Friday, December 5, 2008

Monday, November 17, 2008

Music makes the people come together.

This post by the Andersons inspired me to make a list of all the musical acts/musicians I've seen perform live. It's not a long list, but there are some gems, for sure:

BB King - At Spirit Fest. Remember Spirit Fest?
Janet Jackson - Rhythm Nation tour - first concert without adult supervision
Harry Connick, Jr. - At Starlight, right after When Harry Met Sally came out. So good.
Reba McEntire - My mom got free tickets. She was pretty good. 
The Judds - Again, mom got free tickets. They were terrific.
Michael Crawford - More free tickets from mom. I cried when he sang "Music of the Night."
Bob Dylan - Spirit Fest. I couldn't understand one word.
Lyle Lovett - Opened for Sting with a subdued set that didn't really grab the crowd.
Sting - Fantastic.
Barry Manilow - He was freaking awesome.
Blink-182 - For my sister's 16th birthday. They were unremarkable.
Alkaline Trio - Opened for Blink-182. Again, unremarkable.
Jackson Browne - Great show.
Keb ‘Mo - Okay, but not the best.
Bonnie Raitt - Fan-freaking-tastic. That woman is a force of nature.
Ben Folds - 15 times this year. I'm an addict.
Ben Lee - Twice with Ben Folds. Completely forgettable.
Eff Barzelay - Twice with Ben Folds - I would travel 3000 miles to see him perform again. Incredble.
Missy Higgins - Seven times with Ben Folds, and loved her more every time. I will definitely see her again.
Jewel - At Okobos Music Festival. Great entertainer - I was impressed.
Ingrid Michaelson - Okobos. I really short set, but good.
M. Ward - Okobos. Short set and that was sad. He was one of the best performers I've ever seen.
Death Cab For Cutie - Okobos. Good show.
David Byrne - "Once In A Lifetime" live. 'Nuff said.
Coldplay - They performed 10 feet from us. The entire show was great.

I keep thinking that I'm missing something, but I don't know what it is. Ah well.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

How to speak to the dead.

I meant to relay this WTF moment that happened to me a month or so ago, but forgot until just now.
A couple of weeks after we got our iPhones, Mr. Awesome and I were heading to Minneapolis. At about 10 in the morning, I get a text:   

I miss you... rest n peace

WTF, I said out loud. Since I had nothing better to do, as I was riding in the car, I replied back. Here's that conversation. The original texter is in italics:

I miss you... rest n peace

I think you have the wrong number.

Who is this

The person u told to rest n peace.

Stephen is the 1 i told to rip

No, you told me. you might want to tell Stephen again.

This was his number when he was alive I didn't know they gave it 2 someone else

---About an hour passes---

Sorry 2 bother u but that was some freaky shit when u texted back

----
Freaky shit, indeed. Although I don't know what's freakier - that I have a dead guy's phone number, or that someone sent a text message to a dead guy. I guess we all deal with grief in our own way.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A week later.

I've been in a very good mood since late last Tuesday evening. You know - new world, change, yes we can and all that. Exciting times, people. Now the countdown begins to January 20th, 2009. That day can't come soon enough.

What else has been going on?

  • I made Pho Ga for dinner last night, and am making butternut squash risotto tonight with the leftover broth. The best part? The butternut squash is frozen and already cut up! If you've ever tried to cut up a raw butternut squash, you can understand my excitement here.

  • We're going to seen Coldplay on Thursday with the Andersons. Can't wait! AND - they are apparently feeding us before the show! YES!

  • I've got my eyes on a pair of shoes and a handbag for Christmas. Maybe we can pick these up on eBay...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thus He Endured by Stephen Dobyns

Heart's friend Greasy gets nixed by a stroke.
His pals give him a wake; they drink all night.
The next day they cart the coffin to the church.
In life, Greasy waxed cars; now he's defunct.
The priest says how Greasy's in a better place.
Heart takes exception. What could beat this?
Some mourners weep; others scratch their butts.
In life, Greasy was a practical joker. Even salt
in the sugar bowl wasn't too childish for him.
When the service is over, Heart and five friends
heave the coffin on top of their shoulders.
Outside it's raining. They wait for the hearse.
Maybe it's late, maybe it showed up and left.
The priest locks the church. The last cars depart.
Let's carry the coffin, it's just a few blocks.
As they set off, Heart hears a whistle. Show some
respect, he complains to a buddy in back.
In life, Greasy often asked, What's the point
and What comes next? Heart thought his jokes
helped keep the dark at arm's length. Rain drips
down the pallbearer's necks. Because of the fog
they can't see beyond their noses. Right or left?
If their hands weren't full, they would flip a coin.
Someone plays the harmonica, then starts to sing.
The pallbearers look at each other, it's none of them.
In life, Greasy reached three score years and ten.
He had a wife, four sons, and five Great Danes,
but not all at once. He always drove a Chevrolet.
Did we take a wrong turn? Asks Heart. The rain
turns to sleet; it's getting dark. Someone starts
playing the trombone. A tune both melancholy
and upbeat. Where could it be coming from?
In life, Greasy felt a lack. He worked too hard,
the holidays were short. His wife kept asking
why didn't he do better? Then his sons left home.
Greasy stuck rubber dog messes on the hoods
of his friends' cars. This is what life's all about,
he'd think. Thus he endured. It begins to snow.
Heart shoulders his load. The sun goes down.
Will Greasy get planted today? It looks unlikely.
Heart watches the road. He can't see that the coffin lid
is tilted up and Greasy perches on top, just a shadow
of his former self. With both hands he flings wads
of confetti. He's a skeleton already. Heart would
scratch his head but he'd hate to let his corner drop,
his pals ditto: pallbearers envying the one who rides.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Yellow dogs and black men.

The thought struck me on the way home from work yesterday: Would my grandmother, who proudly called herself a "yellow dog Democrat," have voted for Barack Obama?

My grandmother grew up in a segregated world, and saw the Civil Rights movement change all that she had known as a child. Her mother, my great-grandmother, had a mammy, a fact that was dicussed every time we happened to catch Gone With The Wind on television. When my older cousin started dating, my grandmother would sometimes say that she hoped Brandy didn't bring a black guy home one day, that she didn't think that would be right. So it was understood that, for whatever reason, it wasn't okay to date black people. Even as a child, I questioned that belief, albiet from a place of naivete - if people loved each other, what matters the color of thier skin?

Given that, I still would never really have classified my grandmother as a racist. She lived in a predominantly black neighborhood in Kansas City, Kansas, and was, as I recall, friendly with her neighbors. She volunteered a good deal of her time when she was older at a day care in the neighborhood, where almost all the children were black, and would tell us about the amusing, creative, imaginative things the children would do on any given day. But I have only fuzzy memories of her time in the old neighborhood, and as I reflect, I don't really know how long she worked in the day care.

The fact of the matter is, we never discussed race relations, other than the occasional quick word or two whenever Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton was on television and my grandmother would remark, "I like him," with no further comment for the former, or give a sort of scowl at the latter. There wasn't really a reason to confront the topic head-on, because our societies were relatively isolated, and the possibility of a black presidential nominee for a major political party was not even a consideration. Completely incomprehensible, actually.

While I may question my grandmother's racial tendencies, I would never question her political leanings... or so I thought. Even a yellow dog isn't a black man. Would my grandmother have been as impressed and inspired with Barack Obama as she was with Kennedy? With Clinton? Or would she see only a black man that shouldn't be brought home? I remember her affinity for John McCain in the early 1990's, when he was actually the maverick he claims now to be, when he defied his own party and might have even jumped ship for the kinder, gentler waters of the Democratic party. I wonder if my grandmother would justify a vote against Obama with recollections of the old McCain - justify racism with nostalgia?

