Friday, October 28, 2005
Dear VH1,

Alright. Alright! Bravo, my friends. After rehashing the obvious, stupid, and painfully retro-i-fied with "I Love the '80s" and "I Love the '80s Strikes Back," I think you're finally on to something with "I Love the 80s 3-D." Really, this is your best "I Love" series yet. You've cleared away the surface of the colorfast Reagan-Bush years and have really gotten into the heart of what made my childhood interesting. Everyone always wants to bring up Dynasty and Devo, neither of which I really liked, but it takes some serious cultural anthropological digging to unearth Freezy Freakies and "You Can't Do That On Television." Nice work. Nice work indeed. This is what cable tv is for.

I am enjoing the series so much that I've gotten very little done this week. Actually, that happens every time you air one of these series, but this time, I don't care. It's worth it. I'm enjoying it all so much that I'm more than willing to forgive you for waxing nostalgic about monster truck rallies and leaving out a mockery of the all-important phrase, "We'll sell you the whole seat, you'll only nead the edge!" How the hell do you even think about monster trucks and forget to say that? But it's okay. I'm over it.

And a suggestion: since the next obvious decades to do an "I Love" series on are the '60s and the '00s, the former of which your snarky panel of commentators are too young to discuss and the latter of which is still happening, even though you kind of already have an "I Love the '00s" series with "Best Week Ever," may I suggest stopping with the chronology and picking up with the geography? Like, how about "I Love the Suburbs"? I think it could work. You know: big box stores, hanging out in parking lots, drinking your parents' booze (mom I swear I never did that), that kind of thing. Think about it. It could be a hit.

Your pal,


Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Foilage. I mean, foliage. Over the weekend, we went up north a few hours to Ludington. We didn't really have anything in mind; we really just wanted to get away, see the lake one last time before winter, and get some rest. All of those things were accomplished. It was really nice up there, and I even took this lovely photo of colorful trees and a pond and the reflection of the colorful trees in the pond. And I thought I wasn't a nature photographer. This isn't a half-bad shot! But I digress.

We stayed at this very Victorian-ish bed and breakfast with a really kooky innkeeper. She was probably in her late 50s or early 60s, and she was sort of sassy. Like, if you have an aunt who never married and has unusually flowery taste and covers everything in lace tablecloths, she's probably a lot like the woman who ran the B&B. She was very nice and not too chatty, but she was just a little strange. And while her breakfasts were pretty good, Paul was very quick to point out that she baked everything in 9" x 13" pans. Everything. The eggs, the potatoes, the cobbler, the banana bread, the so-called Swedish pancake with a layer of cottage cheese in the middle (which I kind of liked, actually, even though I'm not sure what made it Swedish) -- everything. She must use a lot of Pam.

As far as the town of Ludington goes, it's not bad. There was a brewery that made pretty good beer, and we happened to hit it Friday at happy hour, so we paid two bucks a pint. And we checked out some of the antique stores and bought a funny old ad about dyspepsia, which we'll frame and hang in the kitchen or living room or somewhere around there. And we saw the lake and the carferry (which seemed to be closed for the season) and tried to stay warm.

Why yes, it is a big phallus. We also went to the state park (where the above tree photo was taken) and walked about a mile and a half along Lake Michigan to Big Sable Point Lighthouse, pictured here. Walking in the sand is a real workout, let me tell you. When we got to the lighthouse, we paid the small fee to go in and climbed up the 130 dizzying spiral steps to the top. The view was really nice, and we were pretty much the only people up there besides the volunteer lighthouse keeper. Which was good, actually, because it's not all that big up at the top. And you know, 130 steps up wasn't so bad, but I think the trip down made me a little woozy. I'm not so good with going down big flights of stairs, especially when you have to spin around a bunch of times in the process.

The rest of the park was good too, and there were a lot of people there. We saw quite a few people fishing, and many of them had those rubber pants on so they could stand in the water. They were catching a lot of fish, and it made me wish we had a cooler or something, because with the exception of one or two people, they were all throwing them back. I don't get that. can eat those fish! I mean, I can eat those fish!

All in all, it was a fun and relaxing weekend. I don't know that we're in a huge hurry to go back to Ludington again, given that there's very little there, but we had a good time.

