December 31, 2005

Happy New Year!

Dear Readers,

Recapping 2005 would take a long time...and most likely bore the ever-loving crap out of you. There have been music and books, guitar playing, car buying, job quitting and promotions. But it's the birth of Mia that proved the most important and wonderful event of the year. Luckily, its one event that keeps yielding new, wonderful moments (aside from the early wake up calls that happen like the one at 3:00 this morning...but even that's kinda nice in a way).

You've spent a lot of your time sitting there reading the stuff I manage to cobble together here on a daily basis and I thank you. Thank you for sharing 2005 with me. I wish you and your families a wonderful, prosperous 2006.

Chris

Posted by Chris at 09:51 AM | Comments (48)

December 29, 2005

On Books: The Best of 2005

In the past 12 months, I've managed to consume 84 books. Pretty good considering we've had an infant in the house for five of those months. You can find the complete list in the extended entry. Here are the highlights.

Bottom of the Barrell
There's always crap on the shelves of any bookstore. Occasionally, I manage to end up with it. Hesitant to put any book down after I've started it, I generally finish this trash as well. Shoedog by George Pelecanos was a case of a crappy novel from a great writer. James Rollins' Subterranean was just Journey To The Center of the Earth tweaked and screwed up, complete with one-dimensional characters and stereotypical bad guys. Rana Dasgupta's Tokyo Cancelled had promise but quickly unwound into a lame attempt to replicate Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Patrick O'Leary hit one out of the park with Door Number Three. Sadly, The Impossible Bird barely rounded first base. It was a mess. As was Leslie Stella's Unimaginable Zero Summer. Talk about one-dimensional characters. Thomas Beller's How To Be A Man was just as bad although it was neck and neck with Neil Labute's Seconds of Pleasure for last place this year.

The Top of the Heap
Another Bullshit Night In Suck City by Nick Flynn is unbelievable but true nontheless and, overall, a fantastic read. Fantastic yet heartbreaking. Flynn writes about what he knows. In this case, its about working in homeless shelters...and finding his father in one. The story of how these two people came to be in this unique situation is compelling.

Jonathan Tropper's sophomore novel, The Book of Joe, reads like a Nick Hornby adaptation of The Big Chill, tweaked for Generation X. For all its schmaltz and cheesy sentiment, is a brilliant, touching novel upon which I reflect fondly. The characters are well-drawn and the story is universal.

Last year, I professed my love for Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. While it seems as though it's somewhat derivitave, Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is miles better. There's a key, a lock, a mystery and September 11th. To reveal more would be to be unfair. For you not to read it would be a shame.

I'm not a huge fan of the short story format but there's an exception to every rule - The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas by Davy Rothbart is it this year. Each story is different and each is brilliant in its own way. Rothbart, a self-professed writer, poet and, oddly, rapper hooks you from the first sentence and, while each story and its power is different, he maintains the quality of each story throughout the short volume.

I'm not sure exactly what Daniel Hecht's Skull Session was. Quite possibly, it was a crime novel or a mystery. It might have been a psychological thriller. It also could have been either a horror or gothic novel. It was, most likely, all of these. Whatever it was, guitarist-turned-novelist Hecht's first novel (he's written four to date), was creepy and unique, two good reasons to pick up a copy and check it out for yourselves.

One of the more unique and brutal pieces of crime fiction I read this year was Charlie Huston's Caught Stealing. Througout the wash of violence that punctuates almost every chapter, our hero turns sympathetic dispite his personal failings. Huston's follow-up, Six Bad Things, was almost as strong but not quite. Another mystery with a much different approach is The Final Solution. Michael Chabon has a great reputation but I hadn't read anything of his before seeing this slim novel. That will most likely change. Chabon takes on the tale of a mysterious boy who refuses to speak, his faithful companion, a parrot, and a former sleuth who's health is now failing having retired to the English countryside. The sleuth is never named but is, of course, Sherlock Holmes. The boy, an escapee from a German concentration camp. The mystery is riveting but even more wonderful is the way in which it's told.

Sure, Ken Follett's Whiteout is a cheap mystery/adventure tale and it's inclusion at the top of a list of 84 books is suspect. I'll grant you that. But it really is a good book. Pick it up, spend an evening in front of the fire this winter with it, and see if it doesn't grab you. I guarantee it will.

The best is, of course, saved for last. Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind is, after some serious deliberation, the best thing I read this year. It's a book any reader should love. I mean, it's first and foremost about books! I honestly can't recommend this one enough.

How We Are Hungry (Eggers)
Another Bullshit Night In Suck City (Flynn)
A Movie And A Book (Wagner)
Hell's Half Acre (Baer)
The Polysyllabic Spree (Hornby)
Little Children (Perrotta)
The Hanged Man's Song (Sandford)
Home Land (Lipsyte)
Molvania (Cilauro)
Jennifer Government (Barry)
Gone, Baby, Gone (Lehane)
Shoedog (Pelecanos)
A Perfect Life (Stewart)
America: The Book (Stewart)
What Was She Thinking [Notes on a Scandal] (Heller)
Dry (Burroughs)
The Shadow of the Wind (Zafon)
The Coffin Dancer (Deaver)
The Havana Room (Harrison)
A Firing Offense (Pelecanos)
Bone in the Throat (Bourdain)
The Book of Joe (Tropper)
Down By The River Where The Dead Men Go (Pelecanos)
Faithful (Sigerson)
The Eighth Day (Case)
Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life (Rosenthal)
The Mark of the Assassin (Silva)
Everything Changes (Tropper)
The Tesseract (Garland)
Paranoia (Finder)
One For My Baby (Parsons)
The Innocent (Coben)
Here, There & Everywhere (Roberson)
Killing Floor (Child)
Subterranean (Rollins)
Plan B (Tropper)
The Amber Room (Berry)
The Poo Bomb (Vogel)
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (Foer)
Tokyo Cancelled (Dasgupta)
The Impossible Bird (O'Leary)
A Long Way Down (Hornby)
Resurrection Dreams (Laymon)
Deception (Mina)
One Shot (Child)
The History of Love (Krauss)
A Certain Chemistry (Millington)
Unimaginable Zero Summer (Stella)
Killing Yourself To Live (Klosterman)
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (Rowling)
Sandstorm (Rollins)
Off Ramp (Stuever)
Created In Darkness by Troubled Americans (Eggers)
Miss Wyoming (Coupland)
The Task of This Translator (Hasak-Lowy)
Dude, Where's My Country (Moore)
The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas (Rothbart)
Skull Session (Hecht)
Sweet And Vicious (Schickler)
Lies (Franken)
The Guards (Bruen)
Skin Tight (Hiaasen)
Skinny Dip (Hiaasen)
How To Be A Man (Beller)
Caught Stealing (Huston)
Stormy Weather (Hiaasen)
Dispatch (Little)
Darkly Dreaming Dexter (Lindsay)
Seconds of Pleasure (Labute)
Secret Prey (Sandford)
Derailed (Siegel)
Certain Prey (Sandford)
Six Bad Things (Huston)
Vixen (Bruen)
Easy Prey (Sandford)
Survivor (Palahniuk)
Whiteout (Follett)
The Secret Goldfish (Means)
Digital Fortress (Brown)
The Final Solution (Chabon)
Whirlwind (Garber)
Rain Fall (Eisler)
Eating Crow (Rayner)
Chosen Prey (Sandford)

Posted by Chris at 08:16 PM | Comments (24)

On Music: The Best of 2005

In the grand, year-end tradition of talking about stuff that happened during the previous 365 days, here I am to talk about music and the many wonderful musical things I discovered during 2005.

