Sunday, September 30, 2007

My kid knows me

The other night, after a particularly grueling day at work (the whole of last week is probably best described as grueling - I can think of some more colorful terms, but will refrain), Anna came up to me as I was laying on the couch, nearly passed out and said that she had something to give me. She had a piece of paper in her hand so I presumed that it was yet another drawing that she had made for me. Not that I don't love it when she draws things for me, it's just that I only have so much space for things like that. I was ready to do the dutiful dad response of "oh, honey I LOVE IT" when she handed at to me and said, very matter-of-factly.

"It's a zombie bookmark, Dad."

She had to ask me how to spell "zombie" (look at that cute backwards "z") but it's yet another great example of how I won the kid lottery. She also added, after giving it to me, "sorry he doesn't have any blood on him, or a gun."

In my mind, it's perfect, and I'll treasure this forever. And that's no dutiful dad answer either.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

A follow-up

There have been complaints from the head office in New York (which still can't send the inventory invoices for Ajax Warehouse for another 4 to 6 WEEKS) that the picture in the post below, while very good of me and, as one of my buddies proclaimed, was very moody, did not adequately show off my new earring. So, consider it rectified.

The first cut is the deepest

We found ourselves back out at the mall today after lunch. While we were there, I bought a rockin' new shirt on clearance at Express (I didn't even know they had men's clothing!!) and went back out to Claire's where I again pondered whether or not I should get my ear pierced. Heidi was with me this time, lending moral support and coaching. However, she quickly grew tired of my waffling and told me that I had to decide what I wanted to do and go from there. I was having a hard time finding to put in the ear that I felt would be subtle yet shake things up. Also, I wanted it not to be too "girly" and that was proving to be a tall order at Claire's, considering that their primary client base are girls under the age of 15.

I walked out without my ear pierced, and I found myself actually bummed out about it because I was really going to go through with it.

I took Anna and Heidi home and took my truck out and drove down to Campustown. When I was in college at Iowa State, Campustown was so different from how it is today. There were a lot of restaurants, record/CD shops, florists, etc. lining Welch Avenue and the surrounding streets. The neighborhood has declined some - partially due to the closing of the Towers residence halls which were at the opposite end of Welch Avenue as campus. The loss of foot traffic between campus and those dorms resulted in the closing of the McDonald's and a lot of other fast food type businesses. So now, it's pretty much all bars and tattoo/piercing places. OK, a bit of an overstatement as there are still some nice shops and coffee shops and restaurants, but that's really the vibe you get when you walk down there now.

I had looked up a couple of the piercing places in Campustown just to get a feel for the place by their web sites. I didn't know how it would look for a thirtysomething guy to come in there and ask for a piercing. But there I go again, worrying about appearances. I had settled on one, only to show up there and be told that they could do it in a couple hours! Well, in that time, I could completely talk myself out of it, so I walked a little bit further and came to a place very fittingly called The Asylum. I did feel a bit like I belonged in one for wanting to do this but in I walked. I talked to the lady at the desk and she helped me pick out some ear jewelry, had me sign the paperwork and pay my 20 bucks.

I had to wait just a bit - nowhere near the two hours that the other place was going to have me wait - but in that little bit of time, I went from one end of the spectrum to the other as to how I felt about it. One second, I was ready to walk out, even though they already had my twenty bucks, the next, I had decided that I would look exceptionally good with it. I also decided that I would look at least no more ludicrous than those guys that I see everywhere wearing PHONES on their ears a la Doctor Who.

The guy who was to do my piercing came out and asked where "the lip pierce" was. OK, so there was someone ahead of me, no problem. Until the lady at the counter pointed at me. Me, lip piercing?? No, sorry, that's next week. Fortunately, they were pretty adaptable and the guy who was going to pierce my ear told me that the earlobe was the easiest, quickest piercing of them all. He was great - very much someone you would expect to be working in a place like that, complete wih the large round hoops IN the cartilage of the ear itself, exaggerating the hole to almost comical effect. Seriously, I had seen pictures in National Geographic of what this guy had in his ears. But he was very cool and walked me through it and when I told him how it was something that I always wanted to do, even though I didn't know I did, and thought "well, it's never too late" he was in complete agreement.

That was when he took the NEEDLE out of the sterile wrap. What, no piercing gun? An actual needle? Dear God, what have I signed up for?

He told me it would sting a bit, not much. All I could think of was how I had a NEEDLE going through my ear. And by the time I thought about it, it was over. And I was all outfitted and he was explaining after care to me. Fortunately, Heidi has had some experience with pierced ears so she can help.

