Sunday, November 22, 2009

Birthday comix

And now, as promised, the "exquisite corpse" comics jam.

Gavin had an odd shaped notebook that was perfect for a comic strip. We passed it around and each person added a panel, having only seen the panel immediately preceding it. It's a bit disjunctive, but there's a surreal flair to it that no one person could have come up with (I hope; if you are that one person, please seek psychiatric attention).

The artist/writers are: Gavin Grant, Chris D'Aveta, Maria Daniels, Ada Vassilovski, Pete Cramer, Julie and me.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Birthday comix

Peter Cramer and Ada Vassilovski, like Gavin Grant and Kelly Link (see Monday!), used ComicLife on the Mac to produce an adventure serial. Lots of cameos in here, including my dad, some of the contributors to this comix week, and an ass.

Don't forget, click to enlarge!

And tomorrow: the Exquisite Corpse experiment! Stay Tuned! Same Blog Time, Same Blog Channel!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Birthday comix

Maria Daniels did hers like a daily newspaper strip, albeit one with a "Life in Hell" funny animal vibe.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mari at school

We interrupt "Birthday Comix week" to link to Mari's nursery school class blog:

She's identifiable in a few videos, most notably the swinging vine.

Birthday comix

This one is from Chris D'Aveta. He went for the classic one panel. There are some existential Donnie Darko elements, too. If it seems like an obscure reference to an unknown narrative, sorry, but that's the way it is. It makes sense to me, and I'm not going to explain it here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Birthday comix

I'm 40 today. Over the weekend, we had dinner with some friends and Julie asked them to make comics for/about me. This week: Birthday Comix!

Each of these were made by a friend (or friends) and at the end of the week I'll post the "Exquisite Corpse" Comic made at the dinner party.

Subscribe so you don't miss any exciting issues!

First up, from Gavin Grant and Kelly Link. (I was told Gavin did most of the inside and Kelly punched up the cover). They use the basic superheroic format (and get a lot of mileage out of photos that appeared on this very blog!):

UPDATE: click on the images to enlarge to legible size.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I understand assuming someone is innocent before guilt is proven, and it's a principle I support heartily.

That said, it's weird to hear NPR reporters refer to the "alleged gun man" at Fort Hood. I mean, there were hundreds of witnesses. He was not framed. He conceivably be found not guilty by reason of insanity, but he would still be the gun man at Fort Hood who shot people.

I suppose the reason it seems weird is that in situations like this, the gun man is usually shot dead and they just refer to him as "the gun man" without any qualifications.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Book Review: The Blind Side

The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Beautiful book about the evolution of the left tackle in football and the biography of a young talent, Michael Oher.

The left tackle is the guy who protects the quarterback on the side that most right handers are not facing, i.e. the blind side. In the early 1980s, this guy was being paid peanuts, the same as the other offensive lineman and maybe half the salary of the guy he lined up against who was determined to knock the quarterback down. Today, he's often the second highest paid player on the team after the quarterback. More than the running backs, more than the receivers (and more than some quarterbacks).

The explanation of how this happened and what skills are necessary to play the position are intermingled with the story of Michael Oher. Oher is a huge black kid from the poor projects of West Memphis who through a combination of charity, fluke, guilt, and greed, ended up at Briarcrest Christian School in white, rich East Memphis. He attracted a lot of attention and especially the attention of Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy. They Tuohys buy Michael clothes, then let him crash on their couch, and eventually legally adopt the boy. This family story is told with incredible warmth and emotion and not a little humor. There are lines of dialogue in the book that made me laugh out loud. At one point, the NCAA is investigating to make sure the Tuohys didn't simply adopt Michael so that they could send him to their alma mater's football program. The NCAA investigator asks questions about Michael's education and Sean Tuohy tells her he doesn't know (his wife and a tutor they hired were in charge of that stuff). This leads to this exchange:

NCAA: ... you don't know if he's supposed to take English or math or science. That's the part that still baffles me.

Sean: Ma'am, I hate that it baffles you. But all you asked me to be is truthful. You didn't ask me to be smart.