Would my grandmother vote for Barack Obama? I honestly don't know. I wish she were still alive so we could talk about it. Writing about it now, I think she would struggle with the decision, but would ultimately vote for Obama. I also think that vote would have been transformational for her, as I hope it will be for those like her who will vote on November 4th. It would represent a vote for positive change, a hopeful future, a belief in a country in which all things are possible if we treat each other with respect and kindness, and an opportunity for new beginnings of all sorts, no matter what your age or background or income.

Seven more days. Seven days until I find out if I'm getting a Barbie Dream House or a gift-wrapped rock for Christmas. That's how it feels, anyway.

Where's Janet Jackson when you need her?

From Flip Top Bin - The Day I Lost Control.


So simple and clever.

Monday, October 27, 2008

I can't feel anything yet.

I want to be excited. I like being excited. Think of looking forward to Christmas. That's how excited I want to be because I like being excited. It's fun. It's thrilling. It's exciting.

But I don't like being disappointed. Disappointment makes me sad and gloomy. Think of making a special trip out of state to see your favorite band perform and finding out that the show has been canceled. That's the kind of disappointment I try to avoid. That's the sort of thing that makes me frown.

Eight more days. I'd love to put a big, goofy grin on my face and carry my shoulders higher and walk around in a smug, superior bubble for the next eight days, but I can't. I can't, because there is a strong likelyhood that if I let myself get too excited, I will be disappointed. The kind of disappointment I want to stay away from. The frown kind. 

In eight days, I hope to find out that I should have been excited all along. I hope I can put my bubble on then. Here's to you, neighbors down the street with a McCain/Palin sign, as I flip them the bird at 25 MPH (using no gas as the Prius cruises in electric stealth mode). How do you like this, Mr. Confederate flag flying asshole? Happy now? No? Rats for you.

I want so badly to be excited now. But I'll have to wait eight more days.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Odds and ends.

Some good, some bad, all life.

  • The Louisville trip and Ben Folds concert with the Louisville symphony were terrific.

  • Louisville smells like flowers and bacon.

  • Our Great North American Road Trip was a blast. We visited Detroit, Chicago and Green Bay 

  • The people of Battle Creek, Michigan are some of the nicest people we've ever encountered.

  • The people of Green Bay, Wisconsin are, for the most part, full of themselves.

  • I had a bit of a scare when we went to the Art Institute of Chicago and found the Impressionist exhibit was closed for renovations. Thankfully, the one painting I wanted so desperately to see was still on display:

    A Sunday Afternoon on a Saturday morning. 



  • M. Ward is one of the greatest musicians I've ever seen perform live. The things he can do with a guitar will make your skin tingle.

  • This weekend we embark on the final of our road trips for the forseeable future, taking in the lovely cities of St. Louis and Minneapolis. 

  • On Sunday, I get to see David Byrne which makes me very happy.

  • Rags, our beloved cat, passed away on October 9th, 2008. Everyone who encountered him agreed that he was the most magnificent creature to ever walk the earth. I can't even describe how losing him makes me feel. It's like a giant hole has been left in the world.

Friday, October 3, 2008

I'm voting for James Garner, the original Maverick.

A list of items and occurrances relevant to me and mine:

  • I read two books recently. The first, Duma Key by Stephen King, was really long (over 600 pages) but also really well-written, really funny, really creepy and really good. The second, Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk, was a hilarious, quick read. Bonus points for more helpful household tips than Heloise.

  • Mr. Awesome and I got iPhones. While I had a feeling it would be cool, its coolness has far exceeded my expectations. My love for the iPhone shows no sign of waining.

  • I've developed a bit of an obsession with iPhone apps recently. The following are ones I find particularly excellent (search the Apps Store to find them):

    • Twinkle - Twitter app and more - Free

    • Facebook - Free

    • Mobile Fotos - If you use Flickr, you need this app - a bargain at $2.99

    • Aurora Feint - Gorgeous game that's sort of like Tetris, but better. For those of us who don't have other portable game systems, this game is great - Free

    • Midomi - Sing a line or hum a bar from a song and this app tells you what the song is with pretty good results - Free



  • Thanks to the iPhone, I've become what I swore I'd never be - a texter. I can't believe I resisted it for so long.

  • Finnie got "fixed" a couple of weeks ago. She had to wear one of those ridiculous Elizabethan collars for a week. I won't post a photo here so as not to embarass her. She has fully recovered and is chasing Frisbees again.

  • Last night, in an attempt to jazz up my normal Orange Chicken recipe, I  added too much vinegar and ended up making accidental BBQ chicken. That was weird and unexpected, but surprisingly good over rice.

  • My mom sent me a link to a video that you all must watch. It's terrific. Go on - watch it now.

  • I received my gift certificates from the Hard Rock Cafe. One hundered smackers worth. Hot damn, we're eating well in Louisville this weekend.

  • Speaking of Louisville, we're headed there this weekend. Did I say that already? Tomorrow night we'll be enjoying the soulful sounds of Ben Folds and the Louisville Symphony Orchestra.

  • Speaking of Ben Folds, his latest CD, Way to Normal, was released on Tuesday. It's terrific.

  • This Louisville trip kicks off a series of BenVentures that will take us all over the freaking Midwest in the next two weeks. I see lots of fast food in my future.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Putting my writing skills to good use.

I wrote to the customer service department of the Hard Rock Cafe to let them know that our Nashville experience wasn't all that great. When we had a bad experience at Houlihan's last year, I wrote a letter to Houlihan's customer service and ended up with gift certificates. Since Mr. Awesome and I will be travelling to several cities that have Hard Rock Cafes in the coming months, I was hoping to get an HRC gift certificate... and I am! Here's an excerpt from the response I received from the general manager of the Nashville Hard Rock Cafe:

What I can tell you is that we have been #1 in the world for Hard Rock International in Guest Satisfaction for 10 months running and we are very proud of that accomplishment.  We strive every day to maintain that standard.  In your case our standards slipped big time.  We take all comments seriously and make improvements immediately.  Your comments will be read at our shift meetings for the next week so our staff fully understands how high expectations, on the part of the guest, can be destroyed with just one word or lack of product.


Please don't give up on our brand.  We are so much better than what you saw in Nashville.  Since you will be traveling the Midwest this fall I would appreciate it if you would accept complimentary gift cards from me so that you may enjoy a meal at a  Hard Rock Cafe in one of the cities you will be visiting. 

The moral of this story, boys and girls, is if you have a crappy customer service experience, let the business know about it. In almost every case, they'll try to make good - unless that business is Photographx Unlimited.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Benventure 4: All U Can Eat (unless they're out of food).

Saturday morning we dropped Finn off at the kennel and headed off to Nashville. About eight hours later, Lucretia (our navigation system) tried to lead us to our hotel via a bridge right next to the football stadium. This would have worked if there hadn't been a football game that night. We were sent in the right direction by a nice police officer with a thick southern accent and made it to our hotel around 4:30.

Our hotel was nice, but as we've discovered recently, the more stars the hotel has, the more likely they are to charge for every little thing. Parking was $20 a day. Wi-fi was ridiculous at $10 a day. We passed on the wi-fi, but had to cave with the parking.

Saturday night we headed to the honky-tonk district (I can't believe I typed "honky-tonk" - ha!) for dinner.



