More Stuff I Like (Other Than Our iPad)

Been a while since I wrote any suggestions or Top 5 lists, and even longer since a reader shared theirs (okay, that’s yet to happen ever).  So here you go; please read, then PLEASE suggest new stuff if you like.  And please don’t point me to one of the myriad ‘favoriting’ social sites like or whatever the hell teenagers think is cool these days.  (Okay, you can point me there, but if it sucks, I’ll come back & scold you publicly.)

Currently reading The First Tycoon, which is a massive biography of Cornelius Vanderbilt, and also my first foray into non-performer biographies.  Kinda digging it.  Learning a lot I didn’t know about US history, railroads, origins of capitalism, etc., but it’s not the type of biography (nor am I suggesting it SHOULD be) where you get much of a sense for the subject’s personality.  The author (TJ Stiles) obviously had very few primary references (CV’s been dead for more than 130 years), so the direct examples of his persona are nil, and even the secondary ones lead you to conclude the guy never wasted a breath on words he couldn’t squeeze a penny out of, so his persona has a very bright tinge of money around it.

Currently watching… well, we’re still reveling in the DVR we finally got.  We DVR a lot of things & “watch” them later – most of them we turn on & then end up doing other things or playing with the Nugget while it plays in the background.  But a current sample consists of:  Holmes on Holmes (HGTV), Your OWN Show (OWN), Enough Already! (OWN), Conan… there are actually an embarrassing number of additional shows from OWN.  But it’s no surprise really – the woman set out to launch a network full of shows that help folks lead their own best lives, and she succeded, and A LOT of us are really interested in that stuff.  We still make appointments out of all-time favorites:  Modern Family, The Good Wife, Grey’s Anatomy, The Office, Community & 30 Rock.  The newest winner:  Nurse Jackie.  Comcast has turned on a free month of Showtime On Demand.  In the last two weeks the wyf & I have gone through all 24 episodes in the first two seasons.  The stories are okay, the characters are GREAT (I *heart* Zoey Barkow), and the writing is FANTASTIC.  It has the flavor of a darker, more personal Sorkin.  Not sure which of the three writers from those seasons it comes from, but it’s addicting.

As for movies, we just screened The Black Swan & True Grit last weekend.  From the comforts of our living room. :)  A friend of a friend has some not-so-ethical colleagues at an agency in L.A. that happened to send copies of the Awards season screeners.  They were both fantastic movies & well worth the hoopla.  Jeff Bridges deserves accolades, as does Natalie Portman.  Also Hailee Steinfeld, the young girl in True Grit.  Not so much for Mila Kunis or Matt Damon – both were good, and I loved Damon’s slightly naive take on a Texas ranger, but there are better supporting actor nominees in the running.

We also recently saw Due Date.  All I have to say about that is that we would’ve seen The Social Network instead if it had still been out, and we would’ve felt far more satisfied with our use of the grandparents’ babysitting capacity.

Finally, I’ve been keeping up with a few more blogs recently.  I check Zen Habits a lot.  I check Mark’s Daily Apple, although my interest is waning.  And I always find something interesting at The Happiness Project.  They all seem to speak to my desire for simplicity, for doing & owning & using less.

There’s a purposeful lack of musical influence.  Why?  I don’t listen to new stuff.  AT ALL.  My new car (2011 Hyundai Sonata) has XM radio, which has 3 or 4 comedy stations.  Since I bought it in October, I think I’ve listened to all the material they have for one of them, and the other two or three are either All Canadian or All Contemporary African American comedy, which I’m generally less in the mood for – only so many days I can laugh at bits about bacon & being poor or fat or fat & poor.  And the Blue Collar channel is abysmal – there’s no way the target audience for that crap can afford to pay $8 a month for radio.  They can’t even afford public schools, and those are free.

So I’m COMPLETELY MUSICALLY STAGNANT.  The last new suggestions I got were from my sister, in 2007.  That’s three years’ worth of evolution that my mind has gone without.  I thought maybe Ping would help, but either it doesn’t work well or it takes too much effort to get value out of it, because I’ve yet to get value out of it.  I’m in this situation because I generally don’t listen to music (even pre-XM), and when I do I just listen to whatever radio station is on, or to my iPod playlists.  I’m generally fine with that, but three years… three years was long enough to build the Hoover Dam.  A lot could’ve changed since then.  Thoughts?  If not, no biggie.

However, I could REALLY use some new inspiration for running mixes or great songs to run to.  I have 5 or 6 different playlists on iTunes that I use, but there are still only probably about 70 songs between them, with a lot of overlap between lists.  I’m even running to a lot of John Williams themes.  Would love it if someone could help me spice that up.  (If I’m unsuccessful in this post, this may become a new post all on its own.)

New Year’s, Schmew Schmear’s

This whole show called Life has changed.  A LOT.  History started to change about 3 years ago, and then the future changed when Kate arrived in May of last year.  The present, if that’s what you call these fleeting moments of intermission between acts, moves too fast to document.  That’s one reason (okay, it’s one attempted excuse) to explain my complete inability to maintain my blog.

