Category Archives: Entertainment

All things movie, video and music….

Patriot Day

A long, long time ago, I wondered in my personal journal what my generation’s Pearl Harbor would be. Frankly, I thought it would be something much more horrific than that Day That Would Live in Infamy — a doomsday scenario, with us and Russians lobbing warheads over the pole at each other. It was the early 1980s, after all, and that seemed like the most likely kind of event. Like so many others, though, when the fall of the Soviet Bloc took place in the late 1980s, I thought we were finally on the brink of acting like the human race I’d always aspired for us to be. Of course, there would still be strife and hated — there’s just too many different opinions out there on life, liberty and pursuit of happiness — but I thought that the promise of the Shining City on a Hill would be so uniting and so persuasive, it would be the kind of obvious human goal to strive for.

And then September 11th, 2001, rolled around.

I was sitting in a meeting at work, when someone said that a plane had crashed into a building in New York City. Obviously, that was a horrible thing to hear, but it was in that weird “spectator” state for those of us in the building. This was before cell phones with internet connections were ubiquitous, and really, all we had to rely upon was the word-of-mouth of folks who were just rolling into work, or folks who were looking at various news websites. By the time we were out of our meeting, it was obvious that something very, very traumatic had taken place, and I knew then that my generation had its Pearl Harbor.

I remember not being able to get any news in the building. Most folks’ radios didn’t work well in there — lots of concrete and RFI from all the computers — so the real lifeline was the internet. Of course, an hour or so into the tragedy, most websites were impossible to hit. If I remember right, CNN actually went down to a single, simple HTML page, trying to serve up simple, quick pages to a public hungry for news on what had just happened to us. As for me, I watched the news unfurl on the BBC website, as it was slightly less taxed than the domestic news outlets.

Upon finishing the workday, I came home, and watched the first video I’d seen of what had happened. It’s one thing to read about such devastation, but to see it unfold on a TV screen was truly surreal. Like many folks said on that day, it looked like a scene from some kind of Hollywood blockbuster. And I stayed glued to the TV the rest of the night.

Oddly enough, the thing that struck me the most about what I saw on TV that night was what wasn’t happening. Many of the “entertainment” networks — QVC, HGTV, MTV and others — suspended their operations, and either were hooked into a news outlet, or had a simple slide up, speaking of their support for the families of those lost on that day. I’d never seen anything like it.

Like many, many other folks, I was in shock. I wept, I prayed, and I tried to move on.

Fast forward to today, the tenth anniversary of that awful day. This weekend, I went to Branson for the semiannual Fiddlers’ Convention with some of the folks I play music with. I knew it was a special weekend because of the anniversary, but I also knew that I could find some solace in some of the most American music ever created. Last night, I joined the circle, and played out, for the first time outside the small group of folks that are my occasional musical circle.

I tried to keep up, and follow along as these very experienced players weaved music through the night. I really surprised myself, and think I did ok. And then, unexpectedly, there were two moments that really made the night memorable for me.

One of the guys that went to Branson with me broke into “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”. That old song is absolutely one of my favorites, and being a part of playing it in a small group was magical, truly magical. I was swept up in the music, and for the first time, felt like I was really a part of the music itself. I really don’t know how to explain it any better than that. And like part of a one-two punch, the circle started playing “Amazing Grace.” Yet again, I was struck with being such a part of this wonderful musical event. I heard someone on the radio this morning describing music as being something that could describe events using language beyond our daily ability to communicate. I’d have to agree, and that’s definitely what I was finding last night — comfort, and solace, communicated as more than the sum of the words that were sung and notes that played.

This morning, I began the quick journey back from Branson — just a few hours’ drive — and encountered a couple of groups marking the anniversary. The first was a group of motorcyclists, riding as a group on the outer road, sporting U.S. flags on the back of their bikes. The other was a long, long line of farm tractors making the turn off the outer road, each with Old Glory proudly displayed. This kind of display as I rolled across the hills of mid-Missouri reminded me of just how special our country is, and how poignant this date is, and likely will remain.

