First off, I know that it's been mentioned everywhere but I feel compelled to also state that it's important to please give at least something towards helping victims of the earthquake/tsunami. The level of devastation is something that's pretty much impossible to comprehend for any of us with a roof over our head and food to eat at every meal, but reading news about it and seeing the pictures over the course of the past couple days has if nothing else taught me to appreciate what I have even more. Wikipedia has a monster list of charities listed on a global scale. Please check on their authenticity if you have a question before you give, otherwise the Red Cross is always a good bet.
Gosh darn it. I was doing so well there for awhile. I think I'd made more updates in two weeks than I had in almost the entire two months previous and then I go and take almost a two-week hiatus. I've been on vacation the past 10 days and I just haven't been on the computer nearly as much as usual.
In a nutshell, my past week or so has been quite busy, even though I haven't been working. The first couple days off were filled with different family engagements for the holidays, then we spent some time with friends and in the meantime we've been watching movies, doing housework (including ripping out a crappy fence in our backyard so we can have trees removed and a real bonified fence put it), and weatherproofing before it actually decides it's going to get cold here.
Oh yeah, I must mention that the weather here has been absolutely lovely. Although I'm one of those people who actually enjoys the cold and snow, I have to admit that running around in a t-shirt and light pants during late December is pretty fun when I'm walking the dogs or doing other general things outside (or even tooling around town in the car). I've heard it's going to snow this next week and there will be dropping temperatures, so I guess the honeymoon is over.
We've watched a good deal of movies over the break, including not one, but two zombie-related films. The first was the spoofy Shaun Of The Dead, and it pretty much lived up to billing as a pretty hilarious spoof on zombie movies. Although there were a couple points where the plot sort of ran into itself, it was pretty entertaining overall and even made me laugh aloud in a few places, which is more than I can say about a lot of films. The other undead-esque film we watched was 28 Days Later and I must say that I was really impressed by it. I'd heard both good and bad things about it, but was very much impressed by the level of attention paid to different points in the writing of the film and the look of the film in general. Great acting, great music, some genuinely creepy parts (the tunnel scene was great, if a bit unbelievable), and even some social commentary. I could break down the fine points on why I really liked it, but I'll just leave it at my above recommendation.
We are not rock stars and therefore tonight we're not going out and partying like them. Instead, we're having a quiet night at home listening to music and getting some different things done. I'm plugging away at a massive redesign of the music review section of this site (it probably won't be done for a couple months yet, so no bother looking) and continuing work on some various musical pieces that I've started. I have a couple different styles of stuff that I'm working on that will probably turn into at the very least 2 different projects. They'll be unveiled in time.
It is getting really dry here and the unseasonably mild temperatures have now given way to what seems like a cold that will stay. One thing that always happens to me around this time of the year is that no matter how well I take care of my hands, I inevitabley get cracks on the ends of my fingers that never seem to heal during the course of the winter. It has already happened on two fingers of my right hand and although I'm not in extreme pain, I seem to be going through about one bandaid per day. After soaking one finger with lotion and alternately covering the crack and letting it breath, one wound seems to finally be closing, but there's a crack on the inside of my thumb (at the base of the nail) that I just can't beat. It will bleed a little bit nearly every day and even when I cover it with a bandaid the skin never seems to completely close. Instead, the skin simply softens a bit and once I decide to let it breathe again the skin drys and flakes and bleeds again.
Other than that, there's not a whole lot I don't like about winter. I'm one of those people who actually doesn't mind the cold all that much, and I actually find that fighting it is sometimes fun. When I was a kid, I remember sitting in the backseat of my parents car as they took me to the babysitters in the morning. On the walk from the house to the car, my pantlegs would soak up the cold and by the time I sat down in the backseat, they would send a chill up my spine if my legs brushed against them. To combat this, I would try to hold perfectly still, letting my skinny leg simply float in the airspace from the knee down without trying to glance against the cold fabric. It was one little imaginary game that I used to play with myself, and I've found myself sometimes doing it again as I stand waiting for the bus on cold mornings.
I think I have probably admitted it before, but I am just not very musically inclined. I never learned to play an instrument growing up, and although I can play a dabbling of things on the keyboard, it usually takes me awhile to figure out things that sound good and much repetition in order to play a part over and over (especially if it's very complicated at all). That may sound like a self-defeating thing for someone in a band to say about their abilities, and while I used to be rather sensitive about it, I've come to accept my limitations and try to do the smaller things that I'm better at.
And so I sit at my laptop night after night and tinker with melodies that I've created either on the keyboard or by sampling notes from a guitar and/or accordion and slowly put together things that way. I program beats and run combinations of filters on sounds and pull things together that hopefully sound good and hope that quantity (of time spent working on things) will eventually yield some quality bits of sound. I also have a tendency to not finish things, instead jumping on to yet something else instead of doing the hard work in connecting the dots or filling something out. The result of this is scores and scores of started pieces, and really nothing that sounds too finished. I suppose a modest goal for the new year (or even for the upcoming break when I plan on working on music more) is to sit down and focus on pieces that I've already started and develop them instead of simply starting something new and leaving lots of tiny pieces in my wake.
TG and I rented Good Bye, Lenin! this weekend and we both really enjoyed it. It's rare to see a film that contains both comedic moments and dramatic moments and manages to do them so well. In addition, it contained amazing interaction between the characters and came across as touching rather than sappy. We'd both highly recommend it.
