Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Don't let the door hit you in the ass.

Well, damn, 2008. You were a pretty craptacular year.

Take away kicking some GOP tail in November, there wasn't a hell of a lot for us to get all warm and cheery, looking back.

Not that I haven't had some pretty rotten New Year's before.

1980 in Reception Station, Fort Dix, New Jersey. The guy in the bunk above mine had some prime smoke to help celebrate, seeing as how he'd been sent off to the Army by a judge in Jersey City to avoid a felony assault conviction. Cold linoleum floors and the smell of wool blankets. Sweet.

1996 on Butner Road in Beaverton. Beaverton New Year's Eve tradition - and, mind yet, Beaverton is the sort of anonyburb where traditions are as scarce as beavers - is to drag out the hogleg at 11:55 and start blasting at the stroke of midnight. At the passing of 1996 the little suburban cul-de-sac housing my first wife and I sounded like that Lebanese kid's game "A Pack of Savage Moslems on the Roof of the Holiday Inn With A Crate of RPG Ammunition and Two Cases of Camels". Every year we lived there I had to resist the urge to crawl under the bed until the feu de joi ended just in case some nimrod's spent round came down through the ceiling.

So the firing drops of to desultory skirmishing, my ex falls asleep and I'm drifting off myself when a woman screams somewhere over in the next development. And I'm not talking about kidding-around screaming, or the sort of screaming that gets you embarassed when the kids wake up and find you both wearing nothing but Cool-Whip. I mean real terrified, lung-ripping screaming, the sound of a woman in pain or in panic fear.

I sit bolt upright, eyes staring into the dark. She screams again, more distant this time. I run to the door, throw it open, listen. Nothing. I shuffle my shoes on, a robe, walk out to the edge of the street. Nothing. No movement, no sound. Nothing. And nothing more for the rest of the night, either. And I know because I didn't sleep until dawn...

1999 here in Portland right after my first marriage went to hell. Yeah, that was a pretty poor one.

And, of course, December 31, 2002. Just ten months after losing our little girl Bryn. Mojo working part-time, pregnant, and terrified for Baby Shea. Working a crummy temporary teaching job in Canby, 18 hour days making bupkis teaching geology to the science-impaired...

Damn. I HAVE had some bad ones, haven't I?

So this New Year's, with two sweet kids cozy in bed, working hard at a job I like, with my bride doing great in her consulting, getting slender and athletic from her bike-commute...and so many of our friends themselves doing well, and particularly the friends just starting the families, their homes full of crazy kid goodness or the hopeful anticipation of same...

Life seems pretty damn fine.

So, in the spirit of the great Hogmanays of the past: May your hearts be as open as your hearths. May you have friends across your threshold bringing the gifts of salt and black bun, wine and the ouisghie bagh, the Water of Life.

And may your new morning be filled with light, and love, and the promise of the coming year.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Sprouting!

I want to send out a big CONGRATULATIONS to the newest mommy in our adoption gang: Kelli of "Waiting for Sprout".The Rumor Queen is giving the 2/28 an R4, which all of you China Adoption hands recognize as a Good Thing if your log-in date is 2/24!

So, shabash, Kelli! Are you ready? Are you excited? I hope so, cause ready or not, here comes mommydom. And it couldn't happen to a nicer - and more prepared - prospective mommy.

Now go get that girl!

Friday, December 26, 2008

2008 in Video

So now you've seen Little Miss in her very own video, what else calls to us through the magic of the electronical Internet?

(Maggie Jochild over at Group News Blog had a great idea for Christmas Day: publish the videos she most enjoyed through 2008. In the polygamous tradition of success having many parents, here's my purely personal collection of "My fave videos" in no particular order.)

Where the hell is Matt Harding? Make sure you go here and watch the HD version. Just because.


srv reminded me of this: the dancers of the China Disabled Person's Performing Art Troupe perform the Dance of the Thousand Hand Guanyin: I posted this before and Blogger deleted it because of a "terms of use" violation, which gives me a "what the fuck" violation, since YouTube still has it up here and it seems like a personal use. I think it has to do with the terrific mix the YouTube poster made of Steely Dan's "Bodhisattiva", which blows away the lame mysterious East music used for the original performance. So if Blogger deletes it, again, follow the link and check it out. The troupe - and "vickieburns3", the poster - totally rock.


