Thursday, December 21, 2006

,,,and a Happy New Year

We began our Christmas Holidays by engaging in one of my daughter's favorite activities in Seattle -- visiting the Space Needle. She seems to enjoy the idea of going up to the top of the Needle moreso than taking in the panoramic views of Seattle. Regardless, we have a great time when we go. Even with high winds, rain and low visibility we managed to have a swell time.

Then my family took off to South Carolina for Christmas, and I was more than delighted to be with friends and family at this special time of year. Seeing my grandmother brought me great joy on Christmas Day, as did the delicious treats provided us by my Aunt Joice, a true patron of the culinary arts, to whom I gave a hand-made apron I bought at Seattle's famous Pike Place Market. (Auntie, I start my diet tomorrow!)

Aunt Cindy was there, as were uncles Roger and Ron, cousins Melissa, Heather and Daniel, and I was able to see my Aunt JoAnn and Uncle Gene as well.

After Christmas I had the opportunity to catch up with Tim, Todd, Crump and their wives, as well as with my good friends the Wilks. (Jane, between your baking and my aunt's, I will definitely be starting that diet!) Thanks to my friend Lori for gathering my friends together for a nice dinner, and for providing me the opportunity to reunite with my childhood friend Ralph.

Most of all, I am thankful for my wife and daughter, my parents, my sister and her husband, and their delightful daughter, Lindsay, with whom I had a terrific time!

Merry Christmas from the National Weather Service

It has been a difficult couple of weeks in the Pacific Northwest, what with wind storms, fallen trees and more than a million people without power. The photograph was taken in downtown Seattle across from my office building. You should have seen it before they cut the rest of the tree away!

And now people are stuck at the airport in Denver, possibly for another couple of days, after a blizzard there.

Who do we blame for this year's wicked weather? Some say the Bush administration. But I blame the National Weather Service. After all, they seem to know about these things before they happen. Coincidence?

Monday, December 18, 2006

Seattle Storm

The forecast was so dismal last Thursday that I called my travel agent from my office in Chicago and asked her to re-book me for a return flight to Seattle on Friday, instead of Thursday night. The National Weather Service was calling for severe winds with gusts of hurricane strength.

I returned on a bumpy flight to the Emerald City and landed after the storm system had moved on to find my home without power. My wife and daughter fared well, and with a gas fireplace and hot water heater, along with plenty of camping gear, we managed to survive quite well and had some fun along the way. My family was thrilled to find me cooking up coffee, eggs and hot dogs on the propane camp stove at sun-up on Saturday morning.

Thankfully, our electrical power has been restored, but there are still hundreds of thousands of people without any power or heat. Many have branches or whole trees -- uprooted majestic douglas firs and cedars -- through their windows and rooftops. Hundreds of people are living in shelters, and people are suffering. Our prayers go out to those who here who are still suffering hardships, and I am reminded that as difficult as things have been this past week in the Pacific Northwest, there are still many on the gulf coast who have yet to reclaim the lives they left behind after Katrina.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Blue Skies on Black Friday

The following is a diary of my Day After Thanksgiving, which I pecked out on my Treo throughout my adventures downtown with my family.

8.40 am - Starbucks. Up and on the road by 8 am for downtown and the Macy's Holiday Parade. 20 minutes now in Starbucks order line – place is packed...guessing 15 more minutes until my latte. I count 18 people in the pick-up line ahead of me.

9.01 am - Starbucks. I counted the waiting orders - empty cups lined up for the Barista - to fill. 42. It’s nuts in here.

9.24 am - We are enjoying the parade, and my wife pointed out to me that enthusiasm for marching bands must be regional. Indeed, it has occurred to me that many of the bands here lack the snap and discipline of many of the marching bands in the Southeast. Then again, it’s been a long time since I was in a high school band.

10.58 am - Returned some overpriced merchandise to fye music and fought the crowds. Now off to Macy's.

Noon - Macy's is nuts.

1 pm - Appointment with Santa. Polly Pocket house, butterfly catch and Amazing Alison. What’s a butterfly catch?

2 pm – Enjoying a Ballycastle roll at Kell's Irish pub.

3.40 pm – More Christmas shopping.

5 pm - The tree lighting at Westlake Plaza was heavily attended, as the rain forecast for today never materialized.

7.10 pm – last stop – supper at a Thai restaurant near home. Exhausted. Will sleep well tonight.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Dinner for Three

This year, considering that our Thanksgiving feast was prepared by my lovely wife for just the three of us, we held back on dishing up the usual Southern Thanksgiving feast. We decided to scale down this year. We even decided not to cook a turkey, and opt for my baked chicken recipe instead. But my daughter, at the supermarket on Sunday, decried such heresy, going so far as to engage a supermarket employee to ask, "Not having a turkey on Thanksgiving is just not right, is it?"

I yielded, and we reached a compromise with my daughter to allow a turkey breast (a cut breast with the skin on, not the pressed turkey breast loaf) instead of a chicken.

My wife prepared all but the pie, and the meal was excellent. Here is what we had:

turkey breast prepared with herbs in a crock pot
pumpkin-zucchini stuffing (a Rachel Ray recipe)
fresh green beans
creamed corn with tumeric and rosemary
Yorkshire pudding
two-layer pumpkin and cream cheese pie

My daughter asked to give thanks, and delivered an eloquent prayer from a five-year-old's heart that thanked Jesus most of all for her family.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

This is where I am nestled this Thanksgiving Day, at my coffee table in front of the fire.

I was watching the National Dog Show earlier, and J. Peterman, the host of the show, said, "The National Dog Show Presented by Purina is brought to you by..... Purina!"

I found that funny, but it does not read well.

Does anyone think that NBC's coverage of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade has become more NBC self-promotion and less parade?

I have to say, that Al Roker still cracks me up.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

14 Hours, 5 Films and Panang Curry

For the second year in a row, my friend Mike and I spent the Saturday between our birthdays at the movies. Like last year, we were able to screen five films, among them a few surprises and a disappointment.

We started off the day at Seattle's Cinerama, and enjoyed the new James Bond film, Casino Royale on their mammoth screen with state-of-the-art sound. A fan of both the books and the films, I went into this movie with high hopes and somewhat low expectations. But seeing Paul Haggis listed in the writing credits (he wrote Million Dollar Baby and the phenomenal Crash) my expectations rose considerably and I was not disappointed. This Bond is raw, tight and breath-takingly exciting. So much so that it ranks now as my number two favorite in the franchise.

Transition now to the Uptown Theater and Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus, which is not at all what we expected. At times I felt I was watching a David Lynch picture. Nicole Kidman's performance is fantastic in this impressionistic and sometimes surreal "invented" biopic of the famous photographer, and Robert Downey's turn as Arbus's muse (whose face is seen only at the end of the film) is rich and compelling. Mike and I spent the day trying to decide whether or not we actually liked the film, and I cannot recommend this one to everyone.

We followed fur with the latest Christopher Guest outing, For Your Consideration. He has taken on the theater, dog shows, and folk music in his unscripted films thus far, but turning his attention to Hollywood is uninspired and ultimately disappointing. Granted, his cast is good, and there are a number of genuine laughs, but the film remained the day's big disappointment.

Break for Panang Curry and rice at Phuket Thai on Queen Anne.

If there is anything wrong with the period piece Copying Beethoven it's the uneven script. But the performance by Ed Harris as the maestro during the final days leading up to the premiere of his ninth symphony is remarkable. The filmmakers took a chance with an extended sequence highlighting the performance of the symphony, but the composition itself is exquisite and Harris is mesmerizing as the deaf conductor, able to lead the orchestra only by receiving cues from his copyist, played by the lovely Diane Kruger. We left the auditorium raving not so much about the film as we were about Harris's performance and about the magnificent ninth symphony.

We finished off our day with The Prestige, in which Hugh Jackman joins Batman Begins alumni Michael Caine, Christian Bale and Director Christopher Nolan. Though we felt the film cheated us at the end. Nothing is as it seems in this film (which I guess, in a film about illusions, that is the point, right?), but we were thrilled and surprised and wildly entertained.

All in all, I would say it was a good day.

Monday, October 23, 2006

A Blistering Loss

Yesterday was the perfect autumn day for a game against the Vikings, and I had the privilege of attending the game with my friend Peter, who wore three Seahawks shirts despite the fact that he hails from Minnesota. We met my friend Erik and took our seats for a contest that sidelined Hasselbeck and caused the 12th Man a rare, embarrassing loss at home.

Fine day. Excellent company. Great seats. Good food. Blistering loss. Four out of five ain't bad.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The President, or the First Officer?

George Bush was today’s guest on This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Feeling that my daughter should know who our president is, I asked her:

“Do you know who that is?
“You should know who that is.”
“Is that Spock?”
“No! That’s the president of the Unites States.”
“George Bush? On TV? NOW?”

