Monday, March 30, 2009

Bark at the moon

The Bug generally makes the pages of this blog for being a sweet angel. She can't help it; it's just what she does. Not today, however! Last night she started screaming at 1am. Not crying, not in pain, not scared, she hadn't misplaced her fuzzy lamb. She was just standing up in her crib and doing a full-lung howl for no apparent reason. I went in to her room, picked her up, calmed her down, put her back in her crib, and by the time I was back in my own room, she was screaming again. Take two, Joker's turn. He spent two hours with her - every time he started to leave the room she screamed again. No sleeping, this one, not even for a minute. When he gave up around 3:00, we decided to let her go. Twenty minutes seemed reasonable - no way she could keep it up for longer without running out of steam, right? Wrong. I calmed her down at 3:20, but when I left the room, more screaming. She did not stop. All night. She just wanted to hang out, nothing more, nothing less. It was beyond brutal.

Of course, at 6:30 when we got her out of bed she was all smiles and no worse for the wear. I, however, have burning eyes and fear that I might fall asleep in my chair. We can only hope it was a one-night thing - while Joker and I are incredibly charming, no one can possibly want our middle-of-the-night company that badly!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

On the block, recession style

Joker and I have been quasi-looking at a house that has gone through a really interesting sales process. Essentially, the family that owned it was going through a very messy divorce, the value was under water for whatever reason, they stopped paying their mortgage, and the bank foreclosed in January. Yesterday we witnessed the latest wacky step live and in person: the house was sold through an auction process. It was pretty bizarre.

We arrived about 45 minutes before the auction time, and all sorts of interested parties were wandering around the house and yard. We had to register, which involved filling out some basic information and getting a bright yellow "bid card" in return. Another 30 minutes or so of milling about, and everyone made their way to the driveway, where the auctioneer and his sidekick were waiting. (Two westerners; I'm guessing Texas or Oklahoma.) After reading the perfunctory disclosure information, the auction itself began. It was very authentic, fast-talking and all: "Can I hear two fitty, two fitty. Now three. Two fitty now three now three. Three now three fitty, three now three fitty..." People waved their cards to indicate interest at a given price. Within five, maybe ten, minutes, the house was sold. It felt very surreal, the prospect of making such a major purchasing decision on the spot like that. I've read that this process has become more common during the mortgage crisis, but watching it first-hand was particularly strange.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Sent to the Bug from Mima, who spent a relaxing long weekend visiting a good friend in Delray Beach. Something tells me this image sells far better than, say, a flock of seagulls.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Turned up to 11

The Bug is almost 22 months old, which isn't any milestone I'm aware of. But since she's a total bundle of energy who's up to something new every day, here's a little update of her world:

...She likes to count. So naturally, we count everything in our house. A week ago, she counted to eleven by herself, which is her best streak yet.
...She will not keep a barrette in her hair, regardless of said barrette's cuteness or tight-holding-ness. (As soon as I put them in her hair, she takes them out and counts them. No joke.) So - deep breath! - I trimmed her bangs on Sunday. It wasn't a disaster. They actually even look cute!
...When she likes her food, she rubs her tummy and says "Yummy!"
...Latest Mommy Mad-lib: I told her not to tug on my glass of water; she has to "be gentle because Mommy is..." and I blanked on the word "fragile." She didn't miss a beat, and finished my sentence with "...HAPPY!" Which, while accurate, didn't quite explain the gentle thing.
...She's recently begun singing along with her favorite tunes. In particular, "Elmo's Song," Dora's theme song, and the ABC's. Early results indicate that she may have inherited my voice. Sorry, Bug!
...She sits on the potty a few times a day. In the last two weeks, she's tinkled while on it exactly once.
...Yesterday was the first day I couldn't talk her out of the shirt she wanted to wear. So she wore a pink tank top over her dress. It looked pretty ridiculous. I'm guessing this will be a common occurrence going forward. I must be vigilant with photo documentation. It'll be priceless in a few years.

Norway is not the capital of Sweden

I always wondered what made those wacky Norwegians tick. Enjoy this valuable lesson in geography and sociology!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Hip, hop, socialize

Ozomatli has been my favorite live band for years now, ever since the first time Joker and I saw them at Jazz Aspen seven or eight years ago. They have such great energy - it feels like you somehow got invited to the coolest party in town, and they're so glad you came they want to make sure you have fun. I saw them play at Irving Plaza on Friday night, and again, they did not disappoint!

For the uninitiated, I describe them as Latin funk, though they themselves add another dozen or so genres to the list. Suffice it to say, you had better wear your dancing shoes to the show. Fans take note: they played at least a half dozen songs I'd never heard before, so I am guessing a new album is not far off. Since I think Don't Mess With The Dragon is their best since their first self-titled album, I am looking forward to it!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Legalize it. Then, tax it.

I applauded the Obama Administration's announcement that they would no longer go after legal dispensers of medicinal marijuana. In states that have legalized the use of medical marijuana, this practice always seemed like a tremendous waste of limited federal resources, particularly when we have bigger fish to fry with the real evil-doers of the world.

