December 31, 2007

Auld Lang Syne

As we jump ahead another year and exchange outdated calendars for new ones, I just want to say thank you. Thanks to all of you who drop by and read whatever it is I've chosen to ramble on about. Thanks to those of you who comment and those who simply lurk. Some of you have been reading since the very beginning. An extra-special thanks to you. I can't believe I haven't bored you into comas yet.

I wish you all the best in the coming new year. I hope 2008 treats you right and sees your dreams come true. Me, well, I'll be right here as always. I hope to see you around. Spread the word and be good to each other.

Happy New Year.

Posted by Chris at 8:27 AM | Comments (48)

Haiku For Monday #199

One 'ku short of two
hundred? Holy crap that's a
lot of 'ku action.

Posted by Chris at 8:20 AM | Comments (4)

December 28, 2007

The Yearlies

Can you believe that another year has passed? It seems like just yesterday (or, a few weeks ago at most) that I was talking about how quickly 2006 flew. Anyway, it's that time again...

The Yearly Books: It's damn near impossible for me to come up with a single title that represents the best of what I've read this year. But there's a shortlist.

If forced at gunpoint to name the one book I felt was the best out of this group, I'd go with Steep Approach To Garbadale or, perhaps The Road. But that decision would neglect the brilliant and funny The Rabbit Factory or the incredibly developed The Winter of Frankie Machine. And I wouldn't want to imply that the richly detailed Little America or the quirky and overtly truthful This Book Will Save Your Life didn't rise to the occasion either. These ten are all wonderful. And I urge you to check them out.

The Yearly Schadenfreude: There can be no doubt - Britney. The only thing we didn't get out of her in 2007 was a sex tape. Thank god.

The Yearly Beverage: Vitamin Water.

The Yearly Music: This year produced two almost flawless albums - Foo Fighters' Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace and Bruce Springsteen's Magic. But the best and most overlooked album of the year is Great Lakes Myth Society's Compass Rose Bouquet. It's an album chock full of goodness and originality rarely seen in music today. Honorable mention to Porcupine Tree's Fear of a Blank Planet and the Robert Plant/Alison Krauss collaboration Raising Sand.

The Yearly People: 2007 was the Year Of The Little People. I have a hunch 2008 will be too.

The Yearly Asshat: There are so many. I'll just stick with perennial favorite George Bush.

The Yearly Questions: What is your resolution for 2008? And what are your bests and worsts of 2007?

Posted by Chris at 8:30 AM | Comments (29)

December 27, 2007

Little Brother

The influx of Christmas gifts aimed at the impending new addition to our family has once again made me realize oh shit we're having another kid! This is not a bad thing...but it is a scary thing. I want to set the record straight up front - having a kid is a wonderful thing. There are many hardships that go along with bringing said kid into the world but they pale in comparison to the wonder that is the brand-spanking-new addition to the Cactus-Fish family. I'd also like to fully qualify this post by saying that, as the man I have a much easier job than my wife. But there are several things I'm either not exactly looking forward to or are moderately concerned about:

  • My wife's health. She's fine and this pregnancy has been great but still, I worry, you know?
  • The hospital stay. Maybe this time around it'll be easier but it ain't no weekend at the Ritz. There are a couple nurses I'd like to track down and bitchslap based on our last stay.
  • The baby, duh. Naturally, I want the baby to be healthy, happy and perfectly, wonderfully normal.
  • Time. I'm amazed I get as much as I get done, well, done. I'm not gloating, just stating fact. Somehow, I manage to be a professional, a dad, a husband, a reader and a writer simultaneously and, I think, somewhat successfully. How will another kid impact that balance? I'm going to go out on a limb and venture a guess that I won't be taking up chess or bonzai tree gardening anytime soon.
  • Mia. As I've mentioned in the past, I'm worried how the new kid will impact Mia. I know she'll come out the other side alright but the immediate effect concerns me.

For Christmas, my in-laws gave Mia a startlingly realistic baby doll. Mia instantly fell in love. the rest of Christmas day was spent feeding, changing, holding, rocking and comforting the doll. When she started referring to him as "little brother" we panicked for a minute thinking that she believed this was what had been gestating in Beth's belly. She later proved that she knew the difference. But the way she took to this doll (who we're calling Herman), made me believe that she'd handle this whole thing just fine. And, more than handling, she might actually love the kid.

(PS - Yeah, I know I still owe you pictures but I'm working on it...)

Posted by Chris at 9:18 AM | Comments (28)

December 26, 2007

Christmas: The Aftermath

Oh holy christ (who, actually is the root cause of this to begin with) am I tired!

