Monday, January 31, 2005
It was NOT a dark and stormy night, that's for sure. In fact, it was pretty damn gray out there today and has been for the past few days. I hate it when it's like that. Everything just seems to slow down and fall out of focus. And have you noticed, on gray days it actually seems as though the color is draining out of everything. I swear my truck wasn't as blue today. Yes, I know, just a trick of the light right? Something to do with the physics of light wavelengths and blah blah blah . . .
I went out for a bit today and it clearly wasn't just me feeling gray. Weather like this must get to everyone eventually. People just sort of wander about like they're on auto-pilot. Not a really good day for shopping which is why I went out in the first place. When you're all gray like that it's very hard to make a decision on whether or not to buy anything so I just don't buy anything. It's very easy on the budget :-)
CC, poor thing, is down with the flu in Omaha. Actually she's not DOWN with the flu, she still has to go to the training classes and observe. That's the reason she's there of course. She's all stuffed up though and worse, she can't just take a day off and veg out watching TV. Worst of all, her birthday is tomorrow so she'll very likely be sick in Omaha for her birthday. Not exactly the sort of happiness we were hoping for :-)
On the plus side though, she DID get her social security card today which means she can finally work legally in the US. WOO HOO! Up until now she had to remain on the payroll of the Manila office and it's such a hassle. Now all we have to do is wait for the green card. No telling how long that will be but at least we're making progress :-)
Sunday, January 30, 2005
Yesterday we built a gym. The folks decided that it was time to convert that closet-like room in the back of the house into a room with a purpose. Up until now it was the default computer room, general gathering room for children who didn't want to watch what the grown-ups were watching, and all purpose storage of things we couldn't find a place for anywhere else in the house.
All of this was decided without me of course. I found out about the whole thing during the weekly grocery shopping trip. Apparently my mother had seen some sort of exercise machine at Costco that she wanted and also some flooring material. So, the first thing we did was head over to Costco and pick up that stuff.
Ok, now the room has a purpose, but it's still a closet. Next step, begin the transformation! Ok, really, next step was to move furniture. Had to move the computer out of there of course and find a home for it and generally make space for everything.
The flooring wasn't really all that hard. They sell this stuff in two foot by two foot slabs with edges like you'd find on a puzzle. You start in one corner and just attach it as you need it. It's about an inch to an inch and a half thick of foam with a rubber coating over it, designed to just be picked up and put down as you need it. There's no adhesive or anything. Took about an hour to lay it down but that included moving the exercise equipment from one side of the room to the other so I could lay the stuff down. No problem.
My part of the job was done pretty much at that point. I put the room in order, left plenty of space for the new machine and just let my father handle that. When it coems to those sorts of projects it's best just to get out of his way and let him handle it. He gets a bit barky if you try and help.
So, as of 8 pm or so last night, we have a gym. One treadmill (which is awaiting a part from the repair facility) one stationary bike and one multi-purpose exercise machine. Wonderful. Maybe some day I'll actually have the energy to go use it. For now though, I'm too stiff, sore and tired from moving all that stuff around yesterday :-)
Friday, January 28, 2005
One of the major drawbacks of having a degree in English is the HUGE number of books you read while getting the degree. Unless you opt for one of those odd variations of the degree like poetry or creative writing, you're going to be fed a great big dose of the classics. On the one hand, it's fabulous to be able to read AND comprehend the classics. On the other though, you end up find modern literature REALLY easy to predict and you start to wonder if anyone these days has an original idea for a novel.
Obviously that's a bit over-blown. There are plenty of original ideas out there, it's just a lot harder to find them. For example, if you like to read fantasy fiction, knights in shining armor, Lord of the Rings type stuff, do NOT read the original source material: Le Morte D'Arthur. It's the one by Sir Thomas Malory which pulled together the primary legends of King Arthur and his knights. Once you've read that you realize just how much of the new fiction is simply a variation on the old fiction.
It's true with every genre though. If you're a big fan of detective stories, you'll want to save Ray Chandler's books for later. Today's detectives have different names but you'd be surprised how many of them sound like Phillip Marlowe.
I understand that some fiction is meant to stick with the successful formula. Romance novels are that way, so are a good number of westerns and, of course, the serial sci-fi books. But general fiction? It's not a healthy trend.
So what's the solution? Give up reading? Oh good lord no :-) First off, there are plenty of original books out there provided you're willing to read more than one type of story. If you stick with just one section of the book store, you're going to end up getting bored with it. For me though, it's not quite enough to just jump around from author to author. I tend to jump around from country to country.