The film also continued a trend that I've noticed with European films versus American films in general over the course of the past couple years, and while their are crossovers from both camps, I'd have to say that the reason European films pull off the above (mixing drama with comedy, etc) so much better is because they simply aren't so forceful in their delivery. Hollywood films in general tend to always try to push a certain feeling or emotion onto the viewer with some sort of device (be it overly obvious music or overly obvious acting or something else). There's far less ambiguity in American films in just about all areas and it's a reason I've found myself going to less and less movies at the theaters over the years. While there are American directors I can almost always count on to not jerk me around and push their will, all of them are pretty much considered "indie" in most circles and even the heavyweights of yesteryear (Spielberg, Scorsessee, even Soderberg) have fallen off the wagon and pretty much gone the way of pandering to the lowest common denominator.
Just let me watch my movie. Don't tell me who the good person or the bad person is. If I get it wrong then I'll probably learn something from it and/or be surprised by it. Don't set everything up and break it down so cleanly. Life is not a three-act arc with perfect resolution every time and although it's fun to watch a stupid escapist movie once in awhile, I'd much rather be kept on my toes than be force-fed crap. Thank you.
It's kind of weird to think that I've been doing this section for almost 3 years now. When I started it, I had such high hopes for it, and now it's sort of fallen by the wayside. Eventually, maybe I'll redesign it and add commenting and things like that, but for now the focus is elsewhere. At least it's a place to jot my thoughts sometimes, which is all I really wanted.
We had an unwelcome guest/pest in the house in the form of a mouse. We discovered some droppings in one of our kitchen drawers and then suddenly noticed single pieces of mouse poo in a couple different locations, so we cleaned out all the drawers and set up some glue traps thinking that we'd catch the mouse and be done with it. After a day or so of no mouse, we decided to step our efforts up a notch and put down some old-school snapping traps, even setting them up with a hair-trigger and peanut butter that we thought would surely catch us the little wee beastie.
As it turns out, this was no ordinary mouse, because not only did he completely avoid the glue traps, but he managed to eat all the peanut butter off the snap traps without managing to set even one of them off. Over the course of one day, we loaded 3 traps up two seperate times with peanut butter, and by the end of the day they had all be licked clean without so much as one trap being sprung. Things were looking desperate, but TG went out and bought a live trap, so we loaded it up with some peanut butter on top of a single piece of cereal and placed it under the counter.
Less than one hour after putting the trap down, we had ourselves a mouse, and despite feeling very angry with said mouse for having outsmarted us during the course of several days, I actually had some empathy for the little creature after he was locked away in his solitary plastic trap. We could hear him scratching away on the inside of the trap and could see his little toes poking through the air-holes as he tried to find a way free. Although we were originally going to simply kill him, we decided that since he'd outsmarted us for so long, he deserved to live. We put on our coats and grabbed the flashlight and walked a couple blocks to the University campus where we let him run free under a gazebo that we'd both eaten lunch at on ocassion during nice summer days. After the great mouse-massacre that we took part in this summer, we felt it was only the right thing to do in order to get back on the good side of creature karma. In my mind, I even nicknamed the mouse Neville after the main character in I Am Legend, as I sorta think he might have been the only mouse left over from our bloodlust earlier in the year. At any rate, I hope he now has a long life, hanging with the collegiate mice and feeding on the random foodstuffs that people always leave laying around the aforementioned gazebo.
I've been receiving constant jokes from friends about how the front page of my site says that this section is updated "darn near daily" when in fact lately I've been lucky if I get it done once a week. Although I have been busy, I haven't been much busier than when I used to post more. The fact is that I would rather make time in my schedule for other things. I've been reading a lot more lately, and while I've not been as accomplished in some other areas (like working on music) as I'd like, things are getting done.
Speaking of reading, I finished my third book in just over a month, and while it was a short one, it was jam-packed with interesting stuff. During my reading on politics over the course of the past couple months, I kept seeing the title of the book Don't Think Of An Elephant! come up, so I decided to check it out and see what all the hype was about. Written by linguist George Lakoff, it's all about how to frame important issues and how conservatives have taken the power out of the progressives hands by methodically studying the issues over the course of the past 50 years and coming up with ways to frame issues to make them sound appealing to the mass populace, even if they're outright lying at times (like the sadly-titled "Clean Air Act," which actually gives way to more airborne pollution). At any rate, the book brought up a lot of things that I already felt, but from a strictly linguistic point-of-view brought up some very interesting ideas that truly shows how control of language really equals control of ideas (facts be damned, oftentimes). At just over 100 pages, it's a super-quick read, and a must for progressives wishing for better speaking points and those who want to help get the country back in the hands of those who really have the best interests of people at heart.
On a completely unrelated note, I realize that I haven't posted a puppy picture in a long time and I'm sorry for that. I will make up for it by posting them more often. To set up this next photo, the other evening TG and I were watching the son of a friend. We brought out the old collection of little people, including the vintage bus (with pull-string and clicker action) and rolled it around the floor of the living room. Upon hearing the clicking and seeing the bus, Elsa got very, very excited and realized that if she grabbed the string, she could pull it around herself. Until we put the toys away again, it was her favorite new activity. Hopefully we will get some video of it soon, but you'll have to trust me when I say it was totally freaking cute.