I’ve found myself trying to steel against the emotions of the day, and every once in a while, I’m caught off-guard by a gasp of emotion, a cry caught in my throat, inspired by things as disparate as hearing “Amazing Grace” played at Ground Zero as I was driving home this morning, to seeing a commercial featuring the Budweiser Clydesdales kneeling before the skyline of New York City. Through it all, I know that God will watch out for us — not because we’re so special, but because we’ve asked Him take care of us.

The Space-Rock Invasion Tour

Neighbor Joe has been trying to get me to a Nektar show for quite a while. He’s been a Nektar fan since the 70s, but I’d never heard of them until Joe introduced me to their music a few years. They’re kinda in my stream of music for the late 70s — kinda spacey, with a dose of guitar and electronics for good measure.

Last night, we made our way down the pike to the Space Rock Invasion Tour stop at Fubar downtown. To say the least, it was interesting.

Breathing Flowers opened up — may be a local band?. These guys essentially sat in the middle of a stage of gear (to later be used by the other bands), banging on instruments and guitars, huddling over their wares, making very experimental music. Thirty-five years ago, I would’ve enjoyed it, but not as much any more. I tend to like my music with a little structure, and this just didn’t trip my trigger.

Huw Lloyd-Langton (of Hawkwind) played next. I’d heard of Hawkwind a ton when I was growing up, but never listened to them. Huw sat on the stage with his acoustic guitar, and played brilliantly. It was cool to hear some acoustic music in a venue where I was expecting nothing but loudness. Waaay cool!

And then cam Brainticket. Man, I don’t know that I know how to explain them. As a band, they played really well, but when their lead singer came out clad in a dress with a rubber snake draped around her, and a headpiece of serpents… well, that told me something interesting was coming. And it did. First off, they were loud. I mean, really, really loud. When the singer sang, it was impossible to understand the vocals, despite the music being interesting. The stage presence of this gal was really… unique. Lots of Egyptian-looking moves, and way over the top screaming. By far, these folks were the most entertaining band of the night.

Nektar took the stage around 10.45pm, and played until about 12.15am — they were fabulous. Truly, it looked as though they were having the time of their lives up there playing for the small crowd — maybe 100 folks. It just didn’t seem to matter. They were out there to perform, regardless of the crowd size, and were just enjoying themselves in the process. That’s refreshing.

Music performed for the sake of the music… what a concept!

Apple, Netflix and My Backside

While we were in Fraser, I got word that my AppleTV was shipping from China. I fully expected it to arrive in St. Louis after me, but somehow, it blazed a path from China, cleared customs, and made an attempted delivery within about two days time. FedEx rocks. After a call to FedEx to hold the package, I finally got home to pick it up from the local FedEx office today.

When I unpacked the thing, I was really taken by the physical size of the thing — slightly bigger than a hockey puck, with only a power cable (no power brick or wallwart) coming with it. I’d stopped at MicroCenter to pick up an HDMI cable — that’s all the little device has a video output — so with my cable bridging the gap between my AppleTV and the Sony, I cranked it up. Set up was dirt easy, just like so many other setups I’d gone through with Apple gear. It found my wireless network easily, and after a couple of short miscues, I had it streaming my iTunes library from the iMac. Even sending the stream wirelessly, the video and audio quality were terrific.

@braddog had been extolling the virtues of Netflix for quite a while, and I’d just happened to get a free trial offer before we left on vacation. With the AppleTV supporting the Netflix streaming model, I felt like there was nothing to lose by giving the trial a try. Big mistake.

