Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Monday, September 24, 2007

More Webspace Junk

During the last 12-16 months I have increasingly thought about have my own little web space. For what they are worth, I dig Blogger and Wordpress, or at least their free versions. I have used them and enjoyed them for going on three years now.

It is just that I want a little more.

I like the idea of having a url that doesn't also involve those companies names. I like the idea of looking more professional. I like the idea of having a place that is mine, and mine only. I really like the idea of creating something unfettered by the various rules and regulations those companies add to their free accounts.

The main, basic problem was the time I was ready to commit to such a thing I was also jobless. Sure I had a nice severance package from the place that laid me off, sure I had a few temporary jobs in between, but there was nothing full-time and permanent that told me I could go ahead and make a monthly commitment to something I was basically already getting for free.

It is only now, here in China that we have a steady income and works and thus I am buying the space.

I don't really ever expect that the Midnight Cafe will ever turn me into a rich man. I don't think that I'll ever be able to quit a day job and be a full time blogger. I'll be overjoyed if the new site ever makes enough money to pay for itself.

I have a slew of ideas for the new blog - ways to fill it up every day, ideas to be creative and interesting and draw an audience - and I think I am going to be able to make it a place to go to everyday.

Friday I ordered the space. I got it through Cyberwurx, which comes recommended by friends and starts with a very reasonable plan. I swear the paperwork said that they'd have me going and even load up Wordpress into my space for me within 24 hours.

Well here I am two days this side of Friday and still I've gotten nothing - not even a welcome e-mail. It is driving me crazy. I got all excited about what I was going to do, what I was going to say and how it was going to look. And here I am still waiting.

As it was the weekend I've tried to give them the benefit of the doubt. It is easy to think internet companies are gigantic and provide 24 hour service, but in truth they may be small and they may not be staffed on weekend. So I'm trying to wait until the middle of Monday. This is also hard because here it is Monday evening, but in the States it is still early I will have to wait until Tuesday morning before I begin sending question e-mails.

So hopefully, dear readers, you will have something new by weeks end.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Listening Room - Sept 23 2007

I'm slowly trying to get back into doing all my old features. Hopefully by the time I have my own webspace all things will be back to normal. Speaking of that, I did in fact order some space yesterday, but there seems to be some sort of trouble. Hopefully that will be resolved early this week and I'll be up and running real soon.

Until then here's a look at the music I've listened to over the last 24 hours. There aren't a lot of themes running here as I did a lot of shuffle mode.