Now, given the economy's deep recession, I think it's time to take it a step further. Though people hate the idea of raising or creating taxes, there is one that consistently continues to grow: the sin tax. I think it is time to revisit the legalization of marijuana, and begin regulating and taxing it. You cut the biggest evil-doers - the drug cartels - out of the loop, create consistency and safety regulations for the product, create jobs, and generate a new revenue stream that can help pay for Obama's health care ambitions... All this, and it would probably have little to no effect on the nation's consumption. A radical idea? Maybe. But shouldn't all options be on the table at a time like this?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Through the looking glass

We've been using an amazing little video baby monitorsince the Bug moved into her crib. As overly-cautious as it sounds, it's allowed us to keep a close eye on her, without having to get up every time she makes a peep. The monitor has two frequencies: A and B. We've had it set on one of them ever since we put the camera unit on the shelf in her room; the other has always been static. Until last week, when Joker picked up the monitor, and switched the frequency on a whim. Instead of static, he saw another crib. We thought it was a fluke, but that night we again saw the mystery crib. Since we found it to be kinda creepy, we unplugged the camera, and have since been flying blind sans monitor. The Bug's almost two years old now, so it's really not a problem - she definitely lets us know if she needs us!

I called this morning to speak with the manufacturer, and apparently it's something that does happen from time to time - another person with another monitor on the same frequency can appear on my monitor. If you're still under the 1-year warranty, you can exchange it for a new monitor with a different frequency. In our case, we don't have a lot of options, but it's good to know that the manufacturer is both aware of this, and able to offer an alternative.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


I'd always wanted to love Toni Morrison, but after struggling through Beloved and Tar Baby, I had given up. Which is how Sula sat on my shelf for years before I finally read it. I can say definitively that it was about time. It's a short but complex novel; Morrison packs a punch into a relatively straightforward story.

The novel tracks the friendship of two black women in a small Ohio town over the course of three decades. In 1919, Nel Wright and Sula Peace are a couple of lonely 9-year-olds, Nel living with her religious and conservative parents, and Sula with her widowed mother, grandmother, and the various stragglers and orphans that they've taken in. The two become fast friends despite, perhaps even because of, these differences. Nel loves the chaos of Sula's home; Sula savors the order of Nel's. They become inseparable friends who face every adventure and challenge together, be it tragedy or love. At the age of 17, Nel marries one of the town's most eligible bachelors and Sula leaves town to seek her fortune.

When Sula returns ten years later, her friendship with Nel quickly falls back into step. The happiness of the friends' reunion is short-lived, however, when Sula sleeps with Nel's husband. The town's initial distrust at Sula's return - an unmarried woman, still beautiful though nearly 30 years old, who puts her own grandmother into a home - becomes outright fear and hostility as her list of sexual conquests stacks up. It is not until Sula is lying on her death bead that she and Nel are able to reconcile.

The story is a simple one, but the novel's themes are far from simple. Morrison explores numerous types of relationships: the love of a mother for her children; friendship between women; sex; love; townsfolk and their rejects. It examines guilt, and the difference between good and evil. Morrison captures the difficulty of post-emancipation life in the midwest, and breaks your heart several times while she does it. If you've never enjoyed a Toni Morrison book before, give Sula a try - you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

No one to run with

I got a last-minute ticket yesterday to see the Allman Brothers Band play their second night of this year's Beacon Theatre run. It's been several years since I've seen them play, and I was psyched to see both the show and the newly-renovated venue.

A few observations: Believe the hype: the Beacon looks stunning - the chandelier in the lobby, the artwork in the theater itself, the acoustics - they did a great job... The Allman's fan base is 95% male, and is neither young nor beautiful... Their light show was horrible - a distracting mess that resembled the demon spawn of the world's worst lava lamps... Cameras are now ubiquitous at shows, and people appeared to be updating Facebook status/Twitter throughout the night... And there was far less pot smoke in the air than I recalled...

The band sounded fantastic. The current lineup is wildly talented, and I am completely in awe of both Derek Trucks (who, by the way, is younger than me!) and Warren Haynes (duh!). Gregg Allman still rocks, though I would have liked to hear a bit more repartee with the audience. Guests for the night included Johnny Winter, who lays down some excellent blues guitar, and David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas from Los Lobos, who were both entertaining and amazingly nimble on their instruments.

It shouldn't be surprising given they are playing the same venue for 15 nights over three weeks, but they didn't play all of the old favorites. We got to hear Gregg Allman play guitar in a beautiful rendition of "Melissa," and my favorite song of the night was the very extended jam of "No One to Run With." I probably won't rush out for another Allman's show any time soon, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Rockin' mamas

Thanks to our friends over at Fairfield County Child, the Bug and I got to treat Aunt Katy and cousin Lily to a rock concert today - the Swingset Mamas were playing here in Stamford. What a fun show! The band is fronted by two women who sing an eclectic mix of songs - reggae to rock to calypso - for which the preschool set goes totally bonkers. It was a sold-out show, and from the first note the kids were totally rocking the house - they even had their own mini mosh-less pit down in front of the stage! The Bug was in awe, and barely stopped dancing during the entire show!

