October 2003 Archives

Better plan all week!

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Better plan all month! Better plan all year! 'Cause it's Halloween! If I go as anything, it'll be as a bike racer. Thinking about dragging a spare wheel around with me. Bek's a witch. Hannah's a crayon.

Murderous pace

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Things have not slowed down, not even slightly. Too much to do, not enough people to get it done, not enough time. And then I get called to "must do" meetings on the silliest of topics, meetings that waste a couple hours or an entire day, and it gets frustrating. Despite (or because of) all the pressure, I wasted a day myself on Tuesday, touring New York Harbor by small boat. It's a trip I've done before, and while I'm sure the Circle Line is fine, there's nothing like bombing around the harbor with people who know what they're looking at, and we covered a lot more territory, too - - from Gantry Park to the Intrepid, Governors Island and around Staten Island, up into Jamaica Bay, a quick dip in the Gowanus, and back home. Took all day. Of course, what I want to see and what a normal person wants to see would make for a nice Venn diagram, plenty of intersection, but a big space over on my side for power plants, sewage treatment plants, and the odd highway floating in the river (not yet, but soon). I think "outboard road detour" is my favorite new euphemism. Took lots of pics, but they're not up yet. I'll let ya know.

Off to la dentiste.

Stuck in my head

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Why did Constantinople get the works? That's nobody's business but the Turks'! Off to New Amsterdam for the day . . . New Amsterdam, it's become much too much; do I have the possession of everything she touches? Do I step on the brakes to get out of her clutches? Do I speak double Dutch to a real double dutchess?

Top 5

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It's been ages since a Top 5 (or 10). Let's!

  1. GO, the movie. I started with "Beat the Devil" in the DVD player, then decided I wanted to see Kirk Douglas chew the scenery in "The Champion" instead, but I couldn't find my copy anywhere. Tripped on "Go" and decided it was perfect for my state of semi-ironic exhaustion. I was right. Funny, interesting, dark. And Sarah Polley. And Katie Holmes.

  2. "Direct from Brooklyn," by They Might Be Giants. If you own only one music video collection, make it this one. Fascinating, full of their quirky music and equally quirky visual style, and they included the two Tiny Toons cartoons based on their songs "Particle Man" and "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)", which rock. Also, they have a new desktop application for TMBG fans, the TMBG clock radio, so check out the site.

  3. Elizabeth McCracken's "Niagara Falls All Over Again", a delightful romp through the lives of a pair of vaudevillians turned radio stars turned movie stars turned TV stars. I'll confess to an inexplicable weakness for anything that shows an affection for vaudeville and early radio, when just about anything passed for entertainment (as opposed to today's television? Okay, good point . . . ). This is well-written, touching, lyrical, and with enough detail to really bring the characters to life. Loving it. (I should admit that I once wrote a short story that was remarkably close to this in subject, tone and language, so maybe I was in love with this book before it was written.)

  4. The Y. Time to head back indoors and run the track and soak in the whirlpool. Time for bedtime hair to still smell of chlorine and to be a little loose about bedtime if it means we got a little swim in of an evening.

  5. Christmas cards. Created, ordered and delivered, baby! Here's this year's pic, unlikely at best but showing our lovelies off in their rock star mode (which Rebekah, at least, has been in since seeing "School of Rock").

Now, where the heck is The Champion??

Let the Nutcracker rehearsals begin!

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Well, actually, my command isn't what makes them begin, but I may as well feel like I have some little bit of imaginary control over my weekends for the next two months. For those who might say that our little metro area is devoid of culture, I counter with the fact that there will be no fewer than 37 different productions of The Nutcracker ballet this holiday season. (My mother asked last week, "Can't they do something other than 'The Nutcracker'?" No. They cannot.)

This is a huge deal, and every weekend from now until performance time we will be dragging our Pink Polchinelle and our Party Child into an overheated estrogen zone of dozens of dancers and their moms (and some dads, of course), and we will wait while they rehearse. (Yesterday, I chose not to wait, and instead wandered around with my cam capturing the aesthetic delights of downtown Albany. Got some amazing photos, and I'm starting with the least amazing, so check them out at my Fotolog.) Today is picture day, so there will be many hours of hair preparation this morning. Last year Lee's arm was broken, and she was away on picture day, I believe, but we got through it because Hannah is such a good big sister - she was able to get her hair done and then took care of Rebekah's. They were both clowns last year, which involves braiding and looping and ribbons, and while I'm not exactly the football-meat-beer type of guy, I'm not imbued with the hair-arranging gene, either, so Hannah was the hero of the day. Today, after some flip-flopping on the part of The Man (Miss Madeleine), the clowns are back to their old hair, and Hannah has to have ringlets attached to hers to make it Party-Child-Like.

