Saturday, November 29, 2008


The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is already in Heidi's top 3 favorite books of all time, and she even said that it might eke ahead of American Gods (*gasp!*) for her. Based on this, I am reading it now, and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this book DESERVED its Pulitzer Prize. This is apparent 50 pages in.

It will probably not overtake Bright Lights, Big City for me (that would be a tall order indeed), but I can see this surpassing A Prayer for Owen Meany, which is my favorite John Irving book.

Speaking of Irving, I'm not sure I'll ever be able to read him again - not even to reread. Don't get me wrong, I loved his books when I was in college, but nothing since Owen Meany has really spoken to me (although A Widow for One Year came very close.) I don't know if it was a function of where I was in life when I was reading his work (early 20s) but I just devoured his novels ferociously from about 1991-1993. Everyone has experiences they wish they could do over again, and one of them for me is feeling the thrill of my first time through The World According to Garp once again. But you can't go back, so you just try to remember it. I have tried rereading Garp on several occasions, and have not been able to get past the part where Garp is stuck on the roof of the infirmary. I was so profoundly moved by that book, that every attempt at a reread just feels empty.

Anyway, I'm glad to have discovered The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. Fiction is always such a tough sell with me - most times I'd rather read non-fiction. But the story has grabbed me and is not letting go this time.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Artistic supplement

I meant to post this with my Tusk post from earlier this week, but I completely forgot! As I was listening to Tusk, I remembered this picture of the cassette tape that I had drawn in a high-school journal from around that time period (1988.) I still have all those journals, tucked away in the basement and I had to go through pretty much all of them to find it, but I did.

I have cropped out all my writing around it because there is no way on God's green earth that those words will ever find their way on to the internet. Let's just say, that which seemed profound when I was 15 is not so profound (and actually quite painful!) at 36. *shudder*

What I love about the picture is how the top of the cassette kept getting larger because I couldn't write as small as the writing on the actual tape! I couldn't even get all the songs in.

In a world of make believe

So this morning, I'm cleaning up the kitchen and I felt like putting on some smooth 70s Helen Reddy. I have this bizarre attachment to Helen Reddy's Greatest Hits, which my mom had on 8-track when I was a kid. I was probably about Anna's age and I would listen to it endlessly, so much so that when I listen to it now, I expect the songs where you switched programs (remember those!?) to still have that fade-out and fade-in in the middle of the song.

Anyway, I was listening to the song "Angie Baby" which is famously cryptic in its lyrics. Reddy has never divulged what she thought the song was about, but it always kind of scared me as a kid. The chorus to "Angie Baby" has the following lines:

Angie baby, you're a special lady
Living in a world of make believe
Well, maybe.

I was telling Heidi that when I was a kid, I would hear those words and I mistook it for being the NEIGHBORHOOD of Make Believe, so whenever I heard the song, I immediately got images of King Friday XIII, Queen Sarah Saturday and Lady Elaine Fairchild in my head.

Very odd bedfellows, no? I had not seen a picture of Lady Elaine in ages and she is actually kind of freakish. And the Museum-Go-Round? What was that all about?

Incidentally, I think only in the 70s could someone with the name "Helen" be a pop star.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A chip off the old (Lego) block

Back in June, for Father's Day (Bedelia), Anna and Heidi got me Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga for the Wii. I had heard about it and seen it advertised in various places. My friend Matt assured me that it was a good game to play with kids Anna's age, mostly because it is more cooperative than it is competitive. And truthfully, who can resist seeing one of the defining movie series of our generation played out before you in Lego blocks?

So they picked it up - $49.99 in June of 2008. Of course, it is $19.99 at Target right now, but when I think of the hours that Anna and I have spent playing the game, I think that it has been worth more than 30 dollars. She loves it, and what's better, she has really learned a lot about the Star Wars mythology via this game. The game is clever, easy to play for the most part (although there are some places that just stump the hell out of you) and seeing those classic scenes made up of Legos is just a blast.