One great thing about the story is that in real life I would never get to know a family like the Tuohys: millionaire, white Country Club Republicans obsessed with sports, but I got a lot of pleasure in getting to know them through the book.

Michael Lewis of Liar's Poker and other books, is a great writer with excellent comic and dramatic timing. You don't need to know football to enjoy this book. To put it one way: if you enjoyed Friday Light Nights (book, movie or tv show), you will love this book. To put it another way: I recommended my wife read this with her all women book group. I couldn't put this book down.

View all my reviews >>

Bad name

Today Mari said, "You know what would be a really bad name if you were a hamster?"


That was all the explanation I got.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Bad words

Yesterday Austin told me he knew a bad word.

"Really?" I asked, because just the other week he was giggling in the back seat with a friend about a bad word they had heard: "moron."

"It starts with an F," he said.

Hmmm... "fart" was a possibility. "What's the word?"

He looked over at Mari and decided to spell it out: "F. U. K."

I did not laugh out loud but I told him not to say that word in front of Nana because it's very rude.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


In my podcast listening, I find myself turning more often to Q, a CBC radio program hosted by Jian Ghomeshi. I was first intrigued about the program because that's where Billy Bob Thornton had an epic meltdown that alienated all of Canada (Jian had the nerve to ask Billy Bob about being an actor while Thornton was promoting an album). And then I was amused to see Jian, who I had known as the drummer of the Canadian band Moxy Fruvous.

But I continued to listen. I'm not sure how long the actual radio shows are (2 hours?) but the pods are about an hour long. It's basically a culture show, like Fresh Air but with a younger, hipper host (sorry Terry, you know I love you, but...).

There's a lot of random Canadian content for better or for worse (did you know Harlequin, the publisher of romance novels is a Canadian company?!), although I do like to sort of keep informed. I also give the Canadian bands a chance before fast forwarding. But that's the lot of podcasts, right?

What really blew me away recently, though, was the quality of guests. There is a certain amount of overlap with NPR's Fresh Air as authors or musicians or actors head to Toronto to promote their latest work, but recently Q featured substantial interviews with three great musicians I've never heard interviewed: Van Morrison, Tom Waits and Bill Withers. All three interviews were very different in tone and purpose: Van wanted to rant and found someone with a microphone, Tom was just joking around and seemed like a lot of fun and Bill was cranky and contentious as might be expected. What was nice was that Bill ended by saying how much he enjoyed the give and take he had with Jian. I certainly enjoyed listening in.

A cousin and I had recently debated the merits of Terry Gross and I have to say, while Terry gets more serious and has great talks with serious journalists about the issues of the day, on the culture front, I'm preferring Jian for many of the reasons the unnamed cousin and I had discussed. The main thing is probably just that it's a more natural conversation.

So, check it out: Q.

Friday, October 02, 2009


Not sure what this means but a week or so ago, Austin and I were tossing a baseball back and forth and he said, "I don't think I'll ever play for the Red Sox. But I still want to be an artist."

Kind of sad that he's out of the fantasy world where he was going to be a baseball player/astronaut/doctor/teacher/artist/President. Still, realistic.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Friday, August 21, 2009

Toronto pictures

These are sort of in reverse order, but that's blogging, right?

At the Marina Grill in Ontario Place.

Atom Blaster!
H2O Generator; aka kiddie Habitrail
Mari was in one of those tubes up top.
Water park at Ontario Place.
Rafts going to the top of the River Raft Ride.
Water parks are everywhere in Ontario -- the zoo, L'Amoreaux park, Ontario Place. This is what they look like.
Little India. Julie in her new shirt.
Ambiance Chocolat.
Pizza Pide dude. He's from Ankara.

Nice slogan. Also like the way the windows cut up our reflections.
The new ROM, looking SW from Bloor and Queen's Park.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


We're on our annual trip to Toronto to see my parents.

As part of the annual trip, Julie and I went downtown Tuesday (our anniversary) while my parents took the kids to the Ontario Science Center.

