February 23, 2006

Three years old and counting

Today, my angelic looking golden haired, green (they seem to be changing color) eyed boy turns three. He is very excited. "People come mine party?!?" Yes, people come his party. On Saturday.

I did an entry last year about his birthday and I doubt I can improve on it, so: The Birth of the Boy Child.

I'm leaving early today to take them all out for pizza, a child's best friend. Hopefully, I will not forget to get cupcakes.

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Off to D.C. for the day

Tomorrow finds me leaving the house at 5:00 (right around my usual time, come to think of it) to head off to D.C. for a morning meeting. One meeting. Many hours of travel to partake in said meeting. While in D.C., after my meeting, I will have lunch with my cousin and ride back on the train with my bestest and dearest friend from law school. It should, from a social perspective, by quite a snappy day.

Oh, and the meeting, if it all goes swimmingly, could just result in a change of career somewhere down the line. It is an "informational interview". You know, you get to ask all sorts of questions while the other guy gets to decide whether you are smart enough to interview for a real job without any pressure to make a decision. At least, that's how I hope it will all pan out. We will see, won't we.

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Today's reason why I'm happy art history never panned out

I read the following statement by a curator of a new exhibit and it filled me with joy, the kind of joy you can only get when you realize you dodged a blivet (a fifty pound sack filled with one hundred pounds of horse manure):

"This exhibition is about arriving at a point of hypervision, where our senses are acute and we finally perceive the act of looking as a physical, emotional and transformative experience,” said Markonish. “The artists participating in ‘Hypervision’ bring viewers into this space of increased perception and make them conscious of their own act of looking."

Can you imagine spending your days in an environment where such language was not only acceptable but actually encouraged?

*exaggerated shudder*

I'm happy to keep thinking about art. Its the reading about it I can't seem to do anymore.

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February 22, 2006

Punishment

When nursing a hangover brought on by mixing too much bourbon, white wine, red wine and a lovely post-prandial MacCallan 12 year old and then trying, but failing to sweat it all out after 60 minutes of working out (890 calories burned), it is just the height of unfairness for the guys laying carpet in the hallway outside of my office to be playing the Bee-Gees. At high volume.

I have no idea how I am going to get that song out of my head today.

I just hope it happens before I have to give remarks to 75 people at a dinner tonight at 6:00.

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February 21, 2006

Silence, etc.

Sorry for all the quiet. My office has been receiving a new paint job and new carpet. I have moved out and back. I have helped others move out and back. I am exhausted. Regular posting to commence again shortly.

I'm off to put on my tuxedo and have a drink.

Pax tibi.

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February 17, 2006

The Cult of Secrecy: Where is Cheney in this?

At least two days have passed and there has been no news from the Vice-President's office. Not one word. No interviews, no statements, nothing. And you know what really bothers me? The media is totally complacent and not calling him on it.

Vivi escaped from her cage at the airport two days ago. Despite a massive search, no one can find her.

It was all over CNN this morning like it was an issue of critical national importance.

And yet the Vice-President still hasn't spoken.

And the media still hasn't asked him to.

What is happening to this country?

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February 16, 2006

Random walk through my brain

I have been way too swamped to put together a decent, coherent post. So, I choose instead to punish you all with a post consisting of semi-coherent, not totally thought out reflections. Your choice to read it, of course. No one will force you.

* * *

Defer my gratification? Please. I don't do that so well. I am not a good waiter. I am not patient in lines. I don't see everything as a plot to frustrate me when I am waiting in line, I just don't like it.

The same goes the other way. Good news? A present? I cannot wait to share them. I can barely wait for the birthday to roll around to give my wife her gift. Good news is the same thing. Even if it is a secret or if discretion is the better part of valor, I burn to share my happiness. Of course, that doesn't apply if it is somebody else's secret; those I can keep without a problem.

So, care to hazard a guess about what state I am in right now after being told that something marvelous is happening? Something splendid? That the chances of the something happening have now gotten way, way more better? But that the something I am referring to won't really start to be great, if it happens at all, until the end of 2008?

Two years to wait. Two years to count down until I know for sure. Two years before . . . I'm not even close to sure how to finish that sentence.