We went the tourist route and hit up the Hard Rock Cafe. We both wanted something called the "Rock Chop," but they were out of that. How a popular restaurant could be out of their signature dish at 6pm on a Saturday is beyond me, but whatever. I ended up with a decent steak and Mr. Awesome had fajitas. I also had a raspberry margarita that was really quite good. We walked back to our hotel, stopping by a small market for dessert on the way.

The walk back took us by the Tennessee State Capitol building, which is really pretty cool. It also took us by a lot of bums. There were more bums in downtown Nashville than we expected. Most looked perfectly benign, but some looked a bit scary. Some had Confederate flags displayed somewhere on their person, which was also scary. /rant Give it up, people. That flag represents your heritage only if your heritage is being a racist fucknut. /end rant

Once we were back at the hotel, we hit up the pool. For once, we were the only people at the pool and had the whole place, including a relaxing sauna, to ourselves. Swimming is awesome, especially when you haven't swam in a while. So we swam for a while then headed back to our room to get some sleep.

Sunday morning, we wanted pancakes. It's damn-near impossible to find an open restaurant downtown on a Sunday morning (our hotel directed us to a place just down the street, but when we went by, the "chef" was sitting outside with a server smoking and chatting it up. There wasn't anyone at the restaurant, and we didn't want to feel like we'd busted up thier morning confab), so, with Lucretia's help, we headed to IHOP. They were out of the mixed berry pancakes we both wanted (what's up with Nashville being out of stuff?) so we settled on apple pancakes for Mr. Awesome and french toast for moi.

Bellies full of breakfast, Lucretia led us to Music Row to check out the sights. That killed about 20 minutes. Not much to see there, really, but we can now say we've seen Music Row. We saw a bunch of painted guitars around Nashville that reminded me of our Cow Parade cows.

Then it was back to the hotel, and out for a walk to watch the crowds gathering by the riverfront to hang out before the Titans game.


Apparently, parking at the football stadium is really expensive, so people park downtown and walk to the stadium. Seeing all those people was pretty cool. Lots of tailgaters with smokers and grills - I think all of Nashville smelled like smoked meat on Sunday afternoon.

Sunday evening, we met some BenFriends for sushi before the show. The sushi was decent, the conversation was better. Much of the talk circled around the upcoming Ben Folds Five reunion show and whether or not everyone who wanted a ticket would get it (only some did, by the way - that was a big 'ol clusterflock and I'm glad we weren't planning on going in the first place). After dinner, it was time to head to the concert hall for the big show.

The show opened with four songs performed by the Nashville symphony. The conductor, Albert-George Schram, is a fantastically animated character in a tuxedo and white sneakers. He was a joy to watch. After their songs, we had a short intermission during which the piano was raised from below the stage. During the intermission, the talkative girl next to me told me that she flew in from Canada for this show. Damn. That's a long trip.

Ben came out dressed in khakis, a blue polo and black leather Chuck Taylors. The audience went wild. He then performed several songs with terrific symphonic arrangements. We were all spellbound. Here's a setlist:

  • Zak and Sara

  • Smoke

  • All U Can Eat

  • Ascent of Stan

  • Landed

  • Fred Jones Part 2

  • Gracie

  • Jesusland (with choir, see below)

  • Cologne (with Jared and Sam and other choir members... and Ben mentioned that the song wasn't supposed to be on the album in the first place and after they made the orchestra version and then blew the video budget on it and then added it to the album)

  • Effington (with choir)

  • One Down (piano solo)

  • Not the Same (no piano, just singing with orchestra)

  • Steven's Last Night in Town

  • Narcolepsy (with a tenor)

  • Encore: The Luckiest
The whole show was incredible, but the highlight for us was Cologne. It's a beautiful song, and to hear it with the orchestra and choir was an experience worth the whole trip.


Monday, we drove back to KC, with a pit stop at White Castle for lunch. There aren't any White Castles in Kansas City any more and I don't know if that's good or bad. I'm thinking good, since those little steamed burgers are delicious little bundles of artery-clogging goodness. The fewer opportunities to eat them, I suppose, the better. When we got back into town, we picked Finn up from her adventure at doggy day care and headed home. After two days of eating mostly fast food, we were seriously craving something with identifiable ingredients. We also wanted to eat something that might react positively with the miracle fruit tablets we bought last week and hadn't tried yet. The best option was Pho from Mr. Le's.

So. Miracle fruit. It's the shit. Willy Wonka apparently exists and makes miracle fruit tablets that make nearly everything taste like candy. Lemons taste like sweet lemonade. Limes are like limeades. Ginger is, well... like sweet ginger. Whether it was the miracle fruit tablet, or the fact that we hadn't had decent food in two days I don't know, but the pho we had last night was the best pho I've ever tasted.

Tuesday found me back at work, and today I'm counting down the days until we head to Louisville for another symphony show. Twenty three days and counting. To tide me over, I just purchased Amanda Palmer's new album (Who Killed Amanda Palmer?), produced by Ben Folds, with a little Ben action on drums and Jared on the bass. If you pre-order, you get an advanced download, which I'm listening to right now. It's gorgeous and brilliant, as expected.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Maybe next time.

So, a Ben Folds fan's dream is about to become a reality - Ben Folds Five is reuniting for one concert in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, on Thursday, September 18th. They will be performing the Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner album, and Darren Jesse will be opening with an acoustic Hotel Lights set. If you aren't familiar with Hotel Lights, I strongly encourage you to take a listen.

Of course, we'd love to be there, but we have to pass it up. Hopefully, this won't be the last reunion show ever.

The good news for us is that we still have several more Ben Folds performances to look forward to in the coming months, including one this Sunday with the Nashville Symphony. I can't wait! The weekend can't come soon enough.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Hopeless? Hope more.

When Clinton was President, I didn't worry much about our country. A lot of that can be chalked up to youth and inexperience and general apathy, but there was more to it than that. Our basic civil rights weren't in constant jeopardy. Our economy was strong. Higher education was looked at as something everyone should strive for and could achieve. And, I didn't worry because it seemed like the world generally liked us.

Cut to now, eight years after Clinton. Eight long years of Bush and his ilk. I thought the first four years were bad, but then half the American population disappointed me again and voted him back in for four more years of power. Bush's reign looks at renewable energy sources as the stuff of hippies, higher education as elitist and the Bill of Rights (except for the Second Amendment) as toilet paper. They've nurtured a culture of fear and that fear has become a curtain behind which Bush and his cronies are rolling around on piles of cash. Worse than that, though, is the way America now looks to the rest of the world. We're bullies. We're greedy. We're stupid. We're assholes.

Last night, I watched Barack Obama give a speech that echoes my feelings about the current administration, the direction it has taken our country and the place where we can and should be in the future. For the first time in ages, I felt inspired and hopeful and really believe that this man is exactly what America needs at this moment in our history.

Personally, I don't just want him to be our next President, I need him to be our next President. I can't take another four years of feeling like the America I love is degrading into something that doesn't make me proud. I can't take another four years of the status quo and backward thinking. If McCain is elected, I couldn't take knowing that over half of the people in my country thought that his ideas and policies - which are Bush's ideas and policies - are the best thing for the United States of America right now. And if you don't think that McCain's agenda isn't right in step with the Bush Administration, think again.

There will be those who say that McCain isn't a Bush/GOP puppet - he's got the Straight Talk Express, after all! Oh, really? Seem's the Straight Talk Express has derailed and taken McCain's ability to think for himself with it. Case in point:

McCain's Prickly TIME Interview

Published on Time Magazine's Web site yesterday, this interview does nothing for McCain, other than show the world that he's not the straight-talking man he was even a year ago. Here's an excerpt:
What do you want voters to know coming out of the Republican Convention — about you, about your candidacy?
I'm prepared to be President of the United States, and I'll put my country first.

