - the Nickel and Dime remix and after hearing it, I'm torn between it and the original. The production on the remix is just a titch better than the original, but still, I've listened to the original 50 times (thanks to iTunes playcounts for that info) so I do have a soft spot for the original. Actually, I was relieved that the remix was not some 9 minute monstrosity that used only 30 seconds of Deb's vocals.

Okay, I know you're all sick of me blogging about "Two Times Blue" - but well, I adore it. I just wish it had a chance in hell of being a pop hit, but when you combine the ageism of the industry with the state of radio in America today, that seems pretty unlikely.

(thanks to Matthew Rettenmund for the heads up)

Everyone else is doing it, so why can't I?

Everyone seems to be blogging their Simpsonized selves these days, so I thought, why the hell not? So far, XO's has been my favorite!!

Anyway, here's me: Dan Simpson.

And here's Anna Simpson:
(The Burger King hat was her idea.)

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Musical glimpses

OK, so yesterday, I drove over to Cedar Rapids to pick up Anna. It was my wife's grandmother's birthday and my mother-in-law was planning on going there and I thought "sure--why not? Cedar Rapids is only a 2 hour drive." The problem is that it's a 2 hour drive on some of the worst roads that Iowa has to offer. That may be a bit of an overexaggeration, as I'm sure there are some level B service roads that are worse, but Highway 30 from Ames to CR is just one of the most aggravating roads to drive. For one thing, it alternates between being 4-lane (2 lanes of east and west bound traffic) and 2-lane (1 lane of each) so consequently, the speed limit varies between 55 and 65 mph. You're constantly having to adjust your speed upward and downward. And on those 2-lane stretches, it is nearly impossible to pass - something that you usually want to do because you're behind someone going 10 miles an hour under the speed limit.

The other bad thing about that road is that it may as well be one giant deer crossing. I'm of the opinion that the whole state of Iowa should just be marked as a deer crossing, thus saving us the expense of having to post those deer crossing signs every 5 miles or so on every road in the state. It does not help that Highway 30 between Ames and Cedar Rapids was where I hit a deer just under 2 years ago. Because of this, I am hyper alert for deer and last night, when I was driving home, I was just too tired to be that aware.

Anyway, I'm happy to report that the drive there and back was without incident. Anna was very sad to leave her grandmother - Grandma Julie had so many activities planned that it was bound to be a disappointment to be going home with dear old dad. She must have been exhausted because she slept nearly the whole way home (which meant she was still awake at 11PM last night.)

The BEST part about the drive was that I set the old iPod on shuffle and just went with it. My iPod is chock full of playlists for every occasion, but I was seriously in the mood for some randomness. There were some songs I skipped past if I wasn't in the mood for them, but take a look at what was played on that road trip. (notice the time stamps: last song played is listed first.)

(click image to enlarge)

There's a stretch of time between 4:35PM and 4:52PM that Anna requested I play the playlist "Anna's Favorites" - hence the "Furry Happy Monsters" and "Toot Toot Chugga Chugga Big Red Car" (but notice that "If I Could Turn Back Time" and "Sorry" are both on that list too!) Other than that, it was random craziness from a pool of around 1400 songs.

What I love most about that list is it really is kind of a cross section of my musical tastes - and the craziness that is my iPod.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Passive aggressivity

I stumbled across the site a while back and while it is kind of a cousin to Post Secret and therefore very interesting, it seems to leave me with a decidedly different taste in my mouth than does Post Secret. Whereas Post Secret will frequently make me laugh out loud or feel sad or jubilant or somewhere in between, usually leaves me feeling a bit uncomfortable and sometimes, a little bit mad.

While they are funny, especially the note left on a diner counter in ketchup and mustard after the customers had no service for 30 minutes, sometimes I think that these notes reveal the worst part of us. It's the part that gets mad at people and then won't do anything overt about it to try and solve the situation. Instead, we'd rather engage in a game that explains how we feel about a situation in a tangential way that the other person may or may not get and is usually designed to hurt the other person in a way that simply confronting a situation would not.

I've had people describe themselves to me as "Mr./Mrs. Passive-Aggressive" as if this were some sort of badge of honor. Truthfully, there's not much more that drives me crazy about dealing with other people than those that are passive aggressive. This, undoubtedly, means that I am almost certainly at least a little bit passive-aggressive myself as that which we hate most about other people is usually a mirror for something that we ourselves are. And I think my general dislike for passive-aggressive behavior is the reason that I am getting closer and closer to removing from my Google Reader. While they are funny, if you look at them closer, they really just upset me. And that's not something that I need to invite into my life as there is enough in the real world to upset me as it is.

And really, when you think about it, aren't "notes" by their very nature passive-aggressive?

