Friday, February 25, 2011

Life as a Closet Reformer

About 2 weeks ago, after much consideration, we decided to abandon our collection of inefficient and eclectic means of closet storage for an ultra-efficient and streamlined new Elfa closet system we got on sale at "The Container Store".  To save some cash, we did NOT pay them to install the system, choosing instead of do it ourselves.

Neither the project nor this post are terribly profound, and I'm posting about this largely because it took a lot of time and, as such, is an honest answer to "What have you been up to?", at least for a week or two.

But I WOULD like to provide more than just a visual record of what I've been up to (which you will find if you scroll down).  I want this post to be informative and well as helpful in a practical way.  So, before I get to the pictures and video, here is my first edition of "Tips to Make It Easier," painting edition.

A bit of background: I hate painting.  I hate it, I hate it, I hate it, I hate it.  I get so mad at the paint itself, what with it seldom doing its job the first time around.  It's all like, "Spread me on again, Rob!  Just one coat of me won't be enough."  I'm like, "Paint, you've got one job: Cover whatever it is that I'm painting with whatever color you are."  If paint were an employee, how long do you think before the boss would get tired of, "Sure, I'll do what you ask.  In fact, I'll do it twice, because the first time I will not do it in a sufficient manner."  But I have found that most people are like, "That's just paint."  I call it "mediocrity."  And then there's the clean up.  It's like the paint suddenly decides it's going to be all "Oh, you want me to cover stuff thoroughly?  How about your brush?  Or your roller?"  So paint, in short, is hard to get on where you want it and hard to get off where you don't.

So that's my take on paint, the necessary evil that it is.  With that in mind, here are some time and effort saving tips when dealing with this menace we call "paint."

1.  Use lots of paint on the roller.  So called "experts" will say not to do this.  I say throw caution to the wind.  The more paint on the roller, the fewer trips back to the paint well.  If it's blobby, just roll and roll and roll until it's not blobby anymore.  I have tried the minimalist approach and, when I do, inevitably the time between the roller touching the wall and me thinking, "I need more paint on this," is about eight-tenths of a second.  Slop it on, I say.  The more you use, the more you effectively...

2.  Put on both coats at once.  "If it looks too thin, roll it again."  Paint dries fast these days, so by the time you finish that next few feet of walls, the last few feet are probably dry enough to have more paint caked on.  Seriously, who wants to sit around and wait for paint to dry?  In my experience, you don't really have to.  It's dry enough.

3.  Toss the roller.  I don't mean in the air or at the wall, though that would be cool.  No, in the trash.  It's not worth cleaning out.  They're cheap.  And next time you paint, you'll probably pull out that old, used roller and decide that you want a new one for this job anyway.  Used rollers, no matter how "clean", are icky.  This works with brushes, too, but those tend to be more expensive, so weigh the cost more thoroughly.

4.  Line the painting tray.  Reynolds Wrap makes a slow cooker liner that you can put in your slow cooker before you cook so you don't have to clean it afterwords.  The same principle works with paint trays--though those, too, are HIGHLY disposable.  But if you want to reuse, line it.  I had to do the last wall the day after doing the first 3 walls, so there was just a little bit left to do.  I put 2 Target bags in the tray and poured the paint on top of them.  Had I been doing a big job, this would have been pretty annoying to work with (the bags got bunchy pretty quick), but it was well worth it for the 30 minutes or so that I had left to paint.  When you're done, the bags go in the trash, and the tray is clean enough to eat off of.

5.  Use cardboard "guards" for rolling close to the ceiling.  Beth did the edging of the closet, and I did the rolling.  My goal was to roll as close to the floor and ceiling as I could so that there would not remain a thin but discernible strip of underpainted wall between the edging and the rolling.  The problem is that the roller is round.  So that part of the roller that touches the wall is NOT the part of the roller that is closest to touching the ceiling, by a good couple of centimeters.  (If this is blowing your mind, feel free to skip to #6.)  But, without having your eye right at the ceiling, it's hard to see how close the roller is to actually touching the ceiling.  Enter cardboard flap from a box.  Hold the flap flat against the ceiling, with the edge even with the wall.  With the other hand, roll right up to the ceiling (or adjacent wall, or floor).  The roller will hit the cardboard, not the ceiling, and you will know that you covered as much wall as possible with the roller.

6.  Fingers can be brushes.  When I got done, after I had cleaned everything, I noticed one little white spot right above the door frame.  Did I want to get out a brush to touch it up and then have to clean up a brush?  You bet I did NOT.  So I used my finger, and also a Q-tip.  I wouldn't probably do that in the middle of the wall, but in a spot that is almost completely out of sight, it worked like a charm.

7.  Wash the brushes, trays, rollers, etc., while you're showering.  Sorry--no pictures here.  But it was late, and I was all done painting, and wanted to go to bed.  So I gathered up all the messy stuff and started to walk downstairs.  I imagined myself standing at the kitchen sink for 10-15 minutes, running water over all of this stuff.  Then I thought, "And after that, I still need to shower."  You can imagine the light bulb that went off in my head.  "Why can't the painting equipment and the human get clean at the same time?"  No reason, really.  Sure, it took a bit longer than just a regular shower, but it took less time than separating the tasks completely.  Plus I didn't have to worry about paint splashing on the counter or anything like that.  Any paint that splattered just got sprayed with the hand-held shower nozzle.  I have since noticed one or two little specks that didn't get rinsed right away, but they scraped right off the shower walls, better than they would have off of the stainless steel or counter tops found in our kitchen.

