Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Let me get this out of the way now...

There. I think this covers the whole gamut of holidays.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Mug shots.

So, if you're like me, you probably keep several hundred coffee mugs (well, maybe not that many) piled in your cupboard, or hanging from wall mounted coffee mug hooks somewhere in your abode. We have so many, that we have divided them into the daily, the occasional, and the "used for purposes other than coffee" sections. We also have such a varied assortment: The ones made from kiln-fired porcelain, the cheapo ones you get from chachkis stores, the ones with funny sayings on them, and the ones that are personal in nature, that mean something to you for some reason.

I have several mugs that I use constantly, one that is a personal favorite, as it was given to me by a boss I was not particularly fond of, but that gave it to me out of recognition of something I had accomplished. I think it also was an attempt on his part to "turn a corner" in his own relationships with people after the death of his father. One of my favorite mugs is this one:

Many of The Bard's best insults on one mug. You can't go wrong with that, especially with it being issued by such a fine organization as:

(Don't ask why Blogger has rotated the pic, as I didn't ask it to.)

I always wondered how unemployed philosophers got along in these tough economic times.

Then of course, there are mugs that are educational. Need to broaden your horizons? Well, here's one that will help you learn a foreign language quickly:
So? What's on your coffee/tea mug?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

It starts to become a reality.

As I wrote about a month ago here, my theatre will be moving into a new performance space come this fall. While we are moving forward with certain essentials, such as getting a new hot water heater and venting pipes installed, along with modifications to other utilities-related items, (these need to be done before a Certificate of Occupancy can be granted) the first truly tangible sign that we are here is, in fact a sign!

While only a temporary sign, it is no less an indicator to the community that we have arrived.

It may not look like much now, but come September of next year, you will be amazed at the difference. It will look like this:

We can't wait!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Rough Boys.

While my musical musings these days tend to lean towards jazz and blues, I still have a deep fondness for rock, especially the rock of the late 60's and through much of the 70's, which I grew up with. I still remember with great clarity, listening to "Abbey Road," "Let It Be," and other Beatles albums with my friends, stealing them from their older brother's and sister's record collections. I was about 10 or 11 when "Let It Be" came out; myself, Camillo, Mark, and Craig all singing the title song together, but sounding more like the Mormon Tubercular Choir.

Around the same time, there was one album that came out that fascinated me. I didn't quite grasp what it was all about, but I recognized that the music was unique. That album was "Tommy," by The Who. It was the beginning of a love of this group that has lasted until today. While I enjoyed everything they put out, it wasn't until 1974 that one of their albums hit me square in the face, and spoke to me on a personal level as no music had ever done so.

"Quadrophenia." A loud, (Well, now what Who album isn't loud?) biting, heartbreaking piece of work by Pete Townshend. While it was a generation removed from me, set during the Mod movement of the early 60's, the themes it presented were something that any kid of 15 or 16 (which I was) could readily identify. Trying to fit in with the crowd, fashion, impressing girls, betrayal by friends, drugs, disillusion with one's heroes - these are all things that were the same whether you grew up in the Bronx, or Shepard's Bush, whether it was the early 60's or the mid-70's. I became a rabid Who fan, and in particular of Pete Townshend's writing ever since then .

"I see a man without a problem
I see a country always starved,
I hear the music of a heartbeat,
I walk, and people turn and laugh.

Is it in my head
Is it in my head
Is in my head here at the start?
Is it in my head
Is it in my head
Is it in my head, or in my heart?

I pick up phones and hear my history.
I dream of all the calls I miss.
I try to number those who love me,
And find exactly what the trouble is.

Is it in my head [etc.]

I feel I'm being followed,
My head is empty
Yet every word I say turns out a sentence.
Make love to a stranger
Just asking for directions
Turn from being help to being questions.

I see a man without a problem."

("Is It In My Head" - from Quadrophenia.)

The Who were the prototype for the punk bands of the 70's, and have often been referred to as rather aptly by the way, as the godfathers of punk rock. The death of Keith Moon, their insane, brilliant drummer crushed so many of us, and changed the style of the Who from that point on. They weren't the same after Moon the Loon died.

