I haven't been blogging much, because I've been busy. Or at least, I'm supposed to get busy. As the work piles up, I still find myself distracted by anything with a screen: TV, computer, handheld sudoku, my cell phone. I only just realized the pattern. And I have a theory.
The retina is a screen. It's actually the coolest screen in the entire world, but it's a screen. The lens of our eyes project the images of the surrounding world onto our retinas, which are then mystically transformed into electric and chemical signals that travel to our brain, which then interpret the stereo images into wicked awesome 3D technicolor. (Actually, the rods and cones of the eye are more like trinitron televisions, combining receptors of three different colors to interpret every color known to man . . . hence the known to man part, although some females actually have four different colors . . . but I digress.)
Set aside the science of it, though, because it's the soul of it that really makes up my theory. I've always believed that the eyes really are the window to the soul. No, I'm not suggesting that our souls are on our retinas (in which case a detached retina would mean the end of one's natural existence). But I do think that when something projects onto my internal screen, it nestles up to my soul.
I believe that whatever we see touches our souls, and what our souls really long for is a connection.
I've said before that reading is powerful because words carry so much meaning, even the substance of existence itself. As you read this, our souls meet. Because of the power of words, the connection forged here is real insofar as the words adequately communicate the reality of who I am. Real as it is, it's an indirect connection.
When you look someone in the eye, your souls shake hands, hug, slap high fives, or just slap. The connection isn't always pleasant, but it's undeniable and direct. Look into someones eyes and, whether you love them or loathe them, you're paying them the respect of acknowledging the most enduring level of their existence. Stare too long, and you'll make their soul feel a bit awkward. Of course, if they accept you, you can get lost in that connection for a very long time.
Enter the screen theory. Be it television, projector, monitor, or quartz crystal, a screen can play a trick on our eyes, our retinas, and our souls. I believe that when we look at a screen, we experience an imitation of a true soul connection. I think that even though our minds may not make the connection, we suspect in our innermost sanctuary that where there is a screen there is a soul. It is beyond subconscious, but it happens. We look at the television, the movie, the video game, whatever . . . and we believe in the connection.
The popular (and perhaps more plausible) belief is that people identify with the characters in TV shows, movies, video games, and whatevers. But I think it's more than that. I think we connect with the screen itself and the mysterious entity through whose eyes these images are projected. I think it's true on a computer as well. Whether you're typing a term paper or furrowing through facebook, you see it on a screen. Your email shows up on a screen. Text messages, on a screen. Each screen that engages our attention, I believe, does so with the allure of a falsified soul.
If the theory is true, I think there's a subtle distinction in the fixation. I think we are drawn -- not to the characters, friends, and strangers we meet in a film, show, chat room, or email message -- we are instead captivated by the imaginary intimate friend who relays all these stories and messages directly to our souls. The computer screen is such a close friend that he can tell me what my best friends are up to or show me pictures of my nieces and nephews. My TV knows me so well, she can send her most vivid recollections of LOST castaways and Office shenanigans directly to my brain. My buddy at the movies can cinematically tell me the story of Indiana Jones, and he does all the voices and sound effects personally.
Your imaginary friend, be he Mac or PC, is telling you all about my blog.
I think that's why I get lost in this stuff. It's an easy cure for loneliness. It's also an empty cure. And it's not to say I'm lonely. I'm not. But when I sit in front of any one of these screens, whether I'm perusing meaningless information with my friend Laptop or playing sudoku with my pal Handheld, I feel on some level like I would miss them if I left. It's not so much an addiction as it is a horribly dysfunctional relationship.
Because it's not a real soul on the other end of that screen. It's an electronic void. What's more, it's an entirely one-way connection. My TV doesn't feel better knowing I'm there. I think that when souls connect and accept each other, both souls feel that and feed off of it. No matter what affection I may pour into some electronic screen, my soul will never ever feel anything resembling love emanating from the phosphorescent glow. So all of those screens leave our souls feeling cold, alone, aloof . . . and starved.
That's why reading books or even listening to the radio or music is so much better for your soul. There's no illusion that the page is a screen, or that the actual book is a person. The connection is appropriately indirect. The words are real, and they don't change with a new font or a yellowed page or a High-Definition anything. If the words and the ideas they represent are truly great, our connection with the author and the human experience they replicate is vibrant and alive and transforming and feeding . . . and wonderful.