First, we parked down in Leslieville because I had read that there were a lot of furniture stores down there. We found quite a few in some old factory buildings on Carlaw between Gerrard and Queen Street East. In one factory we browsed a studio that imported furniture from Asia, another one that imported furniture and furnishings from Africa, and a lighting design firm that provided the lighting for the Bellagio and MGM Grand in Vegas and was working on a Trump project in Toronto.

We stopped for a delicious snack and Bonjour Brioche on Queen. Julie had what she said was the best croissant ever and I had a brioche with cheese and blueberries baked on it, a bit like a cheese danish. And our car was parked right outside of Ambiance Chocolat so we had to sample a truffle each -- scrumptious and beautiful.

It was around lunch time so we stopped at Pizza-Pide for a pide! Pide is a delicious Turkish food that is a lot like pizza -- a thin crust with toppings baked at a high temperature. It was the best pide I've had outside of Turkey, but it was not quite right. I think there was too much meat on the pide. The cook said that he felt like the meat was better quality in Turkey but more expensive; in Canada, he put on extra toppings. The end result, however, was a ratio that didn't feel quite right. Sometimes street food should be made like street food and not gussied up too much. As a side note, the place serves Ayran, a salty yogurt drink that I don't particularly like, but I was so happy to see it in North America.

I may have been extra nostalgic about Turkey because the day before the family had gone to the ROM, newly redesigned with a weird crystal growing out of the north side (and a new entrance on Bloor), and I was trying to tell the kids about Cuyler Young, former director of the museum and an archaeologist I had met and worked with in Turkey. The ROM was gorgeous and the natural history displays were really aesthetically appealing and had enough information to stimulate some good conversations with the kids. The hands-on kids area was also fun, and the food in the cafeteria was quite appealing.

Our next stop was Little India. One of the guys sitting next to us at Bonjour Brioche had told us that Little India wasn't true Indian -- instead it was mostly populated by Indians from Uganda who had been kicked out by Idi Amin. Julie got a neat top and skirt from some little shops and we talked to a guy who made Indian style popsicles using disposable chopsticks as his sticks. We stopped at the Udupi Palace for a snack. Julie ordered some samosas and they were yummy but super spicy. Luckily I had ordered the Dhaivada, a lentil donut that was served in a cool, refreshing spiced yogurt that cut through the heat of the samosas.

From there we visited Cream (or find them on Facebook). We had seen the issue of Now touting the best ice cream in the city and had to try their #1. Well worth it. Julie had the banana chocolate and I had an orange blossom cone. Both delicious. They also make ice cream from sheep's milk. Mmm... dondurma.

We popped down to the Distillery to see if we could get tickets to the Soulpepper Theater but no dice. Last year we had lucked into two rush tickets for their night of one acts, Peter Shaffer's Black Comedy and Tom Stoppard's Real Inspector Hound. The shows were well staged, and had great casts and we had hoped to see another show there. Maybe next year.

West Queen West was as hip as usual and Julie found some great bargains at the Blue Shoe Box' renovation sale (693 Queen St. W, just up a bit from BakkaPhoenix). By the time we left the store she was in a completely different outfit from that morning.

The Duke of York
up by St. George had seats out on the patio and we enjoyed some Canadian beers and fish and chips. We also watched some of the Red Sox - Blue Jays game on the tube.

Yesterday, we made a family outing to Ontario Place. The kids love it. This year we brought our bathing suits to enjoy the water park. The highlight was the Rush River Raft Ride, a four person raft down a big water slide. The kids did some rides, we played mini-golf, and we saw an IMAX film called Hurricane on the Bayou. Mari was terrific in the H2O Generation Station (the kiddie habitrail, we call it) and Austin loved the Atom Blaster, which reminded me of the basement of a Chinese department store. We had dinner at the Marina Grille, a restaurant I never realized existed in the middle of the park.

