Feb 28, 2005
My recent posts regarding music technology and nostalgia brought back some memories from my childhood related to music delivery. In my conversation with David about vinyl albums, I told him that I liked the "shhhshing" noise that comes from playing an album. That noise is so familiar that it is comforting to me, which lead me via stream of consciousness to the thought that most of the music I listened to while I was growing up had static of some kind.
In the 70's every kid I knew had a transistor radio that they would take to the pool or carry in their bicycle baskets when they were out and about the neighborhood. These were not the higher tech boom box variety that came along in the '80's; they were a step or two above crystal sets, but we loved them. I had a portable, pocket sized version and my dad had the "trans-oceanic" version, which was bigger, had a handle, and was encased in shiny black vinyl with a faux alligator print. We would fiddle with the tuning knob trying to get the stations tuned in well enough to be able to hear the music without static. We listened as much or more to AM radio (rather than FM) for our music, and in the 1970's it wasn't all talk radio and Spanish stations. During that era, everything seemed to cause interference with the broadcast signal. Even in our parents' cars, the signal never stayed tuned in clearly for very long, and every time we passed under an electrical line or stopped at a stop light we'd get static so bad that we couldn't understand what was being said.
The only time we could count on music without static was when we heard it on TV. On Saturdays we would watch American Bandstand (1952-1989) and Soul Train (1971-Present) to listen to the latest music and see (and copy) the coolest dance moves. Those shows came on after Saturday morning cartoons and we watched religiously. At night, we had other options, like The Midnight Special (1973-1982) and Night Flight (1981-1988). The Midnight Special was hosted by Wolfman Jack along with a musical host, like Helen Reddy. The show started at midnight and featured clips of live performances. Night Flight was completely unhinged. I remember seeing weird short films, Bambi Meets Godzilla, and Dynaman in between music videos, concert and documentary footage of different bands (the one that comes to mind now is ABBA). Night Flight was on from 11 PM Saturday night till 3 AM Sunday Morning on the USA Network and it is the oddest example of original programming I can think of. They really should put it out on DVD.
Feb 27, 2005
Skyler at Founders Fountain
After Caryn's birthday dim sum luncheon at Fung's Kitchen this afternoon, Skyler came back with us. Sky and I took a brisk walk in the rain at dusk today and I took some pictures at Helen's Park. This park is part of the Stella Link Redevelopment Project (SLRP), an organization that worked to change this small part of Houston during the last 15 years. Residing in this part of Houston since 1988, I believe that the redevelopment done by the SLRP has had a huge impact on my family. This area was a blight on the city fifteen years ago, but now my nephew attends the new Weekley Y.M.C.A. and we all use the park and go to the new McGovern Library often.
Helen's Park Fountain at Dusk
Feb 26, 2005
Con's Class Photo
Connor's 5th grade class got some pretty cool pictures this year. They didn't have these when I was in 5th grade, but by the time I reached 8th grade, they came up with the "silhouette." It was a picture that combined a shot of the child facing the camera and a smaller shot of the child's profile all on a black background. Each child got a picture or himself/herself surrounded by her class. It almost makes up for the fact that their school was torn down (to build a new one), so they are stuck in temporary buildings in their last year at Mark Twain and will never have the benefit of using the new building. Well, at least the pictures are cool.
Feb 25, 2005
I caught another documentary on TRIO tonight, Peter Allen: The Boy from Oz. The name caught my attention because Hugh Jackman was in the Broadway show of the same name a couple of years ago. You couldn't turn on the TV during that time without seeing Jackman singing and prancing to "I Go to Rio." I remember seeing Peter Allen on TV back in the 1980's singing his songs on The Tonight Show and Late Night with David Letterman and thinking he was the happiest, most extraverted queen I'd ever seen. That said, I didn't know a lot about him, so the documentary was pretty interesting for me. He married Liza Minelli in 1967 (they divorced in 1974), which makes her most recent marriage less of a surprise and more of a case of history repeating itself.