Anyway, last night, we took Super Mario Galaxy (which I think Anna is going to be getting for Christmas - it was the second time we had rented it) back to Hastings. I wasn't sure I was going to rent anything else but there was Lego Batman: The Videogame, which I had seen the trailer for and had been very interested in. Basically, it is the same premise as Lego Star Wars, only this time, you're playing with the classic Batman characters from the comic books. Anna thought that sounded like fun and so did I.

We were not disappointed. It is harder than Lego Star Wars, but I think a lot of that is the learning curve. We are used to characters that wield light sabers, blasters and use The Force. No such thing here, obviously. We're still getting the hang of the Batarang (and keep forgetting about being able to use it in sticky spots.) Overall, it suffers a little bit because you are not playing through something that is practically a part of our generational DNA, but it is colorful and funny and will definitely be replayable. Right now, we're playing cooperatively as Batman and Robin (for some reason, I ALWAYS have to be Robin,) but you can also play levels as one of many different villains. I can't wait to play the villain levels, but that will probably require us to purchase the game as I don't see us getting that far by next Saturday.

Ultimately, what I love about these games is the time I get to spend solving puzzles with my daughter, even though sometimes we get very frustrated (sometimes with each other.) The cartoony level of violence is appropriate for someone her age - there is no blood, only people made of Legos shattering apart. No, it is not the cure for cancer or world peace, but it is fun and something Anna and I can enjoy together.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A ghost through the fog

As Sophia Petrillo might say: Picture it. Des Moines, IA. 1988. A 15 year old Dan, recently immersed in Fleetwood Mac is busily buying up all the albums from the Stevie-Lindsey-Christine line up. On this particular day, the purchase was Tusk, the sprawling double album that was the follow-up to Rumours. It is also the last of that set of albums that he had yet to acquire. A stop at Merle Hay Mall left him with exactly what he needed and he held the cassette tape proudly in his hands. Once back at the car, he climbed in the back seat and his folks popped the tape into the car. Christine McVie's "Over & Over" started things off on a nice note. Then "The Ledge" came on and his WTF reaction commenced.

I have been listening to a lot of Tusk these days. As is the case with most of these kinds of things, I can't really put my finger on what brought it on. Tusk is certainly not my favorite Fleetwood Mac album. Because of this, I don't really feel qualified to talk about it -- I don't know that I've ever given it a fair shake. But I have been listening to Fleetwood Mac for 20 years now, so I figured, what the hell? In many ways, I feel like Tusk is a Lindsey Buckingham solo album that the rest of the band was invited to do guest spots on. It's not like Lindsey does the lead vocal on every song and yes, Christine and Stevie get a fair amount of the spotlight, but for some reason, it has always felt like Lindsey's record. Tusk is not a bad album. However, it is chronically misunderstood and also ultimately collapses under its own weight. Very few double albums avoid this fate.

My favorite story surrounding the Tusk album is about how the head honchos at Warner Bros. "saw their Christmas bonuses flying out the window" when they heard Tusk. Certainly, if they were expecting Rumours II, they did not get it. It is big and bold and experimental and self indulgent and only periodically commercial. That has always been my problem with it - it doesn't really sound like Fleetwood Mac. Oh, it does in places, but I think with this record, we saw what Lindsey truly wanted to do in the studio, and he has continued in this vein for most of his solo work.

It is easy to fault Lindsey for Tusk being a big behemoth of an album, but really, he is also key to its success. Lest Matt stop speaking to me, I will say that he does contribute a lot of strong songs, even if the production seems a bit batshit crazy in a lot of places. I have always been fond of "Not That Funny" and I have vivid memories of riding on a charter bus through the night on the way to the Ozarks for a school trip listening to "I Know I'm Not Wrong." Even though I initially reacted very negatively to it, I have come to really appreciate "The Ledge" despite the fact that I couldn't understand a single word of it for the longest time. And although I think the production on his own songs is insane, his production of Stevie is stellar, reminding us that he is without a doubt the producer she needs the most.

