Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Jabba interruptus

My dad brought over another finished shelf for my office today since the one I have is nearly full. This got me to thinking that I really need to try to assemble all the pieces of my 1983 Jabba the Hutt playset and put Jabba in his rightful place. Unfortunately, this is what Jabba looks like.

Yep, he's missing his left arm. I have looked all over for it. I even went through boxes of toys at my folks' house on a hunt for the arm to no avail. Apart from that, he's pretty complete, although I think I am missing the pipe that he smoked or whatever. But I have the base he sits on and the little Salacious Crumb or whatever his name was (not that you got that from the movie.)

I thought, well, maybe I can get a Jabba off of eBay for cheap that is incomplete but has the arm I am looking for. I went searching eBay and found a fair number of Jabbas. Some were complete and rather expensive. Some were not as complete and the price was lower.

Then I found this one. Starting bid is $9.99. Plus 8 bucks shipping or something like that. For your (at least) 18 dollars, this is what you get.

It's a bargain though. All you're missing is, well, JABBA'S ENTIRE BODY!

Funny thing though, it has the arm I'm missing on mine.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Chronicle of a Plague

I got one of those e-mails yesterday that I usually trash without even opening. Well, as I was trashing the one from yesterday, I got a fleeting glimpse at the title as it made it's way the garbage. It intrigued me so much I had to go to the trash and open it.

As it turns out, Andrew Holleran is releasing a new book of essays on AIDS, Chronicle of a Plague, Revisited: AIDS and Its Aftermath. Holleran's writings on AIDS are among my favorite, probably second only to Randy Shilts. "Favorite" is kind of the wrong word as that implies that it is enjoyable, light-hearted reading. On the contrary, most of his stuff is quite depressing, as you might expect when writing about the AIDS epidemic.

Holleran wrote Ground Zero, which I have read and now, based on this book might have to pull out again. Published in 1988, it contains essays regarding the AIDS epidemic at the height of its devastation. In many ways, it's like reading horror fiction, only this time, it's not fiction. He also wrote Dancer From The Dance, which I think is pretty much considered to be a post-Stonewall classic in gay fiction. It chronicles the life and times of the gay community in the mid to late 70s, just prior to the ravages of AIDS.

I have blogged this before but it bears repeating: Dancer From the Dance and its companion novel Grief are the bookends to the horrific middle depicted in Randy Shilts' And The Band Played On. I will be picking this up once it is released, but it'll probably have to wait until the economic stimulus package comes.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

It's curtains for me

You know, we really don't use the phrase "It's curtains for you!" as much as we should. Perhaps I should try to single-handedly revive its popular use. Or not. Maybe it's just too dramatic for widespread use. Yet the word "salve" lives on. It's a cruel world.

Anyway, it really WAS curtains for me today, in the very literal sense. Heidi, being the most incredible and wonderful wife and partner one could possibly have went out with me today and we bought fabric at JoAnn Fabrics (where my eyes predictably glazed over after 45 seconds) for curtains for my office. The fabric was upholstery fabric at only $3.50 a yard! Then we headed to Lowe's and spent a bit more on the curtain rods and other such stuff. But the results were worth it.

Total bill right around a hundred bucks. Isn't she awesome? They look great and now I don't feel like I'm on display when I'm down here in the basement. Not that I really did before because it IS the basement after all, but still.

And that couch? It used to be in our family room prior to the great room remodel of Aught Eight. Then it ended up on the porch which made me feel very trashy. Heidi and I were finally able to haul it to the garage last week sometime and then my friend Ryan came over and helped us maneuver it into the basement.

So now I have a true den, as Darren Hayes would say, covered in darkness, covered in darkness.

Hot like Bea

I found this image quite randomly and it is equal parts hilarious and disturbing.

All I know is that after seeing it, I will never again be able to listen to the Saint Etienne song "Soft Like Me" in quite the same way again.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Depressing with a capital D (for Dolly)

I'm gearing up for the Dolly Parton concert in Minneapolis in just over 2 weeks. Getting ready for a concert is always such fun as I usually just immerse myself in the artist's music. This has proven to be no exception. Dolly is sure to be my #1 artist this week on and I noticed today that she was the third artist on my overall artists chart to crack 1,000 plays.

One of the things I love about Dolly is her songwriting. People that can write songs amaze me because I don't have a single shred of that talent. If I ever tried to write a song, it'd probably be about 25 seconds long and would likely sound like something already out there. But part and parcel with Dolly's songwriting is the depressing nature of many of her songs. She said on a live album released a few years back, "They say in Nashville, if you're gonna be a songwriter and you're gonna write songs, if you wanna have a hit--make it hurt!" I got to thinking about which of Dolly's songs really fit that bill for me. And I came up with a few.

The 5 Most Depressing Dolly Parton Songs

1) Down From Dover
You know, it's weird, but Dolly really has a disproportionate number of dead baby songs. This is the best "baby born dead" song ever. Dolly is a young unwed mother whose boyfriend has left her but promised that he'd be coming "down from Dover" before the baby is born. She's pretty much disowned by her family and, naturally, the baby's father never comes down from Dover. She has the baby, but "something's wrong, it's much too still/I hear no crying."

Sample lyric:
I guess in some strange way she knew
She'd never have a father's arms to hold her
And dying was her way of telling me he wasn't coming

Down from Dover.

2) Dagger Through The Heart
Although it could easily be lumped into one of a million "love gone wrong" country songs, this one really is, well, a dagger through the heart. The kickoff single from Halos and Horns (even though Dolly had long since been dropped like a hot potato from country radio), even though the song wasn't a hit, it really hurt. The video is classic, basically just a one shot of Dolly singing into the camera, but really, the minimalistic nature of the video suits the song well.