Ultimately, I think it was something I needed to do on my own. And a decision that I needed to wrestle with a bit. I think that although I am sure to get grief for it on Monday, the me with the pierced ear is actually more authentically me than the image most people have of me. While I am the nice guy, suburban Dad with a young daughter and beautiful wife, I am also Dan that desperately wants to live on the edge and shake things up and be braver. I'm the guy with a blog and a lot more on my mind than just pharmacy.

So here I am. Bear in mind, this was taken with the MacBook so it's the mirror image of me. It's my left ear that has been altered, not the right (even though that's how it looks in the picture.)

I think this might have to be my new avatar. It's not a bad picture of me if I do say so myself.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Things duly noted

I have purchased the latest Casey Stratton project, The Winter Children, and it is completely GORGE! As some of you might recall, I was a bit lukewarm to The Crossing, but this album is fab. The new version of "Violet Room" is worth the $14.99 price tag alone. Full review coming soon - but suffice to say for now, I have a new classic autumn album.

I am *this close* to finishing The Relic, and I am dying to finish it so I can watch the movie. I simply cannot wait to see what the monster looks like. I have my vision of it in my head - and I am fully prepared for it to not live up to that image. From what I've read, it's a combination of CGI and old fashioned effects, so prepare for la fromage, I imagine.

Still no pierced ear, for those keeping track. Perhaps this weekend.

October is lining up to be an expensive music month with two releases in the first couple weeks, one right after the other. First up is Annie Lennox's Songs of Mass Destruction. I have heard the album and it is very good, and very solid. Read XO's review of it - there's not much more to be said about it! Then, the next week is the long awaited, oft delayed Debbie Harry album Necessary Evil - which I have also heard and, while not as good as Annie's record, still has a bunch of great songs on it. Will also likely be reviewing that one in the upcoming weeks.

Wouldn't you know, my mom read my post on Stars: A Golden Nature Guide and no sooner did she finish it than she found ALL the Golden Nature Guides they still had and put them in a bag for me. She also found a Rolling Stone magazine at the house where my grandparents used to live (addressed to me) with Madonna on the cover, as she said "looking very young." I can't wait to see which one it is. YAY Mom!!

The weather has cooled off and I'm very glad for that. I wore a black mock turtleneck to work yesterday and I looked damn good.

Yuri has a good companion piece to my Erotica post. Although we may disagree about the tracks, we definitely agree that it's Madge at her best.

We had fried green tomatoes last night. It was, quite possibly, the latest in the season we have ever had them. Regardless of that fact, they were damn good.

While I didn't really get into "Me, Myself and (I)" from This Delicate Thing..., the video is quite good and makes me appreciate the song a lot more! Woo hoo! (as Darren would say)

And as if that wasn't enough Darren Hayes for you - here's his take on the Queen's "Ray Of Light"

I guess that's it for tonight.

(post obviously inspired by XO's mixtape format)

Monday, September 24, 2007

You've come a long way baby

Four years ago today, I lost my blog virginity.

Today is the 4th birthday for this blog. So a big old YAY! is in order. What a wild ride it has been. I have come a long way from my initial posts where I was originally going to refer to everyone in my life by their middle names, was never going to post a picture of myself or anyone on the blog, and was only going to talk about the most mundane and non-controversial of things. I have pretty much broken all those rules at some point in time in the last 4 years.

All in all, it has been equal parts fun, liberating, scary, and intriguing. I have made a lot of good blog friends with whom I have had some great conversations about the state of pop music to things a bit more deep than that. There have been only two posts in the history of this blog that I have deleted, and I have been fortunate enough to never have to delete any comments - both situations are apparently quite rare from what I've been told.

I have been tempted to stop blogging on several occasions, but I have persevered and I am glad for it.

And so here we are 4 years later. Dare I say - 4 more years?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

What I did (or more precisely, didn't do) today

Today, I was out at the mall with Anna. I almost came home with my ear pierced.

Seriously. There were only two things that kept me from doing it. One - the cost. $26 to $40 depending (on what, I'm not certain.) Two - the sheer volume of people in Claire's and I just didn't feel like being on display today.

I am a bit nervous because I really want to do this, but I am afraid of what people will think - most specifically people at work. But I have determined that I (almost) don't give a shit what people think. I have lived so much of my life worried about what other people think. Sometimes, this was a good thing, but mostly, it has held me back.

Heidi told her friend Barb that I was considering doing this and she was all over it - even promising to send me something to put in said pierced hole. Heidi also thinks I will look all kinds of hot with it. I think what finally pushed me over the edge (I've been thinking about it for a long time) is that I saw a couple guys at church this morning with earrings and I really thought they looked cool. Not to say that necessarily transfers to me, but hey, I think it would.

Heidi thinks we're going to go out tomorrow morning after we take Anna to school and before I go to work and do it. I'm not sure about that, but we'll see. Time will tell.