Aretha Franklin | The Best of Aretha Franklin | Dr. Feelgood
Ben Folds | Songs For Silverman | Jesusland
Ben Kweller | On My Way | My Apartment
Billy Bragg | Album | The Marriage
Bob Dylan | Self Portrait | Let It Be Me
Bob Weir | Ace | Greatest Story Ever Told
Bright Eyes | I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning | At The Bottom Of Everything
Cowboy Junkies | The Trinity Session | Postcard Blues
Creedence Clearwater Revival | Chronicle Volume One | Bad Moon Rising
Dixie Chicks | Fly | Some Days You Gotta Dance
Don McLean | American Pie | Winterwood
Donna the Buffalo | 2005-10-15 State Theatre, Falls Church, VA | Funkyside
Dwight Yoakam | This Time | Fast As You
Ella Fitzgerald | The Jazz Collection Jazz Hits | Lover Come
Elvis Presley | Elvis Rocks Little Rock | Blue Suede Shoes
Emmylou Harris | Luxary Liner
The Folkswingers | The Acoustic Highway Collection | Walk Right In
Frank Sinatra | In The Wee Small Hours | I'll Never Be The Same
Frank Sinatra | May 22, 1968 - Oakland Coliseum | Nancy (With The Laughing Face)
Frente! | Marvin The Album | Bizarre Love Triangle
Gillian Welch | 5/19/03, Rio Theatre | Long Black Veil
Gillian Welch | 09/17/03 Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI | Look At Miss Ohio
Gomez | Liquid Skin | Revolutionary Kind
Guy Clark, Joe Ely, John Hiatt & Lyle Lovett | 2004-01-30 | The Cape
Grateful Dead | Grateful Dead - 1987-03-22 - Hampton Va | El Paso
Howlin' Wolf | Chess Blues Classics | The Red Rooster
J Mascis + the Fog | Free So Free | Everybody Lets Me Down
Jeff Tweedy | Live At The Vic - March 5, 2005 | Someday Soon
The Jesus & Mary Chain | Stoned And Dethroned | Bullet Lovers
The Jesus & Mary Chain | Stoned And Dethroned | Come On
The Jesus & Mary Chain | Stoned And Dethroned | Dirty Water
The Jesus & Mary Chain | Stoned And Dethroned | Sometimes Always
Johnny Cash | Unearthed | Understand Your Man
Johnny Cash | Unearthed | No Earthly Good
Lucinda Williams | Car Wheels On A Gravel Road | Right In Time
Lyle Lovett | I Love Everybody | Sonja
Lyle Lovett | Live In Texas | Church
Martha Wainwright | Live on NPR (04/10/06) | Ball And Chain
Nanci Griffith | Other Voices, Too (A Trip Back to Bountiful) | You Were On My Mind
Neil Young | Unplugged | Mr. Soul
Old Crow Medicine Show | Big Iron World | Cocaine Habit
Old Crow Medicine Show | Big Iron World | Minglewood Blues
Pearl Jam | Chapters | Wash
Pearl Jam | 14 Le Colisee Pepsi 09/20/05 | Insignificance
Peter Gabriel | So | Sledgehammer
Peter Gabriel | Secret World Live | Red Rain
The Pogues | If I Should Fall From Grace With God | Turkish Song Of The Damned
Radiohead | Hail To The Thief | 2+2=5 (The Lukewarm)
R.E.M. | Fables of the Reconstruction | Maps And Legends
Rev. Gary Davis | The Other Anthology Of Folk Music | Twelve Gates to the City
Ricky Skaggs | Super Hits | Highwy 40 Blues
Rossini | Lone Ranger Soundtrack | William Tell Overture
Ryan Adams | 2006-12-5 The Town Hall - NYC, NY | Trains
Ryan Adams | Glasgow - Academy- 15 February 2006 | Rosebud
Ryan Adams | Stockholm Sweden 02-09-02 | La Cienega Just Smiled
Shirley Jones | The Music Man | Till There Was You
Simon & Garfunkel | Greatest Hits | Homeward Bound
Sonic Youth | Rather Ripped | James Run Free
Sufjan Stevens | Casimir Pulaski Demo
They Might Be Giants | Then - The Earlier Years | Don't Let's Start
They Might Be Giants | Then - The Earlier Years | Mr. Me
Townes Van Zandt | Chautaqua 8-29-90 | Marie
U2 | The Unforgettable Fire | Bad
Van Morrison | Pay the Devil | Playhouse
The White Stripes | Get Behind Me Satan | Take Take Take
Wilco | Murat - Indianapolis, June 15 2007 | Hate It Here
Wilco | A Ghost Is Born | I'm A Wheel
Willie Nelson | Milk Cow Blues | Night Life
Warren Zevon | Transverse City | Gridlock
Zen Tricksters | 2003-12-10 - Acoustic Cafe | All Night Long Blues

72 Simpsons Movie References

The Adventures of the Acordian Guy
has set up a little Simpsons movie reference post. It works like the above pictures where he has the Simpsons scene on the left and the exact scene from the actual movie on the right.

I say scene like it shows a clip, but it is really just a picture. It is definitely cool to see all the classics (and a few I didn't know were actual parodies) but I do kind of wish it did include some clips. It would also be nice if it listed which Simpsons' episode it came from and the title of the movie.

Oh well, it is still a fun exercise.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Great Shanghai Picture

I didn't take this picture, and I'm afraid I don't know who did, but man, that's a nice shot.

(If you do happen to be the copyright owner, and don't want me posting it, or would like credit, drop me a line or make a comment.)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Few Worlds On Margaret Atwood's The Robber Bride

I am a strange reader. At any given time I will be reading 3 or 4 or 10 books at a time. Often, without warning, right in the middle of a book I will stop reading it. Not intentionally mind you, for I don't think I've ever just put down a book and said "this is not worth my time," but I do often get distracted by something more interesting and then never return to the older book.

There is really no rhyme or reason to what books I read, or which ones I actually complete. I just go where my interests are at the moment. Nothing more.

A long time ago, call it the 90s, my first ever online friend kept recommending to me Margaret Atwood. Or, rather she kept asking me if I had read any of Atwoods books, and she often ended her e-mails with an Atwood quote. Still I never picked her up.

Sometime since then, and long after the friendship died (or withered away) I did pick up a copy of Atwood's The Robber Bride.

Still, it sat on the shelf for years.

Sometime before China I picked it up and began to read. I liked it. I liked it a lot and told my wife to read it. She did and she liked it a lot.

But because we were moving to China, and I was busy and I was reading other things, I went slowly through it.

Now, some three months after I picked it up, I finished it.

Brilliant. Amazing. Fabulous are words I might use to describe it. I don't really want to do a proper review, as I'm not sure I'd be able to do it justice, but I did want to say how much I really liked it.

It is part fairly tale and morality play and part meditation on what it is to be a woman and to be a friend. She splits the book into big chunks telling three separate yet similar stories in a variety of ways. It is the story of three very different women, who all have their men stolen from the by a singular woman.