Sample lyric:
Oh, I know I'm a fool to keep stayin'
When you've made hurtin' me such an art,
Tossed around like a used box of crayons,
It's like a dagger through the heart

3) In The Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad)
Although it is tempting to mistakenly assume this song is about my high school years, this one is, as so many of Dolly's songs are, about her childhood in the Smokey Mountains. Probably the least depressing of all the songs on this list, because even Dolly found that the crap she went through living with some of the poorest people in the country had a silver lining. As she sings, "No amount of money could buy from me/The memories that I have of then/No amount of money could pay me/To go back and live through it again." Are you sure this song isn't really about Carroll High?

Sample lyric:
We'd get up before sun-up to get the work done up
We'd work in the fields till the sun had gone down

We've stood and we've cried as we have bristly watched

A hailstorm a' beatin' our crops to the ground

We've gone to bed hungry many nights in the past

In the good old days when times were bad

4) Daddy's Moonshine Still
God this song actually cracks me up, so it's probably out of place on this list. But truly, if you took it at face value (as opposed to how I do, which is completely tongue in cheek and fully appreciative of its camp value), this song of Dolly's daddy's illegal bootlegging operation redefines "dysfunctional family." Whether she's washing out the Mason jars, hiding the brew when the feds show up or ultimately leaving home for the world's oldest profession (presumably), it's all equally awful. Fortunately, I'm pretty sure that this song is NOT autobiographical.

Sample lyric:
My bootlegging daddy was known quite well
And he made our home a livin' hell
And I ain't forgot it and I know that I never will
My mama finally died she just gave up
And daddy finally died from drinkin' that stuff
And bad memories haunt the rest of us
From daddy's moonshine still

5) Letter To Heaven
This is a very obscure Dolly song, but I think it is probably one of the most emotionally wrenching Dolly song I know. Much like I felt at the end of The Mist, the first time I heard this song, I felt like I had been emotionally abused by the song. The gist of it is a grandfather is mourning the death of his daughter and is writing a letter to her in the great beyond. His granddaughter (the daughter of the dead lady in the song) climbs up on his knee and asks him to write "tell mommy I miss her" or something like that. Anyway, the grandfather puts it in an envelope and stamps it and gives it to the little girl to put in the mailbox across the street. She goes out to do it and gets CREAMED BY A CAR that speeds away.

Sample lyric:
She was crossing the street to the box o'er the way
And when she stepped out never looked either way
A big auto hit her and sped away fast
The little girls prayers had been answered at last.

Two songs didn't make the cut. One was "Me & Little Andy", yet another song about a kid dying and "If I Lose My Mind" which concerns Dolly leaving her husband and coming back home after her husband tried to convince her to participate in a threesome. And who said Dolly wasn't cutting edge?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Jabba - no match for Anna

So tonight I finally managed to open the Battle at Sarlacc's Pit game that I found at my folks' house over the weekend, thinking that Anna might enjoy playing it. I opened it up and I about fell over dead from shock when I found out that it was not missing one single piece. This is truly amazing considering how we treated our toys as kids. That is not to say that we were careless with them, but rather they just REALLY got played with.

It was, however, missing one very important piece of information: the directions for gameplay. Since I haven't played the game in probably 25 years, I hadn't any idea as to how to play it. A little inventive Google searching led me to this page, which had a pdf of the rules. With that, we were set to go. At least Anna was.

Get a load of the Jabba piece they have in the game. There's a lot on the web about how crappy the game pieces are, and they aren't kidding. Jabba looks like a snail or something.

Gameplay is incredibly easy, mostly having to do with number cards and "Force" cards, etc. I guess for a game geared at ages 7-12, it can't exactly be chess. Basically the idea is to knock all everybody into the Sarlacc Pit. As one review I found online said, anyone who can't find the fun in that needs to get out more often. You have to kill all the Gamorrean Guards first, then Boba Fett and Nikto before you get a shot at Jabba.

Naturally, Anna kicked my ass both times we played. I was nothing but Bantha poo-do to her. The Hutt was no match for her. Witness.

I imagine a lot more games of this in my future, although how long it will hold Anna's attention I'm not sure.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Stick-sticky and sweet

As you can probably guess, I gave into temptation and listened to the leak of Hard Candy. I just couldn't resist being part of the early listening party.

It is my pleasure to report (as I kind of did in the update post from a couple days ago) that it has surpassed my expectations. Granted, those expectations were pretty low, probably lower than they have been for new Madonna in quite a while, possibly ever. I just couldn't get my head around Madonna doing hip-hop and since I don't really do hip-hop, I was nervous that it would be the first place that Madonna has gone in 25 years that I wouldn't be able to follow. My nervousness was for naught because Madonna has crafted an album that successfully blends the hip-hop/R&B sounds so popular on today's radio with her trademark pop/dance groove.

Taking a cue from my good pal Yuri, what songs are doing it for me right now?

Candy Shop. I can't believe I'm writing that because I was thoroughly underwhelmed when the "demo" (which ended up being pretty much identical to the finished product) leaked last summer. Despite that, I found myself listening to it more and more in the run up to the album, especially after "4 Minutes" was officially released. It is, without a doubt, the least subtle double entendre we've gotten from Madonna since "Where Life Begins." Of course, Sherman tanks and tactical nuclear warheads are more subtle than "Where Life Begins" (how can you compete with "dining out can happen...down below" and "Colonel Sanders says it best...finger lickin' good..."?) But the constant barrage of "stick-sticky and sweet" combined with the "come on into my store, I've got candy galore", one cannot help but think that the candy shop is not your every day, run of the mill chocolate shop. Plus I love it when Madonna is naughty.