I have refrained from drawing any conclusions and dropped the subject then and there without fully understanding her response.

Friday, October 20, 2006

A Funny Jerry

I think perhaps one of the funniest episodes of Seinfeld is the episode entitled "The Gum." In it, the gang jumps through hoops, at Kramer's urging, in order to avoid sending Lloyd Braun back to the mental institution by mentioning words like "crazy" or "nuts."

Incidentally, the Braun character appears in or is referenced in eleven episodes of Seinfeld. In this one, Jerry pretends to be a glasses-wearer in Braun's presence, and his inability to read the amounts on US currency results in Braun buying Jerry $100 worth of gum.

In "The Gum," Larry David appears in a cameo delivering what may be my favorite line from the show:

"I beg your pardon your majesty, but we don't accept bills with lipstick on the president."

Monday, October 02, 2006

A Reply from Ronald

A few weeks ago, I posted a copy of a letter I wrote to the McDonald's Corporation complaining about receiving TANG in a Happy Meal Cup when I had ordered orange juice off the McDonald's breakfast menu.

The good folks at the Golden Arches were quick to reply, attempting to buy off my frustration with a coupon good for one complimentary breakfast sandwich.

In their letter, they said they were "sorry to hear that you're disappointed with our Orange Juice" and that I should "be assured that at McDonald's, we continually review our menu to ensure that we serve the products our customers will enjoy the most."

There was nothing in their letter about my being served TANG in a Ronald McDonald Happy Meal cup, nor was there any explanation as to why such a beverage was being marketed as "orange juice."

What they did do was report that they served 50 million people each day, and in doing so I was reminded that perhaps my little complaint about the orange juice is small beans when one considers the big picture. 50 million customers - that's not chump change. And at least the good folks at McDonald's had the decency to return my letter, and for that I am grateful.

Which is more than I can say about the folks at Burger King, who have yet to respond to my complaint about allowing panhandlers to shake down customers (including children!) in one of their Seattle stores.

The battle rages on...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Maybe Next Year

The season for my Seattle Mariners is coming to a close on Sunday, and last night was my last game before Spring.

(Although it does occur to me at the moment that perhaps I should bring my daughter out on Sunday, which is the season closer as well as Kid Appreciation Day at the park.)

My friend Dan and I enjoyed seats behind home plate where we watched Oakland clench the AL West title following a 12-3 win over the Mariners.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Mariners Shut Out White Sox

I spent the week in Chicago and had the privilege of experiencing my first game at US Cellular Field, a state-of-the-art ball park on Chicago's South side and home of the Chicago White Sox.

It was the first time I have taken in a Seattle Mariners game on the road. I attended the game with my colleague Bill, who is a life-long Sox fan. We had a fine time at the game, and Bill enjoyed himself despite the Mariners 9 to 0 victory over the Sox.

The Seahawks visit Soldier Field in a few weeks, but that's one game I don't think I can swing.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Today's Random Thoughts

  • I like espresso drinks. I like chai tea. Who knew a chai tea latte could be so scrumptious?

  • I thought I saw Tobey Macguire waiting for a bus at the corner of Denny and Dexter this morning.

  • Every time I see an episode of Star Trek that features Harry Mudd I become very, very angry.

  • I was at Macy's on Tuesday. They are setting up their Christmas section. Is it just me, or does Labor Day week seem a tad early for this sort of thing?

  • I found a recipe for a ham bone and bean soup the other day. I happen to have a ham bone handy, so I figured...

  • I don't know why the animal rights activists are not up in arms about the expression "easy as shooting monkeys in a barrel." The image is disturbing and I can think of few things more cruel.

  • My daughter told me there were two things worse than the kiss of death, a phrase she picked up from the these song to the James Bond film Goldfinder. I asked her what was worse than the kiss of death. She responded:

The two things worse than the kiss of death:

1. The Poke of Death

2. The Slap in the Face of Death

Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti in The Illusionist

See my short review of The Illusionist at Fourth Row Center.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Learning to Draw

A few years ago I had little to complain about as far as my commute to work was concerned. It was a pleasant walk downtown from where we lived in Seattle's Capital Hill neighborhood.

Since moving to the suburbs south of the city, however, I have had to endure the commute into the city with the masses -- fighting traffic, navigating accidents, coping with slick highways during the rainy season and avoiding bad drivers.

And let us not forget those pesky draw bridges.

But as much as I may complain about them, I like living in a place with not just bridges, but draw bridges.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Thinking About Death

Our pastor spoke from Genesis on the death of Sarah today, and in a personal moment told us what he would like carved onto his tombstone. He asked the congregation, "What do you imagine will be carved on your own tombstone? Imagine looking back on your life - how do you want to have lived? How do you want to be remembered?"

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Food Critic Corner

A review of my banana-strawberry smoothie.

"It tastes like nothing. It's lumpy."
- Harper, Age 5

Friday, September 01, 2006

Book Talk

I got tagged by my old chum Rick, an avid reader (moreso than me these days), but it has taken me a while to compile this list about books. I could not think of a single book that I wish had not been written. That aside, here are his questions and my responses:

1. One book that changed your life - Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson (the first "big" book I ever read)

2. One book that you’ve read more than once - God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, by Kurt Vonnegut

3. One book you’d want on a desert island - The Norton Anthology of English Literature

4. One book that made you laugh - A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

5. One book that made you cry - The Littlest Duckling

6. One book that you wish had been written - A sixth book in the ever increasingly misnamed Hitchhiker's trilogy

7. One book you wish had never been written - ?

8. One book you’re currently reading - The Devil and Miss Prym by Paul Coelho

9. One book you’ve been meaning to read - The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer

Thursday, August 31, 2006

My Letter to Ronald

McDonald’s Corporation
2111 McDonald's Dr
Oak Brook, IL 60523

Dear McDonalds,

First of all, let me say what is probably no secret around your offices in Oak Brook – you have the best fries, hands down! I read that the congressional cafeteria in Washington got rid of the Freedom Fries and went back to French Fries. Which type do you prefer?

Anyway, I digress.

The reason I am writing has to do with your breakfast menu. I have purchased breakfast hundreds of times from your store at 6th Avenue and Virginia Street in Seattle, and have always enjoyed the ice cold orange juice that comes in the plastic cup with the foil lid.

Today, after a hiatus of many, many months away from your breakfasts, I retuned to the fold for a McMuffin product and an orange juice. But what they were passing off as orange juice wasn’t. It was in a little Ronald McDonald Happy Meal cup (I did not purchase the Happy Meal) and it wasn’t orange juice. It was TANG, or a reasonable facsimile thereof.

McDonalds, TANG is not real juice. It is orange, and sweet, but so is orange soda. Not juice. I feel misled. If I had wanted TANG, I would have ordered TANG. I encourage you to be more accurate with how you advertise your menu items. This reminds me of that fry issue you people had a few years ago with the muslims.

Make mine 100% orange juice (from concentrate)!

Sunday, August 20, 2006


Some months ago, my pal Chuck had up on his blog an analysis of his speech infulences , and I was curious as to what type of American English I speak, and how much of my Southern-speak I have lost.

I took the on-line test and here are my results:

My Linguistic Profile:
50% General American English
25% Dixie
15% Yankee
5% Upper Midwestern
0% Midwestern

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Fourth Row Center

See my comments on the movie Scoop at Fourth Row Center.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

The End of Carry-On Baggage?

Last Thursday a US congressman suggested that the convenience of carrying our luggage onto commercial aircraft may be over. Can we possibly survive without carry-on luggage?

As one who flies frequently I enjoy the convenience of carrying my luggage on and off the airplane. It's fast, efficient, and I save a couple of bucks not having to tip the porter. Besides, I do not enjoy having to linger at baggage claim with a weary mob queuing for position next to the carousel, waiting for that first mis-handled suitcase to come tumbling down the metal chute.

As much as I enjoy the convenience of carrying my bag on the plane, I will be the first to say that the era of carry-on luggage has gotten way out of hand. Has anybody noticed recently that most travelers ignore the size restrictions that are imposed and supposedly enforced by the airlines? By far the majority of the huge bags, bulging at the seams, that passengers attempt (and often fail) to shove into the already packed overhead would never fit into the tiny Does Your Bag Fit? display at the gate. These people are heading out for months-long sojourns, and they don't even bother to check their suitcases!

The elevated travel restrictions imposed last week have prompted me to think in a different way.

When I traveled from Denver to Seattle last Friday, most travelers had been prepared for the ban on liquids, and by far the majority of the travelers I saw that day were empty handed. A few, like me, carried a laptop bag or handbag. Only one or two idiots still carried their kitchen sinks.

Friday's travel experience (except for the wait at the carousel at the very end) was so refreshingly pleasant for me that I have to admit I am not opposed to a ban on carry-on luggage. Purse, laptop, okay, but luggage - no.