My parents took the kids home and Julie and I got some nosebleed seats at the SkyDome where we saw the Red Sox beat the Jays 6-1. Among the highlights were a Jacoby Ellsbury triple and Kevin Youkilis caught in a rundown between 2nd and 3rd and somehow getting back to 2nd without getting tagged. Lots of Sox fans in attendance, based on the cheering. Not surprising since Fenway is always listed as the most expensive park in the Major Leagues and tickets to the Dome were just $14 -- Canadian!

We've had a lot of fun hitting the family attractions here (the kids are 6 and almost 5 this year). Looking forward to taking the kids to Casa Loma in a year or so, or up the CN Tower. Maybe even take Austin to the Sky Dome.

Yay, Toronto!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Austin now

Came into the kitchen this afternoon to see Austin sitting at the table, eating some cereal and reading a hardcover book with no pictures.

I have a feeling this is a scene that will be repeated for years to come, but today was the first.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Tell don't show

Writing teachers often tell you to "show, don't tell" but sometimes telling what you're showing can be very entertaining. As in:

The version of Total Eclipse of the Heart is also good.

Palin post-mortem

I was reading Todd Purdum's story about Sarah Palin in Vanity Fair and this sentence popped out at me:

When I ask Mark Salter, McCain’s longtime speechwriter and co-author, about that comment, he says simply, “McCain always talks unscripted."
Salter has a pretty cushy job then.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Austin self-portrait

This is a self-portrait Austin made yesterday. (I scanned it with a red background so that the white "frame" is visible.)

He's made self-portraits in school before, but this is the first one I saw where he sat down and examined a mirror and really went for details like his eyes and ears, lips and even filtrum (that dent between lips and nose). I was really impressed.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Up is a Downer

Took the kids to see Up this afternoon.

It's beautiful,funny, scary but overall, I have to say, it's romantic and melancholy. I don't think I've ever been so sad at an animated film before.

And it's not just me.

Mari was scared of the house falling over a cliff and then she was scared of the pack of dogs that showed up, so we had already taken a little walk outside and she was sitting on my lap when Carl looked through Ellie's book of adventures.

He flipped through the pages and there were photos of his marriage and he sat there next to her empty chair.

Mari's body was wracked with sobs. What's wrong? I asked her. Are you sad?

This is a quiet part of the movie, so everyone in the theater (not that many, but all of them) heard her sob, "I'm thinking about when Mommy dies."

Of course, that broke my heart, too.

So there's Pixar's triumph: conveying in blobs of computer generated color the depth of a romance and the abyss of loss to a four year old.

(PS. Afterward, I asked Mari if she liked the movie and she did, even though it was sad. Something to be said about learning that stories don't have to be completely happy to be "good.")

Still have kids

Haven't mentioned the kids here in a while.

Funny thing, for the first time in years, Mari has become more annoying than Austin. I mean, Austin has always been great, but he's as temperamental, stubborn and opinionated as his father. Meanwhile, Mari's usually a sweetheart.

Lately, though, Austin has matured to an incredible degree. He's very polite, understands (a little bit) putting stuff away and keeping things neat, and he's helpful and considerate.

Nothing wrong with Mari, but she's still a four year old and has a tendency to whine when she's tired or grumpy.

When they're both in good moods, it's terrific to listen to them play together (I tend to get out of their way when they're getting along so well).

Oh, also Mari decided she didn't like the hair in her eyes so she gave herself a haircut today.

My love affair continues

I've mentioned before my love of my iPod Touch. Well I just updated to the new operating system and although there's been lots of news about new phone features (Voice Dialing), I am totally enamored by a few simple additions to iPod capability.

The first is better control of podcast listening. I was thinking about cutting down the number of podcasts I subscribe to, but now I can listen to them at twice the speed (or half to understand fast talkers). It's amazing how little it affects the sound a of person's voice -- it's faster but it's not like listening to Alvin and the Chipmunks. Also, the feature I've wanted forever is now included: rewind 30 seconds. Especially for long shows like This American Life, I find myself wanting to go back to listen to something I missed but a 60 minute "slider" is hard to manipulate with accuracy. (Hmm... just realized how obscure this is. Oh well, this is my current pre-occupation.)