It is not so much the stories that are interesting, but in the way that they are told. It is never written in the first person, but we see the world, at different times from the perspective of the three women. And the man-eater, Zenia is nothing more than a shadow, a shape-shifting witch, full of lies that rest on her own, unspecified whims. Each story tells us a little more about Zenia, yet we are never sure which parts to believe, if any at all.

I love a good yard. I adore a good story. But I get all drooly when a story is told in a different and interesting and imaginative way. Atwood does this to perfection.

Really, go read it. It's all worth it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Interesting No Smoking Ad

This is apparently from a UAE paper which has been running a lot of interesting anti-smoking ads. Be forewarned some of the picks in the link may be slightly offensive to some.

Very Cool Picture Of The Night Sky From Death Valley

The pic is too big for me to show here, but click over and be amazed.

NY Times Giving Away 20 Years Worth Of Content

They've ended their pay program and decided to give their archives away! Now if I could just figure out something I wanted to look for.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

View Of The Earth From Mars

That little dot is our little planet as seen from Mars. It's a small world afterall. Picture completely stolen borrowed from Nasa.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

I've Finally Started Watching "Heroes"

But first a little on the whole blog situation. I know I promised that I'd be getting some real webspace soon, and I will, it is just taking a little longer than expected. The whole money thing here is a little wacky. Amy gets paid once a month, but it gets split down the middle and poured into two accounts.

There is the Chinese one which has locations here in Shanghai. This is in RMB which is Chinese money. For this we have an ATM card and we can use it at many local merchants.

The other half goes to Hong Kong and is in US dollars. We do not have an ATM card, there aren't any branches in Shanghai and so getting to that money is difficult. Basically if we want to use it, we have to transfer the cash into another account. To do this we have to send faxes. There is a way that we can do it online but that takes more faxes and time. At this point we're in that process, and so our money isn't available.

Amy's first pay check was also for half a month and as half of that went to Hong Kong, it is more like half of a half that we're living on. Thus money is slightly tight still.

We do have an account in Oklahoma with some cash in it, but we're trying to keep that to pay our still outstanding US bills.

However, we're in the middle of selling our car and when that goes through we should have some extra cash to throw around. It is at this point that I plan to get the real web space going. On a side note there, if anyone out there is anygood at making banners, let me know for I need one.

Wow! that was a long tangent that should have probably gone in a secondary post. Oh well.

All last season I kept hearing how wonderful Heroes was. As it came on before Studio 60 I also kept catching bits and pieces of it. But since I missed the first couple of episodes I really didn't want to start in the middle. Plus the bits I did see had me completely confused as to what was happening. Though I suddenly had the urge to start saving cheerleaders.

Just got the full season on DVD and watched the first two episodes last night. I hate to say it, but I'm not yet impressed. The Pilot got bogged down in having to spend all of its time trying to set up its many characters, their places, and some mythology. Unfortunately this didn't leave much time to make me actually care for any of the characters or give me that much interest in what those characters were going to do.

Don't get me wrong, it did keep me entertained, and there was enough there that made me immediately watch the second episode, its just that it didn't really hook me the way a show like Lost has.

There was also plenty of what I'll dub "pilot-itus" in that it has to give me enough exploitation to keep a big enough audience to keep going. Thus we get a cheerleader who seems to only wear cheerleader skirts, a mom who makes extra money stripping on the internet, and lots of bloody gorey goodness.

I understand that a TV show has to pretty quickly gain an audience, I understand that a show of this magnitude costs a lot and thus needs a bigger audience. I understand that sex and violence sell. I can't blame the producers for doing it, it just kind of gets tiring. And I like sex and violence. But it seems like nearly every big show now gives us a little (safe for TV) T&A mixed with some ultra violence.

The second show was better as they could calm down the introductions and give us a little more information on making me care. Plus they through in the bad guys and started making connections that added some needed "oooh" factor.

So, yes, I was a little disappointed, but am still very much looking forward to seeing more.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Music Review" Easy Tiger By Ryan Adams

Writing a review of Ryan Adam’s latest album, Easy Tiger is proving to be impossible for me. Though it came out several months ago, and though I bought it the day it came out, I am just now able to put words together about it.

Even now I have struggled, as this is my third draft.

Ryan Adams runs me ragged, emotionally speaking. He has a way of piercing right through my guts with his voice and his words and his music like nobody else this side of Gillian Welch. No one else can manage to lay me down in a puddle of weeping like this man.

Add to his songs some intimate, private, personal baggage and you get me staring at my computer saying once again “I just can’t write about this yet.” And still I find myself compelled to get it out.

Easy Tiger
is a good, and possibly great album. It has been called his most consistent album in a long while, and you can quickly see why. The songs stay clean and fresh, daring not to venture into electrified jambandedness, or New Wave punkishness and steering clear of Adams’ usual erratic self.

On tour behind this album Ryan and the Cardinals sit on simple stools in a semi-circle playing acoustic instruments in a close-knit round. The album retains that friends in a living room vibe. It is laid back, and warm, and mostly really really good.