But I don’t care if I fail at maintaining it to some absurd standard frequency I’ve set.  I’ll keep writing – erratically scheduled, a mélange of topics, self-referential exploratory voice, and any other $5 phrases you can think of to describe whatever this thing is – and hope that I haven’t completely alienated all of you.  (I think maybe only some family members & a few techies with RSS feeds of this still read.  RSS feeds are … something I still haven’t figured out how to wield in such a way to make my life easier.)

That being said, there are a lot of events of sheer magnitude – a baby, re-writing the upper branches of family trees, moving cross-country, closing myself off to outlets like acting & this blog – that would justify completely re-scripting this to fit the last years’ worth of posts, much the same way my life’s changed.

Well that just won’t work.  This is me.  This is part of whoever I am, and it’s the part that is whatever I say.  The only thing I know (or at least come close to knowing) is me.  Write what you know.

So here I am.  I’m in New Jersey.  I’m still working with the same company, same role, same everything – just doing it from here & going back to the West Coast once a month to maintain relationships.  I moved back in September/early October, and in the three months since, we’ve done a lot of adjusting.  Adjusting lifestyles (only one of us working, both of us closer to friends), adjusting finances (one income, extra body to clothe), adjusting eating habits (how to eat tons of the world’s best pizza & not look like we do), adjusting activity levels (horrible weather, have to drive more than we walk)…  but it’s a new year & a new act, and we feel settled.  Settled in a good way, though.  Not in, like, the dying way. :-)

Being a new act, and having a fresh new calendar year at the same time, it’s been pretty hard to resist the temptation to chase every dream I’ve ever had all at once.  It’s like someone opened a jar of carefully curated butterflies called Things We Could Do, and I’m running around with this tiny little net called 2011, and for some reason I think I can fit all the butterflies in my net, tie strings to their wings & make them do my bidding.  Open a restaurant.  Or at least go to Culinary School.  Start a charter school.  Or at least be a teacher.  Be a cooler, funnier, younger, less Southern Dr. Phil.  Or at least watch all the OWN network the DVR can capture.  Finally get into the shape I think I deserve.  Or at least try the caveman diet for three months.  Blog every day & write something that will add a spark in people’s minds.  Or at least make my 8-month old daughter laugh out loud once or twice.

But here was my epiphany (NOTE:  I almost just wrote “a-ha moment” – I really gotta lay off of the OWN network):  January 1st is no more special or accommodating to life changes than any other day.

Realizing this & embracing this is the first of what I’ve come to identify as Shitty Sacred Blessings.  The Shitty:  that means all of this energy for change that you feel on New Year’s Day, all that Resolution magic, is artificial, superficial, one of the other -ficials – and propagated by Hallmark & seafood vendors & diet companies & sauerkraut companies (I think we all already knew that sauerkraut companies are up to no good – their reason for being is to take the worst-tasting vegetable & make it soggy & then sell it to you so you force it on your kids as “tradition”.)  Made me feel kind of Shitty.

But the Sacred Blessing:  that means that when you decide to act on that energy & make those changes, you can do it ANY DAY YOU WANT.  There’s no need to wait for a new year or until you move cross-country or whatever particular “natural” inflection point you might think you need.  (I think the January 1st thing is strictly that – it feels like a natural point of inflection that comes on a regular basis – but consider that the entire concept of time & calendars is man-made and arbitrary and therefore not natural, and you’ll free yourself from the same gravity that causes the New Year’s Rockin’ Eve ball to drop.)  You can pick your own point of inflection.  That is nothing short of a Blessing.  It may or may not qualify as Sacred… but really, that adjective is highly misused – it’s rarely used, but when it is it’s almost never used properly.  So piss off.

I don’t know where all these thoughts are going to lead us, but I can honestly say that this is the first time I’ve felt like we’re embracing our ability to choose our own path.  Why is that happening now?  IN NEW JERSEY OF ALL PLACES??  I can’t say for sure.  (I can say that it has little to do with the State of New Jersey itself, although I’ll admit to being somewhat fascinated by Chris Christie.)  But if I had to venture a guess, I’d say it’s because San Francisco always felt temporary.  Because we knew it would be.  We knew we could neither afford real estate nor to raise a child out there without becoming debt-leveraged, lottery winners, or slaves to larger corporations.  Hence we knew we weren’t there forever, because both of those things were goals, and none of those requirements were particularly appealing.

But now, even with all this energy around change & all these adjustments we’re making, our location feels permanent.  … No, that’s not the right word.  It feels… very Aronofsky.  As in there may or may not be an end to it, but if it kept going forever you’d be okay with it, and if it does eventually end you’ll be glad you went through it.  It just feels like we don’t have any guaranteed forks in the road ahead, which means we have (or at least feel like we have) much more control over the steps we take toward our golden sunset.  Pretty good feeling.  Away we go!

Oh, and in an update from the prior post:  the wyf uses the iPad more than I do.  She loves it.  Loves the convenience, the portability, the enhanced productivity that results from both.  It’s a surprise that she’s as in to it as she is, but it’s also surprising that it means I’m not using it as much as I thought I would either.  Most of that may be because it’s not worth fighting over who gets to use it & when, and it’s DEFINITELY not worth having two of them.  Plus, the majority of time she’s using it to sell/give away some of our stuff via Craigslist or eBay, or helping to organize her best friend’s wedding.  I’d just use it to look up random crap and/or spend money in the App Store or iTunes.  De-cluttering our space trumps IMDB inquiries almost every time.