Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Things I Have Learned From Walking 45 Miles a Week For Two Months

My legs look like Wile E. Coyote's after he ate the whole bottle of Leg Muscle Vitamins (https://youtu.be/kM-91sthsaE), but my feet feel like Kathy Bates' Misery character took a sledgehammer to them.

My really good work shoes last two months instead of half a year.

I have lost twenty pounds and my clothes look like I stole them from my Dad's dresser.

I have gained the ability to sit on the sofa for the entire weekend without moving. My wife and son have constructed a blanket sled to drag me to the bathroom.

Sleep is a precious, life-sustaining commodity, precious as fairy semen or the golden heart of a unicorn.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

I Can Paint With Both the Colors of the Wind...

Wife and I return from a shopping trip.

Me: Do you want these two bags in the garage?

Wife (not pointing): No. That one can go in the garage, but THIS one (still not pointing) I want in the dining room because (reason).

Me: So, the brown one in the garage and the blue one in the dining room.

Wife: The brown one in the garage, and the turquoise-y aquamarine one in the garage.

Me: (giving her the "you're-doing-it-again" look)

Wife: Oh!  Well, you said. . . (suddenly, Wife remembers I am male) Yes. The blue one in the garage.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Photographs and Memories (apologies to Jim Croce)

Yesterday I had the great privilege of hanging out with my daughter as she had her Senior pictures taken.

(Included here: ZERO pictures of Daughter, because of Daughter preferences)

We met Amazing Photographer and Splendid Person Elizabeth Jane at a secret undisclosed location and had a superlative time taking nearly 200 photographs of my kid. I took no photos, in much the same way one does not sing along with Placido Domingo.

My (complex/funny/difficult/brilliant/frustrating/beautiful/arrogant/kind) daughter was uncharacteristically patient and game for the entire time. She had been a jerk about the concept of having pictures taken, about preparing for the shoot, about wardrobing and props, and then was a complete DELIGHT during the actual shoot.

I got to be Towel Dad. Daughter posed against surfaces that were dirty/bug-infested/spiderwebby/leafy and sat on seriously questionable perches, all of which I was able to make safely leanable and perchable with the timely application of Towel.

We had so much FUN.

My kid was her best self. I was goofy (so, normal). Amazing Photographer and Splendid Person Elizabeth Jane was quick and kind and creative, funny, and juuuuust concerned enough about Daughter's comfort level to get the shot AND keep everyone very happy.

I had a marvelous morning. I am a happy dad.

*** MORE ABOUT Amazing Photographer and Splendid Person Elizabeth Jane. I have told her more than once that she charges way too little, and it's true every time I say it.

From the time Wife called and booked our appointment, Amazing Photographer and Splendid Person Elizabeth Jane scouted locations that fit the personality and preferences of Daughter; took test pictures in these locations; communicated some different options with us about times of day and locations and where we could find parking; took a bucketload of pictures while keeping Daughter excited and pleased by a process Daughter never really wanted.

AND THEN SHE CHARGED US TOO LITTLE.

This kind, thoughtful lady can be found on the interwebs at the following Amazing Photographer and Splendid Person Elizabeth Jane site:
 http://elizabethjane.weebly.com/

If you love someone too much to take crappy pictures (such as the ones I take), you can call this lady instead. She'll take pictures of all the humans you love . . .




Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Tsunamis and Swimsuit Models

Scene: A beautiful Spring morning at the Reddoch House: Our protagonist sits on the sofa, reading yesterday’s news and ignoring at least twelve things that need doing.

In my morning newsfeed browse, my Used-to-be-kind-of-an-award-winning-journalist-self found ONE headline that mentioned Pulitzer Prizes being awarded.  I searched “2016 Pulitzer Prize” because I am a super-duper fan of great writing.

Underneath all the headlines that read "Lin-Manuel Miranda Wins Pulitzer Prize for Hamilton"

is a teeny-tiny mention of outstanding journalist Kathryn Shulz (@kathrynschulz) winning a Pulitzer for THIS ARTICLE:

The Really Big One

An earthquake will destroy a sizable portion of the coastal Northwest. The question is when.


READ IT.  Really, go read it right now.


It is a textbook example of a well-researched, well-sourced, engaging article. It is fantastic in every respect.