Devil Wouldn't Recognize You. As beautiful as Confessions is, it was really lacking in the ballad department. We knew that going in, but a lot of fans really missed her ballads. I, for one, did not, but it is good to hear her singing them again. Especially one that is so somber. It is also in a minor key which regular readers know I am thoroughly unable to resist. Apparently "Devil Wouldn't Recognize You" has been hanging around for a long time and I'm glad it finally found a home here.

Dance 2Night. I've read a lot of reviews by fellow bloggers that are singling out "Dance 2Night" as one of the weaker tracks. I have to say that I wholeheartedly disagree with this. More than any other track on the record, it sounds the most like 1982 Madonna! It seems like it could be an outtake from the debut if it were not for Madonna's vocals which are in the lower part of her register. I realized a few years back that pretty much all the female artists that I love the most are altos, so Madonna's transition away from the helium-filled vocals of the early years to the more natural sounding vocal she uses now was a welcome change. But if "Dance 2Night" is not a single, it would be a crime. I would love to see how this one is remixed.

Give It To Me. The next single, apparently. You can hear it playing in the background of that video of Madonna vacuuming. It has a good groove and while the lyrics are pedestrian, the music is fantastic! The funky keyboard behind the chorus is one of my favorite things about the song, followed quickly by the "Don't stop me now, don't need to catch my breath/I can go on and on and on" part. Sadly, I feel the song is marred a little bit by the "get stupid, get stupid, get stupid, don't stop!" breakdown which substitutes for a real bridge. And as everyone knows, all of Madonna's best songs have to-die-for bridges. Even a relative throwaway track like "Who's That Girl" is saved by a brilliant bridge ("Light up my life/So blind I can't see.)

Hard Candy is more hit than miss for me, although when she misses, she misses by a mile. "Spanish Lesson" WTF? I don't get it. And despite my best attempts, I have not been able to warm to "Incredible" which I just don't like. It is the longest song on the album, but by far the worst.

Heidi has still not been won over by the record, which she is referring to as Madonna's "flying buttresses" album. That's a reference from a review I read for Dolly Parton's Slow Dancing With The Moon album on which Dolly surrounded herself with the biggest names of early 90s country music on nearly every track. The reviewer complained that a songwriter and performer as accomplished as Dolly does not need flying buttresses to support herself. Ultimately, neither does Madonna. But perhaps she did to get that big old laced-up boot back in the door at American radio.

Overall, Hard Candy gets a solid B+ from me. It is not a new Madonna classic and certainly no Confessions on a Dance Floor, but it is certainly capable and will keep me satisfied until her next project. And I'm just starting to picture the next tour, which I am imagining will be long on new material and short on the 80s hit parade.

(photo via madonnalicious)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Jinkies, Cloverfield!

I went out tonight and bought the Cloverfield DVD as a bit of a reward to myself for not going completely stark raving mad for all the time spent in the car the last couple of days. It was only $16.99 at Target, with no two-disc special edition to tempt me, so I figured what the heck. It was one of those movies that I was really excited about at first, then dissed for reasons I still don't get, and then loved once I finally saw it a month or two after it was released.

Anyway, I was watching the special features on the laptop up on our bed, and Anna comes wandering in after her bath. I was afraid that she might be scared of the monster, but she climbed up next to me on the bed and they were showing how they did the scene in which the monster is being bombed.

Anna's reaction: Dad, that is NOT scary. The monster looks like his head is on upside down!

Her other classic comment was, upon seeing the green screen shot with the main characters in the helicopter: "Dad, is that Scooby Doo?"

No, kid, I'm sorry, but it isn't.

But the good thing? I think I am well on my way to having a kid not scared of horror flicks. Mission accomplished!!

Monday, April 21, 2008

A quick update...

So things are a bit crazy around here these days. We went to Carroll yesterday for Emily's visitation. We went back to Carroll today to go to her funeral. We didn't spend the night at my folks' house because Heidi had to work this morning and we didn't want Anna to miss any more school than she had to. Tomorrow, we're driving to Cedar Rapids to see Heidi's grandfather who is having quadruple bypass surgery later this week. When it rains around here, it pours. But we're persevering well even though I am blitzed.

Hard Candy leaked over the weekend and I have listened to the whole thing. I am breathing a huge sigh of relief because it's much better than I was anticipating. Don't let "4 Minutes" fool you. It's not indicative of the rest of the record. Definitely R&B/hip-hop inspired, but still a pop record. There was much rejoicing. I'm sure I'll have more to say about this later. Shocker!!

My Black CD, Wonderful Life, came today from Amazon Sellers! YAY! I will have to load that on my iPod before too much longer here.

I have lost my car keys but good somewhere in the house. I truly am running out of places for them to be. This is very disturbing.

I found this game at my folks' house today. Watching Return of the Jedi last week made me think of it. I can't believe they still had it.

It is actually worth quite a bit of money as it was not produced for very long, but sadly mine is not in great shape as is the case with most of my childhood toys. They just were played with too much!

And finally, I actually wore a tie today. Here's photographic evidence.

Look now, because it might be the last time until the next funeral. Or, as Heidi more optimistically pointed out, the next wedding.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Phenomenal woman

I struggled with the title for this post - oddly enough, those are usually the hardest parts for me to write. Getting the body of the post written is usually pretty easy. But giving it a title, a different story altogether.

After a 2 year battle with colon cancer, Emily Tadsen, the mother to my good friend for the past 22+ years Jeff, passed away. He called us tonight to let us know. I have very mixed emotions tonight about her death. On one hand, I am glad that she is finally out of pain and no longer has to struggle. On the other hand, I can't believe that this incredibly vibrant woman who I have had the pleasure of knowing over the last two decades is no longer with us. I think I'm still processing that.