There's a theme that recurs in your books and your speeches, both about putting country first but also about honor. I wonder if you could define honor for us?
Read it in my books.

I've read your books.
No, I'm not going to define it.

But honor in politics?
I defined it in five books. Read my books.

[Your] campaign today is more disciplined, more traditional, more aggressive. From your point of view, why the change?
I will do as much as we possibly can do to provide as much access to the press as possible.

But beyond the press, sir, just in terms of ...
I think we're running a fine campaign, and this is where we are.

Do you miss the old way of doing it?
I don't know what you're talking about.

Really? Come on, Senator.
I'll provide as much access as possible ...

The entire interview is an excellent read and very insightful regarding the state of affairs with McCain's campaign at this point.

As much as I want Obama to be our next President, I'm not getting my hopes up too much. My faith in American voters flew out the window four years ago, and I don't think it would surprise me to see ignorance prevail again. This is especially true given McCain's choice for a running mate - Sarah Palin, a 44 year-old conservative Christian woman governor from Alaska. She's young, she's conservative, she's devoutly Christian, she's anti-abortion, she's pro-ANWR drilling and, most importantly, she's a she.

I'll admit, demographically, Palin's a perfect choice for McCain's running mate, which is a little scary - the voters who are scared to vote for a black man will think themselves enlightened beings by voting for a woman. Then there will be those pro-Hillary feminists who for whatever reason (*cough* racisim *cough*) can't get themselves to vote for Obama, so they'll jump ship to McCain's dinghy which is now co-piloted by God and a woman. Those people will say it's his inexperience they aren't keen to, which I think is sort of a cop-out excuse.  Political experience is not the same thing as understanding or wisdom. It is but one element of what makes a good President, and other elements are equally important. It is in that spirit that I refuse to get too excited over Obama until the last vote is counted.

Even still...

... a girl can hope.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Good things come in small packages.

Sometimes, especially with technology, bigger isn't better. Case in point, my new toy:



The Acer Aspire One has an 8.9 inch screen, runs Windows XP, has a 120 gig hard drive, a gig of memory, and weighs in at an ultra-portable 2.2 pounds. The moment I saw this little beauty in the MicroCenter ad today, I was more than intrigued. After a bit of research and some hands-on experience after work, I was sold.

Is this something I need? Probably not, but it's hella cool and actually pretty inexpensive, so there you go. It's an excellent Web browsing device, and will be perfect to take on our travels this Fall.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Let me entertain you.

Finding out about a new band or album that can potentially become a new favorite is one of life's many pleasures, like discovering a TV show you really love, or a new restaurant you can't wait to get back to. I've been on a mission as of late to broaden my musical horizons and with that in mind, I present to you a few of the CDs I've been listening to recently:



Hotel Lights - Firecracker People
Darren Jessee, former Ben Folds Five drummer and co-songwriter, formed Hotel Lights in 2005 as a way to put out there the kind of music he always wanted to write. Sort of alt-country, very relaxed, mellow, lots of guitars and synth. I think someone described it as atmospheric, which makes perfect sense. The whole album feels familiar and comfortable, like a front porch on a still, quiet late-summer day, with Elliott Smith hiding in the bushes.


M. Ward - End of Amnesia

Sort of hard to describe - think a little Tom Waits, a little Nick Drake, mixed with some really cool sound effects and the occasional slide guitar. It's laid back and cool, but smart and clever, too. I've listened to this one before bed the last couple of nights and have slept really, really well. There's a timeless quality to this album, and it sort of feels like I'm listening in on someone's dreams from the past or the future.


Ludo - You're Awful, I Love You
Guilty pleasure here. It's not the greatest album in the world, but there are enough theatrical moments to keep me listening. "Love Me Dead" is probably the best track, but the others are nice, brainless ear candy with an overly-dramatic emo slant. I'm a sucker for theatrical with a dark twist, hence my affection for My Chemical Romance. Ludo tries really hard to fit in that niche, and does a respectable job, but sometimes the lyrics are almost too clever, as if the band is a little too pleased with itself. If you can get past the forced wit, it's a decent listen. As I said, guilty pleasure.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Smoke 'em if you got 'em.

It was a weekend of new shoes and free food. Oh, and some friends got married.

On Friday night we headed out to Yard House to find the place absolutely packed. No worries, though - after a short 15 minute wait we were seated and a short time later, we were filling the hungry void. I learned a valuable lesson on this visit: I don't like ales. Give me a stout, a porter, darn-near anything with wheat in the name, and I'll probably like it. I do not, however, like many of the ales I've tried. And now I know. After dinner, we hit up the Nike outlet and I bought my first pair of decent sneaks in years.

On Saturday, Mr. Awesome and I paid our yearly respects to future college graduates by volunteering to help them set up their computers to connect in the residence halls. We are saintly, I know.

Saturday night, we headed out south to celebrate the marriage of our friends Chris and Heather, who are, as I type this, most likely floating around one of Minnesota's 10,000 lakes on a houseboat. Their reception was memorable for many reasons, not least of which was the homemade disco ball put together using a punching bag and a car battery. Congratulations, Chris and Heather! Thanks for the great party and for feeding us on a Saturday night. And thanks for all the booze. And the chocolate covered sunflower seeds. Who knew those were so delicious?

Sunday I ventured north to take my dad to lunch at one of Bethany, Missouri's premier dining establishments, the Toot Toot. They have a buffet, and lots of old dudes in trucker hats. Apparently, they have good prime rib on Saturday nights. On Sunday afternoons, they have old dudes with trucker hats and gravy.

As hard as it was to surpass the greatness that is a meal at the Toot Toot, Sunday evening proved to be a true competitor as Mr. Awesome and I were guinea pigs for the Anderson's first foray into the glorious world of smoked meats. My friends, I'm telling you I've never enjoyed a piece of meat so much in all my life (that's what she said). Brisket and chicken were accompanied by grilled corn(s) and yummy fruit salad. It was all washed down with a viewing of Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay. Aside from much grossness and not enough Neil Patrick Harris, I laughed much and enjoyed it. For your drooling pleasure, I present a picture of the smoked brisket:



Monday, Monday brings us the first day of classes and frantic students and instructors and literally hundreds of phone calls, which we all tried to handle as best we can. I must say, though - it is truly astonishing to me that an 18 year-old college student doesn't know what a laptop power supply is. "Is that the blue cord?" Um, it's the one that plugs into the wall, genius.

Monday evening found us eating boiled shrimp and relaxing on the deck. The weather is beautiful, which is sort of weird since August in KC is notoriously awful. Maybe the Chinese finally figured out how to manipulate weather, and they're feeling generous to us Midwesterners.

Today will probably be another hectic day, but such is farm life.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Real vs. Fake

Rolling Stone has a terrific interview with Ben Folds about his leaked version of Way To Normal and how it compares to the real version we'll hear in September.
"I may be on crack, but I think if that was half the real record, it'd be good," he adds. "Everyone I know keeps wanting to put it in and play it. We're all not honest these days about the way we listen to music. It all has to have context. I think some people hate it because they were told it was a joke. In the end people got free songs and we had something to do on July 11."

He says the fake songs were all recorded on one night in Dublin. That's talent, people.

Personally, I really like the fake songs, and hope to hear at least some of them in concert this October. I'm avoiding the real versions until the record hits the stores on September 30th. That date can't come soon enough!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I read 4chan so you don't have to.