I think there's shooting going on over in the sand mine. I'm going to just ignore it, though it's been a long time since I heard anyone taking shooting practice down there. When we moved here it was much more common.

What's up with those Yanks?

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I thought something was suspicious, so I checked my beloved old "Complete Baseball Reference Guide," the one I had thoroughly memorized back in seventh grade. Know what? There isn't even such a team as the Florida Marlins. This whole thing is some kind of set-up. How can the Yanks be getting beaten by an imaginary team?

Downward mobility

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We are officially white trash - - we have a refrigerator in our garage. And it's a loaner. Don't even get me started . . . I've got to get the couch out on to the porch.

We're having our annual revolt of the appliances. This year: the refrigerator and the dishwasher. Both exactly two years old. The fridge has never been quite right. The fan gets ice on it and gets very very noisy. Then the whole freezer starts frosting up. And the dishwasher has started leaking. They're not supposed to do that. Luckily, all under warranty, but the guy they sent out yesterday, said he hadn't seen this model before, and proceeded to take the fridge from "functioning, but like living next to the runway" to "dead" in just a few hours. Then he declared his day a loss and went home. Thanks, Mr. Snappy Repairs. This necessitated a run to Delmar by Lee in order to keep our new free range chickens in a frozen state, rendering them incapable of revenge. A bunch of stuff we just had to throw out. (Note that we did NOT have this problem in the blackout.) But the store was great when she called today, sent over a loaner fridge and with any luck we have a REAL service person coming tomorrow.

Otherwise, my day was like Roger Clemons in the first inning last night. I was just shelled. But I didn't have that first hit in a World Series to make it all just a little better. Arrgh.

Christmas must be coming . . .

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Because suddenly I've had three hits in a single day looking for information on Burl Ives. One was for "burl ives norelco santa picture," and I admit that for some reason that animation always creeped me out. I scored because of my "Burl Ives must die" diatribe of last December. One of the searches was for "Burl Ives messing about on the river." Let's just assume that's a song title and leave it at that.

More dreams

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Then Lee told me she dreamed we were having The Beatles over to our house, and we had nothing to serve them but peanut butter and celery. I think that in general, any sixties group, even the Beau Brummels, would expect some sort of hors d'ouevres, and while the mods were generally known to favor peanut butter, it's entirely possible they'd tear up the place over the celery. So better we should have it catered, I think.


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I've always had this odd tendency toward nightmares around the times the seasons change. Winter to spring, fall to winter, my sleep is unpleasant and filled with nightmarish images. Just woke from a dream in which I was (again) trying to teach myself guitar. Not a nightmare, but I just don't need the pressure. My brain hates me.

Have to go and do a speaking engagement that I don't want to do this morning. As I groused about it yesterday, the primary enticement I was offered was that there would be coffee and donuts beforehand. If you could see me you would know that, while not as svelte as I'd like to be, donuts are not my primary motivator in life. Why do people say things like that?

Okay, time to get back to that guitar dream.

Other things not to hit with your bike

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A doe, a deer, for instance. Big, up close, and huffing. I was starting to wonder if I'd have to mace it, but it finally took off. As it was, I was having a little trouble with the road, which had gradually surrendered all paving and gone to dirt with some strewn gravel here and there. Came around a bend, there's a doe of substance before me, not moving. Then she did, and took a couple others with her. I don't want to be run over by deer.

I'll note that it was in Quebec that I first learned that there is an international highway sign that indicates "road crumbles into nothingness," but around these parts, we don't feel the need to warn people about that. If it happens, it happens. This particular road was paved for a few hundred feet on both ends, and unpaved for more than a mile in the middle. Another thing we don't do around here is put up signs naming the back roads. Or even the main roads, often enough. I believe the thinking of the woodchucks is that if you belonged there, you'd know what road you were on. So I found myself climbing and climbing and climbing up a road, and every now and then it would level out, round a bend and climb again. It was only when I was at the top, consulting my map for the rest of the journey, that I realized I might have expected nothing less from something called Mile Hill Road.