Though it is not billed as such this is very much a Ryan Adams and the Cardinals record. In fact at this point, you might as well just call Ryan a Cardinal, for no longer is the group just his backing band, but a central part of Ryan’s overall sound.

It is not entirely a new album, as at least two songs appear in unofficially released albums, that have long since found their way into bootleg circles. Though this has been decried by some fanboys, I find the slightly different arrangements pleasing and their inclusions non-distracting.

One slight problem with the consistency here, or at least with the consistently laid back sound is that I find the album sort of blending into itself about the half way point. When paying attention with my listening via the headphones I find all the songs appealing and interesting and just swell. But if say I have it more in the background while I’m doing dishes or whatever, nothing in the back half stands out.

I find myself wondering what song it is on, and how much longer there is to go. As background music, it is great, but it still remains kind of unremarkable in that setting.

Sheryl Crowe makes an appearance in the beautiful, haunting “Two” though you wouldn’t know it if the liner notes didn’t mention it. It is billed as a duet, but she is actually pushed back to singing back up lines in the chorus. There is no solo versus for her or even a sweeping swoosh like Emmylou got in “Carolina.” Still it is a pretty song and her voice helps it along, it just isn’t too noticeable to these ears that that voice belongs to her.

The album is a good one, and I find myself turning to it more and more often when I reach for my Ryan Adams fix. Even if I do find myself in an emotional stupor after the fact.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Dream: The Bible Says 'Tennessee Sucks'

I had a very brief dream last night. I was sitting somewhere reading the Bible, Psalms specifically. I turned to the 95th Psalm and noticed something weird in the 94th one.

Above that particular Psalm the title read "Tennessee Sucks." I thought this particularly interesting because Psalms was written well before Tennessee existed as a state, and it certainly has never quoted Ryan Adams lyrics (Tennessee Sucks is the title of one of his songs.)

I began to read the Psalm and found that it was full of strange, vulgar rants against Ryan Adams and various other musicians and celebrities. It was very poorly written, full of random bold type and every other word was an obscenity.

Not something you typically find in the Bible.

The rest of the Psalms were ok, it was only this one that went off the track. I started to think it must have been created by some disturbed clerk a the printer.

The rest of the dream consisted of me e-mailing all my friends to tell them about this oddity.

Dream: Friends With John Cusack

I had this dream about a week ago, but it is still in my memory banks so I'll share.

It started out like I was in a movie with John Cusack. Or, rather, I was on the set with him, while he was working, but I myself was not in the film. He was in a diner, that was very long. At the back of the diner, farthest away from us were some men who looked like they were shooting at John.

They made all the motions of shooting big guns and things, and John moved like he was dodging bullets, but the thing was there were no explosions on our end. It was as if they were shooting the action scene and would later add the explosions.

Anyways during this I was talking to Cusack, or actually kind of chastising him for making so many crappy movies. In reality I really like John Cusack 0 I think he is very talented and has made some really good films. Yet he is such a paycheck actor. In between interesting films he stars in rotten romantic comedies and horror/thrillers with good concepts and interesting moments spoiled by bad writing and plodding directing.

So there I am in the dream, yelling at him for doing such things. John finds this fascinating (I guess because a fan would be so harsh, or something) and wants to talk further. So we finish the scene and move to the next room, which is like a green room or something.

I begin telling him about the movies I liked and the ones I don't. He argues some points but agrees on others. We then become fast friends and start talking about all sorts of things.

I mention that we wrote about him in a facebook group (which is real - I am in a facebook book based on the Top Five concept found in High Fidelity and whose first questions was "what is your top five John Cusack films?)

He finds this utterly fascinating and goes in and reads the question. Then he joins the group.

Then I wake up.


I believe this came right after I had watched Cusacks most recent film - 1408 - and me and my sister had a discussion about Cusack and his tendency to make rotten films.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Top Five: Desert Island Books

Back on wordpress I created a little post called the Top Five. This was actually a rehashing of a little group I have on Facebook, also called the Top Five. Basically each week I ask a question consisting of your top five choices of something. Friends and family respond at their leisure. I think it makes a great blog post and thus I shall be posting them here too.

Mat: ou have been charged of a crime so heinous, every governmental agency is after you. There is no place to hide, save for one lonely island in a remote corner of the Pacific. You have chartered a private Oceanic plane to take you to this island, where you will spend the rest of your days. The island is already stocked with enough food and supplies to let you live to a very old age. Unfortunately, the plan is very small and will only allow you to take a few frivolous items. You can only take five books, which you must hold on your lap until you arrive at your destination.

You may choose fiction, non-fiction or any other type of book you choose. I will even allow you to choose a series as one book, if you can prove that the series has already been bound as one volume somewhere. Thus the Lord of the Rings trilogy counts because many places have bound it as a single book. However, to my knowledge Harry Potter has not been bound as such, and thus each book counts as one.