Musically, they were all incredibly talented, but the one that always made me drop my jaw was their bassist, John Entwistle. He was more than a bassist; he was a true musician, with abilities on other instruments as well, including the French horn. His style of bass playing changed everything, as he played the instrument not just to hold down the groove, but as a lead instrument. Listen to so many Who records and you'll see what I mean, but, this is a perfect example. This video is from their movie, "The Kids Are Alright," made shortly before Keith Moon died in 1978. It is an isolated camera shot of Entwistle during their performance of "Won't Get Fooled Again." Anyone who has ever seen the original clip from the movie knows how powerful that performance was, and then seeing Entwistle's contribution, you understand just what a genius he was. As Townshend has stated, "He realized he had the power to change the fucking instrument!"

I only saw The Who once, as I never had the money to see them in concert way back when. I saw them in 1989, on the 20th anniversary of Tommy tour, and still have the concert shirt. I have most of Pete Townshend's solo work, and still hope to get to see him when he comes around at some point. Oh, and if you think that they were just another dinosaur rock band, check this clip from the 2001 "Concert For NY," which was done not long after 9/11. "Won't Get Fooled Again," by a bunch of then almost 60 year-olds, that by everyone's estimation, stole the show.

"A tough guy, a helpless dancer.
A romantic, is it me for a moment?
A bloody lunatic, I'll even carry your bags.
A beggar, a hypocrite, love reign over me."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Silence is golden.

Normally. For now, silence means I can't work tonight. I have a wicked cold that has morphed into laryngitis. It's early in the seasons for me to get one of these, so I am hoping that this will be the only one. I can still breathe and taste things, and the zinc I have been taking seems to be lessening some of the nastier effects, but the bottom line is no voice = can't talk to customers = can't work.

Then again, that's not too bad, really. I can catch up on some reading, or some sleep for that matter, or both. Colds can wreak havoc on me, with my not-so-up-to-speed immune system, so I am hoping this is a quickie. Better this than the flu though.

I was going to blog about something else altogether, but am just not up for it. Maybe tomorrow.

Update: Voice is back, sinuses are still under assault.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Oh brave new worlds.

Sometimes we take our place in the universe just a tad for granted. As humans, we tend to be just a bit self centered, forgetting that we are really just part of a vast cosmic entity. Are we alone? Who knows, but we just got one step closer to that answer.

It seems that for the first time, scientists have actually photographed planets orbiting not just around one, but two stars. While we have known since about 1995 that there are other planets ("exoplanets") that orbit other stars, detecting them has been done by very indirect means. Now, the holy grail of planetary astronomy has been achieved, actually being able to see these planets with a telescope. Hubble was one of the one's used:

Yep, that little dot in the circle is a planet orbiting the star Fomalhaut. It's apparently just a baby planet, only 60 million years old, in a star system only 25 light-years away. This is practically around the block in astronomical terms. Read the article for the information on the other star and its three, count 'em three planets, that orbit it.

So get your hyperdrive engines tuned up, we're taking a road trip to Fomalhaut! Oh, and bring something to snack on please, and go to the bathroom first.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Ve haf vays uf makink you talk...

I come home the other day and find this interesting implement on the kitchen prep table:

Noticing the edge grip at the bottom of it, I begin to think; "Hmm...I wonder what I have done now? Has Mrs. Nighttime finally tired of some repetitive habit that I have, and is going to make sure I get rid of it?"

Gently lifting up said device, I looked at it head on and tried to get a different perspective:

It finally hit me; I was about to be living in a real-world "Clockwork Orange," or possibly become a victim of "The tall man" in "Phantasm." Boy I must have really ticked her off.

Or, it could be that this device was perfectly harmless. I'll leave it up to you out there in blogland. First one to chime in with the correct answer as to what this really is gets a cookie.

Monday, November 10, 2008

I'm embarrassed just remembering this.

