Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Lucky Day

Driving to a meeting today, it looked like my heavy foot finally caught up with me as I was pulled over by one of our city's finest. After going through the standard Q&A, he returned to his squad car to fill out the paperwork. In twenty years of driving, I'd been pulled over three times before -- all resulted in written warnings. Surely, today my luck had run out. 47 in a 35. I was going to pay for sure. As the officer returned to the side of my truck, I noticed the pink carbon copy of a written warning. I had escaped a ticket once again.

With a slight grin, the officer says: "The only reason I'm giving you a warning is because I gave your wife a ticket an hour ago."

I guess it was my lucky day once again.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

If Classical Music Talks, What Does It Say?

I attended a performance of a well-respected local symphony this afternoon, and left the concert hall perplexed by yet another instance of my inability to appreciate classical music. Now, I will grant that this wasn't one of the best performances in human history. Most of the performance was composed by a modern composer (not one of the "masters") and it was billed as a family-friendly event, so many kids(including my own) were in attendance. But even with that in mind, I found the music itself utterly boring, uninspiring and forgetful -- a feeling that I get often when listening to classical music.

I can appreciate classical music from the perspective of the performers' technical mastery of their instruments. The instruments that comprise the classical orchestra are undeniably harder to master than the instruments common in popular music. While technical mastery is awesome to behold, it's not enough to inspire and move me. Why? I can begin to answer that question by looking at a few things.
  1. I was virtually unexposed to classical music as a child. Popular music has been my life's soundtrack since I was very young.
  2. I've never taken any sort of music appreciation class or learned much about the history of classical music.
  3. Classical music (in general) lacks lyrics. So much of what moves me in popular music is the story. I can successfully ignore some lack of musicianship if the performer successfully "talks to me" through the song. Without the lyric -- the story -- classical music tends to blur into repetition for me.
With those three points in mind, I'd love to hear from others who feel they can appreciate classical music as something that they feel in their soul, rather than from a more technical angle. What composers or pieces talk to you? Why?

I figure it's time that I give classical music a fair trial. If I'm going to banish it to the periphery of my musical universe, I should at least have a good reason.

(A postscript.....after writing this, I read a few pages of The Violin Maker by John Marchese. Coincidentally, I ran across this passage where Marchese describes listening to Gene Drucker's performance of Bach's Chaconne:
"I usually listened late at night, lying on the carpet in front of the stereo, high-tech headphones clamped on my ears. There were technical aspects of Gene's performance on the violin that I would probably never understand: the complicated choreography of bowing, fingering, vibrato and things like that. There were aspects of his sound that I might never be able to adequately describe, even armed with an arsenal of words.... Yes, it was full and ringing and round and brilliant and smooth and noble. It was even classy and aristocratic, whatever that meant. In the end, it was the effect of the sound, not its components, that became so important to me."
This is what I want to know....what classical music has an effect on you?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Real change?

How long does one have to exhibit changed behavior until it's considered real change? I was just wondering that tonight -- because for three weeks, our house has been in "parent visit" condition without the usually necessary threat of imminent visitation. Dishes have been done and clutter picked up daily. Things are slowly but surely finding logical, efficient and permanent homes in and about the house. It's almost as if some switch went on in the whole family (yes, even the kid is pitching in) and we've suddenly realized that our house is a lot more comfortable and less frustrating if we just take a little time each day to clean and organize. Why this took us nearly 15 years of marriage and 5 1/2 years of parenthood to realize, I have no good explanation. But it's obvious that our "intolerance of mess" orbits have finally coincided, and we're on a path toward a significantly less cluttered existence.

Just in time for the new living room furniture to arrive next week. ;)

Friday, January 18, 2008

H-A-I-K-U for 12 Points

Scrabulous threatened
Cannot face the looming day
When words disappear

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Broken Heart Boots

Before the holidays I made a quick trip down to Austin to visit a friend and went to the Saxon Pub on a recommendation of a friend of a friend. We had a great time listening to and talking with the band. One of the friends of the band was wearing these cowboy boots that were black and white with red hearts tumbling down the side. For some reason, I really liked them and could only imagine the nights they had seen. So I thought I'd write a little back story to them in the form of a song. (Now I really know nothing about the woman wearing the boots, so this is complete fiction.)