This is one I share with Maggie: OK Go performs "Here It Goes Again" on the synchro treadmills: "It starts out easy, something simple, something sleazy, something inching past the edge of reserve.
Now through the lines of the cheap venetian blinds your car is pulling off of the curb"


Better than Disney on Ice. On dope.


The video that did - as far as I was concerned - the simplest and best job of defining John McCain as a candidate: Like hope, only different...


I love Carly Simon. I love her voice, I love her goofy, widemouthed smile. And I love this song, a cross between a gospel choir and a Women's Institute singing a paean to the Greed Is Good Eighties: Two thoughts: First, I would have Sigourney Weaver's babies if she asked me to. Don't fuck with me about the how; for her, I'd figure out a way. Second, Carly, what's with that spastic little "dance" you're doing between 2:50 and 2:57? Are you goofin' on us, or is that really how you dance? Cause if it is, girlfriend, we gotta talk.


Black, his codpiece made of leather.

You probably know him only from his debased performance as "Bean". But "Blackadder" is Rowan Atkinson's greatest creation: Hugh Laurie does a hilarious turn here as the eeeeevil German master of disguises. "Such a disappointment for a girl..." But the best bit is the first 1:30, where Blackadder plays charades with his Spanish torturer. "Ah, a scythe..."


This really shouldn't be in here - it's really just an audio track with a slideshow. But I love the Jason Wade cover of this wonderful old Chilton Price song so much, I hunt it up and listen to it while I'm writing or doing similar computer chores at work: Lovely.


Ever since the first humans domesticated the cat, feline observers have been trying to decide the nature of the cat's natural prey: the human baby and toddler, or the black bear (Ursus americanus). Well, here's visual evidence - it's BOTH: Not sure what I love so much about this. The Presidents of the United States "Kitty" is a kick-ass tune, the multiple cat-crashes and baby attacks...but the "cat chases bear" clip is...well, watch it and tell me what you think.


The classic: Sarah Palin and two other turkeys: The best thing in this is the little guy - let's call him Olaf - running the turkey butchering machine. He keeps looking at her and then off-camera right, like his boss is standing there miming "Kill! Kill the fucking turkey already! Don't...don't look at her, just kill the goddam turkey!!" You can almost see Olaf thinking "I dunno if this is such a good idea..." No, Olaf, it wasn't. But it wasn't YOUR idea that was the problem...


I ran across this guy in an odd way: idly watching the (truly mediocre) Meg Ryan vehicle "French Kiss". But at one point the soundtrack brings on Paolo Conte's "via con me" and the screen turns a little bit magic:


Another love I share with Maggie: the "bouncing balls" Sony commercial: Just because it looks cool.


I've always had a real fondness for the beautiful harmonies of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, here performing "Rain": And we here are all hoping for some rain, I should add. Enough snow and cold; let's return to our regularly scheduled Oregon winter.

And of course, here's me own self, in the Jib Jab video of Campaign 2008:
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Hope you enjoyed. Back this weekend with more domestic bliss! And then it's on to 2009, and the Return of Politics.

Missy: Bouncy Christmas Girl

I've never tried to upload video before, but still photography couldn't capture this:
videoLittle Miss decided that Christmas Day was so exciting and she was so happy that she had to bounce everywhere instead of walking. And she did.

Every so often she'd bounce up to Mojo or me and give us a fierce hug around the leg, saying "I love you, Daddy" (or "Mommy") before bouncing away.

The level of cuteness involved was nearly lethal.

I apologize for the sideways view - I forgot that the camera doesn't shoot video "sideways", i.e., you can't rotate the image like a still.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Holly Jolly.

Well, the last scraps of the turkey-and- are put away, the tree lights are off for the first time since 6am. Two very excited little peeps are in bed dreaming of who knows what...the "one-child-one-major-toy" policy Mojo and I tried to impress on the relatives was shot to hell before 7:15. The Peeper has every single battery in the house shoved into one whirring, spinning toy or another. Missy spend the day chanting "Want brown kitty!" which is the carved wooden cat treasure box her auntie gave her that contained the totally inappropriate pierced fricking earrings (what, do we LOOK that white-trashy..?) and racing from one arts-and-crafts gift to another crafting her vision of "bunny!" (black crayon scribble), "mommy!" (black marker scribble) and "kitty!" (for a change, black pen scribble).