I got two years to count before I know. A lot can happen in two years. A lot of things can change or slip or mutate. Wars take place, circumstances are altered, capital markets can collapse. The Girl Child will be almost 7 by then and the Boy Child 5. The New Baby, assuming everything goes well, will be looking forward to his/her 2nd birthday.

So, here's to change properly directed and more good news in 2008.

* * *

Cheney in a hunting accident and CNN can barely keep its panties on. Does anyone really care about this? Would it be any different if he had whacked some guy in the face with a frisbee? Or smacked someone with his squash racquet?

I spent an hour in the gym listening to CNN go on and on about all sorts of things. I can't recall hearing one single positive word about America or our government. I don't get it. Really. According to CNN we are either Satan's spawn or terribly incompetent. For goodness sake, just pick one already.

* * *

New pictures of old abuse in Iraq. Timing of release? Suspicious. Behavior of news media who mention, as if an afterthought, that the pics are from 2003 and are not current, horrid.

* * *

Danish cartoons. Islamic reactions. Over-reactions, really. Can you imagine, if you tried, a more prickly less self confident group of people than those who are so terribly wounded by a Danish newspaper?

Come on, we're talking about Danes, here. A people so placid that their Prime Minister (or maybe Foreign Minister, can't recall) said that this was the worst foreign relations crisis for Denmark since World War II. Must be nice to be Danish.

Cartoonists pick up pens and people die. Just goes to show, the most dangerous thing in the world is not a nuclear weapon, it is an idea.

* * *

Work is, once again, kicking my butt. I think a new career is in order. I've been saying that for some time, however. Next Friday, I venture down to Washington D.C. to meet with someone who, if all the stars are aligned, might actually be able to help me. Maybe I can squeeze in a drink or late lunch with my cousin on the same trip. That would be nice.

* * *

I am feeling more curmudgeonly with every passing day. At this rate, I am going to just calcify in place.

Good thing we're having another baby. That keeps you young.

Or leaves you so tired you can't remember how old you are.

* * *

They are painting my office on Monday. That means I have to pack the whole thing into boxes and move it out into another room so they can paint. Everything has to go.

Tomorrow I wear jeans to work. And throw out a lot of stuff. Time to be ruthless since the situation is forced upon me.

I look around at the accumulated shite and I shudder. Probably easier to just fire to the whole thing and dance around it like some savage.

* * *

I learned that it is not true that you have to drink a bottle of vintage Port the same day you open it. This is happy news. You can keep it for between four days and a week, depending on which of the two experts I spoke to you care to believe. I err on the low estimate. Either way, I am glad to hear this.

* * *

Back to the salt mines.

Pax tibi.

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February 09, 2006

Time Suck of the Day: Ask Oxford

The Time Suck of the Day, been a long time since I found a decent one is: Ask the Experts at Oxford about Language.

What word rhymes with orange in English? There isn't one. Know what the other color is that doesn't rhyme with anything? Go check out the link and find out. Find out what is so interesting about the word "bookkeeper". (Hint: oo-kk-ee).

Hours of fun, I tell you. Hours.

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Our weekend away

We were adults last weekend. Childless adults. If you have kids, you know the kind I'm talking about. The kind who dress beautifully for dinner (because nobody is there to smear food on you by accident), the kind who goes to museums to spend as much time as they want there, the kind who gets up an hour before breakfast is served at their quaint b&b so that they can read Civil War history without fear of interruption or demands that other books by read to small critters, the kind who can imbibe adult beverages whenever they felt like it, the kind who could sleep without baby monitors buzzing away, the kind. . . No. Here I stop. You get the idea and if I keep this up the memories of my pre-child days, most of which I have carefully locked away, will return and drive me batty. No, instead, I will simply review our weekend.

Since it is a very long entry, the rest is below in extended entry.

We escaped, not without tears shed, on Thursday. The Girl Child was quite reluctant to see us go. In fact, the only way we escaped, I think, was to tell her that if we didn't leave, we could not return with a present. That, in a nutshell, was sufficient consolation. This was our first trip away from the kids in about a year.