The list of songs that wrote or co-wrote over the years includes: "I Go to Rio," "Don't Cry Out Loud," "I Honestly Love You," and "The Best That You Can Do (Arthur's Theme)." Growing up in the '70's and '80's, I was surrounded by his songs, but never realized that he was the Cole Porter of the era. Peter Allen was funny and risqué and took cabaret performing to new heights. He wrote and released albums that gave a nod and wink to his sexuality (Not the Boy Next Door and Bi-Coastal), but his wittiest songs never made it onto the charts.
I think he was a much better songwriter than he was a singer, but his style as a performer was so enthusiastic and embracing, that his less than stellar voice was inconsequential. He died of complications related to AIDS in 1992, and I don't think we have any songwriters around who fill the void he left.
Feb 21, 2005
We are still in love with Netflix! Last week, it was like Netflix was loving us back - we got four movies slipped into our mail slot, instead of the usual three. The films were a varied mix, to say the least.
Bon Voyage is a French film (subtitled) about an actress who shoots her ex-lover andthen has an ardent admirer help her dispose of the body. The story takes place just at the Nazi's are invading Paris. Bon Voyage starts a little slowly, but the story is compelling, the 1940's era sets beautifully designed, and the characters are impeccably wardrobed for the period. The story has several sub-plots that give the movie a wide range of appeal through humor, romance, nostalgia and intrigue.
Russell Mulcahy's Tale of the Mummy (Talos the Mummy in Europe) is a typical mummy movie starring: Jason Scott Lee, Sean Pertwee and Louise Lombard. It has some good CGI; I especially liked what they did with the mummy's bandages, but it was weird to see the giant reconstituted mummy in his newly reformed flesh, perfectly formed except for one glaring omission. You could see how he'd be pretty pissed off coming back to life after thousands of years only to find out that he'd lost his penis somewhere along the way. The plot is stale and the dialogue could be described by the same adjective. The performances are pretty good, but you can't help but wonder how the actors are able to do it when the script is tripe. We rented it because of Sean Pertwee; his Kevin Spacey-esqe ability to portray someone becoming unhinged didn't disappoint in Tale of the Mummy, but again, nothing can overcome a trite script. We are still trying to figure out what happened to Jason Scott Lee's career. He went from Dragon and Map of the Human Heart to doing pretty much anything that falls his way.Tale of the Mummy was good for a few laughs via the ridiculous dialogue, and it didn'thurt that the DVD skipped and played one scene over and over again. When the scene repeated the first time, I asked my sister, "Didn't we just see this?" and she replied, "Maybe it was a dream sequence and it is for real this time." I replied, "If it's a dream sequence, it wasn't handled very well." About this time, it was starting over again, so we finally figured it out. The funny part is that a dream sequence probably could have worked in that scene and maybe even added some suspense to the film. Overall, we were disappointed in this film.
Shark Tale is a cartoon spoof of mob movie starring the voices of Will Smith, Renee Zellweger and Angelina Jolie. It even has a lot of the same people associated with the mob genre of entertainment doing the voices, like Martin Scorcese, Robert Deniro and Michael Imperioli. There were a few lines that made me laugh out loud, but for the most part this film didn't do much for me. Shark Tale comes from Dream Works, so it is not surprising that the animation is great, but the story just didn't reel me in (sorry, I couldn't resist ; ).
Different for Girls is a British film starring Steven Macintosh and Rupert Graves. The story is about the friendship between two outsiders in high school who lose touch and when they find each other again years later, one of them has had a sex change and the other is still living as though he was 17 years old. The story is alternately poignant and funny and it is a different perspective on transexualism. It's just a neat story, so I recommend this one.
Feb 20, 2005
Alex Surprises Con
Skyler Cools Off
Connor's birthday celebration started last week (see a Treasure's Trove post for details) with a surprise visit from one of his best friends, Alex, last Saturday, and continued through the week, when he got to go with his "Bigs," Jim, Honey, and Gil to Moody Gardens and he was given money to spend on some educational software.
Saturday night we met with Mom and Dad at Chili's and he got to open his gifts at the restaurant. In addition to having a weeklong celebration, he got pretty much everything he asked for (and then some). Mom and Dad gave him Megaman toys including: a 12" action figure, a dart/sword thingy and the new Megaman game for his Gameboy. He got an eclectic mix of gifts from Marilyn and I, including: 4 tickets to see Steve Miller Band next month at the rodeo (thanks to the Simpsons and Michael Jordan, Steve Miller Band has an 11 year old fan), 11 coupons for an hour's worth of educational computer time, a walking stick with the head of an eagle, and a bathtub book rest (yes, he likes to read in the tub). He even got his favorite desert, cheesecake. Mike came by for "movie night" after Con went to bed and brought him a gift card for Best Buy, which Connor happily deposited in his wallet the next morning as soon as he got up.