You may have noticed, the previous book I read was The Man in the Iron Mask. French, historical. And after that? All She Was Worth. Japan, modern. Next? I'm not sure, possibly back to sci-fi, maybe another Japanese novel. There's one HUGE plus about reading works by foreign authors. They're much harder to predict and thus the plot twists come as more of a surprise. They don't hold to the same conventions that American authors do because they've grown up with an entirely different culture. Makes for a hell of a good read especially when it comes to mysteries.
In the past, it was VERY hard to find the more modern books in translation but it's not as bad now. The big chain book stores often stock fiction in translation, especially if the book won an award. Gao Xingjian won a Nobel Prize for Soul Mountain and as a result you can find a few of his books in stores. Haruki Murakami is very good as well but if you're looking for something more classical (samurai stories for example) you can't go wrong with Eiji Yoshikawa's Musashi and Taiko.
If you can't find them in the book stores, head online to amazon.com or borders.com and run a search. You'll find a whole new world filled with FABULOUS stories that you never would have imagined. So many great works. Give it a shot. You'll enjoy it :-)
Thursday, January 27, 2005
You know, ever since CC went on her business trip to Nebraska I've been slipping out of focus. It's more than the normal amount of distraction that people go through from time to time. Not quite enough to qualify for a depression or even the blues. I've just been sort of . . . blurry.
Perfect example of what I mean: this morning I was reading the news online. I'd called up an article about that train wreck in Glendale. The headline said something about charging a guy with 11 counts of murder and that caught my eye. I pull up the article and started reading through it. Next thing I know, my eyes are down at the bottom of the page and I have NO idea what I'd just read. My mind just started wandering onto other topics.
This sort of thing doesn't bother my driving, thank goodness, or any active pursuit I happen to be engaged in. It only happens during the passive things like reading or listening to the radio or watching TV. Ok maybe letting your mind wander while watching TV is actually pretty normal and even a GOOD thing.
Which reminds me of something else in fact (mind wandering here, see how it works?). TV has gotten better since I started losing my hearing and the more hearing I lose, the better it gets. No, don't laugh, it's true. I'm at the point now where if I don't turn up the volume or wear hearing aids, I can't hear the TV except when the action is at its loudest (explosions, crashes, etc.). That means I have to sort of supply my own voices and level of acting skills to go along with the captioning. Naturally I try and put in the best I can think of. Who wants to sit around watching bad TV? But it's a double-edged sword. When the jokes are REALLY bad or the script is poorly written, no amount of good acting can save it in my head. All I have to go by is what the words say and what the actors DO. How they say something, no longer a factor.
I've really become a big fan of foreign films (see how the mind just jumps around?). Captions are built right in. I never was much into them before but now, I go out of my way to look for good foreign movies at the video store.
Memoirs of a Geisha. Japanese setting. Most of the main roles went to Chinese people. Odd isn't it?
Japanese movies, so many are being re-made in America. The Ring and its sequels, The Grudge and its sequels now too. So far it seems to mainly be the horror movies that are getting made here but then again, there was last year's Shall We Dance, which is based on a MUCH better Japanese movie.
I'm starting to think Hollywood has run out of good, original ideas and now they just mine other sources. Do we REALLY need a Dukes of Hazzard movie? The one exception is animation. Well, let's be more specific, Pixar. If you haven't had a chance to see The Incredbiles, go out and see it while it's still in theaters. That movie was FANTASTIC.
And so now you see how it works. What was I originally talking about? My mind wandering. Ended up talking about movies. Weird.
But do you know what's even more weird? I woke up this morning thinking in verse. I'm not making this up, I was actually thinking in couplets (poetry term, lines that rhyme). This would have been a good thing if I was back in college working on my English degree. I could have jotted down a few lines and saved them for the next time I had to write poetry for a class. Now? Best I could hope for is to turn it into a bad country music song.
Oh hey, did you catch American Idol on Tuesday? Gene Simmons from Kiss was the guest judge. Hard rock, flash rock, 70's metal band. At one point he tells one of the guys auditioning that he, former Kiss member, is a big country/western fan. That's just wrong on SO many levels :-)
And speaking of music . . . :-)
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Did you get to see the list of Oscar nominees today? If not, go have a look.
I can say for sure that it's going to be a slow night for Oscar on TV this year. Looking at the best picture nominees I think only two movies have actually been out there long enough for anyone to see them. That will make Ray and The Aviator the favorites among the general population but who can say how the Oscar voters will go.
Looking back over the past year in film, I must say, it was an awful lot like the past year in the NFL. You have maybe three or four REALLY good movies. You've got several movies that LOOKED good at first sight but fell apart rather quickly. There's a group down at the bottom that you just have to shake your head and wonder how those films even got MADE much less distributed. And then you have everything else. This was a HUGE year for "everything else."