I'm whipped, Mojo and the grands are alredy asleep. We're ALL ready for the snow to melt so we can move freely about Portland. I live in hope.

And I also hope that you had a happy, warm and loving day with your friends and family all around you. Special love and hugs to little Torrie and Odie and their new mom and dad on their first Christmas together - may their be many more.

I'm for bed. May tomorrow find you well and looking forward to the new year.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Holly Jolly Christwhatthefu...?

I know I promised I wouldn't post anything political or military until after the New Year but this was just too freaking wierd to pass on.

(Big tip of the hat to The Rude Pundit, who unearthed this horrible oddity)...

This is...I...what...I can't really figure out what to say other than if you wrote this in a story people would laugh and sneer at you. It seems beyond ridiculous. Follow the link; Santa, military bands, kids building holiday dioramas including dismembered "terrorists" with fingernail polish blood, balloons and flags and palm trees and automatic weaponry and body bags.

That's just...fuck, I dont know what it is. Wrong. Wierd. Messed up like polio.

I try to remember that this is supposed to be a time all about home and family and hope and peace. But it's hard.

There's a hard old world out there. And so many things to keep a Daddy awake at night.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Holly Jolly Christmas

I remember loving Christmas as a kid.

(And, no, even southeastern Pennsylvania isn't this balmy in December; this is my family's back porch, Kennett Square, PA, circa 1966. That's my sister Shrew in the coolie hat. I'm in there somewhere.)

I didn't get it, of course. We were Christianus gregarius, common or garden-variety Presbyterians, whose primary object of devotion (as far as grade-school me could determine) was the money everybody put in the beautiful brass plates with the red velvet in the bottoms on Sunday morning. Sure, I remember stuff about this "God" guy and some "Jesus" mook, but the real magilla was when the organ rose to a swelling throb and the neatly-suited ushers came by and passed the lushly heavy metal plates full of lovely money. We passed it along with a fervent hush, the grave men bore it to the altar where we worshipped it with song and prayer.

Church was all about the cash, baby.

But every December we did have a cool change in the decor. We got pine and holly, candles and swags and creches. We trolled the ancient carols, the only Jesus songs I could sing along to, I mean, shit, what second grader can remember the tune to Old Winchester? We heard the story about how the shepherds were watching flocks, angels were heard on high, Baby Jesus hung with the ox and the ass and Three Kings turned up, the Star shone and the multitude of the Heavenly Host proclaimed Peace on Earth, Goodwill towards Men.But of course, all of that paled alongside the lovely, lovely Stuff. Shining lights, pretty music, jolly Santas beaming the promise of Christmas Day loot. Food; mountains and oceans and prairies of tucker, all converging on the things that a little boy enjoys: a full belly, hands full of unearned loot, days full of freedom from the drudgery of schoolroom and full of parents free from work and obligation.

Plus, let's face it: kids of the Sixties had the Most Kick-ass Christmas TV Evah. From Rudolph (1964) through Charlie Brown (1965) to the Grinch (1966), my elementary school years were lit up with the Yuletide glow from the cathode ray tube. If you couldn't feel Christmassy listening to Linus explain the holiday by quoting the Gospel of Luke...well, you were just a scroogy old Scrooge.

The glow of that childhood affection for all things Wenceslausy remained with me a long, long time. Christmas for single servicemen, for example, has a kind of rosy second-hand warmth to it.You get to feel like you're standing guard while the families celebrate, and you get sentimental about phone calls and letters from home far away. My first marriage made Christmas very pleasant and painless; enjoying the kid happiness of my in-laws while remaining free to celebrate by flying off to Baja, or skiing Yellowstone in the winter...

It is only slowly that the grinding commerce and gaudy sentimentality began to wear down my affection for the holiday. Watching my own child, as Godless as I was but with less churching, enjoy the same worldy greed that I enjoyed helped remind me that what was "special" to me was what came from Christmas, not what went into it. Adulthood freed me from dependence on the largesse of parents and Santas. With a skeptical and independent mind I couldn't help noting that the written documents fail to support the tradition of a winter Nativity, or of the supposed trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem, or pretty much any of the rest of the traditional version of Luke that I remembered from Linus' Christmas speech or from Sunday School Christmas stories.

