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I don't even think I've mentioned it on the site yet, but the past 6 weeks or so have involved a fairly large undertaking on the part of a good portion of my dads side of the family. My grandma had been tossing around the idea of moving into a smaller place (with less steps and less to clean and keep up) for some time, but with my aunt in town for my wedding almost 2 months ago, decisions were made and plans were laid out and set into motion rather quickly. The past weeks have been a mixture of sorting, packing, donating, and simply throwing away different things from a 30-year collection of stuff. My grandma moved into her house a year or so before I was born and has gotten along pretty well in the large place. She's 82, and while she still gets around and is able to do her own thing, there were several factors in her deciding to slim down her possessions and move into a smaller place.

Her current dwelling is a 4-bedroom house with a basement that also serves as a seperate apartment (which was rented to college students and professionals many of the 30+ years she lived there). Everyone in my family has a bit of a collecting and/or packrat tendency and she was no different. We found boxes of letters from my grandfather to her while he was stationed in the service, old photos, and lots of other things I didn't even know existed. Of course, there were lots of things that didn't need to be saved (like bags full of bags and/or empty boxes), but it was the small discoveries that made all the sorting and sifting worthwhile. We became the proud owners of an old mixing bowl that originally belonged to my great-great-grandmother, as well as a couple other neat things.

This weekend, we're having a monsterous sale and once that's all over with, most everything will be done. The house will then go on sale (she's already nearly completely moved into her new place) and another new chapter in her life will start. Considering the whirlwind of activity and amount of old memories that have been pulled out in the last couple weeks, she's doing amazingly well dealing with all the change. She's never even seen this site and hardly knows what the internet is, but she rocks.

Working on the sorting and packing projects has gotten me thinking about the things I've kept and saved, and while I haven't gone completely gung-ho about slimming down what I own, I went through the old CD collection this weekend and weeded out about 1/30th of it. Hey, it's a start...

As I was sitting here getting ready to write this entry, I saw that Fahrenheit 9/11 has snagged the top of the box office for the weekend. In doing so, it most likely not only broke the record for the amount that a documentary has ever made (in one weekend, no less), but it has done so playing on 1/3rd of the screens of the runner-up films. In and of itself, that's pretty amazing.

I went to see the film on its opening night. I left work a little bit early the week before to purchase tickets for myself and friends thinking that it would sell out in Lincoln, Nebraska and it in fact did. It not only sold out the show that I went to, but every show on opening night including a rare midnight showing (at the rebuilt and super-swank Ross Film Theatre on the University Campus). There were lines running clear through the lobby of the theater and outside and onto the sidewalk and in some cases clear down the block. I've been part of many opening-night crowds, but there was clearly a buzz going on. People were excited to see the film, and I overheard a couple semi-heated conversations even before we stepped in the doors.

And what of the film itself? I'd consider myself a fairly big Michael Moore fan (I've seen everything but The Big One), but I also readily admit that he grandstands a bit sometimes. He also knows how to push the right buttons, though, and that was part of the reason that his newest film was the number one film of the weekend despite a clear disadvantage in number of screens and even television and other advertising. All in all, I have to say that I thought Fahrenheit 9/11 was great. While I'd read a fair amount about it before going in, he surprised me with the sheer bulk of pure information that was thrown out in the film and his ability to keep things agile, yet touching.

At the same time, it's not exactly a film that I would recommend if you want to be entertained. Sure, there are parts that are funny, and a couple that are downright hilarious. I laughed aloud on several occasions and stifled a chuckle on others. On the other side, I choked back some serious emotion during other points and felt like I'd been punched in the gut a couple times after walking out of the theater. There is some seriously moving stuff in the film and I can't imagine anyone not feeling something during several different sections of the film. Wisely, Moore learned that he's the most effective when he's not even in the film, and that's indeed what works with Fahrenheit 9/11. The most powerful moments are simply the ones where other other people are talking and the other best parts are where the footage and information simply speaks for itself. Go see it and at the very least you'll have some stimulating conversation material for afterwards...

That said, I also don't understand how many people are attacking Moore from the left. I consider myself to be sort of a lefty in terms of social and political leanings, but the past week leading up to the film has been sort of ridiculous. Not only has the film had to counter attacks from the right (including a group hastily thrown-together to try to block theater chains from even showing the film - talk about first amendment lovers!), but there have been a fair amount of left-wingers savaging the film as well (some without even seeing it). As mentioned above, I don't always agree with the tactics of Moore, and sometimes I think he's a blowhard, but the fact of the matter is that he also knows how to play the game. With a clear saturation of right-wing views in the media (Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Anne Coulter, etc, etc), it seems fair to have one lefty get a little press. I'd love it as much as any other high-minded lefty if Noam Chomsky or Howard Zinn were the one doing all the talking and getting all the press, but in the day and age of freaking Dodgeball and White Chicks, I don't think Howard or Noam (bless them) are going to draw the number of people needed to actually change minds or affect outcomes (*cough*). I guess we've got Jon Stewart on our sides, but what's the harm in letting Moore rip it up once in awhile too? He'll only gloat for awhile before heading back into the cave to work on another flick, and through sheer numbers he'll managed to help some people out in the process (like all the sites his over-hit site links). To summarize, this first weekend of success can be chalked up to preaching to the choir. I'm absolutely thrilled that it was the top film of the weekend, but the real impact (if any at all) will be on how it stacks up from here on out. It obviously has no chance against Spiderman 2, but hopefully it's able to keep the boxing gloves on for a couple more rounds.

