Monday, March 30, 2009

If Snowball Has Taught Us Anything, It Is Not to Fall for a Fawn

Here's my best shot at explaining The Decemberists' new concept album, The Hazards of Love:

Okay, so there's a little white fawn who's got a bum leg. In a forest. Colin calls it a "taiga," a crossword-puzzle word that is awesome and sounds like "tiger" spoken with a Boston accent.

So Margaret, one of fifteen girls, fourteen of which seem to have found more wholesome vocations, finds the fawn, and as she tends to its owie, the fawn somehow morphs into William. And Margaret and William do what comes naturally. In the taiga.

Soon after, we find that Margaret is, you know, swelling. Baby-wise.

Soon after that, we find that William has an evil mother who keeps him captive as a fawn. Or something. Then William misses Margaret. Or in Colin-speak, "the wanting comes in waves." This is cool, not only because it is alliterative, but because the waves come in handy later on in the story. Or concept. Or album.

At this time, we meet "The Rake." A total bad guy. A history of infanticide. William's mom, the evil queen, hires The Rake to steal Margaret away in order to keep this Margaret-waif from her William-fawn. So he whisks her across the river to do with her what he will (ooh, is it the Columbia? Is Vancouver the Place Across the River Where Bad Things Happen? Sooo plausible).

Upon hearing of these evil doings, William, the fawn-boy, makes a deal with the river (or the fates? I'm not clear on this concept), that if he could just get across the scary river and save his Margaret, then the river may have its way with him on the way back. As you know, if you make a deal with a river, the river will stick to the deal. No backsies.

Burble, burble, burble. William and Margaret, on their way back from the "wrong side of the river," drown sweetly and melodically in said river. (The Columbia! Make it the Columbia!)

The end. Fittingly enough for a Decemberists album. 

Although I am still enjoying the clever wordplay and melody, I think I prefer Colin Meloy's "short stories." You know, 3 or so minutes of story wrapped in melody, harmony, wit and humor. Not 45 minutes of the same story, missing the humor. 

Ah, well. Now that he's got this opus out of his system, maybe Colin will go back to the fun stuff. With any luck.

And for non-locals, here's a quick link that briefly explains the "Snowball" reference.

Why Do Cats Get Away With This?

This is me fighting with Coco for MacBook domination. Why do we put up with this sort of spoily-pants behavior from our cats? I would never allow this sort of take-over from my dogs. 

I think it's the combination of soft, soft furry fur and that purr. That purr is nearly deadly, it's so weakening.

If dogs could purr, they would be in a much better position. But on second thought, it wouldn't work for them; they are such pushovers for affection that they would be purring all the time. With cats, it's an unexpected reward after a day of being actively ignored and barely despised.

My arm hurts from holding my elbow up to keep from smushing Coco who is insisting on viewing my typing from my lap.

Yes, I could shoo the cat away. But I won't.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

First the Leaf Blowing, Then This.

We thought we were seeing a little more of the neighbor's ugly white-and-blue house this spring. Apparently, it is because he has killed our privacy hedge. 

Either he got tired of the little fronds sticking out of his side of the chain link fence, or he got a little out of control with the weed killer on his side of the fence, but it has had the same effect - dead bushes. 

We are considering our options. Clearly the damage is done. It is too late to tell him to knock it off, although we will certainly bring it up as we make some changes. We could sue, but he's got enough problems, what with his pushing-thirty-year-old son never leaving home and continuing to live his carefree, swinging lifestyle, coming home at 3 in the morning and parking his after-market-loudness-accessorized car outside our bedroom window and (with any justice) waking him up as well as he tromps into his room with his date.

I think the change will be a switch from chain link to cedar fence. 

Friday, March 27, 2009

Your Chris Isaak Quote of the Week

"Taking singing lessons is like taking 'being tall' lessons."

This is re: his new music/talk show on the Biography Channel. He's a smart and funny interviewer, and I enjoy watching the chats, even when the artist is not necessarily my style (Glen Campbell, Michael Buble), but there's a weird thing about the music sections of the show. They are on some sort of sound stage with no audience, which for live music performances is tres tres bizarre. That said, the performances are often really above par.  Wait - below par. Well, much better quality than what you would expect from, say, an appearance on Dave Letterman.

If you get all those channels that you don't know what to do with, check for the Chris Isaak Hour on the Biography Channel.

A Tangled Web for a Dog Brain

How embarrassing. Scotty climbed up and made himself comfortable on the love seat while I'm sitting here on the couch.

Forgot that he only gets to lie on the love seat when we are not here to tell him to stay off.

Bad dog! Forgetful dog!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Bears! Fierce!

Bears. Still the best combination of adorable poopsie and killing machine.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Other Bracket Game

I have been whiling away a good portion of a Saturday at The Morning News, reading how this year's random head-to-head literary match ups have fared in The Tournament of Books. The editors and friends of the The Morning News annually choose 16 books to "compete" and then choose authors, reviewers, and other literary know-it-alls to serve as the judges. Each round has a different judge, and the books chosen to go head-to-head with each other often have nothing in common, which often makes for some completely haphazard choices, which is par for the course and part of the fun. 