Choose wisely.

Monica: I’ve given this subject quite a lot of thought. And I decided that if I could only bring 5 books, including omnibus editions, to a deserted island to live out the rest of my life, I want fiction/fantasy books. I don’t want to do a lot of deep thinking. I want to be entertained. What’s the point of life changing books if my life isn’t going to change anymore? So here are my picks.

1. Dragonlance Chronicles Special Edition: Includes the original trilogy by Margaret Weis and Tracey Hickman, “Dragons of Autumn Twilight,” “Dragons of Winter Night,” and “Dragons of Spring Dawning” for a total of 3 books. I know this may sound silly, but I love reading these books. I could read them over and over and over. And I have.

2. The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide by Douglas Adams: Includes “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”; “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe”; “Life, the Universe and Everything”; “So Long and Thanks for all the Fish”; “Mostly Harmless”; and “Young Zaphod Plays it Safe” for a total of 6 books.

3. Jane Austen The Complete Novels, includes “Pride and Prejudice,” “Sense and Sensibility,” “Mansfield Park,” “Emma,” “Northanger Abbey,” “Persuasion,” “Lady Susan.” For a total of 7 books. I confess that I’ve only ever read P&P off this list and that only once and several years ago. I started, but did not finish, S&S a few months ago. But if I’m gonna spend the rest of my life on a deserted island I’ll have time to read Pride again (and since I won’t actually be able to watch the 6 hour version, reading about it will bring wonderful images of Colin Firth to mind and that will be enough.) As well as finish Sense. And when I get tired of all the fantasy novels I’m going to need something else to read.

4. The Magic of Xanth: An Enchanting Fantasy Trilogy by Piers Anthony: Includes “A Spell for Chameleon,” “The Source of Magic,” and “Castle Roogna,” the first three novels of the ongoing Xanth series. For a total of 3 books.

5. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Life on a Deserted Island by Tom Hanks, Matthew Fox, and Dominic Monaghan: I thought and thought about this list and I kept thinking “I should take some kind of Self-Help book” and I don’t think that books on relationships would be helpful and would probably only make me miss my relationships, and people in general, so I decided that this book would be the most helpful. However, I don’t think this book actually exists so I may have to go with “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Surviving Anything,” which does exist, but may or may not actually help me any. So if I peruse this one and decide it’s not helpful and would only be a waste, I’d like to take “More Magic of Xanth” also by Piers Anthony, which includes the next three books in the Xanth series, “Centaur Aisle,” “Ogre, Ogre,” and “Night Mare.” For a total of 3 books.

Let’s see, by taking only five books, and not taking the Idiot’s Guide, I can actually take 22 books. That’s not bad, in my opinion. I think I could live happily with those 22 books.
I actually own Choice #2, and I can assure you that the others are available on Amazon.com.


Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck: Quite possibly make favorite book of all time. It's histerically funny, and brutally sad - often on the same page. Plus it's about Okies, and I be one of them. Plus plus, it's about a family traveling to California to pick fruit, and my very family did that very thing, though in the 50's not the 30's.

2. The Collected Novels of Dashielle Hammett: I adore the classic detective fiction writers. I'll probably miss Raymond Chanlder, but I know for sure Hammett's novels are collected in one volume, so he gets the nod.

3. Lord of the Rings Trilogy by JRR Tolkein: I'm kind of a poser Rings fan. I've read them all and really liked them, saw the movies too, but I'm not obsessive over them. Still there is a lot of depth there, with some fun reading. I really dig that Tolkein put so much time into developing his little world, and tht's enough to keep me occupied for a long time.

4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: If I could be half the man Atticus Finch is, I'd live a full life.

5. Unnamed World History Book: I'd have to do a little research on this one, because while I really like history, I've not done much reading on it. I'd want the fattest, coolest volume I could find though, encapsulating all countries, people and time.


. Till We Have Faces, C.S. Lewis. It's my favorite book ever, and one I have to read every so often anyway to remind me of myself.

2. A big fat poetry anthology. Poetry is why I became an English major. I especially like the modernists. And the Romantics (most of them, most of the time, anyway). And the Victorians.

3. Walden, by Thoreau. I'll have to figure out how to build my own little hut--and actually enjoy living in it by myself. The sun is but a morning star.

4. An atlas/dictionary/encyclopedia combo. I haven't found such an animal yet, but I'm sure it exists. I'd want to keep my brain sharp and continue learning, and I just like looking at maps anyway. They would fuel my dreams.

5. Ulysses, by James Joyce. I've still only read the first half of it. Maybe after an eternity stuck with it, I'd finish the rest. Maybe after another couple of eternities, I might start to understand it.