This is Mia's third Christmas. Her first wasn't all that demanding; she was five months old which is kinda like spending Christmas with a loaf of bread. Granted, a very cute loaf of bread and a loaf of bread that poops and occasionally screams, but she wasn't exactly into Christmas. Her second Christmas was spent vomiting; she was in good company as her mother was doing the same thing. Christmas wasn't quite the huge celebration we'd expected it to be. Frankly, holding a cracker and some water down was more awe-inspiring than the baby Jesus. This year, though, everyone was healthy, fully functional, and totally grooving on the Christmas spirit. And it was exhausting. Fun, but exhausting.

Over the last 48 hours, I've shot a couple hundred pictures (seriously), hosted a get-together for my family, spent an evening at the in-laws, wrapped and opened a colossal amount of gifts, and eaten an amount of food that would be appropriate only for someone planning on running five consecutive marathons and then bench-pressing Santa. And it was all stupendous.

Beth and I (operating on behalf of Santa, of course) apparently stumbled on the perfect bumblebee toy after months of debate. After seeing her reaction Christmas morning, I'm still sure she didn't actually have something specific in mind. We lucked out. Between Santa, Beth and I and the grandparents, we've also populated the house with Little People. We have more than a Little People city, state, continent or world - we have a freaking Little People universe. Of course, tomorrow will be the day Mia decides that little people suck and she wants a Barbie. But for now it was all a glorious success.

I realize I'm short on detail and even shorter on pictures. I need a day to recoup, edit pictures, play with my kid and figure out why the hell I thought it was a good idea to name all the Little People. Like I need more stuff to forget. So, if you'll excuse me, I have to decide between two options - a gallon of coffee or the mother of all naps. But before I go, how was your Christmas? Or, if you don't celebrate it, your Tuesday?

Posted by Chris at 9:16 AM | Comments (27)

December 24, 2007

Merry Merry

When I was a kid, I'd always go out for a fancy dinner with my parents on Christmas Eve. Then I'd end up at home, lying in bed staring at the ceiling waiting for some sign that Santa was on the roof. I never saw him but I thought I heard him more than once. When I got older, some of the magic disappeared but now that I'm a parent it's back. And I plan on soaking in every moment of it I can.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas. Enjoy this holiday, doing whatever it is you do with whomever you chose to spend it. Me, well, I'll be doing some last minute present wrapping and trying to squeeze as many cheesy Christmas movies into the day as I can. I'll see you on the flip-side of Christmas. In the mean time, I wish you all the very best the season has to offer. Thank you for blessing me this year.

Posted by Chris at 8:01 AM | Comments (33)

Haiku For Monday #198

Christmastime is here!
That begs the question - Am I
ready? Aww, hell yeah.

Posted by Chris at 8:00 AM | Comments (3)

December 21, 2007

The Weeklies #16

The Weekly Best Moment. It is Friday morning. Early. I'm sitting here with a cup of coffee and a day of work laid out before me. But I'm working from home and, after today, I'm off for a little over a week. Happiness.

The Weekly Most Horrifying Threat To Mankind. Zombies. Or George Bush. Six of one...

The Weekly Reads. I read two startlingly wonderful books this week. Bloodthirsty is Marshall Karp's follow-up to his first novel, The Rabbit Factory. Karp's debut was fabulous and Bloodthirsty doesn't disappoint either. It's a taut, well-written mystery featuring The Rabbit Factory's wonderfully rendered characters. And for all Karp's hilarious dialog and blood-soaked crime scenes, there's something at Bloodthirsty's heart - as there was in The Rabbit Factory - that's just very nice, in the true sense of the word. Finding a worthy follow-up to Bloodthirsty was tough so I turned to Iain Banks to do the job. I've been a fan of Banks' novels since I first stumbled on one about ten or twelve years ago. He's widely published in the UK - he's a native of Scotland - but his books are hard to find on this side of the pond. However his most recent novel, The Steep Approach to Garbadale was recently published in the US. I'd have hated to miss it - it's fantastic. The book, while only 400 pages in length, is an epic family drama composed of all the ingredients that make a good story so compelling - money, greed, sex, death, and family secrets. It might not be Banks' best, but it certainly is good.

The Weekly Time-Waster. Well, how about The Official Time Waster's Guide?

The Weekly Music. You saw Wednesday's post right? Consider that my weekly music report.

The Weekly Worst Television Show To Be Broadcast. When Surgical Tools Get Left Behind 2. Seriously? Not only was there one hour of this crap but someone decided we needed a second hour? The only way I'm watching is if they discover that a surgeon left Jimmy Hoffa in someone's spleen.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Were any of you shocked that Britney's little sis is all kinds of knocked up? Yeah, I didn't think so. But still, schadenfreude gold, people.