There you have it.  And now, the visual evidence of the work.  A couple of explanations:
-It wasn't until I was getting ready to film the "after" shots that I decided to provide commentary.  Thus, the before shots are instead accompanied by music that I felt captured the chaos of the initial disorganization as well as the hope of what is to come.  It also happened to be the first sample I listened to on my video editing software--an amazing coincidence.

-The video "after" shots of the closet kind of suck.  I went too much "one part at a time" and there aren't any good "big picture" shots.  So in addition to the video, I've posted some still shots of the finished product.  It's still hard to get a ton of perspective on a 6" x 10" (or so) room, but the still pics do a better job.  Next time, I'll do the thing where you take before and after still shots from the exact same place.  Live and learn.  And see you Wednesday.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Seen--and STILL Snubbed--By Oscar (Supporting Actor Edition)

It’s Oscar season, and all bloggers are contractually obligated to blog about it in some way, shape, or form.  Popular topics?  Here’s a few:
-who should win
-who will win
-who got snubbed
-who got lucky

There’s also the “long term” approach, which is basically picking any of the above topics and applying them to a period longer than just last year (and talking about it in past tense, of course—predicting, say, future Oscar snubs is pretty speculative).

Don’t get me wrong: I love reading lists like these.  There’s just a lot of them.  And a good number of people who write them have actually seen nearly every movie that came out this past year, and can speak from a far more informed point of few than I could.  So there’s no reason for me to get all huffy about “so-and-so should have been nominated from this great little Russian film from 2004—it was a huge snub back then.”  Joe Movieblog probably saw every movie back then, and would say it was only the 17th best performance.  And he’s probably right, for all I know.

So I’m not doing a biggest snubs list.  Here’s my list instead:
The biggest acting snubs of the last 10 years (i.e., the 2000’s) from movies that did actually received an acting Oscar nomination for someone else in the movie.

Pros to doing this list:
-It’s a relatively small sample size; probably about 115 movies received acting nominations in the last 10 years, and I’ve probably seen most of them.  I can kind of know what I’m talking about (so might WPFF readers!).
-I haven’t seen a list like this anywhere else; if it’s not unique (and—for real—it’s probably not) it’s at least more distinct than “biggest snubs of the last year”.
-Here's the biggie: While I don’t see every movie, neither, in fact, do the people who decide who gets nominated for and who ultimately wins Academy Awards.  But those folks DID, as a rule, see these 115-ish movies, since they nominated people who acted in them and all.  So this is actually a bit truer by way of pointing out actual snubs rather than performances that maybe just weren’t seen by enough of the right people.  These are performances that the Academy said, “Yeah, we saw it—we just weren’t that impressed.”

Also, I decided just to go with supporting actor snubs.  We’ll save the other categories for future posts.

Without further ado, here are the biggest supporting actor snubs of the 2000’s from movies that received an acting nomination for someone else.  (All info is from

What movie?  Erin Brockovich, 2000
Who got nominated?  Julia Roberts, Albert Finney
Who got snubbed?  Aaron Eckhart
Did anyone else see what I saw (i.e., any awards or noms from anyone)?  No.
What’s the big deal?  When I first saw Erin Brockovich, I remember thinking how neat it was that they got an actual biker-guy to play the biker guy in the movie.  “Typecasting exists for a reason,” I thought.  Eckhart didn’t become a household name (in my household, that is) until years later, and not until even later did I see his name connected with Erin Brockovich.  I couldn’t remember who he played in the movie.  “Surely not the biker-guy,” I thought.  Oh, you know he was.  I was retroactively very impressed.  Furthermore, I postulate that if Eckhart’s career had been reversed—that is, if “Thank You For Smoking,” “The Dark Knight,” and a couple of rom-coms had gotten him on the radar, and THEN he had played the biker-guy in “Erin Brockovich”—then I’m guessing the Academy would have noticed.  Obviously, it was “that kind of film,” with Roberts winning best actress and Finney getting a supporting actor nomination.  Eckhart would have been right there with them, probably viewed as the one of the three who was most stretched in his role.  But if you’re off the radar and not overly flashy, you’re not going to get noticed.

What movie?  About Schmidt, 2002
Who got nominated?  Jack Nicholson, Kathy Bates
Who got snubbed?  Dermot Mulroney
Did anyone else see what I saw (i.e., any awards or noms from anyone)?  No.
What’s the big deal?  We already see a theme here: Actors completely enveloped in a non-flashy role.  Mulroney, from what I understand, is kind of a heartthrob.  In “About Schmidt,” he’s a “nincompoop,” as Jack Nicholson’s character refers to him.  And he’s wonderfully engrossed in the nincompooposity of his character, Randall Hertzel.  The “participant” trophies on display in his room perfectly encapsulate his character: he’s clueless, for sure, and not too bright; but he’s endearing and genuine in his way.  Part of him is really proud of his trophies, and he’s probably not sure why.  He probably hasn’t thought about it.  Mulroney obviously acts in a thoughtful way—his throwaway line at the airport about “having the plane in the background of the picture” is brilliant—but he hides his own thoughtfulness inside of a character who doesn’t do much thinking.  And he does it in such a way that's fun and not boring to watch.  That ain’t easy.