For those of you who didn’t really read it just now, here is the main takeaway of this Pulitzer Prize-winning article:

“Kenneth Murphy, who directs FEMA’s Region X, the division responsible for Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Alaska, says, “Our operating assumption is that everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast.”
In the Pacific Northwest, the area of impact will cover* some hundred and forty thousand square miles, including Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, Eugene, Salem (the capital city of Oregon), Olympia (the capital of Washington), and some seven million people. When the next full-margin rupture happens, that region will suffer the worst natural disaster in the history of North America.”
I read this piece when it was published, and I think about it every single day as I drive over the Altamont Pass into the San Francisco Bay Area.  This article has influenced what geographic assignments I am willing to accept at work, and my thoughts about my (eventual) retirement plans.

My good-natured capacity to ignore/put off/not think about unpleasant truths has sometimes put a strain on my marriage (sorry, Hon), but THIS has wedged itself into my brainspace with a tenacity that even rivals superheroes and supermodels.

Ninety-five percent of the people I love live in this tsunami zone, and this week's earthquakes in Japan and Ecuador haven't done much to calm my worries.  I love you all, even if I never call or write.

Also, just because the Inevitable Apocalyptic Future gets crowded out of our brains whenever we see a commercial for pizza or Pop Tarts, here is something more immediate:

This is a 2015 NPR story (Many Of Oregon's Coastal Schools, Hospitals And Fire Stations At Tsunami Risk) about how Oregon is having trouble building new hospitals because of building codes preventing new hospitals from being built in a Tsunami Zone.  That fairly well rules out Oregon.  Since they can’t build hospitals in tsunami zones, Oregon is violating laws that mandate having hospitals available for every (so many number) citizens.  Oregon is screwed right now by the earthquake / tsunami combo that hasn’t yet hit us.

Which leaves me sitting in my living room sipping my coffee and petting my dog, having ruined your day if you read the article, and using my human capacity to avoid all the bad things by reading some comic books and searching “best Sports Illustrated Swimsuit pictures”*.
  • *Spoiler Alert: there is a very high flesh-to-swimsuit-fabric ratio here that bears further investigation.
    • Also: do these ladies not realize the TSUNAMI DANGER?!


Also also: The New York Times has the BEST article on this year’s Pulitzer Prize Awards.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Harry Potter and The Exhausted, Frazzled Dad, or: The Kids Who Lived

If you are a parent who knows me in real life, you have likely already heard this come out of my mouth.


“The best thing I have done as a parent is read the Harry Potter series with my kids.”


This could be an oversimplification - meh, so what.


My parents always read a lot.  I grew up surrounded by books, and used more than my fair share of every library.  My kids have grown up the same way.


Books are people.  Books are family members.  Books take a LOT of space in my wee home.


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was published in the US in 1998 about the same time my wife evicted our daughter from the womb, which meant we didn’t pay attention to (yet another substandard, throwaway) kids’ fiction book. Besides, our son was four years old. Unless Harry Potter was going to climb aboard Thomas the Tank Engine, Harry Potter was irrelevant to us.  


We didn’t pay attention until the absolute hysteria for the release of the fourth book nearly derailed my wife’s and my anniversary plans in July 2000 (I was involved in some logistics and security surrounding the release of Goblet of Fire, and it was pure insanity).


My son would turn six in October 2000.  I passed bookstores with six-year-olds in block-long lines with their parents, waiting for this book.

The Day Midnight Stood Still for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Even I, dense as my father’s shortbread cookies, took note.


I trekked to the World’s Best Used Bookstore EVER (Gray Wolf Books in Hayward, CA; now out of business because THIS WORLD IS DISAPPOINTINGLY CRAZY) and picked up well-loved copies of the first three books.


I read the first book by myself and knew my weird, brilliant son needed to read it too.


My wife was unsure.  Was he too young?  I lobbied for NO, he was not.  There was a lively debate about whether to read it when he was eleven, the same age as Harry when he receives his letter from Hogwarts, or whether to start NOW NOW NOW NOW!


In an act of fascinating marital and parental compromise we started reading three months later, on his sixth birthday.


We read it together aloud, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  If I was Mad Omnipotent Dictator Of The World, it would be Law that the first time any child read a Harry Potter book, it would be read aloud with a parental figure.


These books are so marvelously descriptive, so full of character and wonder.  The act of reading them aloud forces us to hear (and create for ourselves) the characters voices, to experience the suspense and wonder and cruelty and humor contained within.


My family reads too fast when we read silently.  In our heads, we read fast enough that the alliteration and the newness of the prose get extinguished by the torrent of words and ideas in the next paragraph.


How can we actually understand the wonder, the fear, the frustration of the characters if we speed through in our heads?