2005.albums.one.jpg

And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead mixed up their previously hard-driving sound and produced Worlds Apart, a collection of hard but thoughtful, hook-laden songs which proved just how mature as a band they've become. Particularly wonderful, if you're an iTunes user, was their cover version of Genesis' 1974 classic Back in NYC available for download. Athlete, a less-polished, rougher around the edges result of the Coldplay Revolution, delivered a fantastic sophomore album in Tourist while the one and only Coldplay dropped X&Y. When X&Y was released, after my first listen, I stated that X&Y was bound to be the best release of the year. Now, I'm no hardcore Colplay fan, blindly (or deafly?) loving whatever it is they release, but I stick by the claim. X&Y remains a powerful release and one of the best of the year.

Bright Eyes dropped I'm Wide Awake It's Morning to much fanfare. All the press was pretty well-deserved too. I haven't gotten around to getting the sister album, Digital Ash in a Digital Urn but I will eventually. Engineers was a band that got virtually no coverage in the music press. Sad really, since their self-titled release was, in my opinion, an instant classic. Think of them as a modern day Tears for Fears, ignoring the fact, of course, that Tears for Fears are still around and their most recent release Everybody Loves A Happy Ending wasn't half bad.

Barrett Martin, former drummer for Seattle grunge band Screaming Trees, released what might be the finest jazz album in a decade...in my mind at least but then again, I'm not much of a jazz enthusiast. The Painted Desert is spare, ultimately percussion driven, and majestic. I find myself listening to it once a week. And I've got 3700 albums to choose from so that should tell you something. Perhaps an even more odd choice for me would be Nickel Creek's Why Should The Fire Die? I've always loathed country, despite the fact that I'm originally from Texas (you think I moved to Virginia willingly? No, they kicked me out for my hatred of country music.). Nickel Creek is, in a word, awesome. They're a fine bunch of musicians who know how to play. The only downside of this album is its seriousness. It's a dark album that grows darker as it progresses. Still, that doesn't take a way from the fine musicianship and songwriting.

2005.albums.two.jpg

Porcupine Tree continued their dominance on my playlists with Deadwing. Possibly not their strongest release, it was still better than 99.937% of the other crap out there. Steven Wilson's love of Pink Floyd continued to shine while the effort took on a slightly harder edge harkening back to their mid 90's sound. This year also saw the rerelease of early Porcupine Tree albums such as Signify, Up The Downstair and On The Sunday of Life. All are very much worth the price of admission.

There have been a few albums I've reviewed in detail here on the site. I've recently mentioned Our Lady Peace's Healthy in Paranoid Times - buy it. It's catchy, crunchy, meaty and good. I've also talked about Rob Dickinson's Fresh Wine for the Horses. I've listened to it again since my review earlier this month and I haven't changed my mind at all. Its an excellent album. I also discussed Imogen Heap's Speak For Yourself and my enthusiasm has waned slightly since my initial review. Don't get me wrong - it's still good. But I think some of the novelty has worn off for me. As has the novelty in Neil Diamond's 12 Songs. Again, its a fantastic album but I don't see myself listening to it constantly for years to come. Also discusser earlier this year, the most criminally overlooked album of the year title belongs to The Hold Steady for Separation Sunday. Sure, it's also a conceptual album but damn is it good. It's a thinking person's AC/DC, poetry with crunchy guitars. Hell, I'm not doing it justice. No matter what you call it, it's definitely an album worth buying.

There are a few artists I've ignored for a long time and now I find myself wondering exactly why. First up, Bob Dylan. Sure, he has a terrible voice but he's one of the greatest writers alive. Blood on the Tracks was one of my greatest discoveries this year. As was Wildflowers by Tom Petty, another dude with a serious vocal issue. For a long time (ten years?) I've owned only one XTC album - Skylarking. I changed that a few weeks ago and Wasp Star has become one of the best things I've listened too all year.

The most fun album of the year? Well, that's easy. Mike Doughty's Haughty Melodic. Think Dave Matthews without all the ambition to prove serious musicianship. Less fun but equally satisfying was Michael Penn's Mr. Hollywood Jr., 1947. Yes, it's a concept album of sorts. And yes, it sounds like an Aimee Mann album (he's married to her, actually). But since when are those bad things? Penn shines on this one, from beginning to end. Why this one was so overlooked by the music-buying public, I'll never know.

In my book, Embrace takes the prize for the overall pop album (but not overall, overall album) of the year with Out of Nothing. It is a lush album, full of hooks, crunchy guitars and gospel choirs. These guys combined all the right elements and came up with an hour worth of music that is at once thoughtful, fun and powerful. And it makes you want to learn the words so you can sing along.

So, there you have it - my top picks for 2005. What are yours?

Posted by Chris at 09:47 AM | Comments (24)

December 28, 2005

Sucker (Born Every Minute)

I've long thought that home shopping channels constitute not only the first reality television but some of the more entertaining programming on television. It could be a personal quirk, but I could sit and watch for hours. Some things are more interesting and entertaining than others, of course. Watching people try to sell sheets and pillows is really boring. But when they break out a ladder that can be arranged 2,947 different ways, that's good stuff. We have one channel that sells nothing but the most horrendous pieces of jewelry and loose gemstones. Each piece literally goes for thousands of dollars. And people buy them. I'm convinced, due to the lame production quality, that the whole operation is being broadcast from a double-wide in Tennessee (don't get me wrong - Tennessee is a lovely state). We've also got a channel that does nothing but auction "fine art" (notice the quotes). The auctions are hosted by men who look and sound like used car salesmen, complete with high-pressure sales tactics that make you really feel as though you need that masterpiece from some previously unknown, one-named Chinese genius.

If you got a bunch of writers to script the most outrageous, silly stuff, you wouldn't come up with anything better than what's already being broadcast. As big as a fan as I've been these many years, I've never crossed the line between fan and customer. Until this week.

That's right kids...I've got an HSN account and a high pressure steam cleaner thingy winging its way to my place. You know you're jealous.

Posted by Chris at 10:01 AM | Comments (24)

December 27, 2005

Christmas, In Pictures




The pictures are up! Head over to my flickr Christmas 2005 set for all of 'em!

Posted by Chris at 03:44 PM | Comments (30)

Post-Holiday Progress

To all of you who returned to work today, I'm sorry. Me? I'm taking the week off. But that doesn't mean it's all sitting around the pool with margaritas with the latest Joan Collins novel. Why?

a) I'm not a woman...or a sissy boy.
b) It's cold outside.
c) I don't have a pool.
d) The very thought of reading something penned by Joan Collins frightens me.
e) Infant in the house! Infant in the house!

This morning started off a little before 7:00. While Mia did an excellent job sleeping the previous few nights, last night wasn't so hot. So, I got up with Mia and let Beth sleep a while. We hung out with some of the new toys and watched a little bit of a Baby Einstein DVD (kinda freaky, people - I'm thinking there's some subliminal shit going on there and, in a generation, Walt Disney [owner of the Baby Einstein company] will flip a switch and - bam! - instant minions!). She eventually fell asleep on my shoulder so I could watch a little Law & Order. Now we're all up and here I am.

Yes, yes, I know - I've still got pictures to edit and post. Hopefully I'll have those up today. In the mean time, what did you all get for Christmas?

Posted by Chris at 10:19 AM | Comments (26)

December 26, 2005

Christmas Debrief

This is most likely the first of many Christmas-related entries, primarily because I haven't even had time to pull any of the 1.57 million pictures off my cameras nor have we sorted through the 8.29 billion presents cluttering our living room. But I figured a quick debrief was probably a good idea, so you'd know we hadn't been crushed under the weight of all the plastic we're now in the process of assembling for Mia.

