Monday, November 30, 2009

A pic or two of Smiley

No big motive behind this post. I just felt like putting up a picture of Smiley, and his Marvel superhero backpack.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

He's Just *not* That Into You

I was just not that into this movie, until about halfway through it's length. Then, it got pretty darn decent.

He's just not that into you is an ensemble piece that traces the romantic life of a group of loosely connected people in their twenties and thirties. At the center of the story is Gigi, a young woman who continuously - and frankly, rather idiotically - misinterprets every signal a man sends her way.

Forty minutes in I wrote off the entire thing as a puff piece, a slapped together collection of cliches and stereotypes assembled around nothing more than a cute saying. And then, out of the blue, it became interesting.

Oh, not Academy Award interesting. Not even MTV Movie Award interesting, but watchable all the same. As soon as the character's lives became a complicated, jumbled mess they ceased to be moronic stereotypes and developed a life of their own. And that was all it took to grab our attention and hold it the rest of the way.

In the end, I thought it was a pretty good romantic comedy (but light on the comedy).

3 out of 4, 70 out of 100.

Books Read 2001

Well, the title says it all. As always, a consistent concentration on a subject or author, followed by a rapid change to another interest.

Let me know what you think.

* * * *
Books Read – 2001

1. Soul of the Fire by Terry Goodkind (not good enough to inspire me to read more of the series, but for some reason I did – and I’m grateful)
2. Faith of the Fallen by Terry Goodkind
3. Temple of the Winds by Terry Goodkind
4. Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind (needless S/M type torture, but a good read)
5. Stone of Tears by Terry Goodkind
6. Blood of the Fold by Terry Goodkind
7. Debt of Bones by Terry Goodkind
8. The Poet by Michael Connelly
9. Void Moon by Michael Connelly
10. Gangster by Lorenzo Carcaterra (EXCELLENT)
11. A Darkness More than Night by Michael Connelly (implausible plot, but decent)
12. We Can’t Teach What We Don’t Know: White Teachers, Multiracial Schools by Gary Howard
13. Shattered by Dick Francis (worst Francis to date)
14. From the Corner of His Eye by Dean Koontz (great book that Koontz didn’t know how to end)
15. Candyland by Evan Hunter/Ed McBain (not as good as the reviews suggested)
16. False Memory by Dean Koontz (Koontz is a paranoid, plain and simple)
17. Potshot by Robert B. Parker (this is why I love Parker)
18. Mr. Murder by Dean Koontz (nice read, well done)
19. Winter Moon by Dean Koontz (started off strong, finished weak)
20. The Godfather by Mario Puzo (the First Book I’ve ever re-read!)
21. Lightning by Dean Koontz (nice time travel tale with a twist)
22. Pop Goes the Weasel by James Patterson
23. Dark Rivers of the Heart by Dean Koontz
24. Dragon Tears by Dean Koontz
25. The Face of Fear by Dean Koontz
26. The Voice of the Night by Dean Koontz
27. Hail to the Chief by Ed McBain (good book, but I learned something: if you use slang in your writing, all you’re doing is dating your work – and making it un-saleable in the future).
28. Chosen Prey by John Sandford
29. Rise to Rebellion by John Shaara (as always, excellent, but it appears Shaara is pigeonholed as a historical fiction writer)
30. Gunman’s Rhapsody by Robert B. Parker (Spenser in the Old West. Yawn.)
31. Hot Money by Dick Francis
32. Money money Money by Ed McBain
33. Let’s Hear it for the Deaf Man by Ed McBain (fun)
34. 1st to Die by James Patterson
35. Hardcase by Dan Simmons (pretty lame)
36. Death in Paradise by Robert B Parker
37. Silent Joe by T. Jefferson Parker
38. The Archer’s Tale by Bernard Cornwell (Great, although he cuts the end short to leave room for a sequel)
39. Sharpe’s Triumph by Bernard Cornwell
40. Sharpe’s Fortress by Bernard Cornwell
41. Hope to Die by Lawrence Block (not as strong as past Scudder novels, but a good read)
42. Sharpe’s Trafalgar by Bernard Cornwell
43. Sharpe’s Rifles by Bernard Cornwell (yawn)
44. Sharpe’s Eagle by Bernard Cornwell (when Sharpe is set to be court-martialed and promoted instead – a great scene!)
45. Running From Legs by Ed McBain (short story collection with a few good tales)
46. Sharpe’s Tiger by Bernard Cornwell (fun, fun book to read)
47. Sharpe’s Gold by Bernard Cornwell
48. The Family by Mario Puzo (Excellent post-script to Puzo’s career)
49. Coldheart Canyon by Clive Barker (unexpectedly good)
50. The Pillars of Creation by Terry Goodkind (475 pages before any of the main characters pop up. Geesh!)
51. Desecration by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim Lahaye
52. Patton: The Man Behind the Legend 1885-1945 by Martin Blumenson
53. The Emperor’s General by James Webb (excellent book by the author of Fields of Fire, written in a formal style I assume he used to mimic Asian formality)