The fun continued Sunday when his godmother, Caryn, invited him to go to brunch at 59 Diner. He got Chocolate Chip Pancakes and bacon (the breakfast of kings, or maybe just 11 year olds). Caryn, Matt, David and Skyler gave him a remote control Jeep and the 5th Grade Adventure educational software (for which he has 11 hours of computer time to explore). After brunch, Skyler came back home with us and she and Connor helped me get the garden ready for Spring. We all worked really hard in the garden, weeding, trimming, cleaning and repotting plants. We got pretty sweaty, so we rolled up our pants and dangled our feet in the pool, which was FREEZING! It felt really good, until our feet turned a strange shade of purple. After gardening, we ate dinner and they watched Shark Tale and played Gameboy. Thus, concluding Con's wonderful week-long celebration.
©Copyright 2004 - A Treasure's Trove, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.
Today we continued the celebration of Connor's eleventh birthday. The celebrating began last Saturday with an impromptu visit by his friend, Alex, who was in from San Antonio. Marilyn and I took Con and Alex to see Are We There Yet? - a movie that hit the mark for it's demographic (13 and under), but offered nothing for the grown ups who were locked in with their children for an hour and a half. After the movie Con and Alex got to go for ice cream at Stucchi's. It was a short visit for Alex, but a really nice surprise for Connor. His birthday festivities continued on his birthday proper (yesterday) when he not only got an officially sanctioned day off from school (an in-service day), he got to go to Moody Garden's and have lunch at the Rainforest Cafe with his "Bigs," Jim, Honey, and Gil.
This morning Mom and I took Con to the Houston Museum of Natural Science and saw the new exhibit - Gold. The Gold exhibit was interesting, but the best part of our trip to the museum was seeing Michael Stadther talk about his book, A Treasure's Trove, the children’s story he wrote incorporating clues for a national treasure hunt he is sponsoring. On display today we saw the incredibly beautiful jewelry that makes up the treasure. Stadther wrote and illustrated the book released last November; his illustrations are filled with lush colors and magical imagery, and the story is a splendid fable with Fairies, Darklings, a talking tree, a human, a halfling, an evil apothecary, and a dog named Pook. Within the paintings and the story are the clues that lead to the special tokens Stadther has hidden around the U.S.; the tokens can be redeemed for stunning jewels fashioned to resemble the creatures in his fairy-tale. The appraised value of the jewels is over a million dollars, so the book and treasure hunt are gaining an almost cult-like following.
If you have the opportunity to attend one of his book signings, I would recommend you go just to see Stadther talk about his book. He is careful not to give away hints about the treasure hunt, but he is an entertaining speaker and he seems to enjoy interacting with his audience and answering their questions. I was pleasantly surprised to hear him say that he plans to give profits from the book to ecological charities after he recoups his investment. A Treasure’s Trove is wonderful (even without the treasure hunt), and I suspect some shrewd producer will talk Stadther into turning his fable into a children's Saturday morning cartoon or a movie, with a line of toys and other merchandise (a la Harry Potter). The treasure hunt ends December 31st 2007; so enjoy this phenomenon while it lasts.
Feb 18, 2005
Ballet Dancer by Melia Dawn Newman
I haven't felt much like posting for the last few days. The lack of new employment options, the "friend in crisis" situation, and a bad case of FTS (fixin' to start) have made be a bit melancholy and lethargic lately.
