Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wrestling With Angels

It's an old-school story about Jacob physically pounding a blessing (or redemption for sins against his brother, depending on your source) out of an angel. No matter your source, he gets his blessing but he doesn't come out without scars from the fight. The stories are sometimes a little out of my reach. But often paintings like this one from Gustav Dore and this one from fellow Frog Eugene Delacroix . .

. . . really help me by (as any work of quality art would, according to Heidegger) putting/projecting me into their own world. And I belong in these worlds right now. I really need to believe in this moment that humility and supplication are not the only paths to blessings. I'm ready to fight and I'm ready to bear the dislocated hip or the fat lip or the bruised ego or whatever it takes to get things on the right track for my career/our family's finances.

For those of you who think my turning for symbolism to what you might (generously, for some of you . . ) call superstition to solve very real temporal problems -- I can assure you that if were a Muslim, Buddhist, Atheist or Agnostic -- I'm doing all the secular stuff I know to do already: networking, tracting, resume-spamming, applying and chasing down every lead. A little faith can't hurt. Maybe you can get behind Reverend Book from the Firefly series: "It doesn't matter what you believe. But you have to believe".

Look at those paintings, the angels don't appear to even be trying. It doesn't appear to be about the battle for them at all. Perhaps it's about Jacob's will, commitment of physical being and faith that their blessing is more than worth a thorough ass-kicking.

Watch your wings, I'm bringin' it.



Monday, October 27, 2008

Happy Octoberween!

Max chose The Cheat for his jack-o-lantern . . .


Ben and Milo wanted Pom Pom and the 8-bit peasant from the Trogdor Burninator game . . .

These are all from, which you should recognize as among the very best internet sites for wasting valuable time. I'm afraid that I am a stalwart fan of the site, finding an eerie kinship with Coach Z, the Minnesotan rapper. I wanted to put Peacey P, ("the best guest rapper in the music biz, I don't even know who's song this is . . . ") on "my" pumpkin. but AK informed me that it was "our" pumpkin (she did grow it) so it has "AK *heart* CH" carved in it now. So there it is. Halloween. The day that we set aside for the celebration of flash animation web sites that suck precious time into the vaccuum of the past.

Wal Mart Slippers. No, those arent' slippers you buy at Wal Mart. That's the new name for my comfy fuzzy (but decidedly manly Forest Green) house slippers. I think my mother got them for me last X-mas, on account of me spending all winter painting in my workshop with only commercial indoor/outdoor carpeting between my tootsies and the concrete floor. Yes, I'm a fully testonsteron'ed 6'3 man, and I just referred to my feet as tootsies. Deal with it. As the chill has crept in this past month, I find my best defense is the following podiatric recipe: one pair of sport socks, one pair of AK's hand-knit-wool-warm-but-scritchy-and-a-little-stretched-out Yarny Socks, all covered by one pair of fuzzy green manslippers. Once this detailed recipe has been assembled, is it worth it to CHANGE all of my footwear to leave the house? Well, that depends. Am I leaving the car or just taxiing munchkins from point to point? If I am leaving the car, will I be seen by John Q. Public or will it be fellow harried parents who are less likely to judge my kicks and more likely to think "score! I'm totally not changing out of my slippers next time". Well, while we all joked about Daddy strolling the aisles of Wal Mart in his slippers last week -- today I again found myself at Wally World sporting the sock/sock/slipper triple-whammy of warmth, comfort and trendsetting style. So it's obvious a line exists, and on one side of the line are slipper-worthy destinations, on the other side are establishments that for one reason or another require changing into more civilized footwear. Where do you draw your line and why?

Sexy Sexy. AK and I listened to The Pretenders' "Chain Gang" on the radio today and I pontificated -- as I am wont to do -- on the seductive lilt and style of Chrissy Hynde's voice. I began to assemble an authoritative and rock-solid, irrefutable list of the sexiest voices in entertainment. But that didn't work. So here is my half-sorted, seat-of-the-pants and refutation-begging list:

-Chrissy Hynde: She somehow manages to moan and sing at the same time. She's mysterious insofar as her bangs have always been so long . . . to this day no one knows what she really looks like. She sang a duet with UB40 about cheating called Breakfast in Bed, so sultry and inviting that it almost justified infidelity. Almost.

-Toni Braxton: Delicious contralto goodness. Anita Baker but, you know, hot. Who cares if she can dance?

-Kathleen Turner: I don't know if she can sing or not, but I've set through some real stinkers of movies just to hear her voice for 90 minutes.

-Macy Gray: I should also throw Tracy Chapman in here with Macy Gray, they seem so similar to me. It's as though Tracy Chapman finally found some good anti-depressant medications . . in the late 90s . . . and then changed her name to Macy Gray. Modern folk music from a strong-yet-feminine point of view. But really. Have YOU ever seen them in the same room at the same time?