It is no secret that I have always had a very Stevie-centric view of Fleetwood Mac, and her five contributions to Tusk are among her best work, in or out of Fleetwood Mac. I will never forget that day in the spring of 88, listening to "Sara" for the very first time. I can't get my head around the fact that there was ever a time in my life that I did not know "Sara." Years later when I was in college, I had a mix tape that collected those five songs from Tusk so that I could listen to them one after another. "Beautiful Child" is arguably her best contribution to Fleetwood Mac, and "Storms" with its key line "never have I been a blue calm sea/I have always been a storm" was one of those songs that I kept coming back to during my adolescence and college years as I grew into who I am today.

Tusk is chock full of memories for me, even though as an album it never got nearly the rotation that Rumours, Mirage or Tango in the Night got. The spring of 1988 was a real watershed time for me, and the music associated with it is indelibly stamped into my brain. I will always be able to summon those feelings and images while listening to Tusk. Perhaps that's why I dug it out after all this time. As I get older, those times become much like Stevie's famous ghost through the fog. The music reminds me of where I've been and helps me figure out where I'm headed.

For all its foibles and indulgences, Tusk sounds better today than the first time I heard it nearly 20 years ago. Time has vindicated it to some extent. It will never be Rumours, but I don't think that was ever the intention.

They are all infants in that video!

Two Dollys down

For me, concerts always have this dreamlike quality about them. When you're in them, you can hardly believe that you are there, and when you leave the concert hall, the experience almost immediately begins to fade, the memory punctuated mostly by fleeting moments that really stick out. And on my budget (and with the kinds of performers I tend to see), going twice is not only financially impossible but also something that seems incredibly excessive.

So it was with great excitement that I got to see the great Dolly Parton for the second time this year on Wednesday night. Thanks to my folks who I kinda sorta talked into going and who then offered to pay for my ticket so how could I say no? Free concerts = the best kind of concerts.

I was ready for the show to be pretty much the same one that Heidi and I saw in May, since it was part of the same tour. As it turned out, I was pleasantly surprised to find a streamlined show from which much of the fat had been cut. Gone were the self-indulgent sections like "Puppy Love" and the enough-already section with the various band members playing non-Dolly songs from the 50s. Dolly also didn't take an intermission either, which made the show just seem that much tighter. One sad cut (for me) from the show was "Baby I'm Burning" which is perhaps my favorite disco-Dolly song. Oh well, I guess you can't win everything.

New numbers in this permutation of the show were a couple a capella numbers - one being "Do I Ever Cross Your Mind" which she did with the male band members after talking about how she would always sing with her brothers as a child. Following this was a fantastic version of "Little Sparrow" which really showcased Dolly's 62 year old pipes (in a good way.)

Dolly was still telling her 30 year old jokes, mostly about how it takes a lot of money to look this cheap and how she wanted to look like the town tramp growing up. But she is so endearing, you forgive her for her repetition.

Sadly, there was still no "Potential New Boyfriend" or "Straight Talk" in the set list, but you take what you get. And when you see Dolly perform live, you know you are in the presence of a living legend and true American original. That cannot be overstated. Even my dad who is no big Dolly fan said that he enjoyed the concert who mentioned that her enthusiasm for performing is very obvious and she put on a very good show.

The life lesson I am taking away from both the Eric Hutchinson and the Dolly Parton show was that these are people who are following their dreams, and really living. Being able to witness people doing that which they truly love doing is an amazing thing. I think too many of us (myself included) have this tendency to just schlep through life, always hoping for the tomorrow that never comes. As Bernard Black would say, we suffer and slave and expire. These two individuals are living proof that he is not correct.

And Dolly, can you please have someone remix "Potential New Boyfriend"? Pretty please?

(photo via)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Hutch without Starsky

Blogging has proven rather difficult in the last week or so. Actually, I have had a hard time with it for several weeks now. I'm not sure what's going on, other than the fact that real life has been much more demanding of my time. While I enjoy coming to this space and putting my thoughts on random stuff up, it is trumped by work and helping Anna with her homework (in 1st grade!) and spending time with my wife, even when the time is spent watching The Lair via Netflix. Let's just say that Queer as Folk it is not. The best quote I saw regarding the series is "this is what happens when porn stars try to act." I would agree wholeheartedly, with an emphasis on the word try.