Aside from the obvious security benefits, three things are accomplished with a ban on carry-on luggage:

1) Lines at the security checkpoints are much shorter, and the security checks themselves are quicker. Less hassle and shorter lines equals diminished frustration and an more pleasant pre-flight experience.

2) Boarding is accomplished with greater ease and speed. After the first class cabin was seated, my United flight boarded "all sections, all rows," and this very full flight was on board in minutes. Those few of us who had some kind of carry-on merely utilized the space beneath the forward seat. Without every passenger having to pound over-stuffed bags into overhead bins we were all seated and ready to go in record time. When the main cabin was seated, the open luggage bins were eerily empty, and one flight attendant said, "I've got nothing to do."

3) Finally, with little luggage in the overhead bins the plane de-boards more quickly after reaching its destination. Instead of being held up in the aisle by some slob whose ninety pound Samsonite is stuck in the bin, I was delayed ever so slightly by a half-blind woman with a cane tapping about in front of me.

I will trade a few unpleasant moments at the carousel in order to avoid being struck on the back of the head by an errant American Tourister.

The Tennis Ball Test

Today my wife is guest blogger.

To find out if Daddy bought the wrong size underpants, simply perform the tennis ball test:

Yup. Too big.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Using Seinfeld's Line

While traveling this week I arrived at the counter of a well-known car rental company only to be told there were no cars. I was fortunate to have been near the front of what became a long, slow, angry line.

My travel agency had made the reservation two weeks before, yet when I stepped up to the counter the lady whose nametag read "Sunshine" said, "We don't have a car on the entire lot."

"I'll take an economy. Down-grade me to your worst."

"No passenger cars at all," she said.

At this point I heard a woman with kids at the station next to me say to her attendant, "You're kidding!"

"Not even a tiny, old, crumpled car out back?" I asked.

Sunshine told me that all the sedans and SUV's on her lot were already reserved for their premium customers. I asked her if she had my name and confirmation number in her computer, and she said yes.

Then I employed a favorite line from an episode of Seinfeld: "Obviously you know how to take the reservation, but you don't know how to hold the reservation."

The comment got me nowhere. Had I not been so unnerved at her reaction at that moment, I would have snapped a photograph of Sunshine's stormy expression with my cell phone camera.

They got me into a mini-van a short time later, but I have to say that I was the only person who found humor in that great line from Seinfeld.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

My Kind of Game

Last night’s game at Safeco Field is the kind of baseball game I truly enjoy. The seats were nice, club section behind home plate. It was very warm but not hot. The company was enjoyable. My hot dog was tasty, and for the first time ever I consumed a ballgame dog with more than just yellow mustard on it. And the game was decided in the tenth.

A matched game, the Mariners and Devil Rays entered extra innings 1-1. During the bottom of the tenth, the M’s loaded the bases (with to intentional walks) and with one out Richie Sexon ended the game with a grand slam to center field on a 1-0 pitch.

The Mariners may be stumbling this season, but it's always good to win one at home. And is there a better way to win a ballgame than with a grand slam at the bottom of the tenth?

Coming up:
  • The Devil Rays are in town again tonight, third of three.
  • Beckham comes to the Emerald City for a little exposition action as Real Madrid takes on DC United at Qwest Field.
  • At Key Arena, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw.
  • And a don’t-miss: The Cindy Sheehan Show is coming to the University of Washington. Tickets are $225 per person – proceeds go toward the purchase of a vacant lot across from Dick Cheney’s hunting cabin.

Monday, August 07, 2006

End of the Dog Days

In villages in China, people are dying of rabies. Sixteen in one village as of Friday.

The response? Kill all the dogs. It's been pretty ugly. (In Seattle we do something similar with Canadian geese; not because they kill people, but because they are messy.)

Persons for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are putting s stop to this massacre in China, thank goodness. They are canceling $300 worth of orders for products made in China. This clever move - truly unexpected and crippling in its financial impact - will surely pressure the Chinese into ending this horrendous practice and force them to vaccinate their canine hordes against rabies. A campaign to spay and neuter will surely be next.

Without ludicrous and ineffective symbolic gestures, this animal rights organization would have no press at all.

Coming up next: the 2008 Olympics, 100% dog free. Stay tuned!

Friday, August 04, 2006

My Bag

I saw that my friend Rick recently came into possession of a new bag. The appropriate bag is an essential accoutrement for today's mobile man. To those that don't normally carry a bag with them as part of their daily routine might look upon a bag such as mine as impedimenta; but a reliable, well-constructed bag is an extension of the modern man, a constant friend and companion.

Rick's post inspired me to introduce to my three regular readers my own well-traveled laptop bag, pictured above in the passenger seat of my car.
  • Age: 8 years
  • Cities visited: Atlanta, Seattle, Chicago, Columbia SC, Dallas, Denver, Ft. Lauderdale, Irvine, Las Vegas, Miami, Nashville, New York, Palo Alto CA, Phoenix, Portland, San Jose, St. Louis, Tampa and Toronto
  • Air miles: over 100,000
  • Contents (today as of 4:30 PM PDT): one laptop computer, two Pentel pens, a mechanical pencil, two packs of Trident gum, ear buds, one DVD (Play it Again, Sam), a Palm TX, my Treo, eleven file folders, three current magazines (Newsweek, Premiere and Esquire), one book (Discovering Solutions to Everyday Challenges), twenty-three cents in change, one coffee club card, an outdated travel itinerary, a photo of my wife, two photos of my daughter, two drawings by my daughter of our family and two walleye fillets (since removed to the refrigerator)

Monday, July 31, 2006

The Dog Days of Summer

On a recent trip to Denny Creek in the Washington Cascade Mountains, it was our dog, Polly, who found the best way to cool off on a hot July day.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Targeting Jews in America

I left work at four o'clock today in the middle of a mess of sirens and people that I discovered, once I was in my car, was an attack at the Jewish Federation Building in Seattle. I managed to drive out of the area before the streets were shut down.

The news reports that a suspect of Pakistani descent has been arrested for murdering one person and woulding perhaps five others. The police suggest the gunman was targeting Jewish people.

My colleagues called me after I left to report that they have been asked by police to leave.

Film critic Michael Medved, who hosts a syndicated radio program out of Seattle, reported that many American Jews are having to take precautions against hatred and harm, even here in the United States. He said that some synagogues had been hiring security during their high holy days.

Tonight, as the Jewish Sabbath begins, police are being dispatched to protect worshippers at local synagogues.

My heart and prayers go out to those affected by this terrible event.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Beaming Up My Chief Engineer

I saw in the news yesterday that the remains of James Doohan, the actor who played Chief Engineer Scott in Star Trek, are being shot into space in October.

The actor lived in Redmond, Washington, near a business acquaintance of mine who used to run into him on occasion. I never liked hearing that the actor was a regular guy who spoke with an American accent.

To me, he will always be Scotty.


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Complaining About the Heat

The average temperature this time of year in Seattle is 76 degrees. Yesterday it was 95. One of these days I gotta get me an air conditioner...
Wait. Oh yeah. I have an air conditioner. I bought one from my friend Erik. 9,000 BTU's. Back in February. It's been in storage on the 11th floor of my building since. In fact, it has never been in my possession and I think I only looked at it once. (It's white.) I bought it on a whim before I realized I did not know how to install it.

I found out today that one of the guys took it home over the weekend to cool his family. He noticed it had been sitting in the storage room for months and figured...

I couldn't blame him. He has four kids. "I didn't know it was yours," he said. I pictured him and his family in the one room, gathered around the air conditioner, the mother-in-law lingering nearby. He apologized again and added, "I can pay you."

"Keep it," I said, and for a moment I coveted my own air conditioner. I don't know why I told him to keep it. It's been so hot that my family have not slept in our own beds for four nights.

"Keep it," I said. "Keep it."

It was probably the heat.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

My New Favorite Actor

I had wanted to see Beyond the Sea, the Kevin Spacey film about Bobby Darin, when it was released in December 2004, but I never got around to it probably because I am not that familiar with Darin, only a small handful of his songs. My interest in the film was in seeing Spacey, an actor whose work continues to delight me in film after film. For my money, The Usual Suspects and L.A. Confidential would have suffered without his brilliant performances.

Beyond the Sea was less a biography in the tradition of Ray or Walk the Line, and more of a musical in the true sense of the term. Spacey takes a clever approach to telling Darin's story, stepping out of the narrative at times, framing his story with a dialogue between Darin as an adult and as a child. Spacey has a remarkable voice, more than held his own in the dance numbers, and he brought a passion for the subject matter that overrode my disinterest toward Darin and his career.

The reviews had been mixed: for every critic who praised Spacey and his achievement as an actor, director, producer and writer of the film, there was harsh criticism that the film and Spacey's performance were vainglorious. My take is this: it was a risk to make a film about Bobby Darin, and Spacey's approach was bold. He took the chance in performing Darin's songs and it paid off in spades.