The Christmas story is a wonderful one, as is so much of the story of Jesus' life and work. I hope it's true, I wish it might be, as I wish that Jesus could live in the hearts of so many of His believers who hate and reject others in His name, who believe that if they kill them all God will recognize his own, whose acts make a mockery of faith and a terror of religion. But I have no reason to believe that, contrary to much of what I see and hear, that celebrating a God and the birth a Savior whose believers are no better (and in many cases worse) than other men and women is something to be cherished. Mojo is considerably more practical than I am: she likes the lights and she likes the trees and she likes the presents and the family togetherness and the music and the vacation and the general "Christmassyness" of December. She has no problem picking out the "holiday" elements and simply ignoring the religious foundations. If anyone is sapping the foundations of Fortress Christian Christmas it is she - Bill O'Reilly really needs to know about her, the godless wench.

I am simply an atheist, a pagan. I'm not fighting a War on Christmas; I'm in neutral Holland, placidly reading about an event that touches me not a whit.

For I cannot embrace a religious holiday without the religion. For me the slogan is correct for all its triteness: Christ IS the reason for the season. If I cannot accept Him then I feel more honest and respectful celebrating Zappadan or Festivus or the rebirth of the Great God by celebrating Sol Invictus.

I feel hypocritical, when I think about it, decorating trees and singing carols. The trees and the lights ARE lovely, and the music is glorious. But at bottom I am unmoved. I love my family, and I love enjoying Christmastime with them. But keeping Christmas in my heart?

So this year I will enjoy the family gathering around the tree and the wrapping and the lights and the faith of my mother-in-law and the Santa-worship of my son. But inside I will only raise a silent glass of Talisker to Frank, and Mithras, and the returning Sun. An end to winter cold and the return of Spring and life I can celebrate: a religious festival that is not my religion?

I cannot.

But I can enjoy some delightful Christmas snark with you, though. So here, with the holiday toast of the contentedly godless, is Ebenezer Blackadder in Baldrick's Posing Pouch from "Blackadder's Christmas Carol":Noel!

The "Arctic Blast of 2008"

You know those parts in the horror movie where the supernatural slasher finally goes all postal and starts making coeds into ceviche? And there's always one of the monster-fodder that goes completely bugnuts at this point, sobbing and screaming and clawing at the scenery in a frantic, futile attempt to escape the fate she understands with horrible clarity that the screenwriter has meted out to her at the bottom of page 63?

Portland is like that about snow.

We get completely, mindlessly fucked up. Our streets are like the trail of the Grand Armee' back from Moscow to Smolensk littered with the wrecked debris of passage, our businesses close, our public institutions shut down; we just huddle in the cold and dark and wait for the sun to return like Paleolithic hunters shivering in terror through the eclipse.

I drove from North Portland to Oregon City today. With chains it was unpleasant but do-able; the worst part was the pathetically Victorian level of Portland "snow removal" meant that my little Honda Civic was often belly-down in the snow.

Nobody else made it in. I puttered around, did a little housekeeping, and now I'm ready to go home. No big deal. Anyway, here are some images from Portland's "Arctic Blast" of 2008: Amherst Street at 7:30 a.m.And a couple of artistic treatments of our yard all lovely with the snow.Hope you're enjoying better weather than we are, or are at home skiing and enjoying the snowfall.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Die Weiße Hölle vom Piz Palü

When I was in high school our German class watched a 1929 silent film starring the lovely and talented Leni Riefenstahl (who later became the unapologetic hagiographer for one of history's nastiest murderers) called "The White Hell of Pitz Palü".

At the time I was living outside Chicago, which in the late Sixties and early Seventies endured a number of exceptionally cold and snowy winters. The coincidence was too much for my feeble brain. The title of that old flick has forever hung in the back of my head as the description for a really snowy day. I was once viciously upbraided by the battalion S-3 for putting the title at the top of a battery status report one weekend at Ft. Lewis during a brief flurry of snow-like ice particles that is wha normally passes for "snowing" in the lower Puget Sound region.

But...this weekend in Portland is VERY different. I'll explain in a bit. But first, let me introduce you to my daughter's boyfriend.