I can't even begin to know how Jeff's feeling right now. I don't think anyone is ever ready to lose a parent, no matter how expected it is or what the circumstance is or how much it is their time to go. I will not even pretend to know what he's going through. However, Em has been in my thoughts a lot this week as you might imagine. She was not my mother, but as the mother of someone who I consider pretty much a member of my family, I feel a bit as if I have lost a family member.

The thing I can say most about Emily is that she had a presence. When she was around, she was there. We always made jokes about the glitter sweatshirts and the frosted hair and all that, but truly, these were an essential part of her charm and we wouldn't have had her any other way. Whenever I was at Jeff's house, no matter how old I was, she always treated me as if I were one of her own and always had conversation and usually cookies or some other dessert. Frequently, the conversation was about "The Young & The Restless" or the famous night in 1990 when Jeff, Kathy, Jen and I were chased on Highway 71 north of Carroll by someone unknown to us. We ended up turning off in Mt. Carmel and lost them there. Henceforth, it was known as the Midnight Run to Mt. Carmel. For years after the incident, she would faithfully ask me if I had been to Mt. Carmel recently whenever she saw me.

It's things like this that will live on inside of me now that Em is gone. Last December, Jeff's sister Dee Dee had a surprise party for Jeff upon the completion of his Master's Degree and talk turned to Emily. She has so many funny stories associated with her. Her complete mortification of me talking to her nonchalantly about "Y&R" after she had "taken her face off for the night" (I didn't even notice, which probably would have mortified her more.) The candy cane sleighs that she was so proud of that she called Jeff up at school several times to tell him about it, only to have him completely shatter them when he arrived home from college. "You're not Nelson!!" The list goes on and on. Most of them are inside jokes that would make no sense if I told them, but they are embody what I will always remember about her.

So even though Emily has shuffled off this mortal coil (on to something infinitely more fabulous, I'm certain), I can't help but think of the words that Madonna sang 14 years ago. Written about her own mother's death, she sang:

I will always have you inside of me
Even though you're gone
Love still carries on

Love, inside of me

And there's probably no doubt that Emily would pale at having a Madonna song dedicated to her memory.

Here's to you Emily. I'll miss you terribly, but your spirit lives on. You were truly a phenomenal woman (Olivia Newton-John mp3, limited time only folks.)

And go here for Heidi's post about Em. It has a title I would have traded a kidney to have come up with first.

Gimme a head with hair, long beautiful hair

I had a very long overdue haircut today. The last time I went in, Jill (the lady that cuts my hair) decided to leave my hair quite a bit longer in the back. When I got home from that haircut, Heidi predicted that I would not like it in about a week because the back was too long. It wasn't bad, but as I complained on this very blog, we straightened my hair and then I felt like I had a mini-mullet. So I went in and got the complimentary shape up of the back of my hair.

It had been over 2 months since my last proper haircut, so to say that I was overdue is putting it mildly. This was what the back of my head looked like today.

Good heavens, that is the longest my hair has EVER been. I didn't mind it so much, but it was really starting to look messy and honestly, it didn't really suit me all that well. It was a fun experiment and something that I never would have done a few years back. But since the last couple years have been all about challenging people's preconceived notions, I'm not surprised that I did it. But ultimately, I wanted something a little cleaner in the back. Like this.
It's still a bit long on top, although some of the length had to come off to match the new length in the back. I'd really like to keep the top length, especially if I'm going to keep on straightening it. But who knows.

There. I just did a whole post about hair. And I'm not apologizing.

(And look at that gray head!)

All hail the return of Bitchy Madonna!

OK, yes, the bitchiness is put on and the faux British accent is back but oh my God. We haven't seen Madonna in this kind of form since, oh, I don't know....Erotica?

Perhaps my favorite part is the juxtaposition of this diva moment with vacuuming the rug. What a study in contrasts.

(via XO)

Zombies on a plane

OK, it's 1AM and I really should be in bed, but I really need to blog this. I just got done watching, I shit you not, Flight of the Living Dead. You read that correctly. Not NIGHT of the Living Dead, FLIGHT of the Living Dead. As it turns out, I have rented so many zombie movies from Netflix, they have started recommending zombie movies to me. Last night, while I was trying to decide what to get from Netflix next, I came across that little gem in my recommendations. I'll admit it, I was powerless to resist it, based almost entirely on the title alone.

This movie hardly needs a plot summary, but the bottom line is zombies (the fast kind) wreak complete and utter havoc on a 747 bound for Paris. The index case is explained via some completely laughable (and ultimately unnecessary) reason having to do with the malaria "virus." (Hello! Malaria's not caused by a virus!) Once you get that out of the way, along with some back story set-up for various passengers, it's nothing but flesh eating nastiness for 96 minutes.

I am happy to report, that like Freddy vs. Jason, Alien vs. Predator and Severed: Forest of the Dead before it, this movie is so much better than any movie named Flight of the Living Dead has any right being. Honestly, I was expecting something that would qualify for Up All Night with Rhonda Shear on USA Network back in the day. The zombie effects are very good, especially for a movie that went straight to DVD. It is littered with no name actors that actually turn in some pretty good performances. The only actor that was familiar to me was Kevin J. O'Connor, who I recognized from The Mummy.

Taking several cues from Snakes on a Plane (which I also enjoyed in spite of myself), it managed to take the zombie genre in a direction that I'm not sure anyone else has taken it. Sure, the zombies on the ground are scary, but you can always run away and hide. What are you going to do when you're stuck on a plane? You're pretty much screwed. But while Flight of the Living Dead put a new spin on the undead, it also respected the zombie rules. This made me very happy as nothing pisses me off more than a zombie movie that does not know the rules. And what's the most important zombie rule? All together now..."Kill the brain, you kill the ghoul."

