Friday, October 26, 2007

Ten Strange Things/Habits About Me

Ack! Attack of the stupid internet memes. Still...

1) I am scared to death of spiders. Yes, I know they're harmless. Yes, I know they're 1/1,000th of my size. Yes, they freak me right the hell out.

2) I can speak tiny snippets of French, Japanese, Polish, and Russian, and I can follow conversations in German and Spanish, though I can speak none of them well. I took Latin for four years in High School and I cannot speak it at all.

3) I'm notoriously procrastinatory when it comes to visiting the optometrist or dentist. I've seen neither in over two years.

4) I can extend my hip joints freakishly far backward. When lying flat, I can raise my leg several inches backward off the ground, which apparently only a very small number of people can do without rolling to either side or using their back muscles.

5) I hate returning phone calls. So much so that most people who fail to get me on the phone the very first time, or call me back themselves, will never hear from me again. I don't understand why I'm like this, I just am.

6) I used to have a strange aversion to greeting cards, which has partially changed in the last few years. Their convenience has swayed me, but I used to think that they were pointlessly expensive and impersonal.

7) Instead of having two curving lines in each palm, I have a single, straight line that goes directly across my hand. John also has this, but only on one hand. It is unusual to have it on one hand, and it is extremely rare on both hands.

8) Though I used to absolutely love them when I was a kid, I'm very wary of riding bicycles after severely injuring myself on one when I was 13.

9) I can roller skate very well, but not ice skate.

10) I cannot focus at all during the day if I have not had an opportunity to wash my hair in the morning. I don't really understand the mechanism of this, but if I don't get a shower at least to wash my hair, I literally will think about it all day long, and be impatient for hours until I get my shower.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A case of whoop-ass.

This was an amazing scene that was shot in one continuous take for FOUR MINUTES.

Mr. Brown can Moo, Can You?

Hi there! John Brand here and it's time once again for All The New Stuff I've Learned To Do Since Daddy Told You Last Time. I'm just getting really, really big, and there's nothing to stop me from learning all sorts of new stuff! So here's what I can do now:

Throw balls (and other toys, and food, and all sorts of things)! I'm going to be a big athletic bruiser like my big cousin Owen, because athletes get the pretty girls, and let me tell you: there's nothing I like more than pretty girls. I flirt shamelessly with them and everyone thinks it's super cute.

I can stand up all by myself with no help! Wowie-wow! The last few days I've been experimenting with putting one foot slightly forward before just sitting back down and crawling wherever I need to go. I really, really want to walk though, and usually I get the things that I really, really want!

I can make funny faces, wrestle on the floor, give big drooly baby kisses, and go pretty much anywhere in the whole house. Though when I go into the bathroom Mommy and Daddy always keep a close eye on me, seeing as how there's all that porcelain and tile and water in there!

I can eat big people food! Or at least whatever Mommy and Daddy say is okay. Usually it's just the Gerber Gruel at daycare, but Mommy makes an extra special effort to let me try spaghetti noodles and crackers and fruit and yoghurt and ice cream and... gosh, even waffles! Waffles are AWESOME!

I can say all sorts of stuff now, too. I call my Aunt Brooke by her name ("ook!"), and I can sing along with Daddy sometimes, and even say "Oowie!" when I'm upset or my rear end hurts from diaper rash. And then sometimes I say things like "Gooey!" or I just shriek in delight when Daddy builds a castle out of my blocks and I stomp on it like Godzilla!

Open and close the cabinet doors! This will be really fun in a month or so when I can run, too, and I can get to them before Mommy and Daddy can catch me!

Wow, it seems like there's just so much to learn, and I'm not even one years old yet! Mommy and Daddy don't know that I know, but they're having a birthday party for me at Hackney's on Lake Ave and all of Daddy and Mommy's friends and relatives are invited to celebrate! I also have my own wishlist, too. I love the internet!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Firefly and Serenity are lame

Ugh. I just re-watched Serenity for the third time on penalty of ostracization from the sci-fi writer's community that I'm part of at And, though I have to admit that in High Definition the picture looked terrific, the movie was still just as woefully moronic the third time around as the first.

I wanted to like it, I really did, but it just really is that stupid.

Why I hated this film (an explanation):

1) The acting is beyond horrible, it starts with this guy (Nathan Fillon):

This guy could not act his way out of a cardboard box. And since I'm thinking of cardboard, that's exactly what he reminds me of onscreen. He is lifeless, unoriginal, uninteresting, uncool, and as generic as they could have possibly made him. Which brings me on a nice segue into reason number two.