We finished watching Beyond the Sea and my wife said, "I think Kevin Spacey's my new favorite actor." I could not disagree. He is a talented performer with an unusual but powerful screen presence.

When I turned off the DVD there was another Spacey movie on IFC, a little gem called The Big Kahuna. "The best movie ever made about evangelism" is how my friend Rick describes it. Yeah, Spacey was great in that one, too. He just might be my new favorite actor.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

A Canine Affair

A reunion of sorts took place on Sunday, on a farm in a place called Eatonville, Washington.

My daughter and I took our Labrador retriever, Polly, back to the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm where she was bred and born three years ago September. There, Polly was reunited with her father, Scout, and her sister, CeCe. The rest of Polly's siblings are scattered abroad. Her mother, Sydney, was killed in a tragic encounter with an automobile just a few weeks ago, but Polly seemed nonplussed at the news when we told her, and furthermore seemed not to notice her absence on the farm.

My daughter and the other kids enjoyed riding Sprout, the pony, and I was proud of my daughter for finally riding around the paddock on her own, without Anna leading the pony.

The kids rode the pony, cooled off on the slip-n-slide and relaxed in the hot tub at the end of the long day.

The dogs ran amok, chased the horses and each other, rolled around in their kiddie pool and tried the slip-n-slide once or twice.

The grown-ups chased the kids, chased the dogs, tended to injuries (one of the kids dropped the baby, Polly blew out her knee, Anna's bare foot was stepped on by Sprout) and generally kept order amid the chaos.

It was a fine way to spend a warm, breezy Washingtonian Sunday.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Family Photo

On a recent trip to South Carolina I had the privilege of spending some time with my niece. My daughter had the opportunity to get to know her cousin. And everyone had a good time. We don't have too many opportunities for family photographs of this sort, so when they happen, it's special.

Presently I am trying to arrange a trip back to South Carolina to see my niece, as well as the rest of my family, whom I miss very much. Hopefully, we'll get something booked for a trip back east after Labor Day, giving me the opportunity for more family photos of this sort.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Return of a Timeless Friend

Mission Impossible III opened around Memorial Day, but because I was so consumed with the Seattle Film Festival, the Tom Cruise movie was moved to the bottom of my list. My frequent movie buddy Mike and I had talked about seeing this one, and we finally got around to it last Saturday night.

Flashback now, many years, to a downtown Seattle cinema, as I am asking a question I would continue to ask time and time again to the mostly kids working the movie theater candy counters:

"Why don't you carry Goobers?"

I have been diligent in asking the question ever since, and have received a variety of responses. At the Cineplex Odeon on Pine Street (a favorite venue back in the day), I was told that Goobers was not very popular. "Nobody eats those anymore," the ticket-taker told me.

"I do," I responded. "They're crunchy peanuts coated in rich milk chocolate. Who wouldn't want a box of Goobers with their popcorn and ice-cold Diet Coke?" The kid stared at me like I had suggested eating escargot as a movie snack.

The folks at the Egyptian told me the same thing. A kid working the candy counter at the Big Valley told me back in the fall that he had never heard of them.

Fast forward to last Saturday night. Mike and I purchased tickets to MI:III at the Big Valley and enter the theater about ten o'clock.

As we were walking past the candy counter toward the auditoriums, debating whether or not to purchase any snacks, something in the candy display caught Mike's eye and he stopped in his tracks and exclaimed, "They have Goobers!"

"Come on!"

"Goobers! I'm serious!"

The kid working concessions told us they had just gotten Goobers in the day before, and that they seemed to be moving very well.

MI:III is nothing if not a popcorn movie, and as I have said in this space in the past, the combination of popcorn, Coca-Cola and Goobers is second to none as part of the movie-going experience. (I will at this juncture defer those who might substitute Raisinets for Goobers -- after all, Raisinets are the first cousins of Goobers, and both candies are made by Nestle).

I enjoyed MI:III in large part due to the box of Goobers nestled in my shirt pocket. I look forward to returning to the Big Valley with Mike tonight for another popcorn flick -- Pirates of the Caribbean II. And yes, I will enjoy that feature if only because of the familiar box of Goobers that will be open and waiting in my shirt pocket.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Corn Fed

My wife's guest blog:

Most people celebrated the 4th yesterday. And so did we... it's just that our daughter's biggest celebration was finishing off her 3rd piece of corn.

"Whoever loves corn so much they could blow their top, raise your hand!" she exclaimed.

In the picture you can see the flag-design placemats she made for the occasion. She also insisted that we sing "Happy Birthday" to America before eating. Wish y'all could have been here to taste my husband's prize BBQ ribs and my fresh-from-the-tree cherry cobbler! I couldn't resist sharing the photo!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

My July 4th, 2006

What I'm drinking: Newman's Own Virgin Limeade

What I'm eating: Barbecue spare ribs

What I'm doing: Picking cherries in my back yard

What I'm watching: Twilight Zone marathon on the Sci-Fi channel

What I'm reading: Wisdom of Our Fathers, by Tim Russert

What I'm listening to: At This Time, Burt Bacharach

Who I'm Spending the 4th with: My wife and daughter

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A Side Benefit of Travel

Brewers 8, Cubs 5

One of the great things about traveling for business is getting to spend the off-hours getting to know the city you're in. Chicago is quickly becoming one of my favorite cities, for many reasons I won't go into here. But when I am on the road, it's nice to try and enrich myself by meeting people, trying new restaurants, and seeing places I might normally not get to see.

Tonight after work my destination was Wrigley Field. Although I am not a Cubs fan, the ballpark is one of the nation's oldest, built in 1914 at a cost of $250,000. The 27-foot high scoreboard (which is 85 feet off the ground) was built in 1937, and, yes, the stats are still changed by hand. The park was packed, despite eight consecutive losses at home, and the fans here on Chicago's North side are die hard.

I enjoyed the game very much, even though I was in the company of a couple of natives from Chicago's South Side (read: White Sox fans). My friend Bill O. swallowed his pride and attended the game with me, marking not only my first ever Cubs game at Wrigley Field, but his also. This was not Bill's first trip to Wrigley, however; he attended Chicago Bears games at Wrigley prior to their move to Soldier Field in 1971.

Trivia: The 1906 Cubs had 116 wins that season, a record tied in 2001 by my beloved Seattle Mariners.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Complaining About the Heat

My good friend and fellow blogger Rick posted something about how hot it's been in Columbia, South Carolina, and made mention of the fact that he cranked up the A/C in his car and his home, his glass of cola "filled appropriately with ice."

(How would one fill a coke glass inappropriately?)

The National Weather Service has issued this bulletin for Western Washington state:


My glass too will be appropriately filled with ice tomorrow, but I, like most others in the Puget Sound region, have no air conditioning in my home.

So Rick, thanks for gripe. I raise my iced cold Diet Coke to you and add my voice to yours as we complain about the heat. Oh - if you get the chance, could you email some extra cold air from your air vent? When it arrives I will open the file and cool the downstairs living room.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Got Milk? Check the Expiration Date

In planning my attendance at this year's Seattle International Film Festival, I chose, as always, to include several independent films among the movies I scheduled to attend. Film festivals such as SIFF are to a great degree about independent film, and many indies would never find an audience without the fests. I chose to screen a few indies based on how well they had been received at other festivals. I based my decision to see one indie purely on its premise, which I found both peculiar and amusing.

Shot on location in Seattle, Expiration Date is the story of Charlie Silvercloud. As he approaches his 25th birthday, he is burdened by the fact that all of the other men in his family died on their 25th birthdays, each punching out in a comically tragic incident involving a milk truck. But it is on the verge of his demise, as Charlie prepares for his own funeral, that he learns what it means to truly live.

Executing such a premise can be a dangerous thing for a filmmaker. But director Rick Stevenson fashions the nutty concept into a black comedy that is both funny and tender, a thing that works thanks in no small part to excellent casting. Robert A. Guthrie delivers a restrained comic performance as Silvercloud, and Dee Wallace Stone adds both heart and comedy as Silvercloud's mother, who desperately wants a grandchild before her son's fatal appointment with a milk truck.

Milkmen from Smith Brother's Farms provided milk to the entire audience at our June 17th screening. I had chocolate, which was cold, smooth, creamy and delicious! Expiration Date may very well be the most memorable experience for me at this year's Seattle Film Festival, and ranks as one of the few films I saw at the festival this year that I would be eager to soon see again.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Monster House

Gil Kenan described himself as lucky when his film school short ended up in the hands of Robert Zemickis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump). Zemickis and Steven Spielberg had been kicking around an idea to make a movie about a monster house, and tapped the film school grad to direct his first picture.