Sunday, October 23, 2005
We went away for the weekend, and I'll tell you about it tomorrow or something, but first let me tell you about something that happened today. We were driving along Lake Michigan on this very nice but very windy road, one lane each way, and we weren't going too fast because we weren't in a hurry, but we were certainly traveling at a respectable speed very close to the speed limit (if not the speed limit exactly) when some asshole in an unimpressive Ford Contour revs up behind us and then passes us in the other lane doing about 20 miles over the speed limit. I give him the requisite flip-off, and Paul makes some requisite that-guy's-a-dick comments, and we keep going. Then we see a place to pull off by the lake, and we see the same Contour there, only it's pulled in past the parking lot and partially into the sand. Then we see that the asshole driver is trying to back out of the sand a little, but he can't because it's kind of hard to get traction in sand. There's a tween-aged kid in the car with him (maybe his son, maybe his victim, quite possibly both), and he's yelling give-it-gas instructions to the kid in the driver's seat while he kicks and paws sand away from the tires. It's not working. That asshole is stuck.

Paul and I get out and walk toward the lake, very obviously ignoring the asshole and the kid. Once we're out of their earshot, we quietly wonder if we should help the asshole, and we decide not to. My reason is that I don't think he would help us if the situation were reversed because he would be in too much of a goddamn hurry. So we look at the lake and shiver and then, without looking at the asshole or the kid, get back in our car and continue on, making our requisite karma's-a-bitch-now-ain't-it, not-in-a-hurry-anymore-are-you comments.

After a while, we turn around on the road, because it dead ends on a tiny peninsula, and on the way back in we wonder out loud if the asshole's still stuck. Paul suggests we drive by real slow and pretend like we're looking at the water, but we'll really see if he's still stuck. Sure enough, we came back to the pull-off, and sure enough, he's still there, only now there's a big extended cab truck with rope trying to help him. We said some more requisite comments, mostly of the same ilk as we said earlier, and I quietly promise myself that I'll never drive like such an asshole that if I got into car trouble, people wouldn't want to help me.

Thursday, October 20, 2005
Yesterday was weird because Buffalo came up three times. Buffalo, as you may or may not know, was where I went to college and did all of the stupid stuff you do while you are going to college, and also where I did some of the smart stuff you do while you are going to college. Stupid being plastic cup after plastic cup of bottom rung vodka drinks on all-you-can-drink night, for example, or giving myself a concussion during an indoor snowball fight the night before a final. Smart being going to class and actually getting a decent GPA and not dating more than a small handful of morons.

So anyway, Buffalo doesn't come up much. But then yesterday morning, first thing in the morning, I meet someone who lives in Buffalo and find out that we have a common friend. (Falg are you out there?) Then later that morning I got an email from fellow UB grad (and successful actor, actually making a living at it) Parry. And then at this dinner thing we were at last night, we were at a table with a woman who was from Buffalo and also a UB grad, though she graduated a good ten years earlier than I did.

So, it was all sort of a weird coincidence, but it's days like this that make me wonder if the stars really do line up like people sometimes say they do. And I am realizing that I haven't been back to Buffalo in quite some time, and that breakfast at Amy's Place (not my place or my friend Amy's place, but actually a restaurant in Buffalo called Amy's Place) sounds really good.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005
So as you may or may not remember, one of my current projects was to document an installation of Dale Chihuly's glass art. After much stress and minimal time, I got the video together, and it's now being shown in the local art museum as part of the exhibit, so people can see how it was all put together. Also as part of the exhibit, Dale Chihuly himself was in town yesterday. He did a book signing, for which hundreds of people stood in line for hours, and he was also given an honorary degree at a local college. The local college asked to show the video I produced (as part of the ceremony), and the museum gave them permission.

After the ceremony, Chihuly was at the local art museum with the museum's director, walking through the galleries and checking out the installation of his work. I was there to document that as well. So I'm following them like cheesy-slime paparazzi with the local news video people and newspaper photographers, and Chihuly starts saying how nice the ceremony as the local college was earlier that day. He also said that the video they showed was good, and really gave the visit some context, and then he asked the museum director if he knew who made the video. And the museum director was like, yeah, she's right behind you. So Chihuly looks over at me, and I get kind of nervous, and then he goes to shake my hand and says he really liked the video. And I was still nervous, but that was really cool. It was also a little...umm...strange, since he only has one eye, and I've been working on my eye contact and really try to look people in both eyes, but he doesn't have two eyes to look at, and I was really trying hard to look at his one eye and not his eye patch (since I'm guessing some people probably stare at his eye patch). I felt a little awkward, but it was really nice to know that he liked the documentary I put together.