This week has been kind of a whirlwind of activity, most of it good, but still, it has been exhausting. It has, first and foremost, been a week of free concerts. Monday night, I went with our friend Jess to see Eric Hutchinson at People's Court in Des Moines. Jess and Heidi had seen Eric perform earlier this summer when he was the opening act for Missy Higgins. Ultimately, Heidi ended up liking his performance better than Missy Higgins and knew that I would probably like him as well. She was right and I picked up his CD not long after hearing a few samples online. I even blogged about him, so impressed was I with his CD. So when I saw he was coming to Des Moines again, I thought, hey, that could be fun. The only trouble was that it fell right at the beginning of what I knew (even then) might not be the best week. And then when my parents bought tickets to Dolly Parton (more on that later) for Wednesday of that same week, I decided I wouldn't go.

Then Jess won tickets, CDs and backstage passes and offered one of them to me. How could I say no? I had never really been to a meet-and-greet before (the only real time I've ever met someone I am a fan of is when I got the chance to talk to Casey Stratton after his Chicago show) and I am afraid that they are mostly just awkward. You get in there and you realize that you are meeting...another human being. Don't get me wrong, he was gracious and funny and a pretty cool guy. He signed our CDs and T-shirts and pretty much anything else you had. But it was a bit of an anticlimax. Perhaps if I were an uber fan (or a Hutch-head as they refer to themselves) it might have been different. But mostly, it was like meeting someone at church for the first time, only they signed a CD instead of bringing a dish to pass.

The concert itself was quite good. Hutchinson is a very energetic performer and it is clear that he loves what he does. He played every last song from Sounds Like This (a fact I didn't realize until I got home that night) as well as a few from his indie days. But as usual, the highlight of the whole show was his Cher-ification of his song "It Hasn't Been Long Enough." I videoed the whole thing. Get out your glowsticks, bitches!

He does this very frequently (making it the Eric Hutchinson equivalent to Dolly Parton saying "it costs a lot of money to make someone look this cheap") but I can watch it over and over again. My favorite part is the Cher-ish vocal. It is so dead on!

The thing about the show that I could have definitely lived without was the frat boy contingent (and the frat boys-in-waiting.) Jess and I commented that it was funny to watch all these frat boys sing every word to the songs when basically, Eric's work is sophisticated boy-pop (not a slam in the slightest) and that does not fit in well with the stuff that you would expect them to listen to. It made me appreciate even more than I already do the gay guy contingent that seems to be present at pretty much every concert I go to. That population has always been much more welcoming to me than the frat boys.

The concert was fun, but I am too old to get back home at midnight and then be up at 5:15 the next morning, which is exactly what I had to do. But we did get this picture at the meet and greet and I think I look pretty dang good in this picture if I do say so myself!

He is also the skinniest guy I have ever seen. I think I was last that skinny when I was 14!

A grain of salt

I am not getting my hopes up, but perhaps there might, just might be a small chance that David Tennant will be back on Doctor Who for the next full season after all.

Here's the quote:

But we hear the wild-eyebrowed Scot is close to signing for a new full series of the sci-fi hit for 2010.

Our source said: "David loves filming Doctor Who. The upcoming specials have given him more freedom to work on other projects this year and now he’s ready to come back to film a proper series to go out in 2010."

However, it is the Sun, so it could just be a whole bunch of crap. But the fact that Donna Noble and The Master (with John Simms reprising his role) are both coming back for one-off appearances in the next year makes me very happy!

Maybe there is a God, after all.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

You Are Screwed

I totally want this shirt. Heidi, are you listening?

(a closer look at the design)

My favorite part is the "You Are Screwed" at the center of the shirt.

Real blogging soon, I promise. I have a bunch of stuff I want to write, but neither the time nor the brains to actually do it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What it feels like... be on Madonna's T-shirt.

And because this one is just plain freakish...

As Thomas said, I could do this all night. Well, maybe not all night, but it's still damn fun! And I think it gives you better results than that Yearbook Yourself site (which always made me feel like I was having my picture taken at one of those carnival things where you stick your head through the hole and suddenly you're a gorilla.)