If the words represent manufactured emotion that has no real basis in life, the void continues, but that's another story.
And if the words are from God, the connection is eternal. Okay, too many rabbit trails are springing up. I'll end the thought with this: turn off your computer, TV, cell, everything. Pick up a book, the Bible, or a pad of paper. Send real letters. Look into someones eyes. Find a real soul and snuggle up to it.
For the second year in a row, American Idol gave DVR-ers everywhere a complete and total 2-hour shaft, and it's driven me out of blog silence for just this one moment.
Last year, after 120 minutes of waitertainment, the announcement of the winner of American Idol was announced at 9:03 and three seconds. I remember, because our DVR recorded an extra three minutes until 9:03, when Ryan proclaimed, "The winner of American Idol Season 6 is . . . " and we missed the end. Unbelievable.
Tonight, I kid you not, he did it again. Only this time our DVR switched off right at 9:00. It is beyond detestable that a results show would spend two hours offering no results whatsoever. But here's what did happen:
Seacrest: "The winner of American Idol Season 7 is . . . David . . ." and then it ended. I am not even kidding. Granted, I didn't have to sit through the two grueling hours of seeing and hearing from all the people we're so glad are gone . . . but to not even reveal the winner in the alotted time is an absolute crime. It's an outrage. It's so outrageous, the rage has come back in. It's INrageous and OUTcredible.
And yeah, I looked up who won. But I'm ticked on principle.
I did just a bit of Internet prowling to get to the bottom of the FFH&H issue, and I found that I am no longer as troubled by the ingredients of the make-believe coffee potion as I am the reasoning behind it. It's not really half & half. It's a substitute for half & half. Same consistency. Same taste. Different stuff.
Okay, fine, whatever. But why call it FFH&H if it's no halves are involved? Why not just call it creamer?
I'm sure the answer is that you can supposedly cook with FFH&H, and nobody would ever attempt to use fat free creamer in a recipe. It's just kinda weird, because nobody really calls half & half by it's real name. We call it cream. But H&H is anywhere from 10 to 18% fat. Cream cream can have as much as 30% fat. So the fact that H&H would want to swing the other way when it's so often mistaken for its chubbier counterpart is completely mystifying. Decide who you want to be, H&H. Break away from your ana complex and embrace your true identity.
And suddenly I'm tempted to put Prince and the NPG in my playlist, but it ain't happening.
I have to admit, the technical side of blogging scares the nasty out of me. I can't tell my enclosure links from my MIME Types. So I have no idea if what I'm attempting to do will work. (Nope! Oh well.)
I also have no idea how in the world a grocery store can in good conscience sell a product called fat free half & half. I get the whole fat free creamer idea. But how is it possible to make fat free half & half? It's supposed to be half cream, half milk. Now sure, the milk can be skim . . . but how can you arrive at fat free cream? It's . . . cream! That's supposed to be all kinds of fat.
This is not me being difficult. This is me being completely stumped. I stared at the carton in the refrigerator section of my local grocery store last night with mouth agape. Fat. Free. Half. &. Half. This is impossible. It's like fat free bacon. Or fat free grease. Or fat free . . . fat. I don't even want to think what's in the other half posing as cream. And yet I am. I can think of little else.
Or is it weird that I spontaneously burst into dance now that I'm home all the time. I'll occasionally catch myself doing it, which makes me afraid that many times I don't catch myself doing it. But it's true. I'll just be walking up the stairs, I'll get to the top, and the next thing I know I'm throwing a Michael Jackson kick in the air, pounding my chest with a flick of the wrist, and finishing off the flourish with a "hee hee" and a mini gasp.
I am, I guess. I don't know if that means I'm happier at home or that I'm going crazy at home. For now, I'll stick with the happy theory.
This is Addison dropping the camera rather fortuitously . . . or artistically. The photo has not been altered, manipulated, or otherwise messed with in any way. I actually have no clue what's going on in this picture. Kinda fun, yeah?
When we headed to IMAX to see Speed Racer, I expected it to be a good birthday present - a little popcorn flick that would demand very little intellectual or emotional investment. I wasn't expecting it to be the best movie ever, nor was I expecting it to change my life. I was hoping for something in the "not completely terrible" category.