Really really want this

I know that I don't NEED this, but boy, I'd love to put EVERYTHING that's on my hard drive on my iPod and not even fill the iPod half way.

I knew that I wanted this from the minute I saw it, but I didn't realize how much till just now.

Thank you.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


I've been thinking a lot about blogging these last couple days - not just because I've been doing more of it in the last week than I had in the previous two weeks, but because I am coming to realize how much of an extension of me it is. It's one of the few places where I don't self-edit (much) and where pretty much what you see (or read) is what you get. Although it's not really the place where I go to vent about the specifics of my life, I do share a lot of hopes and fears and observations on the world that I would not normally bring up in conversation with people in my every day life. That is not to say that I there's anything that I write here that I wouldn't say in real life - that's kind of one of my unwritten rules of blogging.

The issue that's been bugging me these days is that I've always been vehemently private about my blog - which I know seems kind of odd because here I am publishing this stuff on the internet and I'm worried about it being read. Sharing this kind of stuff with strangers and the people that I know read this and tune in day after day is both liberating and scary, but mostly, the former wins out. It's when people that actually know me start reading this that I start to get nervous.

I'm trying really hard to be authentically me - the Dan that is at the core of me rather than the outer shell that so many know. And along with that goes being more real in my work and in other social situations that I find myself in. And it comes back to the blog - something of which I am intensely proud, but also very shy about revealing to people. I had this blog linked as my website on Facebook for a very brief time. I removed it as soon as people from my work started adding me to their friends list because having that link there for people that I work with to access felt like such an invasion of my privacy - something that seems very silly when it was me that put the stuff out there for consumption anyway. But a part of me really wants to leave it on there - and face the ramifications of my blog becoming public with a few people that I work with. I don't think that the heavens will open and the end of the world will be upon us if that were to happen, but it's almost like revealing too much to too many people.

When my blog was read only by random people and the people I told about it, I felt pretty good about it. When friends and family started reading it (even though I gave them the address), I felt very nervous about it - even to the point that I found I couldn't write. I got over that by telling myself it's my blog and I can damn well pick what I want to write about and if they don't like it, find it boring, or are made uncomfortable by it, well, then they don't fucking have to read it. Revealing this even more? I don't know - I sometimes feel like if people I know casually were to stumble across my blog, figure out it's me (which wouldn't be hard) and read, I'd feel like I was the victim of a voyeur. Even now, I get Ames hits on my counter, and I wonder who they are. That's mostly ridiculous, I know, but all the same, I can't shake that feeling.

I know - I think too much sometimes. I guess I just really want people to know who I REALLY AM and sometimes that scares even me and I'm in my head 24/7. I can only imagine what it would do for people who only see me 8 hours a day or once a week at church or whatever would feel if they came over here and saw it. Perhaps it would make me more intriguing. To be honest, I like this version of Dan more than the one that's put out for mass consumption on a daily basis. This one feels and tries new things and flirts with crazy ideas. And I just can't help but think that would scare a lot of people off. Or at least provide detractors with ammunition.

So is there an answer? I don't know. Perhaps this is a jump I'm just not quite ready to take yet. Fear is usually trying to tell you something when you feel it - but figuring out what it's saying is the tricky part. How does one reconcile the desire to be blazingly honest and real with the desire to be intensely private as well?

Friday, September 21, 2007

I'd like to put you in a trance...

Erotica is perhaps the pentultimate fall album for me. And that's saying a lot as there are a lot of them (as you'll all be exposed to in the coming weeks.) I cannot talk about fall music without mentioning Erotica. It is the unlikely sister album to Simply Streisand. Both evoke such strong memories of my first year of pharmacy school that it is simply impossible to listen to either of them without thinking about that time.

I did a quick search of the blog to see which of the stories of Erotica I have told. I have told most of them. I've told of my disilluionment with Madonna around the time of Erotica, how I did not purchase it on the first day of release, how I didn't really like "Erotica" the song, but eventually, I relented and purchased it on the Friday after its release. It is, quite simply, Madonna at her best. It was always my favorite Madonna record - nothing ever came close until Confessions on a Dance Floor was released. But even having said that, I love Confessions for entirely different reasons. While Confessions was a calculated move aimed at the dance floor, Erotica was Madonna being a mess and self indulgent and being fucking amazing at it.

Despite being such a favored Madge album, Erotica is so far from a perfect album it's not even funny. For one thing, it is entirely too long. I would excise "In This Life" (sorry Madonna, the sentiment was good but the execution completely awful) and "Thief of Hearts" (sorry Heidi, I like it but I don't think it fits.) I would also jettison "Did You Do It?" which is the biggest waste of a CD bonus track ever. I would take some of the strong songs from the first half of the album and put them in the last half to bulk it up. Honestly, the album really falls apart after "Rain" with only "Secret Garden" coming close to the brilliance of the first 7 songs.