Windy this afternoon, and the sun hid away by the time I got out for my ride. I was wearing my leg and arm warmers, and needed them, and zipping and unzipping my jacket and jersey. I'd climb to the top of a hill in a fierce hot sweat, rolling things down as I went up, and then at the top have to cover myself back up again. I learned why the serious guys shave their chests -- it's quicker than letting the zipper pull the hairs out seven at a time.

Had a delightful morning shopping with my older daughter. She needed jeans and a hairpiece for the Nutcracker (party children MUST have ringlets, and with her cool little Keira Knightley haircut, she can't ring), I needed some new dress shirts, so we had a nice little morning together, followed by a bad lunch at the Friendly's (but followed by ice cream and caramel). She's a vision, she is. Both my girls amaze me constantly. Smart, funny (well, they have my sense of humor -- decide for yourself if that's funny), and a little too pretty for their own good.

Taking a stand

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Well, not taking a stand, actually. If I were taking a stand, I'd march into the living room right now and turn off the TV. Have I not made myself perfectly clear on the issue of Scrappy Doo? But that's my relationship, not theirs.

Talk to Her

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I'm not sure I have any idea what day it is, that's how exhausted I am, so I can't tell you when I saw it, but sometime earlier this week I finally got to see Almodovar's latest, "Talk to Her." All I can say is, "Wow." A departure from all the madcap stuff that preceded it, and a departure from his previous focus entirely on women. He put together one of the most beautiful films I've ever seen. It's about a friendship between two men, each of whom has a relationship with a woman in a coma. One woman survives, one does not. It is sweet, lyrical, and had me crying like a baby at times. Just a wonderful film.

All over but the judgment

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Had to appear as a witness in a federal court case. While not as difficult as being chased by angry citizens with pitchforks and torches, I wouldn't want to have to go through it again, either. Two long depositions, and then a couple of hours on the stand as a witness. Not a pleasant thing to go through. But at one point I made the opposing counsel's head explode, so that was fun.

But now I'm tired. Watched some of the playoff games last night, then I had to find a vampire bar so I could watch "Angel." Syracuse still has some good vampire bars.

All apologies

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I went more than a little Lenny Bruce there for a minute, in that last entry. It won't happen again.

Tomorrow morning: driving to Syracuse in a windstorm! Woo Hoo!

Spam police

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I'm trying to think of a way to make a movie about computer crimes that doesn't involve a lot of hard staring at the screen and typing, and I thought maybe it would make it more interesting if you borrowed one of those hideous '80s cop movie clich├ęs, like the guy is just one day away from retiring his e-mail account and suddenly he finds that his address has been spoofed and he's getting back dozens and dozens of bounced e-mails, scrolling down the screen while he screams, "Noooooo!!!!!" And I'm thinking this because it's happening to me right now. Some bastid (or some bastid's computer program) has thousands of people thinking I'm sending them an ad for a rabbit-shaped personal relaxation device. I'm not. I have a Mac, I don't use Outlook, I'm not subject to these ridiculous viruses. I promise. But still, I feel so dirty . . . .

I know, that made no sense at all. I'm a little stressed out. I'm accustomed to being sued, but I have never actually had to go to trial before. The plaintiff's lawyers are mostly aiming to make me blow up. Our exchanges in the deposition frequently went like this: Them: Have you ever seen this document before? Me: Not to my knowledge. Them: When did you first become aware of this document? Me: I have not seen this document before. Them: If someone on your staff had prepared this document, who would have done that? Me: I don't know, since I'm unaware of this document and I don't know why we would have prepared it.

Them: When did this meeting take place? Me: I couldn't say. Them: Why couldn't you say? Me: Because I don't recall. Them: When do you think it might have taken place? Me: I don't recall. Them: Could you estimate? Me: I could, but I'd be wrong.

Four hours of that. Twice.

This is karmic payback. Probably for blowing up a frog with a firecracker once. I said I was sorry!!!

Lawyers ho!