The drive up to the Berkshires was lovely and took me through a part of Connecticut and Massachusetts I have never seen before. Must be terrific in the summer months. There is something to be said for going off season to a popular destination. The people are simply more relaxed, the traffic less frantic, the restaurants less crowded. It feels half empty and a little sad, sometimes. Sort of like everyone is waiting for something and you know that something ain't you. Its a slow time, made worse for the locals by the lack of snow, I perceive. No snow? No skiers.

We arrived at our b&b without incident. We stayed at the Applegate Inn. It was delightful. The breakfasts were yummy and copious and the room was luxurious and faintly decadent -- a bathtub in the middle of the bedroom overlooking the gardens and a shower with two shower heads. A gas fired fire place lit the room at night and they thoughtfully provided a full decanter of not bad brandy, which I availed myself of shamelessly. This was our room. The pictures don't really do it justice.

We had drinks soon after unpacking. The Inn has 5:00 wine and cheese. We met and chatted with some of the other guests, who we actually enjoyed meeting. Then off to dinner and an early night.

We started our day on Friday, our first full day, with a little shopping at the nearby outlet center. As with everything, we spent more money than we intended but got some good and useful stuff -- new winter boots (probably for next winter at the rate this one is going), for example. It was pissing down pretty hard that morning and I think we benefitted since, in many of the shops we went into, we were the only customers.

lion inn.jpg

Then, off we drove to Stockbridge for lunch. Stockbridge is the home of the Red Lion Inn and pretty well known. A little history first. The Red Lion Inn, operating since the late 1700's, claims to have been the headquarters for the 1786 Shays Rebellion during which "Daniel Shays led a group of more than 100 local farmers and citizens in protest to British oppression and unfair taxation".

Or so claims the Inn's site. I kind of doubt it myself. Firstly, the Brits were gone from Western Massachusetts in 1786. There was a little thing called the Revolution in 1776 so I doubt the Brits were still oppressing the farmers. Second, it was a bit more than a protest. In fact, it was an armed insurrection. The Supreme Judicial Court Historical Society has a well written write up on it. Second, most of the action was in Springfield, a good distance from Stockbridge. So, call me a sceptic.

Lunch at the Inn, however, was very nice and then, off we went for a post-prandial stroll, since the rain obliged and went away. Then off to the Norman Rockwell Museum. It so happens, we arrived in time for the Viking Bride to partake of some of the birthday cake they had out for Mr. Rockwell's birthday. Neat.

Before my visit, I sort of didn't really think much of Mr. Rockwell. My mistake. His work has a breadth and a depth of intellect and emotion that blew me away. Mostly, you have to see it yourself in the oils. The prints just don't do him justice. He was an American genius.

Some of my favorites include:

Freedom of Speech


-and-

The Gossips

After our museum visit, and more shopping in the bookstore, we rambled our way back to our Inn for wine and cheese and to dress for dinner.

We dined at another Inn, tucked away, far from everything. It was called the Williamsville Inn and it was perfectly charming and merits a return overnight stay, especially since they are very welcoming of kids. The dinner was excellent. First, they had mulled wine. I limited myself to one because, I don't know, but there must be something in the mulling process because I always find mulled wine to be much stronger than the unmulled variety. The Viking Bride and I had almost the undivided attention of the chef, there was only one other couple dining there that night. If you care, I had the: Trilogy of Duck Foie Gras on Corn-Raisin –Port wine sauce and the Sauerkraut Platter with sausage, boiled bacon, smoked pork loin & roasted vegetables, close to a choucroute, which I adore. The Viking Bride was happy with: Cheese Spaetzle with roasted onions, with Emmenthaler & Gruyere Cheese and Wiener Schnitzel, sauce tartar, roasted vegetables, and mashed potatoes followed by the Bavarian style warm apple strudel with vanilla sauce. Did I mention it was a German restaurant? If not, I'm sure you twigged to it by now. We ended up having just a lovely chat with the co-owners/chefs. We got back to our Inn on the late side, but not too late for a brandy.