2) The storyline is utterly cliche in every way. The sheer lack of originality in the script is not as brutal as how poorly the iconography stood up to its much better originals. Observe.

A gruff space pirate (Han Solo) in charge of a band of colorfully diverse misfits (the Matrix, Star Wars, Aliens) fly a questionable rust-bucket of a ship meant for something innocuous like freight but instead is used for something exciting like blockade-running, smuggling, or fighting (basically every sci-fi spacecraft ever put on film) in a universe where people who are on the frontier of civilization are beholden to the internicene politics of a ponderous authoritarian galactic regime (also basically every sci-fi backstory ever written).

They encounter, fortuitously it would seem, an extra unexpected but strangely useful passenger (Alien Resurrection, The Matrix, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, Waterworld), who does odd things but proves to be essential in certain situations (Young Ani Skywalker, Neo) The film uses a passably pretty young engenue for the troubled female lead River (Mila Jovovich, Carrie-Ann Moss), who begins the story as an emotionally stunted and uncommunicative invalid but because of brainwashing has the potential to become a human weapon (The Manchurian Candidate, Wolverine from the X-Men, The Bourne Identity, Soldier). What follows is a pile of unexpected ferocious ass-kicking from an otherwise innocuous and slightly-built female character (Lelu from The Fifth Element).

There's a funny pilot who always seems agitated (Chewbacca), a black guy with a sword (Blade, Equalibrium), armies of black-armored government troops (Dune, Fortress) and some very nasty sharp-toothed frontier savages called Reavers who live by the law of the jungle and will eat you alive if you fall into their clutches. So much so that anyone left behind is better off getting shot than falling into their claws (Road Warrior, No Escape, Aliens, Dawn of the Dead). They pretend their ship belongs to someone else (Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars), to run a blockade, and Han, err, I mean Mal takes the opportunity to shoot first in an otherwise friendy conversation (Star Wars). Space and ground battles ensue, a tense moment where everything could fall apart is averted, the end.

The whole thing is put together by a guy named Joss, who thought it would be cool for the first time ever to mesh sci-fi with westerns (Star Wars, Westworld).

3) This is a movie that is targeted to children between the ages of 9-13. Why adults say they enjoy it so much is waaaaaay beyond me. It doesn't have a "family" scope the way Pixar films do with witty references that could be gotten by adults and go over kids' heads. It's literally only meant for pre-teens. If you are not a pre-teen, you should be ashmed of yourself that you found this more than mildly entertaining.

4) This is a feature film that is essentially a very long episode of a very tame, very poorly acted television show. Why on earth would I go to the movies (or likewise rent a DVD or even DVR a broadcast) of a feature film that makes no effort to use the additional leeway of being away from the watered-down, mass-consumption, objectionable-material pasta strainer that all broadcast televesion has to find its way through? Why not blow the doors off and go right for it? You're not programming for the 6pm time slot on the fucking WB, Joss, you're making a movie people are actually considering paying for. I don't give Joss much grief for being the director of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but seriously, if you were going to make a movie out of BTVS with the same cast and storyline, wouldn't you go a little beyond what you could just have already done with your TV show? Maybe have Allison Hannigan use a dirty word or two, or have someone take their shirt off, or heck even film a scene that didn't look like it was from the cutting room floor of the worst soap-opera ever concieved.

5) It dumbs down sci-fi. This I hate most of all. Science fiction is not for stupid people. That is why people who love sci-fi love it so fiercly. With phenomenal recent films and stories out there like Battlestar Galactica, A Scanner Darkly, and Children of Men, that do a great job of being whiz-bang-ey and highly intelligent and thoughtful at the same time, I positively loathe the fact that Joss has lowered the bar for sci-fi to the lowest common denominator. Firefly and Serenity are something that resembles science fiction that has been dumbed down specifically for consumption by those incapable of using their own imagination.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Old friends, my adrenal glands, and Kristin Ronne is the shit

What a random and sort of wonderful week this has turned out to be so far. Maybe God is taking a little bit of pity on me after our episode on Sunday night. John's stroller overturned with him strapped into it and he bonked his head pretty hard on the pavement. He turned out to be fine, but there was an agonizing 4-hour trip the ER involved and he had to get a scary CAT scan which is sorta like 2001: Space Oddessey with lasers and so forth. The stroller must have kept him clear of the pavement for the most part because he doesn't even have a bruise, but it was still pretty stressful just the same.

Then, randomly, I take a test on monday for adrenal function that's a combination of blood pressures and pupil dilation and it turns out my adrenal glands (the ones that deal with stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol), are totally exhausted. What kinds of symptoms does this cause, you ask? Well, only tiredness in the afternoons (bingo), sensitivity to bright lights (bingo), and pain in the lower middle of your back when you wake up in the morning (every morning for 5 or 6 years for me), in addition to generalized sluggishness and predisposition to overeating and depression. So I bought a $12 bottle of adrenal support vitamins thinking what the hell?