Step Brothers

In one scene Will Ferrell takes out his testicles and rubs them on his step-brothers drum set. That's all you really need to know about the film.

Still with me? Good, then you're one of the great number of Americans who dig Ferrell, the comedic use of testes, or both. Welcome to the club.

Ferrell and John C. Reilly star as grown men still living at home who become step-brothers when their parents marry. The marriage isn't helped by their antics, and neither is the maturity level of the plot. It's one silly little thing after another, from a hyper sexual sister-in-law to the adolescent bullies who make them eat dog poo.

Silly. Stupid. It barely requires an IQ to watch.

And it's funny. Not their best work. Not their second or third best work either, but 2.5 out of 4

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My Mom and the new (temporary?) kitty

Yesterday evening I saw my Mom for the first time since her surgery. She's been transferred to a nursing home for a few weeks of rehab. How was she? She was watching Dancing with the Stars, was irked that my Dad forgot to bring a root beer, disappointed in the clothes my sister packed for her, and demanding of the nurses. So, pretty much at full steam by my reckoning ;)

It was good to see her, and I said I'd try to stop by Thursday night after the big feast if I wasn't fast asleep on the couch.

On the way home I stopped at Socialist's house to hang out for a bit and wound up taking home a stay kitten his wife had found abandoned in a local park. I called home first and asked Lisa for a "yes/no" and to my surprise she was quick to offer a temporary home to the beast.

So the search begins for a good home for the kitty. Socialist had given him my son's name, in honor of where he was found, but obviously that won't fly here. I've temporarily named her Veruca (if it's a girl) or Atticus/Spenser.

Anyone need a kitty-cat?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Baby Einstein Debacle

When my nephew was born fifteen years ago I wasted no time in trying to secure his future. I didn't run out and buy stocks or bonds in his name, none of which I could afford as a college student. Instead I drove to the bookstore and scooped up anything with titles like "Your Baby Can Read!" and "Teach Math to your Infant!".

I remember knowing, with a faith bordering on the religious, that these tomes would give my nephew the head start he'd need to succeed in life.

Did it work? Well, no actually. He didn't read a book or do long division until elementary school (gasp!). While he's a bright kid, I'm afraid the only way he'll qualify as the next Edison is if the definition of 'genius' expands to include World of Warcraft skill.

I thought of those books when I read that the Disney corporation was offering rebates to customers who purchased their popular Little Einstein videos between 2004 and 2009. The videos feature simple images of toys, colors and shapes accompanied by music, and Disney shrewdly chose to market the product as educational for infants. That led to a a group called the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood filling a complaint with the FCC in 2006. As a result, Disney complied with their demand and dropped the claim about its educational value.

According to the CCFC's own website, it wasn't enough. “We thought parents deserved better, “ the website said. And so, under pressure Disney agreed to a rebate for customers who bought the films “mistakenly believing the videos would make their baby smarter.”

Let's gloss over the fact that the 'rebate' only seems to encourage an investment in the product line, seeing as it primarily comes in the form of coupons or exchanges. What bothers me is the fact that this argument got any traction at all.

By the era of Little Einstein I was a parent myself, and yes, I bought a few of the tapes. I no longer had any illusions about tweaking IQ's, but my daughters found it fascinating and , if nothing else, it exposed them to classical music at an early age. Or so I said at the time. If I'm honest, it also kept them out of my hair for a few minutes, which made the videoes worth every penny. If most parents were as blunt, I'd think they'd concede the same thing.