First - our Mia-Bean is an absolute angel. On Christmas Eve, we were expected at my parents' house. Sadly, the shindig kicked off a little past Mia's normal bed-time. That combined with the fact that there were going to be tons of people led us to expect the worst. I mean, I really expected to be clocking myself over the head with an empty wine bottle by the end of the evening. We got the best. Mia was pleasant, sociable and overall had a good time. Which enabled us to have a good time. Even more impressive? She went right to sleep when we got home and slept through the night. I think she was wary of dissappointing Santa. Yesterday, Christmas, we headed over to Beth's parents' house for even more festivities. Again, Mia was perfect. I don't know what we did to deserve a child this perfect but clearly the bribe we slipped to the gods of karma paid off.

Second - oh my god the presents. My wife drives a small to mid-size SUV. We barely got all our gifts, the baby and ourselves home in it last night. The morning was spent assembling things and the rest of the day will most likely be spent finding a place for everything. Which is impossible unless I'm able to subvert the laws of space and time and store things in a cosmic neverland. I'm reasonably sure we now own everything in the entire world. And we need to employ a sherpa.

Pictures will be coming soon so stay tuned. I sincerely hope you and your families had a wonderful holiday weekend. Now, excuse me if you don't see me pop up on your site for a couple days. I've got stuff to put together which may or may not require an advanced engineering degree.

Posted by Chris at 10:54 AM | Comments (17)

Haiku For Monday #110

Surfacing shortly
From a wonderful Christmas.
Sheesh! The Mia gifts!

Posted by Chris at 10:08 AM | Comments (1)

December 24, 2005

From Me, To You

holiday.card.final.jpg

Posted by Chris at 12:24 PM | Comments (37)

December 23, 2005

Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Coffee




I'm greedy. I know - kinda opposite of the Christmas spirit. I'm off all next week yet I decided to work from home today. In my defence, there will probably be a grand total of three people in the office and it's not like I've got a hell of a lot to do anyway. So, for the time being, I'm just going to hide behind my cup of coffee and hope no one needs me.

Activity in the InterWebAlGoreOSphere has dropped off of late. Probably everyone headed out of town to be with relatives or just hanging out with their families. I'll be here, blogging as always. But if we don't run into each other before, I hope you have a wonderful holiday. Thank you for being a part of my world.

Posted by Chris at 07:27 AM | Comments (43)

December 22, 2005

Obligatory Political Rant

Politically, I’m very left of center. But I'm not paranoid. I don't see conspiracies everywhere I turn. I don't think the moon landing was fake. I'm pretty sure the government has never had to scramble some elite alien fighting platoon of soldiers to put down an alien invasion. The lone gunman on the grassy knoll wasn’t, most likely, part of a complex plot to rid the nation of the Kennedy family. I just don’t believe there always have to be “evil forces” working to screw over everyone else. Possibly more surprising? I don't think there's anything inherently evil about the right. Instead, I think there's a small minority in the right (as there is with the left) who tarnish the image of the rest. Unfortunately, those are the folks who happen to have the hold on power right now.

On December 21st, President Bush stated:

In order to protect America, the United States Senate must reauthorize the Patriot Act. The terrorists still want to hit us again. There is an enemy that lurks, a dangerous group of people that want to do harm to the American people -- and we must have the tools necessary to protect the American people.

Late word this morning reveals that the Patriot Act has been temporarily extended. But what Bush forgot to mention was that, if it didn't pass, he'd probably go ahead and do whatever he thought necessary regardless of the legality of those actions. Why should we believe otherwise? The telephone or email communications of hundreds of Americans are being monitored without any legal basis. None of the legal avenues - principally FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act - were followed, despite the fact that the act allows surveillance activities to be conducted and warrants to be issued retroactively. They can apply for them later. But they didn't. Senators - including those on the Senate Intelligence Committee - were not appropriately briefed and several of those who were recently admitted that such briefings inadequately described the government’s plans and left little room for any oversight of the government's conduct.

I'm in the IT industry. In my specific niche, we have some absolutely inscrutable guidelines. For anything to be successful, there must first be a defined process. Only after this process is defined and articulated can anything be successfully implemented - and be repeatedly implemented. Once this thing is implemented, it must be tested at regular intervals to make sure the process and the implementation are adequate, that they support whatever it is you expect this thing to do. That's what the American legal system is - a process. There are fundamental rules, canons, which must be followed to the letter in order for the system to work effectively. And this system must be tested again and again. There are exceptions to every rule but the things that circumvent these processes have no place, serve no purpose, and ultimately short circuit the whole thing. I'm confident that, in fifty years, we'll look back at the recent NSA surveillance and the Patriot Act and shake our heads at our naiveté. Of course, we should also look back, in the years to come, and applaud the government being so proactive this holiday season. The Open Skies Agreement is surely worth spending time and money on even with all the other important things going on.

The war on terrorism, as cliché laden as it has become, is important. I don't personally feel as though you can fight an idea but I do believe we need to do what we can to protect ourselves and our country from the threats of extremists. But in so doing, the civil rights granted us by our constitution - the very things we're trying to fight for (can you say paradox?) - are being trampled on and sacrificed. Fighting one type of extremism only to replace it with another accomplishes nothing.

Posted by Chris at 07:29 PM | Comments (30)

December 21, 2005

Dare To Dream

For the past few nights, I've been having funky dreams. Really funky dreams. I mentioned this to Beth last night and she asked me what they were about. I couldn't really tell her because I couldn't remember and the more I tried, the more I forgot (all I remember now is one that involved the CEO of my old company fighting crime with me and retrieving a stolen Ford Explorer). I woke up this morning with that familiar funky-dream residue. As soon as I rolled my tired ass out of bed, I wrote down everything I could remember.

I was on the Love Boat. The opening credits, the theme song, everything but the captain was genuine. Along with the washed up stars too. I spent the first part of the dream walking the decks and running into Hollywood's crustiest with Happy Days' Marion Ross, eventually running into one of her former colleagues, Chachi/Charles in Charge. Joanie was nowhere to be seen although Chachi had a twin who followed him around everwhere and mimicked his every action after a couple second delay. Odd. I stumbled upon Bill O'Reilly granting someone an interview. I was tempted to push him overboard but didn't - proof that this was a very odd and unrealistic dream. Later, I got the chance to hang out with Pat Sajak. Nice guy and talkative once you get a few gin and tonics into him. Between you and me, Vanna's apparently quite the slut. Shhh!

The mingling was fun but I was there with a purpose - a shady, illegal White Elephant Christmas gift exchange. It was held in a dark, damp room devoid of furniture lit only by a bare bulb swinging from the ceiling. At some point during this rogue holiday celebration, I cheated. Overcome by guilt, I admitted it as the exchange ended, exclaiming, "I have, my friends, cheated you all and now I must pay the price, for I am throwing myself overboard." And I did.

It would appear that I took along a raft, a waterproof camera and a friend when I made the plunge. I spent the better part of the evening coasting alongside the Love Boat, snapping pictures of its hull and the myriad of marine life traveling the waters with us. I wasn't surprised when the ship turned into a bus. No, as a matter of fact, in a stunning coup I guided the Love Boat/Bus into lower Manhattan, through endless throngs of cheering people thus ending the transit workers' strike.

When I woke up from the dream, I discovered a wheezing in my ear and a finger in my nose. Concerned, I opened my eyes and discovered that my daughter was responsible for both. When you've cruised the open sea with washed up sitcom stars and saved the east coast from a crippling strike, there's nothing quite like waking up to see the most gorgeous site in the world - your daughter, with her fingers up your nose.

Posted by Chris at 07:08 AM | Comments (25)

December 20, 2005

Conversation (with Balls)

Yesterday, I had a couple very nice conversations with my daughter. Now, I know what you're saying - she's too young to hold up one end of a good conversation. You'd be wrong. Allow me to illustrate.