Tiredness in the afternoon: gone.
Back pain when sleeping: gone.
Sensitivity to light: gone.
Sluggishness: gone.
Apetite: reduced.

I haven't felt this good in at least a year.

So that was good thing number one. Good things number two and three are that my old friend Crystal sent me a hello for the first time in... again, probably too long to remember, and the Chicago musician that I raved about back in 2004, Kristin Ronne, apparently found my post and sent me a little message to check out her website. If you haven't heard her yet, you should give her a listen.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Oblivion Envy

I recognize the fact that I have no free time to devote to it, I recognize the fact that I have no money to spend on $400 worth of video gaming equipment, and I am cognisant enough even at this late hour to realize that I am using the language of rationalization even through my understanding, but I'll be damned if I'm not dying to play this game.

I owe much of my curiosity towards it to Sarah Tolcser, a fellow SLU grad and video gamer, who posted screenshots that she took of herself playing the game. You know when another person gets so excited and interested in something that it makes YOU interested in it? Even if you had no previous interest? Yeah, that's me.


-Playlist updated.
-Biography page updated.
-Writings page updated.

Disappointing albums

I am having a hard time swallowing the fact that two of my favorite artists have just released two brand-spanking-new albums, within one week of each other, that both utterly suck.

Dashboard Confessional headed this catastrophe up with their new album The Shade of Poison Trees. Now even though I was a little hesitant, I hit the "buy album" button for Dusk and Summer when it was released last year. I have regretted this decision since, and I want that $10 back at the end of my life. Not only did Dusk and Summer somehow have just barely the spark of the old Chris Carraba, whose lyrics were a blistering tirade against everything I used to think was so stupid about relationships, but it had this sort of flashy, girly, over-produced sound that I absolutely hated. Far from the turn back toward his roots that the hype promised, The Shade of Poison Trees takes us even further into the echoing cave of suck that his music has become. Not since Ani DiFranco went Jazz-fusion and put out the horrid Both Hands 2007, have I been so irritated by an artist who has strayed not just off the beaten path, but off the path, into the forest, and over the edge of a fucking cliff creatively. Even though I did actually buy Both Hands 2007, if only to round out my collection of 20+ other versions of that song that I've downloaded obsessively for the last ten years, I could not bring myself to download even a single track of The Shade of Poison Trees. I thought briefly of putting it on Project Playlist and listening to it for free, but then I thought better of torturing myself and added some music by Meiko from her new album, which is one of the pleasant-er suprises of the year.

The second piece of marketing goobers that I came across today was Jewel's iTunes Originals album. Not only did it not contain any of her good songs, but it contained newer, crappier versions of the BAD songs that she's done since 2000, that I've been trying very hard to forget ever happened. I can't speak for anyone else, but I for one have passionately hated everything after the Jupiter EP, and I just can't bring myself to like the over-produced, country-pop versions of songs like "Sometimes it be that way" and "Love me just leave me alone". I remember hearing bootlegs of these in college and feeling like I knew what music was all about, and when I heard them later in the studio release it was like looking behind the curtain and seeing that the Wizard of Oz was really just some doofy chick from Alaska that had talent at one point but now cannot sing or perform her way out of a paper grocery bag. So sad. Again, not a single purchase from this debacle, and they should be embarrassed for having put it together to begin with.

To the Douchebag in the Skokie Best Buy who tried to convince me to spend $220 on an HDMI cable:

I had started noticing on the HD channels of our new television that we were getting a strange sort of horizontal color banding that alternated pink and green and scrolled upward through scenes where it was mostly closeups of people talking. Some channels it was less visible than others, but on HBOHD, the signal was so strong that it was distracting me from the show and all I could see were the lines. I had thought about this and tried wrapping the cables through the ferrite cores that the TV came with to cut down on interference, but it still didn't make them completely go away. The fact that re-cabling everything and moving my old TiVo out and away from the television seemed to improve it, paired with the fact that even when paused the scrolling lines could be seen, led me to believe that I probably had a bad component cable. The one I was using had been provided by Comcast, and was clearly a no-frills generic cable.