Aloud, I would read two pages, my six-year-old son would read one page.  Sometimes my wife would read a page.


One chapter per night.  On the weekends, perhaps TWO chapters per night.  If homework wasn’t done, no reading (that just about killed me).  Two-year-old Little Sister had to be in bed first.  No reading unless both parents were available.  Those were The Rules.  When I had to travel, no reading got done.  THAT was suspense!


Three years after we started Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in October 2000, my son and I picked up our reserved copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on the first day it was released.  


By the time Little Sister was old enough to read Sorcerer’s Stone (six years old in 2004, the same age her brother had been), we had a dilemma.  Harry Potter and his friends keep getting older, and acting like older kids, as the series progresses year by year.  By the time Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was published in 2003, Harry was a sixteen year-old adolescent jerk, and the series was getting thematically darker.  My son had had a natural break - after the third book, he had to wait for each new book to be published.  But my daughter had started later - there were more books on our shelf by that time.


The way was clear: Little Sister could read one book per year.  Each year after her birthday, we began the next book, and it became a whole-family event.  I would read two pages, Little Sister would read a page, Big Brother would read a page or two, sometimes my wife would read a page (other times listening, a brief respite from both kids).


We could not wait.  The entire family was involved, the entire family was entranced.  The suspense was real, and difficult, as our schedules became harder to synchronize as Cub Scouts and Gymnastics and work schedules and clients all conspired to get between us and the next chapter.  The wait from one weekend to the next weekend’s chapters was excruciating.  As the kids got older, the new books had to be literally locked away until we were all together again.  


After reading, and in-between chapters, there were conversations about the characters choices - Why did they do that?  Could they not see how wrong they were?  Conversations about What would YOU have done?  Conversations about how raging hormones destroy your emotional balance and wreck your ability to THINK.  Conversations about when should you break the rules?  When should you involve an adult?  Conversations about when do you NOT trust an adult?  When should you lie?  When should you come clean?


In 2007, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was published and all the members of my family were in sync.  We read each chapter together, all of us together at the same time.  We all cried.  This might have been the first time my kids have seen me cry.  It’s rare, and I tend to do it in private.  I can be a hard man, and occasionally emotionally blunted.


Last night, before watching Spy (Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham, Jude Law) as a family full of grown folks, I dragged out of hiding the Illustrated Edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, with paintings by Jim Kay.



My family didn’t know it was in the house.  I don’t know that anyone else in my family knew it existed.


We put our movie on hold and instead read the first chapter of the book.  I read two pages, my twenty-one year-old son read two pages, my (sometimes-snooty seventeen year-old) daughter read two pages; my wife listened, smiling).  It was magical all over again.


This will be my family's third copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.  The first was well-used, and disintegrated.  The second is the leather-bound edition on the right, whose spine has separated from use.  The new book is on the left.  It, too, will soon be floppy . . .
This is my Book Review part of the page, where I rave about this version because it’s filled with actual magic.


This edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is the first version of Harry Potter that contains illustrations that look and feel like the characters and settings and situations are described by JK Rowling.  They are beautiful and exultant and weird and funny and sometimes a little scary, exactly as described in the prose.  These illustrations are moody and revelatory, and make each new page turn a joyful surprise.




This is not to knock the original illustrations by Mary GrandPre; they serve well as an icon at the beginning of each chapter, showing us a symbolized snapshot of something we can expect to experience in the coming pages.


The Jim Kay illustrated edition, though, is an emotional accompaniment to the prose on each page.  Every single page (whether or not they feature a painting) is textured, spotted with paint drippings, or otherwise reminding you this is a work of art and a work of love.  There are more than one hundred illustrations, and there is no single page that features only text on a stark white page.  It is impossible to read this book by yourself and still feel alone.


This book feels alive.  

It can set your family back about $24 . . .  






This is the Harry Potter part of our home library, which spans five rooms of the house.  Don't be deceived by the slipcovers of the last four books; underneath, the books have been very well loved.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

If Once You Start Down the Dark Path, Forever Will It Dominate Your Destiny

If you HAVE NOT SEEN STAR WARS (The Force Awakens Groggily and Looks at the Alarm Clock, Closing Its Eyes and Shaking Its Head), then you should skip this post.

I LOVED The Force Awakens.  I cannot wait for the next one.

This post is (mostly) NOT about what happens in The Force Awakens

This is about what I hoped (and feared) would happen in The Force Awakens.