I'm going to admit something to you that will either skew or solidify your impression of me. Then again, it will probably make no difference one way or another, because you won't know what I'm talking about. Anyway, my confession is this: Sometimes I read 4chan (don't click that link - read the disclaimer below)... and I like it. In fact, I find much of what goes on there quite hilarious. Now, I'm talking about the tame places, people - the Interests section, the Creative section, that sort of stuff.  I don't venture into the other arenas because frankly, you can't unsee what has been seen and there's not enough brain bleach or unicorn chasers in the world to get some of that stuff out of your head.

DISCLAIMER: 4chan is not safe for work. It's probably not safe for home, either. I don't recommend you go to 4chan. You probably won't like what you find there. It will make your head hurt until you figure out what's going on (if you ever figure it out at all). 4chan is not for the faint of heart, nor the tender of spirit.

However... as I said, I go there sometimes, and find hidden gems of genius, which is why I'm posting about 4chan tonight. Some god-like epicure posted a recipe that I will have to try sometime when I'm craving something chocolaty:
Two Minute Brownies

Gather:
4 tbsp flour
4 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp oil

stick it all in a coffee mug

microwave for a minute and a half

MMMMM GODDAMN

Some brave souls tested it out and found it to be pretty good. Recommendations included mixing the stuff really well, adding a bit more sugar, adding chocolate chips, and whatever you do, don't use olive oil or the brownies will be full of fail.

If you try this, let me know how it turns out and I'll do the same.

Monday, August 11, 2008

I hate Mondays.

Ugh.

We're backing out of a parking space at Planet Sub on Main St. today. We're almost out of the spot, shifted into drive to move forward, and we noticed an enormous Lexus SUV backing out of the handicapped spot behind us. We lay on the horn for what seemed like an eternity to no avail - the SUV smacked right into the side of our beloved Prius, causing an ugly dent right above the wheel well. We'd managed to drive it for over a year and half without so much as a door ding. I am not pleased.

We pull back into our space, and I get out of the car. I head over to the SUV who has pulled back into the handicapped spot to find two teenage boys getting out of the car. They're obviously not handicapped, and have no handicapped plate or placard. Nice. "I'm going to need your insurance information," I say, and head back to my car to assess the damage and start taking pictures.

About 2-3 minutes pass, and one of the boys says that his mom is on the way. He apparently doesn't have any insurance information. I nod at him and say, "alright."

Mr. Awesome is by this time on the phone with our insurance agent, who tells us that because the accident happened on private property, we'd need to walk it in to the police station.

About another 5-7 minutes pass, and the mom shows up in an Audi and parks in another handicapped space. Again, no handicapped plate or placard. I see where her son gets it. She gets out of her car and I ask her for their insurance information. Rather than give it to me, she says that the police are on their way. She goes on to say that this is private property and her niece was in an accident on private property and the insurance agencies would probably say it was no one's fault. I make a mental "whatever" note -this was definitely her son's fault.

The police arrive and tell us that they came because someone (the mother) called in a report of a disturbance in regards to an accident. The woman told the police we were arguing with her kid in order to get the police to come on site. I'm baffled.

A police officer asks for our side of the story and we tell him. Then he asks for the kid's version, and the kid says that we were backing out at the same time and hit each other. The passenger in the kid's car says, "We heard the horn for about a second. Like this: BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP." He beeps for longer than a second. The kid fails to mention that our car was stopped, and he hit us. Lovely. It's pretty obvious that he's lying, based on the damage. The side of our car is banged up, the back corner bumper of theirs is dented. Ergo, their back bumper hit our side. End of story.

The police officer gives us a police report that has insurance info on it and we head back to work. Our car has an ugly dent and scrape and because the accident occurred on private property, the police can't find anyone at fault - the insurance companies will have to hash that one out.

I get back to my office and call their insurance company to file a claim. The insurance company has no record of the policy number from the police report - they say their policy numbers have more letters and numbers than what I gave them. They have no record of the address from the report. They don't have a policy for the name of the kid listed in the report. Lovely again.

I call the police department to ask if we can get the name of the mother from the scene, since she's probably the one listed on the policy and the insurance company could use that to find the policy. The woman I spoke with said that they don't have to record the name of policy holders, and if the mother gave the officer wrong information, there's nothing they could do. Her exact words were, "People lie all the time. Everyone lies. If we chase down and lock up everyone who lied in this country, we wouldn't have enough room in the prisons." Bottom line is that there's nothing they can do. All together now: lovely.

I call the phone number for the kid listed in the police report, and luckily reach the mother, who still doesn't tell me her name. She says the officer must not have written everything down correctly. She says she's in the process of moving, and she's not in her car, so she doesn't have the insurance policy information with her. In the background, I hear a man ask, "Well, what does she want?" apparently in reference to me. The mother says she'll call me back in about 20 minutes with the information.

In the mean time, I manage to find out the name of the mother. I call their insurance company back and file a claim. The mother apparently hadn't reported anything yet. I give the company my information and they say they'll have a claims associate call me within a day or so to get more information.

I call my insurance company, and give them the information they need in order to file my own claim. They tell me not to have them submit it unless it looks like the other company won't work with us. I won't know until I speak to a claims associate.

The mother still hasn't called me back, three hours later.

This sucks. We were not at fault, and the  lying handicapped-space parking family will probably get off without any penalty, while our rates will go up and we'll be out our Prius for several days while it gets repaired. And the week is just getting started.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Lazy Sunday.

Woke up and got to "take my waking slow," which is one of the many reasons I love weekends. Savored my morning coffee to the last drop.

Picked up "Never Let Me Go" by Kazuo Ishiguro at the bookstore after a hiatus of sorts. I'm enjoying it immensely. One of those other-worldly type stories that's set in this world.

Brunch today - smoked salmon sliders at Houlihan's. They were delicious.

Cleaned out the bedroom closet and organized the remains. More satisfying than I imagined it would be.

Bought a crate cover for Roy's crate. Now Finny can't stare strongly at him from her crate. I think it was starting to make him batty.

Boiled shrimp for dinner. This was the first time we've ventured into the cook-your-own-shellfish realm. It was a successful trip and we'll return soon.

Last week I discovered a peach tree in the yard of an abandoned house down the street. At that time, I picked at peach and brought it home to ripen. After dinner tonight, the peach was ripe enough to eat and it was the best peach I've ever tasted. Tonight, I went back with a bag hoping to bring more home, but was almost thwarted in my efforts in that all of the low hanging fruit was gone. Not one to be discouraged by such things, I leapt up and grabbed ahold of some of the higher branches, shaking the hell out of them until the fruit came tumbling off the tree. I managed to get about a dozen good peaches this way, and will be slicing them up for various uses tomorrow.

And now, I'm sitting on my deck, with my laptop and Mr. Awesome and Roy and Finny enjoying a beautiful, breezy August night. I don't know why we've never sat out here like this before. I can't imagine a better place to be on a lazy Sunday.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The way we were.

A timeline of Internet memes.

I got first useful computer after I graduated high school in 1994, back when the Web was still relatively unknown. At the time, I had a job as a computer lab assistant, so I had many hours to search out all I could online. Yahoo was actually useful back then, when a browsable list of categories was possible because there wasn't much to categorize.

I remember these memes going back to the Trojan Room Coffee Pot. I remember thinking this was the coolest idea ever. A short time after I discovered it, someone put their rabbit cage on a Web cam, and the rest is history. Some other highlights of early online life:

  • One of my guilty pleasures in the mid 90's was the now-defunct Spot. The Spot was a Web site about a group of people living in a house and all the soap-opera stuff that happened to them. Think of it as a cross between Melrose Place and reality TV, only with some crazy clowns in bathtubs thrown in every once in a while.