Now anyone who has ever been soaked by one of these things knows that these cables are retardedly expensive to begin with, but especially so in places where they assume a certain level of stupidity from their customers. I walked into Best Buy anticipating prices that were unrealistically inflated, but I was completely unprepared for (1) the fact that the salesdork in the home theater section was going to be an unapologetically dishonest asshole, and (2) the cables would be marked up 1000%. As I learned later, this is something that people have come to understand about Best Buy in particular, but I learned it through a rather blunt and exasperating conversation with possibly the lowest form of working human being imaginable. Here's how the conversation went:

Best Buy Douchebag: Can I help you?

Me: I'm looking for an HDMI cable.

BBD: What size display do you have?

Me: A 42" plasma. Where are your reasonably-priced cables? I've seen these online for $20.

BBD (with a sneer): You get what you pay for.

Me: Yeah, I'm not paying $200 for a cable.

BBD: I've seen them online for $20, too. You get what you pay for.

Me: That's funny, I've heard exactly the opposite. (This is true, by the way, and this advice came from my technophile friend Austin, who -among other legitimizing factors-actually owns and listens to a MiniDisc player and claims to be able to tell the difference between high-end audio heahphones. He specifically forbade me to spend more than $60 on cabling for the TV.)

BBD: If you use a crap cable you'll get a crap signal.

Me: Don't you have anything in the $30-50 range?

BBD: How long do you need it?

Me: (indicating a length of approximately two feet)

BBD: About four feet?

Me: (nodding my head and trying not to roll my eyes)

BBD: You'll be looking at about $80 minimum, even for cheap cables, there's just no way around it.

Me: (walking away in disgust) Whatever man.

Good old Radio Shack came through when Best Buy screwed the pooch on this one. Gold plated HDMI cables: $50 with a lifetime warranty. As you can see from the links above, even $50 is probably inflated past the point of reason, but I wanted the cables in a timely fashion and I wanted some that had decent signal shielding and wouldn't snap off in my HDMI ports. I liked the price so much I bought a component one for my DVD player too, so I can take advantage of the Progressive Scan feature.

Nevertheless, this whole experience with this careless moron has proven to me that I really have no need to ever shop there again. It is inconcievable to me that someone who knows I just bought a high-end TV thinks I would be dumb enough to spend $200 on a single cable. I have almost never been so insulted or felt so flatly lied-to by a retail employee before. Apparently, Best Buy and some of the other chains are known for gouging the living hell out of the prices on stuff like this, under the assumption that they can dupe idiots into buying cables on a 400% or more markup. Links:

Guess who won't by buying anything from Best Buy ever again.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Assorted new photos

Here are some pictures that aren't really associated with any specific events. I have several more of the typical random-cell-phone variety that are on my cell at the moment and stuck there due to a dead battery and a charger that is conveniently at work.

Swinging with mommy.

Putting something that looks like a small pile of leaves in my mouth...

Halloween bib.

Getting a little massage therapy from daddy.

Think I'll be going to SLU in another 17 years?

Hanging out with daddy's buddy Dr. VanWesten.

Fun in the grocery store.

Pillow Forts!

As you will remember from this post, I am one HELL of a good pillow fort maker. I'm happy to say that about three weeks ago, I got to introduce my own son to the magic of homemade pillow forts. While not as technologically advanced as the two-room, booby-trapped fortress that Eli and I made last year, John and I nonetheless had a blast playing in sort of a pillow-bunker.

Sleepy boy

I had one of those rare moments a week or two ago when I was transferring John inside from his car seat after he had fallen asleep. I couldn't resist just sitting down and holding him for a while before putting him in his crib. I used to hold him while he slept at least once or twice a day when he was a tiny baby, and it's one of the things about that month or two that I sincerely miss. He doesn't fit as easily into the crook of my arm as before, but he doesn't drool as much now, either! In case you're wondering, this is pretty much what all daddies live for.

Visits from loved ones (part 3)

Aunt Brooke made the loooong trainn trip to visit us last week, and we were delighted to spend some quality time with her. We had lots of fun even though she could only stay for two days. We went to an after-marathon party at the O'Malley's and had sushi the night before at Royin down the street. Brooke brought her copies of Planet Earth and An Inconvenient Truth, which she conveniently lent us. John was most excited to see Aunt Brooke, and daddy was a grouch all weekend because he was overworked and under-rested. Sorry guys!

Visits from loved ones (part 2)

One day about two weeks ago, Bonnie and cousin Lucy stopped in to see John and Beth and I. John and Lucy are quickly forming a VERY special bond between them. Lucy and Beth have always had a sort of special relationship, ever since Lucy was a tiny baby, and although she loves all of her cousins, Lucy seems to have a very big place in her heart for little John. My sister pointed out that the relationship that they have bears a resemblance to the Elmyra character from Tiny Toons that loves kitties so much that she squeezes them uncontrollably till their eyes pop out of their heads. It is pretty magical to see that kind of cousin-love with kids you've known literally from the basinet.