The collapse

I nearly had heart failure when I heard of the news of the I-35W bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis collapsing yesterday. The reason: Heidi was in Minneapolis yesterday and at first, I wasn't sure where that bridge was in relation to the airport and when the story first broke, I wasn't certain of what time the bridge collapsed. I breathed a sigh of relief when I found out that the bridge collapsed shortly after 6PM, and Heidi's flight left at 7PM, so there was little doubt that she was safely in the airport and through security when the bridge gave out. (pictures via CBS News)

Still, this is a big deal. There are a lot of people that are injured and the number of people that died is still a bit of a mystery. The reason for the collapse itself is an even bigger mystery. But thank goodness that there were lane closures on the bridge - otherwise, it would have been an even bigger tragedy.

And here's some quite shocking footage of the collapse itself.

Prayers go out to all affected by this. It may not seem like a big deal in the wake of 9/11 and Katrina, but for us in the Midwest, it's a big deal.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The new living room

Wil Wheaton was discussing The Simpsons Movie on his blog today and in doing so, touched on perhaps my biggest pet peeve of all: the people that cannot, for neither love nor money, shut the hell up at a movie.

Years ago, I used to go to movies all the time. Heidi and I are fond of saying that when we were first dating, we went to everything. I mean, we saw Girl 6 (GIRL SIX!!) in the theater for Pete's sake (and it actually wasn't that bad, believe it or not.) But since we had a kid, it's been harder and harder for us to go to movies. I always joke about how I can't go to a movie in the theater unless it has talking animals, and while it's a gross oversimplification of reality, there is a certain element of truth to it. It also does not help that first-run movies are now prohibitively expensive. I make a pretty decent living, and I have no idea a family can afford to take their kids to the movies anymore. For us, it's 20 bucks just to get in the door. And then there's food on top of that which is a part of the moviegoing experience for Anna.

So you pay all this money, and then you get to go into the theater and sit amongst people who, thanks to years of home video, think that they are still at home in their living rooms. They answer their cellphones. They talk to each other while the movie is playing. They carry on conversations at normal volume with no regard for the people sitting around them. They chomp on popcorn and slurp on pop as if they were at the movie for the sole purpose of eating rather than watching the movie. The arrival of nachos and hot dogs at movies was the final straw for me.

Anymore, it takes an EVENT movie to get me to see it in the theater. Transformers was one of those movies. But so far, it's been the only summer movie to get me into the first-run theater. I will go to the budget theater here in Ames without even thinking twice about it. If people are rude, at least I only paid a buck and a half to get in the door.

I think that instead of the animated cat arriving at the movie reminding everyone to be courteous and turn off their cell phones and not talk and pick up the trash (that's another one - how effing hard is it to pick up your own trash and put it in the receptacle!?!?!), perhaps theaters need to be more direct. I would argue for blaring Barbra Streisand singing "SHUT THE FUCK UP!!" if people start talking during a movie if that, in and of itself, were not such a horrible interruption. The cure is (almost) worse than the disease.

Like I said, I blame home video. But it's sad. I pretty much will wait for everything to come to DVD or the budget theater these days. And I never thought I'd say that kind of thing!

(image via)

Up up and away

...or at least she will be tonight. Around 7ish local time, Heidi should be about to start her adventure as she wings across the Atlantic to London. We dropped her off at our friends Barb and Chip's house last night who live southwest of Minneapolis. When we were getting ready to leave, Anna was most upset about leaving the horses and other farm animals, but as we made our move, the reality of her mom being gone for a whole week really hit. And she sobbed. Not an inconsolable sob, but the sob that I'm expecting on the first day of kindergarten. It was a sob of "this is change and I don't like this." She waved and hugged and kissed through all the tears and as we drove down the road, all I could do was tell her that it was okay to cry and to cry as much as she wanted.

We stopped in Mankato at Hy-Vee to get root beer and chocolate - as Anna said, you always feel better when you have chocolate. The Starbucks was closed, damn it, but it worked out all right because I had coffee in the car anyhow. The drive home was incredibly long, but after stopping we were listening to her favorite songs on my iPod and changing lyrics left and right - usually the new lyric involved underwear or Cheeze-Its.

Me? I'm still a bit nervous for her. This is how I feel whenever anyone I love gets on an airplane, no matter how short the trip or how many times they've flown. She's a big girl that is world-wise but for those who are so inclined, think of her as she crosses the pond tonight. And hope that she can get some sleep.

She must sleep, because Mike is going to help her with the story. The book that I just finished moments before we left yesterday. And it's fucking fantastic. A bit long, and there are problems, but it is fantastic. I am biased, I know, but these people are people I want in my life. And I hope that someday, when the movie is being made, everyone will be able to say "I knew her when..."

Traveling mercies, my love. Have a wonderful time in England and watch this spot for developments on the home front.