Mia: Blerk eggie doo.
Me: No. Jackie Chan. Charlie Chan was the detective.
Mia: Ooohadee kuh-lurk.
Me: Tough one, but if forced to choose, I'd have to go with What's Happening over Diff'rent Strokes. Especially the Doobie Brothers episode.
Mia: Grrblook grah yaheeew.
Me: Less filling.

While I'm being childish, why is it that the title of this book cracks me up so much? Oh, yes, because I'm 12. I love me some double entendre.



Posted by Chris at 11:34 AM | Comments (24)

On Music: Catherine Wheel Still Spins

dickinson.jpgThe Catherine Wheel is, or was, a four-man British alternative band which began its career around 1990. Almost immediately, and for good reason, it gained a substantial audience and critical acclaim. Support from heavyweights like John Peel and Brian Eno didn't hurt. Catherine Wheel's sound was characterized by a sound that simultaneously combined darker, harder elements of new wave, the crunch of grunge, a bit of emo and a healthy slice of good old rock and roll. Every album capitalized on the strengths of the band yet their sound continued to evolve. Lush production and solid musicianship was the key. So much so that even their album of b-sides - collections which are usually varied and uneven - became widely seen as their greatest release. The band toured almost constantly behind each release.

The most recognizable element of almost any band is the vocalist. Catherine Wheel was no exception. Rob Dickinson's voice - a combination of the breathy clarity offered by David Gilmour or Peter Gabriel and Mark Lanegan's smoky howl with, perhaps, just a bit of Joe Cocker thrown in for good measure - provided the band's trademark. Since the release of Catherine Wheel's Wishville in 2000 and the band's subsequent hiatus, he's been largely silent. Until the release of Dickinson's debut album, Fresh Wine For The Horses.

The album begins with My Name Is Love, an upbeat, catchy song built on an acoustic rhythm with some great electric guitar work. The album takes on a more melancholy feel with Oceans, which provides more than enough evidence that Dickinson knows what to do with his voice. The acoustic, stripped down The Night follows. It's perhaps the most sincere song on the album built around Dickinson's voice punctuated by spare electric guitar work. Mutineer (yes, the Warren Zevon song), a combination love song and sea shanty follows. It sounds odd but despite the fact that it's less than two minutes long, it might be my favorite track on the album. The relatively ordinary Intelligent People follows and, while it doesn't blaze any new territory, it's catchy. Handsome deviates from the typical song structure and provides a flashback to Dickinson's work with Catherine Wheel. It's got a harder edge, it's bombastic and anthematic. The cabaret feel of Bathe Away stands in stark contrast to the rest of the album and, while different, it works. The Storm follows, with its dark, hard feel, also reminiscent of Catherine Wheel, although it is slightly uneven. Bad Beauty is mellow and dramatic but didn't do much for me. Don't Change is, however, quite the opposite. The first minute is ripped directly out of the Pink Floyd Handbook - which is really a good thing in this case. It's absolutely brilliant and appears to be the perfect closer to the album. Until Towering and Flowering kicks in. It reprises the slightly cabaret feel early on yet finds Dickinson really flexing his vocal muscle. The song eventually winds into more upbeat territory. Following a brief moment of silence, the album collapses in on itself and reprises the melody and lyrics explored earlier in Mutineer. It's a brilliant and emotional way to end a solid album.

Sure, there are parts and pieces of the album that could be better. Dickinson doesn't capitalize on some of the many strengths of his previous band but, then again, this isn't a band effort. Fresh Wine For The Horses is an admirable effort, deserving of a spin. Listeners who want more would do well to pick up Catherine Wheel's Happy Days, Like Cats & Dogs and Adam & Eve while they're at it.

New stuff...it's the Tuesday before Christmas which means not even the record industry is stirring. Ryan Adams drops his third album of the year entitled 29 while Jamie Foxx unleashes Unpredictable which, I'm guessing, will be pretty predictable.

Posted by Chris at 08:07 AM | Comments (7)

December 19, 2005

Startling Admission: Follow-up

As always, Rude Cactus (the site...I haven't resorted to referring to myself in the third person) leading while others follow. On the way home from work today, I caught a story on NPR that I thought I should share. For another perspective on the whole Charlie Brown Controversy, I give you commentator John Moe's thoughts.

Posted by Chris at 07:36 PM | Comments (4)

Startling Admission: Holiday Edition

I'm a big fan of Christmas specials. Not the new ones (over the weekend I swear I watched some take off on A Christmas Carol starring Tori Spelling, William Shatner and Gary Coleman...see, I'm not making it up) but the old-school ones. Ones like Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman (how can you not love Jimmy Durante?), and the animated version of How The Grinch Stole Christmas.

In 1965, Coca-Cola teamed up with CBS to bring a new, low-budget animated Christmas special to prime time. It aired on December 9, 1965 and surprised everyone by captivating over 50% of the entire television audience. It won an Emmy and a Peabody and its soundtrack became one of the most recognizable pieces of music of the 20th century. I'm talking, of course, about A Charlie Brown Christmas, a Christmas special that I can't stand.

Let me admit, right here and right now, that I realize I'm in the minority. And that, by dissing this American classic, I'm probably simultaneously somehow letting the terrorists win and killing a sack full of puppies. But I still don't like it.

The special is woven out of neuroses and inadequacy. Charlie disappoints everyone and, stoic as he is, tries his best to disprove that he's a big loser. Lucy is just a bitch. The rest are all merely complicit in making Charlie feel like crap - even Snoopy is a pain in the ass. If there was ever an animated character in dire need of a Zoloft, it would be Charlie. Nothing makes me feel like clocking myself over the head with a fruitcake (fatal 7 out of 10 times) more than sitting down to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas. Sure, Charlie symbolizes the feelings of inner-loserdom we all, at one time or another, have. But there's no need to be reminded of that during the holidays. Grow a set, Charlie. Tell Lucy to stick that pathetic tree where the sun don't shine. Enroll Snoopy in a little obedience training. Screw the Midwestern stoicism and have some fun.

Granted, there are two upsides - Vince Guaraldi's soundtrack is marvelous and the scenes with Snoopy dancing are priceless. But that's it.

So, there you have it - my startling Christmas admission. What's yours?

Posted by Chris at 08:23 AM | Comments (56)

Haiku for Monday #109

One week of work then
One week off. It's truly a
Christmas miracle!

Posted by Chris at 07:06 AM | Comments (11)

December 18, 2005

Watch Your Step

Not long ago, there was some work being done on our local sidewalks. I was surprised by what I found underneath.




As always, more on flickr.

Posted by Chris at 12:22 PM | Comments (11)

December 16, 2005

What A Week

This week was, uh, as busy as a midwestern hooker when a plumber's convention comes to town. Eh, not the perfect comparison but you know where I'm coming from. I had three Mondo-Important Reports due which required me to do a lot of managing of people and talking to clients and other fun, similar things. And have I ever told you how much I hate calling people on the phone? It's one of my weird quirks. Anyway, there were also Big Critical Meetings, a holiday gift exchange (White Elephant style which I really think brings out the worst in everyone), and the company holiday party. And? And? The Great Ice Storm of '05 which was really The Day The Weathermen Overreacted and A Little Bit of Rain Froze Yet Still Freaked Everyone Out And Caused Them To Drive Really Badly. That's why I'm working from home today, as is pretty standard for a Friday with me.

Just a little while ago, I was checking out my notify list and I know a lot of you catch me through newsreaders but don't you want to be cool like everyone else? I mean, look who's reading:


notify.jpg

I still want to know who rudecactusfan is.

My apologies for the many lame entries with which I've most likely bored you to tears this week. This is what happens when you get busy.

Happy Friday everybody!

Posted by Chris at 07:02 AM | Comments (32)

December 15, 2005

The Year Of Confirmed Suspicions

Last night, Beth and I sat in the living room, transfixed by The Whiner as it flipped the lights on and off in rapid succession. I think it's one of those things that will take a long time to get old. It's definitely a holiday memory that's going to stick. Among many others.