I haven't read any of the books, so I have no favorites. In that way, it's like watching the Oscars. I don't watch movies until they are either second run or Netflixed, and I only read books in paper back (with rare exceptions for favorite authors). It's a great way to add to your reading list, and/or cross books off that may have sounded interesting in the newspaper review.

The talk of ToB this year is 2666 by Roberto Bolano, a 900-something-page literary steamroller that seems to be leaving the judges awed and breathless, although it is leaving the commentators (yes, there are commentators, just like in the NCAA games) perplexed and a little annoyed that everyone else can overlook the sheer volume of words for the sake of words, the ridiculous sex scenes, the horrifying amounts of violence, and the loose ends never knitted back together, and still claim it as a two-round winner.

Not having read it, I cannot weigh in. However, the commentators have convinced me not to put it on my wish list. I expect to be entertained. Not bludgeoned.

They are through the regionals (Round 1), and they are half-way through Round 2. Check in often for more action! 

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Blustery Day

Editing photos and listening to Van Morrison Astral Weeks. In other words, in a pretty good mood.

Tomorrow's Monday, but that's not so bad. See you there.

Wasn't 1981 Adorable?

Oh, what a cute modem! OMG - two hours to download a text-only version of the SF Examiner! The sad part is, I don't know how that modem worked, and I don't know how the wifi particles floating around my house rematerialize in my MacBook as funny pictures.

There was a time when we could understand the technology we were using. Those days are over, and I find that a little disturbing.

But not disturbing enough to go back to 1981.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Obsolete Movie Reviews: Bigger Stronger Faster*

Bigger Stronger Faster* is a documentary made in 2008 by Chris Bell about steroid use in sports.

So, piglet, that means that you now know about the grave dangers of doping yourself up in order to cheat at sports, right?

Oddly, no. As a past writer for pro wrestling shows and the brother of two unrepentant steroid users, Bell seems to be in no position to demonize the drug. And he does not. In fact, he spends a lot of time talking with (certain) sports trainers, muscle magazine editors, and sports "ethicists" who tell us that there are really no known long term adverse effects of steroids (besides the ball shrinkage, of course), mainly because it is ethically impossible to conduct such tests. 

He faults congress (somewhat rightly deserved) for spending eight days taking testimony on the evils of steroids in professional sports, which was eight more days than they spent taking testimony on health care or ending the war in Iraq that year. 

Bell's argument seems to be that if it's not steroids, it's going to be something else. Athletes will continue to use the performance enhancing activities that are either legal or that they can get away with. It's the nature of competition, especially in this country, where winning is everything.

Oddly, he seems to have focused most of his anger on Arnold Schwarzenegger, not because he took steroids from the age of 15 to make himself into a champion bodybuilder and then a movie star, but because he now preaches the faith of clean living and clean sport, and tells kids not to use steroids. I guess for Bell, cheating is not nearly as bad as hypocrisy.

The pathos in the documentary comes from his brothers. His younger brother takes steroids to be able to compete at power lifting competitions and lies about it to the students he coaches in football, so that they get the proper "steroids is bad" message (hmm, Arnold?). His older brother had a taste of pro wrestling when he was young, and although he never made it past the role of easy-to-beat-up bad guy and was dropped by the wrestling, um, federation? years ago, he continues to take steroids, wrestle, and dream big. Way bigger than what seems feasible. He's like Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler but without the defeatist attitude.

The thing about his brother that works against his laissez-faire message is that, despite the fact that he is using a prescription drug in an illegal manner in order to become a copy of his childhood idol, Hulk Hogan, he looks nothing like Hulk Hogan, or any other professional wrestler on the circuit these days. Despite the fact that he's injecting all these steroids into his butt and going to the gym regularly, he is obviously not existing on the skinless-chicken-and-salad diet that is necessary to not be a roly-poly, but kinda strong guy.

In other words, he is using this drug as a short cut. And short cuts don't work. Not in sports and not in life. 

Steroids, HGH and EPO are short cuts. They are cheating. Yes, as long as there is competition, there will be cheaters. And as long as technology stays on this stratospheric rise on the old graph-o-technology, we will have better and better cheaters, but with any luck, the fair-play referees will be right on their asses.

Cheating should never be the norm. Ask any client of Bernie Madoff.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Shedding in the Snow - It Would be Poetic if it wasn't so Unpoetic

If you listen to the "experts," dogs shed their hair in response to the amount of daily light they get as the seasons change, rather than the temperature changes of the season. Or it could be witchcraft. Either theory would explain why Annie started her twice-or-more-if-she's-feeling-cranky-yearly coat blow this week as it snowed.