Watching this movie tonight also renewed my desire to someday, somehow be a zombie extra in a movie. It doesn't even have to be a big budget movie! It can be someone's home movie for all I care. As it stands right now, my only hope is to have a Halloween party and invite people that would want to dress up like zombies with me.

Not sure if that will ever happen.

This movie is highly recommended to any fans of the zombie genre. It has a healthy respect for zombies but is also not afraid to go in new directions. Totally worth a Netflix rental. Now here's hoping that I can get Alien vs. Predator 2: Requiem next. I must truly be a glutton for punishment.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Movie quotes meme - answers

I have updated the movie quotes meme with all who guessed correctly! Thanks for playing along. Anyway, here is the complete list of answers (and a list of my 15 favorite movies.)

1) An American Werewolf In London
2) Back To The Future
3) JFK
4) The Insider
5) Bright Lights, Big City
6) 9 to 5
7) Donnie Darko
8) Alien
9) Mommie Dearest
10) Tootsie
11) Xanadu
12) The Breakfast Club
13) Night of the Living Dead
14) Saturday Night Fever
15) Zodiac

A rather motley mix, I will admit.

Monday, April 14, 2008

No need to run and hide

I've been listening to a couple songs today that really struck me. They both address pretty much the same thing, but are quite dissimilar otherwise. The first is Black's "Wonderful Life" which played over the end scene of an episode of Queer As Folk (the one in which Brian has broken his collarbone on the Liberty Ride and insists on finishing.) I had the song on the QAF Season 4 soundtrack but it never really resonated with me until just recently. Most of my pop blogger friends probably know it well since it's an oldie, but honestly, I had never heard it before!

What I love about this song is it celebrates the beauty of standing on your own. However, it also recognizes that while, as Madonna says "I can make it alone" it is sometimes preferable not to.

Look at me standing, here on my own again.
Up straight in the sunshine.

No need to run and hide
It's a wonderful, wonderful life.

Brooding and, oddly enough, in a minor key, if you listen to it enough, you actually start to believe him. Ace of Base covered this song on their Da Capo album, but it is too bouncy and cheery. Not enough brood for this Angel, I guess!

The other song, as I said addresses much the same points. It is Savage Garden's "Affirmation." This has always been one of my favorite Savage Garden album tracks. I swear, the more I listen to Darren Hayes, the more I like their non singles. (Yes, I know it was a single in Europe. Spare me.) Because, let's face it, they were definitely a singles band.

Anyway, Darren lists off all these things that he "believes" in the song. And I daresay that I pretty much agree with him on nearly every single point. Yes, it could be argued that the sentiments are annoying, hackneyed cliches. True, to a point. But it is wrapped in such a great pop sheen that I am powerless to resist it. Especially the chorus.

I believe in Karma what you give is what you get returned
I believe you can't appreciate real love until you've been burned
I believe the grass is no more greener on the other side
I believe you don't know what you've got until you say goodbye

I especially love it when the chorus is sung for the last time and Darren slips into his falsetto on the "grass is no more greener on the other side" line. Grammatically offensive, yes, but fantastic.

I am fond of letting the music I'm listening to set my mood and sometimes vice versa. And these songs, while simple pop songs really do appeal to my quiet introspection. Who would have thought?

Oh Donna

We finally got around to watching the first episode of Series Four of Doctor Who last night, which premiered on the BBC a week ago Saturday. I will admit that I was a bit leery, mostly because of the choice of companion for the Doctor. David Tennant as the Doctor can do no wrong, but an entire season of Catherine Tate as Donna? Runaway Bride Donna? Shrill, shrieking, annoying Donna? I was not convinced.

I am happy to report that not only is Donna tolerable, she was actually very good! I will not spoil anything about the episode as it will be running nearly concurrently on Sci-Fi (chopped up a la Torchwood, I imagine) but I am MOST PLEASED that certain things were addressed head on. And it also had an ending that I would never dream of spoiling (even if it weren't running on Sci-Fi) which I didn't see coming AT ALL. Even Heidi didn't see it coming, and she always sees stuff like that coming.

We have the second episode to watch tonight, which I am very much looking forward to. This is a good start for Series Four, which will (sadly) be the last full series until 2010. At least there will be the Christmas special in December and three new eps in 2009 to keep us satisfied while Tennant is off playing Hamlet.

PS, the redesigned Doctor Who web site is not-so-good.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

NYC: Ghosts

The last Saturday night we were in New York, I went off on my own and took the subway down to Christopher Street, which is in the West Village. It is also what may be considered the cradle of the LGBT movement in this country. Much like the ocean, I couldn't go all the way to New York and not go there, not when LGBT rights is a cause so close to my heart. Heidi and I actually got off the subway at the Christopher Street stop on our night out exploring the Village, but it was dark and it was our first time down there, so we weren't really sure where we were going. But when I went down on Saturday night with the express purpose of finding the Stonewall Inn, I made sure that I knew where I was going.

What is so cool about Christopher Street and the Village in general is that in many ways, it's a small town in the midst of the huge city that is New York. But make no mistake, you're still in New York. You get off the subway at Christopher Street and 7th Avenue. You can see a Starbucks and a GNC, but what you also see is a neighborhood. It's a relief from the tall buildings and detachment that seems to characterize a lot of Midtown. Although you can still see the Empire State Building from parts of the Village, it feels a lot different and is almost midwestern in many ways.