The Weekly Question. What's the most bizarre gift you've ever received?

Posted by Chris at 6:54 AM | Comments (40)

December 20, 2007

Do You Hear What I Hear?

This Thursday morning - instead of bitching about the fact that it's not Friday when it really should be Friday because, come on, this week's gotta end - I give you a few seemingly unrelated facts that will, taken together, hopefully make the point I'd like to leave you with.

Fact #1. My daughter is - as I've recounted here many, many times - obsessed with the local high school marching band. She wants nothing more than to conduct the band or play their drums.

Fact #2. Research into brain development and behavior suggests that the power and influence of music on the mind is nowhere close to being fully understood but the importance of music is continually underestimated. Neurologist Oliver Sachs tackles some of these musical mysteries in his latest book

Fact #3. Music teaches creativity, motor coordination, math, history and listening the very least.

Fact #4. Quickly surfing musical instrument sites proves that band instruments are expensive!

Fact #5. Music education throughout public schools in the United States is slowly being marginalized if not eradicated completely.

All these facts rolled into one giant uber-fact in this, the season of giving, have come together to give me my donation of the year target - Save The Music. This foundation was established to donate musical instruments and rehabilitate music education programs throughout the country's public schools.

Now, certainly not everyone is able to give the way they'd want to, or at all. But I have some questions:

  • What charities do you recommend? What is your cause of choice? What are you most passionate about?
  • If you were given $1000 with no strings attached other than the requirement that you give it all away, what would you do with it?

Posted by Chris at 7:11 AM | Comments (38)

December 19, 2007

Jinglebell Rock

The other day, I mentioned that I'd downloaded a crap-load of Christmas music. Several people asked what I'd downloaded and, in a larger sense - me being somewhat of a music aficionado - what kind of Christmas music I like. So, here's the answer.

I like the classics, the over-played holiday favorites that, to me, epitomize the Christmas spirit. I'll take Bing Crosby (real name Henry Lillis Crosby - I looked it up because honestly what could Bing be short for?) over some boy band rendition of a holiday favorite any day. Sure, Bing belted his wife after belting out Christmas tunes but that shouldn't suck any of the holiday spirit out of White Christmas. Dean Martin, Burl Ives, Brenda Lee and Nat King Cole put together some fantastic Christmas music. And Vince Guaraldi's soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas epitomizes Christmas (even though the Christmas special itself drives me bonkers). Frank Sinatra produced some of the most fantastic holiday tunes. Granted, the way in which he delivered the songs sometimes sounded like he was just about to get into a bar fight, like there's an implied bitch punctuating ever song. Sleep in heavenly peace, bitch or Born is the King of Israel, bitch for instance. But still, good stuff.

I dig big band and swing versions of aforementioned classics. Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald knocked some of those boring old tunes out of the park. Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman didn't do such a bad job either. Their modern-day compatriots like Brian Setzer and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy do the same.

And who doesn't like a little holiday cheese to go with they're turkey? I'm a big fan. I recently downloaded Christmas albums by John Denver and Willy Nelson. They're astoundingly cool in a very uncool way. Trans-Siberian Orchestra is also a phenomenon I like as well. Who doesn't like a good Christmas-themed heavy metal rock opera?

I have 276 Christmas songs on my iPod. Though I suspect they playlist is really just about fifty versions of the same half-dozen songs.

What's on your Christmas playlist?

Posted by Chris at 7:36 AM | Comments (45)

December 18, 2007

The (clap clap) Monologues

One of Mia's recent favorite games is playing DJ. She gets her little pink CD player and a pile of CDs and plays a whopping 15 seconds of each. And while she has raided my own CD collection - her half-hour mix of Van Halen songs was particularly inspired - she tends to focus on her own collection of songs and music for kids. While doing so, she exposed Beth and I to something particularly horrifying.

The Battle Hymn Of The Republic (stay with me - I'm going somewhere with this) was written between 1855 and 1862 (the music and lyrics were written separately over a somewhat broad period of time) and intended to inspire the Union soldiers in the raging Civil War. So imagine our surprise when we heard a kid-focused variation on the song that seemed to be primarily focused on vaginas.

Here are the song lyrics along with our comments transcribed as they went down.

She waded in the water
And she got her feet all wet
She waded in the water
And she got her feet all wet
She waded in the water
And she got her feet all wet
But she didn't get her (clap, clap) wet yet

Glory Glory Hallelujah!
Glory Glory Hallelujah!
Glory Glory Hallelujah!
But she didn't get her (clap, clap) wet yet

[Me: This isn't some sort of weird Jesus song, is it?
Beth: There are weird Jesus songs all over this CD.
Me: Actually, if you listen, I definitely don't think this is about Jesus.]