What movie?  Junebug, 2005
Who got nominated?  Amy Adams
Who got snubbed?  Ben McKenzie
Did anyone else see what I saw (i.e., any awards or noms from anyone)?  No
What’s the big deal?  Ben is best known for his leading role in “The O.C.”, and is cast against-type in “Junebug” as Johnny, a small-town drop-out with a lot of pent-up anger and not much to say about it.  Somehow Johnny ended up with an adoring wife (played by Amy Adams) who is very pregnant, and is as excited about the baby as Johnny is ambivalent about it.  We’re left to figure out the sources of Johnny’s anger: Fear about the baby?  Insecurity about having “married up”?  Feeling looked down on by his brother or his brother’s art-dealing girlfriend from the big city?  Shame from dropping out of high school, or from living at home, or from not being able to do something as simple as following through on a thoughtful impulse to record a TV show for his wife?  We don’t know, and neither does Johnny.  He seems as surprised as his brother is when he launches a wrench that hits his brother in the face, and McKenzie’s expression that follows is a lasting image from the film.  McKenzie lets us see for a moment how confused and scared Johnny is, and then he buries it away, beneath the familiar scowl.  If Johnny had dealt with his feelings on camera, maybe McKenzie would have gotten more attention for this role.  But communicating to the audience that Johnny won’t directly deal with his feelings, and will park in front of the TV for the next few weeks for some extended repression, is in itself an impressively specific reality that McKenzie conveys.

What movie?  Juno, 2007
Who got nominated?  Ellen Page
Who got snubbed?  Jason Bateman
Did anyone else see what I saw (i.e., any awards or noms from anyone)?  No
What’s the big deal?  Memo to male actors best known for their TV roles who are offered non-heroic supporting roles in movies starting with “Jun,” opposite pregnant women: You will probably not get noticed.  That’s the trend on this list, anyway.  On the one hand, Bateman doesn’t stretch a whole lot from most of the roles we’ve seen him in.  But this role has a twist, and it’s a character twist that needs to work in order for the entire plot twist of the movie to work.  Bateman has played sleazy, and he’s played smug, but almost without exception, we’re supposed to like whoever he’s playing.  Not here.  What’s impressive is that we think we like Mark Loring, and any indication of “sleaziness” is easy to overlook because, hey, it’s Jason Bateman!  But when we find out we actually don’t like him or respect him, we feel the same mix of embarrassment and disdain that Juno herself felt: “The signs were there the whole time!  Why didn’t we see them?”  Maybe because Bateman knows exactly how subtle the difference between “sleazy-seeming-but-sweet” and “sweet-seeming-but-sleazy” can be, and, as Mark Loring, he takes us from one to the other before we know what hit us.

What movie?  Eastern Promises, 2007
Who got nominated?  Viggo Mortensen
Who got snubbed?  Vincent Cassel
Did anyone else see what I saw (i.e., any awards or noms from anyone)?  No
What’s the big deal?  As with Ben McKenzie’s character in “Junebug,” Cassel’s Kirill is angry, with a lot of confusion and insecurity underneath.  And just as we’re left guessing with Johnny in “Junebug,” we’re never fully sure what’s getting at Kirill.  This tense speculation is a driving force in the movie, because—like Mortensen’s Nikolai—we don’t know if we can trust him, largely because even if Kirill doesn’t suspect Nikolai to be a traitor, he still may do him in out of jealousy or even some repressed attraction.  Cassel’s volatile and unpredictable performance brings home the danger of Nikolai’s situation.  Cassel isn’t playing “just another tough guy”—he’s playing a tough guy who has a lot to prove, but who himself isn’t sure “what,” “why,” or “to whom.”  It’s scary, nuanced, and snubbed.

What movie?  Rachel Getting Married, 2008
Who got nominated?  Anne Hathaway
Who got snubbed?  Bill Irwin
Did anyone else see what I saw (i.e., any awards or noms from anyone)?  Yes!  He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor by the Chicago Film Critics Association.
What’s the big deal?  Maybe I’m a sucker for repression, but Irwin’s Paul differs from the other characters in this list in that instead of his repression leading to destruction, he’s doing his darnedest to hold something of his family together during the weekend of his daughter’s wedding.  He’s desperate to make something work, and his efforts at levity, expression of feelings, or even just conversation are all so laced both with sadness for his fractured family unit and deep love for the individuals, we can’t help but root for and even admire him for at least trying with all that he’s got.  When he breaks, we break.  Irwin makes all of this happen, playing a pretty ordinary guy in an extraordinarily difficult situation.  And, lest we think he’s typecast, this is the same Bill Irwin who plays “Mr. Noodle” on Sesame Street.

What movie?  Changeling, 2008
Who got nominated?  Angelina Jolie
Who got snubbed?  Michael Kelly, Jason Butler Harner
Did anyone else see what I saw (i.e., any awards or noms from anyone)?  No
What’s the big deal?  Once I got over Michael Kelly’s resemblance to Steve Martin, I appreciated his performance for what it was.  His character was the one who kept the police force from being a caricature, and gave us a believable glimpse of humanity within an inhumane system.  I feel like he must have been on screen the for the whole movie, because I can’t imagine his character’s transformation being so believable with only a handful of scenes—but that’s a testament to Kelly’s intentional use of what time he had to show us Detective Ybarra’s pivotal transformational moments, as well as enough build-up for us to believe them.