I started surfing through the AppleTV the pretty dang big storehouse of streaming treasures at Netflix, and began watching one thing after another. Cartoons to regular TV to movies… I was being pummeled by a tidal wave of video gooeyness. Manohmanohmanohman…

I’m fairly confident that my backside might never leave the comfort of my La-Z-Boy again. But if it does, I can watch Netflix on my iPad, MacBook Pro, iMac, probably even my phone. It’s so doggone ubiquitous and platform agnostic, and it’s all you can eat for only $9/mo. I just can’t imagine how Netflix is pulling that off for that price, but I’m certainly sold. If it gets quiet around here, you’ll know why!

Next week, the last element of my reversion to a cave-dweller arrives — our UVerse installation! I may never see the light of day again. 🙂

RMH II — Day One : Da Lou to Colby KS

We began attacking RMH II (Rocky Mountain High II) today, with a not-so-early departure from St. Louis this morning. Normally, I’m the kind of driver that tries to leave at the crack of dawn. This morning, though, I elected to have us leave a little later in the morning, allowing us a leisurely morning, knowing that we would be off the road around dinnertime.

As always, the drive across Missouri and Kansas is extraordinarily dull. It’s basically the same kind of landscape across Missouri — rolling hills — and the same kind of landscape across eastern Kansas — fruited plains — and frankly, it’s just the kind of drive I have to push through. Once we get into western Kansas (and tomorrow, into Colorado), the terrain gets me excited, and the drive gets way more fun.

With the drudge-like drive today, we decided to stop somewhere we’d never been before. Across central Kansas, there are loads of signs advertising Wamego KS as a Wizard of Oz center of the universe. After seeing the signs for a while, we decided it was time for lunch, and time for a sidetrip. Ten miles north of I-70, we found ourselves in a very small town, with what appeared to be one big main street, and surrounded by The Oz Museum, The Oz Winery and Toto’s Tacoz. No kidding.

We visited the Oz Museum, and surprisingly, it was actually a fun walk through the history of The Wizard of Oz. I thought it was gonna be pretty cheesy when we first walked in to see a not-so-great figure (wax? statue?) of Dorothy and Toto, but beyond that were a boatload of great artifacts from the film, the book series, the actors and their worldwide impact. For seven bucks, it seemed well worth it, and was a great diversion from the road. After an hour in the museum, we were hungry. The folks in the museum recommended Toto’s Tacoz as a staff favorite.

A couple of doors down from the museum, Toto’s Tacoz was a bit of a surprise. I expected a place full of emerald green mexican decor, but what I saw instead was a very refreshingly tropical feel, with the only Oz-related items being the names of the items on the menu. We had a couple of really good soft tacos, and just kicked back for a while.

After a couple of hours in Wamego, we got back on the road, and headed on to Colby. Once again, we stayed in a Sleep Inn, and once again, we had a great experience. This hotel had large rooms, with a flatscreen TV and desk (kinda like the one we’ve visited in Shamrock TX), making it a great place to rest our boots after almost 600 miles of driving.

Project 365 : New Addition

I’ve been wanting to learn to play the guitar for a long time. Music has been such a part of my life — as a listener — for as long as I can remember. I’ve played around with learning the piano (a small dose of classes), but that’s been about it during my adult life. My brother is quite the guitar player, and works for his favorite guitar company, Carvin. We’ve talked some about putting me in a guitar — and Carvin makes beautiful instruments — but as I looked at the pricing, I realized those are “big boy” guitars, and at this point in my playing experience, that’s probably a bit more of a commitment/investment than I’m willing to make right now. I bet there’ll be on in my future though! 🙂

Becky and I visited Mozingo Music in O’Fallon during lunch yesterday, and I found a guitar that sounded good, looked good, and was priced within my pre-set budget. It’s a nice Yamaha acoustic, and seems to be exactly what I was looking for. I still need to find a strap I like, but aside from that, I think I’m set.

Last night, I played with it for an hour or so (with my Guitar for Dummies book at my side). The tips of the fingers on my left hand are so tender! Guess it’ll take time before those tender tips get used to manhandling the strings on the neck. I’m having terrific problems getting my hamfist and fingers away from strings that I don’t intend to be touching. I’m sure I’m not the first one with that problem!