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Something about spending my Columbus Day doing another deposition in a trivial lawsuit really makes me displeased. But my attorney suggested that we could go casual, which completely freed my head about the whole thing. Sometimes that's all it takes. He didn't suggest how casual, so I'm not in my standard weekend uniform of baggy Speedo shorts (I know, that should be an oxymoron, but it's not) and a race day shirt.

Just for the record, lawyers really do say "Asked and answered." A lot. But I think they picked it up from Sam Waterston.

A regular proselytizer, I am

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But seriously, The Weakerthans kick ass. There are free MP3s and videos there. Look at this lyric for "Watermark", and try to figure out how to put that in a song. Then go listen to how they did it.

Watermark: I count to three and grin. You smile and let me in. We sit and watch the wall you painted purple. Speech will spill on space. Our little cups of grace. But pauses rattle on about the way that you cut the snow-fence, braved the blood, the metal of those hearts that you always end up pressing your tongue to. How your body still remembers things you told it to forget. How those furious affections followed you. I've got this store-bought way of saying I'm okay, and you learned how to cry in total silence. We're talented and bright. We're lonely and uptight. We've found some lovely ways to disappoint, but the airport's almost empty this time of the year, so let's go play on a baggage carousel. Set our watches forward like we're just arriving here from a past we left in a place we knew too well. (Hold on to the corners of today, and we'll fold it up to save until it's needed. Stand still. Let me scrub that brackish line that you got when something rose and then receded.

Dogs of the sky

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The dogs of the sky are barking. From well before dawn until you decide you just can't take it any more and get on up out of bed. Couple that with a seemingly late crop of crickets and a toad looking for love in all the wrong months, and it's a miracle anybody can get any sleep around here. Well, soon enough the deep, stiff silence of winter.

It's some kind of miracle when we get to see movies two weekends in a row, and even more of one when there are actually that many movies we'd like to see. I could have seen three last night, but had to whittle it down to one, and having just seen "The Big Lebowski" and being especially susceptible to the charms and machinations of the Coen Brothers generally, I went with "Intolerable Cruelty." As with the best of screwball comedies, I was utterly torn between needing to burst with laughter and needing to hear every next word, so I spent most of the movie expelling single bursts of glee into the air, then holding my breath so I could hear. "O Brother Where Art Thou" proved they had watched Preston Sturges movies, and they knew what to do with George Clooney. Catherine Zeta-Jones knows what to do all on her own, and she does it very very well. And I think it's fair to say this film has the absolute Funniest Fatal Gunshot Wound Ever.

What else would I have seen? Well, we missed "Once Upon A Time In Mexico," and I had just recently been wowed by the previous film in the trilogy, and it looked like things blew up real good, so I had wanted to see that. "Kill Bill" also looks like a hoot, and, well, I mean, Uma Thurman. Kinda all I need to know. And the Bill Murray vehicle, "Lost in Translation," is supposed to be marvelous. But none of them have a hitman named "Wheezy Joe."

Best band working today!

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Have I mentioned the extreme excellence of The Weakerthans?. Don't let the fact they're 3/4 Icelandic hold you back. The lyrics are SO good, and they rock so well . . . . "Left and Leaving" is their kickingest album, just start to finish, but the new release "Reconstruction Site" is also quite excellent. Go to their site and at least listen to "Watermark" (under videos) before you tell me you're too cool for a band from Winnepeg. 'Cause I'll fight ya right here . . . .

Social butterfly

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On a perfect day, there is no place more perfect than Manhattan. Today I had an event in the Hudson River Park, at the beautiful new Pier 41. The morning was relaxed, the sun was strong and warm, the river beautiful. Sailboats raced container ships, the fireboat passed by, streaming water in high-pressure salute. Swimmers pencil-dived off the pier into the chilly Hudson (part of the event, not a regular feature of river life). It was stunning.