Saturday was gorgeous and warm. We spent the morning limbering up, stretching the stomach muscles and getting ready for what I was sure would be a highlight of the trip. The Superbowl of Chili. That's right, sports fans, Chili. One of my top 3 foodgroups. Turns out a local art school was holding a fundraiser to build a salt kiln. You showed up at the school, picked out a handmade bowl for $10, filled it with chili, to your heart's content, and ate until you were sorry. It started, officially, at 11:00. We arrived at 10:45. I immediately scooped up the single largest bowl on the table. I grabbed a few more that I thought were just plain beautiful, paid, and made my selection among the five or six homemade chilis on offer. I filled the big boy with chili and looked around for my bride. She was still picking her bowl, carefully weighing them in her hands for balance and feel. I added sour cream and went back for hot sauce and grated cheese. She was examining the glazing for a pleasing consistency. I sat down. I waited. She selected between two bowls. I went back for coffee. She made her selection, chose a chili, and joined me. My chili was still warm, thankfully, although I think it was a much closer thing than this description might indicate.

We ate too much. Ok. I ate too much. I ended up having thirds. We also had a very nice chat with the director of the ceramics department and admired the girl with the blue hair.

It was pretty much perfection. How could we top that? By a beautiful drive up county to Williamstown to visit some art museums.

First up, the Clark. This is a gem of a place. A first rate collection of impressionists and some other lovely paintings. Including, this Monet:

monetrouen.jpg

Not necessarily worth a drive of more than 2 hours, we concluded, but a lovely place to visit just the same.

I cannot, however, say the same for the Museum on the grounds of Williams College. That museum was a wonderful example of everything that is soooo wrong with art historical scholarship today. It was a huge disappointment. If you visit and see the visitor comment book at the end of the exhibit on pain in photography, look below the gushing comments for mine. I left: "Contrived and terribly self conscious." See if they left it in. I'd be curious.

This exhibit, purporting to juxtapose the works of "contemporary artist" Lalla Essaydi and 19th-century French painter, Jean-Léon Gérôme in particular was atrocious. Let me quote from the press release:

This exhibition marks the unveiling of bold new work by contemporary artist Lalla Essaydi in which she challenges the worldview of 19th-century French painter, Jean-Léon Gérôme. Her large and provocative paintings are juxtaposed with Gérôme’s iconic painting The Slave Market, generously loaned by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. All of the paintings in the exhibition depict classically rendered figures and evocative architectural settings; while the French picture invites voyeurism and stereotypes the so-called ‘Orient,’ Essaydi’s paintings will not allow it. All her figures gaze right back at us and command respect, be they male, female, or hermaphrodite. Complementing the monumental photographs of women, for which she is already well known, these paintings challenge our assumptions of North Africa to foster cross-cultural awareness.

If you thought that was perfectly sensible, I invite you to leave. Now. The essays that went along with the "paintings" selected for this were mere recitations of popular buzzwords and jargon, devoid of actual thought or first class criticism. It was enough that the paintings "transgressed", as if transgression was a goal in and of itself and as such worthy of praise and genuflection. I walked out angry and, at the same time, happy I did not end up in the field as a professional, which almost happened. A narrow escape indeed.

We then amused ourselves with a hot chocolate on Spring Street and a gentle stroll around parts of the pretty college campus, where all of the students looked to be no more than 15. 16 at the most.

At this point, our plans for the evening changed. The Viking Bride, who had been quite the trooper up to this point, felt that attending the Beethoven piano concert at the college that night was just beyond her. So we left, went back to the Inn for wine and cheese and had a perfectly forgettable dinner.

Sunday arrived and we departed. We left on the early side so as to enjoy the peace and solitude in our empty house, something of a novelty for us, I assure you. We had a happy drive down and went out for lunch, again, just the two of us.

We picked the kids up from my parents' tender care after naps and in time to join everyone for dinner. My dad, bless his heart, made yummy beef goulash and we ate too much and watched the first half of the Super Bowl with them. Then, home for baths and bed.

All in all, it was a lovely weekend.

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February 07, 2006

An important reminder

If I get a chance later, I will blog about the lovely long weekend away with the Viking Bride. However, I may not get to it right away while this experience, this one I wanted to memorialize right away before any of the details faded.

The Boy Child has taken the word no, internalized it, and turned it around as his new mantra. Everything not involving candy/cookies/dessert is no. Everything. To say that this tests my patience, the little I have, is sometimes distressingly clear, despite my very best efforts. Last night, maybe, my efforts were not as good as they should have been and I snapped at him. Not loud and not hard and not mean, but I was certainly exasperated and short.