Anyway, I got off the subway and headed down Christopher Street looking for the Stonewall Inn. Naturally, I headed in the wrong direction as I only had the address but by this point, the tea had been spilled on the laptop so Google Maps was not an option prior to heading out. This was okay as sometimes the most interesting things in life (mine anyway) happen quite by accident. One thing I found quite hilarious was the fact that a Junie B. Jones Live! show was just getting over as I was walking down past the theater at which it was showing. Piles of young families were pouring out of the theater and began the walk west down Christopher Street to the subway stop. To get there, they had to walk past fetish and porn shops. It's a funny dichotomy of the Village. Family friendly, but yet, not so much. I wonder how uncomfortable some of those parents were.

Once I figured out I was headed in the wrong direction, I headed west and before long, I had found the Stonewall Inn, site of the Stonewall Riots in 1969 and the beginning of the LBGT movement in the U.S.

Here's the plaque that's by the side of the door:

And here's an article from back in 1969 describing the riots that is posted in the window.

Across the street from the Stonewall is Sheridan Square Park, which contains sculptures done by George Segal commemorating the gay rights movement.

According to the information sign that went along with this display, there was apparently a lot of public opposition to the design and it took nearly 10 years to get the statues officially placed and unveiled. Once this was accomplished in 1992,

"The initial opposition and that had greeted the project had subsided; the advent of AIDS, which had devastated the gay community in particular, added another poignant dimension to the monument its mute figures' impact."

The one thing that I took away from my entire Christopher Street experience is this: Christopher Street is haunted. You can feel the presence of ghosts of those initial victims of AIDS, who died back when otherwise healthy young men were succumbing to a pneumonia seen only in immune suppressed patients, a rare cancer usually striking elderly men in the Mediterranean and intestinal parasites not previously known to infect humans. This is the place where these men lived and died, lives cut tragically short in large part due to the government's failure to quickly recognize the threat and act decisively. And while those days are long gone (thank heavens), they should never be forgotten - something I fear is happening now that AIDS has become a "chronic, manageable illness." (which it is not.)

It was so important on so many levels for me to take that tour of what basically amounts to "gay New York." It was taken as a tribute to every single gay friend I have who are so dear to me and also as a trip through a history that we would be wise to remember.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

NYC: Crash into the ocean

Traveling to NYC took care of one deficiency that has been bothering me a lot recently.

I am nearly 36 years old and until just a week ago, I had never seen the ocean. Sure, I'd been to Chicago and seen Lake Michigan which gives much the same effect (i.e., you can't see the other side of it) but it was a pretty sorry substitute. Even seeing the ocean in New York Harbor is not the same as the view of the ocean that spreads out in front of you as far as you can see. We figured that it was pretty silly to get so close and not go.

So one afternoon, we all piled on the subway and headed out to Coney Island. This was not before we ended up heading north rather than south and took a detour at the Queensboro Plaza subway stop. Once we were heading in the right direction, it took about a half an hour of riding to get to the tip of Brooklyn. It was an interesting trip in its own right because a good 50% of the ride is actually above ground. The subway went through some areas that I would consider to be less than desirable, but hey, it's New York and not everything is 5th Avenue ("Number One, 5th Avenue!") A parallel subway takes you to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, which is the setting for a good chunk of Saturday Night Fever. Next time.

Anyway, we got out at Coney Island and what I didn't realize is that there was going to be a beach there. Well, I was not about to miss the opportunity to take off my shoes and socks, roll up my jeans (it's 1986 all over again!) and get my feet wet. So I did.

Let me tell you, that water was freezing. We even got this video.

But what was the best is that despite the cold, Anna loved the water. I kidded that she was reenacting the "Cherish" video, which should be pretty apparent by these photos.

Cherish the thought.

Zombie fans

I'm sorry, but this is just about the most brilliant thing I have seen in a while.

It says something about Beatlemania in the 60s, no?

Movie quotes meme

Audience participation time!! Heidi did this a while back, and I always meant to do it. What better time than a lazy (EXCEPTIONALLY lazy) Saturday afternoon to do it. Here's the rules:

1) I've thought of 15 of my favorite movies and found quotes for each at IMDB. These are posted in the body of the post.
2) Try to guess which movies these are from. Put your guesses in the comment section. When someone guesses the movie, I'll add the movie name and the person who got it right. (No fair using IMDB to find the answer or using Google)

Also, try to limit yourself to three if you know a majority of them.

On with the show - these really are 15 of my favorite movies. You can ask Heidi if you don't believe me.

Movie #1:
Queen Elizabeth is a man! Prince Charles is a faggot! Winston Churchill was full of shit! Shakespeare's French! (An American Werewolf In London guessed by Adem)

Movie #2:
Character 1: He's a very strange young man.
Character 2: He's an idiot. Comes from upbringing. His parents are probably idiots too. Lorraine, if you ever have a kid that acts that way I'll disown you.
(Back To The Future, guessed by Heidi)

Movie #3:
The organizing principle of any society, Mr. Garrison, is for war. The authority of the state over its people resides in its war powers.

Movie #4:
Character 1: And do you wish you hadn't come forward? Do you wish you hadn't blown the whistle?
Character 2: There are times when I wish I hadn't done it. There are times when I feel com... compelled to do it. If you asked me, would I do it again, do I think it's worth it? Yeah I think its worth it.
(The Insider, guessed by Heidi)

Movie #5:
You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning and, though the details are fuzzy, you cannot say that the terrain is entirely unfamiliar.

Movie #6:
I'm no fool. I've killed the boss, you think they're not gonna fire me for a thing like that? (9 to 5, guessed by Yuri)

Movie #7:
Character 1: Life isn't that simple. I mean who cares if Ling Ling returns the wallet and keeps the money? It has nothing to do with either fear or love.
Character 2: Fear and love are the deepest of human emotions.
Character 1: Okay. But you're not listening to me. There are other things that need to be taken into account here. Like the whole spectrum of human emotion. You can't just lump everything into these two categories and then just deny everything else!