He's four, which makes him an older man. I'm almost a decade older than my bride, though, so I'm poorly placed to lecture her about the caution an impressionable girl needs around aging roués. And he's bald, which made Mojo believe, at first viewing, that the show was a tragic story about a child dying of leukemia. No. He's just as bald as I am. Hmmm...what's that about a girl looking for a man like her father..? Maybe I shouldn't be so fast to get squicked out about ol' Caillou.Anyway, old and bald make no difference to Baby Girl: she luuuurrrves her some Caillou. At some point in the day she will toddle over and look at me with those sweet little girl eyes and lisp "Up!", which is a command for hugs and carrying in Missyspeak. But all this is merely the sweet kitten teasing the sour puss: after toying with my affections she will squeak "Watch Caillou on 'puter!", which is my cue to carry her down to the workstation so she can fill her eyes with her inamorata.

Oh, sure, we watch some Barney, and the Wiggles. But it's really all about Caillou.

Ah, sweet bird of youth. My little girl is growing up so fast...

Speaking of which, here she is trying on Peeper's old baby shoes.

What a minx. She's also doing something tricky and Vanity-Fair-ish with her pullups. Go figure; you can't get the girl to watch "Project Runway" but put her in a disposable diaper and a pair of too-small shoes and suddely she's channelling Dita von Teese.

She's lucky she's a cutie, is all I can say; "It's always tempting to impute/Unlikely virtues to the cute." Helps her get away with mur-der.

So I think I mentioned that we've had some snow? Here's the crew snuggling on the couch to try and stay warm - we've had a historic dump of the white stuff, and today is supposed to be worse: wind, freezing rain, ugh...Mind you, no cold ever frozen could keep clothes on the Peeper.

Here he is as that adorable character, the Littlest Sumo. That's mommy's bathrobe tie as his mawashi. Note that daddy convinced him that looping the thing under his boy bits so as to create a sort of three-dimensional "trylon-and-perisphere"-type effect was just wrong.

This is what we like to call one of his his "queerbait" moments. We hope that his first girl- or boy-friend will understand that a young Drama King's just gotta DO this stuff sometimes. He's pretty loveable when he gets all silly and foofy like this - we found we like him better as Sally Bowles than as Grumpy McCranky, which is his OTHER out-there personality.

The latter comes out when you beat him at Stratego.Fortunately for the Peep, he has found one opponant he can consistently beat: Gramma. His manic little happy dance when he captures her flag is a true explosion of disrespect and poor-winnerdom. I can only cringe to think what's gonna happen the first time he does this to someone who doesn't love him. I hope he's learned some discretion before then...

So. Here's downtwon Portland, Pioneer Square, as the snow continued to fall yesterday. The official Portland "holiday tree" (yeah, I know - it's a Hanukkah bush and a Kwanzaa shrub, too, right?) is in the near background; 75 feet of mighty Oregon timber (note cute, athleticly chilled wife in foreground for scale).

Oh, and I'd suggest visiting the link for the tree lighting to read the comments; the second is perhaps the finest pure snark I've read in a long time. Sweet.

We grabbed a bite at Portland's finest all-turkey-restaurant-run-by-Chinese-Americans, shopped at Ross-dress-for-less ("Cheap, and we fuckin' like it that way") and then met our friends Brent and Janelle at the Heathman Bar for a cocktail and chat. The downtown was a Hollywood set of lights and drifting snow, the perfect setting for a Christmas movie. Of course, it was also freakin' cold, but, whatever. You can't get the cool FX without cost. Here's Pioneer Square from the other direction, lookig romantic in the snowy twilight.And then back to the MAX and the snowdrift that was our little Honda and then home. The morning light is showing drifted snow like I've never seen it. Amazing.

Brrrr!!!! Time to go outside and play before the freezing rain starts! Back later today.

Hope you're having a great weekend-before-Christmas.

Oh...which reminds me; this is an off sort of time of year for me, Christmas, and I wanted to talk about that. Remind me if I forget, ja?

Auf Wiedersehen von die weiße Hölle vom Piz Portland!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Beats hell out of Lunesta

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Stop hiding and start living, with Margaritas.

Margaritas may not be right for everyone.

Women who are pregnant or nursing should not use Margaritas.