Broken Heart Boots

Past the neon gilded door
Another happy hour unfolds
Wipes a thankless week away
The faces look familiar
Been here many times before

The Regulars holding court
Sing a six-string story
Everyone knows by heart
Girl gets guy, an easy catch
The fishnets snare them every time

See you sitting there
Lighting up the room
That up-to-no-good smile
Blond curls in your eyes
And boots that let us know
Your night’s just begun

But I’ll just take a pass
Not order from the menu
Tempting as you are
I’m wanting something more

Because tonight...

I don't want to be another of
Your Friday nights gone bad
Behind that black mascara
Your eyes betray a tale
Drowning in that gin and tonic
Hiding from your roots
Just tell me all the stories in
Those broken hearted boots

I know you’re more than
A short skirt and stockings
I want to know what’s
Behind your disguise

So tonight....

I don't want to be another of
Your Friday nights gone bad
Behind that black mascara
Your eyes betray a tale
Drowning in that gin and tonic
Hiding from your roots
Just tell me all the stories in
Those broken hearted boots

Lake Solitude


I was browsing through some old photos tonight, and ran across these two from Grand Teton National Park in September 2001. Every time I see these photos, it so easy to drift back to that time in our lives. Although we were planning to take some time off before September 11 occurred, the events of that day spurred us to stop our planning and just live life. So we packed up our truck with camping gear and started driving west. Our trek hopscotched from the Field of Dreams in Iowa, to Wall Drug, Badlands National Park and Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota, Devil's Tower, Yellowstone and Grand Teton in Wyoming, Flaming Gorge and Dinosaur National Park in Colorado, and finally Arches National Park in Utah.

Of all the beauty and grandeur we witnessed, our day hike up Cascade Canyon to Lake Solitude in the shadow of Teewinot and Grand Teton was perhaps the most memorable day of my life. The edge of Lake Solitude is about nine miles of trail and 3,000 feet in altitude from the trail head at Jenny Lake. During our ascent up the scree-covered trail, we ran across a buck moose who seemed to find us as fascinating as we did it.

As we left Jenny Lake behind us, Cascade Canyon rose nearly 3,000 feet seemingly straight up on either side of us. Never before and not since have I felt the true insignificance of self that I felt surrounded by those massive walls. The trail twisted, turned and switched back endlessly, each time teasing us with the prospect that Lake Solitude was right around the next bend. The anticipation was palpable for what seemed like hours. When the crystal blue water finally appeared, a feeling of accomplishment flooded through me like I'd never experienced before.

Although we could only savor the surroundings for a short while before heading back down before nightfall, I can't remember another time in my life where I felt more accomplished, more happy, more as one with my partner in life, and more as one with this little rock we call home.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Little Inspiration


This is about my least favorite time of year -- as we enter into the cold, overcast of midwestern winter. Single digit lows are predicted for this weekend. It's time to start dreaming of the spring and summer to follow, and looking through photos of years past always helps me pass the time. Thought I'd share.

(I took this photo on a 95 degree day in Albequerque in June 2007.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Intelligent Design?

After a morning, afternoon and evening of giving into the temptation of baklava flown in directly from Bahrain, I've drifted further away from the belief in humanity as the product of intelligent design. What qualified engineer would design a system that included regular, uncontrollable cravings that would lead to its own eventual demise?

Off Target

With all the hype surrounding the Facebook's targeted ad system, you'd think these things would come within the target vicinity. But to my casual eye, the ads remain pretty random. Case in point, my sidebar ad the other night was "Meet Christian Singles in Your Area." I'm having trouble coming up an ad teaser that would be less enticing to me. Perhaps "Join with Neo-Fascists Who Despise Rock Bands" or "Eat Cooked Spinach with Mothers of Beauty Pageant Contestants."

I think Mr. Zuckerberg may have wanted to consult Google instead of Micro$oft for marketing consulation. :)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sitting on a Fortune

Sometime before Christmas, it dawned on me that our living room furniture was in embarrassingly poor condition. Ten years of post-college life followed by five years of kid abuse has taken an irreversible toll on the sofa and love seat. I can't explain the sudden realization, but I was immediately self-conscious of every last stain and smudge that give the couches a general cast best described as "toasted dirt."