VioletSky, little Canadian minx that she is, has tagged me with something that has forced me to reach back into the dim recesses of my past. The ghost of albums past is haunting me like a turntable in the night, making my head spin at 33 1/3 rpm until I am forced to admit the one embarrassing album that I actually purchased.

First, I will lay no claim to sanity while buying this, other than the fact that I was head over heels for a certain disco chick, back in the day. Yes, I will freely admit gentle reader, (stress on gentle, please) that in my desperation to get a date, I did (under duress) purchase said album by "Pablo Cruise," in 1977. Mea culpa. May I forfeit my Who fan club card, but the girl was just too hot.

May the ghosts of Keith Moon and John Entwistle have mercy on my soul.

So that this embarrassment may be shared by others, I tag:

Bendy Girl, Anna, Petite, Ryan(who might get off his ass and start blogging again), and Julia.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Blown to embers.

I never even heard the shouts from the neighbors. Sometimes, while working as I do, the headset I wear can muffle things to the point where I don't notice them. It's better than sitting in the office, where the drone of others around me makes it difficult to concentrate. It's a double-edged sword though, as it can also make me oblivious to danger, especially since being partially deaf in one ear drowns out noise even more.

I do keep the blinds open in my home office so I can see the comings and goings of people and cars. It was the sudden appearance of two fire engines outside my window that startled me a little, as we live on a quiet street. They passed by me, headed down the block, and I took a second to put down my headset and take a look outside. It takes a lot to shock me. What I saw two houses down on my side of the street damn near gave me a heart attack.

My neighbors' house was aflame. It was something out of a movie. The entire roof was engulfed, flames shooting out of the top in a Dante-esque nightmare. I quickly called into work, told them that the house next to me was on fire, (as I mistakenly first thought it was the house immediately next to me) and I bolted out the door, out not only see what was going on, but to hose down the side of my house, if needed.

I found a bunch of neighbors outside staring in disbelief. This is quite a lovely home, and the man and his wife that own it are very nice people. I approached the neighbor who lives right next to me and asked if anyone knew if they were home? She didn't though her and another neighbor had banged on the front door before the smoke forced them back.

There was no answer to their repeated hammering at the front door.

There was a bush near the front steps that had caught fire, after an upstairs window blew out from the heat. The first floor was not on fire, and the firefighters barreled into the front door, dragging hoses, and axes, their air packs making them look like a group of Darth Vaders . Their mission however, was for good, not evil. All we could do at that point was stand around and hope that no one was home.

I responded to many fires when I was a paramedic. I have treated burn patients, and the smell of burning flesh and hair is something I can still very vividly recall. It is one of those things that leaves a mental fingerprint that is never erased. In addition to decaying bodies, I hope to never encounter anything like that again. The last thing I wanted to do was to encounter it in the form of one of my neighbors.

The fire was feeding on the wood timbers, drywall, and personal belongings inside the house; flames raced from the left side of the house to the right. It ate voraciously at the roof, and as it punctured the vinyl siding and roofing shingles, there was suddenly a burst of water that shot forth upwards through the roof. The battle was engaged; primitive elements vs. modern technology. The tower ladder truck raised its bucket, and a second front was formed, directed towards the roof itself. After about 20 minutes, the fire started to die down, and the area became engulfed with thick smoke. The acrid smell of burning materials stung my nose.

I suspected that no one was home, as there didn't seem to be any frenzied calls for an ambulance. I could hear the chatter on the firefighter's radios, and there was no talk of anyone being found inside. At about the 30-minute mark, the neighbors pulled up in their car, just on the other side of the cross-street that borders their home. Relief was spread across all our faces.

They were surprisingly calm, but as I came to find out through another neighbor, this was typical of them. They simply didn't get rattled, and after hearing about what they had been through this past year, it was even more surprising. The wife has lost three members of her family in the past year, including her sister and mother. This was for her, as a certain monarch once remarked, an annuis horriblus.