Oh, so then the book signing. I guess it's impressive when a highly celebrated artist comes to a small town like this one, and people kept thanking him for coming to Kalamazoo, and taking pictures, and having $50 books signed. The whole aura of the artist is really interesting, and as much as I like to think I'm not affected by it, and as much as I'm not super huge into getting autographs, I do like to have my picture taken with celebrities, kind of as proof that the meeting actually took place. (Compare this to my mom, who has a near-paralyzing fear of famous people in close proximity; she will photograph celebrities from afar all day long but would never in a million years go up to one and ask for a photo with them.) One of the photographers from the museum took a picture of me with Chihuly (and a picture of me and Paul with Chihuly), but I haven't gotten them from her yet. I will put one up when I get them.

Monday, October 17, 2005
So a week or two ago, I got all excited because there's actually going to be an NHL season this year, and I kind of missed watching hockey. And then I got all bummed out because ESPN passed on the tv contract, so I figured the only team I'd be able to watch with any regularity would be the Red Wings. And then I found about about this NHL Center Ice package that my cable company was running on free preview, and then I got all excited again. And then this weekend, when I saw that one of the Rangers games was on one of the Center Ice channels and I turned to that channel, I got all bummed out again because the free preview was over, and that if I wanted to see the game, I would have to buy the entire Center Ice package for something like $130. And I was like, fuck you, Charter Communications! But then I found out that the Outdoor Living Network plays a game of the night on Mondays and Tuesdays, and I got all excited again when I saw that the Rangers and Panthers were on tonight. And I was like, okay, I take back the fuck you, Charter Communications. But really, charging $130 after I already pay you for digital cable and broadband is lame. Lame! So you still kind of suck, Charter Communications. But anyway.

So I sat and watched the whole game, and it's good to watch hockey again, even though I can't pronounce any of the players' names, and even though the rules are a little different, and even though I'm still not sure why for the love of all things Canadian there's an NHL franchise in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio? I'm still trying to figure out why there's one in Carolina, and now they throw Columbus into the mix? But Hartford couldn't sustain a team? (Even though their jerseys were really nice, especially the dark blue away ones?) But I do like that the refs are mic'ed, and that they actually say what the penalties are, much like NFL refs do, instead of making questionably obscene hand genstures and putting on a fake poker face whenever a player gets called to the box for holding.

Anyway, I am very glad hockey's back. Oh, and the Rangers won, and it was a shut out, and even though it's early, it looks like they might have a somewhat decent team this year. And maybe by January, I'll be able to pronounce Tyutin.

Sunday, October 16, 2005
Finally, after being busy for what seems like forever, today I did nothing. Or nothing that I had to do, rather. It felt really good, and made me want to not do any side projects for a long time. And I made soup! Out of some butternut squash that we picked yesterday (and I still have the pin-poking sensation in my fingers from the prickly things on the vines to prove it). All of this free time kind of makes me not want to go in to work tomorrow.

Thursday, October 13, 2005
So I made a custard pie the other night. I wouldn't have thought to make one, but I've been making a lot of quickbreads lately (you know: banana, pumpkin, zucchini), and Paul was like, can you make a custard pie? I like custard pie. Can you make one? And it didn't seem like it should be too hard, even thought I've never made a custard pie before, so I figured I'd give it a shot. I even asked a friend of mine who has this really old recipe book, called something like The Ladies Home Kitchen Companion for the Year of Our Lord 1942 or whatever, to give me the recipe in there. This is old-timey, I thought, as I mixed the eggs and scalded whole milk and sugar together. This is old school. No, wait. This is like the school they knocked down to put up the old school.

So yeah, well, it kind of didn't work. I mixed it all up and put it in the oven just like the old recipe said to, and after 30 minutes in the oven, it was kind of jiggly. Not just jiggly in the center, like the recipe said it would be, but jiggly as in like uncooked. So I left it in 10 minutes longer, but then the crust started getting really brown and I didn't want it to burn, so I took it out and just hoped that it would firm up as it cooled.

That didn't happen, and I basically had a cooked pie shell with milky goo inside. Then I thought, you can cook eggs in the microwave! There are eggs in here! So I put the pie in the microwave for a few minutes. And you know, it wasn't as stupid as it might sound, because it kind of started to maybe firm up a little. So I microwaved it a little more, and it firmed up a little more. But it was still really jiggly.