Then, nasty work stuff, but when it was over the day was still unspeakably gorgeous. Despite the best efforts of the attorneys from Evil Incarnate to f up my week, I did not need my non-refundable one-way ticket from the Big Apple (Newark, actually) to the Salt City (Syracuse, don't ya know). Unable to trade it on the street for a ticket to the playoffs, I found myself able to follow through on oft-cancelled plans to finally meet up with a very old friend, former colleague and even roommate. Despite having been around me at an extremely messy time of my life, she's kept in touch through the years. So it was a delight to see her again at the Daily Orange reunion, though our time to talk there was limited. So tonight we finally got together for dinner, along with a delightful friend of hers, and had a perfectly civilized evening at an excellent restaurant in Greenwich Village, the Grange Hall. Fabulous Northeastern food, I had a salmon in a "Hudson Valley apple" sauce that was incredible, with sweet acorn squash on the side. Then we wandered along Bleecker to The Bitter End, where we were treated to another DO alum playing in a kick-ass fun band called The Mar-Tays. Swinging blues, I guess you would say, some old Leon Russell stuff and a blow-the-roof-off-the-dump cover of Elton's "Border Song" (think "Holy Moses"). Really rocked, and the singer really had the depth for the material. Wild to be in a small, hot place listening to live music again -- hardly ever get to do that in my life. Thank you, Smoking Ban, for making that enjoyable again.

So, a wonderful day. The Elton cover made me long for more, but I only had "Madman on the Water" on the iPod. So now I'm on to Eliza Gilkyson. A completely different thing, but can that woman sing.

Edison butterfly
Hannah has a habit of reading in the dark (one I understand and share, but it's not good for her eyes). Yesterday morning when I went into her room, I dramatically poised my finger on the switch of her desklamp and asked her, "Hannah, what did Thomas Edison invent?"

With eyes open wide, in her sweetest dolly voice, she asked, "Butterflies?"

Sorry, I dropped the cedilla there. Can't find it on my Windows keyboard. Also, I came in this morning and was forced by our system to allow a new network client installation. This, of course, went flawlessly, upgrading all by itself and providing me with a new, better working environment.

Oh, wait, that was in my dreams! No, in fact, the install hung up in the middle, and now I can't get on the network at all. Ever. I'd call the Help Desk, but I don't have their number because I use the online phone directory. And I'm just going to end this tirade there, because it will end up with me blaming Windows for my inability to go to NYC and have a fun evening with friends tomorrow night, as I had planned, because instead I have to go to Syracuse and defend a certain state in a ridiculous lawsuit. I'm not happy about this. If I took this governing thing personally, someone would pay.

California: my prayers are with you. You have long been the republic's equivalent of a crazy homeless person, teetering on the edge between being a harmless amusement and being a danger to yourself. Well, now I'm afraid it's time for the straitjacket. You can no longer be trusted not to hurt yourself. This is the state that gave us the Beach Boys and Charlie Manson. At the same time. I'll take the Big Apple's brand of crazy any day, thanks. I understand people wanting to push me onto the subway tracks. I'm against it, but I get it. I do not understand people who think drugged-up, overcompensating sexual harassers still struggling with English as a third language qualify as leaders. Your futon; lie on it, if you dare.

Rain of Frogs

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Remember there was that one piece of "Magnolia" that went just a little over the top, but was great in its context? I mean the rain of frogs. An extraordinary thing, a nice cap of light-hearted insanity on top of all the desperate, edgy insanity that had filled the story. But of course, there is no such thing as a rain of frogs.

A rain of frog's eggs would appear to be another matter entirely.

In ascending order of importance: 1. Pretty much anything. 2. A turkey vulture. You cannot imagine how large one of these things is, and how slow it is in getting up off the dead cat on the side of the road. The body and the shape of the neck definitely look like a turkey hen, and then it flaps those enormous wings and before you can say "Brakes! Brakes! Brakes!" it's almost a foot and a half over your head. Good thing I didn't hit it, or I'd have spent a week detailing my bike. Why, you ask? Because the bird had a lot of tail. (Hannah snorked her dinner roll over that one.)

Best Rock 'n' Roll Movie Ever

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"School of Rock" totally rocked. Believe me, I didn't expect to be saying that anyone, including me, would be able to bear 2 hours of Jack Black on the wide screen. But there wasn't a moment when he wasn't perfect, and there wasn't a moment that was dull, or gratuitous, or not good. The movie just rocked beginning to end. Plus, of course, Joan Cusack, which I believe we discussed earlier. And Sarah Silverman, which we didn't, but she was excellent. My girls loved it; Bekah was dancing in her seat. And sometimes not in her seat.