One of my favorite Christmas memories, in a bittersweet way, was the year my doubts about Santa Claus was confirmed.

Like most kids, I eagerly went to bed on Christmas Eve with the hopes of hastening the arrival of Christmas morning. That, and the remote possibility of hearing Santa, the reindeer and assorted elves on the roof. I even camped out on the stairway landing a few times on the off chance I'd catch a glimpse of Santa drinking the milk or eating the cookies I'd left. I never did. But I swear I heard him on the roof a few times. At the crack of dawn, I'd be awake, eager to see how the packages under the tree had multiplied.

The Year My Suspicions Were Confirmed was like any other year. Until I ran out of jelly beans. I'd received a bag of them in my stocking from Santa and promptly consumed most. I was only a little shocked when I saw my dad refilling the bag from a stash in the kitchen. I pretended as though I hadn't seen it happen, although he nodded and smiled vaguely. Unless I'd been looking for some sort of confirmation, I wouldn't have seen it. But I was. And I did.

Christmas was never quite the same again. Gone was some of the mystery, the intrigue. But to this day, I haven't ever stopped listening for a jolly fat guy on my roof.

Posted by Chris at 07:40 AM | Comments (20)

December 14, 2005

Yacht Rock

You all know by now that a. I'm easily amused and b. I'm a music geek. So it should come as no surprise that I think Yacht Rock is pretty much the funniest thing I've ever seen on the InterWebAlGoreoSphere. Check it out. Make sure to start with episode one.

Posted by Chris at 07:29 PM | Comments (8)

The Whiner

If you read my wife's site (and you really should), you might recall that, for her birthday last month, I gave her The Clapper (please to be noting, I said "clapper" not "clap"). Beth had claimed she'd wanted one for years. I always suspected she was joking. She wasn't. This, apparently, was the greatest gift evah.

Beth had, I suspect, been trying The Clapper in various locations, seeking the ideal place for this As-Seen-On-TV marvel to shine. Yesterday, she found it. When I arrived home, Beth looked eager to show me something. She clapped twice and the Christmas tree sprang to life. The infomercial angels sang on-high! A true Christmas miracle. Like a three year old (surprise), I stood there clapping, tapping my foot on the hardwood floors and making random noises trying to get the tree to turn off and on. Of course - and also like a three year old - I eventually got bored. Until the tree started turning itself off an on.

As Beth, Mia and I were eating dinner, the tree would suddenly go dark, only to light up again moments later. Watching the news? Same deal. Eventually, Mia got tired and crabby...and the pieces all came together. Everytime Mia cried or whined, the tree would turn off or on. Funny. I didn't see that in the commercial.

Whine on *cry cry*
Whine off *cry cry*
Whine on, whine off
The Whiner!

Posted by Chris at 07:53 AM | Comments (42)

December 13, 2005

On Music: Gone and Mostly Forgotten

There are many tales of woe from the world of popular music. They recount tragic endings to otherwise stellar careers. Or maybe they recount the commercial failures of fine musicians who never got a chance to show what they could do. Some careers last forever in obscurity. Others only endure over the proverbial 15 minutes. That band you dug in the 80s could very well be playing the Greater Sandusky Craft Fair. Or the lead singer of that heavy metal band you once liked found a greater calling breeding ferrets. No matter which road you take to get there, obscurity is a lonely place. So today I highlight some long-forgotten or, possibly, never heard stuff that deserves a listen.

Robbie Robertson: Robbie Robertson
Robertson is, by all accounts, a musical genius. Guitarist, vocalist and songwriter for the legendary The Band (The Weight, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down...), there was a lot of buzz around Robertson when he released his first solo album. In subsequent releases he became almost obsessed with the music of American Indians to the exclusion of all else. His fame waned and his debut has been largely overlooked. And it shouldn't be. Featuring The BoDeans, Ivan Neville, Peter Gabriel, Tony Levin and U2 (yes, the entire band) and produced by Daniel Lanois, this is truly a lost classic.

Rick Wright: Broken China
There are quite a few Pink Floyd fans who remain relatively unaware that Floyd keyboardist Rick Wright has released two decent but commercially unsuccessful solo albums. Wet Dream, released in 1978, is slightly tedious and not incredibly well-rounded but Broken China, released 18 years later, is a masterpiece. In fact, it's the best Pink Floyd album that Pink Floyd never recorded. The strength of the album is completely attributable to the musicianship. Wright recruited heavyweights such as drummer Manu Katche, bassist Pino Palladino and guitarist Dominic Miller. Sinead O'Connor contributes vocals to two very strong songs while Wright handles other vocal duties.

Kevin Gilbert: Thud
Kevin Gilbert is a name that probably won't mean a lot to anyone. And it should. Kevin was a founding member of the Tuesday Night Music Club which spawned Sheryl Crow's debut solo album. A multi-instrumentalist, Kevin wrote countless songs, was a gifted pianist, bass player, guitarist and vocalist. In addition, he built and ran his own studio and produced dozens of albums. Unfortunately, after the release of his fantastic album Thud in 1996, Kevin died. I'd originally intended on posting another song but this one fit well with some of my posts last week. Written ten years ago, it still rings true.



Goodness Gracious by Kevin Gilbert

New this week...American Idol Bo Bice releases The Real Thing and Dave Matthews Band releases The Complete Weekend on the Rocks featuring 8 CDs and DVDs....and that's it. Obvious its only a couple weeks before Christmas, isn't it?

Posted by Chris at 05:37 PM | Comments (11)

The Christmas A-Hole

When I got home from work yesterday - after a pretty busy one - Beth and Mia were waiting for me. The smile on Mia's face when I walked through the door was a mile wide. And she gigged. It was the cutest fucking thing ever (so cute, I apparently have to drop the f-bomb to describe it). Seriously, I thought I was going to lose my balance. My knees buckled as if Mia and gravity had joined forces to topple a weary dad. The combination was Rude Cactus Kryptonite. Of course that all ended once Beth took off to run an errand - Mia promptly threw up on me and decided I was uber-lame. But the smile thing sure was nice.

After I'd walked through the door, managed to avoid passing out from the cute smiliness, I noticed that my kind, loving wife had put the lights on the Christmas tree. This, my friends, is the best Christmas present ever. As I mentioned yesterday, I hate putting the lights on the tree. It makes me grumpy. "Now you don't have to be a Christmas asshole," said Beth, by way of an explanation.

The tree is up and decorated. My Christmas shopping is done. My daughter is incredibly cute and smiley and I don't have an excuse to be the Christmas Asshole. But I'm just not feeling it this year. Am I alone?

Posted by Chris at 07:29 AM | Comments (50)

December 12, 2005

Eraser...Literally

It's truly amazing that we live in a world in which Arnold Schwarzenegger actually has the power over life and death. And by amazing I mean really fucking scary.

Posted by Chris at 03:48 PM | Comments (22)

Mia, A Tree and a Meme

Aside from the The Unbearable Cuteness of Mia - Holiday Edition Christmas card photo session, it was a quiet weekend. There was actual napping and overnight sleeping. Grandparents visited, Christmas shopping was done (I finished mine!) and we even managed to get a Christmas tree.

It shouldn't be any great surprise that I'm slightly incredibly anal about a few things - my music collection (alphabetized, by band then by year), my site (if something doesn't work, I get the shakes like a two-bit drunk looking for his next bottle of Boone's) and Christmas trees. Yes. I'm a little high-strung when it comes to Christmas trees. I hate the process of buying a tree. It's cold. You're in stiff competition for the perfect tree with every other asshat who decides to do the exact same thing. Like a parking spot at the mall, the pefect tree is a valuable commodity and people will do damn near anything to find it. The process this year, however, was painless. We bought the second tree we looked at and it is, I believe, the nicest tree we've ever had. Of course, having said that, it'll turn out to be infested with Nepalese Hissing Ticks or something equally terrifying. Tonight? I get to decorate the tree. Decorating is, perhaps, worse than finding the tree. It's the lights. I'm anal about the lights. Wish me luck.