I don't know why I chose to see the film Monster House, from Sony's Columbia Pictures, which will be released everywhere July 21st. I typically take my five-year-old daughter to see the animated films when they arrive at our local cineplex, and I could have chosen to see a new documentary or indie flick instead. Perhaps it gave me an opportunity to screen the film for inappropriate content before taking my child, or perhaps I just liked the title. Whatever the reason, I was glad to be apart of the first U.S. audience to see this film, which stars Steve Buscemi, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jon Heder, Fred Willard, Kathleen Turner and a trio of terrific child actors.

The film was not animated traditionally; instead, the filmmakers spent 34 days shooting the film with live actors using motion capture technology. This is the same technology that brought King Kong and The Lord of the Rings' Gollum to life. The result is an animated style that is fluid and provides the characters with a resonance that rings true.

I found the film very imaginative and entertaining, and enjoyed it immensely. The characters are compelling and ring true. There are a number of very scary moments, and it features an on-screen animated death that is darkly comic. In my opinion, the film is better suited for the older kids.

There is a scene in the film where the monster house, played by Kathleen Turner, uproots itself and goes on a rampage through the neighborhood. Kenan said he was actually able to convince Turner to perform the scene as the house. If you see the film, remember that scene was created by one of Hollywood's most beautiful actresses flailing about and pulling herself around a tiny neighborhood set by her hands. Perhaps that footage will show up as an extra on the DVD.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Notes on a Couple of Movies

This past week I attended a session of "Talking Pictures," a program in which well-known creative-types introduce a favorite film and lead a post-screening discussion. Artist Dale Chihuly introduced one of his favorite films in an archival presentation of Lonely are the Brave. This 1962 film about a cowboy whose world is has been encroached upon by modern society was a delightful discovery. It stars Kirk Douglas, Walter Matthau, and Gena Rowlands, and is Douglas's personal career favorite.

The following night was set aside for the French film, OSS 117: Nest of Spies. Although few on this side of the pond know much about the exploits of the Bond-esque Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath, the character has been thrilling and amusing audiences in France since 1956 in both print and on film. In this comedy/adventure set in 1955, Hubert is assigned a mission to Cairo to protect the Suez Canal and to restore peace to the Middle East. The production is fist rate, well-produced and very funny. It plays like an odd combination of espionage thriller, satire and farce.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A Dose of Film Noir

I spent Sunday getting a dose of film noir at the Seattle Film Festival, screening a couple of rarely seen archival presentations at the Egyptian Theater. They were presented by Eddie Muller of the Film Noir Foundation, a non-profit group dedicated to the preservation and restoration of this most American motion picture genre.

Muller pointed out that there are a number of movies which are in danger of vanishing or have disappeared altogether. Period negatives and prints from our film heritage have been misplaced or in some cases are simply disintegrating. Muller introduced two films that his organization has helped bring back from the brink of oblivion.

The first was a film that has not been screened in more than fifty years, the 1950 thriller The Man Who Cheated Himself starring Lee J. Cobb and Jane Wyatt. Shot on location in San Francisco, this dark tale of a cop who protects his mistress after she murders her husband was taut and well received by our Seattle audience.

The Window, released in 1949, stars Disney regular Bobby Driscoll as the boy who cried wolf. In this case, the nine-year-old teller of tall tales cannot convince his parents or the police that he witnessed a murder through a window outside his New York apartment. The film received the Edgar Award for best picture, 1950, and was nominated for a Writer's Guild Award for best American drama. The screenplay was based on a short story by Cornell Woolrich. Coincidentally, Woolrich wrote a similarly themed story that became Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Film Festival Adventure Continues

I continue to attend screenings at the ongoing Seattle International Film Festival, and the experience this year has been quite wonderful. There have been a couple of delightful cinematic surprises these past two weeks which I am not allowed to commit to print, a few enjoyable shorts, as well as the occasional unavoidable dud (among them, the overrated The Puffy Chair).

There was one oddly uncomfortable moment during the screening of an independent film where I was seated on the second row. Many of the films' directors, writers, and stars attend the screenings, particularly those films premiering at the festival. Prior to this one screening, the SIFF host introduced the director to the audience, who happened to be seated next to me. As one who appreciates film, particularly independent film, it was difficult for me to fully enjoy the screening knowing the director of the picture was at my elbow. Questions kept circling in my mind: What if I yawn? What if I laugh at the wrong place? What if, heaven forbid, I doze? It is rather late, after all.

In the end, while I appreciated the work of the filmmaker, the movie left me feeling a little underwhelmed. But I managed not to doze while sitting next to the director whose movie was being screened for a large audience for the first time.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Of Mice and Squirrels

At one point in history it seemed that the mouse ruled the animated world. The king of all animated cartoon characters is, of course, Mickey Mouse. Other classic mouse characters include Jerry (of "Tom and" fame), Mighty Mouse, Speedy Gonzalez, Pikachu, Danger Mouse, Stuart Little, Pinky and the Brain, Hanna-Barbera's Mush Mouse and Motormouse, and Itchy from The Simpsons.

Mice were animated in memorable shorts such as the Warner Brothers "The Honeymousers" cartoon, and in full-length animated films like The Rescuers, An American Tale, The Great Mouse Detective and Dumbo.

But today, for my money, the best animated characters going are squirrels.

Yes, I said squirrels. Consider:

Twitchy the squirrel in Hoodwinked (my favorite animated film since The Incredibles, which had no squirrels) had the biggest laughs in that film. Same goes for the squirrel called Scrat in the recent Ice Age 2.

Did anyone bother to see The Wild? Aside from the fact that Disney managed to shamelessly rip off Dreamworks' Madagascar, the only good thing I can say about that utter waste of 90 minutes is this: the movie had a squirrel named Benny (voiced by Jim Belushi) and he was funny. I think I smiled once during that movie, and that was at something Benny said.

Steve Carell is providing the voice of Hammy the Squirrel for the newly released Dreamworks Animation feature Over the Hedge. Again, I thought the squirrel had the best moments, even though I did not like the film.

Squirrels are doing well in cartoons these days. The late Rocky (of "and Bullwinkle" fame) would be proud.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

A Prairie Film Companion

Yesterday I had planned three screenings at the Seattle Film Festival.

The first, winner of awards all over the world and well-received at Cannes (it also cleaned up every major honor at the Transylvania Film Festival), was the Romanian film The Death of Mr. Lazarescu. It's a dark tale about a sick man who is unable to get the medical care he needs. What begins as a darkly comic film as Mr. Lazarescu shuffles about drinking and complaining to his neighbors about the pains in this stomach and head, plummets into a nightmarish race in an ambulance from hospital to hospital in order to get medical treatment before he dies. I liked the first half of this film, and wanted to like it all, but I found it overlong and ultimately just too bleak.

We were late to our second film of the day, the documentary The Giant Buddahs, and ended up watching X-Men 3 instead, a film I thought suffered without previous X-Men director Bryan Singer at the helm.

Since the mid-1980's, I have been fond of Garrison Keillor's public radio program "A Prairie Home Companion." Its folksy, homespun sensibility has always brought me pleasure. Blending folk and gospel music, live radio drama, and old-fashioned storytelling centered in the fictional town of Lake Wobegon, Minnesota, Keillor practices an art lost to radio programming today.

My love of his radio show and books generated an interest in seeing the musical comedy A Prairie Home Companion, directed by the American auteur Robert Altman (Nashville, M*A*S*H, Gosford Park among many others). Keillor wrote the script at Altman's request about a businessman (Tommy Lee Jones) who buys Keillor's radio station with plans to turn the theater into a parking lot. The film is in real time, taking place over the course of the final performance of the "Companion" radio show, with most of the action taking place back stage as a mysterious interloper played by Virginia Madsen enters the WTL theater during the performance. Kevin Kline is at the height of his comic powers as Guy Noir, the detective and WTL security expert who is "hot" on Madsen's tail. Altman's film is intimately staged and shot, masterfully directed, genuinely moving at times and truly funny at others. The cast, which includes Meryl Streep, Woody Harrelson, Lily Tomlin, John C. Reilly and Lindsay Lohan, are perfect in their roles as performers on GK's radio show.

A Prairie Home Companion opens June 9.

Friday, May 26, 2006

SIFF Comes to Town

The 2006 Seattle International Film Festival kicked off yesterday and will showcase more than 270 feature films from all over the world at twelve venues in Seattle. I lament I have neither the time nor the funds to see them all, but I'll do what I can. During the next four weeks, I plan to attend many films -- a premiere or two, mainstream films, independent films, foreign films and a documentary.

Attending a film festival is an exciting and unique way of experiencing a movie. While attending a screening at a film festival one is among an audience who is there because they love movies. They appreciate the art form and the power of motion pictures to thrill us, move us, educate us, and bring us together.

It is also a thrill for the movie buff to connect with the people who make the films screened at the film festival -- the writers, directors and actors who bring stories and ideas to celluloid.