Harner, meanwhile, plays the flashiest character on this list: a serial killer.  And speaking of someone who makes the most of his screen time: he’s only got a few minutes, but those are some darned creepy minutes!  I like subtle characters, yes, but I’m not opposed to being blown out of the water by a portrayal of a killer.  Harner, with his oddly-timed smiles, shiftiness, and unsatisfying remorse—well, I’m a little creeped out just thinking about it.

And there they are.  Gents, I know a paragraph on is not the same as an Oscar statue, and maybe not even a Golden Globe, but kudos nonetheless.

Readers, enjoy the Oscars, and I’ll see you Friday.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Love Songs for Valentine's Day (Everybody Now: "awwwww")

This is long, I know. Read it in chunks, if you like. Because it’s so long and I’ve worked on it in several sittings, it is probably more prone to typos. If you notice any, feel free to point them out with a post or let me know directly. If there’s any songs that you agree or disagree with me on, or think were overlooked, I’d love to hear about that, too.

It’s Valentine’s Day week, and we’re still celebrating over here at Will Preach For Food. And really, shouldn’t the spirit of Valentine’s Day be with us the whole year? Just like the spirit of Christmas. And Thanksgiving. And probably a few of the lesser known ones.

To commemorate this special week, I’m going to share with you the list of songs that is my itunes “LOVE SONGS” play list, with a word or two about some of them.

First, some criteria a song must meet to make this list:
1. I’ve got to like it. This is a surprisingly recent rule for inclusion on a song list of mine. I used to include songs because “they fit” or because I knew other people liked them. Beyond individual songs, there are certain genres of music that I like more than others. Those will probably become apparent.

2. Must be “somewhat known”. I used to have a hard-and-fast rule that a song had to crack the Billboard top 40 to make it onto a mix of mine. This was largely because I wanted people to listen to my mixes and both like AND know the songs they heard. It was half genuine-courtesy and half self-esteem-booster (and mostly anal-retentively arbitrary). For a lot of reasons, my rule has softened and is now something like, “This song reasonably could have been heard by someone through some form of media other than that person actually buying the album and playing it.”

3. Only one song per vocalist. For example, I couldn’t have two Journey songs, but also couldn’t have one Journey song and one Steve Perry song.

Now, I’ll list out the songs. You’ll probably see right away that the songs on this list can easily be broken down into 10 “types”. After this uninterrupted list, I will re-list them under their “type heading.” That is where I’ll say a word about some of the songs.

“Accidentally In Love,” Counting Crows
“Almost Paradise,” Ann Wilson & Mike Reno
“Bed Of Roses,” Bon Jovi
“Broken Arrow,” Rod Stewart
“Chasing Cars,” Snow Patrol
“Collide,” Howie Day
“Crazy,” Icehouse
“Ever The Same,” Rob Thomas
“Everything,” Alanis Morissette
“Falling Slowly,” Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova
“Forever And For Always,” Shania Twain
“Heaven,” Bryan Adams
“Hero,” Enrique Iglesias
“Hey, Soul Sister,” Train
“Hold My Hand,” Hootie and the Blowfish
“Hypnotize Me,” Wang Chung
“I Can’t Hold Back,” Survivor
“I’ll Be,” Edwin McCain
“I’ll Stand By You,” The Pretenders
“I Melt With You,” Modern English
“In Your Eyes,” Peter Gabriel
“I Want To Know What Love Is,” Foreigner
“Just Breathe,” Pearl Jam
“Kiss the Girl,” Samuel E. Wright
“The Lady In Red,” Chris De Burgh
“Lay Your Hands On Me,” Thompson Twins
“Let My Love Open The Door,” Pete Townshend
“Love Story,” Taylor Swift
“Making Love Out Of Nothing At All,” Air Supply
“Mandy,” Barry Manilow
“My Love,” Lionel Richie
“Open Arms,” Journey
“The Rose,” Bette Midler
“Shama Lama Ding Dong,” Lloyd Williams
“She’s So High,” Tal Bachman
“Stand By Me,” Ben E. King
“Time After Time,” Cyndi Lauper
“To Love Somebody,” Bee Gees
“To Love Somebody,” Michael Bolton
“Up Where We Belong,” Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes
“You Decorated My Life,” Kenny Rogers
“You’re the One That I Want,” John Travolta & Oliva Newton John
“Your Song,” Elton John

Now, the 10 types of love songs on this list.

“Almost Paradise,” Ann Wilson & Mike Reno, from “Footloose”. This is part of the reason why I don’t have “Heaven In Your Eyes” by Loverboy (lead singer: Mike Reno) on this list (see criteria 3 above).

“Falling Slowly,” Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova, from “Once”. My older daughter played this at her first piano recital.

“Up Where We Belong,” Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes, from “An Officer and a Gentleman”

“You’re the One That I Want,” John Travolta & Oliva Newton John, from “Grease”. It was about the 6th listen before I could figure who was singing what part.

“Kiss the Girl,” Samuel E. Wright, from “The Little Mermaid.” No apologies for liking this one: In movie context, bringing in the instruments one by one as “sounds of animals” is brilliant. Just perfect.

“Shama Lama Ding Dong,” Lloyd Williams, from “Animal House.” Sweet, fun song from an obnoxious movie.

