Who's Going To Love You When Your Looks Are Gone?

The publicity still at left, from some movie that was panned horribly by NPR this morning while I showered, begs several questions:

1. Why is Harrison Ford ageing at triple the rate of the rest of us?

2. At what point in his career did Harrison Ford decide that he was going to stick to only one emotional note in his acting from that point forward? And why, of all the single emotions he might have picked, did he choose "disgust"?

3. Nick Hornby's High Fidelity asks whether Stevie Wonder's early greatness is overshadowed by the horridness of his work since the early eighties. We can pose a similar question about Harrison Ford: is the early cool he brought to Han Solo and Blade Runner and Witness washed away by the sheer awfulness of his work ever since?

4. There are at least two, and as many as three, cell phones hooked onto his belt. Given what we know about people who have multiple cell phones, and what we know about people who attach their cell phones to their belts, and what we know about Harrison Ford, who would possibly want to see this movie?

5. Consider again the picture above, and -- this is more an ontological suggestion than a proper question -- just look at all the veins. Isn't the human cardiovascular system amazing? And wouldn't it be cool if Harrison Ford were a human?


3 is a Magic Number

Happy Birthday to Sam and Caleb
who turn three on tuesday

Lounging on the top bunk at Jake's house.

Sam and Daddy in Saturday's snowfall.

Watching a nesting duck at the zoo.

Sam investigates a century-old archaic writing machine.

The "Before" picture at Annika's 3rd Birthday Party....

And the "After" picture,taken three cookies, two pieces of cake, and one helluva tantrum later.

A Poem for Sam on His Third Birthday

Each day with you is a blessing,
So it has never once been distressing
     When you tapped kegs or beer bottles
     Or held your life by its throttles
Or now and then played at cross-dressing.

Sam, you're weird and I love that about you.  All my favorite people are weird, and I include myself in that distinction.  Anyone who tells his first knock knock joke at two is a phenom in my book.  I'm proud of the person you're becoming.


A Poem for Caleb on His Third Birthday

Your fourth, final name gets it right,
So bold that your kisses can bite.
     With your demands so voluble
     And your diapers too soluble,
You and I were best mates at first sight.

Caleb, you have powers of concentration the rest of us would need medication to achieve.  I hope the world to come has need for a strong and acrobatic engineer.  You've got determination and pride, you dance like a maniac, and when you sit still you're a teacup.  I still feel the squeeze you gave me on the day we met.

Hap'day, boys.  I love you.


Singles Remind Me of Kisses, Albums Remind Me of Plans

Lisa tagged me for a 20 Albums meme -- be careful what you wish for. Some people say that smell is your most evocative sense, but that's got the pong of fish about it, if you ask me. A particular record -- or even just certain sounds on a record (see no. 6) -- seems much to attach far more firmly to a place and time than anything else I know. This is not a complete list, which jumps over some important (Faithless Street?) records of the 1990's, but only to include the more powerfully evocative records of my teenage years and to make a space for recent history. The years listed are meant to suggest a particular time span, and may not be releated -- and in fact may predate -- the actual release date of the record. (A list of twenty songs, by the way, would be totally different, and would probably have few intersections with an album list.)

  1. c1979 – The Beatles, “Abbey Road.” I listened to them all, on my Sears turntable, but I listened over and over to Side Two, as the songs there blended together without ever finishing. See 1982 and 1989.

  2. 1982 – The Clash, “Combat Rock.” I heard “Should I Stay or Should I Go” on pop radio. I recall listening and re-listening to the weird and spooky Side Two with Adam Spangler in my Grandparents’ place in Lake Geneva, WI.

  3. 1984 – Motley Crue, “Shout At The Devil.” My freshman year in high school, I tried hard to join the metal crowd. I joined the Record of the Month Club, and received in the mail 14 vinyl records featuring Ratt, Twisted Sister, Crue, Ozzy, Dio but the music never stuck with me. I listened to Dire Straits and Phil Collins in secret, and my army jacket never fit right, and I kept chewing my painted fingernails. I learned, that year, the cost of the pose. I had pop sensibilities.

  4. 1986 – Paul Simon, “Graceland.” A big chunky off-brand Walkman and a 10-speed bicycle, along the bluff above what the Violent Femmes would later call "that ugly lake."

  5. 1987 – Squeeze, “Singles 45 and Under.” I don’t think there’s a person I know who does not have this record. I still remember the shampoo smell of the girl all these songs were about.

  6. 1987 – Red Hot Chili Peppers, “The Uplift Mofo Party Plan.” So as to hit upon the Fishbone/Two-Tone/Wild Kingdom years. EMI cassettes, in that era, had a set of tones at the start and at the end of each side of the cassette, a little intro- and outro- to listen to in the dark, wearing foamy headphones, while awaiting the auto-reverse.