She waded in the water
And she got her ankles wet
She waded in the water
And she got her ankles wet
She waded in the water
And she got her ankles wet
But she didn't get her (clap, clap) wet yet

Glory Glory Hallelujah!
Glory Glory Hallelujah!
Glory Glory Hallelujah!
But she didn't get her (clap, clap) wet yet

She waded in the water
And she got her knees all wet
She waded in the water
And she got her knees all wet
She waded in the water
And she got her knees all wet
But she didn't get her (clap, clap) wet yet

Glory Glory Hallelujah!
Glory Glory Hallelujah!
Glory Glory Hallelujah!
But she didn't get her (clap, clap) wet yet

[Me: They're totally talking about some chick's hoo-haa.
Beth: They can't be. But they so are!
Me: What kind of sick bastard wrote a hoo-haa song for kids?
Mia: Hoo-haa! Hoo-haa!!]

She waded in the water
And she got her thighs all wet
She waded in the water
And she got her thighs all wet
She waded in the water
And she got her thighs all wet
But she didn't get her (clap, clap) wet yet

[Me and Beth: Hysterical, uncomfortable laughter.]

Glory Glory Hallelujah!
Glory Glory Hallelujah!
Glory Glory Hallelujah!
But she didn't get her (clap, clap) wet yet

She waded in the water
And she finally got it wet
She waded in the water
And she finally got it wet
She waded in the water
And she finally got it wet

[Beth: I hope it was as good for her as it was for us.
Me: Must have been if it was, you know, wet. Oh, and dibs, by the way!]

Now I know - since I looked at the song's title - that it's theoretically about some chick and her bathing suit but I don't buy it. Not for a minute. All that cleverly-placed clapping is clearly code. There's a whole subtext of things going on here that I'm not buying but I'm much to innocent to comment on. But - bottom line - I suspect that this woman got some and is now singing to my kid about it. And that ain't right.

Posted by Chris at 7:17 AM | Comments (35)

December 17, 2007

T-Minus Five Days...And Counting

Sweet mother of all things good and holy I sincerely hope against all hope that this week is far less ape-shit crazy than the last. I'm not sure I could take another week like that one. Even if the week does blow up into five days of uncontrollable mania, there's a light at the end of the tunnel. As of Friday I'll be on vacation until 2008.

This weekend was moderately laid back. Things were done to the house - outside Christmas decorations put up, a little electrical work was done, and a new faucet installed in a bathroom. And then there were more entertaining things. I finished one book and started another. We caught up on what TiVo had recorded - precious little, and we scraped the bottom of the barrel watching a couple episodes of Private Practice. And I downloaded a ton of Christmas music and loaded up the family iPods for the holidays. Other than that? Laziness. I answered only a few emails, posted nothing, read virtually no blogs, took no photographs and I'm pretty sure I only left the house once (destination - Home Depot and Trader Joe's).

And now it is early, cold and dark but the holidays are rapidly approaching and with them come vacation.

What are your plans for the holidays? Are you traveling? If so, where? Bonus points for the most exotic locations and/or plans.

(Oh, and yeah, that's really all I got this morning. Sorry if you were hoping for something entertaining.)

Posted by Chris at 6:37 AM | Comments (34)

Haiku For Monday #197

Twas the week before
Christmas...and I'm fucking tired.
Bah-humbug, Monday!

Posted by Chris at 6:35 AM | Comments (4)

December 14, 2007

The Weeklies #15

Another week, my friends. Another week.

The Weekly Best Moment. Last night Beth and I were getting Mia ready to bed. She told us she wanted to lick us. And she did. Then we licked her back. There's pretty much nothing better than a lick-war.

The Weekly Condiment. Mustard.

The Weekly Reads. I was underwhelmed by the two books I read this week - Chuck Klosterman's Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs and Brad Land's Goat. Don't get me wrong - I dig Klosterman and I'll read anything he writes. His knowledge of pop culture is vast and his writing is excellent. But this collection of essays didn't grab me like his others did. Goat was another non-fiction read, a brief memoir about two random incidents of violence that befall Land - a carjacking and fraternity hazing. The problem? It didn't fit together very well. No connections between the events are drawn and in a book that's only 200 pages long, yo'd expect some connection otherwise, why bother? Nothing about it was particularly compelling or surprising. It was oddly written in a way that seemed more like stream of consciousness or random ramblings than coherent writing. Check out the Klosterman book but forget about Goat.

The Weekly Time-Waster. Bloxorz. Seriously. You'll be addicted.