So we've decided to bite the bullet and go shopping for new furniture. Our first hour of the quest yielded not new seating attire, but a sideboard for the dining room (which we've admittedly been looking for for years) found for about half-price in the clearance room at Slumberland. Cha-ching! But, alas, no new seating. A couple of good possibilities, but our biggest discussion revolved around whether dark red/maroon will work in our living room.

My lasting impression from Round 1, however, is how expensive furniture is. Fifteen years in between shopping trips leads to a little sticker shock. So whether we go with the cinnabar overstuffed, the leather recliner sofa, or the mocha microsuede, I know at the end of the adventure, we'll be sitting on a fortune.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Recurring Theme

I wonder if anyone has tried to codify popular music into subject matter categories. It would be a huge undertaking, but certainly an interesting exercise. (I'm not volunteering, by the way.) Near the top of the list would have to be lost love or relationships that didn't work out. I'd venture to say there are more songs about love gone wrong than lasting relationships. Here are some lyrics I've been throwing around in my head for a while about trying to get over one of those relationships that didn't work out.


Everything Reminds Me of You

Driving down the street today
The trees are raining gold

The brisk of fall surrounds
But fails to make me cold

Reminded by the whirling leaves
That way you made me feel

Lifted up without fear
Simple pleasures so unreal
Can't help but wander off
Drifting back into our past
Knowing just what we were,
Swore we'd always last


Can't make it through a day
Without you somewhere in it

Reminders in plain view
Not ready to admit

Your face, eyes, and voice
Everywhere I turn around

So I'm sitting here tonight
To write these five words down

Everything reminds me of you
Yeah, everything reminds me of you

I've tried a million things
Nothing I can find
Helps forget you now
Erase you from my mind
Can't keep our memories
Tied up, locked down
Begging them to leave
They always stay around
Can't shake that love we had,
So unforgettable

Been gone so long now
Never thought I'd let you go
Missed the chance to make it right,
Trapped in life's binding chains
If I could just release you from my dreams
Our past would be a pleasant memory

Can't make it through a day
Without you somewhere in it

Reminders in plain view
Not ready to admit

Your face, eyes, and voice
Everywhere I turn around

So I'm sitting here tonight
To write these five words down

Everything reminds me of you
Yeah, everything reminds me of you
Why does everything remind me of you?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Particle Man

As I'm sitting here tonight in the kid's room, he's listening to his favorite They Might Be Giants songs as he settles down for sleep. Lately, he's been a little TMBG-obsessed, but I can think of worse things to be. Earlier this afternoon, I told him to listen to the songs closely because TMBG tends to be "educational" in their songs.

So from the dark side of the room (I'm illuminated by the glow of my laptop LCD) comes "Daddy, what's Particle Man about?" After a moment's hesitation over whether I should open up that can of worms, I told him that I've always thought it's about science, religion and the universe and how humans are really just small specks that get tossed around by the greater forces. He was OK with that. :)

Evidently others have had a different take on the song, but that's the great thing about music -- its openness to interpretation.

You Lit Kenny!

Ran across this scene in a park near Town Lake in Austin before the holidays. Still don't think I've come to a conclusion in my mind about it, but it still strikes me as very odd.

Different World

Had one of those culture shock moments this morning. I was kidding with the kid this morning, and he was trying to give me a confused/frustrated look back...and then asks, "how do you make that face?" What face? I ask. So he pulls up an IM window and points to the "confused smile" emoticon in MSN.

Times have changed, haven't they?

( On an aside, you can't do that with your mouth :S )

Friday, January 11, 2008

American nirvana

With all the talk in the media about our impending economic recession, I'm seriously considering the start of my own personal recession. There are lot of places in my life that could use a little contraction. I've been threatening for a while to do something about the steady, yet stealthy, inflation of my waistline. The physical stuff in our house seems to replicate exponentially, despite the multiple cubic yards of trash that leave each week during our umpteenth attempt at a house purge. Even one of my pure passions -- music -- is on the verge of giga-burst as my 80GB iPod approaches its limit that once seemed infinite.

Perhaps I've reached American nirvana -- a metaphysical state of imminent explosion where you've reached your personal limit as mind, body and environment approach too much.
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