What I found, at the end of 2 hours and 15 minutes of hyperkinetic kaleidoscope visuals dancing before my eyes like a semi-animated rave, was a smile I couldn't wipe from my face and the distinct memory of saying, "Awesome," to myself about three dozen times. I liked the story. I really liked the dialogue. I loved the scrolling close-up scene transitions that mimicked the cut-and-paste animation effects of the cartoon with a souped up CGI twist. But what absolutely enthralled me was the way the fighting and racing scenes were choreographed with the same reckless disregard for reality employed by little kids everywhere.
If you've ever laid on your bed and daydreamed an action sequence featuring race cars that flip and jump at will, if you've ever directed a scene where a matchbox car in distress can scale your bedroom walls, or if you've ever pitted action figures in a brawl where gravity and probability are not present, then Speed Racer may look incredibly familiar.
If you've ever seen the cartoon, the familiarity will breed complete awesomeness. John Goodman is Pops Racer. And I don't mean he plays Pops Racer. He is Pops Racer. All the actors do a tremendous job acting as if they were drawn on screen. Matthew Fox's deadpan Racer X is a stroke of genius that most critics dismiss as stale. The critics are so wrong.
This movie really was awesome. It ticked me off to read the reviews, because the reviewers were all so helplessly out of touch. The ones who claimed they had seen the cartoon as kids obviously had not. The ones who didn't claim to have seen the movie should be cut in half by a Mach 5 buzz saw.
It has been a long time since Alanis Morisette did anything I really liked. She has been in that exploratory phase where her music is more about her own personal inquisitive journey than actually pleasing the ears of anyone listening. And that is fine and dandy with me. I got no problem with making music that communicates your innermost expressions regardless of what anyone thinks . . . I just won't listen to it. But this song from Alanis (which apeared on an episode of House M.D.) pleases my ears quite a bit. (Also, there's a spot at about 3 minutes, 15 seconds into the video where it looks like Hurley from LOST is singing along. Keep your eyes peeled for that one.)
I was there. Just four days before, I had been to Wrigley to see the Cubs beat the Cardinals in extra innings . . . extra foggy innings. Oh, and then right after I got engaged. The following days provided a strange blend of crazy emotions and dusty, strenuous, sledge-hammer-swinging work. So I kind of had a headache. And a backache. And a holy-crapache. So I left work early on Wednesday and caught the 1:20 at Clark and Addison.
I knew Kerry Wood was pitching. I had watched on TV and knew he had nasty stuff. But I didn't know the festival of feats that awaited me.
There were about 15,000 people there. The bleacher ticket cost $6. I sat down in left center about an hour before game time. Warm. Bit breezy. Overcast. Awesome.
The first pitch from Kerry was a ball. And I wasn't the only one not quite prepared for the nastiness of his stuffiness. Sandy Martinez, the catcher, wasn't either. The high fastball buzzed right by his glove and hit the umpire in the face mask. That pitch caught everyone's attention, and from that point on, Kerry served up a feast of jaw-dropping strikes. The Astros put eight balls into play. Eight. Most of the time they just took turns watching and whiffing.
I have to say, I'm not one of those guys who can tell the speed and the type of pitch just by watching from the stands. Usually they all look like fastballs to me. But this was different. He basically threw three different pitches that day, and I could distinctly recognize each one, every time:
1. Fastball. He was throwing this about 98 mph the whole game. One of them hit Craig Biggio. Another hit the ump. A few of them got fouled off, and others turned into ground ball outs. The one hit the Astros got that day could have been called an error on Kevin Orie. It was a slow ground ball from Ricky Guttierrez that the third baseman just plain missed. The rest of Wood's fastballs were hitting the catcher's mitt so hard, they made a crack so loud, I thought they were making contact with Louisville Slugger. Then Martinez would spring up from his crouch and fire the ball back to Wood or sling it on down to Orie. Even from across the green expanse of the Friendly Confines, I could see these fastballs were blazing. You could practically hear the whizz of disgruntled air sputtering off the ball and smell the smoking leather rising off the catcher's mitt. Nasty.