As for the 'rebates', argue an objection to “screen time” for infants, and I might concede your point. But to base the objection on a failure to make a baby “smarter” strikes me as ridiculous. More so than even my thoughts that day at the bookstore. My goal wasn't to raise his intelligence, it was to jumpstart his education. Tomatoes/tomatoes? I disagree.

How do you define “smarter” in an infant? What standards constitute success or failure? And smarter than whom? Mom? Dad? The neighbor's cat? Remember, these are babies we're talking about. If you express disappointment that they 'only' possess their native intelligence – to the extent you ask a corporation for a refund based on that fact -what kind of message are you establishing for the next eighteen years?

There will always be products that cash in on our desire to help our children. Some will be sincere, some will be nothing more than patent medicine. Shut them down when they encourage harm, but I'd be careful about being smug when you do. Remember: in the end, they do nothing more than fill the need our own egos demand.

LuLu's 6th Birthday Party

Yes, yes. LuLu's birthday was in June, as was her party. Forgive me, but at least I posted it eventually, right?

She decided to have her birthday party at Rollaero, a local skating rink with an old fashioned hardwood floor. Her outfit for the day had been put together by Lisa as a present, and Lu LOVED it. Note the "Being 6 Rocks!" tshirt.

The favors for the party were Hannah Montana glasses filled with goodies, along with a Hannah Montana serving tray for each guest.

In attendence, all the usual suspects. Chris and her kids

My sister Chrissy and her daughters

My father in law and his wife

My Mom and Ginger

Some of Lu's friends

including Sarah, who couldn't skate because of a broken arm

Most of the party involved - naturally enough - roller skating. Lu is far and away the best skater among her friends. Sometimes I'd take one of them around the rink, but for the most part her pals inched along the wall.

Many of the kids did participate in the limbo contest, and if I'm right Meadow wound up winning it all.

Smiley skated too, for a minute. He soon thought better of it and hung out around the adults.

Soon it was time for cake.

Followed by presents

There's not a whole lot more commentary to produce, other than to note that everyone had a blast and the party serenly took place while a thunderstorm raged outside :)

Happy (belated) birthday LuLu! We love you!!!!!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Babe knocked out cold

Today ballparks feature padded walls and a warning track to preserve the health of MLB players. In the 1920's . . not so much.

While playing against the Washington Senators in Griffith Stadium on July 5th, 1924, Yankees right fielder Babe Ruth went after a slicing foul ball off the bat of Joe Judge. Ruth didn't get the ball, but he did find the outfield's concrete wall. He was knocked unconscious and lay prone on the field for as much as five minutes (!) before being revived.

An interesting bit of trivia about that day: future Negro League legend and MLB Hall of Famer Buck Leonard was in the right field stands that day, cheering on Ruth. During his lifetime Ruth had a large African-American following, in part because of the (mistaken) rumour that he was part African himself.

This & That, and Quotes of the Day

A few days ago I wrote (on Facebook) about how our cat Angelcakes knocked over YaYa's Beta tank and ate her fish. Wrong. She knocked it over all right, but never got the fish. I found it today on the floor, tucked behind some shoes.

With YaYa at a friends house I tried to dispose of the evidence by feeding it to our turtle, but it backfired. Quoting YaYa upon her return: "Why is my fish floating in Franklin's tank?"

Oopsies. Finicky turtle.

* * * *

Lisa came into the living room, saw the Oregon-Arizona game on the television, and said "Is there anything we can both watch?"

"Sure," I said. "The Oregon-Arizona game."

I flinched and readied myself for the gunshot, but she just rolled her eyes and took up residence on the love seat with a book. About twenty minutes later Arizona scored. Lisa looked excited. "I didn't think they were going to convert on that down. They've got a good chance to win now, don't they?"

I smiled and gestured to YaYa, who was sitting next to her Mom.

"See, that's a skill, and I'm not being sarcastic," I said, with genuine admiration. "Your Mom has no interest whatsover in this game, and no idea what just happened, but she'll do her best to involve herself in the conversation and make you feel comfortable. That's a people skill, YaYa, one I don't have. I hope you're taking lessons."