  • When the Jelly Belly site first launched, the first 50 visitors to their page every morning got a free sample of Jelly Bellys. The race to be the first was intense. Eventually the traffic became too much for them and they cut that shit out fast.

  • In my lab assistant days, I had some creepy guy ask me how to use Usenet use to find binary files, and how to put the files together. Why would he want to do that? For a class project? Nope - Porn has always been readily available online, it just used to take a brain to find it and and even bigger brain to view it. I told him he'd need to help himself, so to speak.


Back in my day, we didn't have no high-speed broadband. Nooooo. We had to dial in and hope all the modems weren't busy. It took all day to do damn near anything. And when we did get a Web site to load, it was full of random blinking shit that at that time was the coolest thing we'd ever seen.

I wish I had a copy of my first Web page. It was awesome in its lameness. I think it had a single grainy picture of me centered on the page in a table with raised borders. There were rainbow colored bars involved. And maybe some spherical bullets next to links to places like The Spot and Yahoo.

I wonder what the Web will look like in another 10 years? Will flickr and google and youtube become obsolete? Will I look back on this blog and think it's as lame as the page I made in 1995? We'll see.

Must see TV

Girls Gone Wilde - this would be my new favorite tv show.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

New meme.

Zombie Rhymes. What do vegetarian zombies like to eat? GRAAAAAAAAAAAINS.

I can't drive 55! Will 60 work?

About a year and a half ago, we bought a Prius. This has turned out to be the single best purchase we've ever made, and that includes the really awesome set of pasta dishes we bought on sale at Sam's Club about 10 years ago for $5 and still use almost every day.



The Prius has an 11 gallon gas tank (give or take - I think the exact specs say 11.9, but the gas bladder is collapsible and the general consensus is that a fill-up will take you just over 10 gallons, which has been our experience), which is psychologically rewarding in that when I fill up my tank I don't generally pay over $40. The better mileage we get, the less we have to stop and fill up. So we generally have to fill up about once every 10 - 12 days.

For a long while after we bought the Prius, our gas mileage hovered somewhere between 43 and 47 MPG, depending on the type of driving we did. The hybrid motor seems to do best in city conditions and stop-and-go traffic, since it can use the batteries more. Therefore, we typically get better mileage when driving in the city than we do on the highway.

Over the past few months, however, we've been trying to drive smarter - coast to stop lights and down hills, let the terrain help propel the vehicle rather than the gas pedal and, hardest of all - we've tried to slow down on the highway.

Driving 55 MPG on the highway saves gas. Period. Some really stupid people out there probably still "reason" that if they drive 70, they'll get to their destination faster, and won't be on the road as long, so they'll save gas, right? Wrong-o. A 2005 article in the San Francisco Chronicle puts it this way:
For every mile per hour faster than 55 mph, fuel economy drops by about 1 percent, said Jason Mark, clean vehicles program director for the Union of Concerned Scientists. The drop-off increases at a greater rate after 65 mph. The faster you go, the faster the fuel goes.
...
[Mark] figures that a commuter making a 30-mile drive to work at 65 mph instead of 75 mph would save about 30 cents in fuel costs per day -- or $150 a year -- and spend just 3 1/2 minutes more daily on the road.

But driving 55 has it's drawbacks. It takes longer to get places, for one. Then there's the people who get right up on your bumper like they want to drive right over you. Or the assholes in the SUVs and trucks who gun it past to make some sort of point. I laugh at the gunners - you just wasted money to try to piss me off. It didn't work. You happy now?

Since we used to drive about 65-70, we've been trying to pull that back to 58-60. And I think it's working.

We got 50.4 MPG on our last tank of gas - almost 500 miles - while running the air conditioner non-stop because it was so fracking hot outside.

There's always the talk about how the Prius isn't a good value because the price you pay for it vs. the savings in gas doesn't even out. I hate math, so I'm not going to run any numbers. What I do know is that I hate to put gas in the car, and I really hate putting over $80 worth in every 5-7 days (like we have to do with our Jeep Cherokee, which is why it gets driven about once a month). Forty dollars every 10-12 days vs. eighty dollars every 5-7 days seems like a pretty good deal to me. I also love the keyless entry and start, the navigation system, the back-up camera, and all the other bells and whistles that I smile about every day.

I'm not trying to get you to rush out and buy a Prius by any means. But I was so happy with our last tank of gas that I just had to tell someone. Who better than you? :)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Order Up!

I have a friend who works as a server in the KC area. She's told tales that would make your skin crawl - awful customers, knife-throwing chefs, drunken management - all apparently pretty typical occurrences in the wonderful world of waiting.

It is she I think of when I read Waiter Rant, and it was she I thought of last night when I went to see the Waiter unmasked at the Plaza branch of the Kansas City Public Library.

I'd never been in the Plaza library building. I'd gotten close when eating lunch at The Mixx or Bo Lings, but last night was the first time I'd been inside. What a beautiful place it is. I'm used to the Mid-Continent Public Libraries of the Northland - drab, one story jobs with little to no personality and zero welcoming vibe. But the Plaza library is so different and inviting and almost inspirational, in a way. It's a place that seems to beckon readers of all types and welcome exploration.

The speaking space was just as beautiful. I expected a bunch of plastic chairs arranged haphazardly around a decrepit podium, the smell of musty books filling my nose and making me stifle sneezes. Instead, there are dedicated auditoriums with comfortable seats, large windows, pleasing lighting and great views of the stage.


There was a good turnout for the Waiter's talk. He just recently came out, so to speak, by revealing his identity in the New York Post. So, I can sleep with a clear conscience when I tell you that the Waiter's name is Steve Dublanica. Here's a picture:



Meesha (from who's blog I found out about this event - thank you!) mentions today that his mental image of the Waiter didn't mesh with the actual version of the Waiter. I totally understand, and hate it when that happens. A couple of months ago, I found a YouTube video of the voice cast of Family Guy recording scenes. It shocked me to no end to find out that Cleveland is voiced by a skinny white guy. I don't know if I'll ever recover. I don't know who I pictured as the Waiter, but it wasn't this guy. This guy looks like a friend's next-door neighbor, the guy who shows up unannounced to hang out and drink your beer because the wife won't let him keep it in his own fridge.

I think this was one of the Waiter's first public speaking engagements, and he seemed a bit nervous at first. Lots of lip-smacking, referring to his notes and lines that sounded like a prepared essay. But once he spoke for a bit, and especially during the Q&A session, he seemed to relax more.

Speaking of the Q&A session... I've never been to an event like this before, so maybe this happens all the time... but what's with all the crazies? I mean, one woman asked a question that seemed more like a story than a question, and she wouldn't shut up to let him answer. Another lady asked (in way too many confusing words) why the waitress she had the other night served her burnt chicken. Like this guy knows all servers everywhere and would take her complaint to the waiter God. And then there was the guy who asked if the Waiter had a good publicist because his friend the screenwriter wrote a movie and couldn't get any media attention. WTF? Where do these people come from? Do most events like this attract the crazy parade, or was the Waiter just lucky?

But most of the questions were good ones, and he answered them graciously. Although, I have to say that it seems almost too perfect that the only person who ever confronted him about his blog before he revealed his identity was... Russell Crowe? Seriously? I dunno about that one.

Reading Waiter Rant and hearing the Waiter speak reminds me to be the best restaurant customer I can be. We tip well, we are polite, we order off the menu, we only expect to be treated like regular customers at places where were are regular customers and generally behave as if we are guests in the server's home, which, in a way, we are. As with anything, treat others as you would like to be treated and good things will come.