So, okay, maybe best rock 'n' roll movie ever is ambitious, but it's definitely in the Top 5. It's right up there with "The Commitments" (technically an R&B movie, but still), "Quadrophenia" (a true rock 'n' roll movie, with music as background to the story), "Rock 'n' Roll High School" and the incomparable "A Hard Day's Night."

I will admit that I once thought that "Streets of Fire" was a great rock movie, but I was mistaken, blinded by a serious ache for Diane Lane and a willingness to forgive its reliance on a completely suck song by Dan Hartman. However, it introduced me to The Blasters, and it's still a dumb fun sort of urban fantasy. This is not to be confused with one of Diane Lane's other forays into rock moviedom, "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains." I remember only two things about this one: despite being played on cable about every five minutes in the mid-'80s, it was virtually unwatchable, and Diane Lane spits out "We're the Fabulous Stains, and we don't put out!" to try to show us she's punk. She's not. Diane Lane? She's a lot of things, but not punk.

Enough! There's work to be done!

At the urging of several (who I'm sure could be organized into a flash mob if I had to -- don't make me do it!) I have added a comment function. I haven't done this for a very long time, primarily because I didn't want to reveal that the audience for these blatherings is precisely as small as it deserves to be, but also because I have no scripting ability whatever, and don't really care to gain it. And I thought I'd have to pay, and I'm still feeding off the carcass of the free Web. So props to the woman in the rearview for pointing me to Haloscan, which not only does it easily but does it for free.

Comments have always been part of my Fotolog, by the way, and the work there is probably a little more worthy of comment. If you haven't ever seen a 2-year-old covered in Post-It notes, I'd recommend you head on over.

As Pogo said,

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Actually, I don't think it was Pogo, but some character in the strip said, "When you starve with a tiger, the tiger starves last." Which, now that I think of it, probably has no relation whatsoever to what happened to Roy of Siegfriend & Roy (that's his full name, I'm pretty sure). Listen, bizarre Teutonic-Vegas ambisexual feline excess may not be my cup of entertainment tea, but my heart of stone still beats enough that I feel badly for anyone who's been mauled by a tiger. That's gonna leave a mark, as the kids say these days.

Speaking of leaving a mark, we've decided that we're going to take the kids to see "School of Rock," inappropriate drug humor and all, because by all accounts it's a very funny movie, and we did the uplifting girl-power thing ("Bend It Like Beckham") last time.

And Joan Cusack as a principal. That's a fantasy bordering on porn, in my mind. Which shows you just what a dark and scary place my mind is. Her little speech impediment drives me wild. I can barely get through her repeatedly saying "Sssthhir!" over and over in "Grosse Pointe Blank" without an intervening cold shower.

Perhaps I've said too much . . .


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At the risk of moving my totally excellent Belgian paver joke further down the page, I thought I'd mention that my current read is a great book about the utterly fascinating history of the fez, called "A Fez of the Heart -- Travels Around Turkey in Search of a Hat" by Jeremy Seals. (I'd normally link to Amazon, but they seem to be having a little web attack just now -- the page just reads "FOO".) I bought this for Lee some time ago, given that she has a much greater interest in the Middle East (or anything on that side of the Atlantic, for that matter) than I have, but it looked like an interesting book. It turns out to be part travelogue, part history, very nicely written by a British writer who has spent quite a bit of time in Turkey. It's partly the story of the fez -- where it came from, where it went, and whether any fezzes remain today. And it's partly the story of Turkey, the nation that doesn't quite fit in Europe or the East. Very well-written, very informative; he never assumes you should know the history, and he isn't condescending in giving it to you.

Now, of course, the old Country Joe and the Fish lyric from "Flyin' High" is stuck in my head: "The one with the fez, he turns and he says, 'We'd like to help you make your trip' . . ."

By the way, I am killing in French class.

Belgian pavers

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I've had a number of people come to my blog lately looking for information on "how to lay Belgian pavers." I'm not an expert in this, by any means, but I would suggest that you start by plying them with good beer.

True Confessions

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I am prepared to admit that, during the '80s, I did in fact wear clothing that involved mesh fabric. And belts with excessive quantities of tastefully arranged metal. And I also wore gloves without fingers, but I'm pretty sure I had my reasons for that.

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This page is an archive of entries from October 2003 listed from newest to oldest.

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