The Weekly Music. I've been working my ass off this week. I didn't have a chance to listen to much at all but I am rather proud of myself that I went back and checked out Ongiara by Great Lake Swimmers, an album I downloaded many moons ago. I didn't particularly like it at first. I didn't hear anything that immediately separated it from anything else I'd picked up at the time. But I was, in retrospect, wrong. Ongiara is a beautiful album. It's hard to label. It's less alt-country than alt-bluegrass. Pedal steel and banjos punctuate the airy, acoustic feel to the album. It's powerful and fragile at the same time. And worth the purchase price.

The Weekly Worst Television Show To Ever Be Broadcast. Ever. Seriously. Crowned. I have never watched anything quite this bad. Actually, I've never even watched anything half this bad. This is seriously the shittiest thing that has ever been broadcast yet I couldn't stop watching.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. What do Roger Clemens, Jason Giambi, David Justice, Andy Pettitte, Gary Sheffield, and Miguel Tejada all have in common? Well, they're baseball players, of course, but more importantly they were all just shortlisted for a very dubious distinction. They were named in George Mitchell's report about steroid use in baseball. I wonder which game is America's greatest, baseball or injecting steroids in your ass.

The Weekly Question. You are granted the power of invisibility. What's the first thing you do with this power?

Posted by Chris at 7:28 AM | Comments (39)

December 13, 2007

What Gets You Through

Over the past week, paragraphs like these have led stories across the country.

Item 1: "In his early 30s, fresh off his release from prison on rape charges, Timothy Krajcir enrolled in college to study psychology and the criminal justice system. Timonthy Krajcir, 63, pleaded guilty to one slaying and was charged with five others. Like other students, Krajcir was seeking self-enlightenment, a detective said. But over the next six years, Krajcir murdered at least six women in two states, covering up his crimes in part by using what he learned at Southern Illinois University, authorities said."

Item 2: "Tight security greeted high school students Wednesday as police searched for the gunmen who wounded six young people at a school bus stop, an attack that officials believe stemmed from a fight about a girl. Police work the scene of shootings at a school bus stop in North Las Vegas, Nevada, on Tuesday. The six were wounded Tuesday shortly after a group of Mojave High School students got off a school bus in a working-class neighborhood in northeastern Las Vegas."

Item 3: "Police say Murray walked onto the campus hurling smoke bombs and armed with handguns, rifles and 1,000 rounds of ammunition. He fatally shot sisters Stephanie Works, 18, and Rachael Works, 16, before getting into a gunbattle with a security guard and finally killing himself, officials say."

In life, there's an inherent trust all of us have to have in the people around us. Trust in the fact that the guy doing 60 in the lane next to you won't decide to swerve and run you into a guardrail. Trust in the fact that your kids will be safe and well-treated when you drop them off at school. Trust in the fact that the people you elect to lead you, to establish laws, will do so with their own self-interests put aside. Stories like these, though, make me question that trust and whether or not it's misplaced.

It's taken me 35 years to realize that I'm not a realist as I'd imagined myself to be. I'm a hopeless optimist, which I think is something of an oxymoron. I believe the best in people until proven otherwise. I think you can you'll always be successful being nice. I firmly expect things to work out for the best. Being inherently cruel, the world often has to prove me wrong. And it did that just this week with news items like those above.

I don't mean to get you down but surely I can't be the only one who feels as if the reality I live in - the one in which people behave and don't shoot kids at bus stops - is tenuous at best. Right? And I can't be the only one who feels, at times, like moving to a farm in the middle of nowhere and trying to relegate the actual world to a place buried deep in the back corner of my brain.

What gets you through?

Posted by Chris at 6:37 AM | Comments (39)

December 12, 2007

Vice City

Everyone has a vice or two, something they love with a passion, something they learn about and enjoy. Some people have rampant coke habits and drink a couple fifths of vodka every day. Some people enjoy exotic hookers. Some people just aren't risk takers and enjoy fine wine, cigars or dining in good restaurants. Some seek the perfect cup of coffee brewed from rare beans.

I don't drink so the wine and vodka are pretty much out. I was always a gentleman and paid for my date but I never paid for my date if you know what I mean. Cigars just make me want a cigarette and I stopped smoking a few years ago. Restaurants are great and I like eating out but fine dining often collides head-on with vegetarianism. I enjoy a good cup of joe but I honestly don't need to trek through the jungles of small South American countries in a search for coffee beans that have been ingested and shat out by endangered mountain lions.

But I do have vices.