By the way - my friend the server was supposed to meet us at the library last night for this event, but was so tired after she got off work that her quick nap turned into an hours-long sleep. Being a server ain't easy, folks. Be good to them.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

My morning and afternoon Buzz...

I'm a fan of the Church of Lazlo show on 96.5... and am so happy to read this today:
Lazlo, Afentra and Slimfast, who convene The Church of Lazlo every afternoon on Entercom alterna-twins KNDD (107.7 The End)/Seattle and KRBZ (96.5 The Buzz)/Kansas City, are heading back to KC.

You may recall that Lazlo stepped down from the PD post at The End just a few weeks ago, and Mike Kaplan is transferring in from Entercom/New Orleans to replace him as PD -- but will soon need a new afternoon show.

"I'll start looking for a replacement when I get in place on Aug. 4," Kaplan tells R&R.

Source here.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Way To Normal (and Nashville, Louisville, Detroit and a bunch ofother places)



Ah, yes. It's been a Ben Folds morning, what with all the trip planning we've been up to lately.

September takes us to Nashville, TN for a show with the Nashville Symphony.

October will see us in:

Louisville, KY - another symphony show
Detroit, MI
Chicago, IL
Green Bay, WI
St. Louis, MO
Kirksville, MO
and finally, Kansas City, MO.

That's a whole lotta driving, but totally worth it for something we enjoy so much.

Track listing:

Hiroshima (B B B Benny Hits His Head)
Dr. Yang
The Frown
You Don’t Know Me (featuring Regina Spektor)
Before Cologne
Cologne
Errant Dog
Free Coffee
Bitch Went Nuts
Brainwascht
Effington
Kylie from Connecticut

Friday, August 1, 2008

Let your friends know you care about them.

I got an e-mail a yesterday from a high school friend that I haven't talked to in a while. She wanted to let me know that a girl we went to junior high with and were close to then was in the hospital getting treatment for cancer, and that the prognosis doesn't look good.

Ah, where to begin...

The last time I saw Robin was in maybe 9th grade. All through junior high we were fairly close. She was the first person I snuck out of my house with, the first person I exchanged those "best friends" necklaces with, the one I spilled my guts to when I thought I was in love with a boy in 6th grade (and 7th grade, and 8th grade). I remember a lot of laughter, and some fights, and some crying, and some more laughter. The scent of Debbie Gibson's Exclamation is forever tied to Robin in my mind.

Somewhere around 9th grade, Robin's family moved away (her family was interesting - they were into Civil War reinactments, and her father was into taxedermy, the product of which filled her parents' bedroom and creeped me out to no end) to a small southern Missouri town and I never spoke to her again. I heard she got pregnant either while in or shortly after high school and got married, but other than that, we completely lost touch. I don't even know her married last name.

And now she's in a hospital fairly close to my house getting chemo that might not work.

There's a Beth Nielsen Chapman song that keeps running through my head:
Emily

My oh my, time sure flies
I like what you've done to your hair
I've been fine, yeah, these boys are mine
That must be your little girl there
Some friendships grow distant with time
And it's no wonder, Emily, so much can change
We're too far to visit, too busy to write
But a closeness between us remains

Best friends are made through smiles and tears
And sometimes that fades over miles and years
But I knew right away when I saw you again
Emily, we'll always be friends

I still sing now and then
Mostly at weddings for friends
And I just bet you still get
A yearning to paint now and then
They tore down our whole street
Now there's a bank where the house was we shared back in school
Remember we both have each other to thank
For all the boyfriends we're not married to

Best friends are made through smiles and tears
And sometimes that fades over miles and years
But I knew right away when I saw you again
Emily, we'll always be friends

Stay as you are and you'll go far
You signed my yearbook
Don't forget me when you're a big star
We can't stay, it's getting late
And they said not to let you get tired
We'll just be up the street
The number's right here by your side
Oh no it's no trouble
I don't want to hear how all this changes my plans
I'll see you tomorrow
Call me tonight, Emmy, please let me do what I can

Best friends are made through smiles and tears
And sometimes that fades over miles and years
But I knew right away when I saw you again
Emily, we'll always be friends

Robin was my best friend.

Part of me wants to run to her bedside and let her know I still remember her and think of her often and even love her for what she represented in my life at a time when I didn't know what a real girl friend was like (I was the only girl in my 3rd, 4th and 5th grade classes). But I haven't seen or spoken to her in almost 20 years and I can't help but think a reunion at this time would be a little awkward, and maybe even selfish.

So I don't know what to do, other than think good thoughts for her and her family. Please do the same.

Friday, July 25, 2008

We can't all save the world.

Several items, in no particular order:

  • Pluots are delicious.

  • Age of Conan needs too many improvements to be worthy of my time.

  • Given that the new UMKC residence hall, Oak Place, has about 18 different paint colors on the inside, I've officially dubbed it "The Amazing Technicolor Dream Dorm."

  • Ben Folds at the Uptown in October? Maybe? Please? I'd like to not have to travel for show # 10.

  • Note to potential job applicants: if you list "conflict management" on your resume, it should not refer to hardware device conflicts. Mmmmkay?

  • Getting new carpet in the house on Monday... I hate moving furniture... this weekend could potentially suck, but hoping for the best.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Getting Through Sundays by Sonia Gernes




Getting Through Sundays by Sonia Gernes
The ghosts of Sunday are small.
Even as a child you felt the gap
in the afternoon, the restlessness
you could not exorcise, tipping dominos
in your grandmother's house, the men
snoring in their chairs, the women smiling
like sisters-in-law. It was a space
too pale to be labeled grief, a concave fret
of something missed, as though
you knew in advance the lovers
you'd lose, the clocks that would tick
long past their last winding. Once

in a high coastal town, the future
beckoning across the bright water,
you waited through Sunday anesthetized,
while up in the turret, a window dropped,
trapped a hundred butterflies
who died there in the sun.
the next day was dark.
You swept frail and folded corpses in a dustpan,
threw splinters of flight to the wind.

Now you listen to the radio,
to rain that falls on all of Indiana.
You pick dead leaves from your plants,
think of all the letters you owe,
and how strange you feel—as though
some hollow behind your eyes
were suddenly enclosed—as though
under your skin, vaporous wings
stirred, stuttered awake, and rose.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Which is the Way To Normal?

I've been seriously geeking out on Ben Folds recently. He's got a new album coming out at the end of September (Way To Normal), but last week, a leaked version of the album showed up on line.

The weird part is that while he's been performing versions of his new material in concert all year, the versions of those songs on this leak are totally different. Some of the tracks are almost certainly real, especially the Regina Spektor-backed track, You Don't Know Me. Others have the same titles as ones he's been performing (The Bitch Went Nuts, Free Coffee) but aren't the same songs that we’ve heard live. Still others are way out in left field and, while hilarious, are not necessarily album-worthy.

So what’s the deal with Way To Normal? My personal theory is that this is a glorious hoax designed to keep us guessing. I think we’ll see some of these on the real release, but the others are just happy little gems. I don’t think it’s out of character for a guy with a wicked sense of humor and a recording studio to put out “fake” tracks.

