Tuesday, November 29, 2005

More Googling, Amazoning and Ira Glass

So Baldwin wrote a comment about my Google post which reminded me of a couple of things.

One, feel free to comment! It doesn't say so explicitly, but I get an e-mail whenever someone posts a comment so I do read them. Now go read Baldwin's comment so you can see what this post is about. (Wow, this is like Choose Your Own Adventure blog.)

Two, yes, finding out you've been Googled is weird. But I do it to people all the time anyway. One example, for some reason a while back I was looking up Daniel Pinkwater (probably after hearing him on NPR) and found Ducks. I didn't read the book (although I did read his memoir about raising dogs) but I was surprised to see the (at the time) single reader review by Ira Glass, who listed an e-mail that made it likely that it was the host of This American Life on NPR.

Then I did what you probably would: I clicked to see All of Ira's reviews. Only Ducks. Okay. I put the book in my wishlist just so I would remember this later.

A few weeks ago I read something in the Times about a woman stalking ex-boyfriends by reading their Amazon wishlists and Googling them.

I've never met Ira before but he seems like a nice guy and worth stalking so I looked up his wishlist. (Has it dawned yet, that Ira should get a restraining order?) Here it is. All Ira wants is the Y Tu Mama Tambien Soundtrack. Seriously?

So now I'm considering buying it for him. You know, just like a present from one of his listeners. How weird would that be? Or delightful? Hard to tell sometimes.

By the way, I just want to point out that I did not originate the Ira Glass obsession (and I even miss the show quite a bit), but rather inherited it from Hadas who once pledged to WBUR with the hopes of having Ira show up at her door to deliver a pizza. (She didn't win.)

Okay, who wants to go in on the soundtrack with me? It's an import so a little pricey.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Hey Jealousy

Amy and John and Lucia came to visit for Thanksgiving and stayed with us. Last time we saw them, Mari seemed a little jealous of Lucia when Julie held her, but as you can see in this series of photos, this time they seemed to quite like one another and liked to see what the other was doing.

Sunday, November 27, 2005


This site finally made it onto some indices and can be found when Googled or A9ed. Well, "Krongblog" will get you to this page. Unfortunately, Jack Cheng, Julie, and Krong are still low on the list. That's right, Jack (or Jak) Cheng and Krong are still pointing to other sites. But perhaps if I keep mentioning Jack Cheng...

Okay I'll stop. However, I do find it interesting that Krong is some sort of Thai word or a place or something that's fairly popular. I thought I made up a whole new syllable but I (Jack Cheng) was wrong.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Confusion: The Man, Star Wars

1. Austin is learning about The Man when we cross the street. At the intersection where we wait for the light, the pedestrian sign comes up and he says, "It's the white man! The white man says we can go!"

2. The sound of Darth Vader breathing reminds him of snoring, or perhaps how we breathe when we pretend to sleep, so he now turns to me and says, "Darth Vader! We had his cereal! [Pause] He's sleeping."

3. I also haven't really explained lasers to him yet so he thinks everyone fires squirt guns at each other in the Star Wars movies.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Star Wars

We're on a Star Wars kick in our house.

In a sense, it started a year ago when Baldwin sent me the awesome four disc DVD of the original trilogy. Then Julie asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday and I saw an article in the Boston Globe about One Man Star Wars Trilogy. We got tickets.

Here's the deal: Charles Ross grew up in British Columbia, too far from television signals. So he watched Star Wars videotapes over and over again. And again. And again. After becoming an actor on the Fringe circuit, he developed a skit in which he performed the entire first Star Wars film by himself in 20 minutes. The skit then became a one hour show that includes Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

Okay, I realize I'm a geek, but this guy is worth seeing (he's still doing the show in New York until the end of the year). He uses no props, and just uses his hands to suggest costumes (Princess Leia's "danishes" of hair, or flapping his forearms together for Jabba's mouth), or special effects (the double sunset on Tatooine [and the hair ruffling through Luke's long-time ago 70's hairstyle]). The plot is stripped to its essentials but the film is not. He sings the score and it makes you realize how essential Darth Vader's theme is to character and scene. He also spins and runs around the stage to suggest camera movements. And he is a gifted vocal mimic. He admits that "practically everyone on Earth does a better Yoda than I do" but his Luke, Han and especially C3PO, Obi-Wan and other British accents are really good. Plus his R2D2 whistling and his Chewbacca roars are terrific.

Basically, he does a great job and manages to include a few metacomments in the show as well (pointing out the one character who calls Carrie Fisher's character "Lee-ya" rather than "Lay-ya", bumbling through Obi-Wan's tortured explanation of why he wasn't lying when he told Luke that Darth Vader had killed his father ["After I cut off his arms. And both his legs. And left him to die in a lava pit"]).