  • In a stunning display of what happens when you combine a love of music with a borderline obsessive personality, I own nearly 4,000 albums.
  • I have a vast collection of books. Included are nearly 1,000 books I haven't yet read. My "to-read pile" is out of control. I maintain a list of all the books I've read. It documents the last 837 books I've plowed through.
  • I used to collect coins. I ended up selling them all to buy books and CDs.
  • I maintain a vast trove of useless pop culture knowledge. Like, I can identify the tenuous link between the bands Jane's Addiction and Genesis* and compare and contrast the movie version of Logan's Run with the eventual television series that, while fantastic, lasted only a season.** I hope to be able to find a way to make lots of money with this someday but I won't be surprised if it just doesn't happen.

I showed you mine, now show me yours. What are your vices? And if you don't answer I'm just going to assume it's some freaky (not in the good way) sex thing or you keep strangers' eyelashes in bottles to harness the power of their immortal souls. And you don't want that.

* Jane's Addiction singer Perry Farrell's latest project featured the guitar work of Nuno Bettencourt who was once the guitarist for the band Extreme which was fronted by Gary Cherone who fronted the third incarnation of Van Halen which was first fronted by David Lee Roth who launched a marginally successful solo career - breathe - with a variety of guitarists including Steve Vai who also played with Frank Zappa a band mate of whom was drummer Chester Thompson who began playing in the touring lineup of Genesis in 1976.

** It's quite possible that Gregory Harrison's television Logan was superior to the film's Michael York version though that's debatable. What is clear, though, is that Jenny Agutter was way hotter than Heather Menzies, both of whom played Jessica.

Posted by Chris at 6:35 AM | Comments (60)

December 11, 2007

Dear Santa

On Sunday evening, Mia wrote a letter to Santa. Although, to be completely honest, she dictated and I wrote. Here's what it said:

Dear Santa,

Hello in the North Pole. How are your reindeer? I have been a very good girl this year. I would like a bumblebee toy, please. And a carrot please. And some food, please. And another bumblebee toy, please. And I would like a decoration, please. And another decoration.

Thank you Santa. And also Merry Christmas.

Love, Mia

Santa can deduce several things from this:
  • Our daughter is uber-polite. I am polite. Beth is polite. Neither of us believe there is any excuse to be anything but polite. Clearly whatever we're doing to instill this in our daughter is working. Yay us.
  • Mia gets the whole Santa story. She's got the reindeer thing down and understands that Santa lives in the North Pole. Of course, yesterday Mia told us that the North Pole was in her playroom. Conceptually we still have a little work to do.
  • Our daughter wants a bumblebee toy. This is a clearly established fact despite that the origins or physical manifestations of said bumblebee toy aren't as clearly established. We've still got no clue so we're just planning on guessing.
  • Mia likes carrots. This is not entirely true. As a matter of fact, it's blatantly false. She asks for carrots because rabbits and horses like carrots. When we get her a carrot she makes us eat them.
  • We starve our daughter. Asking Santa for food is pretty pathetic. But I assure you (and you too Santa if you're reading) we do feed our daughter. Whether or not she eats what we give her is another matter entirely.
  • Decorating the tree and the house was a big hit. I'm pretty much convinced that, given enough decorations, Mia would decorate the entire neighborhood. You guys need any decorating done? I know w two-year old who could use the cash.

Yesterday afternoon, Mia finally got a chance to meet Santa "in the flesh". She talked about nothing else the remainder of the day.

Posted by Chris at 6:30 AM | Comments (47)

December 10, 2007

Ho-Ho-Holy Crap It's Monday

This weekend was a packed one. Especially compared to last weekend in which I hid out in my basement and never left the house.

On Saturday, the three of us managed to escape the surly bonds of home and found a perfect Christmas tree. So we bought it and brought it home. Then Beth and I went out on a date. Since my birthday fell on a school night, we asked my parents to come over and babysit while Beth and I went out for a nice dinner on Saturday night. We hit a good new Indian place and got all our Christmas shopping for Mia done.

We decorated our tree - and the house - on Sunday. Mia helped. Hence the unusual concentration of ornaments on the lowest branches of the tree. And I managed to put lights on the tree without shouting obscenities. Something of a first for me. And then we wrote our letter to Santa. More on that later.

Now, for those of you who read about my troubling behavior on Friday, I'd like to set the record straight. I'll have you know there's a really good excuse - Mia wanted me to. Really, do you need more? She told me we were having a birthday party for her trains. And I needed a party dress...which she then handed me. Who can argue with that kind of logic?

Reason #431 I'll never be elected president:

And what did you do this weekend?

Posted by Chris at 6:30 AM | Comments (36)

Haiku For Monday #196

It's dark. And cold. There's
no better place in the world
than bed. I'm not there.