However, women who wouldn't mind nursing or becoming pregnant are encouraged to try it.Side effects may include: Dizziness, nausea, vomiting, incarceration, erotic lustfulness, loss of motor control, loss of clothing, loss of money, loss of virginity, table dancing, headache, dehydration, dry mouth, and a desire to sing Karaoke.

WARNING: The consumption of Margaritas may make you think you are whispering when you are not. The consumption of Margaritas may cause you to tell your friends over and over again that you love them. The consumption of Margaritas may cause you to think you can sing.(h/t to Clueless Carolina Gal)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Eye Candy

Jobu say: gods angry.Is this the definition of "buffed", or what? I think this guy has managed to define muscles where muscles shouldn't be, proving once again that male dancers are incredibly beautiful. (This particular eye candy is for Lisa, BTW)I just liked the composition, with the little girl in red amid that dappled sea of white burqas.I have a couple of dozen jumps on my DA Form 1307 but offhand I don't remember seeing this anywhere on Sicily DZ...THAT's a close call. For more, visit "The year 2008 in photographs" here. There are times when video really doesn't tell the story better. (Big h/t to Nancy Nall.)

Holidaze

So poor Mojo is finally feeling a little better a week after her surgery.

The kids still have a bit of a hard time understanding why Mommy can't pick them up. I left for work this morning with a little pack of begging babies following their mom around like wolf pups whining "Mommy! Mommy!" - there are times when it's hard to believe that the Peeper is a big five-year-old; he can act like a teen-ager and then he's suddenly whining and crying like a toddler. And, of course, Missy IS a toddler!

The grandparents are sleeping on the inflatobed in Missy unfinished room, and I'm struggling with some sort of loathesome stomach bug. Half the Christmas stuff is yet undone and the weather has been utterly appalling; ice, snow, sleet, freezing rain, dogs and cats living together...it's bloody awful. How we're going to get all the way across town to my company's holiday do I don't know.Anyway, all of this is a long way 'round to say that I haven't been posting because it's been completely nuts around here. Hopefully the weekend will allow me some time for reflection. In the interim, you can't do better than to check in on what Ranger Jim has to say about what our pointless "capture-the-flag" battles in Afghanistan say about our lack of political and military leadership. Read what Paul Krugman has to say about the Madoff Men and their effect on our Republic. Consider Fred Clark's ruminations about fairness in the life of dogs and men. Or, if you're in more of a holiday mood and you just want simple beauty, enjoy the lovely images and pensive moments of the Wanderer's Daughter.

And I'll be back shortly.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Fame is rot...

...daughters are the thing (James M. Barrie)No reason for this post. Just looking through the December photos and realized that our little girl is extraordinarily adorable. The photo below is a game we play called "Little Monkey" or "Help! This Baby Has Caught My Arm!" She loves it almost as much as "Rockababy" (i.e. "Rockabye Baby" - the game being that I hold her at shoulder level and rock her until the line "down will come baby", where I let her free-fall to my waist and she shrieks with laughter.)Her combination of sunny disposition and cuddling nature make her, to my thought, irresistable. But who doesn't think their little girl is adorable? I suspect that the adorability of one's children - and especially one's daugher - is Natures' way of preventing you from defenestrating them when they, say, stuff an entire roll of toilet paper down the crapper.

Here's more adorable: she is "being like the kitty".Garrison Keillor said "The father of a daughter is nothing but a high-class hostage. A father turns a stony face to his sons, berates them, shakes his antlers, paws the ground, snorts, runs them off into the underbrush, but when his daughter puts her arm over his shoulder and says, "Daddy, I need to ask you something," he is a pat of butter in a hot frying pan."And it's very true; understated, if anything. I am a slave to my little girl, whose bright eyes shine brighter than my sun and moon and stars.Her latest adorable even manages to make the Christmas Greedfest mildly tolerable. She has grasped the concept of Santa, so now whenever we see a Santa she makes a gesture with both hands to her breast, and says "Santa come give Missy present." and extends her arms in a giving gesture. The whole performance is utterly charming.Now my sleepy girl is in bed, dreaming of what I cannot guess. But I can hope that it is of her mother and brother and her daddy, who love her very much.

The Wonderpets Save The Nutcracker

Gli animali domestici di meraviglia conservano il schiaccianoci”, a light operetta in one act, score and libretto by Josh Selig.

Scene 1: the one-room schoolhouse, day.