“Heaven,” Bryan Adams. I’d probably cut this if it hadn’t been on this mix since 1990 or so when I first started making mixes. It doesn’t resonate as “true” as it used to back in junior high.

“I’ll Stand By You,” The Pretenders. Not quite as classic as the others, but deserves to be. Great vocal—she doesn't treat the words as merely an opportunity to show her vocals: she actually sings the substance behind the words. And despite the ordinary title, the verses are pretty distinct lyrically (e.g, “So if you’re mad, get mad” is an unusual line for a love song).

“I Melt With You,” Modern English.

“In Your Eyes,” Peter Gabriel. I can honestly say I liked this song even before “Say Anything” was released; it was seeing the preview for “Say Anything” where I really fell in love with this song.

“I Want To Know What Love Is,” Foreigner.

“The Lady In Red,” Chris De Burgh. Lots of interesting stuff about Chris and this song on Wikipedia, including the fact that this “song was written in reference to (though not specifically about) his first wife Diane.” Not sure what that means exactly, or why they would refer to Diane as Chris’s “first wife” when it seems that she was and is his only wife (also from Wikipedia), but it’s interesting. If I could convince myself that “Don’t Pay The Ferryman” was a love song, this would get the boot.

“Open Arms,” Journey. Same as what I said about “Heaven”, but even more.

“Time After Time,” Cyndi Lauper.

“Your Song,” Elton John.

When I know that the person singing is also the one who wrote it—and is someone regarded as a songwriter—the “sincerity factor” jumps pretty high.
“Ever The Same,” Rob Thomas. I was liking everything I heard from Matchbox Twenty, but hadn’t heard a love song, per se, from them. When Mr. Thomas released his first solo album, I liked the first two singles OK, but still no love songs. I remember hearing this for the first time as “the latest from Rob Thomas” and being like, “There it is. Rob Thomas writes a love song.”

“Everything,” Alanis Morissette. Nice little song about unconditional love. I once preached a sermon about this song, actually.

“I’ll Be,” Edwin McCain. I understand about 20% of the words in this song, but it sounds nice.

Love song mixes tend to be pretty mellow musically speaking, so if a song is more upbeat, it’ll move up the list for it.
“Accidentally In Love,” Counting Crows.

“Hold My Hand,” Hootie and the Blowfish.

“Let My Love Open The Door,” Pete Townshend. More interesting trivia from my sister site, Wikipedia: “A cover of this song was recorded by Audio Adrenaline with the interpretation of ‘my love’ referring to God’s love. This may be consistent with the composer’s intent: In the liner notes of Townshend's Gold (Remaster) CD, he refers to this song as ‘Jesus sings.’”

“Bed Of Roses,” Bon Jovi. Not the most popular Bon Jovi song, and arguably not really a love song, either—or at least not one I would want to have sung to me since the first verse mentions a blonde that the singer thinks is still in his bed. Makes the chorus seem slightly less sweet. But, dang, I do like the words, and bonus points for rhyming “close as” with “Ghost is”. Interestingly, for all of the swooning that Bon Jovi has caused through the years, they have released surprisingly few true “love songs.” “Bad Medicine”? “You Give Love A Bad Name”? “Living In Sin”? Not really love songs. “I’ll Be There For You” is probably their truest love song, but I like this one a lot better.

“Crazy,” Icehouse. Reached #14 on the Billboard Hot 100. Their other song, “Electric Blue”? #7. A travesty, I tell ya!

“Hypnotize Me,” Wang Chung.” Together with “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” makes up the yin yang of Wang Chung. Was included in but not written for the movie “Innerspace.”

“I Can’t Hold Back,” Survivor. They also sing those “Rocky” songs.

“Lay Your Hands On Me,” Thompson Twins. Not Bon Jovi, mind you, who sing their own “Lay Your Hands On Me.” And not “Hold Me Now,” which is that other Thompson Twins song.

“Broken Arrow,” Rod Stewart. I’m not a fan of Rod Stewart’s voice. He doesn’t write many of his songs, including this one. I would have thought my affection for this song would have worn off by now. Not sure why it hasn’t.

“Forever And For Always,” Shania Twain. I also like “Man! I Feel Like A Woman!”—as long as I’m being honest and all.

“Hero,” Enrique Iglesias. I could do without the whispering, “Let me be your hero.”

“Making Love Out Of Nothing At All,” Air Supply. Featuring Roy Bittan and Max Weinberg of E Street Band fame on keyboards and drums, respectively.

“Mandy,” Barry Manilow. Mondegreen alert: I used to think the line “when you kiss me and stop me from shaking” was “when you kiss me and stop me from shaving.” Just a different image, one that involves a shirtless Barry Manilow with a towel around his waist and a face full of shaving cream—but that’s OK, right?

“My Love,” Lionel Richie. I don’t like it as much as I used to. It’s “on the bubble.”

“You Decorated My Life,” Kenny Rogers. My mom used to listen to Kenny Rogers a lot, and I was probably the biggest Kenny Rogers fan in my entire grade school. He’ll probably get his very own blog post one of these days. This is pure cheese.

These may not be as new as they once were, but nothing is, right?
“Chasing Cars,” Snow Patrol. Within a year of this coming out, I saw it on a list of “Greatest Love Songs Ever” on or some similar site, so it made its mark pretty quick.