Earlier this year I accidentally spoilered myself when I ran into a site that ran some of the synopsis for the first script of the movie.

I am way too lazy to look up the quote, but it ran along the line of “Luke Sywalker disappeared after the events of Return of the Jedi and hasn’t been seen since, and the Jedi are pretty much out of the picture”.

Knowing that Force-sensitive individuals are always going to be around and that we keep finding narrative ways to explain how individual Jedi survived the Purge in Episode III Revenge of the Sith, I wasn’t too worried about not seeing any on-screen Jedi action.

With the Lucasfilm announcement that all post-Return of the Jedi fiction was no longer canon, I had just one hope and fear in my head about Luke’s journey, and what it would mean for the new film.

Let’s take an objective look at Luke:
  • Impetuous, impatient, too-old Luke having tantrums on Dagobah, repeatedly failing because the training was too hard.
  • YODA (training Luke): Yes, a Jedi's strength flows from the Force. But beware of the dark side. Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will, as it did Obi-Wan's apprentice.
  • LUKE: Vader... Is the dark side stronger?
  •  YODA: No, no, no. Quicker, easier, more seductive.
  • LUKE: But how am I to know the good side from the bad?
  •  YODA: You will know... when you are calm, at peace, passive. A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, NEVER for attack.
  •  Luke’s failure at the cave, and finding his own face in a Sith Lord’s helmet.
  • Impatient Luke failing to raise his X-Wing from the Dagobah swamp because it does not come easily enough. 
  • Luke’s vision of his friends in pain at Bespin.
    • LUKE: But I can help them! I feel the Force!
    •  BEN: But you cannot control it. This is a dangerous time for you, when you will be tempted by the dark side of the Force.
    • YODA: Only a fully trained Jedi Knight with the Force as his ally will conquer Vader and his Emperor. If you end your training now, if you choose the quick and easy path, as Vader did, you will become an agent of evil.
    • BEN: Luke, don't give in to hate - that leads to the dark side.
    • Reckless Luke rushing to Bespin to save his friends anyway (after about a week of training instead of “finishing what he begins”), then getting whupped by Vader and flying debris, losing his hand and getting mollywopped by the whole paternity issue.

  •  THEN, on the Second Death Star:
    • All of Luke’s success in battle against the two Sith lords (each trying to turn Luke and ally against the other) came from anger and aggression. 
    • Luke struck at Palpatine in anger and hate, intending to kill him after the Death Star started picking off Capital ships.  https://youtu.be/YZ_j3s5xj8I 
    • Luke’s anger fueled his later success against Vader in their lightsaber duel.
IF YOU’RE STILL WITH ME after all this, then you can see that (despite periods of attempted calm) Luke already turned to the Dark Side in Return of the Jedi.
  • A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, NEVER for attack.
  • If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will, as it did Obi-Wan's apprentice.
  • If you end your training now, if you choose the quick and easy path, as Vader did, you will become an agent of evil.

ALL OF THIS TO SAY:
The heartbreaking story of the Skywalker boys should have come to fruition in The Force Awakens.  The Force Awakens should have featured Luke as the Sith Lord he began to turn himself into in the first trilogy.

THIS DOES NOT MEAN that Luke HAD to be the villain of the story.  In fact, there was plenty of opportunity for real, character-driven drama with Luke playing a heroic role.  The Sith way is driven by self-sacrifice – Kylo Ren did NOT WANT to kill his father; he HAD to sacrifice the father he loved and experience all the pain it brought in order to bring himself the power and irrevocability of the Sith.  We have two more movies left to show us why Ben / Ren left the Light and why he felt he needed the power of the Dark Side.
·       GIANT OPTIONAL SIDEBAR NOTES:
o   The VERY BEST “Making and Training and Becoming a Sith” manual out there are the following Star Wars books (now non-canon):
§  Traitor, the 2002 novel by Matthew Stover.  It is the thirteenth novel in the New Jedi Order series, and it shows how an ex-Jedi uses some really solid Sith Logic to turn Han and Leia’s son Jacen (a kind, loving young man who has rejected the use of all violence to solve problems) to an understanding that there IS NO Light and Dark Side of the Force – there is only the Force and how we choose to use it.
§  The nine books in the Legacy of the Force series show this kind and thoughtful young man sacrificing bits of his soul piece by piece for the greater good and becoming Darth Caedus: (all the links have brief synopses, but I also highly recommend the books themselves.  Some truly fantastic writing!)