I have many fond memories of festivals past. One particularly memorable event was a forum with the late actor Richard Harris, who spoke about his craft and his career. It amused my wife and me that Harris smoked discreetly on stage whenever the lights were dimmed to show clips from his body of work. My wife's favorite movie is Camelot, and she was thrilled to meet Harris, who autographed the cover of her double-CD soundtrack of the film. It also amused us that he wore dark canvas sneakers with his tan suit.

The Tarrantino Tutorial several years ago was an interesting diversion as well. The writer/director/actor has not only a passion for but an an impressive collection of B-movie westerns and teen "juvenile deliquent" films from the 1950's, a few of which he shared with his class. The point of the tutorial was to illustrate the fact that many B-movies, which are no longer seen and are mostly forgotten, contained some superior filmmaking, and should remain an important part of American film history.

Last year I learned that Paul Reiser is shorter than he looks on TV.

Although I was in Chicago when the festival opened, I return to Seattle later today. Saturday is shaping up to be a full day of film-going.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


I love Chicago - what a great town!

I am staying this week on Ontario right off Michigan Avenue, where much of the action is, and when I arrived (after a three hour flight delay) I sought out a quaint spot for a bite. Some of the best restaurants in the world are here in this town, but there are just some types of restaurants that one needs a dining companion to truly enjoy.

Instead, I found an Irish pub that looked "local" enough for my taste (I try to avoid the chains when traveling -- why not partake of local color?) and thought I would give it a whirl. There's an Irish place in Seattle's Post Alley I enjoy lunching at. I like the Irish food, and am always pleased to be greeted by a hostess with an Irish brogue.

So I settled into my table at this little Irish pub and ordered the fish and chips. And although my meal was fine, the Irish color I was looking for was lacking somewhat due to the thick Hispanic accent of my waiter.

All in all my trip this week is going well. I look forward to getting home Friday night and seeing my family.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Fire Safety

My daughter and I were speaking with one of our local firefighters recently, at a safety demonstration that was part of a Healthy Kids Day sponsored by the YMCA.

Afterward, I asked her what she can do to prevent fires in the home. She replied with three safety tips:

- Don’t light candles
- Don’t let bad guys with fire into the house
- Don’t bring bombs into the house

I cannot argue her logic.

Friday, May 19, 2006

American Idol Sits Around

American Idol is a benefit to society (humanity?) because it "encourages people to sit around and watch TV together." That's what Today Show host Katie said to Idol's Paula Abdul on Friday morning. Paula was talking about how American Idol (a show I do not watch, by the way, though I will miss Elliott the underdog despite the fact that it was his time to go -- loosen up, Elliott!) has saved marriages and kept kids out of military school.

Is this television program really the elixir to cure society's ills? Perhaps I would have reacted more positively to the idea had Katie not used the term "sit around." Perhaps if the show were to encourage people to get out and get more exercise, or to encourage people to become more involved in their communities, or to encourage people to...well, do something besides sit around and watch TV?

I don't know about you, but with Katharine and Taylor down to the final show, I am overcome with the urge to sit around and watch TV together with someone. Doggone it, Katie!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A Gathering of Friends

I had the privilege of spending the evening with some old friends last Friday night in South Carolina. We enjoyed pizza, fellowship, and some old student movies.

It had been a long time since Rickwell, Carlos, Jelly, Frog and I were all together.*

Two friends who were not in attendance (and who have been out of touch) were Critter and Homer, pictured at left in a scene from Burglar Alarm.**

To echo the sentiments of those gathered there, it's comforting to know that friendships established many years ago have weathered time and distance, and reuniting after so many years is like picking things up after only so many days.

"A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of Nature." - Emerson

*My personal nicknames for these fine men are Larry, Dave, Jells and Fran, though it has been many years since the nickname Larry has been used. In fact, forget I mentioned the name "Larry." I no longer go that terrible place.

** Ditto Crap-Sack and H-Boy.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Flirting with Disaster

My daughter and I returned a short while ago from a week's vacation in South Carolina.

On the flight from Dulles my daughter kept singing, "We're goin' down, down, down into a burnin' ring of fire" with a Southern twang that is not her own. I have no idea where she learned the song; we have never listened to Johnny Cash at home.

Before long, the song had turned to, "We're goin' down, down, down in a burnin' ring of airplane" and I had to ask her to put a sock in it.

My wife picked us up from the airport and as I lounged on the sofa weary with jet lag, my daughter had asked my wife to help her with her writing.

My wife chose two words for my daughter to practice her penmanship on: Happy and Love.

"What word would you like to practice writing?" asked my wife.

"Corpse," replied my daughter, matter-of-factly.

I hope she's not working on my Father's Day card already.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Burglar Alarm

Twenty years after it was completed I remastered and re-edited a student film entitled The Burglar Alarm.

It was an interesting process for me to take work completed twenty years ago in high school and approach it fresh. It is also interesting that I found enough value in it to want to return to it so many years later.

The most important element in transforming a poorly edited student movie into something of a keepsake or memento was my good fortune at having my old collaborator Alan compose new music for the movie. I have been most pleased with the results.

Those of us who worked hard on the original as a class project will soon gather together to view the results.

Above: Co-Producers George and Steve are blacking out windows for day-for-night photography on The Burglar Alarm: December 30, 1985.

Friday, May 05, 2006

More What I am Watching

I enjoy watching movies and news more than anything else on television. Now that Arrested Development has been cancelled, there is nothing currently on network TV that I care anything about. (I unequivocally do not watch American Idol, though I thought Paris should have been axed two weeks ago, she was so annoying! And does Elliott stand a chance?)

Usually, when I stretch out in front of TV I flip hopelessly through the channels so rapidly that my wife is forced to leave the room in frustration.

(The exception is Good Eats on the Food Network. I stop clicking for that one. That nutty chef is from Georgia and and has the most interesting cooking show ever produced. But that one aside, there is not much on worth stopping my flipping for.)

How I miss Seinfeld and Frasier.

What I have become, well, addicted to, are reruns of Match Game on GSN. The game show ran on CBS during the 1970's.

What is it about that show that keeps me tuning in weekdays between 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. PDT whenever I am at home? (Or whenever American Idol isn't on, which I am not watching anyway.) Is it the show's wacky host, Gene Rayburn? The ever-cool, pre-Feud Richard Dawson? The flaming Charles Nelson Reilly, who is always cracking me up? And what about that nitwit Brett Somers? Who was she, anyway? I don't think I have ever seen her on anything except Match Game.

Is it because half the celebrity panel is three sheets to the wind and are often caught on camera wandering aimlessly around the set? You'd never see that on game shows today. Alex Trebec would saw their feet off.

No, I think it's the 70's hair and wardrobe that keeps me coming back to Match Game night after night after night. It just may inspire me to invest in a brown and orange plaid leisure suit.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

My Daughter the Photographer

During our recent trip to the Seattle Space Needle I allowed my daughter to take seven or eight photographs of her choosing.
Above: I posed for this photograph on the exterior deck of the Needle.

Premium Essential Dress Pant, pleated, by Dockers, $70. Men's Dress Shirt with pointed collar by Bill Blass, $42. Cotton / Polyester / Nylon blend Pryor raincoat featuring a full-button front, covered placket and point collar by Ralph Lauren, $375.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

From the Top of the Noodle

When my daughter was smaller she would refer to the Seattle Space Needle as the "Space Noodle." I thought about that a few weeks ago when a colleague of mine in another city said that he'd always wanted to get out to Seattle and see the the Space Pencil.

During the Winter my daughter began expressing an interest in my taking her to the top of the Needle, and I promised I would do so whenever it got warmer and clearer. The typical Seattle Winter day is overcast and rainy and not particularly conducive to viewing the horizon from 500 feet up. But the arrival of Spring Break -- and a little sunshine -- gave us the opportunity to plan our ascent.

The view of Seattle and Puget Sound from the top of the Space Needle is spectacular. It's particularly stunning on a clear day. I feel for those tourists who come to Seattle during the Rainy season only to find the views of the city and the sound marred by fog and rain.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The New Baby

My family welcomes this day young Lindsay Grace, born to my sister Kristi and her husband Robert.

I am an uncle today!

The baby weighed 10 pounds, 2 ounces.

I told my 5-year-old daughter, "I understand little Lindsay has your aunt's nose."

My daughter responded in disgust, "Why?!?"

"No," I said, "I mean, the baby's nose looks just like her mother's nose."

My daughter replied, with a candor endearing only in children, "It must be really big."

The Easter Break

There was an Easter party at my house the Thursday before Easter. It provided an opportunity for the mothers to have tea and chat and the kids to hide eggs and play.

But there was unexpected drama in store for us.

A few weeks ago, the door to my Tuff Shed blew off in a wind storm. The door is metal framed and very heavy. I could barely just lift it into place over the opening until I could have the door rehung. (I won't go into the hassle I experienced attempting to get the Tuff Shed people even return my calls!)