A second great update came on the Remote feature. It's a lot easier now to choose speakers and control iTunes with this app.

Okay, enough gushing about my toys. I haven't gushed about my kids in a while.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Parents We Mean To Be

The Parents We Mean To Be by Richard Weissbourd

This book focuses on how we teach children to become moral beings, defined by the author as people who ask moral questions, see perspectives that are not their own, feel responsibility for others and maintain good relationships.

Weissbourd's prescription for how we teach children morality is two-fold: teach by example and exercising moderation in all of our parenting behaviors.

The best way to teach is by example, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who has changed his behaviors in some ways upon becoming a parent. Some important points in the book are that we should recognize our children's moral development as fluid and not get fixated on "bad kids" or feel like the teenage years are the end point in that process. Similarly, we should acknowledge that our own moral development is a work in progress and occasionally give voice to that, explaining our choices, right or wrong and showing that we as parents can also experience growth.

As for moderation, I think this is one reason I like this book so much. Instead of veering in one direction or another -- touching is good, therefore never let go of your child! -- Weissbourd points out how various behaviors that seem positive -- praise, an emphasis on children's happiness and self-esteem -- can backfire if they are excessive. Children become egocentric and selfish if they think their own happiness is paramount and they become paralyzed with failure if they never encounter it until their twenties.

The chapter on sports was one of my favorites. On the one hand, there are crazy sports parents who live through their kids. On the other hand are parents who downplay competition and try not to care at all. Weissbourd points out that competition is fun in context and teaches kids that opposition is contextual (if their best friend is on the opposing team, for example). Of course, getting too caught up in the game is unhealthy for lots of reasons, too.

There is plenty of advice for parents, teachers, coaches and just adults in general on what they can do to help children grow up to be better people. (One I liked was to make a pact with other parents to be honest with each other so you have a warning that you're going overboard one way or another.)

The most compelling reading in the book came from the anecdotes that begin each chapter, from parents, coaches, and especially from children themselves (who see through all sorts of hypocrisy and "parenting techniques"). The explanations of academic studies are fine and lend weight to the arguments presented. Although, I have to repeat myself and say that the most compelling part of the argument was that it was not extreme in any way, but rather thoughtful and reflective.

Well worth reading.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Book ethics

Today's Ethicist column is about a woman who got a library book autographed by "her favorite author" on an airplane and then replaced the library book with a new copy of the title.

Here's my problem with the dilemma: Her favorite author and she got it out of the library? Look, I probably have seven books out from the library right now (for myself, not for the kids). However, if any of the dozen authors I consider a "favorite" publishes a new book, I buy it. Partly because I will want to keep it, but also so the author actually earns some of my money.

There's nothing unethical about using the library, but if you really want to support an artist (of any sort), give them sales figures and, frankly, money.

A little disappointed that Randy Cohen didn't address that.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Great Brain books

The Great Brain Is Back (Great Brain #8) The Great Brain Is Back by John Dennis Fitzgerald

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars
This review is for the entire Great Brain series by John D. Fitzgerald. The series is comprised of eight books, the first seven of which were published from 1967 to 1976 and the last one was published posthumously in 1995 from notes left by the author. There is also a great Publisher's Note that I will discuss toward the end of this review.

Overall, I would say that the first two books are the best by far and the first five are worth reading as a set. The last three books are like return visits to a favorite village but are hardly great novels. The first two books, The Great Brain and More Adventures of the Great Brain, read like one high quality novel, telling the story of Tom D. Fitzgerald, aka the Great Brain, from the point of view of John D. Fitzgerald. The stories take place in the town of Adenville, Utah in 1896. The Great Brain is acknowledged as clever by everyone but, as J.D. points out, his money-loving heart directs that brain into developing schemes to bankrupt the other kids and fill Tom's coffers. A lot of the fun of these first two books is the narrative conflict between the hero worshipping John and the tricks his brother plays on him and his friends.