I stuck it in the fridge for a few hours, hoping that would do the trick. That didn't work so well either. It was a little firmer than it was, but I could tell that when I went to get a piece out of it, the whole inside would run all over. I was concerned. Paul, though, he didn't seem to care. Just cut it, he said. How bad can it be? So I got out a really big spoon and kind of scooped a few slices into bowls. Just as I thought, the custardy goo ran all over the pie plate and didn't really hold together. But we tasted it, and you know what? It tasted really good. The consistency was like lumpy creamy jelly, and the crust got kind of rubbery (probably from the microwave), but it really didn't taste bad. It even tasted kind of good. But I think the next time I make a custard pie, I won't go with the recipe in the cookbook for repressed housewives. Point me toward a good one if you can.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005
On Saturday in Chicago, we wanted to do something interesting and city-ish, but we were kind of tired and a bit hung over and really didn't have the energy to go to the Art Institute for three hours (it's huge!). So we walked around the Water Tower area for a bit before we saw signs for LUMA: Loyola University Chicago Museum of Art. Paul had heard about it, and when we saw it was $6 for the Caravaggio exhibit they had up, we thought that sounded good. And on the way up the escalator to the gallery, we saw a whole table of Sara Lee treats; Sara Lee, it turns out, is the presenting sponsor for the exhibit, and anyone who sees the exhibit is allowed and even encouraged to grab a snack on the way out. For free. We like free snacks! And we like art and art museums, and we thought that seeing some Renaissance art for an hour or so followed by a free snack sounded like a good idea. So we went in.

Okay. So maybe we should have asked more questions. And maybe my Italian should be better. It's not what it once was, you know. The name of the exhibit was Caravaggio: Una Mostra Impossibile. We didn't think twice, but had my Italian been up to snuff, we would have understood that the name means an impossible extension. Extension of what? Good question. We should have asked. We also should have noted that the tagline for the museum is "Art illuminating the spirit." What does that mean? Also a good question. Also one we should have asked.

The "extension" in the exhibit title, it seems, refers to an extension of Caravaggio's work. Every piece in the gallery was a stinkin' reproduction! (Well, I guess that's an extension.) The idea of "illuminating" art is important here too, because not only were they reproductions, but they were reproduced on glass panels and then backlit. (That would be the illuminating part.) Yeah yeah, in creating these fine works, the fine reproducers used only the finest digital reproduction techniques known the world over, blah blah blah. They're still reproductions.

We were a little disappointed, to say the least, but we stayed and looked. It just all seemed very cheesy. As we looked at the pieces, I thought they looked like giant versions of those artsy night-lights that you can get in art museum gift shops. Or like something that someone with minimal taste and a lot of money but not quite enough money to afford real, authentic high Renaissance art would purchase and hang on the wall in their living room.

And I think there's a certain expectation that when you go into a museum, you're going to see original works of art, unless you're explicitly told otherwise in at least one main language spoken in that country (like English, for example.) It was all nice enough to look at, but I think we just felt silly about it. It's like paying someone to look at a book with reproductions in it. We just felt kind of duped. Which was too bad, because Loyola's got a nice gallery space, and there should be honest, original, authentic art there instead of gaudy reproductions. But it looks like some of their future exhibitions might not be as lame. So maybe there's hope. Maybe.

Oh, and the free snacks on the way out? I don't know. Maybe I don't eat as many processed snack foods as I used to, but you can really taste the chemical-enriched preservatives in those Sara Lee individually wrapped slices of cake. Or I can, anyway. But we also got a free bottle of water, which is always welcome. At least they charged only $6.

Sunday, October 9, 2005
After a deadline-filled and very hectic week, we took off Friday afternoon to spend a much deserved night of fun in Chicago. The drive there was uneventful until we got to the Dan Ryan, just south of town, and while driving through a construction zone (one of many -- if it's not snow season in the Midwest, it's construction season) I saw a lightpost fall over and across two lanes of traffic! (And we were driving in one of them!) I have no idea how Paul didn't see it, but it was one of those big two-light ones, and luckily there was no one underneath it when it crashed down. The two construction workers who were there (who looked more like disgruntled DMV employees than construction workers) and a handful of truckers helped slide the thing off the highway so we could all get through, and after about five minutes, we were on our way.