I don't know what they are going to do with the house. They are an older couple; the kids are out of the house, so if they just took the insurance money and started anew, I couldn't blame them. I guess time will tell. One thing is for sure; the house is totaled. What the fire didn't consume, the smoke and water damaged beyond repair. I did find out that the husband, who is a musician, was able to save six of the nine vintage guitars that he owned.

After all was said and done, I began to think on the obvious. "What if that had been me?," I pondered. It was a blessing that they were not at home, and as they told me, things, for the most part, can be replaced. There are parts of a life that cannot be replaced. There are memories in a home that, once they are blown to embers, are gone forever. I'm not sure I could be as calm about losing those memories. They are part of who I am. I am beginning to think that finding a fireproof storage unit might be a wise idea. I don't live in the past, but I do cherish it.

It's time to take action. This all happened this past Monday night. I don't want to come home on another Monday night and find my home destroyed, and my past obliterated.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I would never have expected this... this point in my life. Maybe when I was older, it might have happened, when I was perhaps in my 80's. I was not sure this country could yet overcome its racial divide. We have come a long way in that arena, but I thought there was still more to get past.

I think we did that tonight, in leaps and bounds. We did it because we saw through the fear that was being thrown our way, and focused on the core things we all deal with; just like in 1992, it is the economy, stupid. We also found it in ourselves to do what Americans do best, and that is look inside ourselves and know what we really want, and how we can achieve it. Others often deride us for our "cheery" attitude, loud and brash manner, and while it has gotten us into trouble, it also serves us well.

If there ever was a prime example of the "can-do" spirit of Americans, it was very clearly demonstrated tonight.

Of course, now the hard part comes. Now Obama has to live up to the rhetoric, the promises, and deliver as best he can on what he stands for.

Here's hoping he can do it.

Monday, November 3, 2008

What we deserve.

"If liberty and equality, as is thought by some are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost." - Aristotle.

Tomorrow, I will wake up like any other day, crawl out of bed and drag myself to the coffeemaker before anything else, and then take stock of wht is on my plate for the day. Let's see:

1. Go over my daily calendar.
2. Check my e-mail.
3. Look over other blogs I have an interest in.
4. Prepare for a 12:30 appointment to lecutre a college death and dying class on organ donation.
5 . Vote
6. Stop at the coffee shop to read the latest chapter of my proofreading course.
7. Start research on a potential article
8. Go home, make dinner.
9. Work from 8 pm to 2 am.

Wait...what was that fifth item? Ah yes, tomorrow is Election Day. Why down on the list you may ask? Do I think it is of less importance than any of the others? Nope. I think this election is one of the more pivotal ones, at least in my lifetime. It is possible it may be the the single most pivotal one I have yet to experience since 1977, the year I turned 18, and voted in my first election. I am simply not going to get my hopes up too high. There is no such things as a sure thing, and opinion polls, like rules, are made to be broken. The only opinion poll that will matter at the end of the day is the one that is decided by Wednesday morning.

I made my decision to vote for Obama after McCain chose that unqualified twit as his running mate. While I don't agree with absolutely everything Obama wants to do, I find his proposals far more sensible than what McCain is offering, and I will gladly pull the lever tomorrow for Obama. I just am not going to allow myself to feel any sense of satisfaction until all the results are tallied, especially after the elections of 2000 and 2004. Yes, I voted for Bush in 2000, a mistake I did not repeat in 2004. I was one of those undecideds, I belong to no political party, and I base my vote on what I read about those running and what my gut tells me. Usually it is right, but it does make mistakes from time-to-time.

"Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve." - George Bernard Shaw

Whatever the outcome, history will be made one way or the other. My only real concern is that at the end of the day, nothing will really change. A president is only as effective as the Congress that works with or against them. On the positive side, if the pollsters are correct, this will be the biggest voter turnout in a general election for some time. if this has propelled more people to take a stand, and exercise the right that others have sacrificed for, then at the very least, some good will have come out of this election. As frustrated as I get with these politicians, I always keep in the back of my head the maxim that if you don't vote, you have no right to complain.

I'll get back to you on Wednesday. Maybe I will be in a position to actually feel good about the outcome.