Red Robot

Watching Big Bang Theory tonight, it was pretty cool to see Wil Wheaton showing up in a Red Robot t-shirt from Diesel Sweeties.

Verra cool.

DS is the only webcomic I follow, and it is quite amazingly funny. A few over 2500 strips have been done, and they are well worth wading through if you have the time or the inclination.

Just enough warpage for the Deauxmayne.

Pi

Ever since President Obama had pizzas from Pi Pizzeria delivered to DC, we’ve been wanting to try it out. It was a dreary day yesterday, and a trip indoors made sense, so off to the newly opened restaurant in Kirkwood we went.

Now, I’m not a huge fan of deep-dish pizza. There’s usually just way too much cheese for my tastes, and after a slice or so, I’m usually full, and a little too sloshy from all the dairy squeezings running around. With some trepidation, I ordered a deep dish with pepperoni, sausage, basil and minced garlic… and it’s dang near the best pizza I’ve ever had! These guys are using some kind of cornmeal crust for it, and it’s just crazy good. The sauce was chunky and sweet, and amazing. If I had three thumbs, they’d all be up.

Sio and I split a piece of apple pie afterwards. She had vanilla ice cream with hers, while I had caramel apple ice cream (made locally by Serendipity Homemade Ice Cream). That ice cream had to be the most unique ice cream I’ve ever tried. It had a crazy salty finish to it with every bite, so much so that you would swear there were tons of peanuts in it. This was quite a compliment to the apple pie, which was delicious, too.

This is definitely a place I’ll be coming back to!

Project 365 : Guilty as Charged

Today’s photo is of our cute little puppy, Bailey, this morning as she lounged in Becky’s lap. With that photo, I share this story from Becky from this Christmas:

Sitting with Santa

Two weeks before Christmas I found myself in a local pet store and had the puppy, Bailey –- 4 months old — in the car. Discovered that Santa was in the store, no line.

So I popped out and got the puppy so she could meet Santa.

The process: stand in line at the cashier, pay the man, take the receipt to Santa and smile for your photo.

We stood in line, got the receipt, and went to see The Man.

Bailey was behind an eight-month old Great Dane/Irish Wolfhound puppy girl –- needless to say our 35+ pound puppy shrunk next to this girl. We waited and when it was our turn she was not very excited to meet this man in a beard on a platform. She was untypically shy and I heard a very low quiet grrrowl. Wow, don’t growl at Santa girl, you’ll get coal.

After a few kibbles and coaxing I finally picked her up, told Santa to put out his arms, and plopped her in them. Transformation. She started licking him and chewing on the beard. The Jolly (old?) Elf was OK!

We snapped a couple of shots and after talking with Mrs. Claus, I was quickly convinced to bring in the Wright Canine Trio for the ultimate dog photo.

What a nice surprise for Colin!

I went home and waited for Colin and Siobhan to leave for the afternoon. Quickly, I loaded the trio of dogs up for their first outing together: Emma, 10 years old, 40 pounds, 85% deaf; Molly, 8 years old, 85 pounds, stiff w/ arthritis; and Bailey – all puppy!

I piled them all in the car, Bailey in her crate and Emma and Molly contortioned on the back deck of the Pacifica. Everything is great. What wonderful dogs we have!

As I drove I plotted my approach -– just walk in with determination and go see Santa. After the photos stand in line and pay. It might be pushing the envelope to stand in line with them all prior to the photos. Sound plan.

Pulled into the parking lot and who could believe it, the very first parking space two Saturdays before Christmas. Man this is awesome!

I pile them out of the car and the elder dogs are walking nicely on the left (they do this well) and Bailey is on the right, with all her strength and excitement to be out with the Girls… on my left, behind me, in front of me, under me, jumps over Emma to see Molly, leap, jump, flip, sniff, stop, oh there’s the door.