Once we plowed through the traffic on Lakeshore and got into the city and found a place for the car, we put our stuff into our hotel room and headed over to the Museum of Contemporary Art for their First Friday party and the Dan Flavin light exhibit. One of my co-workers said that the Flavin exhibit was like the coolest thing he ever saw. It was cool. I don't know about coolest, but it was cool. I especially liked how all of that bright light played tricks on my eyes' color balance. For example, if you click on the Museum link above, you'll see the piece that they're using to promote the Flavin show. This is a series of green-colored fluorescent lights. But, when you're standing in front of it and you look at it for more than a minute or so, the lights begin to look white. And then you think, why did I think these were green? They look white. But then you head into the next gallery for a few seconds and peek back at this one, and they look green again. Weird! This happened with a lot of the monochromatic pieces. You could really feel your rods and cones grinding. And it was a little surreal to be in all of that bright and strangely-colored fluorescent light. "This looks like the future," I said to Paul. "Then where are our silver jumpsuits?" he asked.

The First Friday party was cool, although they had a DJ who was rather unimpressive spinning/pod-playing '80s tunes. I think I might be a little burned out on the '80s music. The drinks were kind of pricey too, but after the week I had (we had, actually), I could think of worse things than paying five bucks for a shot of vodka and three ounces of juice. And the free cookies and fried zucchini were nice. But mostly, it was worth going for the freaky Flavin light show.

Wednesday, October 5, 2005
So it's Rosh Hashanah, the big Jewish New Year. Or was, rather. Anyway, a few people have asked me if I get the two days off of work, this holiday being one of the more serious ones on the Hebrew calendar. And you know, I guess I could get the days off, especially in this day and age of (frequently guilt-induced) religious tolerance. Because really, any boss who wouldn't give me the days off if I asked for them would look like an enormous anti-Semite, and how would that look? Especially in academia, where we try to instill in our students tolerance for everyone? It wouldn't look good. Not good at all.

But the answer is that I don't ask for the days off. I go to work. Why? Because I don't go to temple and properly observe the holiday, so if I had these two days off from work, I'd just stay home and sleep in and do things around the house of perhaps some consequence but still of no religious meaning. I know many people believe that their being born Jewish entitles them to the day off no matter what, because all Christians get Xmas off regardless of whether they go to church. But it just doesn't feel right to me to just get two free days because I was born in a minority.

Aside from all of that, what kid of bothers me is the fact that the school district in which I work (and probably all of the school districts within a good 75-mile radius) doesn't even have any Jewish holidays on their calendar. Any! They're not even recognized. Not even Chanukah, which gets puffed up with all kinds of false significance because it's so close to Xmas (again, frequently guilt-induced religious tolerance). Everyone who knows I'm Jewish goes out of their way to specifically wish me a happy Chanukah, ask if I got anything special for Chanukah, ask if I'm going home for Chanukah, and so on. It's very nice of them to ask and to to remember that I don't celebrate Xmas, but Chanukah is such a minor holiday that these good wishes and inquiries, while very nice, seem kind of weird. I'm not asking the school district to put every wee little non-Christian holiday on the calendar, but I don't think it's too much to ask for them to put the more significant holidays of the non-Christian religions on their calendar, just so maybe we feel recognized out of something other than guilt. Though interestingly, they do have Kwaanza on the calendar. Guilt induced? You decide.

In any case, I've been at work all week and not formally and in Hebrew repenting for the wrongs I've done. But I have been eating apples. That should count for something. Oh, and to our Jewish friends out there, happy new year.

Monday, October 3, 2005
Finally finally finally, after working literally all weekend, I have some breathing room. Too many projects. I've always tried to take the approach of say yes and then figure out how you're going to make it happen, but I might need to stop that. I'm realizing that I've been too busy lately, and this has caused me to neglect a bunch of regular stuff. Like, we moved into our house two months ago, and we still have boxes lying around. And there aren't any pictures on the walls. And the basement still needs to be cleaned. And the deck sealed. And we still haven't bought patio furniture. Or a grill. I think I need to start concentrating on those things. (A grill is important!) And reading. I've been in the middle of the same book since July. Granted, that book is over 1000 pages, and the writing is dense, but still. I should be moving faster than that. I'm taking the next month off. (Not from here -- just from working on extraneous stuff.)

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