This album is also Madonna at her most uncommercial to date (she topped the uncommercial aspect with American Life in my opinion.) Gone was the little twentysomething girl singing about how she was going to be true blue to her man. There was no more singing about living in a material world. It was even a step away and to the side of the confessional nature of Like A Prayer. It was a natural progression from "Justify My Love" - here is Madonna finally being as scandalous as they had always accused her of being. Boy Wonder with whips and chains. Except that Boy Wonder was actually Girl Wonder. I missed the "happy" Madonna of the 80s when this album first came out. It took me a while to warm up to this woman who, while sexual, was oddly stripped of sexuality.

This was also the point where Madonna really began to falter. "Erotica" the single failed to go number one, and "Deeper & Deeper" - a song that really should be up there with "Vogue" and "Express Yourself" in terms of popularity with casual fans - barely scratched the top 10. The next two singles didn't do much of anything at all, although we got a fab video for "Bad Girl" in the process. In the end, I don't think people were ready for Erotica, even though it was what they had been accusing her of doing since she came on the scene.

But for me, the album contains what I consider to be two of Madonna's best album tracks in "Waiting" (where she brilliantly samples herself) and "Words." Both are kiss off songs - with "Waiting" continuing very much in the vein of the speak-sing that Madonna was doing at the time, but is a strong song structurally and musically. "Words" is more of a straight forward song with a bunch of classic Madonna talking at the end over an old typewriter clicking and dinging all over the place. Great stuff.

I know Madonna doesn't go back, but I can't help but wonder what she would get today with Shep Pettibone and Andre Betts, the producers of the album. Almost certainly, it would be better than the drivel that's coming from her camp now.

The next time you want pussy, just look in the mirror baby.

(For a really interesting look at the recording of Erotica from the POV of Shep Pettibone, check out The Erotica Diaries here.)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

We go waiting for the stars

When Heidi went to London, she spent the night before she left at our friends Barb & Chip's house. Barb & Chip have a great house in rural Minnesota that is full of books - and mostly, the books are an odd assortment. This is even better, because, really, do we need to see The Da Vinci Code on another person's bookshelf? Or even Harry Potter?

While I was perusing the bookshelves in their house, I happened upon a book that I haven't thought of since my youth.

It was Stars: A Golden Nature Guide. I think my father must have given that book to me when I was a kid - I was VERY interested in planets and stars and what not (although probably not as much as dinosaurs.) I swear that we had this very edition!

As I was reading it, I began to realize that not only did the book date back to my youth, but it likely predated it by a significant period of time. The fact that there were only paintings of the planets and not photos was my first big clue. The second was the mention of Halley's Comet making a return visit to the Earth in 1986. This page, however, sealed the deal that I didn't need to look at the copyright to know that it was older than I was.

A quick look at the copyright confirmed my suspicions. 1956. Wow.

Barb told me that I could keep the book - much to my great delight. I think I love it more BECAUSE it's so old and outdated. It's a little time capsule that reflects a time when we didn't have all the technological know how that we have today. Not that I'd want to live in that time by any stretch of the imagination, but I do like to think about it and wonder what it would have been like to live then. I know many sell it as a simpler time, but it was not. Still, I'd like to visit some time. Perhaps someday I will if I can ever invent my very own way-back machine.

But in the meantime, we can all listen to Erasure.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Simple and Streisand

Among the pantheon of quintessential fall albums in the life of Dan, is the 29 minute 1967 Babs album entitled Simply Streisand. It's quite an odd choice for me to associate with the fall - especially since it was released before I was born, even before my parents were married! But alas it is. It is, on first listen, not a very memorable album - she certainly has other 60s albums that are stronger, contain a better song selection, and almost certainly, have a longer running time.

I can still remember the first time I saw this CD. It was late August of 1992. Hurricane Andrew was tearing across Florida and I was in a single dorm room at the University of Iowa. I knew almost no one and was drowning myself in music as I am apt to do at times like those. The lovely thing about Iowa City and the University of Iowa is that the campus is right downtown for the most part, so I was only a short walk away from Musicland (later Sam Goody) and Camelot Music. It was at this particular Camelot that I found Simply Streisand. I was honestly not looking for anything, but, as is the case when you set out to find nothing, things usually jump out and bite you. I remember it being exceptionally cheap - like 9 bucks or something, so it was, of course, an instant purchase. It was even in one of those environmentally unfriendly longboxes, the front of which I still have to this very day!