The next three books develop the idea logically. Me and My Little Brain is the story of John trying to be like the Great Brain. Tom has gone away to boarding school and the Fitzgeralds adopt an orphan named Frankie. John doesn't have Tom's talent for scheming and is constantly caught and punished but he does have a good heart, and courage, and manages to save Frankie from an outlaw and earn a reward.

The Great Brain at the Academy tells the story of what Tom was doing at his Catholic boarding school -- tricking other kids there and sneaking around the Monsignors who ran the place.

In The Great Brain Reforms, the series comes to a logical conclusion. Partly because of Frankie's perspective, and in large part because he's just older and wiser, John recognizes that Tom is a bit of a jerk. He's constantly tricking other kids into losing bets to win their baseball gloves or other Christmas gifts when Tom has more than enough money just to buy those items from himself. It's also clear that the Fitzgeralds are more prosperous than many other in Adenville. John finally organizes the kids of the town and they put Tom on trial. His sentence is to be shunned by all the kids but the sentence is suspended if he agrees to reform.

The last three books of the series tell more stories of town, but now that J.D. is no longer naive, the stories just seem like trickster tales without any narrative irony or moral weight.

The last book has a publisher's note that explains some of the observations I've made here. Apparently The Great Brain originated as the second sequel to Papa Married a Mormon, Fitzgerald's best-selling novel for adults. In that book, he explains why John D's father came to Utah -- to fulfill his mother's dying wish that he keep an eye on a wayward brother who was a brawling saloon keeper. That book explains the presence of Aunt Bertha, tells stories of Brownie the dog, and tells of the adoption of an orphan boy, but unlike Frankie, this boy is orphaned when his father drinks himself to death. John's brother Tom refers to himself as The Great Brain but all of his schemes go awry. All is set in the familiar Adenville, as well as Silverlode, the mining camp that is described as a ghost town in the Great Brain books.

By the time Fitzgerald finished writing the third book in his series for adults, two things had changed. The adult market no longer found a place for family stories and his editor had moved to a different publishing house. Fitzgerald's agent sent the book to the editor, E.L. Doctorow, at the new publishing house where the manuscript was read by the editor of children's books. She loved the book, asked that it be cut in half and the adult themes be excised and The Great Brain was born.

This may explain why the first two books of the series seem of the same high quality and almost to be the same novel. (Papa runs to almost 300 pages whereas the Great Brain books are usually just over 100.) The publisher's note also mentions that "I had a constant struggle with him not to let Tom reform." It seems clear to me that Fitzgerald would have been happy with the morally and narratively satisfying conclusion of book 5's trial.

All in all, I've enjoyed re-reading these books (and reading Papa and TGB is Back for the first time). I've also looked over Fitzgerald's co-written Structuring Your Novel. He had some pretty solid rules there. The Great Brain books, 1-5 constitute a great epic story for children or adults. And for those who can't get enough (like me), there's three more helpings of Adenville lore.

View all my reviews.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

We just watched Chitty Chitty Bang Bang tonight. It was a lot of fun and the kids enjoyed it. We've been kind of obsessed with it in our house for a while because it was one of the free offered DVDs from Kellogg's cereal. We had to collect five proofs of purchase and every time we finished a box, we would talk about getting Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

In the midst of this cereal box collecting, I got the original book from the libary. The book is by Ian Fleming, of James Bond fame, and like the Bond books, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is filled with marvelous inventions, groan inducing punning names and, well, not so hot writing. It's fine, but it's kind of dry and not really very compelling except for exciting plot points (a car that flies! a cave that opens up into a hideout!).

The book was a bit of a shock to me, because I remember the movie as being full of weird castles and scary child-catchers, geek dads and missing mothers-- in short, being more like a Roald Dahl book than an Ian Fleming book. Well, as it turns out, the movie's screenplay was written by Dahl (and the director, Ken Hughes).

What was also suprising is that most of what I remember of the movie is just the last 40 minutes -- the car becomes a boat, flies, they go to a weird country where children are outlawed and the adults have to pretend to be toys to be let into the castle.