What was nice, too, was that after the show in which he entertained hundreds of people who obviously watch too much t.v., he came out and gave a little talk about the show and about perseverence in doing something you love ("despite all the restraining orders"). Basically a "follow your dream" speech. It was very sweet and, I pointed out, somewhat Canadian. To which Julie replied, "Do you mean Canadian, like how nice he was, or are you implying that he's a homosexual?"

Then, this week, I took the kids to the Museum of Science in Boston for their Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination exhibit. It was really good.

We went twice.
The show consists of props from the movies, and video interviews of special effects and sound effects guys who explain how the various technologies in the movies were conceived. But then there were exhibits that expanded on particular ideas.

For example, there was a video about Luke's landspeeder. Then, there was an area where you could make a vehicle with Legos with embedded magnets. If you did it right, the vehicle would float above a magnetic track (and a text panel explained about actual mag-lev trains). Another exhibit showed how an air-powered hovercraft would work and let you sit on something akin to the puck on an air hockey table.

Other exhibits discussed robots...
...(Austin, prepped for the museum with selective viewings of the movies [if you skip the talking and the scary parts and stick with spaceflight, each film takes about 20 minutes to watch], is a big fan of Chewbacca, R2D2 and Darth Vader, whom, because he was the first Star Wars character encountered [on a Corn Flakes box] Austin assumes is a good guy [whenever he comes on screen, Austin turns and whispers to me, "We had his cereal. Yeah. Remember, Dad?"])...
... Wookies (not sure what the educational benefit of this was)...
...and prosthetics and medical technology.

I have to say, it was remarkably well done. I was expecting a few props and some tangentially related science exhibits, but the learning was well integrated and compellingly interactive. Plus there were celebrities like Kismet, the social robot. Other real world marvels included a robot eye that did a great job of recognizing where my face was (sounds strange, but it was cool), a neat demonstration of walking robots, and a state of the art prosthetic arm.

The exhibit runs to April 30, 2006 and I recommend it. Of course, I'm the sort of guy who gets a kick out of seeing how small Mari is compared to a full grown Wookie so take my recommendation in context.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


Last night, I was holding Mari as she was falling asleep and trying to gently lay her down in her crib when I felt a hand between my legs, probing.

Aak! I almost dropped the baby.

Austin, what are you doing?

He had his plastic thermometer in his hand and said, "I'm taking your temperature! I'm going to stick this in your bum bum!"

I laughed so hard, I thought I was going to be sick.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Family music

On Saturday, we went to a concert. And when I say "we" I mean the whole family (well, minus Boo) and our neighbors, JB, Susan and Julia (Julia's a little younger than Austin).

We went to see Dan Zanes and Friends at the Somerville Theater. It was great! They seemed like they were having a great time and both kind of throwing things together and also palying well together. Some songs were played by just Dan and a ukelele and others featured Barbara Broussard (who has a beautiful voice) on guitar, a drummer, upright bassist and an accordianist who also played the musical saw (!). Special guests included a man who taught Dan songs at his boyhood camp in New England (he wrote some new verses about the outrageous fees that Ticketmaster charges) and Father Goose!

Susan said she hadn't seen so many adults have so much fun in a while. Everyone was dancing in their seats and singing along -- and they knew all the words. I pointed out that we've all probably heard Dan's cds more than we ever listened to Springsteen, Depeche Mode or whatever we were into when we were young, dedicated fans.

Anyway, I thought I'd take this occasion to mention some of the music that our whole family loves.

Dan Zanes and Friends, Rocket Ship Beach This is the first cd of Dan's newest career. He led the Del Fuegos in his youth, and then, after "settling down", started playing old Pete Seeger songs for his daughter, the songs he remembered from growing up. I didn't realize this was the first cd but I bought this one because of the song selection: "Keep On the Sunny Side", "Sunny Side of the Street" and then realized that these aren't even my favorites on the cd. Our family has learned an old standard "Bushel and a Peck" and when Austin was singing it for Nana and Grandpa, we found out that they knew all the words, too! Dan's original song "Hello" is also terrific. And the Caribbean tunes, "Emmanuel Road" and "Brown Girl in the Ring" are infectious, although it may take a while to figure out the words.
One great thing about Dan Zanes is that he really pushes the idea of making music with the family in the album notes and at the concert. At one point, he even told us (I'm paraphrasing here), "It looks like you need lots of fancy instruments and microphones and wires to make music, but you don't, they just make you louder. All you need are some voices," and then they sang a song unamplified, with a handheld drum and an ocarina for accompaniment. This is also reflected on his website where he gives the lyrics, chords and even melody samples of all the songs on his cds that he either wrote or are in the public domain (songs under copyright, like "Bushel and a Peck" are not included but the lyrics can be found elsewhere on the web and the music is actually in a children's book I saw last year).
Bottom line: Folk-y standards with some cutesy interstitials, gives me the feeling I'm educating the kids through the American songbook.