I finally got caught up today at work, and I have Monday off for President's day, so I will have some time for the job search. You can't go wrong with a three-day weekend : )
Since I'm feeling better about things today, I thought I would post something to reflect my mood. I found some paintings by Melia Dawn Newman on line and really liked her work. She's from Texas and studied Art at the University of Texas, which is close to my heart. You can't go wrong with a three-day weekend : )
Feb 11, 2005
Discomboobulated by Kelly Kautman Dyer
My friend who is losing her mind (see post from 12/10/04) was committed again about a week ago. This time it was done by the police. She was asked to vacate her apartment by March 1st after it was determined by apartment management that she spray painted, "crazy granny" on one of the dumpsters where she lives. She somehow translated their rather polite request to mean she had to get out immediately. She took every irrational step she could possibly take to effect this change and in the process bought a van (with what money, I cannot imagine), found and put a down payment on a new apartment, and called friends to help her move "immediately." She did not call me, so I can only surmise that I am figuring into her delusions again, and therefore, have been relegated to group of people who are somehow "out to get her" in her mind.
So, two of her friends show up to help her move and she is being extremely irrational and uncooperative. She and the friends load the new van with her two cats and a miniscule portion of her belongings. She rapidly leaves her apartment containing 60 years worth of her belongings(without locking it, because "I'm not taking that stuff") and she drives her new van with her friends following behind in another car to the new apartment. By now, several hours have passed and the situation is deteriorating, because she is intractable and the friends are starting to lose it because they are tired, cold and had not been prepared for the frenzy that they found themselves in. My friend did not know the code to the gate of the new apartment, she did not have a key to the new apartment and the last straw was that she set off the alarm on her new van. Being extremely irrational and out of control at this time, she could not figure out how to cut off the alarm. After an hour at the new apartment, the friends had to leave because they could not reason with her, but they informed her brother of her current situation, and he tells them he discussed with her that she had a month to move and should wait and plan it properly. He told them that they should pull back from the situation for their own sanity (harsh, but I believe he was right).
So my friend who is losing her mind ends up locking herself in her new van in the parking lot of her new apartment building with her two cats. She could not be talked out of the van and the alarm did not have an automatic shut off, so that just made the situation more stressful. The police were called and eventually they got the door to her van open and she attacked them (luckily for them, she weighs about 85 lbs. and she is frail). No one was hurt, but she was committed to the public psych ward. When her brother finally caught up with what was happening, he let them know she is insured, so she was sent to a better hospital.
A week later, she is still refusing any medication and today there is a hearing for a forced medication order. Without it, who knows what will happen, but with it there would be hope of some level of improvement. Now we all just wait...
Feb 10, 2005
The Station Agent - I loved this movie! The story was well told and funny, the characters are well developed and interesting. The Station Agent is character driven and you can't ask more from a film. From the very beginning of the film I wanted to know more about the characters, their history and their motivations. At the end of the movie I still wanted to know what happens with the rest of their lives. Great cast, great story, great movie!
Love, Honor and Obey - This movie is a British gangster film in the same style of Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, and Gangster No. 1. I like British movies and humor so this was right up my alley. Love, Honor and Obey has a Pulp Fiction-esque feel to it, which appeals to me. There is some graphic violence, but it is intercut with humor and in some cases the violence is humorous. I really enjoyed the film and the performances of the mostly male cast that included Jude Law, Johnny Lee Miller and my favorite, Sean Pertwee. The accents are pretty thick at times, but if you understood the dialogue in Snatch, you won't have a problem with understanding it in this film.
Henry Rollins: Shock and Awe - Henry Rollins is difficult to explain. He is a post-punk rock icon from the the hard-core band Black Flag, and he had a song that got heavy rotation on MTV in the early 90's, Liar. He's a writer, an actor, and he is a talker. I've seen him in movies and heard some of his music, but my favorite way to see Henry Rollins is when he is doing a spoken word tour. I caught one of these performances in February of 1996 at Numbers in Houston. He talked for hours, and in spite of how dull that may sound, he is one of the most entertaining people to ever tell a story.
Shock and Awe is a filmed performance of one of the talks he gave in Seattle last year. If you don't know Rollins' work, his close cropped hair, muscles, and numerous tattoos might be misleading. His rants are intelligent, funny, and liberal. He is vocal in his anti-drug stance (although this did not come across in Shock and Awe), and he has dead on insight into national and world politics. He also tells hilarious stories about working in the entertainment industry. On this DVD, his story of working with William Shatner, Ben Folds, and Adrian Ballou is hystercally funny. If you are in the mood for something out of the ordinary, try Shock and Awe.