2. Slider. All of Kerry's sliders looked like fastballs when they left his hand. The Astros were afraid. They were grown men, but I could see their little boy fear in their trembling little eyes all the way from the cheap seats. So when this pitch shot out from Kerry's shotgun of an arm headed straight toward their heads, they were understandably distressed. I could see them flinch. Then the ball would suddenly change trajectory from the batter's skull and swoop harmlessly over the center of the plate. The batters were physiologically incapable of swinging at these pitches.
But it got worse. When he threw the slider so that it looked like a fastball strike, the batter's eyes would grow wide - I could see this from left center, I kid you not. They would uncoil their mightiest swings as this juicy looking meatball of a pitch swept drastically into the far reaches of the left-hand batter's box. Again, I could see aerodynamics take effect as the world of physics changed its mind on where the ball should fly. All academics aside, the ball would wind up as far as three feet away from the end of the bat as the hapless hitters felt their butts head right as their torsos toppled to the left. Miss Jackson. Yeah, nasty.
3. Curve. He didn't throw this one much. When he did, I'm telling you, I could see the knees buckle. I could see the shoulders slouch. I could see the little speech bubble appear over their heads and fill with pound signs and ampersands and exclamation points and percentages. Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen sweeping out the garbage truck in Men at Work. Nastyyyyyy!
I remember who was around me. A guy in a Biggio jersey with his wife . . . also in a Biggio jersey, sitting right in front of me. A guy to the right of me who was using a newspaper for an umbrella as the clouds started spitting on us. Two guys who finally revealed their true allegiance when they broke out their St. Louis Cardinal panchos. I said it before, the place wasn't packed. But it was loud. With every pitch it got louder. When there were two strikes on a hitter, the crescendo was deafening . . . and of course that seemed quiet compared to the explosions after each strikeout. Somewhere around the fifth inning, we were no longer a bunch of fans. We were friends. We were family. We were ecstatic.
And Cubs' turns at bat couldn't end fast enough. We didn't want to see them hit. We didn't want to see anyone hit. We wanted to see Kerry pitch and watch the Astros look like idiots.
And they did. The ninth inning was electric . . . I felt what literally seemed like static electricity dancing across my skin. First hitter was a pinch hitter . . . maybe Daryl Ward. He struck out. We went nuts. One of my buddies (whom I had never met) yelled out something about a National League record. Then Craig Biggio grounded out and we all booed. Jerk didn't have the decency to swing and miss. Then came Derek Bell. He watched a strike. Then he fouled off a pitch. Then Kerry threw a slider. Bell swung pathetically and didn't come within a yard of it. The place. Went. Nuts. High fives all around. Hugs. Strangers were hugging! I didn't hug anybody. But I gave plenty of high fives, yelled like crazy, and eventually filed out politely into the euphoric streets of Wrigleyville.
The game flew by. Seriously, it went so fast that when I got back on the El after the game, I only got charged for a transfer. Kerry had taken less than two hours to strike out a major league record 20 men. When I got home to my apartment (in Chicago at the time), I immediately turned on the TV to watch the news. The phone rang. It was my mom.
"Did you see the game?" she asked.
"Yeah," I said calmly . . . "FROM THE BLEACHERS!"
The whole thing was like an early birthday/timely engagement present from God. Just plain freaking awesome. And now it's been ten years (two of which I just spent writing this). Thanks, Kerry. Thanks, God. Thanks, Heather. That was awesome.
It's soccer season again. It's hard to get any good action shots from the game because there is very little action in the game itself. In today's game it took an average of 12 seconds to score a goal and about a minute and a half to get the kids back to the center and ready to go. They play 4-minute quarters, so . . . the best action takes place in warmups. The top picture is Addison during a drill when the kids were pretending to be airplanes. Addison is a very jazzy and intense plane. In the second shot, Addison is pretending to walk like a duck . . . during the walk-like-a-duck drill.
He's getting really good at soccer.
UPDATE: If you really want to see some Addison soccer action, check this out.
On Friday, Addison's pre-school will be learning about emotions. Heather was prepping him for what they'll be studying, and he asked what emotions were. Heather listed a few: angry, sad, happy . . . and then he interrupted the list with this question:
"What about suspicious?" I don't know. Is that an emotion? I say yes. And just for fun, this is a drawing of the recliners in Addison's friend's basement. Maybe my favorite drawing ever.