“Collide,” Howie Day.

“Hey, Soul Sister,” Train. Maybe you’ve heard this one.

“Love Story,” Taylor Swift. Could also be under “SINGER SONGWRITER”.

“To Love Somebody,” Bee Gees.

“To Love Somebody,” Michael Bolton. I first heard Michael Bolton’s version and thought it was a pretty nice idea lyrically, and I thought it was catchy enough. I also didn’t (and don’t) hate Michael Bolton as much as most people. (Wow, I feel like I’m really opening up here!) Then I discovered that this was a Bee Gees song originally, and heard their version. It’s pretty different, more innocent sounding, reminiscent to me of “Your Song”. I liked it. So which one do I bump? It’s like asking me to choose between my children. They both stay.

“Just Breathe,” Pearl Jam. I read a review that “this is the closest thing to a love song that Eddie Vedder has ever written.” It might be more of a “friendship song” or a “lost love” song. There’s definitely some bittersweetness to it. But it is one of my current very favorite songs of any type.

“The Rose,” Bette Midler. This is more ABOUT love in general than it is an actual love song. Fine line, maybe. The lyrics are a bit cheesy, but I think they’re spot on in that, while the writer was obviously married to a rhyme and rhythm scheme, she did not cheat on the line content; every line rings true, if not emotionally, then factually.

“She’s So High,” Tal Bachman. More of a sub-genre of love songs that I affectionately call “stalker songs,” which would include “She Don’t Know Me,” by Bon Jovi; “Suzanne,” by Journey; and (recent addition) “Marry Me,” by Train.

“Stand By Me,” Ben E. King. Probably associated more with friendship, thanks in part to the movie of the same name.

“I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles),” The Proclaimers
“Just The Way You Are,” Bruno Mars
“No One,” Alicia Keys
“One Good Woman,” Peter Cetera
“She’s Always A Woman” or “Just The Way You Are,” Billy Joel
“The Sweetest Thing,” U2

Bruce, bless his heart, doesn’t write a whole lot of love songs, certainly not in the traditional sense. And the ones he does write usually don’t get released as singles. “Secret Garden” is probably close to making it into this list. But I think his best pure love song is “If I Should Fall Behind,” from the album “Lucky Town.”

What is perhaps my favorite love song is not widely known, but is beautiful, sweet, simple, gritty, spiritual, and was the song that I danced to with my bride at our wedding. I recently figured out how to make it a ringtone for when she calls me. It’s called “You Were There” by a guy named Tonio K. You should be able to hear it here:
Happy Valentine’s Day, my sweetheart. Thanks for “being there.”

To everyone else: See you Wednesday.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My First Worship Song?: "Good and Holy King"

Today's planned post is taking longer than I hoped, this week has been busier than I planned, and my disposition has been less chipper than would lend itself to making the most of these factors.  Some of this busyness will be explained in one of next week's posts, but for today, I'm going to do the old "reach into the vault" thing and pull out something that I wrote a while ago.  I imagine I'll be doing this about once a month, or until my vault runs dry.

This is my first (and, as I think about it, my only) go at writing an actual praise song that could be sung at church.  I had messed around with lyrics and melodies before, and have MAYBE combined them in such a way that they could, fortuitously, be sung during a worship service.  But this is the first time that I actually had "could be sung in church" as a goal in writing.  I'm not sure if that goal was achieved.  I mean, I do know that this HASN'T been sung, but I'm not sure if it COULD be sung.  I don't know exactly what people who decide that sort of thing look for in a worship song.

While it's not exactly "fresh" material, I think it's only been read by 3 people ever (counting myself) so feel free to pretend it's brand new.  And, come Friday, even those 3 disappointed souls will have a brand new post to read, fresh off the brain.  :)

     Good and Holy King

Oh God you are my prince of peace
Your grace to me will never cease
To rouse this weary heart and calm this restless soul
“Be still,” your word makes very clear
The time is now the place is here
For me to come to you and surrender all control

I want to be with you
I want to rest in you
You are my God, my Lord of everything
I want to follow you
I want to worship you
Reign in my life, oh good and holy King

So take this hurried life of mine
Remove those things that seem to blind
My eyes from seeing truth, my heart from knowing you
Now I lay my life at your throne
All that I do, think, say, and own
Do with them what you please—their reign is finally through

Friday, February 11, 2011

Covered by Warranties

A friend of mine suggested blogging about things that I would be doing anyway.  Something I was doing anyway last week was sorting through our manuals and warranties.  No, wait!  It was WAY more exciting than it sounds-  OK, I can't lie to you like that.  It was actually even less exciting than it sounds, and way more time consuming.

But as I was flipping through the evidence of many of the purchases we've made in the last 13 years, a handful of these bits were striking to me, for one reason or another.  And since I was doing it anyway...

 Big hair?  Check.  Big computer?  Check.  Got this in the 80's?  Oh, you better believe it.

Yes, we own an AUTHENTIC "Pasture Bedtime" plate of the "Home Is Where the Herd Is" "Cow-lection".  Makes your counterfeit version pretty uncool seeming, no?

Fascinating and provocative hints!  I don't even know where to begin.

Salad Forks...  They'll turn up at nearly every meal!  For salads, pies, cakes, pastries, fruits and fish.
Uh, Harvard comma, anyone?