  7. 1988 – Elvis Costello, “King of America.” The perfect soundtrack by which to realize that neither teenage girls nor American foreign policy are as good and true as you’d want them to be

  8. 1989 – Elvis Costello, “Spike.” The first time I awaited a record release date. Bought the cassette in a record store in Des Moines, IA, where I was slowing maxing out my first credit card. It was a clear plastic tape, and you could fold out the insert to read all the lyrics.

  9. 1989 – Beastie Boys, “Paul’s Boutique.” Patti Cooper’s Mazda, shouting out “Hey Ladies.” To the ladies. Sorry for your egged car, and your missing hood ornament. The fire extinguisher was Dave's.

  10. 1990 – Beats International, “Let Them Eat Bingo.” I bought this on a whim. The bassist from the Housemartins, ska trumpet, Billy Bragg, the baseline from “Guns of Brixton:” secrets kept falling out of it.

  11. 1994 – Elvis Costello, “Brutal Youth.” Behind the candy counter at the Downer Theatre, Jerome shouts “What is your destiny the p’licewoman said,” and Jeff and I respond: “20% Amnesia.” Pulp Fiction flickers in and out.

  12. 1996 – Soul Coughing, “Ruby Vroom.” Boston, Massachusetts. Downtown Crossing. Browsing the HMV record store, almost every day, in the hour between the end of my office tower job and the start of art school.

  13. 2000 – The Handsome Family, “Milk and Scissors.” I probably bought this record based on a Bloodshot Records compilation, and because it had a song titled “Lake Geneva.” It changed the way I thought about American music.

  14. 2002 – Bob Dylan, “Love and Theft." A record –released on 9/11/01 -- about race, floods, and the Missisippi River that I listened to while working on a novel about race, floods, and the Mississippi River. This record read my mind.

  15. 2002 – Mike Doughty, “Skittish.” A near-bootleg record that came to me in the mail in a plain white sleeve. I was on the verge of academic and romantic breakthrough, and it all crashed. It seemed to me that if I listened to this record enough, I’d be okay again. Crossing the train tracks in Somerville, MA.

  16. 2004 – Chris Elliott, “UFO Satelite Jet Plane or Star.” At first I played this record so that Kirsten could "meet" Chris, and later we played it to decide what he and Lisa would play at our wedding. This record was like an interstate double date.

  17. 2005 – Soundtrack, “Garden State.” Kirsten burned this onto a CD we’d listen to in the car. Simon and Garfunkel, Nick Drake, and isn’t that the guy from Men at Work? Cf. 1990.

  18. 2007 – The Laurie Berkner Band, “Buzz Buzz.” A kids’ record, which I’ve probably heard as much in two years as any other record I’ve owned. How can you turn up your nose at something that two year olds adore?

  19. 2008 – Vampire Weekend, “Vampire Weekend.” Cf. 1985-86. I listened to this record in February 2009 and it instantly transported me to February 2008.

  20. Beginning 1984 – The Clash, “London Calling.” This record seems likes it’s always been with me and carries notes of people and places all along. I tried to write a short story based on “Jimmy Jazz” while in high school, and any time I listen to “The Right Profile” I hear Trevor imitating Joe Strummer’s approximation of Montgomery Clift vomiting. I can tout this record as an argument against suicide, but remain uncertain as to whether or not I’m working for the Clampdown.


Fighting In The Captain's Tower

One of the great things about fatherhood is the ability to thrust one's heroes upon one's children. Undoubtedly, this will backfire -- the children will rebel against these supposed heroes, investigating their hypocrisies and contradictions, and they will then find heroes of their own in contradistinction to those of their father. But this is okay, too.

Yesterday we bought a few children's books, mostly because our evenings needed a change from Eric Carle's 10 Little Rubber Ducks(subject, in part, of a smart and fascinating Harper's essay on plastic waste in 2006) or Robert Munsch's awesome The Paper Bag Princess. When you read 3-5 children's book a night over a span of two and a half years, you begin to crave variety.

Paul Roger's book illustrating the lyrics to Bob Dylan's "Forever Young" has an aspect of the Schoolhouse Rock cartoons to it, a kind of childlike view of reality whereby adults are slightly two tall, and still pictures radiate both a sense of calm and of movement. It's a fun, bright book that juxtaposes Dylan's lyrics with a life story of a very Dylan-like boy who grows through the course of the book from a childhood by the record player to busking in Washington Square park to leading a march to "Save the Earth!" alongside Martin Luther King, the Beatles, and Edie Sedgwick. Throughout, there are plenty of "Easter Eggs," as they're called in the video game industry, or inside jokes that refer to Dylan's life, influences, and other song lyrics, some of which are revealed at Paul Roger's website. Lots of cameos from the likes of Dave Van Ronk, William S. Burroughs, and Ezra Pound.