I finally finished another darn book for the year. I think it's probably only the second or third (or maybe fourth) that I've finished in the nearly 6 months that have passed this year, and that's pretty bad. I have been busy with other projects, but my goal of 20 pages a day is slowly becoming an unreality that's going to become a horrorshow to catch up with at any point.

At any rate, the book that I finished recently was Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market. It was the second book from already critically acclaimed Eric Schlosser (who dropped the amazing Fast Food Nation a couple years back). In terms of interesting reading, Reefer Madness was definitely to the point, covering a huge amount of information in a fairly short amount of text. In trying to bridge the three largest black markets in the nation, though, Schlosser unfortunately left himself a little bit short on each and thusly his conclusions came forth a bit abruptly occasionally. Although it was a good read covering some very different subjects, I know that I didn't get into it as much as I would have if the entire book would have focused on one subject. It worked as an effective primer for each section that he delved into, but overall I wanted a bit more substance I guess. Apparently he's working on a novel on the American prison system right now (which was touched on briefly in the drug section of the book), and I can't wait until that's complete.

After all the whining, I'm almost 100 pages through another book already, so maybe I can chug through it fairly soon...

Well, we played our couple of shows over the course of the past weeks and things went fairly well. I have a recording of our scenefest show and we'll probably try to upload a song or two to the site within the next week or so for download. Having done those shows, we've now vowed to take a small hiatus from live shows and work on new material. It's not that playing the old songs isn't fun anymore, but it is getting to a point where it's feeling a little less than innovative. Basically, we're going to do like you did when you were in kindergarten. Plans are to break up into small groups and work on stuff and then bring things to the table and hash and scrap and toss them out and see what sticks to the wall. That, and basically just breath for awhile. Things have been on the hectic side of busy lately and just getting 7 hours of sleep in one night would feel good for once.

On a completely different topic (but not completely), I went golfing last week for the first time in almost 2 years. I joined Aaron and Tom (from da band) for a round of 18 last Friday afternoon and despite the absolutely brutal weather (hot hot heat and heavy humidity), I played much better than I thought I would. Going into the round, I told myself I'd be happy with a 100 (on a par 71), but walked away with a very modest 88. On each round of 9, I had one hole that I completely blew up on (including a quintuple bogey on the first nine and quadruple on the back), yet managed to hit pretty good shots to keep myself in the running and put together several strings of pars to knock things back down a little. There were several drives that went 330-plus and on two holes in which I flubbed the drive, I managed to crack a 3 wood 250 yards or more on the second shot to save face a little bit. The highlight of the day was nearly driving the green on the par 4 final hole of the course and then hitting the pin with my chip shot, leaving a tap-in put for birdy (my only one of the day). Starting the year with such a good round is motivation to get out more often and although I doubt I'll have time for many more 18 hole rounds, I know I'm going to try to sneak in some 9's here and there.

Lastly, the puppers are very similar to me in that they're not big fans of the hot weather. We still go on our walks each night, but have to make sure that it's much later in the evening and/or go for a much shorter distance. Here's Zoey chillin' after a hot and humid stroll.

Z-dawg in the haus

Just over one weekend ago, we had 5 tons of filtered topsoil delivered to our house. At the time, I just sort of tried to visualize how much area it would cover based on what we'd brought home in bags from the local improvement store versus how much square footage the guy delivering the dirt told me. After it was dumped at the end of our driveway, we looked at the pile and for some reason thought that it wouldn't be enough. Just eyeing the pile (which was wide but not really that tall), it seemed that it would spread out rather easily and cover a smaller amount than we wanted, so we decided to attack it and see what happened.

After several afternoons of work, we've filled in almost all the areas that we wanted and there's still a good-sized pile of dirt at the end of the driveway. We probably ended up moving over a ton of the dirt by wheelbarrow (and a large part of that was TG in all her buffness) to different locations around the property (mainly piling it up around the foundation), and then tossed a bunch of it shovel by shovel to fill in the space left by tree and cement removal. From the looks of things, we still have a couple afternoons to go, but it's nice knowing that we overestimated by a bit instead of not getting enough. There's always room for dirt.

Having spent hours and hours moving the dirt already, it once again comes back to the rule that no matter how long you think it's going to take a project, you should probably figure in that it will take much longer. All of the house projects that we've started have gone that way (except one smaller confined one), and in owning a house that's nearly 80 years old you're bound to run into roadblocks here and there.

All I can say is that May went by in a flash. There was the wedding and it was great and then there was some other stuff and now all of a sudden it's over. In the past couple days I've had band practice twice, one show, helped 2 people with moving, continued the spreading of 10 thousand pounds of dirt and put in overtime at work just about every day. Oh yeah, and new reviews. Now, it's time for sleep...

Zoey and I crashed out on the floor

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