-Alison Moyet: She was the singer for Yaz (Yazoo in the UK). Yaz was Vince Clarke and Alison Moyet, then when she went to sing Christian for a living synth-genius Clarke made Andy Bell his pop-music mouthpiece and they were then Erasure. Now, Alison Moyet belongs on this list all by herself. But I also want to sneak Andy Bell in here. I asked AK if he could be on my list, even though he's a guy. She said no. I pointed out that he's an extravagantly homosexual guy, probably happy to be lumped in with female singers of any kind, let alone sexy-voiced ones, and that didn't seem to help at all. Still not so much. Both of these singers have range and power (and wear dresses) but we'll just list Alison for now.

Who's on your list? Opposite sex or not?

That's all I can remember right now. I know there are others, I'm just not worldly enough to be familiar with them. AK lamented that she did not have a smoky low voice. I informed her that she absolutely DID -- whenever she got REALLY sick and almost totally lost her voice. My advances of course during those times are diverted if not halted altogether by the phlegm, bloodshot eyes and violent moodswings that accompany any infectious virus worth it's antibiotic.

While we're on the subject of seduction, I must share a delightful tidbit of our playful romantic banter. I was so struck by my wife's clever flirtatious poetry that I wrote it down. Imagine if you will, a tired but lovely woman and her charming if Wooly-Willy-looking husband. Imagine that they are in his workshop, gazing into each others eyes as a pounding melody throbs from the stereo speakers. He confidently looks over his glasses and raises his left eyebrow in an inviting arch, then raises it again and again in time with the passionate music. He's coyly hinting at the rhythm of love -- and she recoils.

"Not so much with the eyebrow?" he asks matter of factly.

"It looks like the death throes of a caterpillar" says she.

Yes, she knows how to make a man feel like a man.

Taking my caterpillars and going to bed . . .



Monday, October 20, 2008

What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding?

Ann is blue. Since Ann did me the favor of putting in a good word for me with a certain cute high-schooler in 1984 (who I would go on to date, be mercilessly dumped by, maintain a long friendship with and ultimately bribe with a motorcycle, er, marry), I'd like to do a good turn. I recommended to her on Facebook to try some loud, happy music. Then, having dishes to do in the vicinity of the boombox anyway, I turned up AK's Springtime 2008 CD. As it played, I washed and sang along, and thought how perfect these songs were for someone who might be blue. Some songs are decidedly Spring'y. Some not so much. They span many years and at least a few musical genres, so I'll post the playlist here for anyone who might at sometime become blue . . . and have iTunes . . . and a CD burner . . . and a boombox.

1. Talkin' Harvest Time Blues by Stephanie Davis
2. Soak Up the Sun by Cheryl Crow
3. Don't Worry Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin
4. Family Affair by Mary J. Blige
5. Peace Love and Understanding by Elvis Costello
6. Fighter by Christina Aguilera
7. Church by Lyle Lovett
8. This Little Light of Mine by The Steeles
9. Beautiful by Christina Aguilera
10. Bassoon Concerto in A Minor by Some Orchestra Somewhere
11. I'll Be There For Your/All I Need to Get By by Mary J. Blige and Method Man
12. Lets Make a Better World by Dr. John
13. You're Only Human (2nd Wind) by Billy Joel
14. Keep'n it Real by Shaggy
15. Lean on Me by Bill Withers
16. I'll Take You There by The Staple Singers
17. You Get What You Give by The New Radicals
18. September by Earth Wind and Fire

Take what you will, add your own favorites and make your own Blue Remedy playlist. Personally I'm not a big Aguilera fan (yes, she can belt like a mikky fikky . . . ) and I am still a little tired of Don't Worry Be Happy (if you lived through it, you get it). But some are just brilliant. I dare you to NOT slink around or shake your thang to the Take You There bass line. I dare you to not sing along to September. And I would dare you to research it yourself, but I've already researched it, and there is no more moving version of Lean on Me than Bill Withers' original.

Here, we hang in there. Lux Graphics is back in business as I apply for more straight jobs and re-reassess my career options. In a very fundamental way, it blows. I trusted some people it turns out I oughtn't (is that a word?) and was led down a dark hopeless path. I figured it out in time and got off the path, but somewhere along the line misplaced my hope. If you see it, please hit me on the celly, stakes are high. I have a new, additional calling at church, working even more with the young men. Schedule-wise it's a good thing I'm on a self-employed schedule again.

AK is getting more writing work and enjoying her law office job I think. She's busy with the PAC job and her Relief Society presidency job but finds both as rewarding as they are taxing. I don't like to share her with everyone else like that, but it makes my heart sing to see her as a happy . . . as Thomas so succinctly put it . . . Useful Engine. Isn't that all we ever want from life, to be a useful engine?