Erin: Well, if we are in an Oceanic plane, we will crash just like the LOST cast (and the show, unfortunately). In such a situation, I think it would be wise to have "Worst-Case Scenario", "The Divine Comedy", Norton Anthology of Modern Literature, the Complete Eugene O'Neill, and Lord of the Rings Trilogy. That's what I got--nice long books with a combination of poetry, prose and drama. They will inspire us as we forge our own new civilization and provide practical tools for not freaking out and finding fresh water.

Amy: An Austen anthology is tempting. Of course I’d be looking around my Mr. Darcy all the time, but not having to make a face to society about it—since no one would be there.

I’ll feel like I should include something French. Perhaps a big anthology of works, but not excerpts. There’s little worse than excerpts of novels if you’re stuck on a desert island. What if you liked it? What if you wanted to understand the character’s motivation for acting this way in chapter 3? Much of my college French literature was in anthologies—I understood little, remember little, and still find the excerpted editions frustrating! Alas, I do not know if such a book exists. I think I must give up and select instead Volume 1 of Sebastien Japrisot’s collected works. He wrote A Very Long Engagement and other thrillers made into films.

Rodney Lee’s Moving toward balance: 8 weeks of yoga practice. If I’m sentenced for life at least I can perfect my yoga practice (lots of time to do it in!) and this text has sample practices to follow (because I’m still a beginner). I’ve checked it out from the library, but didn’t get to much of it.

Eudora Welty—a complete works edition would make me so happy. But I have to choose between Complete Novels and Collected Stories. I think I’ll take the novels, but I’ll miss Stella Rondo, the petrified man and Lilly Daw.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman. If I can’t watch the movie, I can read it outloud to myself and do the voices.

Jason: Okay here goes my selections and yes you all do smell, horribly bad, like sheepherders or something. Anyway on with my Top 5 books:

Drum Roll Please......dadadadadadada
dadadadadadadadadada (okay I am tired of typing da)

1. The Princess Bride (how could you not take a book that includes Pirates, sword-fighting, giants, a six-fingered man, and true love!?)

2. Worst-Case Scenario - I am not creative enough on my own to think of answers to these problems so I am taking a cheat-book

3. Walden by Thoreau - If I am going to live in seclusion away from everyone else why not have a book that talks all about someone else doing the same thing and stealing ideas from it (plus when I am rescued I can then write my own book with a little help from my friend!)

4. Biggest Book of Grilling - so I can know how to cook my fish and fruit and other things in like 400 different ways (never grow tired of eating the same thing again and again). Plus there are really nice pictures in there and should it come to it, I can always use the pages as excellent ways to start fires (416 pages!!!!).

5. The Big Book of Sudoku (not sure it really exists but there must be something out there along this lines) - for those days when I get bored and laying in a hammock between two coconut trees just is not fulfilling anymore. Also to take my mind off the fact that I am trapped on a deserted island all by myself.

There you go my Top 5 list. Hope you enjoyed this Top 5 list brought to you by the wonderful folks of Bazooka Joe gum. Gum the entire family can enjoy and nobody provides better comics and jokes then the folks at Bazooka Joe!

And that's this weeks edition of the Top Five! Sorry for the formatting errors, but I left most of the answers as is.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Molding Young Minds And Suchlike

Tomorrow morning at 9 in the am, I will be teaching two young boys in the ways of History and English.

Seriously, how did this happen?

Many years ago I used to think that I wanted to sculpt young minds in the ways of the world or some such nonsense. I felt I could help the lads and lasses get through the awkwardness that mixes childhood and teenagedom. It seemed like a great career. I could find meaning in that work. I could make a difference.

What a crock.

I haven't the slightest idea what I am doing, how the crap am I supposed to help others through?

The gig is a British woman is here with her two boys, who are somewhere in the preteen years. For whatever reason she wants the to be privately taught instead of going to school. Thus she's hiring private teachers, one of which will be me.

I got the gig through a friend. I am in the land of teachers, as my wife is one and that is her job here. That's all we know around here. It seems like I should have landed a small job as a street sweeper or typists or even creating english language tapes. Or something. Anything. But teaching.

What the crap?!?

I have to admit I am scared. I am nervous. I am freaking out. I have no idea how to teach kids. I don't know how to relate. I've forgotten any grammar I ever learned and I sure don't know my history.

I guess I'll just have to stay one page ahead of them. And figure out some way to present the material. Or something.

I'm going to have a panic attack now.

Edit: Sorry for my little freak out last night. It all came crashing down on me. Not only the teaching situation, but we're trying to sell our car and we finally found a buyer last night so I had to coordinate between two banks and continents and all of our accounts. Plus prior to finding out all of this, I had been listening to my iPod's playlist full of Ryan Adams, Gillian Welch and Lucinda Williams - and if you know those artists you know they can be full of heartache.

