Monday, May 29, 2006

For the birds

This here is a birch tree that has grown near the beach at our family lake place for the past forever and now I need to accept that it is probably pretty much dead. It's the flocks of wood peckers perching on what looks like its bullet-ridden hide that clued me in. The birds are pretty, and funny to watch as they bash their heads into the bark over and over, but still, this is a special tree to me. It frames the lake view in every cheesey sunset picture ever taken by our family. At least we'll have pictures.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Summer Blogging Season is Here!

A few more days of school and my summer will start and I plan to be doing a lot of this here: sitting down to read but instead having J. walk up and ask me to watch a Gene Kelley movie with her. It's a life.

I think Monkeysquirrel will be taking a summer vacation, too. Maybe it'll be more of a summer photo blog if anything. Either way, there will be a little more space between posts. I slow down in the heat, you know. Anyway, as we say in our yearbooks, have a great summer. Don't spend it all in front of a computer monitor. Oh, and wear sunscreen.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

I never used to care about this stuff

I forget how great it is when spring rolls on and our garden just keeps blooming, one perennial after another, on into and through the summer. I spend a lot of the winter thinking about all the things I'd like to change about our flower beds, but once things fill out and start blooming, I forget all the problems and just dig watching things grow. I never used to care about this stuff, and never would have guessed it's something I'd be into, but I guess it's okay to like different things as you grow up.

This here is the first bloom on our small stand of siberian iris. It's smaller than most irises, but sits on top of this long, graceful, grassy foliage that's always tipping in whatever breeze you have. Might be one of my favorite plants--this fall I really need to bury a bunch more bulbs of this so that I can have a large blur of them next year. Posted by Picasa

Monday, May 22, 2006

I'm the man.

Here is a picture of me after I sank a putt during my first round of 2006 last weekend. I look so happy because I hadn't made anything longer than three feet all day and this one was like four feet at least. Incredible.

Actually, for my first outing of the year, it wasn't half bad. I shot 41 on the front at Deer Track, parring 4 of 9, and then fell apart a little on the back and shot 50. That's a tough 9 back there. Had a few penalty strokes and got tired enough that I missed some easy putts. Overall, I hit my irons pretty cleanly and, well, who cares how well you play when it's as beautiful as it was Saturday. I think 65 is my favorite outside temperature, for sure.

Friday, May 19, 2006

YouTube strategizing

I think the secret for using YouTube is that you go there only once every six weeks or so. That gives the place time to replenish the wells, so to speak, and you can go right to the "most viewed" or whatever and see a few really funny things and then leave. That's what works for me, anyway.

This is my favorite from yesterday's visit.

Monday, May 15, 2006


I have too many loved ones and stuff in my life to ever do this, but I've always had this dream of living in a really small place. Room for a bed for sleeping and a chair for reading and a maybe a window for staring at birds and stuff.

So tonight on NPR they had this nice story about the "Tiny House Movement"--people who share, and are living, my tiny, impossible dream. Ideally, one would build his own tiny house from lumber he salvaged from decaying barns or milled from funky timber. There are enough people in this "movement," however, that businesses are building houses for you now. And they're really cool. Check out a few of them here. I think my favorite is the "S-House." As the web site explains, the S-House is "everything the 10x16 Front Gable is and less."

I can see my tiny life from here, and it's nice, but worshiping living spaces like this, I know, is a form of pornography--an objectification of space rather than of women. Real estate dreams always look at homes as if they're just cool, homey spaces, and I let myself forget that really living in them would be rather similar to the (already great) life I live the too-large home we have now.

But still, it would be so cool.

Friday, May 12, 2006

American X, a list

On a good recommendation, I watched the 1998 movie American X the other day. Lots of yelling. Some violence. I know this is a popular movie, and I can't deny that that Edward Norton is a swell actor, but I have some problems with its verisimilitude in a few places.

1. Skinheads. They cannot play basketball. How could they not know this? Everyone knows that skinheads cannot play basketball. It's just absurd.

2. The "gang bangers" that the skinheads are in conflict with in this movie are too pretty. They should look like they do in the perfect HBO show The Wire: scrawny and shifty and paranoid and tough. The guys in this movie, on the other hand, all look like dates Lisa Bonet could have brought home to meet Clifford Huxtable on The Cosby Show.