Posted by Chris at 6:20 AM | Comments (4)

December 7, 2007

The Weeklies #14

The Weekly Worst Moment. I was sitting in my car, stuck in miles and hours of traffic on a snowy Wednesday morning. Sitting motionless on an on-ramp to the freeway, my car slowly started drifting to the left. On ice, I was powerless to stop it. It's a bad feeling, drifting out of control, however slowly, and being able to do nothing about it. Luckily, it stopped. Unfortunately, so did traffic. For about two solid hours.

The Weekly Best Moment. Well, my birthday of course.

The Weekly Font. I'm 35 and I'm going to take a stand - I'm a Verdana man, dammit!

The Weekly Reads. Sometimes the places written about in books become just as much characters as the individuals than inhabit the stories. James Michener has proven this countless times. In The Pinball Theory of the Apocalypse, Jonathan Selwood forces Los Angeles to center stage. The book itself is ridiculous, satirizing the art world and life itself. But, from the constant aftershocks of earthquakes and the ever-rising tide of tar, L.A. is the real star of the show. And while the book is good, it's not really the quintessential L.A. novel in my experience, at least. That title goes to A.M. Homes' This Book Will Save Your Life. Not only is the novel a great book about L.A., but it's one of the best books I've read all year. Selwood? Check him out. But check out This Book Will Save Your Life first.

The Weekly Music. I bought Billy Joel's Nylon Curtain and Glass Houses because Chuck Klosterman told me to. Not that I have extensive - or any - conversations with Chuck. Not that I'd jump off a bridge if he told me to. I was reading an essay of Klosterman's about Billy Joel, specifically about the uncoolness of Billy Joel. Personally I've always thought Joel was a pretty cool guy and a damn good musician but when Klosterman began an investigation in the two of Joel's albums, I realized there was just a lot of great music Joel made that I've never heard. We've all heard the hits but I'd never gone deep into the back catalog. So I did. Both are good albums. Nylon Curtain is heavily Beatles influenced. It's obvious. It's also terribly over-produced which is the album's only drawback. Glass Houses is strong as well, although there aren't as many standout tracks, ones that grab you by the throat. Joel might not be a cool guy in the traditional sense but he can write a damn fine song.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Good old Kiefer Sutherland surrendered to police and entered jail peacefully. He's serving 48 days unless Chloe and Tony can bust him out of the clink. And I'm thinking, since they're CTU and all they can probably pull it off. In other news, the owners of a Manhattan grocery store really screwed up when they advertised "Hams for Hanukkah". Oops. Speaking of hams, George Dubya gave a press conference yesterday in which he offered suffering homeowners some assistance from lenders. Unfortunately he gave out the wrong telephone number. The number he gave? It belongs to the Freedom Christian Academy just outside of Dallas, Texas. Mistake or not? You be the judge.

The Weekly Question. You are given the opportunity to inhabit one fictional world - a civilization, time period, location, whatever - for one week. You can exist in Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind, Battlestar Galactica's future, or Friend's New York in which twenty-somethings can live in Manhattan on pretty crappy salaries. So, where - or when - do you go and why?

Posted by Chris at 6:56 AM | Comments (32)

December 6, 2007

Ways In Which My Birthday Did Rock

  • Beth and Mia decorated the house, cooked my favorite dinner (stuffed peppers, in case you're curious) and baked me a cake.
  • It snowed! It has snowed on four out of my last six birthdays. I'm originally from the south and the snow hasn't lost its novelty. Although the two hours it took me to get to work yesterday morning pretty much sucked beyond all reason.
  • But because it snowed, I left work early and worked from home for a while.
  • You guys - thanks for all those birthday wishes yesterday.
  • Behold the new iPod Touch.

The only downside to the whole birthday thing yesterday is the fact that Mia's caught the cold that's running rampant around here. She's pretty miserable but she's handling it well. What's frustrating is the fact that she's gotten the tissue and nose blowing things down as independent processes but hasn't yet put them together. So, snot everywhere. Oh, then theres the fact that I couldn't find my shoes this morning. I spent 20 minutes trying to locate them. Never did. And I missed the offramp to work. Like, the same ramp I've been taking for years (even before moving into the new house). It's very possible I'm losing my mind.

I know lots of people who have a tradition on their birthdays. You know - people who take the day off, people who go skydiving, people who go our for a fancy dinner. I don't really have a tradition. Do you?