Feb 9, 2005
I make it a practice to try to finish what I start, but the book I am currently reading has broken me of that aspiration. There have been books that took me years to get through for one reason or another, like Wuthering Heights, Anne Sexton's Biography, Empire of the Czar, and Ancient Evenings, to name a few; I always went back to them, because I found some merit in those books. The same cannot be said for Life With Father.
I bought Life with Father because the description on the back cover describes the story by Clarence Day, as "a classic American tale" and says that they are humorous stories about a father by his son set in the 1890's. Life with Father is made up of a series of stories that were serialized in The New Yorker in the 1940's. The more I read the book (I am a little over half way through it now), the more I see Father as an ogre. He bellowed and berated everyone in the family ad naseum for not anticipating his every whim, and not living up to his impossible standards.
This is not just some bleeding-heart liberal rant. The author, Clarence Day Jr., tells the "humorous" story of how his father decided that he must take violin lessons. Several months into the training, he was no better than the day he started. As he put it, "I had no ear for music." In addition to his lack of innate ability, he and his music tutor discovered that he was near sited, so he could not see the notes on the sheet music. Rather than tell his father that he needed glasses, he (and the tutor) chose suffer through the lessons and share the tutor's eyeglasses. They reasoned that Father would not accept that his son had a need for eyeglasses, because it was a sign of weakness (i.e. no son of his could possibly be weak). They both knew arguing with Father would be pointless, because Father suffered from the delusion that he was never wrong. Consequently, he never gave up or altered his position on anything, regardless of how ridiculous it was. His inflexibility and his arrogance caused the whole family to develop ways to work around him, or else they had to face his wrath.
The humor in these stories is supposed to be that in spite of all of his yelling, screaming, and throwing of dishes, Father cannot bend the family or the world to his will. I have a hard time imagining that these stories were ever funny, but I realize that in the context of their time, the wives and children who were bound by the culture of the times could find humor in the manipulations that the family contrived to avoid being subjected to his rage. He berates everyone from family and servants to merchants for not living up to his expectations. He was a bully. He was childish and clearly narcissistic and probably had some degree of obsessive-compulsive disorder. He breaks things in his fits of rage, which leads me to believe that he probably became physically at some point because he threw the ridiculous tantrums for many years.
I think that Clarence Day Jr. must have written the stories to exorcise the demons of his childhood, but it galls me to think that this book honors such a awful man. My final word on the subject is I am not going to finish reading the stories, because I don't like the man that they are about.
Saffron Gates by Christo and Jeanne Claude
I would love to be in NYC in the next couple of weeks. The website reads, "The Gates will be unfurled in Central Park, New York City on February 12, 2005, weather permitting, and will remain through February 27, 2005."
Christo and Jeanne-Claude's latest project is going to be in New York's Central Park and it promises to be amazing (see more photos). Christo and Jeanne- Claude became famous for their larger than life temporary exhibits in the 1960's. Some say their art is garish, and some claim that it is not art at all. They create on such an enormous scale, that their designs are typically very simple; and while some people dismiss simplicity, the beauty they create cannot be mistaken for anything but art. The exhibits are grand in scale and temporary in nature, and I think that is part of the wonder of their art. Looking at their body of work over the last 4 decades, it is clear that their vision allows us to see beauty that we would otherwise miss.
There is a Saffron Gates blog of the work in progress.
Feb 7, 2005
There is a new movie that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last month called MirrorMask , and it looks amazing. The artistry of David McKean's direction and animation brings to mind Nightmare Before Christmas, Pink Floyd's The Wall, the old animated Metalica Videos (from about 10 years ago), Salvador Dali, and M.C. Escher. This film has the surreal visual feel of Cirque du Soleil and Spielberg's Artificial Intelligence, creating a truly unique atmosphere. I guess what I am trying to say is that while it is reminescent of many artists, it is not like anything I have seen before. I hope it gets a broad general release, because it is too gorgeous to not see it on the big screen.