The Boy Child reminds me, at times, of our old Kuvasz. My wife will understand. The Kuvasz is a very sensitive animal. The Boy Child is a very sensitive animal. You have to be careful with both. You really have to pick your moments if you intend to yell at either one. Neither took it well. The Kuvasz would hide his 120 pound white furred body on the black couch. The Boy Child will burst into tears and seek his mother's arms. I know this.

After being short with him, he left the Girl Child's room, I was trying to get them both to bed, and sought out his mother's tender embrace. His mother is a bit exasperated with the constant "nei, nei, nei" (no in Norwegian) that she gets, too. I got the Girl Child into bed. Good. I went in to collect the Boy Child from his mother because the Viking Bride can't really lift him so easily in this the sixth month of her pregnancy.

At his mother's urging, he apologized for his earlier disobedience, which I had actually kind of forgotten about, especially since I was just sort of a little ticked and not really angry before. I told him it was ok and that I forgave him and I thanked him for saying he was sorry. Then I picked him up to cuddle him while my wife went to bid good night to the Girl Child (who, by the way, knowing that her mother's back bothers her, untucks herself to stand on the bed to receive her good night hug and kiss so that her mother does not have to bend down to give them).

After we cuddled, I put him down to sleep. The room was dark, lit only by the nightlight. He lay with his head on the baby blanket he uses for a pillow, having rejected all other pillows but the blanket my mother knit for him. I stroked his fine and golden hair and told him that I loved him and, as I ran my fingers through his head, he told me the following:

You hurt mine feelings.

Me: I know, honey, and I'm so sorry.

BC: Not nice, make people sad.

I know it isn't. And years from now, when you read this, it will be more than ok for you to know that when you told me that I hurt your feelings, I had to choke back a sob. It was a very close thing as to whether I was going to cry.

So, an important reminder, words to live by, whatever: Not nice, make people sad.

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February 01, 2006

Overheard on the Street: A long wait for a table

This was not overheard by me, but was overheard outside of an Upper East Side restaurant and reported at the end of a review in the NY Observer:

Outside the restaurant, one of the customers was smoking a cigarette and talking on his cell phone. “I went home with one of the hostesses two weeks ago,” he said. “When she saw me tonight, she said I’d be waiting a long time for my table.”

Made me smile.

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The quiet is deafening, ain't it?

I have been terribly busy and thus without sufficient time to really blog. This makes me feel a little bad because, no matter how putrid the outcome, I really enjoy the writing. Hopefully, I will have more time to blog going forward.

In the meantime, I hope not to lack for material as my lovely wife has given me a subscription to the Economist. How did I survive for so long without such a subscription? Partially there has been an intimidation factor. It is a serious obligation to read the Economist every week. Mighty time consuming and I just wasn't sure I would do such an expensive (around $100 a year) subscription justice. But, with my longer train ride, it looks like I will be able to fit it in just fine. Yay!

Look for more posts soon, I hope.

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Media biased? Really?

Unless you've been living in a cave, you are aware of the current debate that the media in the United States does not present an unbiased view point when covering, well, just about everything. This is not a secret and should not come as an earth shaking revelation. But whatever. You kind of note it and file it away and move on, most of the time. But sometimes, just sometimes, it jumps off the page at you, or off of the television, and you just stand there, gobsmacked, like I was this morning.

I was watching CNN during my morning perspiration at the gym today and the talking heads were discussing the whole Cindy Sheehan thing -- you know, she got tossed from the chamber before the State of the Union speech, right? Now, I had to go to CNN to get the name of the talking head who said this, because they are kind of all interchangeable for me, but it was Miles O'Brien talking to Soledad O'Brien and here's what happened. Soledad said that Cindy was asked to cover up her shirt and refused and that's why she was escorted out. Miles expressed confusion when Soledad said that and referred to some papers in front of him, saying, "that's not what it says happened on her blog or on the letter she wrote to the Michael Moore website". Excuse me, Miles, Cindy's blog and Moore's webpage are supposed to qualify as authoritative news sources? Are you kidding me?

Who says that the media ain't biased? I'd rather believe that they were biased than that they were just this fuc*ing stupid, ok?

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