You can do this too!

One more for the road.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

I'm walking blindfolded

So Heidi's out at Panera tonight doing the NaNoWriMo which means that Anna and I have been left to our own devices for a while. We played Monopoly Junior (Princess Edition) in which she completely cleaned my clock. But we have also completely immersed ourselves in the Pointer Sisters! It all started with "Automatic."

"Automatic" is one of those Pointer Sisters songs that Jason Hare of PopDose refers to as "sung by Mr. Pointer" because of Ruth Pointer's deep vocals. Anna even said "Dad, is that a boy?" which was when I took the opportunity to point out that it was the Pointer SISTERS. I had forgotten how good of a song "Automatic" really was. This led us through a cornucopia of Pointer Sisters hits - "Jump (For My Love)", "I'm So Excited", and of course, "Neutron Dance."

But for my money, "Dare Me" is still my favorite Pointer Sisters song. And XO wrote the definitive piece on "Dare Me."

Woolly bully

This fall has seen what can only be described as the Drama of the Woolly Bear. It's funny that such a thing can cause the drama that it has, for I had never even heard of woolly bear caterpillars prior to this fall. A couple weeks back, Anna found a woolly bear caterpillar in our yard. She brought it into the house and put it in a clear plastic box with some leaves, a few sticks and some grass and christened him "Woolly." It was no a super secure box and she did insist on taking it out of the box to let it crawl on her finger. Within the first 24 hours of captivity, it had escaped and after a massive search, it was located. However, on Halloween night, Anna was up until nearly midnight because of our Halloween party. The next morning, we found the box upended and the caterpillar gone, likely the result of her manic over-tiredness the night before (as in, she had likely inadvertently knocked the box over and didn't realize it.)

There were a large number of tears shed on that Saturday and especially that Saturday night, despite all our efforts to spin it in to something like "the woolly bear is meant to be outside," "he is probably going to hibernate" or other such platitudes. So the following Sunday, Anna and I went out to Ada Hayden Heritage Park here in Ames on the hunt for another woolly bear caterpillar. The first one we found was a dead one, but it didn't take long before we found one, and then another and another. We only kept the one, which Anna named Claire and we got a much sturdier container for this one.

I did some investigation on the internet and found out that you could keep them through the winter (they go into a hibernation state) and then in the spring, the caterpillars pupate and become Isabella tiger moths in the early spring. I thought, what the heck? Let's try it.

So yesterday, we put potting soil in the bottom of the container, some new leaves and a few new sticks as well. Anna decided that yesterday was the day to put the woolly bear, container and all, on the porch and let it hibernate for the winter.

I did not think much of it at first, but the more the day wore on, the more I questioned that decision. I was laying in bed last night trying (in vain) to sleep and couldn't help but think that perhaps we had killed the woolly bear by putting it on the porch so soon. All I could think of was the heartbreak that Anna would feel on the death of this, the second woolly bear. So Heidi and I brought it in and tried to find it. We thought we had found it, but this morning, on closer inspection, what we thought was it was not it. I looked around in the cage this morning and found it, but I'm not sure that it's still living. I am no goddamn entomologist, so it could be hibernating and just non-responsive, but I think I am going to have to put the cage back on the porch this morning and not mention a word of the whole thing to Anna.

I realize that it's stupid to pin my success or failure as a father on the survival of this caterpillar. It is the ultimate in ridiculous and surely there will be more traumatic things that she will confront sooner rather than later. There would be those that would look at me with disdain and shake their heads and say "it's just a caterpillar!" but those people do not know my daughter's tender heart. If this caterpillar does not survive till the spring to become a beautiful moth, she will be crushed. Momentarily, yes and she will not likely need therapy for it, but it will hurt her. She is not one of those kids that will forget about something like this. I fear that she will pin her hopes on that caterpillar all winter and if it does not emerge in the spring, we will have many tearful days and even more tearful evenings. A part of me regrets even telling her that the possibility to keep the caterpillar over the winter even existed.