I got it back to my dorm room and was initially very unimpressed. All the songs were ballads, the instrumentation VERY dated, and I what's more, I didn't really LIKE any of the songs all that much. And then, to top it all off, it was over before it even got started!! Good thing I only spent 9 bucks on it. I figured it was destined to be one of the first Streisand albums that I just wouldn't be able to get into.

Au contraire. After repeated playing (despite my initial hesitation), I slowly began to warm up to it. I grew to love "All The Things You Are" and "The Nearness Of You" - the latter of which is the now, the version by which all other versions of "The Nearness Of You" are measured. I still think that "I'll Know" from Guys & Dolls is the worst track on the record. And ultimately, that short running time played in its favor - I would frequently put it on right before bed and the nights that I would be asleep before "Stout Hearted Men" rounds out the album were always the nights that I had a prayer of making it to my 8:30 Biochemistry class in the morning (back in the day when getting up at 8AM to get to an 8:30 class was no small feat.)

Listening to it now, I think the thing I like most about it is Barbra's diction - something like the vocal equivalent of dotting all the i's and crossing all the t's. This is most apparent in "Stout Hearted Men" (mp3) where she sings:

You who have dreams if you acT
They will come true
To turn your dreams to a facT
It's up to you

And then the following:

Give me some men you are stout-hearted men
Who will fighT for the righT they adore.

I love it!! I keep having to resist finishing the "fight for the right" line with "TO PAAAAARRRTY!"

As you might gather, I've been listening to Simply Streisand a lot these days - as I am prone to do in the autumn of the year. I will forever associate it with being in that dorm room in Iowa City, lonely and nervous about where life was taking me. It is, as you might expect, a bittersweet memory, but one that stays alive in the music.

Soon, there will be a post about the other essential fall album that year. I'll give you a hint - the next time you want pussy, just look in the mirror, baby.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The leaks of Madge

I have been remiss in commenting on what I think of the latest songs to leak from Madonna's yet-to-be-released album. This, in and of itself, should say something. What exactly that something is, I'm not entirely sure. It could mean that I'm not terribly impressed with the songs. It could also mean that I've been busy thinking about things that are more serious than Madonna's attempt to connect with the kiddies. Or it could mean that I've been a lazy blogger and a bad fan. Or a combination of all three.

The songs to leak, as just about everyone knows are "The Beat Goes On" (thankfully not a cover of the Sonny and Cher song) and "Candy Shop." They are, as I mentioned, from Madonna's forthcoming album produced by Pharrell, Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, among others. I have to say that when I heard who she was collaborating with for this record, I was nervous. It smacked of desperation - something that Madonna has never really shown before save perhaps the Bedtime Stories project which ostensibly tried to get her back into the public's good graces after the Erotica/Sex/Body of Evidence debacle as well as to incorporate the mid-90s R&B sound.

While new Madonna has a can't-miss quality to it, let's just say that this is simply THE most underwhelming new Madonna material for as long as I can remember. The songs are not BAD, they're just so far below what she is capable of. I was telling a friend not too long ago that while "The Beat Goes On" has grown on me some, there are a lot of unsightly things that can grow on you if you're not careful. Mostly, what I dislike about it is that the songs don't really have a melody! Or song structure! Or a bridge! (for shame!!) The lyrics are not great at all, and even though Madonna has had her share of bad lyrics ("Other places make me feel like a dork" and "My father had to go to work, I used to think he was a jerk" spring instantly to mind), these are bad in an entirely different way.

The music is not altogether awful, but like I want to say that about Madonna?!? I'd rather save those kind of "well, it's not THAT bad" comments for Britney where it would actually be a compliment. My only hope is that these are either demos and the instrumentation is not complete yet or that these are the worst songs on the album. Or better yet - that they are rejects from the album and what will actually be on there will be leaps and bounds better than this. It surprises me that they've leaked this early - no release date on the album yet and the songs are leaking? Madonna runs a notoriously tight ship when it comes to her work, so the fact that these are leaking make me think that they are not going to be on the album and they have been deliberately leaked.

What do I think will happen? I think that Madonna will release "Candy Shop" or something very similar to it and it will tank in the U.S. - despite her purchase of the latest and greatest producers. I hate to say it, but I think her attempts to be all hip and cool with Pharrell and Timbaland will come off as false and the record buying public (aka the kids) will see right through it. They will not buy a 50 year old woman doing that - not to be ageist, but I'm just being realistic. In the process, I think she will alienate a lot of her die hard fans who won't have time for this album, especially after the brilliance that was Confessions on a Dance Floor. While I will not be alienated enough to either not buy the record or stop being a fan (I'm signed on for the long haul), I am a bit resigned to the fact that this will be Bedtime Stories redux. I am not a fan of that album, despite the fact that some very good songs have their home there - "Secret" and "Survival" being two examples. Both albums will also have the misfortune of being the follow-up to Madonna at her best.