Where there any real surprises? For me, only one. It didn't shock me that neither The Passion nor the Michael Moron film got nominated. I figured the Moron film, outside the documentary category (which it wasn't entered) wasn't even CLOSE to the level of the other films in the running. As for The Passion, well we've come a long way from the Hollywood that made The Ten Commandments and Ben Hur. They're not likely to be very big on religious pictures no matter how well made. Besides, Latin? Aramaic? You're lucky if actors these days can speak in complete sentances in ENGLISH much less old or ancient dead languages.
No, the only real surprise for me was in the Original Score category. I'm looking at that nominees, I see Harry Potter, ok. Not overly thrilling but ok. You have creepy music from The Village and A Series of Unfortunate Events. Pretty much all sounds about like the same stuff every year. So where were The Incredbiles? The score for The Incredibles is FABULOUS. Really gets your toes tapping. Great stuff and yet, not nominated.
I don't really have a dog in most of these fights. I'd like to see Don Cheadle take home an Oscar if for no other reason than that he's so consistantly good every time he's on the screen. And wouldn't it be great if Martin Scorsese finally, FINALLY got his Oscar? And Cate Blanchett too. She should have gotten one for Elizabeth YEARS ago but don't get me started on that one.
I guess the real question is whether not I'll actually WATCH the Oscars. Maybe I'll just flip back and forth, catch the major awards and let that be that.
Monday, January 24, 2005
Sunday, my niece and her violin group were the closing number at the Memphis Symphony concert called Prism. I really enjoyed it.
It started out with some Handel then there was a 4 piece Celtic band that played a piece called Fiddle Melody. Then there was a very nice woodwind quartet followed by harp selections. Then the symphony again with Brahms' Hungarian Dance #5. World drumming was next followed by the symphony again with Les Toreadors.
At that point the lights went out and a spot opened up behind us where a bagpiper was walking down the aisle. That was very nice. He was followed by a duo playing flamenco music. CC's flamenco teacher was there performing as the dancer. That was REALLY nice.
Symphony again playing Duke Ellington, then a brass quintet and then again with the symphony for Hoe Down.
Then the lights come up, we all clap for the orchestra and they bring in the children. Lines and lines of children come in, 85 total, one of which is my niece. This group ranges in age from about 4 on up to the mid-late teens. What could they possibly play that they'd all know? Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, multiple variations. They played this with the backing of the orchestra though so it was much richer than your usual Twinkle Twinkle :-)
The only thing that detracted from the experience was my being repeatedly left out of conversations. This is a rather rude habit my family has developed over the years. My hearing is shot to hell, we all know that. I wear the hearing aids and that helps but in noisy situations especially, it's hard to make out what people are saying if they dont' speak up. So, in the car on the way, for example, everyone will be talking about something and I'll grab little blurbs and bits over the wind noise. Something will catch my attention and I'll ask that it be repeated. MAYBE they'll repeat it once, often no louder than the first time, then they just give up and move on with their chat. Damned inconsiderate and they're the only ones who do this. CC speaks up, Judy and John speak up, CC's friends speak up and in their case I have the double problem of volume AND accent. But my own family? Nope.
I get even with them though :-) CC would text me from time to time and they'd ask what we were talking about. Well I figure if THEY aren't going to fill me in on THEIR conversations, why should I do the same for them? :-) So instead of giving them the full story I just give them vague little bits and blurbs instead :-)
Sunday, January 23, 2005
You know how people are always saying that the movie is never like the book? Well that's certainly the case with The Three Musketeers. I remember watching the movies when I was a kid. They were great, lots of sword fights and action and the bad guys were clearly bad. But then I read the book. Turns out, the movies usually only cover the first half of the book, leave out most of the intrigue that happens between sword fights, and hacks up almost all of the character development.
Now, when it comes to The Man in the Iron Mask, it's even worse than usual. Maybe you've seen the movie or just heard about it. King of France has a double in prison wearing an iron mask. Turns out it's his twin brother. Musketeers sneak him out. Which side do they take? Musketeer vs Musketeer, etc. Right? Well not exactly.
For starters, I don't think they're ever ALL in the same place at any time in the whole book. They pair up a lot, sometimes you have three of them together, but all four? Nope. And while the guy in prison IS the king's twin brother, he isn't wearing the iron mask for most of the book. In fact, he's only wearing it for 2 chapters and even then it's only AFTER Aramis sneaks him out of prison, tries to sit him on the throne and gets caught. That's when the real king orders him to be put in the iron mask.
This is one of those cases where the book and the movie start in roughly the same place but divert along the way and never come back together. That's not necessarily a bad thing. They're both good, just different. Keep that in mind should you ever decide to read Dumas. There are 5 books total; it's a VERY long piece of work.