Place Fork...  The universal tableware piece for entrees.  Can also be used as a dessert fork.
What are you, MacGyver?  Is there like a button that you press to make that transition?  Sounds confusing.

Place Knife...  Serves equally well as a butter knife, bread knife, or dessert knife.
Not trying to start anything here, but the butter knife is right at the bottom of this list!  Shh!!!

Place Spoon...  The most versatile spoon you can own!
More versatile than a spoon with a fork on the other end of it?  And a computer in the handle?  That you can use as a car?  Check and mate!
Use for puddings, fruit, cereals--even, in a pinch, as a serving spoon.
Well sure--if the Mentos guy happens to be at my party.  But the rest of us are just kind of screwed, aren't we?

Teaspoon...  You can't have too many!
Oh, can't I?  Sounds like a challenge to me!
Perfect for cereal, dessert, coffee, ice cream and fruits.
But not tea so much--need a stirring spoon for that.  This is known as "The Flatware Maker's Paradox."

Large Serving Spoon...  For vegetables, fruits, desserts, casseroles and stuffing.
What about mashed potatoes?  Seems like an oversight.

Sugar Spoon...  Another multi-purpose server!
You are very excitable!
Ideal of jellies, jams, condiments, sauces--as well as for sugar.
Question: Do I need to rinse the jelly off the spoon before I put it back in the sugar bowl?

Serving Fork...  For cold meats, cheese slices, chops, waffles, sliced tomatoes.  And to match up with the pierced serving spoon for a salad set.
I never realized how badly the word "chops" needs a modifier--without one, it sticks out like a sentence fragment or a stack of hot meat pancakes with tomato wedges.

Butter Knife...  Not only for serving butter-- 
Do tell!
these handy knives appear on the hors d'oeuvres tray for cheese, pates, spreads.
And Cheese Whiz!  It TOTALLY spreads Cheese Whiz like nobody's business.

Nothing funny about this bad boy.  This warranty is to other warranties what Crocodile Dundee's knife is to other knives.  "That ain't a warranty.  THAT'S a warranty."  I have cashed this in: Sent in my backpack with a broken zipper, asked if they could fix it, and they sent me a brand new backpack.  Well done, Jansport.  Now THAT backpack is in my basement, also with a broken zipper, unused for many years.  Will I ever get around to sending it in to be replaced?  Sounds like a future blog post!

"NEVER attempt to deep fat fry in a microwave oven."
BUT--if you do--PLEASE call me first, because that would be freakin' awesome to see.

This is the cover to a pretty thick manual, and I'm totally fine with the minimalist design approach.  Here's the thing though, and I'm not exaggerating: I tried to figure out for about 5 minutes what this manual is for.  It's something that you can use with your computer--I got that much, but then got sick of trying.  I'm just sayin', maybe that sort of information could make the cover, maybe even at the expense of "Printed in Mexico."  Maybe?

And thank YOU, kind sir, for congratulating me on owning a pen.  You may be surprised to hear this, but you are actually the first person to congratulate me for this.  I wonder what people are waiting for?  Me to run a marathon?  Earn a graduate degree?  Get married?  Well, those things may be worthy of congratulations for SOME people, but not me--no, I DON'T accept the ordinary, not like those disposable-plastic-stick holding folk.  Oh, and thanks for the tip on replacing the ink.  I got a little lost on the "Reassembling" step, so I've just been keeping the refill in my pocket next to the pen shell.  Write with the one, impress the ladies with the other!  You know what I'm talking about.  ;)

OK, Bill, a couple of things:
1)  The apostrophe in your SONG'S FROM THE RADIO mix?  You don't need it.
2)  I know "SONGS FROM THE RADIO" SEEMS like a really specific title for a tape, but--and I'm hoping this is a teachable moment--there are a lot of songs on the radio.  Just something to think about.
3)  Fancy labels are great.  I use them myself.  Fancy labels on VHS tapes, audio cassette tapes, and 3.5 inch floppy disks?  Maybe that's time you could spend elsewhere, you know?  Like practicing karaoke, perhaps?

That's all for now.  We'll balance off this tomfoolery next week with something dark and/or thoughtful.  See you Wednesday.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

We've Got No Fields, But...

It is commonly known that prior to the 20th century, the only reason anyone ever had children was to help harvest the fields.  From the age of 2 until they were married at the age of 15, children earned their keep and paid back their debt for being birthed by working for free, plus room and board, on the family's farm.

Since the industrial revolution, people have discovered other reasons to have children, most of which are great.  Some folks are content with these modern reasons.  Others have held on to modern, philosophical reasons for procreating but still sought to discover the modern day equivalent to "harvesting the fields."  Today, I announce, that I have found it (though there may be others).

I love my girls, and would love them unconditionally even if they couldn't or wouldn't ever provide me with any practical return for my love.  That's just how it is.  That said, if they COULD and WOULD, say, help daddy cut his hair and, while doing so, provide him with blog fodder?  Score!

After some technical difficulties (see the post from 2/2), I THINK I should be able get the video posted here OK.  I am relieved about this, because my next step would have been to upload thousands of consecutive still screen shots, then have you print them out at home and assemble them into a flip book.  I'm glad it didn't come to that.