Posted by Chris at 7:50 AM | Comments (51)

December 5, 2007

The Day Of The Ninja

December 5th (that's today for those of you not paying very good attention) is recognized throughout the known world as Ninja Day (I'm not making this up)? There are, of course, geographical differences in the name and how its celebrated. In some corners of the world it's called Creep Like A Ninja Day. In other locales it's Stalk Like A Ninja Day, Sneak Like A Ninja Day, or Move Like A Ninja Day. In Los Angeles, it's Beverly Hills Ninja Day (R.I.P. Chris Farley) (And, okay, I did make that one up).

Why is this significant? In the dark of night and the wee hours of the morning while most of you were sleeping, I crept, ninja-like, into my mid-thirties. As mid as you can get, actually. Onward and upward, I guess, since getting older is preferable to the alternative.

Posted by Chris at 8:25 AM | Comments (100)

December 4, 2007

Lies! Lies, I Tell You

Our daughter is two and a half years old and already a pathological liar. Okay, perhaps I'm exaggerating a bit. At this point, I don't think she means to be deceptive. Just funny. She's not trying to con us into leaving a house full of booze for a week or trying to get her hands on the car keys for a night of joyriding. Yet. I'll ask her if she's a girl. She'll say no. I'll ask her who's the better Van Halen vocalist - David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar (Gary Cherone should never be considered as a possible answer to this argument) - and she'll say Sammy (and while I technically agree with her, everyone knows the correct answer isn't based on talent but attitude and that has to be DLR). She claims that the seminal episode of Cheers is the one with the squeaky shoes while the rest of us know it's the Screaming Viking episode.

Most of the time she does this to see our reaction. And after getting it - wide eyes or a furrowed brow - she almost immediately changes her answer. But what I don't think she realizes yet - hopefully - is that we all have an absolute, inherent need to lie. I don't mean we have some compulsion we can't get past (although that does exist). Instead, I firmly believe there is absolutely no way we can consistently tell the truth without alienating those around us.

- Do you agree with the premise that lying is an inescapable part of life?
- What's the most extravagant lie you've ever told? And what's the juiciest?

I don't remember my juiciest lie but I do recall my most extravagant. I once worked with a rather racially insensitive individual. He was Indian and claimed that another coworker - a friend of mine who was Indian herself - couldn't have been Indian because her name didn't sound Indian enough. I then illustrated the old axiom about judging books by their covers; I explained to him that I was proud of my Chinese heritage, having been born to two Chinese parents in mainland China, where I spent the first 15 years of my life. I became so frustrated that, during the course of the argument, I reverted to long and entirely meaningless exclamations in fake Chinese. And he bought it. Dumbass.

Posted by Chris at 7:10 AM | Comments (38)

December 3, 2007

Four Walled World

Here's an odd, quite possibly pathetic fact - aside from leaving for work this morning, since Thursday afternoon I left the house exactly once. And that was only for 20 minutes to swing by a local Chinese place to pick up some takeout. I'm not sure that counts.

Why? Bright and early on Thursday morning, painters arrived to rid us of the boring, cheap white paint the previous owner of this house slapped on before putting it on the market (and apparently, said owner hired mildly retarded blind chimpanzees to do so - it was an awful job). The basement was the only area we didn't elect to have painted. Hence it was my domain to cower in while Mia and Beth tried to keep themselves occupied in the real world, you know, the place with sun and no paint fumes.

Luckily for us, the painters told that because of the size of the team they'd bring the job would only take two days.

I pictured a horde of white overall-clad, paint hat-wearing guys waving rollers and brushes disgorged from vans very much like Normandy on D-Day. What we got was something less than a horde. And the war against the white walls was more of a series of minor yet ultimately successful skirmishes. Because of this, the whole war took a day longer to fight. The Battle of the Dining Room turned out to be slightly more complex that originally predicted. The Playroom Offensive was made more difficult by cabinets bolted to the walls. Both the master bathroom and the baseboards throughout the house staved off a few separate and furious attacks before eventually surrendering peacefully.

We're now left with a house that's decidedly, wonderfully not white and an aversion to spending more than 20 minutes at a stretch in our basement. Here's what we did. Or rather, here's what we paid people to do.


On Saturday night, while on hour 548 of solitary basement confinement, I got a really nice email that made my weekend. From Marshall Karp. Yeah, the guy whose book - The Rabbit Factory - I reviewed on Friday. We traded a couple of emails throughout the weekend and I've just gotta say it again - check out his book. Not only is it a great read but the author's a good guy. And Marshall, if you're out there reading, thanks for stopping by.

That was my weekend. How was yours?

Posted by Chris at 6:14 AM | Comments (25)

Haiku For Monday #195

I sometimes wonder
"Do they read the Monday 'ku?
Or just chug coffee?"

Posted by Chris at 6:00 AM | Comments (14)