I think the Drama of the Woolly Bear speaks to larger insecurities I have as a parent, not ever sure if the decisions I am making are the right ones, being pissed at myself when I am short with her and realizing that she will not be little forever and there will come a day in the not-too-far-off future that she will not want to be with me at all. It also speaks to the part of me (that I think exists in every parent) that wants to shield her from all of life's disappointments, even though intellectually, I realize that's not only impossible but also mind bogglingly stupid. If I protect her from everything in life, what will she do when I am no longer around to protect her? It's the fine line between doing your job as a parent and being their advocate while also allowing them to live their life. That line is nebulous and moves around a lot, but it's still our job to keep an eye on it.

I wonder if all parents feel this way to some degree. I know when I was a kid, I would watch my parents and they just knew everything. Now, I realize they were probably doing something not all that dissimilar from what I am doing now - the best I can and hope it all works out.

I guess for all those moments of frustration that I wonder where my daughter gets her tender heart, I need look no further than these pages. But there are certainly worse things to pass on.

Friday, November 07, 2008

"Palpable sexuality"

Paul Rudd is my hero.

(thanks to Matt and Heidi for putting this video on my radar.)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Loreena McKennitt's The Book of Secrets is one of those quintessential fall albums in the life of Dan. I always manage to rediscover her music at this time of year. A big part of it is that we bought The Book of Secrets while on our honeymoon in Chicago in October of 1997, so her whole catalog feels very autumnal to me. And of all of McKennitt's albums, The Book of Secrets is still probably my favorite, even though that's kind of a cop out because it does contain her one "hit" song, "The Mummer's Dance."

Tonight, while I was driving home from work, I found myself listening to "Skellig" which I have not listened to in quite some time. In the song, a Irish monk who lives on the island of Skellig Michael relates his final dying words. I have always loved this song, it is so dark and haunting. As I drove home tonight, I thought of how if I were to have lived during the Dark Ages, I would have undoubtedly been one of those Irish monks, perhaps living in the Skellig islands and copying reams of religious documents by candlelight.

I can't help but think it would be a simpler, less anxiety-ridden existence. With a view like this, I think you would be hard pressed to get too caught up in drama.

From the liner notes of The Book of Secrets:

In the end, I wonder if one of the most important steps on our journey is the one in which we throw away the map. In jettisoning the grids and brambles of our own preconceptions, perhaps we are better able to find the real secrets of each place; to remember that we are all extensions of our collective history.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Do you believe we can change the future?

...well as Madonna would say: Baby, we can do it, we can do it all right!

I'm sure it is no shock to anyone that I have cast my vote proudly for Barack Obama. I am hoping for an overwhelming victory tomorrow night, one that can be a true repudiation of the last 8 years and of McCain's truly deplorable campaign of fear, slime and lies. There was a time that I could have supported John McCain. In 2000, he was the obvious better choice. He was independent then, he had a soul. Now, he has proven himself willing to do anything ANYTHING to win the presidency. And that, I'm here to tell you, is one of the reasons to deny him the presidency.

In 2004, my Kerry vote was more of an anti-Bush vote. I was always Dean person even though many thought he would have been an even worse candidate than Kerry ended up being. I voted for Kerry because I believed that the country really couldn't take 4 more years of Bush. I sat and watched not only Bush's re-election but also my own state go red by the narrowest of margins. Looking back on this day in 2004, we were totally kidding ourselves hoping for a Kerry victory. But this is not 2004. And tomorrow night, barring anything unforseen or vote tampering or polls so out of whack with what people are actually doing, we will be seeing Obama's acceptance speech and McCain's concession speech.

Janeane Garofalo famously said "At this point, anyone who votes Republican has a major character flaw." I don't know that I'd go as far as to say that. I know some conservatives who really do make sense. However, those conservatives haven't been taken over by the far-right fringe of the party, the portion of the party referring to Obama as "the terrorists' candidate." However, I would strongly encourage anyone voting for McCain/Palin tomorrow to reconsider and think about the future of the country as a whole, rather than just your pocketbook or your sphere of control. I have been frequently criticized for having my little heart bleed all over the floor, but really, for all those supposed Christians that would say otherwise, we are our brother's keeper.