So who knows. I could be totally wrong and this will be a massive hit for Madonna. Since you seem to need ARTIST featuring RAP ARTIST to have a hit these days, perhaps it will work. I just seriously have my doubts.

Autumn mornings

It's not exactly a crisp autumn morning around here - we're headed for a high of 85 today, but the weather has been gorgeous here lately. The other not so great thing is the realization that what I thought were allergies yesterday is actually a cold and I'm pretty miserable this morning. A part of me thinks I'd be better off staying home from work today, but that's the lazy part of me. I am really not THAT sick, mostly just uncomfortable. And a little medicating will go a long way toward remedying that.

But I sit here at the computer in the last few minutes before I go to get ready with my Millstone Pumpkin Spice coffee (simply the best pumpkin spice coffee I've ever had) listening to Babs wail "Down With Love" in the background. To make it a perfect fall morning, we just need to shave 30 degrees off the temperature and get us some more honeycrisp apples.

Dear God, those honeycrisp apples are fabulous.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The deep end

One of my favorite books as a kid (and consequently, one of Anna's as well) is Last One In Is A Rotten Egg. It tells the story of a little boy named Freddy who, not knowing how to swim, has to stay in the shallow water while all of his friends, who are "deep-water swimmers" get to go in the deep water. One day at the pool, some older kids push him in the pool which causes him to avoid the pool altogether for awhile. But once he goes back, he asks the friendly lifeguard to teach him how to swim and by the end of the book, he's taking on the bullies that pushed him into the pool and swimming happily with his friends in the deep end.

This picture from the book always scared me when I was a kid.

I think what scared me the most about that is the look of sheer terror on Freddy's face. That combined with the fact that, growing up, I had an absolutely unnatural fear of the water which turned that picture into the thing of nightmares. In fact, when I saw that book at the library about 2 years ago, I had completely forgotten about it - but the first thing I remembered was that picture. And even though I eventually learned how to swim - not well, but well enough - I am still a bit freaked out by deep water, oceans most especially. After reading the description of drowning in The Perfect Storm, I've decided that if I can make it through life without drowning, I'll count myself lucky.

I've been thinking a lot about the deep end these days - and I'm talking the deep end of life rather than the one at your local pool. There's a lot of changes and new things happening in my life these days, which explains the relative lack of posts, and I'd like to apologize to all those who have probably been feeling ignored - that has certainly not been my intent. I'm trying to spend a little more time with myself these days and that pretty much necessitates spending time away from the computer and blogging. But thinking about these things is like jumping into the deep end. There are times that I feel much like Freddy does in that picture up there.

Enter Debbie Harry (as she has seemed to do so much this summer) with the perfect song for this kind of situation. It's called "Deep End" (naturally) and since it's from the new album Necessary Evil, I have absolutely no idea how I have heard it since it's not even out yet. *whistles innocently* But in any event, I have. While not the most well written song in the world - you can take this part to heart.

So don't be afraid of the deep end
Up to your neck
Holding your breath
No don't be afraid
Don't be afraid of it
Don't be afraid
You'll only get wet

I will try to take that with me this week. The deep end is scary - it's easier to skim along in the shallow end. But to dive, you gotta be in deep water.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Thinkin' about Trisha

I have rather inexplicably rediscovered Trisha Yearwood in the last week. When you take a look at my musical tastes - tastes dominated by pop music - any country (outside of the great Dolly Parton) seems to stick out like a sore thumb. I have spoken before of my disillusionment with country music - but it doesn't keep me from enjoying a few country acts here and there. And, true to form, they are almost entirely female country artists. Aside from the aforementioned Ms. Parton, there's Mary Chapin Carpenter (thinking man's country, as I refer to her), Pam Tillis (whose entire catalog I purchased within a few weeks back in 1998), Dixie Chicks (even more since the controversy erupted several years back), Wynonna, and of course, Trisha Yearwood.

I would not characterize myself as a Trisha Yearwood fan - the only CDs of hers that I have actually purchased are Hearts In Armor, Songbook: A Collection of Hits and Jasper County. But I do enjoy her music enough. There's just a touch of twang in her voice - certainly nothing like Wynonna singing out of the corner of her mouth or anything like that. And while the style of her music is very much in the vein of the dreaded "contemporary country" she does have some pretty good songwriters behind her. While I tend to have a bit more respect for artists that write their own music, I suppose if you can't, you're better off hiring the best people in the business.

She's not always been successful at what she does, never really reaching the white-hot level of stardom that contemporaries like Shania Twain and Mary Chapin Carpenter did, and certainly has not had the pop crossover that they did, although there is a pop component to it. But at the end of a long day, when I'm mostly tired, but not in the mood for something mind numbingly New Age or whatever, Trisha Yearwood can, in the right moment, have just what the doctor ordered.