Also this weekend, my ass got tagged. So, to round out this random Monday morning post, more randomness...

Seven things I hope to do before I die:
1) Write the Great American Novel (or at least, the Pretty Good American Novel)
2) Record an album, even a sucky one.
3) Be the greatest father I can to Mia.
4) Teach
5) Become independently wealthy.
6) Give most of the independent wealth away.
7) Live in Paris for a year.

Seven things I cannot do:
1) Vote Republican
2) Math. Anything beyond your standard elementary school math skillz.
3) Say no
4) Eat meat
5) Support the death penalty
6) Live without music
7) Floss everyday

Seven things that attract me to my spouse (significant other, best friend):
1) Smile
2) Sense of humor
3) Big giant brain
4) Hot smokin' ass
5) Insanity that parallels mine in almost every way.
6) Acceptance. I do some strange shit (like last night when I was dancing around the kitchen for no apparent reason) and she just nods (and, in the example of the kitchen dancing, informs me that that's how I usually hurt myself, which is the truth - there have been some painful kitchen-dancing accidents in the past).
7) She is without doubt an incredible mom. The best ever.

Seven things I say often:
1) Fuck!
2) Indeed
3) Dude
4) Fuck!
5) I love you
6) Hey
7) Fuck!

Seven books or book series I love:
1) "The Sparrow" by Mary Doria Russel
2) "The Bridge" by Iain Banks (and anything by him, for that matter)
3) "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card
4) "Shadow of the Wind" by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
5) "If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things" by Jon McGregor
6) The Hyperion series by Dan Simmons
7) The Prey series by John Sandford (cheap entertainment is, often, necessary)

Seven movies I could watch over and over again:
1) North By Northwest. Hitchcock's greatest!
2) Logan's Run. Yes, I know it's cheesy 70's science fiction but it captivated me as a kid and still does.
3) Three Amigos. I'll be the first to admit it's a stupid movie. But I love it. I can quote it and even do the Three Amigos salute. Shut up.
4) As strange as it might seem, I'm with Eulallia here - Harvey is one of the greatest movies ever made and it is totally timeless.
5) Any of the Sean Connery era James Bond flicks.
6) Spinal Tap. Without a doubt, the greatest fake documentary about stupid musicians ever made.
7) Philadelphia Story. Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart star in one of my all time favorite films that never gets old.

Seven people I want to join in this “Seven Sevens” meme:
I'm thinking of seven names. Concentrate and you'll know who. Or, if you feel like doing it, do it!

Posted by Chris at 08:05 AM | Comments (26)

Haiku For Monday #108

In the "Monday Sucks"
contest the guy outside my
window working wins.

Please note: I'm on the
fourth floor, its below freezing.
Ah, the poor bastard.

Posted by Chris at 07:13 AM | Comments (6)

December 10, 2005

The Elftastic Bean




Look, if this doesn't get you into the holiday spirit, nuthin' will. More, of course, on flickr.

Posted by Chris at 02:46 PM | Comments (53)

December 09, 2005

Tube Talk

A couple nights back, I was watching televison and Beth was trying to catch up on her blogging. When she came back downstairs...

Me: The proposal on Queer Eye was really sweet. You should watch it. I TiVoed it.
Her: You're such a girl.
Me: Uh...no...no...you're...yeah, kinda.

Last night as Beth was developing our Christmas card list, I was staring blankly at the television watching whatever it was we watched after Survivor. I was tired. It had been a long week and I was a tad grumpy. Which explains my reaction to a certain commercial I saw.

Me: I'd like to bake that fucker.
Her: What?
Me: I'd like to bake that fucker! Bake him good!
Her: What the hell are you talking about?
Me: The Pillsbury Doughboy. We need to see how flaky and golden that fucker gets. Instead of rolls for Christmas dinner, we should all break off a hunk of Doughboy.
Her: Okay...
Me: But then, I'd miss the belly-poking and that little laugh. So, I guess we shouldn't bake the fucker.

It should be noted that I put both Dubya (a.k.a. The Asshat-In-Chief, Prez, G-Dubz) and Jeff "Survivor" Probst on our Christmas card list. What? You don't think I'll mail them? Watch me.

Posted by Chris at 03:05 PM | Comments (27)

Snowy Friday




This morning, after rolling out of bed and feeding the cats, I looked out the window to find a few inches of snow on the ground and more on the way. I'm working from home today and being able to avoid a crappy commute pleased me greatly. So, here I sit clutching a cup of coffee attempting (in vain) to be marginally productive. Happy Friday to all.

Posted by Chris at 06:55 AM | Comments (25)

December 08, 2005

Entitlement

I’ve had 40+ comments and 24 hours to reflect on yesterday’s post. You shared some good, interesting insights and for that I’m thankful. While whiney described my gripe, the word I was really looking for was entitlement, the perception that one has a right to something.

I also realize that I wasn’t clear on the whole generational thing. First you have the Greatest Generation, of which my grandparents, now in their 80s and 90s, are members. Following them are the Baby Boomers, like my parents. After that, Generations X (that’s me) and Y. When I talk about the whiners, I’m wagging my virtual finger at Gens X and Y.

Upon reflection, I realized that the primary cause for such whininess probably stems from the fact that we, our generation(s), have never had to contend with something as debilitating, as challenging as a world war or complete and utter economic devastation as seen in the Great Depression. We have, for the most part, grown up in a fairly isolated world with, at least in this county, a narrow world-view. Sure, the dot-com bubble burst and lots of people (like me) lost their jobs. The roots of such a downturn were based not only in the fact that the market was a giant bubble waiting for someone with a pin and sense of financial adventure. It was helped along by what has to qualify as the single greatest American disaster of our time – 9/11. But these events were isolated. They didn’t unfold over years and decades. The effects, while felt, were contained. And please, whatever you do, don’t pull a Bill O’Reilly on me and say that we’re involved in a world war now. That’s crap.

To clarify my thoughts:

We’re too politically correct. We have to specify if we’re African Americans, Asian Americans, Latin Americans…yet we’re all Americans. I’m a Pasty White American, ladies and gentlemen. Please address me as such or else, I’ll be terribly offended and I very well might sue your ass. We can’t celebrate Christmas anymore. No, we have to celebrate The Holidays. Festivus. Kwanzaunakamas. Whatever. If we don’t simultaneously identify everyone who might actually be a stakeholder in any given holiday, we’re thought to be committing a grave error. People aren’t blind – they’re sight-challenged. People aren’t short – they’re vertically disadvantaged. People aren’t deaf – they’re sonically deficient. All this political correctness will force the average person into a murderous rage. Oh, no, wait – a homicidally gifted alternative state of temporal coexistence. Grow up. Grow some balls. Merry Kwanzaunakamas, freaks.

We’re too litigious. I brought up the coffee-in-lap lawsuit and someone pointed out it was brought about by an 81 year old man. That’s actually part of my point. If old dudes who stoke their nuts sue – successfully – what does that say to everyone else? We sue for everything and take responsibility for nothing. There was a group of people a couple years back who sued Creed because they put on a crappy show. A) it was Creed – what did you expect? B) some things in life just suck – deal with it! Take some personal responsibility every once in a while. Again, grow a set. Unless Scott Stapp and band followed your ass back home and sang “Higher” over and over again for hours on end while holding you at gunpoint, get over it. Don’t feel victimized. The world does not exist solely for your amusement and pleasure. Don’t be disappointed when shit doesn’t go your way.