YaYa smirked. "Are you kidding? I fake interest in what you say all the time."

* * * *

Smiley's latest obsession: Sizzlers. They're a pair of black magnets in the form of tapered cylinders about an inch long. They make a sizzling sound when tossed together.

* * * *

Lisa was on the phone with a friend when I heard her scold Smiley. "Go wipe your butt! You're stinky! Did you take a poop and not wipe your dupa?"

About five minutes later Smiley walked up in his underwear, turned his back to me and said " 'mell my butt"

"Smell your butt?" I said. "No, little man."

He grimaced and stomped his feet. "Momma say it steenky. 'mell my butt."

"You wiped?" I said. He nodded.

"Good enough for me. Off you go."

"No. 'mell my butt."

I was convinced he was sincere, and only wanted me to get him off the hook with Lisa. And then I saw a glint of Dannyesque mischief in his eyes.

"Are you just trying to get your Daddy to smell your butt so you can laugh about me?"

He started to giggle. "Yeessss!", then ran upstairs.

* * * *

Here's another shot from Chuck E Cheese last week. This is Lulu and the birthday girl Meadow.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

An Update, and news of my Mom

I've been neglecting this site lately, with nearly every post you've seen being yanked out of the "Scheduled" pile. I'll try to get some fresh material up shortly.

* * *

My Mom made it through surgery just fine on Wednesday. She gave the OK to explain what happened, so here goes: About two weeks ago she passed out in her bedroom after bleeding caused by what she euphemistically called "woman problems". I didn't learn of this until days later. Eventually, she went by ambulance to the hospital, where the docs said she'd lost much of her blood supply - as much as 2/3rds, from what I hear, but it seems like an incredible amount. She was still getting transfusions when I visited her days later.

On Wednesday she had a full hysterectomy and had part of her abdomen and glands (?) removed. She called me tonight with the biopsy results. It was, as they feared, uterine cancer. She claims that the doctor's said they 'got it all', but I'm much too superstitious to validate that claim in print.

I have a cold that's grown stronger over the last few days, so I've been unable to visit her. But I have to say, the phone call tonight scared the hell out of me. Not the content of the conversation, although that is frightening enough, but how she sounded.

Her voice so weak it was hard to hear what she had to say. When I could understand her it was clear she was in terrible pain. She blamed it all on being tired, but that was horseshit. I hope the next time we talk she sounds better, because this rattled me - it was all a bit harsher than what I'd anticipated.

Please, continue to hold her in your thoughts and prayers.

* * *

YaYa is at a friends house tonight, LuLu at Grandma's. We took advantage of the reduced population (and payday) to venture out for a fish fry at a restaurant we frequented in our pre-parenthood days. The food was so-so, but it was fun to dine out, and enjoyable to see Smiley and Ginger practice their table manners.

BTW, the day before yesterday we officially moved Ginger into a toddler bed. The kids were great about the whole thing, applauding her for being in a 'big girl bed', which greatly helped the transition.

* * *

I watched the Kansas-Memphis NCAA Basketball game the other night. It was great game, and while Kansas pulled it off they sure didn't look like a #1 ranked team to me, at least not that day.

* * * * *

Project Runway's finale was a preditible dissapointment, with Irina winning the competition with a solid, but stark and recycled collection. I think Carol Hannah put the best clothes down the runway, but she placed third. IMHO, a bland season, one that may go down as the year PR jumped the shark.

* * *

I wasted several hours on AMC's horrific 'reimagining' of The Prisoner. While the classic sci-fi/spy series continues to hold its own 40 years later, I thought the miniseries was a monstrosity. The "truth" of The Village was transparent and unoriginal, and it lacked all the wit and class of the original. 1.5 out of 4.

* * *

Lisa and I have taken to watching re-runs of the old Love Connection game show with Chuck Woolery.

It's a blast of nostalgia for us both, although I seem to have been a fan of the early years, while Lisa watched the tail end of the show's run. At times I find the concept emotionally awkward, like watching an accident in progress, but most times its a hoot. And those fashions! Time and again someone is announced as 26 or 31 and our jaws drop - they easily dress and appear ten years older!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sk8er Boy Smiley

These are just some random shots, taken the day of his first school bus ride.