The other good thing about Trisha Yearwood is that she is such a good antidote to the Paris Hiltons and Nicole Richies of the world by virtue of the simple fact that she is a Real Live Woman. It is so refreshing to see a female celebrity that is not afraid of curves. I think she's gorgeous. Definitely one for the free pass list.

Perhaps my favorite Trisha Yearwood song is "Thinkin' About You." Talk about a top notch song from a songwriting standpoint. My favorite part is the pseudo bridge:

This single minded fascination I've got
Do you call it love?

Well if you don't, then what?

All I know is I don't know what you've done

And this train of thought ain't about to jump

The track that it's on.

Here, see for yourself:

She's got a new greatest hits out this week, which is a pretty good introduction to her music. It leaves you wanting more, I think, clocking in at a succinct 60 minutes. Check it out if you're so inclined. You might like what you hear. If nothing else, download "Thinkin' About You." You won't be sorry.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

It's always autumn

As a commenter mentioned, this blog has gotten a golden fall makeover.

I wish that the fall made me feel as golden and sharp as the template for the blog is. And this is a strange statement to make as It is honestly my favorite season. I love the transition to the cooler temperatures after the dog days of August. While it can still get pretty hot in September, it's usually the exception rather than the rule. It's only supposed to be 57 degrees tomorrow! That is completely unbelievable - in the sense that I really will only believe it when it actually happens.

I've been thinking a lot about fall in the last couple days (or autumn for my UK friends) and the effect that it has on me. The shortening of the days can play havoc on my mood and general state of mind - it's called seasonal affective disorder for those wondering. And while I've made my peace with it, it sometimes gets the better of me. The pull of the darkness is sometimes very hard to resist - not in a "Yay! I get to go there" way but in a "I have to work my ass off to keep from going there" way. So consequently, it's been a long time since I have truly enjoyed a fall - despite my best efforts to do so.

I start every fall by saying "I'm not going to waste this season. I'm going to keep my eyes wide open and notice things and enjoy this great transition into winter." I have made pacts with myself to go walk on campus when the leaves fall and just go kicking through them like I did when I was a kid walking home from school. But usually, life gets away from me and suddenly, it's the end of November and the leaves have all fallen from the trees and snow is on the way. And I'm left having completely missed it. That's what SAD can do to you, even when you keep it pretty much in check.

Some of my most vivid memories - both good and bad - have had their origins in autumn. I've started a lot of friendships in September and October. It's the 4th quarter so a lot of big name music releases come out - Madonna has had no fewer than four albums come out in October or November. I have been at my most social and at my loneliest in the fall of the year. And when my SAD was at its worst, I was practically out of commission for the whole season.

So it's always a little bit bittersweet whenever autumn rolls around. I'm always reminded of that Barbra Streisand song "Autumn" from the People album - one of those early Streisand albums that not only can I not get enough of, but Heidi actually likes as well (will wonders never cease.) There's a chill in the song that mirrors the chill she sings of in the song.

Autumn - it feels like autumn
Although the breeze is still
I feel the chill of autumn

Sometimes I think that in a weird way I kind of like the bittersweet of the fall of the year. But I am through wallowing in it. My tendency for the last few years has been to mark each autumn as a time to remember the good and the bad, and while remembering the good to think of how things got screwed up instead of focusing on how good things were. So it's really a lose-lose situation for me. Even in remembering the good, I get smacked with the bad. However, this year I have determined that even though I am bound to remember all those same things, THIS WILL BE THE BEST FALL EVER. Rather than remember all the friends that have passed from my life, I will cherish the ones I have now and look forward to meeting new ones this fall in new and daring ways.

So on this Sunday night, when I am usually fretting over the return of the work week, I'm feeling full of energy for the adventure ahead of me. I'm not entirely certain how I'm going to do it, but I am NOT going to waste this season. The growing season may be over, and the leaves may soon be falling as the world goes dormant for winter, but I've only just begun.

Monday, September 03, 2007

PG Tips

One of the best things that Heidi brought back from London was a newfound obsession with PG Tips tea (watch out - talking monkey behind that link). According to one of our friends, it's practically the Lipton tea of the UK, but by God, it's some of the best tea I've ever had.

I am not what you would call a tea connoisseur, much prefering to get my caffeine from pop and coffee. And if I'm going to drink a hot beverage, it's most likely going to be coffee. It's kind of a standing joke around here that we ALWAYS have a pot of coffee on - and that's only a little bit of stretch. Especially in the winter, we seem to drink coffee continuously, especially on the weekends. Well, it'll be interesting to see how coffee does this winter against PG Tips because right now, it's putting in a pretty poor showing.