Movie #8:
Something has attached itself to him. We have to get him to the infirmary right away. (Alien, guessed by Randy)

Movie #9:
Character 1: As usual, she has the last word.
Character 2: Does she? Does she?
(Mommie Dearest, guessed by Randy)

Movie #10:
Oh I know what y'all really want is some gross caricature of a woman to prove some idiotic point that power makes a woman masculine, or masculine women are ugly. Well shame on you for letting a man do that, or any man that does that. That means you, dear. Miss Marshall. Shame on you, you macho shit head. (Tootsie, guessed by Yuri)

Movie #11:
Have you ever heard the expression "kissed by a muse"? Well, that's what I am. I'm a muse. (Xanadu guessed by Ryan)

Movie #12:
Character 1: Why do you have to insult everybody?
Character 2: I'm being honest, asshole. I would expect you to know the difference.
(The Breakfast Club guessed by Matt)

Movie #13:
Character 1: Don't you understand? My brother is alone!
Character 2: Your brother is dead.
Character 1: NO! My brother is NOT dead!
(Night of the Living Dead guessed by Ryan)

Movie #14:
I knew you'd piss on it. Go on, just piss on it alright. A raise says like you're good, you know? You know how many times someone told me I was good in my life? Two! Twice! Two fuckin' times! This raise today, and dancing at the disco! (Saturday Night Fever guessed by Matt)

Movie #15:
Do you know more people die in the East Bay commute every three months than that idiot ever killed? He offed a few citizens, wrote a few letters, then faded into footnote... Not that I haven't been sitting here idly, waiting for you to drop by and reinvigorate my sense of purpose.

All right lurkers, come out of hiding.

Two toes or three?

This is how I'm feeling today.

It is 12:42PM, I am still in my pajamas, have not showered and have done nothing of any significance whatsoever. Apparently, we really need this.

But I am going to try to whip my office into shape as it has become rather sty-like.

A NYC post today. I promise.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Early morning

It's raining to beat the band out there this morning. I would take the bus, but it doesn't get to work until just before I'm supposed to be there, so it's walking for me. This is really OK. As long as it's not windy, the rain is not so bad. Sometimes, it's actually quite refreshing.

I have been meaning to do blog posts pretty much every day this week about our trip, but obviously that has not happened. It's been a bit of a stressful week, kind of a trial by fire ("trial by stone!") and when coupled with the reentry from vacation, I have been pretty much wiped out every night and not able to form coherent sentences. And yesterday, Anna came home from school sick and has been running a fever all night long. No school for her today, which kind of sucks because tonight was science night at her school and I know that she wanted to do that.

The consequence of her being sick was that she was up a lot in the night, which means that so were we. What I would give for a good night's sleep.

Seriously, aren't vacations supposed to be refreshing? And I suppose I was refreshed for a while, but it doesn't take long to get sucked back into your real life. I suppose the lesson to be had there is to be conscious of that, resist the natural tendency to slip back into old patterns and develop new ones. Perhaps that's what I will do today.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Forgetfulness and Mimi

Today I got an email from Heidi with the following subject line: "just so you know..." These kinds of things always make me wince a bit because it's usually something that I don't particularly want to know, but am probably better off knowing. The body of the e-mail was something to the effect that if she ever murders me in my sleep, it will be because I forgot to start the dishwasher after loading it. To that I say, guilty as charged.

I am nothing if not forgetful and absent-minded. I am, as Heidi frequently refers to me, the original absent-minded professor. Truthfully, it's amazing that I can do my job because it requires a great deal of attention to detail and follow-through. Perhaps I channel my entire allotment of attention to detail and follow-through to my job, and then have none to spare for things like the dishwasher and hanging up my coat and keeping track of my car keys.

It is certainly not for lack of trying that things get missed and deadlines pass. Take, for example, today's dishwasher incident. I got the entire kitchen cleaned up before work. All the dishes that would fit in the dishwasher were in there. I handwashed the ones that did not. (I get an odd sense of satisfaction out of doing dishes. Call me crazy.) But after that, I was on to the next thing which was getting ready for work and the teensy weensy detail of starting the dishwasher just flew right out of my brain and into the ether. Which led to much cursing by my wife.

My tombstone will probably say something "Here lies Dan...'Oh, I meant to do that!!'"

And in completely unrelated news, I think hell is frozen completely and utterly solid. Mariah Carey's new record E=MC2 leaked the other day. I listened to it against my better judgment and, I'll be damned, but it's not half bad. I still can't be bothered with the random rappers and other such shit, but there are songs with actual melody that Mariah does not beat into bloody submission with her vocal acrobatics. I haven't liked a Mariah album since the debut 18 years ago (which is still, IMHO, one of the best pop albums of the 90s.) While she's had some good songs, I have mostly been not all that much interested in the albums.

Believe me, no one is more shocked than I am.

And I still concur with D'Luv that Mariah looks like a scarecrow on the album cover.

Monday, April 07, 2008

4 Minutes, now with visuals

While in New York, the "4 Minutes" video premiered and became available for sale. Madonna is one of the quintessential video artists, taking music video in directions all her own. Some of the best videos of the 80s and 90s are Madonna's, so her videos are usually met with very high expectations by fans.

Recently, I feel like her heart has not been in the video-making aspect of her career. All of the videos from Confessions On A Dance Floor were uninspired and mediocre at best, God awful at worst. But take heart, old school Madge fans, the Queen has returned to reclaim her throne.

This video may not be there for long, so if you click on it and it's gone, just go search YouTube.

