Sunday, December 23, 2007

Seasons Greetings

--Man, it has been a while. It feels like this is the first time in weeks I've had time to breathe.

Does it ever seem like you have so much on your mind, so many things knocking around your head, that you can't focus on the physical reality around you? It's an interesting sensation to experience while flying down the 405 at 75 mph, let me tell you. It's a weird reversal when your thoughts seem real and the physical world seems like a dream. And this is all without the use of halucinogens.

--I was talking to a friend the other day about the difficulty of doing something that you know is right but feels absolutely wrong. The classic head-vs-heart conflict. It got me thinking...I think the heart knows only what it wants and has no concept of self-preservation or im/possibility. I think that's what keeps us young. Of course, what is adulthood if not the responsibility of doing what's best rather than what's fun? Anyway, I know these are hardly groundbreaking thoughts, but what else is new (see blog title)?

--You know what word I really struggle with? "Inquiry." I can't pronounce it correctly in a casual flow. Unless I want to give up and start saying (ink-wary), I have to stop, stretch out the mouth muscles a little and really focus to say (in-kwer-E). Try it, maybe it's just me.

--Here we are on Christmas Eve Eve and I just barely finished my shopping this afternoon. This was a very rough year for gift-giving and shopping. If it's the thought that counts, I should be allowed to submit a 500-page neurotic manifesto documenting all the mental and emotional strife I put myself through to find the right gifts. And I'm not even sure I did all that well. Better than most years at least, so it's not all for not.

--Got the Annual Freeze-Your-Ass-Off-One-Night-Post-Christmas-Pre-New Years Camping Trip coming up in a few days. Got some new members in the club this year. I am predicting one of the all-time great trips. That's assuming no one gets accidentally shot at the firing range prior to reaching the camp site.

--After that, going up to a cabin in Arrowhead for a couple days and, man oh man, I cannot wait for that. I am going to pour myself a tall drink, sit down in a big armchair with about 3 books and 7 magazines and I am going to read for a solid three to four hours.

(2.5 hours later)

--Just got home from seeing "Juno." Really enjoyed it. Funny, smart, heartwarming flick. It's one of those movies that makes me feel good about life in general, even in the presence of the inevitable shitstorms. If I were an ultra-conservative nutjob, I might worry that it romanticizes teen pregnancy, but, thankfully, I'm not. It's one of those movies that makes me want to come home, put on a classic album really loud, and just lay there and listen to it. Unfortunately, it's too late to do the loud part but I am making do. It's not the quality of the music in the movie that does it, but the volume of it, and the scenes where they talk passionately about music don't hurt much either in that respect. Anyway, it's a great movie.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Decking the Halls, Sweet Baby James, and The Biggest Loser

I'm not sure it's realistically possible to have a greater night, friends.

I got home, cracked open a seasonal Sam Adams and got to work on supper. While it cooked, Nicole arrived and we trimmed what could very well be the finest Christmas tree I have ever had. Upon finishing, we dined on roasted pork tenderloin and sweet potatoes a la John/King. When she left, I popped in the James Taylor "One Man Band" dvd and wrote out some Thank You cards. To me, that's just a damn fine evening.

Speaking of the JT dvd...This was the first time I have watched it and, man, it really captures the magic of the "One Man Band" show I saw and described here almost a year ago. The theatre where they shot it was probably a quarter the size of where I saw the show so the intimacy of it was almost greater than the live show for me. I think the music that touches us most is the music that makes us feel most like ourselves. For me, nobody does that like James Taylor. Listening to his music makes me feel like coming home after being gone for years, maybe not even realizing that I had been away. I'm not kidding when I say it fills me with a love of life, a sentimental spirit, and a sense of being whole. What's more, it occurred to me as I watched the show that there are people in this life that I have never met and are not likely to ever meet, yet with whom I feel a sort of kindred kinship with. Remember in the movie "Collateral" when the coyote crosses in front of Tom Cruise's cab and he and the coyote share that look where you see they have something in common on a very fundamental level? It's like that. Does this make me a stalker? I don't think so, but it might be close, I guess. Could be the wine talking too. Probably a combination of the two.

I forgot to mention my rant on "The Biggest Loser." Ya know, you don't have to be an artsy-fartsy, holier-than-thou TV critic to scoff at reality television. A lot of people do it. I was thinking tonight though that there is a sincerity and a poignancy some of these shows that is very real and very honest in a way that fictional programming never could be because it's, well, fictional. Are the tender moments I speak of exploited by producers, manipulated by editors, and sensationalized by composers? Absofrigginlutely. But you can't deny the earnest sincerity in the actual moment, aside from the score, the camera angle or any of that shit. It can be quite touching, I tell ya. I will concede that these people crying on camera in these very tender moments are possibly, okay likely, crying because they know they're on camera--much like my inability to make any sort of public address without a flood of tears. But I'm just saying...