The first hour and a half of the movie concerns the whistling candies, a failed contraption at a fair, meeting the love interest, Truly Scrumptious, and "grandpa" making his daily trip to the outhouse ("I'm off to India!"). There are also lots and lots of songs. I remembered title song and "You are my oochy coochy little teddy bear" but not much else.

A note on Truly Scrumptious: the actress was Sally Ann Howes. According to the IMDB, she replaced Julie Andrews in "My Fair Lady" on Broadway and even earned a higher salary than Andrews!

The songs in the movie were written by the Sherman Brothers, Richard and Robert. They wrote lots of songs for Disney, including the songs from The Jungle Book, Mary Poppins and "It's a Small World." Apparently there is a documentary out now about the Sherman Brothers, called "The Boys."

Well, the kids liked the movie (they've yet to dislike a movie) although Mari closed her eyes when Dick van Dyke and Sally Howes kissed and Austin thought it was boring when she was singing about love. We strongly reminded them that this was all made up and that there is no country where children are outlawed. Hopefully, they won't be scarred the way we were (Julie mentioned afterwards that she remembered the child-catcher scene lasting forever and being much scarier than it did tonight. I remembered it the same way she did).

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang came out in 1968 and watching it, I felt like I was watching a pre-cursor to Wallace and Gromit (similar breakfast making machine) as well as a proto-version of the robot when Truly Scrumptious pretends to be a doll.

Here's Richard Sherman playing his title song from the movie for an audience of toddlers:

And, just because Mark Evanier posted it recently on his awesome website, here's some random Japanese celebrities singing the song (the Sherman link was from Evanier, too) [just the latest in my constant reminders that I will never understand Japanese culture]:

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Form letter post-mortem

After sending out a form letter about our move and our past year, I noticed a few things.

One is, a bunch of people looked up our address on Google Maps and commented on the neighborhood and the lot. Also, all the people who did this live in the SF Bay Area.

Second, even though I don't feel that old, in going through my address book, I saw quite a few names of friends who are deceased. This is not counting people who were in their 60s or 70s when I met them. At least three or four people died at my current age or younger.

Third, quite a few people asked about pictures of the new place. I didn't want to include attachments to the form letter, so I'll post some here. I just took these this week of the backyard. Give us some time to fix up the house and paint and we'll post pictures of the house then. But meanwhile, some pictures of the yard (we added no plantings; these are all perennials):

The raspberry patch with the neighbor's cherry tree petals all over it.

Luscious ferns along the path.

Our roomy lawn. Kids are by a little water feature and fountain in the middle there.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Personal vs. Political

Yesterday, Ross Douthat, the new conservative voice on the Times Op-ed page wrote an article about Obama's positions on gay marriage and abortion. Part of his thesis is that demographic trends favor gay marriage so if Obama waits long enough, it won't be hard to legalize gay marriage and he contrasts this with polling trends that suggest that more young Americans (under 35) call themselves pro-life rather than pro-choice.

The trouble, I think, is that young Americans (under 35) are dumb. Or rather, they don't seem to know the difference between policy and personal choice. Case in point: Meghan McCain. Here's a recent article she wrote about GOP platforms. In it, she claims to be pro-life (presumably because she would never choose to have an abortion) but insistst that if she became pregnant she and her family should be allowed to make that choice. I have a feeling that many people feel the same way: I should have the choice to be "pro-life;" this is a pro-choice position.

(And ultimately what they mean is, "I can't imagine, right now, a situation in which I would have an abortion." However, imaginations are limited.)

If polling matters (and it does for politicians), the pro-choice groups should create advertising that clarifies this position.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Chile photos

I'm finally posting some photos from Chile. They are more or less randomly selected.

Amy and Julie at a cafe in Vina del Mar. Turns out the chef worked on Martha's Vineyard for years.

John and I got Chilean hats.

The cousins. This is at a little fishing village on Chiloe Island.

Mari flying. There was a trampoline at the cabanas where we spent Christmas.


Christmas day with a volcano in the background. We were on our way to go swimming.

Austin in front of the world's largest pool.

View from the volcano.