Madge looks FANTASTIC in this. Yes, she's been airbrushed and the cosmetic cheekbones are helping, but she looks like she actually gives a shit about making this video. I am still in love with her boots! I also love how she walks down off that car and onto the table. As Jeff said to me yesterday, could you imagine eating your tuna casserole and having Madonna step down on to your table??

There is not enough dancing in it, although I particularly love the "Nobody Knows Me" Re-Invention Tour moment at about the 2:18 mark. I think that Madonna's dancing is the thing that gets the most lost in image and hair color, etc. that people seems to focus on. On her tours, I am always amazed and astounded at her dancing ability.

So it's a good kick-off video. I still don't like Timbaland in it (mostly because it's not my kind of music really) but Madonna is H.O.T.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Back from the Big Apple

We are back and all in one piece. NYC was a great time, but we are very happy to be back in Iowa and in our own beds. None of the cats expired in our absence which is a good thing. The cat litter most definitely needed scooping (I just can't bring myself to ask someone else to scoop our cat boxes.) We flew direct from LaGuardia in New York to Des Moines today, something for which we were very happy today as we were all weary and eager to be home.

We had a great time. I got to experience the city. I dipped my feet in the Atlantic Ocean at Coney Island. We got on mutiple wrong subway trains but never got mugged. There was an exceptionally tense moment when Heidi spilled half of a cup of tea into the MacBook. However, once it dried out , we powered it up today and it ran like a champ. YAY Macs! I am still in shock that it was not fried. A PC laptop would not be functioning in any way or form after abuse like that.

If I had to do it all again, I wouldn't change a single thing--as a wise person once said. Kylie, I think.

More details to come, once I recover.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Other places make me feel like a dork

(Come on, you knew I couldn't resist that subject line.)

I wanted to do at least one blog from New York. As predicted, the time to e-mail and/or blog has been pretty limited. However, as I said before I left, I was certainly not going to spend all my time in New York doing the shit that I can do at home.

The last few days have been full of exciting adventures. I have also parted with a lot of cash but I knew in my heart of hearts that you can't go to New York and not spend more money than you intended. Somebody mentioned to me last week that whenever you plunk down money for a big ticket item like a vacation, you count on the memory being worth the investment. Or something like that anyway. Well, I can certainly say that while the vacation has been expensive - more expensive than I would have personally preferred, it is certainly providing us with a lot of once-in-a-lifetime experiences that are more than worth the investment. As my father says, "you don't want to be the richest guy in the graveyard." (which alternates with "they're not going to dump the money in on top of you when you're in your coffin.")

So Wednesday was the Statue of Liberty which Anna really wanted to do and, truth be told, so did I. It was one of those things that I couldn't imagine going to New York and not seeing. I was a hero for pre-ordering those reserved tickets because the line of people waiting in line for the non-reserved tickets was amazingly long. Having the reserved tickets got us to the front of that line but then we had to stand in another line (not quite as long) while the wind whipped off of New York Harbor and slowly turned us into popsicles.

It was, as Eddie Izzard would say, fucking freezing. The ride on the ferry was bitterly cold, we mostly hung onto our hats the whole way. Once we got onto Liberty Island, the wind seemed to abate a bit and we were a bit better, but even so, the wind was just so cold! Although we went through security to get on the ferry, once there we had to go through yet ANOTHER round of security to get into the pedestal of the Statue. It was worth it because there is a pretty cool museum and you also get an up close and personal view of the torch that was taken down during the 1980s renovation of the Statue. We also took the opportunity to take some intensely screwball pictures as is witnessed below.

I also got a very couple of very iconic shots of the Statue which nearly everyone has seen in books and you can buy on postcards on any street corner, but the difference was I took them with my very own camera!

After all was said and done, I'm glad I went, but will definitely skip it on any other trips to New York. Once was plenty.

Most of yesterday was spent in Central Park where we mooched some free wi-fi and Anna rode the carousel. She and I also walked the mid point of the park and then from the east side clear over to the west side so that I could see the Dakota (which famously stands in for the Bramford in Rosemary's Baby.) I also got a couple good shots of Sheep Meadow, the site of Babs' 1968 A Happening In Central Park concert. It was so much smaller than I expected.

Heidi and I subwayed down to the Village last night and walked until our feet were about to fall off. We found a cute little restaurant called Le Petit Bistro. The operative word was definitely little. Even the bathrooms were little! But the food was good and we were certainly glad that we held out for it.

Today promises rain, but we're still going to try to head out and subway around some more. We want to take Anna down to Times Square (Heidi and I explored that the first night we were here) and I'd like to head over to Broadway and hit Forbidden Planet. I do plan to sleep in some tomorrow morning as there has not been nearly enough of that.

One casualty of the vacation has been my beard. It is gone (for the moment.) I realized upon our arrival that I forgot to pack my beard trimmer. Because of my firm belief that if you're going to have facial hair, you need to take care of it, I decided to shave it off rather than become Grizzly Adams. I still hate how I look without it. Looking in the mirror is very jarring when I am clean shaven! But by Saturday I should have a good majority of it back, so no worries on that front. Even this morning I can see the beginnings of it. Soon we will be to the scruffy half-beard stage that never fails to get the missus all excited.

This may very well be the last blog while we're on the road. I'm getting a Google Photo set ready for those who would like to see it. A few of you have already seen the pictures, and I'll post a full link here when all the best pictures are uploaded.

Which will be after we get home. Because I don't want to spend my vacation uploading photos. But I will upload this last shot because it pretty much perfectly encapsulates Anna's reaction to New York. I took this yesterday in Central Park and while it was slightly posed, it also has a candid element to it that makes for the best photos.

But now I am off to watcht the "4 Minutes" video which I just downloaded from iTunes. Because some things just can't wait till you get back from vacation.