That being said, even in the most seemingly benevolent of shows, there is often that seedy, scuzzy underbelly that makes people turn up their noses at reality television, often rightly so. For instance, tonight I saw "The Biggest Loser" for the first time. Now here is a show that does something really great for Americans, if not humanity as a whole, helping people to take control of their lives and seek out a healthier existence. What's not to like, right? Well, I was with them until the final segment where the weight losses among the contestants have all been tallied up and two people find themselves "below the yellow line" on the brink of elimination. The contestants that have already clinched their advance then vote on which of the two below-the-line people will be eliminated. And this is where they lost me. The guy that got the ax tonight had lost 10 pounds in one week, more than any other contestant (they rank based on percentage of weight lost--a crock in itself). When push came to shove, the other contestants voted to eliminate him because a) he stood the biggest threat to them winning the game and the 250K and b) there was some sort of grudge against him being carried from the past. What a bassackwards, warped crock of shit. In a show like this that seems like it should be about the greater good of all involved, both in the show and watching it at home, the producers instead choose to formulate this "game" like "Survivor" where the most important thing at the end of the day is winning the big bowl of cash, celebrating whatever cutthroat soul-less tactics it takes to accomplish that goal. Why are these people competing for cash in the first place? Doesn't that seem a little weird to have these people losing an incredible amount of weight and, thus, making drastic wholesale improvements to their lives and then celebrating their hard earned victory by receiving a fat check? Seriously.....Huh? What does money have to do with weight loss and deciding to take control of one's life in a positive way? Which is supposed to be the greater prize, the cold hard cash or the happiness that comes with self-confidence? The fact that there is a cash prize in a game such as this is a sick, sad reflection of the times we are living in, in my opinion. Shouldn't some things be about more than money if for no better reason than to prove that there are things more important than money?

Backtracking a bit, it offends me that the contestants vote someone off at all. I understand the need for the yellow line; it's what makes this a game and I'm fine with that, but, given what's at stake--and I don't mean the fucking cash, shouldn't all the contestants be rooting FOR each other to succeed rather than calculating some chickenshit, cunning strategy to "win" the game? The first guy to reveal his vote for who was to be eliminated tonight actually said he was voting for Neil to cut because he thought Neil was the most likely to come back and win it all. Yeah, we sure don't want that happening! We don't want anyone else to lose more weight than we do and win the game because winning is more important than anything and, Lord knows, we don't have enough confidence in ourselves to win fair and square! Jesus Christ, people! GREED IS NOT GOOD (no offense, Mr. Stone)!!! Why are they even voting to eliminate someone anyway? Shouldn't they be voting on who most deserves to stay? Neil lost more fucking weight than any of you and you send him home! NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE!

That's it, I'm taking this to the streets. Who's with me?! Meet me at the corner of Ventura and Coldwater, weapons in hand!

So yeah, all in all, a great night.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Baby's First Turkey (In Pictures)

Apparently, there is a difference. I was quite pleased to learn that all of the vital organs and neck would be conveniently bagged for my easy removal. I was not looking forward to feeling around in there, just hoping I got everything.

And into the anal(?) cavity we plunge!

Look Mom, gizzards! Save the neck for me, Clark.

It's its poor little heart. Truly, if I had not mentally prepared myself for this process, I might have been mildly traumatized.

Once it's all cleaned, ya gotta brine the son of a bitch! I had never heard of this, but apparently by submerging the bird in a marinade of sorts, ya lock in the flavor and, most importantly, the moisture. No one likes a dry turkey.

To make a long story short, a couple hours of roasting later and BING! you have a turkey! I didn't know about the whole upside down thing until the last minute, but I think it was a great save. All in all, my first Thanksgiving turkey was a rousing success, a succulent, delicious foundation upon which my roasting prowess can only build upwards from here. To infinity and beyond! Culinarily speaking, of course.

Who knew?

I love Christmas shopping...if I know what I want to get people and feel confident about it. To aimlessly wander the mall weekend after weekend mumbling "would they like a sweater? Who wouldn't like a sweater? Have I ever seen them wear a sweater? Maybe they would wear one if they had one like this! Fuck it, I can't decide."--it's maddening.

Take my dad for instance. I know he wants "The Bourne Ultimatum" on DVD because he's been saying so every time I talk to him for the last two months. But in terms of a complimentary gift, I am completely lost. I was until last night anyway. We went out for Taco Wednesday and it became glaringly obvious that he needs a case for his iphone (he's not a blog reader so I can say this). Boom. Done and done. All I had to do was spend a little time with the person and the gift options flowed like wine, my friends.

If only I could do this for everyone, my anxiety would be solved.