Monthly Archives: January 2007

The Return

Yes, we are back from Arizona, as Misty’s post showed. Based on our experience, Arizona is full of blue sky, warm winters, dust, and cats. Eli learned to fear cacti, I got to try out a Wii again (verdict: I am awesome in the tennis front-court), and Misty genuflected in front of Taliesin West. If you see our luggage, please give it a hug and tell it that everything will be okay.

Photos from AZ (and Eli’s guitar photos)

Last week sometime as I was doing some cleaning, I found all of Stephen’s stickers for his Guitar Hero guitars. We let Eli put the stickers on his guitar so he would feel like a real Guitar Hero.

And finally, our photos from our trip to AZ. Most of them are from the Frank Lloyd Wright house with a very few of Kat and Sean. Why, oh why didn’t we take a group photo?!?!?

Dispatch from AZ

We’re in Arizona right now, where at least it’s a dry cold, so we’ll be light on the posting for a bit.

I lie: it’s actually 70 degrees today. Mmm, desert winter.

At any rate, I had to share this with you. Eli was watching an episode of Little Einsteins. A caterpillar was making a cocoon for itself. “Hey, Eli, is that a cocoon?” Kat said.

Eli looked at her and did all but roll his eyes. “Noooo. That’s metamorphosis.”

Friday Night Videos: Striking Images That Have Little Connection to the Song

Jason Forrest: War Photographer (2005)

Viking sound engineers! Guitar-wielding demon things! Renegade licks from 1970s-era Chicago! Giant robots! GIANT ROBOTS!

The Knife: We Share Our Mothers’ Health (2006)

Words fail. This video is disturbing in ways I cannot explain. Iron-cross birds flying over marching headless children. Weird flowers blooming. I dunno. It’s hypnotic in a freakish way.

I Always Knew Something Was Up With R2-D2

My posting schedule is likely to be light for a while, so I am reduced to recycling links from elsewhere. In this case the link is to A New Sith, or Revenge of the Hope. See, after Star Wars episodes 1-3, a number of things in episodes 4-6 don’t make a lot of sense. Keith Martin fixes that with some elegant sleight-of-hand. Would you buy R2-D2 as one of the top members of the Rebel Alliance? Or Chewbacca as one of the Rebel’s top spies? After you read A New Sith, you will. You will.

and the Comparisons Begin

Something I wasn’t prepared for at all. This baby already has a personality of his/her own. How can I tell, you ask? Well, for starters Eli kicked like a soccer player: short, sharp kicks and repeated often. Mostly at night, much to Stephen’s annoyance. This kid is a water ballet specialist. He/she floats, swims, pushes off from one side and rebounds on the other. I often feel like one of those clear plastic bags you get fish in. If only we could as easily peer in and see what the gender is!

The doctor assures me that this baby is doing great. However, it’s hard to not feel as if something is wrong given the huge differences I feel almost hourly. The other day as he/she was sloshing about I thought to myself, “This isn’t like Eli at all!” and I felt a moment of panic that I was comparing this kid to the one I already know so well.

Friday Night Videos: Those Wacky Brits

Muse: Knights of Cydonia (2006)

A while back I promised you the awesomest Muse video ever. Here it is! It’s as if the band and the video director saw Firefly and said, you know, what that needs is more of everything. The Vulcan neck pinch I can understand, and I can almost give the Cylons a nod of approval, but unicorns? I can’t believe Muse released this as a single. Bombast plus vocals not starting for some two minutes does not normally make for a hit.

(And thanks to Storme for the suggestion.)

Pulp: Bad Cover Version (2002)

What kind of video do you do for a song about how your old girlfriend’s new boyfriend is just a bad version of you? Do a bad cover version of the song, complete with celebrity imitators. It gets really weird at the 2:55 mark when a Jarvis Cocker imitator shows up, only to have Jarvis himself play Brian May there at the very end.

Since that’s plenty of Britishness for one update, how about a video of French pantomime artist Jerome Murat? For bonus points, tell me how many arms he has.

Once Upon a Time: Progress Report

Here’s where I am today. That’s two weeks worth of work there. (The reason the fabric looks pinkish here is because it’s on top of my pink sweatshirt. The fabric is actually gray.)

Here’s where I was a week ago…
Wow. You can actually see the progress!

Why Project Runway is Superior to Top Chef

Early on, Misty and I didn’t watch a lot of reality TV. We watched the first season of Survivor and part of the US version of Big Brother, but after that brief flirtation, we were done.

Bravo changed that. Project Runway snagged both of us in large part because its contestants have to make clothing. The creative aspect tempers the usual clash of personalities and sparks my interest because, hey, I’m always interested in the creative process.

The same dynamic is what drew us to Top Chef. In the former, contestants make clothes under various wacky constraints and have fashion and design experts judge their efforts. In the latter, contestants cook food under various wacky constraints and have chefs and food experts judge their efforts.