We’re apathetic. I’m going to be 100% honest and remind you up front that I didn’t vote in the November elections (the November before that, it should be noted, I did vote). I just ran out of time. That said, do you realize how few of us vote? We live in one of the few countries in the world that allows all of its citizens to participate in the creation and maintenance of government. Yet we sit at home and beat up hookers for cash playing Grand Theft Auto (and if we lose, we’ll probably sue). We, essentially, allow foreign policy disasters and whims of Texan hicks (oh, and before you Texans complain, I'm a native Texan too...or, rather, a Texan American) to go unchallenged. We allow corporations to steer policy. To our credit, we bitch about the companies but we still buy their stuff. Hey, I’m as guilty as the rest. I know 10 year old kids in sweatshops are making them but my Reeboks sure are comfy.

We have an entitlement streak a mile wide. We expect things. We expect a Starbucks on every corner. We expect broadband internet connectivity. When Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, they interviewed several people who expressed outrage that their 911 calls weren't immediately responded to. If you’re self-centered enough to think that, in a natural disaster which affected the lives of millions of people, it’s still all about you, you’re freakishly delusional. We bitch if our cable goes out yet forget that there are starving people in third world countries (or our inner cities) who’ve never seen a TV much less a hot, square meal.

Let me say this again – I’m as guilty as the rest. I want my internet connection, a good cup of coffee, more music and books than I can possibly absorb. I have a nice home with a wonderful family. It has six guitars, three television sets, two DVD players, two computers. More importantly, it has heat, running water and a fridge full of food. We’re not going to freeze or starve. There’s a happy medium, however, I strive to achieve. Sometimes, the world really is – and should be – all about you. Sometimes apathy is okay. A good lawsuit is the spice of life. Political correctness keeps us all out of trouble from time to time. But there exists a point at which all these things become ridiculous. We – the Gen Xers and Yers – are more guilty of allowing these things to cross that line than others. Some of it is due to factors over which we have no control. Some of it we do to ourselves.

My word for the day, then, is perspective:

- The relationship of aspects of a subject to each other and to a whole;
- Subjective evaluation of relative significance; a point of view;
- The ability to perceive things in their actual interrelations or comparative importance.

Posted by Chris at 12:23 PM | Comments (36)

On Music: Paranoid Times Indeed

B000A2APW6.01._SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpgI'll be completely honest with you - I can't figure out what is so great about Our Lady Peace. It's not as if they're doing something new, blazing trails through new musical territories, creating something completely different. No, they're taking equal parts 90's grunge, alternative rock, a pinch of metal and emo and blending them into a hard-driving stew that, somehow, is greater than the sum of its parts. Of course, Raine Maida's voice is, quite obviously, unusual. But the anthem-like feel of the music isn't that much different than Live or U2 or (forgive me) Creed. OLP, however, outclasses all of them (with the possible exception of U2) by miles. Especially Creed. In that instance, it's light years.

1999's Happiness Is Not A Fish That You Can Catch has long been my favorite OLP album. It was chock full of musical goodness that's never gotten old. Unfortunately it was followed by 2001's Spiritual Machines which, while having some good songs, lost me with the whole conceptual thing they tried unsuccessfully to pull off. 2002's Gravity followed and it was worse. It seemed as though the guys decided a year had passed so it was time to knock out an album. I wasn't impressed. So, I was conflicted about buying their latest, Healthy in Paranoid Times. But I eventually did. And it turns out it was a good call. It's been in almost constant rotation on the iPod.

The album opens with the initially delicate then driving Angels/Losing/Sleep which segues into the equally angry Will The Future Blame Us. Picture, one of the album's highlight, starts innocently enough but culminates in a simple yet elegant guitar solo I haven't yet gotten tired of. Where Are You continues the intensity and Wipe That Smile Off Your Face is another angry song yet it manages to have a hook that, like most of the album, never seems to let go. Several other tunes are strong but largely inconsequential (Love and Trust, The World On A String) but don't rise to the level of filler. Boy proves to be interesting as it's undoubtedly an homage to U2 - not only should the song's title be familiar to U2 fans but the guitar work is distinctly reminiscent of The Edge. The album closes with a very short, very quiet piece Al Genina (Leave The Light On) which is in stark contrast to the rest of the album. Yet it works.

I've recently skimmed lots of Healthy reviews and they're not all positive. It seems a lot of die-hard fans loathe the album. But it also appears they're taking it too seriously. Healthy in Paranoid Times won't change the world nor does it alter the face of modern music. It's just a good, solid album.

New this week (and last since I slacked)...Tori Amos fans without iTunes will be happy as this week marks the release of The Original Bootlegs, a box set of live recordings previously only available online...Howie Day's Live sees the light of day as does 2005 sensation Ray LaMontagne's Live from Bonnaroo EP...The Darkness releases sophomore album One Way Ticket to Hell...and Back...and INXS resurrects itself with its reality TV-chosen lead singer.

On DVD...You can witness Ben Folds Live In Perth or Depeche Mode live One Night In Paris or catch Prince Live At The Aladdin, Las Vegas...Dave Matthews and his crew release Weekend at Red Rocks, two DVDs and one CD.

Yep...slow release week...

Posted by Chris at 08:51 AM | Comments (15)

December 07, 2005

Tongue Action




Note to self: Keep tongue in mouth at all times. Grabby baby.

Posted by Chris at 05:14 PM | Comments (17)

The Whiniest Generation

I often think, despite the fact that I'm just as guilty as the ones I blame, we come from the Whiniest Generation. There was the Greatest Generation, who went off to war, fought on foreign soil all to protect our country, after making it through the Great Depression. Then the Whiniest Generation, who bitches when there's no internet connectivity or a local Starbucks and sues when a cup of coffee from said Starbucks is too hot. (Let’s hear it for Tom Brokaw for highlighting the differences and making us look so pathetic!) We're too politically correct, easily offended and quick to feel slighted. It is, in short, all about us.

I started thinking about this yesterday primarily because my grandmother was checked into the hospital on Monday. She has a massive infection in her shoulder (now under control, thankfully) that, according to doctors, must have been extremely painful for a couple weeks. So painful that not even the elephant-stopping doses of morphine they gave her helped (once she finally admitted it hurt, of course). Surprising, since I talked to her on Sunday night and she sounded fantastic. I even thought to myself, hey self, she sounded fantastic! It turns out that, in addition to the whole shoulder thing, she had a flare up of Midwestern Grin and Bear It Syndrome, a relatively long-term illness that occasionally presents as acute bouts of stubbornness when faced with any situation that would draw undo attention to one's self, especially when said attention involves modern medicine.

I'm not sure what my point is. Maybe it's this - there's got to be some happy medium between the way my grandmother operates and the way we, the Whiniest Generation, does. If you spill hot coffee in your lap, use foul language then change your pants. Don't sue. A Christmas tree? It's a Christmas tree, not a holiday tree. You can't accommodate everyone.

By the way, on the topic of grandparents, we've long been searching for appropriate nicknames for Mia's grandfathers. They've really been slackers and haven't come up with anything. So, since they're always snapping pictures of the poor kid and it's doubtful she'd recognize them without cameras glued to their faces, we've dubbed them Grandpa Nikon and Grandpa Cannon. What's funny is that it's started to stick.