Pound also shows up in River of Words, a biography for children of William Carlos Williams (or "Willie Williams" as he's called in the book). Here, the illustrations by Melissa Sweet combine representations of Williams' early life with the images and text of some of his poetry, so that words rush through and lend an energy to each pages' illustration. Jen Bryant suggests that it is the sound of the Passiac River that leads Williams to strive to find a "New American" approach to poetry, one in which meter and rhyme mattered less than presenting a fresh and uniquely American perspective, as if the continent and its politics and its people could be channeled through the poet. Williams, the small and bespectacled country doctor with his pockets full of poems, becomes in this book a bold and heroic figure. As someone who had to balance an interest in art and poetry with a practical career, Williams has long been a particular hero of mine, and this book clarifies the choice, the sacrifice, and the challenge of that particular balance.

And what three-year-old wouldn't love the guy who wrote the best poem ever about a firetruck in the rain?

How the kids will respond to the books remains to be seen. Last night, Sam was eager to sit patiently through each book, considering each page, but I suspect that he was waiting for Batman to appear. (We'd just been talking about Batman, and said he wanted to read a Batman book. Since we didn't have any age appropriate Batman books, I read these two instead.) In any case, he didn't complain. Caleb, who only slowly and hesitantly expands his particular shelf of favorite books, will be the harder sell...

(Thanks, too, to the local booksellers who proved themselves, in making me aware of one of the two books above, better than any algorithm.)


Will It Go Round In Circles?

Some pictures from January and February, taken between colds and fevers:

Sam graduated to tighty-whities, or as they are called around our house, "Big Boys."  Caleb remains mostly uninterested in the potty.

"Boy, the way Glenn Miller played"      "Songs that made the Hit Parade"

Exploring Toddler Property Law over doughnuts at Noah's house.

Caleb helps his foster mother Mary with her daughter Asia.

Sam feels pretty, witty, and wise, putting on make-up at the kid-friendly
Stonefire Pizza in New Berlin, WI, now also home to the New Cabaret.

When I get to the bottom I go back to the top of the slide
Where I stop and I turn and I go for a ride

'Til I get to the bottom and I see you again.

Crashed out in the new mini-van on the way home.  (Note Sam's make-up.)

With Mommy and Dawn the hygenist at the office of our dentist.

The proud owners of twenty teeth each, with Mom and Grandpa, both of whom have at least that many.


All Apologies

In the interest of joining the "era of responsibility" demonstrated by our new President's admission that he "screwed up" in pushing forward the nomination of Tom Daschile for Secretary of Health and Human Services despite a possible ethical lapse on top of unpaid taxes, I am going to take this opportunity to admit some failings of my own. (Memo to Democrats: If were going to tout service and infrastructure and civic responsibilities, it's important that we pay our taxes. George Lakoff suggests we reframe them as Membership Fees.)

  • In my last post, I should have included more about how much I rely upon my wife. I love her very, very much and I feel like I glossed over that in "25 Theses 25" in favor of things that were cutesy or philosophical. Kirsten has a large burden to bear in essentially raising three boys into manhood, and her ability to manage the household and just plain get stuff done are aspects I too often take for granted. That I've responded to the boys' recent illnesses (and my own) with crankiness and sulking hasn't helped any. Kirsten, you are a fantastic mom and a fantasticker partner, and I screwed up.

  • As recently as April 2008, I ordered books from a well-known online bookstore. With Schwartz's going out of business, I regret this. I should have bought local, but instead I screwed up.

  • In the early eighties, I passed on an opportunity to see The Clash opening for The Who at Mecca Arena, and also declined to attend a concert by the Smiths in support of Meat Is Murder. Instead, I managed to attend concerts by KISS in their "no makeup" phase, and Culture Club in their "tons of makeup" phase. These were poor decisions, in retrospect. I screwed up.

  • In the first bullet above, I used the word "fantasticker," which I totally made up. I should have written "equally fantastic." I regret the error, and admit that I screwed up.

  • In a year or so, Sony will release called DC Universe Online, available only for the Playstation 3. This game will allow a player to create his or her own superhero, who will be able to interact with established characters within the DC Comics universe like Superman and Batman. As a long time comics nerd, I will want to play this game and I will have a hard time resisting the temptation to buy a PS3 and thereby allocate fiscal and time/space resources that would otherwise go to more noble pursuits, including my family. This will be irresponsible and selfish of me, and while I regret it already, I will screw up.

  • In the 8th Grade, I wrote a book report on a Star Wars-themed book called Splinter of the Mind's Eye despite never having finished reading it. It was a pretty bad book, and the appearance of Darth Vader on its cover was totally misleading, but nonetheless: I screwed up.