The operetta opens on a rustic schoolhouse as the children are departing for the day. The schoolroom, decorated to the typical standards of a late-twentieth-century American rural classroom, is tenanted by the three class pets: Linny the Guinea Pig (Sofia Zamchicka, alto), Ming-Ming the Duckling (Danica Leia, soprano), and Tuck the Turtle (Teala Donato, tenor). The animals are performing common domestic pet activities when the tranquility is interrupted by the ringing tin-can-and-string telephone. The lyrical festivities begin with the delightful partita “Il telefono sta squillando” (The phone is ringing):
Linny: " Il telefono, il telefono sta squillando! "
Ming-Ming: " Il telefono, we' il ll è immediate là! "
Tuck: " Il telefono, il telefono sta squillando! "
Linny: " Ci è un animale nel di difficolta!”
Ming-Ming: " Ci è un animale nei de diffiqwolta!”
Tuck: “Ci è un animale nella difficoltà in qualche luogo! "(Linny: "The phone, the phone is ringing!"
Ming-Ming: "The phone, we'll be wight there!"
Tuck: "The phone, the phone is ringing!"
Linny: "There's an animal in trouble..."
Ming-Ming: "There's an animal in twouble..."
Tuck: "There's an animal in trouble somewhere!")
Linny, the leader of the group, explains the situation in the recitative “Un schiaccianoci” (The Nutcracker):
Tuck: "Un schiaccianoci è bloccato in un tubo de gas!"
Ming-Ming: "Ciò è sew-wia!"
Tuck: "Dobbiamo aiutare il lei"
Linny: "Lascili conserva il schiaccianoci!"
Tutti: "Lascili conserva il schiaccianoci!"


(Tuck: "The nutcracker is trapped in a gaspipe!"
Ming-Ming: "This is se-wious!"
Tuck: "We have to help her!"
Linny: "Let's save the nutcracker!"
All: "Let's save the nutcracker!")
With that, the classroom animals perform the “Transformation Dance” and become The Wonder Pets, donning their costumes and assembling “The Flyboat” from common classroom items.Boarding the flyboat they take to the skies with their anthem “We' con riferimento agli animali domestici di meraviglia!” (We’re the Wonder Pets!)
Tutti: "Animali domestici di meraviglia! Animali domestici di meraviglia! Sciamo sul nostro senso, per per aiutare un schiaccianoci e conservare giorno! "
Ming-Ming: "Siamo non troppo grande, "
Tuck: "E sciamo non troppo duro, "
Tutti: "Ma quando lavoriamo insieme sciamo ve ha ottenuto il roba di destra! Vada, domandi gli animali domestici! Yay! "

(All: "Wonder Pets! Wonder Pets! We're on our way
To help the nutcracker and save the day!"
Ming-Ming: "We're not too big,"
Tuck: "And we're not too tough,"
All: "But when we work together we've got the right stuff!
Go, Wonder Pets! Yay!")
Scene 2: A gaspipe, Moscow, day. The Wonder Pets arrive to find the nutcracker trapped in the gaspipe by the evil Mouse King, with a dangerous pressure building up behind him and an explosion immanent. This is expressed through Ming-Ming’s solo ““Ciò è seria” (This is serious). Suddenly, the Wonder Pets to rescue the nutcracker they have to work together. They reprise their earlier song “Lavoro di squadra!” (Teamwork):
Linny: "Linny,"
Tuck: "Tuck,"
Ming-Ming: "E Ming-Ming, too."
Tutti: "Siamo animali domestici di meraviglia e we' aiuto del ll voi! "
Linny: "Che va funzionare?"
Tutti: "Lavoro di squadra!"
Linny: "Che va funzionare?"
Tutti: "Lavoro di squadra!"