I’d link to the download, but cease and desist notices are flying, so it’s up to you to track it down if you’re interested.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bali Hai Calls Mama by Marilyn Nelson



As I was putting away the groceries
I'd spent the morning buying
for the week's meals I'd planned
around things the baby could eat,
things my husband would eat,
and things I should eat
because they aren't too fattening,
late on a Saturday afternoon
after flinging my coat on a chair
and wiping the baby's nose
while asking my husband
what he'd fed it for lunch
and whether
the medicine I'd brought for him
had made his cough improve,
wiping the baby's nose again,
checking its diaper,
stepping over the baby
who was reeling to and from
the bottom kitchen drawer
with pots, pans, and plastic cups,
occasionally clutching the hem of my skirt
and whining to be held,
I was half listening for the phone
which never rings for me
to ring for me
and someone's voice to say that
I could forget about handing back
my students' exams which I'd had for a week,
that I was right about The Waste Land,
that I'd been given a raise,
all the time wondering
how my sister was doing,
whatever happened to my old lover(s),
and why my husband wanted
a certain brand of toilet paper;
and wished I hadn't, but I'd bought
another fashion magazine that promised
to make me beautiful by Christmas,
and there wasn't room for the creamed corn
and every time I opened the refrigerator door
the baby rushed to grab whatever was on the bottom shelf
which meant I constantly had to wrestle
jars of its mushy food out of its sticky hands
and I stepped on the baby's hand and the baby was screaming
and I dropped the bag of cake flour I'd bought to make cookies with
and my husband rushed in to find out what was wrong because the baby
was drowning out the sound of the touchdown although I had scooped
it up and was holding it in my arms so its crying was inside
my head like an echo in a barrel and I was running cold water
on its hand while somewhere in the back of my mind wondering what
to say about The Waste Land and whether I could get away with putting
broccoli in a meatloaf when

suddenly through the window
came the wild cry of geese.

I feel like I should write something...

... but I don't know what. How’s about I post a bulleted list instead? Why a bulleted list? Why NOT a bulleted list – that’s the question.
  • I'm tired of summer already. To quote the fabulously fey Cole Porter, it's too darn hot. Not only that, but now that I've finally figured out how to drive my car to get over 50mpg, the fracking air conditioner jacks with everything and lowers my mileage by a significant amount. Okay, so 49.1mpg may not seem that significant, but anything below 50 irks me sumpthin’ fierce anymore. I sound like a Clampet. Go rustle me up some grub, Jethro!

  • It looks like Wordpress is in need of another upgrade. Oh, the joys of that. I’ll break the bad news to Mr. Awesome later this week.

  • Finn gets to start puppy classes this Saturday. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the class starts at 8:30 in the morning. Me and my sleep schedule have got to make peace up in here, or there’s gonna be some trouble.

  • I’m closer to perfecting my pineapple orange chicken recipe. One day, I’ll post it. 

  • If you haven’t already, go check out Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. Joss Whedon of Buffy and Firefly fame has created an on-line sci-fi musical about a wannabe super-villain who's trying hard to get into the Evil League of Evil. Oh, and the most talented actor in the universe stars as Dr. Horrible. YOU GO NOW!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Friday Feast - the lazy man's blog post.



Appetizer
When was the last time you had your hair cut/trimmed?

I think around the beginning of May. I really need get it done again soon.

Soup
Name one thing you miss about being a child.

I miss not having to be responsible for anything. Stuff just magically got done when I was a kid.

Salad
Pick one: butter, margarine, olive oil.

Margarine - it's the only one that doesn't belong in my kitchen.

Main Course
If you could learn another language, which one would you pick, and why?

I would love to learn Japanese. One day, we hope to visit there, so knowing the language would be a bonus. I love the look and sound of the language.

Dessert
Finish this sentence: In 5 years I expect to be…

I don't know. I wish this one replaced "expect" with "want" or "would like" because "expect" almost has a conceit to it that I don't feel comfortable with. If "expect" were replaced with "want" my response would be "breathing and happy."

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

My dog is famous on teh internets.

Finn, our fabulously adorable puppy, is the Puppy of the Day over at The Daily Puppy.

She's very excited about it. I hope the fame doesn't go to her head. We'll probably get home from work to find her demanding raw stew meat instead of dry dog food.



Damn, she's cute.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Alone in the universe.

I sort of feel like Elaine Benes after she saw The English Patient.

We saw WALL-E on Saturday. Spoiler Alert, btw. I had really high hopes after David Edelstein's glowing review ("I envy you the first time through: 93 minutes of wonder to come" is about as high a recommendation a film can receive, imho), but I'm sorry to say that I was not blown away by WALL-E. I thought the animation of the robot WALL-E was incredible, and the visual effects, particularly reflections, were stunning, but I thought the story left much to be desired.

I'll give it to them - the opening sequence, where strains of Hello, Dolly! took on an entirely new meaning, were just spectacular and set the scene for great things to come. For a while, great things did happen, but then not so much.

I had momentary flashbacks to the first third of I Am Legend, which had Will Smith's character alone in Manhattan, and recalled Kottke's thoughts on that film: "I would have been satisfied with three straight hours of how Neville spends his time in Manhattan wilderness, alone, procuring supplies, checking buildings off of his scavenging list, visiting the MoMA to get new art for his walls, collecting iPods for "new" music, etc." That's how I felt about WALL-E. The scenes where he is on Earth, alone or with EVE, were my favorite parts. I would have loved more exploration on that. However, once WALL-E gets to the space ship, the story sort of fell apart for me.

If the autopilot had already been given the directive that they weren't to return to Earth, why continue to send probes? Why keep all the mechanisms that could test for viable life signs in tact? Story points aside, the animation of the humans seemed like an afterthought - they all looked the same. I know that there are only so many ways to depict fat, lazy humans, but I really felt like that was an animation cop-out - the Earth scenes were so brilliant and detailed that they made the space ship scenes feel cheap.

I loved Ratatouille, and had similar love-hopes for WALL-E that just didn't pan out. Now, before you go an say that I didn't "get it," I did. (Quick interjection - when I was in high school, I saw Will Rogers Follies, and didn't really like it. A guy who saw it at the same time said that I didn't like it because I didn't "get it." That pissed me off something fierce - I "got it," I just didn't like it. Music was good, acting was good, story was good, dancing was good, but all together, it just didn't mesh for me and while I was glad to have seen it for the sheer pleasure of seeing a musical, I wouldn't pay to see it again unless Will Rogers himself was slapping on a hat and dragging his carcass across the stage. But I digress.) I understand and even applaud the message in WALL-E. But as a story goes, the love story part worked for me, but the"villian" part didn't. Was it still better than most movies I've seen in a theater? Yes. I didn't leave, or feel like I wasted my money. But Ratatouille had big (if small) shoes to fill, and WALL-E doesn't have big (or small) enough feet.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Things I learned on my 4th of July vacation.

Presumably, roving bands of gypsies travel the streets of Kansas City, picking up just about everything left out for heavy pick-up prior to the designated pick-up date. The gypsies garnered the following haul from our pile of (to us) junk:

  • A rusty Simpsons Weber grill complete with cover

  • A broken hose winder thing and pain-in-the-ass hose

  • A banged-up bird cage complete with some shabby toys

  • An entertainment center that we took apart in order to get it to the curb, and were kind enough to painstakingly put back together in order to appeal to said gypsies
There are some things that even gypsies won't take, like the two old litter boxes, and a broken plastic table. Picky, picky.

Oak Grove Park had a really nice fireworks show. I've heard some complaints that the fireworks weren't shot high enough, but we had an absolutely perfect view. Mr. Awesome took some really good pictures:








It's almost like being there, only not as loud, and without the bug bites.

I've lived in Kansas City all my life and have dined at the 75th Street Brewery many times. However, I had not experienced the pleasure of their Royal Raspberry Wheat beer until this past weekend. While I love the darker varieties, this was refreshing and wheaty with enough of a raspberry hint to keep it interesting. Delicious.