During the Easter party my daughter -- who is five -- decided she would retrieve her kite from the shed so that she and her friends could fly it in the back yard. In the process she managed to pull this heavy door down squarely on top of her. Chaos ensued, and my thanks goes out to young Miles (who is four) for saving my daughter. He lifted that extremely heavy door off of my daughter just long enough for one of the other tots to pull her safely away. Miles is my daughter's hero. Being a fan of Batman he no doubt knows how to play the hero role.

It could have been bad, but my daughter's reflexes saved her more serious injury. She must have had her hand out in front of her to protect her from the falling door, her arm taking the brunt of the force. She broke her ulna and radius in the accident.

My daughter seems more-or-less unaffected having to wear a cast. She certainly doesn't complain about it, though during her first day of convalescence she did state that since she was hurt she should stay in bed all day and watch Lizzie McGuire on DVD. Had it been me with the broken arm I think I might have driven my wife mad with my griping and complaining. But my daughter wears her cast like a badge of honor.

No surprise, the one she chose is bright pink.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Easter Musings

Today is Easter Sunday! Happy Easter everyone!

It's been a pleasant weekend. Yesterday while I finished up my tax return, my wife and daughter attended a live performance by the Australian supergroup The Wiggles. If you don't have children, you probably don't know who The Wiggles are. That's okay. My sister and brother-in-law will be finding out soon enough. I can tell you that my daughter had a phenomenal time, and that Murray strutted up the aisle and was right next to her. She nearly fainted.

We started the day with a breakfast of fruit salad (a favorite of The Wiggles, incidentally) and bagels, and during the meal my wife perused the calendar of events in the local section of the newspaper. She pointed out to me that the copy for the various children's egg hunts and Easter activities never actually included the word "Easter." Spring Egg Hunt, Spring Festival for Children...not a single reference to the word "Easter" despite the fact that finding colored eggs was the focus of each and every activity listed. I suppose an implied reference to the resurrection of Jesus Christ is just too much for most readers. Mustn't have that.

Saturday's activities also included dyeing Easter eggs with my daughter, something we both very much enjoyed. Between us we produced some nice eggs, most of them pink.

Today it's just the three of us, and I am somewhat disappointed that we will not be able to share the holiday with either my family in South Carolina or my wife's family in Colorado.

I will miss being with my family at Easter, and fondly recall the many Easter Sundays spent at my grandmother's house in Greenville. She makes the best potato salad, and often my uncle would come through with a most delectable ham. My aunt Joice always makes tasty Easter treats, and I miss those as well.

I think my dad will be in Greenville with my grandmother, and perhaps my other uncles and aunts. My mother and sister will not be making the two hour drive to my grandmother's house, as my sister has a baby due later in the week.

So many things to celebrate!

What I'm Watching

I am at the moment watching the 1981 German film Das Boot. I saw the film for the first time in 1987 with my friend Homer, and have not seen it since.

Das Boot is the only "submarine" movie that truly gave me a sense of claustrophobia. Set aboard a U-boat during World War II, Das Boot ("the boat") is tense, dramatic and terrifyingly realistic.

Das Boot was nominated for six American Academy Awards. Since that time, the film's director, Wolfgang Petersen, has been working in Hollywood. His post-Das Boot credits include Air Force One, The Perfect Storm, and the forthcoming remake of The Posiden Adventure.

Do I detect a recurring theme here?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The MS Walk

On Sunday I joined a few friends to walk for a cure for MS. My efforts as a volunteer this year for the Multiple sclerosis society have been enlightening, inspiring and humbling. I am made thankful for the health I presently have, and mindful that a disease like MS can strike anyone at any time.

That great progress has been made in recent years in the diagnosis and treatment of the disease is encouraging. And I have been inspired by those I have met with Multiple sclerosis who live their lives with dignity and courage.

I participated in this year's MS Walk in memory of my dear Grandmother Johnson, and in honor of two others I know who have the disease, Mrs. Green and Jenni. I exceeded my personal fund-raising goal of $500 by $50, and raised another $850 on behalf of my team.

I look forward to participating in the event next year. In the mean time, my brother-in-law is thinking about entering the MS 150 Bike Tour. I look forward to sponsoring him in his efforts if he decides to take up the challenge.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Building Something

Today is the sixth anniversary of The Harding Lunch. There have been few lunches in Kent, Washington, like The Harding Lunch. (There have probably been few lunches anywhere like The Harding Lunch.) We built something that day. Or we tried to, at any rate.

I cannot thank dear Karla enough for allowing the Harding Lunch to happen.

Harding (whom Venetz always referred to as "The Little Man") was the recipient of a very nice pair of brown leather shoes. This was our gift to Harding. Venetz and I had purchased them at the Hudson Bay Trading Company in Vancouver, British Columbia. We chose very nice, comfortable Canadian shoes, but we missed on the size. No matter how carefully one might study Harding's feet, one will invariably misjudge his shoe size by a size and a half. Harding's feet are much smaller than they look. Do you think they look like an 8? Ha! You're way off.

And I probably don't have to say how difficult it is to exchange a pair of Canadian shoes in the United States. You can't do it. Venetz had to go back to Canada to exchange a pair of shoes. Most likely a rarely used reason for crossing an international border.

Those of us involved in The Harding Lunch have gone our separaterate ways. I'm downtown now, working for a different company. Venetz is in Los Angeles. Karla moved to Nevada some time ago. And Harding...he's around somewhere, I understand. Perhaps Federal Way, Washington. The last time we talked -- more than a year ago -- he had gotten into the tee-shirt business. Interestingly enough, the image above is from the front of the official Harding Lunch tee-shirt. Only three were ever made.

We wish Harding the best in his on-line tee-shirt venture. Take it from me -- if you are searching for a vintage 1970s tee-shirt, your search is over. Harding has it.

He's building something.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

He's No Arkin

The reviews of this latest attempt at reviving The Pink Panther franchise have not been kind. And I must admit that I had not been too eager to see Steve Martin take on the character so brilliantly portrayed five times by Peter Sellers. I love the character Sellers created in 1963’s The Pink Panther and its subsequent sequels. Sellers, who died in 1980, has few comic equals. One might argue Martin is one of them.

But he’s no Clouseau.

Yet I saw new The Pink Panther movie anyway.

There were a couple of things that gave me pause before going in to this movie:

The film was originally supposed to have been released last year. Typically these delays indicate a film performed poorly before test audiences and scenes needed to be re-edited or re-shot.

The post-Sellers Panther films have been terrible. This is the fourth.

My friend Mike and I promised one another we would not see this movie, yet through a bizarre series of unconnected events, each of us saw the film, unplanned, the same night at the same time, but not together. The following day Mike called to warn me not to see it. I was about to call him for the same reason.

Despite my disappointment with the film, I will give Martin two things:

One, he did have a few deliciously funny moments between long stretches of unfunny-business.

And two: while Martin is no Sellers, he did a better job playing Inspector Clouseau that either Alan Arkin or Roger Moore. (Yes, Arkin and Moore both played the inspector in really bad movies. If you don’t believe me, look it up. Arkin starred in 1968’s abysmal Inspector Clouseau, and Roger Moore played the part of Clouseau in the 1982 film The Curse of the Pink Panther.)

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Doing What I Can

Wednesday night I attended a kick-off event in Seattle in preparation for the 2006 MS Walk.

I have been blessed with good health, which is something I think most of us take for granted. I know I have. Then there are those whose outlook on their personal health, on their entire lives, changes when a doctor tells them they have Multiple sclerosis.

At the meeting I had the opportunity to speak with many of these people, and hear their stories, and I was moved by their honesty and courage. I was filled with admiration at a number of these volunteers who have devoted their lives to supporting the on-going fight against the disease.

My co-worker (and MS Walk Team Captain Rob) confided to me a number of months ago that his wife had been diagnosed with MS. This was concurrent with the happy news that they were expecting their first child. Realizing that there are people in my life who have suffered from MS, I decided to take the initiative and do something, no matter how small. My grandmother had MS, and a close friend’s mother, a beautiful woman I have known very well for many years, also suffers from MS.

Which is why I have decided to walk this year.

If you would like to support me, you can click here to go to my MS Walk Team Page. You will see my name in the lower left. Click on my page to make a donation to the MS Society.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Pants Resolution

My relationship with my cleaners of two years has come to a bitter end.

A restraining order prevents me from saying anything more.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Delaware Senator Vows Not to be Taken Alive

On the MSN homepage tonight I read this headline:

Biden: I won't be taken alive

I have always found Senator Biden outspoken and often controversial, and the headline was provocative enough to cause me to pause in my task of voting on-line for "America's Funniest Home Videos" and read the story associated with the headline above.

Obviously, he is referring to Republicans, right?