Feb 6, 2005
I recently finished Stephen Fry's first book, The Liar, which was published in the U.S. in 1991. The Liar tells the story of Adrian Healey, a warped and somewhat degenerate student who dabbles in bisexuality, rebellion through the arts and deceit. I liked the book for the most part, but Fry tells the story out of sequence; when you combine the sequencing issues with a secondary plotline that features characters who are named after their clothing (the grey tweed coat nodded to the argyle sweater), it becomes difficult to keep the story straight at times. It's worth sticking with the book to the end though, because Fry's writing style is witty and amusing, and in the end, all is explained.
Feb 5, 2005
West World is a 1973 Sci-Fi/Fantasy film starring James Brolin, Richard Benjamin, Yul Brenner, and Dick Van Patten. It's classic 1970's kitsch Sci-Fi. I saw this movie on T.V. when I was about 10 and there were parts of it that really freaked me out (the removal of Yul Brenner's human face, revealing his robot innards). I think films in the Sci-Fi genre are typically underrated. Like Logan's Run and Genesis II, West World is a little better than a B movie, but not quite an A, which leads me to believe there should be a classification for B+ or B and a half. The story is about a high tech, themed resort, which includes a Roman World, a Medieval World and a West World. The staff in the resorts is comprised of androids that look just like humans. They are built to serve the humans unquestionably and programmed to never hurt the humans. They are built for punishment and to serve at the pleasure of the humans, until something goes horribly awry and the robots revolt. Yul Brenner's character becomes rampage-bot He turns into a Hal 9000 on steroids, and the hunt is afoot.
Hush is a Japanese film about a gay couple and a troubled woman who want to become parents. The peripheral characters are interesting, and it occurred to me that any one of them would have made a good central character for a different movie. I think American’s have grown used to gay men being out of the closet, but the main character in this film is very much in the closet. Making matters worse, one of his female coworkers targets him as her love interest. The storyline is as odd as the characters in the film and the window into Japanese culture makes this an interesting film.
Super Size Me is a documentary about the fast food industry's impact on the health of America. It is an eye opening and more surprising that you would imagine, given that every adult in America is privy to the fact that fast food is bad for you. The documentarian, Morgan Spurlock, begins the film by certifying with three different physicians that he is not just in good health, but that he is in perfect health. The documentary follows him throughout America while he eats nothing but McDonald's food for 30 days straight. Spurlock's girlfriend is not just a cook, but she is a vegan chef, and his gastronomic experiment does not sit well with her. The film is a smart look at nutrition and the causes of obesity in America. He points out that our children are becoming obese because of their over consumption of fast food, and also because the cheap, nutritionally sub par food they are served in the school system. Super Size Me is a must see for anyone who is having difficulty starting a diet or for anyone who wants to know what they are really putting in their mouths when they eat fast food.
Feb 2, 2005
Albert Lacayo was a boy I met at college and knew peripherally. That is to say, we did not hang out together, but he knew friends of mine, so I interacted with him socially. He also lived in the same dorm I stayed in at UT, Jester Center. Because Jester housed about 6,000 students between the two towers, the floors were split loosely into areas of study. For example, I was on the Arts floor - Fine Arts, Photography, Music, RTF and Journalism students mostly.
One day Albert came up to our floor (I forget his major, but he wasn't on our floor) and joined a group of us that were hanging out and drawing or painting. He was visibly upset and started telling us about how his girlfriend just dumped him. He grabbed a brush and paper and started to paint while he told us how she met this guy and found him to be so attractive that she broke up with Albert to be with him. He told the story in about 20 minutes and when he was done, his painting was done, too. He said it depicted a woman who saw this beautiful blue man who was so dazzling that she couldn't help herself and had to be with him. The beautiful blue man has effectively torn out her boyfriend's heart, and he caused the fissure in their relationship. I immediately loved the painting, but Albert said it was "crap." I asked if I could have it, and he handed it over. I've had it ever since, that's 20 years now and I still think it's great. The symbolism is simple, but effective; even if you don't know the whole story, you can see the division of the couple and the lashing out of the man who was dumped. It is filled with the emotion of a young man's heart break.
Feb 1, 2005
"Listen to this song, it'll change your life."
It is pouring all over Houston this morning and I am feeling fatigued. The Garden State Soundtrack is the perfect accompaniment the rain. The computer system has crashed 3 times so far today, and I am just listening to the best/most unique CD I have heard in years and not letting it all get to me.