Whew! Chanting my new mantra, being Calm and in Determined:

Go in, straight to Santa, photos; stand in line, pay, and leave.
Go in, straight to Santa, photos; stand in line, pay, and leave.

Now it is not uncommon for our puppy and Molly to stop people in their tracks and have them look. They are quite striking, really. And sweet Emma is so engaging with her seal-like eyes and her loving approach — sweet as can be. So, although it is not too modest, I’m expecting some remarks with TWO Bernese, a puppy and such a beauty as Molly, and a sweetie like Emma. And that is what we were met with. Total attention. People just stopped, no breathing, words, only Muzak in the background and my determination.

Go in, straight to Santa, photos; stand in line, pay, and leave.

The stunning silence of the patrons -– gosh our dogs must be beautiful!

My head quickly came out of the clouds when I looked around and was met with a glare from a Grandmother. I snapped out of it and realized I was not met with the stares of adoration for our dogs, but a stunned response. Good lord, I was standing in Toys-R-Us two Saturdays before Christmas.

Followed by the vacuum sound of the automated doors closing behind us….. woosh.

Then there was a glare from the mother with the child who’s faced contorted and started to screech, “I want a ppuuuuuppppppyyyyy” and was running to us, at which the puppy jumped, the eight-year old startled back, and the deaf one just waggled and sniffed the ground. Grandmother just shook her head in disapproval.

Quick turn around, leave.

ENTRANCE ONLY read the sign on the door.

The associate in the Customer Service desk ten steps ahead pointed to the right …. we had to go AROUND all of the security and out the other door. Oh good night.
Jump, wiggle, lunge, sniff, snort, startled….hurry hurry. PUPPPPPYYYYY!!!!!!

Standing outside I quickly gather myself and check to see if the daggers I felt in my back for the icy glares of Mothers and Grandparents left a mark. No, good, head to the correct store, one parking lot down the complex.

Shake it off, determined; they’ll never know in this store what just happened.

Go in, straight to Santa, photos; stand in line, pay, and leave.

Looked up – pet store, yes? Pet Store, yes, go in, Santa’s waiting …wiggle, jump, yank, snap.

We go in and walked in to the right with determination and purpose, right by some families murmuring “ooohhh look, how pretty” (right response, right store!).

…straight to Santa

Decided they needed a little outfitting as I went by the Holiday Costumes. Had them all sit down and tried on hats, collars, and settled on pretty velvet collars with jingle bells. How precious they all looked. And they jingled to Santa -– how perfect.

Santa and Mrs. Clause were glad (?) to see we were back – and there was no waiting. Right on!

He decided to sit on the platform – the photo would be Santa on the ground, Bailey in his arms now that they are pals, Molly next to him, the Tree next to her, cascading to gifts and decorations on the floor and sweet Emma sitting in front.

Good plan. Things are looking up.

Santa moves his chair and sits down, calls Molly to him. Now the platform he is on is the end cap to a retail aisle in a pet sore – so it is a platform of very malleable aluminum – when one sits on it or a 85 pound dog stands on it, it makes the “whomp whomp” noise.

Santa sitting, Bailey in his arms, Emma in front, Molly …whomp whomp, gets very nervous and starts waggling and wiggling – and knocks the tree over. Thump…down to the presents…splat…hitting the nutcracker, when he hits the ground … crack … off comes his head and it goes rolling in front of Emma.

Now being a self-respecting English Springer Spaniel, Emma sees the ‘squirrel’ and decided she needs to retrieve it. Within two seconds: tree over; Molly waggling; Emma proudly prancing and vocalizing her catch Nutcracker Head; Bailey wiggling in his arms; me, in flight to get the tree back up and gifts alighted. I grab the decapitated nutcracker and shove it behind the props.