3. Again with the basketball scene, no game that was being played to decide which side would get to "own" the court would ever make it to completion if this neighborhood was as tough as it was supposed to be. As soon as it got to game point, the losing team would have sabotaged it by starting a fight and then they would have always been able to argue that they didn't lose the bet. That's what I would do, anyway.

4. The jail was too clean looking. Nobody died there, either. I think more people die in jail, usually, like in the too-long-and-flawed-but-fun Blood in, Blood out.

There was some nice dramatic tension in the movie. I'm not sure why they killed the kid at the end--it was kind of a cheap shot, a "warning" to us that we may all too late to save our kidz unless we start practicing one love right away.

I got a small laugh out of Norton's style of argument when he was still a skinhead: his response to any expression of sympathy for other races was "bullshit." Then, after this deeply hateful man is changed by the experience by making a single black friend in prison, he returns to the outside and counsels his brother that now it is the racist way that is "bullshit." Pretty convincing argument, that.

It probably sounds like I enjoyed this movie less than I actually did, I guess. For much of it, I had trouble getting over the fact that the one fat skinhead is now Earl's brother in My Name is Earl, except he has lost about 200 pounds now. Crazy. A regular DeNiro he is.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

About syrup

Hey, I'm happy to say that I have a short piece published in the newest issue of the Acres Quarterly, the wonderful newsletter put out by the Acres Land Trust. My contribution may approach the sentimental at times, and there is one ambiguous modifier in there I'm not happy with, but overall it's a cute little thing about family trip to the syrup festival up north of here about six weeks ago or so. If you're interested, you can read it here, and hey, think about joining Acres while you're at it. They're the ones trying to maintain the simple natural charms of this corner of the state.

If you click the link, open the latest newsletter's pdf.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

My Bodyguard

Have you seen that movie, My Bodyguard? You totally should. Early 80's, Matt Dillon as a high school bully, kid hires a motorcycle tough to be his "bodyguard." The bullies do this cool thing where they took huge wads of toilet paper and got it wet and then whipped it at their victims. I'm glad no one does that at my school, but it looks fun.

But Mr. Row here is totally right out of that film. He even made his bike out of, well, bike parts that he ebayed and and scrounged and that also included a round trip drive to New York and back that he did in, like, six hours or something insane like that. Six hours, I swear. I can't imagine. I can make a decent spring risotto, savory crepes, the occasional compound-complex sentence, but that's the extent of my assembly skills. What Tracey managed with grandpa's shop and a dream just knocks me out.

And the ladies glasses he's wearing. They're just too much, and I can't believe he's thinking of leaving town--Indiana should start giving cool-people grants to keep folks like Tracey and Joseph in the towns where they're needed.

Anyway. Thanks for stopping by tonight, T.

It's a kind of life, I guess.

So this little wildflower is what I'm obsessed with these past ten days or so. If the sun didn't go down, I'd be outside digging them up all night long. See, they're flowers, sure, but they're not where I want them to be, and that makes them weeds. The only way to keep them from coming back, though, is to get the bulb dug up. It's an art, really, digging them out without popping the stalk off and losing the bulb somewhere down there, where they are waiting, waiting for next year, when they will be back.

Oh, but when you get them whole . . how can I describe it? It's like catching a fish, a dirt fish, and one that means you harm. I'm almost a little sad at the thought of my perennial beds being wiped out of them. No, that's not true. Now that I think about it, they're like little moles that I don't have to feel bad about killing when I catch them.

And on Texas Ranch house . . man, that ranch owner and his family are abominable.

Monday, May 01, 2006

New Reality

I love all the PBS reality shows. This is partly because I have no choice--I got no cable. It's also because they're just smart and fun and things I can imagine doing too. I'm talking about shows like 1900 House, Frontier House, Manor House, and now, the new Texas Ranch House, which started tonight and goes the next four nights. It's pretty fun stuff. Right now, for example, as I type, frickin' Indians are stealing their horses! How great is that?

The pattern for these history-based PBS reality shows is pretty consistent: pick an interesting historical period, convince ten people that it would be a great adventure to recreate it, and then film them as they fall apart in the dust, the monotony, the people they don't like, and the back breaking work. It's a lot of fun to watch.

One of the sad things you notice when you watch these shows is that people are freaks and jerks no matter what year it is. The cook looks to be the next guy to lose his wits, I think. He's a loose cannon. I can't wait.