They Might Be Giants, No! This is strange because it could simply be a They Might Be Giants album but on this one they push the boundaries in weirder ways. There are some great danceable tunes ("Jon Lee Supertaster" is a personal favorite, and "Clap Your Hands" is fun, too), and some beautiful, singable melodies ("Where Do They Make Balloons?" and "Lazyhead and Sleepybones") and then some bizzare-o stuff ("Grocery Bag", "I Am Not Your Broom"). One of the strangest songs I have ever heard is "Violin." Sample lyrics:

Violin -lin -lin, Violin -lin-lin, Violin -lin-lin, Vi-o-o-o-o-o-lin
Mop. Mop mop mop mop. Mop.

I used to hate this song and skip it in the cd. But then it grew on me like a fungal infection and I started singing along with it. And then I realized I was hooked when Austin said, "Remember that song? Remember that man said 'Speck-a-duh'? 'Speck-a-duh-duh-duh'?" I thought I was going insane, but suddenly it hit me and I said, "You mean, 'Speck of dust dust dust, Speck of dust dust dust, Speck of dust dust dust, Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh!?" Yes, Austin just spontaneously remembered that song.
Bottom line: Typical TMBG, love 'em or hate 'em.

There are a few other cds that Austin requests. One is Sleeping Beauty. He calls it the "horsey song" because when we asked him what it sounded like, he said (of the third movement, I think) that it sounds like horses jumping on rocks.
Bottom line: It's fun to ask kids to interpret music; in this case, it led to an appreciation of Tchaikovsky.

Bob Marley's Legend Legend is of course a classic, but one that resonates with the kids at a young age. Mari bounces up and down when she hears the bass and Austin particularly likes "Get Up Stand Up", I think because he recognizes the words and thinks of it as one of those songs with a dance built in, like "YMCA" or "The Macarena" or "The Hokey Pokey."
Bottom line: you have it anyway, put it on and chances are the kids will love it, too.

Israel Kamakawiwo'ole Facing Future. Late Hawaiian superstar Israel Kamakawiwo'ole had a beautiful voice, and was perfectly accompanied by his uke. This cd reminds us of Austin's birth. When Julie was pregnant, we started regularly listening to George Knight on his WBOS radio show, Sunday Mornings Over Easy. "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" is his sign off song. Austin was born on a Sunday and in one of Julie's last lucid moments before labor, I turned on the radio and we heard the song. Thanks, George!
Bottom line: Too much synthesizer on some tracks, but the essential Iz is beautiful.

If you have suggestions for other music that kids and adults enjoy, please write a comment.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Mari's work

Here's a link to Mari's first published modelling work, for Carter's clothes (founded in Needham, MA where Mari's grandparents live).

In case it expires as the catalog changes, here's the image:

Update: to answer a couple of questions I've since received, yes, she has an agent, Dynasty Models in Boston. They are the ones who found this job.

She was paid an hourly rate and gets no royalties.

And no, she didn't get to keep the clothes (they have a bunch of kids wear the same outfit trying to get a couple of usable shots). Her look in this shot is called Violet Steel, an homage to Blue Steel.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Halloween 2005

In Toronto growing up, Halloween was an odd holiday. First of all, it was a long time until Christmas and Thanksgiving (Canadian Thanksgiving) had already passed a couple weeks earlier. Second, it was cold. I remember wearing a ski jacket and having to flash neighbors for candy:
"Trick or treat!"
"What are you supposed to be?"
Ziiiiiiip. Flash.
"Wow, what a great [astronaut] [king] [soldier] you are! Have some candy."

On Saturday, it snowed in Boston. At first I thought it was the usual first snow: hey, some flakes, let's run around and try to catch some on our tongues! But then it kept coming. And coming. I wiped the snow off the car, went inside to help Julie get the kids dressed and then had to wipe off the windshields again.

But by yesterday it had warmed up again (and right now the temp is in the 70s!).

Enough about me, pictures of our scary trick or treaters:
No wait, just Mari in her full fashion ensemble.

With addition of a tail and ears, fashion becomes feline.
Again, you would think this is a costume, but Austin loves wearing both hat and coat any time.

Scary! Neighbor Steve shows up as "a sleazy lawyer"! Lock up the kids!