(Linny: "Linny,"
Tuck: "Tuck,"
Ming-Ming: "And Ming-Ming, too."
All: "We're Wonder Pets and we'll help you!"
Linny: "What's gonna work?"
All: "Teamwork!"
Linny: "What's gonna work?"
All: "Teamwork!")
Linny performs a grand jete putting the boot to the Mouse King, the nutcracker is saved, the sugar plum fairies appear out of nowhere to give grateful thanks to the Wonder Pets for saving their friend. The Wonder Pets celebrate with a celery snack, which the fairies insist on preparing with tea in a genuine Russian samovar. All celebrate with the riotous dance “Ciò richiede sedano” (This calls for celery). Exchanging goodbyes, the Wonder Pets then fly back to the classroom, singing:

Tutti: "Animali domestici di meraviglia! Animali domestici di meraviglia! Abbiamo trovato un senso, per per aiutare un schiaccianoci e conservare giorno! "
Ming-Ming: "Siamo non troppo grande,"
Tuck: "E sciamo non troppo duro,"
Tutti: "Ma quando lavoriamo insieme sciamo ve ha ottenuto il roba di destra! Vada, domandi gli animali domestici! Yay!"
They wordlessly return to their cages and the Flyboat smoothly disassembles by itself. Linny is the last one to get back in her cage while the tybalium that played during saving the day is played. Linny takes a bite out of the celery in her cage and blinks and...

[curtain]

A satisfying juvenile rendition of the Christmas chestnut as rendered in anipomorphic drag: Zamchicka, a young Hungarian mezzo-soprano is lithe. She does not have a large voice but is a rare, real and very centered Linny. Hers is the sort of sultry mezzo Tchaikovsky wrote for. And, given that this is a children’s show, she also turned the smallness of her sound (small but hardly tiny) to advantage. She phrases like a singer of chansons. She has a deliberate style, careful with pitch, rhythm and text. She is able to vocally convey meaning between the lines of the libretto. Passion could be awakened in this temptress, although it took time to overtake her self-possession.

Donato proved a reliable Tuck, stiff as a turtle shell most of the time. Danica Leia, as Ming-Ming, brought a measure of sweetness and cream. As the Nutcracker, Raymond Aceto sang to the crowd (in the audience, not the crowd on the stage), but what’s a Nutcracker to do when dressed like a nightclub entertainer and also asked to perform when stuck in a gaspipe for 9/10ths of the role? The PBS Children’s choruses managed to sing well even when they looked quite confused. Flyboat flight scenes were phony. Gerardo Trotti's set of Moscow/Fairyland reminded me of the bar at the Russian Teahouse on Tualatin Highway.

Otherwise, the PBS Operetta production is notable for its musical efficiency and jerky CGI animation. Emmanuel Villaume competently moved things along. The conductor alternated between aggression and offhandedness, but he did take pains to achieve supple playing from the orchestra. The entr’actes were lovely.

Rebroadcast Sunday, Dec. 16 at 8pm.


(Hopefully this gives you an idea of the last three below-freezing shut-in days - for the Peeper it was Star Wars, for Little Miss, Caillou and the Wonder Pets. After the third (fourth) viewing of this thing I was ignoring the content and focusing on these Wonder Pet episodes as operetta for toddlers; they have all the right ingredients, especially dialogue almost entirely in song. So I came up with the idea of a post about the WP as an opera review. Presented with the deepest apologies to operaphiles, balletomanes and especially my daughter Maxine, who, no matter what "naughty Daddy" says, loves the Wonder Pets)

Just Shoot Me

So my wife is recovering from surgery, my in-laws arrive tonight, my kids are boinging around in a crazy frenzy of Christmas greed...and we're supposed to get snow tomorrow SO THE SCHOOLS WILL BE CLOSED THE REST OF THE WEEK..!!!!Meaning that all six of us will be housebound. In a little house no more than 1,100 feet square. With nonstop Christmas specials on TV.Shoot me. Just make it quick and shoot me now.Sigh. Sorry I've been so bad about posting. I do have some thoughts to bring up. Maybe tonight.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Joyous Zappadan!

...and a merry runup to all those OTHER minor religious festivals, too.

I'm as overbooked as an Illinois federal assistant DA assigned to the Springfield field office; Mojo's down, Peeper and Maxine are up. And it's That Time of Year...You know, Zappadan. That mystic interlude between death and birth of Frank Zappa, that great spirit of rebellious intellect - that time when, in the words of the prophetess; "that ethereal time when there was no Frank, so we must celebrate him to keep his spirit safe until his birthday again".

I've only got a moment, so all I can say is that, in regards to what the news I've been reading says about the state of our Republicis that, as it tells us in The Book of Frank, Chapter 14, verse 1:

"Government is the Entertainment division of the Military-Industrial Complex."

Sheesh.