The band has a couple of CDs and a DVD, all of which have gotten rave reviews - we'll definitely be adding them into our rotation, too.

Friday, March 6, 2009

And the selection is...

The meeting last night of the Fearless Readers was a lot of fun - most of us even managed to finish In the Beauty of the Lilies. No one liked it much more than I did, but we disagreed enough on the relative strengths and weaknesses to have a spirited conversation.

As per tradition, we left the meeting with a new assignment in hand. This month, we'll be reading Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, which is considered by many to be the masterpiece of this prolific satirist. Since it's also beloved by my father-in-law, I'm looking forward to the rereading this one. The meeting will be the first Sunday in April, at location TBD in Brooklyn. Let me know if you'll be joining; I hope to see comments here at the very least!

A quick housekeeping note. As you have probably noticed, I link out from this blog to tons of sites that I think are of interest. When I review books or music, I link to Amazon, to make it easy for you to pick them up, if you so desire. As of yesterday, I'll be getting a very small "referral fee" from purchases made on clicks out from this blog. It won't cost you any differently, but it could be a tiny little benefit to me. So... if you do get the urge to visit our beloved behemoth of an e-tailer, I'd appreciate it if you can do it via Aspirin and Boku-maru!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

In the Beauty of the Lilies

In the Beauty of the Lilies is the first book by John Updike that I have read. It is an incredibly ambitious novel, spanning four generations and 80 years in the life of an American family that is largely defined by their relationships with God and the movies. I enjoyed the book for the most part, and I am glad that I have read it, but there were definitely times that I found it to be a bit tedious.

The book is divided into four sections of roughly equal length, each focusing on a member of the Wilmot family. We open in Patterson, NJ in 1910 with the story of Clarence, a Presbyterian minister who literally loses his religion in a moment of clarity. Believing himself unable to continue his ministry, he leaves the church, dragging the social status and finances of his family irreversibly down. He becomes a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman, which he does poorly, and he can only find solace within the doors of the local movie house. After his death, his wife and his three children are forced to move in with his sister, who lives in a small town in Delaware.

Teddy, the youngest of Clarence's children, seems to me to be the closest thing the book has to a "hero." Unlike his older siblings, he is rather unambitious and generally stays out of trouble. He works at the soda fountain in the town's drug store, where he meets shy Emily, a new girl in town with a deformed foot. His mother and aunt aren't fond of the match, so they encourage Teddy to join his siblings - his wild older brother Jared, his flapper sister Esther, and Jared's wife Lucille (a bootlegger's daughter) - in New York. Jared's shady business dealings aren't for Teddy, and his moment of clarity drives him to return to little Basingstoke and propose to his sweet Emily. Between the job he lands as a postman and his lovely marriage to Emily, he has everything in life he could possibly want. The birth of their daughter Essie, and their increasingly close relationship with Teddy's mother and Emily's parents, only sweeten life for Teddy.

Essie, on the other hand, is an adored little girl with grand ambitions of becoming a star. She considers her charmed childhood to be absolutely perfect, though she feels destined to be more. Through a series of smart moves beginning during her high school years, she ultimately lands herself a Hollywood studio contract. Now known as Alma DeMott, she leads a fast, successful movie star's life, with marriages and men to spare.

Alma's son Clark is definitely not her priority, and he never quite manages to find direction in his drug-hazed life. His drifting finds him in Colorado in the mid-1980s (when he's in his mid-20s), working for Jared at a ski resort. A chance meeting in the lodge leads to his riding home with a girl from a Branch Davidian-esque cult. The cult fills a void in Clark's life, partly because their seclusion renders them ignorant of his famous mother, and re-christened as Esau, he quickly becomes indoctrinated.

I thought the book was strongest during the Teddy section. His story was an interesting contrast to that of his siblings, and it was consumed with neither film nor God. I suppose that is why he was the only member of the family who lived the status quo - all others were either made great or destroyed by God or the movies. The contrast of these two American cultural institutions was interesting, but felt somewhat unnatural. While In the Beauty of the Lilies provides a glimpse into the distinguished "man of letters" that was Updike, it's not the most enjoyable book I've read. I'll probably attempt Rabbit, Run, and see if I find other Updike to be more appealing.

Next up for me: Sula by Toni Morrison. I'll tell you tomorrow what the Fearless Readers are tackling next.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Let's try this one again

Perhaps you recall when I boldly stated my intention to get back into running last October. While that did get me through to bikini time, my motivation faded into a hazy memory upon our return from Mexico. This time, I have a longer-range goal, giving the good habits a bit more time to take.

Memorial Day, the Bolder-Boulder, a 10K road race through one of the prettiest towns in the country. Incidentally, this also commits us to celebrating the Bug's second birthday in Colorado with her Mima and Boppie. I'm pretty sure they'll be happy about that, too.

Joker and the Bug will have to watch from the sidelines - no strollers allowed - but anyone want to join me? Carly? Jessie? I think my folks are already on board. I don't anticipate setting any land speed records, but hey - you never know!