As an example for how (almost) completely PG Tips has supplanted coffee in our household, while doing up the dishes last week, we realized that we had forgotten to clean the grounds out of the coffee maker the last time we had made coffee. Well, it had been so long since we'd made coffee that the grounds were moldy. Yuck, I know, but it is a great example of it.

I have no idea if tea is better for you than coffee. I do know it has less caffeine, but the way the scientific community bounces back and forth with coffee (is it good for you? is it bad for you?) I figure that it's probably six of one, half a dozen of the other. But it is good stuff.

It's a good thing we have a World Market close by, or we'd be kissing our supply goodbye very very soon.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Live and live now

I had a rather *ahem* intense discussion with my wife this afternoon. This is par for the course these days as we're talking about a lot of really deep, important stuff. Sometimes it's invigorating and inspiring. Sometimes, it's very draining and I can't do it for very long or at all. Sometimes, I don't want to talk about it because it's things I don't want to deal with. Today would have been an example of the latter.

I have been all talk and no action on changing my life for the better recently. Mostly, I've been content to just be frustrated with the things that I don't like and basically say "there's nothing to be done, it will never work so why even try?" These kinds of defeatist attitudes are not helping me AT ALL. So to those defeatist attitudes, I respectfully say "fuck you."

I'm ready to shake things up. Maybe not in huge ways just yet, but in little ways. The mere fact that I shaved my beard off in a spur of the moment decision (even though I eventually grew it back) shows that I'm ready to make little changes.

I want to do things around the house - like finish painting the kitchen, rip the old grandmother wallpaper off the wall in the downstairs bathroom and paint it something bold. I want to stain the deck chairs like I had planned to do all summer long.

I'm going to make bolder clothing choices. I wore a shirt that Heidi picked up for me at Target last week that was just slightly outside my normal realm of clothing and someone at work saw it and asked if I was having a mid-life crisis. Screw that! I hope I'm not to mid-life yet. And that just emboldens me more to shake things up.

When I was in college in 1992, I had transferred from Iowa State to the University of Iowa to go to pharmacy school. I felt very fish out of water - I had left all my friends behind and knew hardly a soul in Iowa City. I remember journaling like a fiend then - they're alternately interesting and cringeworthy, but they do chronicle what I was going through at the time quite well. And the song that kept on coming up in those journals was "Don't Rain On My Parade" - with its command to live and LIVE NOW. That mantra is even more appropriate now, at the age of 35, than it was at the age of 20.

Funny how some things just never change!!

People have been telling me stuff like this for years, but do you think I'd listen? Well, it's time to pay attention. And how can you not pay attention to Babs? She practically demands it, especially in that fur hat (which probably needs a special locker.)

Wall of vinyl

I bought records way after it was cool to buy records. We're talking, it was 1986 and I was still buying records when all my friends were buying tapes, and a few select people were buying CDs. I don't know why I did that - perhaps because my mom had always bought records, but I think deep down, I was in love with the cover art. If there's any one thing I miss about records, it's the detail that you can see in the cover art - something that is diminished on a CD cover and nearly eradicated (and frequently, unforgivably altered) on a cassette cover.

Anyway, I've had all these records sitting around gathering dust in the back room of the basement - being carted from one place to another and so a while back, I finally decided to do something with them. I came upon this brilliant (in my opinion) idea to pin them to the ceiling in my office. I went out and bought some thumbtacks and got to work. This lasted less than a minute as I realized that the albums, even without the records in them, were simply too heavy for that.

Defeated, I decided to pin them up on a bulletin board in my old office. This worked for a while, until my sister came to live with us and needed a bedroom and I relocated my office to the front room of the basement. I came home from work one day and everything in my office was moved and arranged (props to Heidi) and my albums had been put up on the wall. What a great idea!

Well, after a couple years of work (but mostly procrastination) I have finally filled the entire wall behind my desk. Check it out:

True to form, there are hardly any men up there - only Mick Fleetwood, Dave Stewart and the guys from Heart but who really knew their names anyway? And I will be honest and say that not all of those albums were purchased back in the day, but a good chunk of them were! I picked up Belinda Carlisle Heaven on Earth, Dolly Parton Greatest Hits and Whitney Houston Whitney at Firehouse Books here in Ames while Heidi was in London. And the green album near the center is from a little shop in London - a 12" maxi single of Saint Etienne's "Kiss & Make Up." (is my wife cool or what?) Oh, and Savage was detailed in a blog post a while back as well. But the rest - all from my teenage years.

It's my wall of strong women, all looking down on my while I blog or surf or write or whatever. And I am very proud of it.