Max is wrapping up football. This league is really wonderful and it's too bad he'll probably be too big to play next year. Some days it's like the Land of The Misfit Toys Football League, and he does fit in. All days, the coaches and the other players really pull together and get behind each other. That's what keeps Max wanting to go back I believe. He's the epitome of an awkward pre-teen, but going to a small academics-heavy middle school will help him survive the middle school years I think. Still playing piano, still learning percussion. He's doing a math-themed academic olympics thing at school on Saturdays (heaven forbid we hang out TOGETHER more than one day a week . . . ) and he's genuinely enthused about anything science-related. Which bodes well for his future career prospects. Much better than an interest in, say, Philosophy . . .

Twinks are a trip. Both are pushing independence boundaries, but in different directions. Milo seems to by trying to (melo)dramatically define himself, like a very small lost, lamenting artist. Ben is experimenting with anger and resistance.

Showing mad ri'SPECT to Dy . . . kiss those babies!



Saturday, October 11, 2008

I got myself a Gerbil. We be kickin' it as friends.

That's what AK thinks Shaggy is singing in his song "Keep'n It Real". It's on the Springtime mix CD I made her this year. How pathetic-old-80's-romantic is it that I still make mix CDs? If I want to do it next Spring we'll have to get her an MP3 player (Max and I already have ours). I don't think stores will still be selling CDs next year. In fact, now that I have an iPod, that technology has surely jumped the shark and will soon be obsolete.

Surely I'm at least a runner up for Worst Blogger of The Year. It's been over two months. Facebook makes petty narcissism SO much easier than blogging.

The following mysteries have been haunting me of late . . .

*Banks. I keep reading/hearing that we are in a banking crisis. Huge banks are going under every day it seems. And yet, here in State College, every new building being built/opening is a BANK. Actually they are called "Retail Banking Centers" now, since the traditional savings and loan business model doesn't work anymore. No one saves money in savings accounts, so creatively backed securities underwrite what gets loaned out. They make their money now in fees, like credit cards and video stores (remember those?). Oh, and in selling people money they can't afford. How hard is that? "You deserve a trip to Disneyworld, Mr. Smith. Take your whole family, please. Lets sell you an RV while you're here". I see why maybe they PLANNED to build these buildings and open these credit whores . . . ahem. . . retail banking centers over the past few years. But in light of what's going on, don't you think they'd change "Coming Soon: Cheap Charlies Pleasing Fees!" to "For Lease. Will Build to Suit"

*Baby Fork. As our kids have grown, the trappings of each age grouping have slowly migrated out of our house. Diapers slowly went extinct. I took years, but I think we're finally free of the Great Toddler Era Sippy Cup Invasion. But for some reason we still have this one tiny little learning-to-eat fork with ABCs and 123s on it. It's barely big enough for a grown up to eat hors d'ouvres with. This is not entirely remarkable. What's strange are the following facts: every time I do the dishes it's dirty (well, I don't see food residue, that might clear up the mystery . . . ) and I have never seen anyone in my family using the fork for eating. Or stirring. Or poodle prodding. Or anything. WHO USES THIS TINY USELESS FORK and for what? I caught AK with it at the table the other night. She claimed she actually at her Minnesota Hot Dish casserole with it, but by this time her plate was empty. NO PROOF. I'm very suspect.

*Why. Oh. Why . . . did we not name our twins "Opa" and "Uffda"? This would not only reflect their non-to-nearly-non existent Greek and Scandinavian heritage . . . it would ensure that they would somehow become famous as sitcom actors or olympic athletes or flash-in-the-pan pop group singers.

Yup. Aswhati'mchattinbout.



Pupp Daddy Dog spends his days working as an entrepeneur and as a Dad. He is passionately in love with/obsessively neurotic about his family. Imagine Kicking Bird mixed with Albert Brooks. Oh, and throw in some Notorious B.I.G.


Alaska is the frustrated but caring cat at the center of our canine universe. All of us alternately worship, rely on and ceaselessly whine to her. Her need to control everything is confounded by the fact that she really pretty much does control everything, so in her few free moments, she knits and searches desperately for things to fuss about.



Max is smart and handsome, with a big heart. He is not only growing like a weed, but he has the attention span and concentration abilities of a weed. Despite my best efforts, AK keeps feeding him and he keeps growing. Our plan is to keep him so busy with school, sports & the arts that he won't notice he's a teenager and is supposed to hate us. T minus 2.5 years to teen launch, so far so good.



 Ben and Milo are phenomenal little creatures who remind us minute-by-minute not only how little control we have in this world, but why we should cease our controlling efforts and just laugh at all of God's jokes. Lately, Milo likes to dance and is good on the piano. Ben likes to mimic Max and enjoys manipulating adults and anyone else who has no idea how quietly brilliant he is. Both of them would love your full and complete attention. Really, stop reading silly blogs and join the fan club now. Ok? Ok.








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