I met everyone this morning and it was fine (well I got lost first and wandered around the streets for fifteen minutes, but then it was fine.) She lives within walking distance which is great and her two boys are rambunctious but nice kids. The mom has all sorts of books to use for the classes so it shouldn't be difficult to work out lessons.

Tomorrow I will freak out a little more, but like all my culture shockings I will push through and come out the other side.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Dream: A Double Shots of Toilet Humor

I had two dreams Saturday night, both having to do with using the toilet (I know, I know my only two posts in ages and they are both scategorical, that's what Chinese food will do to you.)

In the first dream me and Amy were at a fast food type place, I believe it was Braums, but I wouldn't swear to it. At any rate I have to use the bathroom and head to the mens. There was one urinal and one stall and everything was in bad shape.

I can't remember the specifics but there was something wrong with the stall - what I do remember is that there was a large window in it and I was worried that people might walk by and see me (true story when we went to do some official Chinese Visa business one of their stalls really did have a big window with no shades - gross!)

Sure enough as I'm about to do my business, in comes the Jones family - Ted (the patriarch) Jeff (the eldest son) Tad (the youngest son) and Ted's wife (whose name I have forgotten. The Joneses go to my parent's church and I grew up with Tad.

This freaks me out and I try to duck in order to let them see me. A moment later in barges my wife - into the mens, into my stall! I yell at her to get the crap out and pull up and zip up as I can no longer take care of my need.

The Jones' are now in the restaurant, all seated at two seat tables, except that each of them is a their own table. They are all in a row and all of them have an empty chair next to them. I take this to mean I am to talk to them and proceed to sit at each empty chair and chat with each member of the family.


In my next dream me and Amy had been some where (I can't recall where or what we did, if this information was ever in the dream) but were headed home. We expected to meet the Canfields on our way home (the Canfields are my wife's husband's sister's family, and are also here in Shanghai.)

Turns out our "home" was in the educational building of the church where my parents attend (I also attended there as a kid.) Before we arrive me and the wife are chatting about the new girl that the Canfield's have adopted (in reality they did just adopt a little Chinese girl.) We ponder whether or not she will have the same receding hairline as the other Canfields.

As we approach home we do meet the Canfields and sure enough little Emma has a receding hairline (she is also a Caucasian girl instead of Chinese.) I the look to Caleb, the Canfields boy who is maybe 13 - I'm guessing there as I'm terrible with kids ages - and he has a big receding hairline. Then I look to the father Canfield - Buster - and he has the same hair. Truth is none of the Canfields have a big receding hairline, but here they do.

Caleb and I discuss our recent hair cuts and he seems to not like his, though I am satisfied with mine.

We enter our new home and now the interior of the building matches the interior of the main church building in reality. The Canfield's go to their room and we to ours. My room turns out to be in the same location where my mother used to teach kindergarten.

Once inside Amy begins passionately kissing me. At the very same time my belly tells me I need a restroom...immediately! So there I am enjoying the passion but still feeling the need in my belly.

I try to tell my belly to buzz off, but eventually I have to run away. I then wake up to find that need in my belly to be real and I rush off.


What this means other than my body incorporated its need to use the restroom into two dreams I don't know. It is interesting that Amy appeared in both of them and that two sets of friends did as well. There is also the recurring theme of either people or the building of my old church in there as well.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Boy Who Cried Explosive Diarrhea

Bowels are a funny thing in a new culture. There is new and interesting food that must be tasted, and tested out on ones internal system. There is new bacteria to encounter and all sorts of nasty goodness that plays tricks on the old digestive system.

I have been in China now for nearly a month, and a lot of that time (more than I'd ever care to discuss at length) has been spent on the toilet. It attacks frequently and without warning.


This week I began tutoring a middle-aged Chinese woman in the fine skills of the English language. It is boring, tedious, and hot work (as she rarely turns on the air conditioning.) We do four hours a day and rarely take a break. The other day I was there and along about hour three I was feeling an undying need to get the freak out of there. Our lessons basically take the form of me reading a sentence and her repeating it back to me, with perhaps a break to discuss vocabulary.

Don't tell me that isn't the best way to learn a language because I know, but there is no changing this strategy with this woman.

So there I was bored out of my mind, hot, tired and still with an hour to go. What could I do? What I did was pretended I needed to go to the bathroom. I went in, washed my face, and noticed in their three mirrors that I could see the back of my head.

My noticeably balding head, thank you very much.

Then I did a fake flush and went on my way.

Maybe fifteen minutes later I felt a flutter. A pain. An immediate and incredible need to use the restroom for real. I sat for a minute feeling the massive pain in my belly thinking maybe I could wait it out. There is only one need for a man to use the toilet so quickly after he just used it and that reason is kind of embarrassing to admit.

Like the boy who cried wolf, I had pretended to use the bathroom, and now was stuck with a real need to go.

Surely I could make it half an hour until I went home. Surely I wouldn't have to admit I was having this trouble. Surely I Must Go Now!