If all of that’s a little much, here’s a more succinct version:


STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS could have still been a rollicking first-movie adventure with much the same story arc.

BUT . . . there was room in the Star Wars universe for a Post-Anakin exploration of what it means to be Sith and still work with (and against) the Resistance and the new Jedi to bring . . .

. . . Order to the galaxy.

Granted, this is the road not taken by Lucasfilm / Disney / JJ Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan.  (unnecessary link: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173536)

BUT, what a brave and scary and complex and exciting story this could have been – a story of . . . what?  Redemption? Sacrifice?  Tragedy?


Whatever this story would have been, it would have been thrilling and potentially heartbreaking and above all else . . . compelling.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Addiction is NOT a Rapping Matter!

Health professionals say that recovery from an addiction can only begin when a person admits that they need help.

[deep breath].  My name is Ian, and I am addicted to

For the first twenty-plus years of my life, I was nothing BUT Musical Theater.  I lived and breathed it, was ALWAYS in rehearsal or performance.  Some of my peers are now award-winning performers on Broadway (now THAT’S a functioning addict).

And now here I am, with the soundtrack to Hamilton on infinite loop 
in my bed
in my car
in my home
in my head.

The rest of my family is fine – a little crazed, a little Hamilton-quote-happy, but SURVIVING.  My teen daughter is immersed in Hamilton (but she was just as immersed in Rent two months ago and believe me, Hamilton is a giant step up).

Me?  I need help.  I went looking, and found THIS:
Worse, I have found this musical has infected even the jaded New York Theatre Critics: 


 I would like to take a moment to honor members of this great nation who have already lost their lives to their fatal Hamilton addiction. . . and add my own personal plea for help.  I can only conquer this addiction by FACING IT.  Inside the theater.  If you can help, please send tickets.  And airfare.

The lost . . .


Appreciation and apologies to http://www.addictionsandrecovery.org/

Monday, October 12, 2015

AKA: Monday

Calling the Sheriff to come arrest a cat is the kind of thing that can get a person drug tested.

In other news, I called the Sheriff this morning to have a cat arrested. 

Dispatcher: “Is the cat hostile or attacking?”

Me: “No, Ma’am.  But the cat doesn’t work for us and refused to show me its identification. The cat is refusing to leave a secured area, and is not currently under escort.  So I believe this is either your jurisdiction or the TSA’s.”

The drug test lady and the Animal Control lady arrived at the same time.

This story is 100% true.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

I am TOTALLY STEALING Everything in This Post

http://www.themarysue.com/being-non-compliant-panel-eccc/

Comic book fan or not, this is seriously worth reading. I am already a gigantic fan of Kelly Sue DeConnick and her husband Matt Fraction, each of whom are amazing writers.

The following is lifted directly from The Mary Sue article, and it is my own personal takeaway:

"Speaking about her wildly-successful new comic for Image, Bitch Planet, and its catch phrase from which this panel got its name, DeConnick said that “in the world of Bitch Planet, the people who are labeled ‘non-compliant’ have been marginalized and criminalized for being who they are. I can’t speak to the people who have the label or the symbol in real life, because I’m certain their reasons are as varied as they are,” she clarified. “But what I think the statement they’re making is, I am a person who does not fit the box assigned to me. I am too tall or to short or too fat or too black or brown or too indigenous or too atheist or too slutty or too frumpy or too gay or too whatever the fuck it is my culture is going to judge me for today, and I refuse to see myself through your eyes. I refuse to see myself as imperfect because of that. And you will support me or you will get the fuck off.”

And there were many cheers.

When asked by moderator Patrick Reed if they intentionally write comics to inspire social change, DeConnick laughed. “I don’t actually set out to write political pamphlets. I’m always writing story first, and even before that I’m always writing character first – everything is born of character,” she said. “But I think that I have some very strong feelings about some things; in particular, ideas of fairness and justice. And it turns out that melds beautifully with the concepts of feminism, since they’re the same fucking thing.” "

WORD. Goodnight, Folks!

My Loyal Tweeps

Wife: You ready to go run errands with me?

Me: Yes, I'm just sending out this tweet to my adoring fans, and then I'll be ready.

Wife: Your fans?

Me: They're a very vocal subsection of an offshoot of a thriving under-served minority demographic.

Wife: What demographic is that?

Me: People who read what I write. I'm looking at you, @TillamookCheese!
(picture gleefully thieved from http://www.hydrogen2oxygen.net/en/twitter-is-nothing-else-than-turing-test/)