Posted by Chris at 08:55 AM | Comments (44)

December 06, 2005

Snow, Birthdays and Interviews

Are any of you meteorologists? Or related to meteorologists? No? Good. Because they’re asshats. A 'snow event' here in DC is something to behold. From a distance. The way people panic, you'd think someone let a pack of Ebola-ridden monkeys run loose around the Beltway. No. Just an approaching snow flurry. People freak the fuck out an immediately head to the local store to buy bread, milk and toilet paper. When the first flakes begin to fall, any and all stored driving knowledge seems to fall out of brains everywhere. People just forget how to drive. The news people encourage this behavior with headlines such as Washington Region Braces for Winter Storm - Many Will Probably Die Horrible, Cold Deaths and Kiss Your Asses Goodbye, We're In For A Light Dusting. And then, inevitably, we get half and inch. That's what happened yesterday, up until the twist at the end. Because every good weather event and Law & Order episode needs a twist. Yesterday evening the weatherasshats mea culpad all over the place, admitting they were wrong and promising that the storm was over. So, explain the four inches of snow on my car this morning when I headed out to work. My message to the weather people everywhere - sit on your Super Doppler 8000 EX SuperForecaster SnowTrackers and rotate.

On a completely different note, you all broke my super-secret code and inferred correctly - yesterday was my birthday. Thank you all for your kind birthday wishes. I've said it before, countless times, but it's worth mentioning again - you guys rock. Thank you.

One last thing - have you been checking out the Cactus-Fish action at Mommybloggers? Beth and I were featured then interviewed this week and - rumor has it - there will be a completely original, hopefully not lame joint post from us appearing today. Go check Mommybloggers out. It's a cool site and I'd say that even if we were'nt featured all over it this week.

Posted by Chris at 07:33 AM | Comments (55)

December 05, 2005

33

According to a quick search of the wonder that is the Internetwebosphere...

...Boston boasts a well thought of restaurant called 33...a mysterious and unexplained 33 appears on each bottle of Rolling Rock...prohibition was repealed in 1933...channel 33 in Youngstown considers itself "straight to the point"...the Khyber Pass is exactly 33 miles long...the lowest temperature at which liquid stays liquid is, duh, 33 degrees...the pressure of sea water doubles every 33 feet of depth...the animal kingdom contains 33 phyla...a raven produces exactly 33 different sounds...the human spine contains 33 vertabrae...arsenic has an atomic number of 33...33% of the Earth's surface is desert...the Leonid meteor shower takes place at peak intensity ever 33 years...the space shuttle lands on runway 33 at the Kennedy Space Center...Pope John Paul I held his popeship for exactly 33 days...the united States Army has 33 combat brigades...and Elvis Presley appeared in 33 movies.

Now, why am I so obsessed with the number 33 today?

Posted by Chris at 07:46 AM | Comments (118)

Haiku For Monday #107

A winter Monday.
Forecast: light to moderate
snow, winds and boredom.

Posted by Chris at 07:18 AM | Comments (7)

December 04, 2005

On Books: November

Yep, time to do that book thang again. But before I do, have you noticed that I've added some hot categorization action to the menu over there on the right? Should you, for instance, want to find all the book reviews evah, all you have to do is choose "On Books" and you're there. Money!

Six Bad Things by Charlie Huston
Huston's debut, Caught Stealing, was one of the more brutal and unique thrillers I'd read in a long time. When I reviewed it a while back, I believe I strongly recommended picking it up. And I still do. Six Bad Things, its sequel, is almost - but not quite - as strong as its predecessor. While it does get slightly bogged down as the story progresses, it is a brilliant followup. Regardless, it's still far more unique with more style and substance than the majority of the thrillers and mysteries on the market. Huston will be releasing the third in the trilogy shortly and I can't wait to get my hands on it.

Vixen by Ken Bruen
The Guards, the only other novel by Bruen I've read, was excellent. I was thoroughly impressed. His voice is unique and the structure of the novel was so contrary to so much of the crime fiction out there. His focus isn't on the crime but the people involved in the crime. His stories at once present unique crime fiction and pay hommage to the authors and works that came before him. Bruen has written a lot and, sadly, most of it is hard to come by in the States. So, I was pleased to find Vixen in a local bookstore. Sadly, it wasn't all that strong. Only a couple hundred pages in length, it seemed to drag. It was often directionless, its characters two dimensional. It was, overall, disheartening because I know Bruen can do better.

Easy Prey by John Sandford
I applauded Sandford last month for keeping me entertained. After a long absence, I returned to the Prey series and I was pleased that I had. Easy Prey was no exception. While not the strongest novel in the series it was nevertheless fun and fast-paced. If you want entertainment, you really can't go wrong with Sandford.

Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk
When I read Fight Club, just after it hit shelves, I wasn't prepared for Chuck's style. That might explain why I didn't appreciate it. His writing is frantic, his plots twisted, and his characters unlovable. Yet, for some reason I keep picking them up and, for the most part - now that I'm prepared - I enjoy each one. I've read all but one of Chuck's novels and I have to say that, while strong, I wouldn't rank Survivor among the best. Invisible Monsters still holds that title in my opinion. Survivor is a good read but he's written better.

Whiteout by Ken Follett
I'd never read anything by Follett before, primarily because the subject matter had never before appealed to me. I enjoy mysteries but never really paid any particular attention to espionage novels (about half of Follett's output) nor have I been interested in historical World War II fiction (the other half of his output). When I ran across Whiteout - focused on the hijaking of a lethal strain of virus from a high-security lab - I decided to give Follett a shot. I'm thrilled that I did. The novel was compelling and thoroughly engrossing. I read a lot and find it harder and harder to be taken in by a plot but Whiteout grabbed me. Whiteout is a quick, gripping winter read perfect for one of those days when there's a little too much snow on the ground to go anywhere.

There you have it - some potential winter reading. Enjoy. And if you have any recommendations, just let me know!

Posted by Chris at 03:54 PM | Comments (15)

December 02, 2005

The Gift Of Sleep

At 7:30 last night, a very tired Mia fell asleep. In her bed. And didn't immediately start screaming her head off as if small woodland creatures were gnawing on various appendages. At 10:30 she stirred but was quickly subdued by the application of boobage. After that, details are hazy. Because I was asleep. Needless to say, there was dancing and general merriment. Quiet merriment but merriment nonetheless. And then sleep...



Today, I'm working from home. Beth and Mia are still asleep, work email is quiet, almost nonexistent, and I've reached the bottom of my first cup of coffee. It's amazing how much a little sleep can change your outlook.

Now, enjoy a song and have a fantastic Friday!



Will The Future Blame Us
by Our Lady Peace

Posted by Chris at 07:33 AM | Comments (37)

December 01, 2005

Lessons From Dadhood: Episode Five

If you've surfed the blogosphere recently you've heard of Half-Nekkid Thursday (HNT). Well, here's my entry for what I like to call HCT - Half Crazy Thursday.

Lesson #11 (in the continuing but almost forgotten series): Sometimes you'll do damn near anything to get your child to laugh. Or stop crying. I'd been playing a nice, quiet acoustic version of an Iron Maiden classic (The Trooper, if you're curious), and Mia and I totally needed to rock out. And what says "heavy metal rockage" better than a little body modification?

I owe you some thanks. I just looked back at this week's posts and realized almost every single one of them was somehow baby-related. That must really suck for those of you who don't give a damn. I've been distracted this week, however. I was planning on getting to other things. I've got the 35 page "National Strategy for Victory In Iraq" document released yesterday sitting beside me ready for a good, harsh evaluation. I haven't really caught you up on anything that went down during the Thanksgiving weekend...not that I can remember any of it now. And I also never filled you in on how I saved that small South American village from the invading stampede of giant ants, although, thinking about it now, that might have been a dream. You never can tell.

So, I am able to discuss other things. I just haven't managed to get that far yet. If, however, you're not actually getting enough of the whole parenthood thing, check out DadCentric, where a bunch of pretty talented dads show their stuff. Oh, ew! Not that stuff! There is, however, a little ode to Dr. Seuss written by Yours Truly.

Posted by Chris at 07:50 AM | Comments (28)