Despite those similarities, I find Top Chef to be far less enthralling than Project Runway. I’ve been puzzling over that for a while now. It’s not like I’ll ever make clothes, whereas I have at least a passing chance of making the food from Top Chef. And yet, I enjoy watching Project Runway more.

There are, I have decided, three major differences between the shows that explain my reaction. The first is how the challenges are set up. In Project Runway, all of the designers are given a task and work to complete it. At the end, models wear the designers’ clothes in a runway show. Top Chef episodes begin with a “Quickfire Challenge,” in which the chefs must make something very fast and under constraints that allow for the maximum product placement. Only after the quickfire challenge is complete do they move on to the “Elimination Challenge”. This two-challenge setup steals momentum from the show and keeps you from seeing much of what the chefs are doing. With as many contestants as they have, they have to move quickly to show you all of the finished dishes, and with two challenges, they can’t spend much time showing the actual cooking. The result is that I see less process in Top Chef than I do in Project Runway.

The second difference is that I can see how good a garment looks but I can’t taste how good a dish is. When a judge on Project Runway says that a dress is hanging poorly, I can look and see, indeed, that is one off-kilter dress. When a judge on Top Chef says that a dish isn’t acidic enough, I can’t tell. Watching Project Runway and listening to the judges has taught me more about how to appreciate clothes. Watching Top Chef has taught me that I don’t like Marcel’s troll-doll hair.

The third, most crippling difference is Top Chef‘s lack of a mentor. Project Runway has Tim Gunn, Chair of Fashion Design at the clunkily-named Parsons The New School for Design. Tim serves as the designer’s Virgil. He introduces challenges to them, interacts with them regularly, and gives constructive feedback as they work on their clothing. He has a dry sense of humor, a good eye, and most importantly, he seems to really want to help the designers. His caring how they do balances out the inevitable harshness of being judged. Oh, and he isn’t a judge, which levels the power imbalance between the designers and him. On the other side, there’s Tom Colicchio, late of Gramercy Tavern. The Television Without Pity folks have taken to calling his interactions with the chefs the “sniff and sneer”. He comes in while they’re cooking, raises his eyebrows, makes dismissive remarks, and waltzes out. Later he judges their creations. At no point does he give really useful feedback. During the current season of Top Chef, Ted Allen of Queer Eye fame was a guest judge and gave constructive criticism to the chefs. It was refreshing.

Two of the above are structural problems, and could be changed for future seasons of Top Chef. Being unable to judge the results, however, is a deal-breaker. Since I’m more interested in the creative process than in the human drama, Project Runway wins hands-down.

A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out But You Can Lie Around Listlessly With

Things were going fine yesterday evening until dinner time. Eli had no interest in his food at all. That’s not uncommon for many toddlers, but it is a little strange for Eli. Thirty minutes later he was whining piteously and demanding to be held. He lay down on Misty and looked around with glassy eyes. Misty and he discussed his situation.

MISTY: Do you feel bad?
ELI: No.
MISTY: Does your head hurt?
ELI: No.
MISTY: Do your teeth hurt?
ELI: Noooooo.
MISTY: Does your stomach hurt?
ELI: No.
MISTY: Do your toes hurt?
ELI: Nooo.
MISTY: Are you suffering from ennui?
ELI: Yeah.

We were a little unconvinced, so I grabbed the thermometer from the bathroom and gave it to Misty. We put it under his arm, announcing, “Here comes the chicken wing! Make a chicken wing!” Eli obliged and waved his other arm in a Funky-Chicken-like move.

Look, it’s the only way we get him to hold still long enough to measure his temperature. Shut up.

Anyway, whoops, he had a fever of 101 degrees! Friends were coming over in thirty minutes to watch a movie, so we figured we’d need to give him some Tylenol, put him to bed, and have a good time with our friends.

I went to clean up his room and distinctly heard the next issue of Guilt magazine being flung against our front door. I put him to bed and read him a story (“Not that one, that one is too small,” he whispered softly, barely able to hold open his eyes). I covered him up and watched him shake with chills for a moment before I left the room.

The rest of the night I had flashes of us going into his room and finding him dead. He would be limp and still, eyes staring at nothing. I’ve mentioned that parenting brings with it unreasonable fears that float around in a cloud until something happens and a strike of lightning leaps from the cloud to your brain, right? Here it is in action.

I checked on him before we went to bed. He opened his eyes and stared at me, or so I thought — it was hard to tell in the dimly-lit room. “Go back to sleep,” I murmured and beat a hasty retreat. Five minutes later I went back to check on him, afraid I hadn’t really seen his eyes open, and what if he really was dead? Thankfully he was asleep and visibly breathing.

We did get up with him at around 2:30 when his whimpering woke us up. We gave him more Tylenol and some water and left his door open, telling him to come get us in the morning when he woke up. So of course by 7 he was awake and completely fever-free.

Toddlers! Aren’t they fun!