Now it is not uncommon for our dear 10 year old to get excited in public, and when she does, (parental advisory: alert for ickynesss) she does a crab crawl style and makes a line of doggie poop. I knew it the second she started to assume “the” position —

One, ummmmm, two, lady, three drops. LADY

I find something to clean it up with – my back is turned when Bailey, thinking Emma is making “Christmas Cookies” decides to jump out of Santa’s arms and swoop down and pick up a treat of doggie poop…and she realizes she’s free…and she starts running.

Chomp chomp.

Jingle jingle jingle.

Oh good – right into the Pet Adoption area.

Kittens in a crate totem pole on each other, hissing and scratching – Bailey has never seen kittens, and does this animated cartoon stop and back up…jingle jingle….and I can’t get her attention.

I grab some treats form the ‘scoop it yourself treat bar’ and Bailey smells the aroma of real Christmas Cookies and runs to me…jingle jin….a bell flies off and Bailey swoops down to grab in, in her mouth it goes.

Up until now I was going with the flow, now she is in danger and we are not messing around.

I grab the puppy in mid flight, and swift like a lion tamer I open her mouth and stick my hand completely down into her throat and pull out the bell. I hold my victory to the light, relief that she is safe, and look past me ….there was a kid, eyes bugged out completely pressed against her Mom, watching me shove my arm to my elbow into this wild beast. What a sight! Mom understands, and from one lion tamer to another, we exchange knowing glances, I smile and walk away.

Santa, now not all that excited to get a poop-eating puppy in his arms, somehow has the tree, gifts, and dogs set up ready to go. Put the pup in his arms, click click click click.

Mrs. Claus: “Which photo would you like?”

I’ll take them ALL I say, completely winded.

• Go in
• Wrong store
• Go In – again
• Straight to Santa
• Stop and try on costumes
• Knock over tree, packages, nutcracker
• Poop
• Swoop, eat poop, run
• Swoop, eat jingle bell
• Remove jingle bell
• Terrorize kid
• Photos
• Stand in line and pay

I tuck my wallet under my chin; shove the jingle bells in my back pocket, dogs loaded in each hand, car keys accessible, and pictures in my mouth, partial bag of dog poop in my hand.

…stand in line and pay

New plan – get them in the car, at all cost.

I walk right out with determination and fire in my eyes. Put the dogs in car, sit down, and breathe.

Back in the store, I give the jingle bell velvet collars back, dropping them on the counter. With a trickle of perspiration coming down my forehead, I ask, “What do I own you?”

Clerk says “Well, let’s see, photos, a scoop of dog treats, and collars”. No verbal recognition of the decapitated nut cracker, either gracious or didn’t see it. Let’s just say you owe us for the photos and chock the rest up to Entertainment.”

“Deal,” I say.

I left the bell-less collars on the counter, took my photos, and realized that was the longest 10 minutes of my life.

Merry Christmas to all!

The Beatles

In September, there was mucho hoopla over the re-release of The Beatles music, remastered, and ready for 21st century ears. As much as I wanted to pick it up, I avoided it at the time, and bided my time. That was a good move.

A coupon from Borders (40% off) netted me a terrific price — over $100 off! — but I had to find one in town, and they were scarce. However, I found one in Sunset Hills, made the drive, and wound up with my box o’ Beatles.

I’m really impressed with the sound quality. I’m no audiophile, so I don’t know that I can quantify how the music sounded in any way meaningful to anyone else, but to my tired old ears, they sounded great. I’ve owned some of the collection on CD, and all of them on various vinyl pressings over the years… even to the extreme of Japanese virgin vinyl pressings. Lunacy, that was. 🙂 But now, durable, transportable copies have given me The Beatles wherever my iPod Nano can go. It’s amazing to think about carrying that music with me, and is keeping pretty close to my headphones much of the time.

I still think it’s pretty crazy that 40+ year old music can create this kind of stir. What’s cooler is that it’s music that I like. That’s great!