And I went. The bathroom is located right next to the room we were studying in. That means very little privacy for what I was about to do. I don't want to be gross but what I did do can only be called explosive an drawn out. In my desire not to make too large a sound or mess I tried to reign in the business at hand, which only served to make the problem last longer.

Eventually I decided to screw it and have at it. It is a natural function and frankly I'm quitting the tutoring gig next week so who cares what she think.

And there it was.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Dreamin' Songs: Norah Jones - "I've Been Thinking About You"

The move to Shanghai has, in more than one way, messed up my blogging. Obviously I have moved back to blogger, which isn't so bad in itself except that it leaves all the words I wrote on Wordpress back at that blog. Also that blog had built up a good following and had a 6 grade on the Google scale. Unfortunately, I cannot log into that account to direct that traffic to here.

Frankly it is a bit of a pain in the butt to deal with the whole Chinese internet anyways. So many sites are blocked, and the ones that aren't are so often very slow I often just give up. Some of this may be the filtering through the firewall, some of it may be that there are 18 million people in this city clogging up the bandwidth. There are also several hundred in the Living Quarters of the school where I live and my guess is they are working off the same line.

Add all that to the fact that I am still culture shocking and trying to adjust, plus writing another blog all about my experiences here and you get a lot of neglect to this blog.

I am trying to remedy that, but it is difficult. Last night I listened a great deal to a Norah Jones bootleg that I hope to add to the Bootleg Country series real soon. It is a gorgeous, beautiful thing and I very much enjoyed listening to it.

I am quite sure this is why I woke up with "I've Been Thinking About You" in my head this morning. It is one of Norahs more jaunty songs, which means it almost makes it to mid-tempo. It has a Beatles-esque bass line banging it out and of course Norahs beautiful voice.

I could think of worse things to wake up to!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

As It Turns Out, I Kinda Like 30 Rock

At the beginning of last season, had their been a vote or a contest on which behind-the-scenes show loosely based on Saturday Night Live was better or would come out on the top, I would have hands down bet on Studio 60. No wait let's rephrase that. In the middle of the season, I would have bet on Studio 60. At the beginning of the season I'm not sure I knew that both shows even existed, nor would I have cared too much.

But by mid-season I was very much a fan of Studio 60 while I just sort of frowned and stuck up my nose at 30 Rock. Truth is, I haven't watched Saturday Night Live in about a decade. The last sketch I remember watching was the whole Jeopardy parody with Will Ferrel. While that bit was quite hilarious, I only happened to watch that bit. If I recall correctly my sister was home and she still liked SNL and thus I watched that bit before going to bed.

What that really means is that Tina Fey and Tracy Morgan were unknown to me. Or, rather, I knew the names from what to me were irrelevant and unfunny seasons of SNL. I saw no reason to watch uninteresting actors parody a show that no longer interested me.

And so I skipped it entirely.

Well, as it turns out, I was wrong.

My sister has the first season on DVD and as she lives right down the path, and as I kept coming over to subdue my culture shock, and as she kept watching episode, I kept watching them too.

Well, as it turns out, it is funny. Really rather funny.

Tina Fey is funny and smart and, well kind of a hottie. She wrote many of the shows and helps produce it and it seems like the whole show is kind of her baby, and darned if she doesn't do a great job with it.

Alec Baldwin who I sometimes love and often despise is brilliant too. I never would have thought he'd do so well at a sit-com, but he nails it every time. Tracy Morgan is kind of pompous and annoying, but that's pretty much his character. The rest of the cast is lovely, too.

So there you have it. We borrowed the set and we've just about watched it all in the last few days.

I wouldn't have thought it to be true, but I'm now a 30 Rock fan.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Brewster's Millions Is Back To Blogger

Ok, here's the deal: Way back when I started this blog, right here on Blogger. It was almost a fluke as it was all about France, but then it turned into crazy pop culture stuff and I was hooked. I was a real blogger.

Then I messed with the template and everything failed. I couldn't see or read anything here. So I switched to a Wordpress blog. I liked it there. Things weren't perfect, but I dug the scene.

Well, mostly.

Then I figured out what was wrong with Blogger and fixed it. But by then I was well established on Wordpress and stayed. Well, recently I moved to China and China has this gigantic, nation wide firewall. The government blocks out all the websites they find to be unacceptable. Apparently both Blogger and Wordpress fall into that category. I guess there are too many wild folks with itchy typing fingers and a blog that lets them spill.

The strange thing is that I can still use Blogger for the actual blogging process. I can type and edit the blog, I just can't actually see the finished product. Weird I know. Wordpress, however, is kaput. I can't do crap on it.

Thus here I am again, back to blogging on Blogger. I'd call it a circle of life thing, but I'm still kind of pissed all my old posts are stuck on Wordpress, and I can't tell the world to come back here.