Do I think Obama will come in and magically sweep away the last 8 years and we will be in a nirvana? Heavens, no. And I think a lot of people on the left are going to be mighty disappointed when they find out that Obama is not going to be able to do all he has promised. But the thing to bear in mind will be, would we have fared any better under McCain? I think the answer to that question is likely not.

Who knows, in 4 years, I may regret my vote much like many regretted their vote for Bush. But I have to live in this moment and at this moment, it is time for a change.

So tomorrow, get out there and VOTE!!! And vote Obama/Biden!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Practice makes perfect

a/k/a I think we're going to need to get another guitar.

Not bad for someone who a few months ago wouldn't even pick up the guitar. Wait for it at ~1:02. That's the moment.

On facial hair

I grew a beard in 2003. It was kind of a spur of the moment decision after years of razzing from my brother about "when are you going to grow a beard." Heidi was going to New York for a week for RWA and I thought, what the hell, I'm just not going to shave while she's gone and see what happens. I experimented with different lengths (usually, the difference was a matter of millimeters) and cuts until I finally settled on the one that I liked. Someone accused me of looking like a Hasidic Jew early on in my experimentation. Nice.

But bearded is how I have looked for the last 5 years. It's not really all that long of a time compared to the other 31 years that came before it. But as you can tell in the posts below, I had to shave my beard for my Halloween costume and let me tell you, it was a moment of stress.

I have no idea why I dislike my shaven face so much. It's not like I have a fat face so I can't say I'm hiding it behind facial hair. Heidi says I look much younger without it, but that's not the droids appearance I'm looking for. I shaved it in New York when I had left my beard trimmer at home and decided rather than go for the Grizzly Adams look, I'd rather shave it off and start over again. The only other time I have been completely clean shaven in the last 5 years was in August of 2007 when I just decided one afternoon that I was shaving it off. After a few days of being clean shaven, I grew it back. It was the first time that Anna ever remembered seeing me clean shaven.

The last time I did this, I didn't blog it. Many people missed out on my clean shaven look. Well, here it is. No beard, but I do have some pretty rad sideburns.

A part of me wants to keep the long sideburns, but it is not the mid 70s.

Fear not, in a week I'll look like my profile picture again. Maybe.

As a teenager, I hated my facial hair. I never thought it would be integral to my image of myself. It's funny the twists and turns life takes.

Deh Jabba wanga

One of the stops that we always make on every trip to Chicago is Gaymart Chicago. The name is actually a bit misleading because, while it does have a lot of Pride merchandise and greeting cards with men in their birthday suits for sale, it also has a TON of pop culture items that I have not been able to find anywhere else. They have a shitload of Doctor Who merchandise that usually you would otherwise end up buying online (I could have bought my Sonic Screwdriver there rather than ordering it from Amazon Sellers) as well as other stuff that frequently borders on the kitschy side of pop culture.

However, I did come across this little wonder, and at 5 bucks, the price was right. It is a Bib Fortuna coffee mug!

(Bib's intergalactic mug shot - no pun intended)

It was actually mislabeled as an Emporer Palpatine mug, if you can believe that.

Anyway, the more I look at it, the more I think that the character of Bib Fortuna must have been inspired (at least a little bit) by Joseph Merrick, probably better known as The Elephant Man. Talk about a story that I was obsessed with when I was a kid. I watched the movie The Elephant Man more times than I can count as a kid. I read the book several times. But more than that, I remember the documentary Some Call Them Freaks that ran over and over again on HBO (and that we probably taped back on the VCR my father used to bring home from school over the summer.) It was narrated by Richard Kiley and featured Robert Wadlow, Robert Earl Hughes, Chang & Eng Bunker and Tom Thumb among others. It rode the line between amazing and a little too scary, but it just kept me coming back for more.

Anyway, here's probably the most famous scene from The Elephant Man. I had completely forgotten about it.

Wow - this post went in a very different direction than I intended. Such is the fun of blogging I suppose.