Imagine my disappointment in clicking on the link and finding the headline: "Bin Laden vows never to be captured alive."

Not as provocative a story as I anticipated, but one heck of an editorial oversight!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Rant, Part Two

I am reproducing below the follow-up fax to my dry cleaners, which I fired off after discovering that my pants situation had deteriorated since the day before:

16 February, 2006

***** Cleaners
Seattle, WA
FAX: 206-555-5555

Dear Clumsy Cleaners,

Upon rising this A.M. I experienced a tinge of annoyance at the lack of a reply to my fax transmission dated 15 February concerning what I thought at the time was an ingenious “old switcheroo” ploy undertaken by you with a pair of my khaki cotton Dockers.

Imagine, then, that annoyance burning into anger this morning as I discovered that you, my fine ***** Cleaners, have all of my cotton Dockers! Every last pair, except the ones I was wearing yesterday.

After getting up this morning I kept trying on my pants, newly arrived and bagged from your sterile establishment, and each pair of pants I pulled on came up to mid-shin height. None dangled inconspicuously around my ankles as my pants usually do.

To wit:


How can this possibly happen in our free society?

Please, I want to put on my pants again. Let’s end this little game of yours and move on with our lives.

Please contact me at the number below. Also, please expect me to arrive at your shop this afternoon at approximately 6 o’clock to collect my pants. I will not release the dress slacks until I have assurances from your people that my cotton Dockers have come to no harm.

With growing annoyance,

My name and cell phone number

Rant, Part One

I am re-printing below the fax sent to my dry cleaners yesterday, to which there was no reply.

I have respected their privacy by removing their company name and fax number.

15 February, 2006

***** Cleaners
Seattle, WA
FAX: 206-555-5555

Dear Clever Cleaners,

I was putting on my khaki pants this morning, straight out of the ***** Cleaners wrapper (you know, the plastic you dry cleaner people put over clean clothes that Dateline NBC says suffocates little animals) and I noticed that the cuffs were at mid-shin. Strange – they were never like this before. Previously they hung nicely at ankle-level.

Then I thought, those sneaky nut-cakes over at *****! They raised my cuffs. Believe me, I was amused and not at all upset that you people had a laugh at my expense. If you could only have been there, watching me staring perplexed at my high-water pants. Ha!

Then, quite remarkably, I noticed that your cleaning process had greatly improved the quality of the material in my pants. Oh how that cotton glimmered! They were shorter, yes, but they sure as heck were a lot nicer. Way to go, *****!

But further inspection revealed that these were dress slacks, probably in the $70 range, and not the khaki cotton Dockers I got at J.C. Penney on sale for $28.

Thus my conclusion:

You people have my pants!

To be fair, I also have your pants. Or someone’s pants. But the fact remains – you people have my pants, and I must hold my ground and refuse to turn over the high-waters until I get my khaki cotton Dockers back. I will describe them: they are khaki cotton Dockers, cuffs on the legs which hang at ankle length, small gray-colored lint ball in right pocket.

Please let me know if you have found my pants. I would like to wear them again. You may contact me at the number below.


My name and cell phone number

Sunday, February 12, 2006

A Quote from a Famous Person

"Do you think Coca Cola should still advertise? Don't you think everyone has heard of this product?"

Ted L. Nancy

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A Window into the Pacific Northwest

The Pacific Northwest -- there is no other place like it. I have been living here nearly eight years, and I never grow weary of the magnificence nature displays in this region. I have never gotten used to seeing the Goliath that is Mount Rainier reaching 14,410 feet above the earth and into the heavens toward its Creator. The Pacific Northwest, a region of water, mountains and sleeping volcanoes, is truly beautiful.

The photograph was taken by my wife near Snoqualmie Pass, Washington, back in November, and communicates to me a quiet dignity that is representative to this part of the country. When I leave this corner of the fruited plain, and I will some day, images like this one will stay with me for a long, long time.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Seahawks: Super Bowl XL Runners-Up

I don’t think too many people are in a state of shock and surprise around here, although the disappointment is palpable. Our underdog Seattle Seahawks were bested in Super Bowl XL by the Pittsburgh Steelers. And although the result is disappointing, we are happy just to have made it to the big game. After all, the Seahawks are the NFC champions, and that is a first.

The score was 21 to 10.

So much for Tuesday’s ticker-tape parade.

But I am proud of the home team. They had a phenomenal season and Holmgren did take them as far as the big game.

There is always next year…

I can say I enjoyed Harrison Ford's Dr. Seuss pre-game commentary.

Sunday Morning News Roundup

  • Muslims are rioting in the streets. I know this is nothing new, but this time it’s because of some cartoons. I’ve gotten tired of Doonesbury, but there’s no point in my doing anything about it. This development cannot be good news for the likes of Bill Amend and Cathy Guisewite.
  • Somebody is burning Christian churches in Alabama, yet parishioners continue to worship and have vowed to stay together and rebuild. Thus far, Baptists are behaving with restraint and nobility and no rioting has occurred.
  • Rest in peace, Coretta Scott King.
  • Super Bowl XII kicks off today in Hunt Valley, MD. The Super Bowl of Electric Football means that not only are people still playing electric football, but they are playing championship Electric Football. For younger readers, Electric Football was introduced before video games. It featured a metal field with tiny players that moved around when the board was turned on. The board hummed so loudly it sounded like a utility transformer about to explode.
  • Rest in peace, Al “Grandpa Munster” Lewis.
  • The Darwin Awards is now a film. Is anybody else out there saying, “Huh?”

Saturday, February 04, 2006

The 12th Man

The Seattle Seahawks are on their way to Superbowl XL. Most Seattleites are cautious. We are not at all adept at winning national championships, and are unsure how to act. It does not happen very often here.

The Supersonics did it during the 1978-79 season, bringing the NBA title to the Emerald City. Some of my friends were not even born then. Twenty-five years later, the 2004 Seattle Storm won the WNBA championship. But that was off a lot of people’s radar. The WNBA just does not get the respect that it deserves.

Oh, and how can I forget that Seattle won the Stanley Cup? That's right, the Stanley Cup. Bet you did not know that. That was in 1917. The Seattle Metrolpolitans. They are no longer around.

Today a couple of friends and I walked down to Westlake Plaza in downtown Seattle for a rally in support of the Seahawks. There were about a thousand people in the street to watch Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and King County Executive Ron Sims unfurl the 12th Man Flag over the plaza. A few friends from the Storm and Sonics were on hand to wish the Hawks good luck. There were no Seahawks on hand. They are all in Detroit, getting ready for the game.

I hope the Seahawks, or maybe owner Paul Allen, heard us cheering today. It’s 2,387 miles from Seattle to Detroit. That's a long way. But Seahawks fans are a loud bunch. I think we did okay.

Go Hawks!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Living Across from the Pantages

I went back to my old neighborhood the other day for haircut and was reminded how much things have changed since I abandoned the city for the suburbs. Nothing ever stays the same, and I certainly don’t expect things to remain as I remember them. But with every change l observe in Seattle’s Capital Hill neighborhood I feel that much more disconnected from my past. My recent past.

After my haircuit I took a walk and noticed that no less than four large, old houses near my old building on Harvard Avenue had been razed and fashionable new apartment buildings erected in their place.

I also discovered that on the corner across from my old building a magnificent old home characterized by sweeping steps cascading off the covered porch to the sidewalk had been lovingly and meticulously restored. I was pleased to see the grand old home looking so fine, and I stopped for a moment to admire it.

I had walked by that old house hundreds of times and had not a clue of its historical significance. A placard recently placed in front of the home tells us that it is the Pantages House, built in 1907.

Pantages, if you do not recognize the name, was a vaudevillian who built many theaters, many of which are still around today in cities like Minneapolis, Toronto, Kansas City, Tacoma, San Diego and of course the famous Pantages Theater on Hollywood Boulevard in the heart of Los Angeles.

So inasmuch as I am saddened to see so many changes in the old neighborhood, I am more than pleased to see such a unique old house saved from disorder and disrepair.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Best Family Movie Since The Incredibles

Hoodwinked succeeds in skewering the fairy tale genre with a simplicity and genuine wit that exceeds anything they did in the Shrek movies. In the prologue we are presented with the classic telling of Little Red Riding Hood. What comes next is a Rashomon retelling of the memorable "What big eyes you have" story from four separate (and cleverly distinct) points of view: that of the grandmother (not what she seems), the wolf (whose story pays homage to the Chevy Chase film Fletch, much to my amusementnt), the woodsman (not really a woodsman) and of course young Red herself.

Hoodwinked is not only brilliantly constructed and well written, but superbly performed and genuinely funny. It's suitable for all ages (why it received a PG rating to begin with is a mystery to me), and Mom and Dad will enjoy it as well as the kids. Glenn Close, Jim Belushi, David Ogden Stiers, Anne Hathaway and Andy Dick lead the cast.