This is how Annie looks during non-shedding season. And usually in this position. (Scotty, never one to put something off, just sheds full-time.)

This is how shedding season starts. Clumps of fluff start to appear on her haunches, which may be pulled out in big chunks. Once I start pulling, I get compulsive about it. It's like picking a scab. As soon as I see a chunk sticking out, I grab and pull and get a handful of fluff. But that makes some more fluff pop out, so I have to grab that. It's a losing battle.

The hair loss then moves forward toward her head, until there's big fluff poofs coming out of the ruff around her neck (where her Lassie hair would be if she was a rough collie). This makes her look godawful, but I would never tell her. I just keep pulling and brushing and vacuuming. It takes maybe a month for it all to pass.

This is your warning if you think dog ownership is all ball throwing and face licking.

Oh, and she has chronic diarrhea. 

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Way Past Their Shelf Life: Obsolete Reviews

I've mostly been hunkering down in the house the last week or two, so I have no reports of awesome things we saw or did. But I have these notes on things we Netflixed or read:

T.C. Boyle's The Tortilla Curtain. I know - I'm right on top of the NYT Bestseller's List - of 1995. But it's hard to keep up, and I got a used hard cover version at Powell's for $9.95. The Tortilla Curtain is Crash without all the 5th grade "don't miss the fact that I am a bigot in this scene" expositional dialogue. If everybody read The Tortilla Curtain, we would still be arguing about illegal immigration, but with a little more thought and less hate. However, my 1995 copy came with an author's photo on the dust jacket that nearly drowned out the story inside.

T. Coraghessan Boyle in 1995

What doesn't that picture say about the author? I heard him discuss his latest book lately, and whatever it is you thought that picture said, you are right. Except maybe his sexual orientation. It was 1995, after all.

Pineapple Express. This movie is exactly what you think it is: a stoner movie, but with some notable exceptions: they made a point of keeping the story moving and adding some action movie elements, such as chase scenes and bad guys.

Atonement. Better than expected, based on its Oscar worthiness last year (which usually is a movie screener tool for me - if it won an Oscar, I can skip it). Yes, there's a way-too-skinny Keira Knightly, mooning around in period costume. But there's also some kick-ass WWII scenes, and serious wrong-doing that you would seriously appreciate seeing some atonement for. Go ahead and Netflix it.

The Good Shepherd. We watched the whole (long) thing, but it was a bit of a slog. And Matt Damon played his CIA operative character with such a stone face that I wondered if he was playing him post-dental-surgery.

Son of Rambow. Once upon a time in Eng-a-land, a very sheltered kid and his friend, a kid left to run wild, decide to do their own remake of Rambo. Don't be fooled by its Rambo-like name. It's a lot of fun, and it's Stallone free.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Doctor Econosplode: The Spectator Sport

So our evil supervillain, Doctor Econosplode, has been, as super evil villains can be, in his manic phase this past few months.

It's frightening and sad to watch, but for the most part, we have been able to be spectators at this event. Drew's job is not in danger, as people continue to set their houses on fire. I could see mine shrinking from three to two days a week by summer if things keep sliding, but I doubt if I will lose it altogether. We don't have an adjustable rate mortgage, and although our retirement fund is a pit of despair, we didn't invest any money with either Mr. Madoff, Mr. Bear or Mr. Stearns (not out of wisdom, but out of not having any left over).

Watching it from the sidelines has been a little like watching an accident in slow motion - horrifying, but yet involuntarily exhilarating as well. This may not be the change we wanted, but it's change, and it makes for a fascinating story. How will it end? Tomorrow? Or should we start stocking up on flour and kerosene?

I don't have to tell you to stay tuned. We all are glued to the set.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Squirrelly Behavior: Frowned Upon

This is not the squirrel who bit through the rope that held the bird feeder hanging from the grape arbor. He's more difficult to photograph, as Scotty keeps him up the tree when the back door is opened. But this one will have to do as an illustration of the evil that the back yard squirrels have been up to.

This is actually a Colorado Springs resident who might as well have had a cardboard sign, he was such a vagrant, living off the largesse of upstanding CS citizens.

Our back yard squirrel apparently felt that if the bird feeder was on the ground, it would be more convenient for him to eat from, instead of shinnying down ropes and hanging precariously from a feeder, annoyingly not designed for ease of squirrel access. 

I hung the bird feeder back up using hanger wire, so I win this round, Squirrelly.

You're on notice.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Birthday Book Update: Win

Here's what I picked up in my last-minute book blitz shopping excursion:

Home: A Memoir of My Early Years by Julie Andrews. Mom has always been a big fan, and since she doesn't really bother with the nonfiction section, I knew she would not have picked it up on her own. I remember hearing Dame Julie on her book tour, probably on Fresh Air, recounting some of her experiences in London during the war and on vaudeville tours around England. It sounded like something that would appeal to both Mom and Dad. She seemed really pleased.

So, you know, I kicked birthday ass this year.