Friday, January 21, 2005
Well, that didn't take long. In less than the time it took me to write the previous entry, CC found her way to the hotel. See? I told you Omaha wasn't big enough to stay lost in for very long.
The problem, as it turned out, wasn't with the signs so much as with the directions that Yahoo Maps generated for her. I've had problems with them myself. They sometimes give you the impression that a turn or an exit is much further away than it really is. In this case, since CC was looking at the step by step directions and not the overall map of the trip, she ended up taking the right exit by accident but THOUGHT she'd missed it. That got her a little confused. She told me on the phone, "I didn't see the exit so I didn't make any turns." I'd have to see the route in person but I suspect it's one of those vague exits where you just sort of drift off in a different direction.
And so we begin about 3 weeks of sensory deprivation. When CC's not here I don't really do much. I don't go out. When I stay in, I'm not very sociable. My family doesn't enjoy coversation very much which makes things generally quiet around here. True, Sunday we're going out to see my niece play at a concert downtown but I don't expect there to be much chat along the way. We'll all get there, wander around a bit, find our seats and listen. Then afterwards, we'll come home and each go into separate rooms and that will be that.
Three weeks I'll be like this, so feel free to drop me a line. It'll give me something to do :-)
No, that isn't the title of the latest indy movie sweeping the country, that's CC's current status. Actually she's not QUITE as lost as she thinks. I've seen the maps, Omaha isn't really big enough to get THAT lost in.
What this boils down to is a simple difference in signage. Over in Manila, the signs are, well, sort of optional. You see signs along the highways but they may not be entirely accurate. Besides, most people are too busy worrying about traffic to bother to read the signs. As a result, CC is not used to using the standard highway signs to navigate from point A to point B.
But I have faith that she'll get there just fine :-)
Thursday, January 20, 2005
Sometimes you hear a quote on TV or read one in the newspaper or online and you just have to pass it on. This one comes from Simon Cowell, the acerbic British judge from American Idol, about France:
We [the British] have hated the French for years. Now you [the United States] have just joined the club. It makes you much more likeable.
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Are people in other countries so obsessed about gaining the world's approval? I have to wonder these days. Tomorrow is the big swearing in ceremony for W and there is such a shrill cry coming over from across the Atlantic. Mostly it's from Old Europe, the usual suspects, France & Germany. I half expect them to start demanding their "right" to vote in OUR election.
What's so great about getting the approval of Old Europe anyway? What makes them so hot? A couple of good writers? Some great painters? The food? Hey, the Germans may have given us beer but I think we've more than returned the favor over the years :-)
Funny, you don't see this sort of thing coming out of Asia. Oh sure there are plenty of people in Japan, China, Korea, The Philippines, etc., who don't agree with us on one thing or another and that's just fine. But you don't see the Japanese prime minister lamenting to the press about not having a US President able to address the Japanese government in Japanese (the way Chirac did).
I think someone needs to tell Old Europe to get over themselves. Time to join us in the 21st century.
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
You know, just about everything these days can be automated to a certain extent. Right now, for example, I'm trying to automate the posting of this blog so that all the fonts and colors match every time I type in a listing. Won't that be nice? It'll save me so much time which means more of my unique wisdom to pass along to you :-) Ok, well at least it means I'll spend less time publishing and more time . . . uh . . . doing other stuff :-)
You ever experience lost time? Sometimes they call it missing time too. Usually it's associated with people who do drugs or drink a lot or are just plain crazy. It's time you really can't seem to account for. Gone. It's a big hole in your memory. I experience that very same feeling every time I start playing around with a web site, especially when I'm adjusting colors and graphics. Today, for example, I spent well over an hour adjusting the colors on this page. When you get right down to it, it's not THAT much different from what it looked like yesterday and yet, there goes an hour.
I'm also going to list which book I'm reading now. Why? Think of it as my version of Oprah's Book Club only with better selections and a MUCH broader range of interest. Besides, who knows, maybe one day someone who reads the blog will actually need/want to discuss one of the books I'm reading or have read. You never know right?
One of these days I may get around to doing a list of all the books I HAVE read. No, wait that would take WAY too long. Even longer if I actually put in a mini-review. I think for now I'll just stick with the "currently reading".
Monday, January 17, 2005
Let me give you just this one example:
Did you know that I got married on my grandmother's birthday? Neither did I. I found that one out at the reception. True story. My wife and I made plans to get married on September 17th (the day we met). She and I actually met online a few months earlier, but on the 17th we started exchanging e-mail and that began the relationship that led us to this point. No big deal? Did I mention she's from Manilla, Philippines? Did I mention that they're 14 hours ahead of us? It's a minor miracle we even met much less fell in love and got married and here all this starts on my grandmother's birthday.
Makes you wonder doesn't it?