Visits from loved ones (part 1)

Jeramy Gee, a best friend that I hadn't seen in over 2 years, and the best man in our wedding, came to visit Beth and John and I the last week in September. We had an awesome time and I'm only just now getting the photos off of our camera. We went to eat Sushi with sake, had wings and beer at a bar, went to the beach, ate pizza, played Starcraft, and souped up his computer. All of which was a blast from the SLU past, in an incredibly refreshing way. We also took Johnny B. to the playground and to the beach as well as watched movies and exchanged books. I got Jeramy hooked on James Clavell's Shogun, and he bought a copy of it before leaving because I refused to part with my ratty old 80's copy which I stole from my parents and have read at LEAST 10 times. What can I say? Shigata ga nai, neh, Toranaga? We both also bemoaned the excruciatingly long time it is taking George R. R. Martin to finish A Dance with Dragons. The man writes a blog himself which I read from time to time, if only to read about how he is revising the first chapter again for the 358,934-th time. George, I'm getting old man, just tell me how the story ends.

This, by the way, was John's first time seeing sand, and he was a-mazed.

The blur, the Grinder, and the new TV.

Well, it certainly has been a record-setting stretch of no meaningful updates to, a fact for which I feel appropriately guilty. Tonight, though, I'm happy to say that it's 9PM, Beth and John are asleep, the groceries are bought, the bottles made, the chores (mostly) done, and I'm settling in to get caught up. So here goes.

Someone told Beth and I recently that this time after the starting of a new family when the newness and shock wears off is called "The Grinder", and I'm here to tell you they're right. Between work and home and chores and running around for seasonal things like continuing education and visits from family and friends, I haven't even had time to contemplate how tired I am most of the time. Even Beth, who is usually detail-orientated even more so than I am, has begun to occasionally forget things and we both just look at each other and shrug as if to say "Yeah, I guess at some point someone said something about that, but it must have been at least a million years ago." Generally I am an impeccable speller; the other day I misspelled "definitely", and after Beth pointed it out, I did it again. If nothing else, all this relentless activity has given me a huge appreciation of my own parents and what I now know they went through to raise my sister and I. If you're reading guys, thanks! I have always been one of those sorts of people who likes to live life like they're driving a Ferrari at 200mph, but as a parent I feel like someone has strapped a jet liner engine to my hood and the tires no longer even touch the ground most of the time.

So, by way of an explanation about why I haven't posted in a while, my life has been an incredible blur lately. With Beth taking on additional work from her online teaching, it has been all hands on deck every minute of every hour at home, sometimes into the late evening, in order to get everything done. We were glad to get the extra section of classes, however, because within two weeks of each other our television was hit by a power surge in a lightning strike and blew out, and our gas stove ceased providing flame in the oven portion. With a little guy at home, and our propensity to eat most of our meals at home, neither of these problems were something that could be let go for any significant length of time. So, a marathon trip to ABT electronics and appliances concluded with us coming home with a brand spanking new gas burning stove and (to my surprise and delight) a 42" Samsung plasma TV.

Initially we had intended to replace our old 27" tube tv with another like it. The pathetic tubes that remain in electronic stores, however, go for around $500, and still look like crap. For a modest, but still budget-bending, sum, we got the New Hotness instead. In the store, it looked like just another slightly smaller panel compared to the gigantic home theater rigs that they had set up, and I felt a slight twinge of disappointment at first that it was this instead of a 50"-er with halogen backlighting. When I got the TV we have home, however, I felt a sense of giddy relief, as the 42" we have not only had a better picture than the DLPs I was looking at, but it is almost too big for our living room as it is. This is our TV, and the picture of it really doesn't do it much justice.

Size is so deceptive when you buy these things. Our TV is best viewed at distances that are almost greater than the depth of the room we have. It's seriously the size of a cellar door and despite being only about four inches thick it weighs almost 100 lbs. It took me about four days of looking at it in wonder to realize that it was actually MY television. I know by now that everyone in the universe has one of these things, and that large flat-panel TVs are really all anyone buys anymore, but still... I remember when you wouldn't even see these things in the homes of rich people. Beth and I figured our Christmas expenditures for each other would approximately cover most (some) of it, and as people who don't get to go out much, it almost seemed like necessary gear to have.

Yeah, right, sorry... I just coughed on my own rationalization.

Anyway, a lot more has happened in the last three weeks, not just this, but that was the biggest thing, I guess. We had visits from two of my favorite people, and I have a bunch of new pictures and music and random otherness. More to come!