A few disclaimers/things to look for:
1)  I'm still working on connecting video posts from my computer to YouTube to WPFF in the most efficient way possible while still maintaining the best picture.  I doubt I have achieved the pinnacle of these goals, so I hope that future video posts may be more clear.  It's also conceivable that in tinkering with this process, the video may either be temporarily removed from this post or simply not play.  We'll see.  Just be warned.

2)  No child labor laws were broken in the making of this video.

3)  I know it's long.  I did a LOT of cutting and trimming (more than half of the original video is on the e-cutting room floor), and finally just said, "OK, I gotta get this posted, long or otherwise."  Faster, better, editing is another goal of mine.

4)  The part where words pop up on the screen is just a text of what I was saying at the time, added for effect.  It's really small and hard to read.  Sorry.  Something else I hope to get better at.

5)  My girl asks a lot of questions, but notice the one particular one that she asks--unprompted--that is the same one that every person is asked every time they get their hair cut.  She's a natural.

That's all for now.  See you Friday.


Friday, February 4, 2011

Connecting Lines: "Galatians 3:3"

First, I am so glad and humbled that at least a couple of you finally have a reason to look forward to Fridays.

Second, today’s post is going to be tagged “Poems, Lyrics, & Creative Stuff”.  Family and household stuff will come next week.  I’ve got topics for both lined up.

But this is a lyric that I wrote over the course of about 10 years.  “Wow, 10 years!  It must be awesome!  Or long!  Or BOTH!”  There, there.  Actually, the idea for the chorus first came to mind after reading Galatians 3:3—about 10 years ago.  I jotted it down.  Hummed a melody to it.  Then forgot about it.  Then a few months ago, I started doodling some images and ideas that kind of suddenly reminded me of this abandoned chorus.

It’s a serious topic, but I tried to be playful with the images, rhythms, and rhymes, as if the narrator was so incredulous with himself that it was laughable.

When I doodle like this, the pages in my journal look like a crazy man’s writings.  Partial sentences are all over the place, often with lots of repetition and little cohesion.  Sometimes I finally start to string ideas together, sometimes literally drawing lines (like geometry lines) to connect lines (like song lines) into something like a verse.

But I digress.  I like when the lines start to connect.  And I like the idea of being able to share a bunch of connected lines with someone—anyone—who, in reading this semi-finished product, may be inspired to connect a line or two in their own life.


            Galatians 3:3

Gravely dehydrated but some joker cruelly traded
Toxic waste for water at the bottom of my well
I was trapped like in a structure dreamed by Dali built by Escher
I was walking up some stairs down to darker floors of hell

I was nothing going nowhere
And it was you and you alone
So why oh why oh why oh why

Am I
So foolish that I try
To finish on my own what you started by your grace
Once dead
Now regenerated
My soul set free, my mind renewed, my heart replaced
By you

Every vision was a tunnel and every cloud a funnel
Rated 4 or 5 and spinning towards the trailer of my chest
With, respectively, no distant light to beckon me
Nor silver lining or even just an eye where I can rest


With the water level dropping this fish was dry and flopping
And the only ropes to pull me free had hooks tied to their ends
Like a needle in a haystack I was lost without a way back
To that place where needles gather to help skillful people mend


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Technical Difficulties [Roman Numeral] One

It used to bug me when people would start referring to movies that spawned unexpected sequels by adding "One" after the title, like "Rocky One" or "The Karate Kid One".  Obviously, the filmmakers weren't planning on sequels when they made the first one, so fans took it upon themselves to distinguish between the first movie of a series and its sequel(s) in this manner.

There will be no retroactive re-titling of this post.  I fully expect a long series of sequels to follow this post, so I am going to title it appropriately from the get-go.  Hence: "Technical Difficulties I".

Here's the pitch: A handsome, young, tragically overambitious blogger attempts to upload a video as part of his first non-introductory post on his shiny new blog.  His plans go awry, however, when his computer tells him that he does not have permission to access the video file that he tries to upload.  I'm just not sure about the ending yet.

But, yes, first I tried uploading the video directly to the blog.  I wasn't sure why it didn't work, but I figured I'd try going through YouTube, since "post video from YouTube" is the other choice that the Blogger dashboard gave me.  So I tried uploading a video to my newly created YouTube account, which is when my computer told me I did not have permission to access the file that I was trying to upload.  I needed to contact the administrator, it said.

So then I said to the computer: "What?  I just created this file today!  What do you mean I don't have permission to access it?  And who do you think YOU are?  I BOUGHT you.  I could reformat you if I wanted to.  I mean, theoretically.  I would probably need to call tech support, but what I mean is that I have the authority to.  And now YOU'RE denying ME permission to access a file?  How DARE you!"

I didn't wait around to see what he had to say to that; I've got a schedule to keep.  Wednesday and Friday.  I'm like the (part time) mailman: rain or shine, permission or denial.  So instead of getting a "Family" post, here is my first "Tech Stuff" post.  If all goes well, I will have everything sorted out by Friday and will get my video uploaded and posted.  And this time, if the multimedia post does not work out, I will have a back up, unimedia post ready to go.

By the way, I'm still hammering out the layout of this blog, what works best, what looks best, what looks distinct but won't cause seizures--that sort of stuff.  I would also like for the title box of the blog to not be cut off at the end (as it is on my laptop, but not my desktop), but by the time I figure out how to get a video uploaded, I may need to take a few weeks off from figuring out tech stuff.