Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Dark Knight = Dark Nightmares

Baby Girl had a slumber party with grammy and dapaw--mommy and daddy had a date with the Dark Knight!

What a great movie ... and what a theater full of questionable judgement. There were half a dozen or more kids who looked to be under 13. Good luck with the nightmares, folks.

Perhaps the questionable judgement belongs to the Motion Picture Association (MPA).

The movie is rated PG-13, but is really riding the edge of the guidelines for violence. Here's what the MPA has to say about violence in a PG-13 movie: "There may be depictions of violence in a PG-13 movie, but generally not both realistic and extreme or persistent violence."http://www.mpaa.org/flmrat_ratings.asp

Realistic, Extreme, and Persistent Violence describes the very essence of many scenes.Heath Ledger's Joker is a masterful piece of villainous acting. The Joker is a sadistic creature whose sustenance is violence and mayhem. The many closeups of his face are like a window into the soul of realistic and extreme violence. The grippingly persistent violence that holds you as he leisurely brushes his knife-edge across the faces of his terrified victims are certainly crossing that imaginary line.

Perhaps I am looking too closely through the refocused lens of a new parent (which is a whole blog topic in itself), but this movie seemed to be too much for the average 13 year old. But, as a co-worker said, every kid is different; one parent's 10 year old might be capable of handling the violent content, while another's 14 year old may not be.

With the movie ratings and review resources available on the Internet, I think there is no excuse for blind parenting in the movie theatre.

By the way ... this is really a great movie. By far, the best Batman so far on celluloid. Ledger has almost certainly earned a posthumous Oscar nod. And Christian Bale is quickly scaling the ladder of sought after leading men in Hollywood.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Cocktail Haikus

Musings over post-baby-bedtime drinks.

tasty beverage
concoction that soothes the brain
hear the ice cubes clink

one part triple-sec
one part Absolute vodka
twist of lime and stir

magic elixir
a shot, a squirt, and a splash
soothes tired parents

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Last of the Longhairs

My brother has had hair half-way down his back since the early '80's, and this past weekend he had his head shaved to the skin ... for charity!

His church, Wyatt Park Christian Church, held a fundraising event for St Baldrick's Foundation. This charity asks volunteers to shave their heads as a way to identify with children undergoing chemotherapy. The volunteers then ask friends and family for donations for the foundation in exchange for seeing them given the clipper treatment.

Needless to say, with a headbangin hairdoo like his, the donations poured in. My brother raised over 1,500 dollars for cancer research.

As if the contributions were not enough, those rockin locks of hair are on their way to Locks of Love, an organization that makes wigs for children who have lost their hair to many forms of illness and disease.

Did I mention how awesome my brother is?

That long mane of hair has been part of his identity for a very long time. The fact that he let it go for the benefit of children shows a much bigger side of his identity and speaks volumes about the type of person he is.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Garden Fruition

After months of digging, raking, pruning, brush clearing, planting, mulching, and sweating, our garden is starting to take shape!

I should say gardens. Mucho plural.

In the front of the house, there is a large rock garden with numerous groups of flowers, grasses, plants, and ground cover; a small sedum-only garden next to the porch; and a short bank next to the neighbor's drive with a peony's and English ivy.

The backyard features a 60' boomerang-shaped color riot of wildflowers backed with slowly emerging hollyhocks; an island of small, medium, and large sunflowers to camouflage the neighbors workshop; Roma and Big Boy tomatoes, green, red, and yellow, serrano and jalapeno peppers, and and a creeping monster pumpkin patch; and a fence corner rose garden surrounded by creeping thyme.

I failed to mention the most numerous plant ... WEEDS! Those little bastards are everywhere. If you have a bare patch of dirt, it takes weeks or months for purchased plants and seeds to get established, but give a weed five minutes of sun and a thimble-full of water and it's Jack-in-the-Beanstalk time!

Ahem ... excuse me ... back to the fruition part. Last night after a tasty Papa Murphy's Mediterranean pizza, we fired up the mosquito lanterns and the fire pit and enjoyed a nice glass of wine, or two, with some fresh-baked cookies (the oven was already hot after all).

Conditions were perfect: lower 70's, low humidity, little wind, and a cloudless starry sky with a 3/4-full moon peeking above the trees.

Before dusk, our baby girl amused herself with her favorite backyard activity, picking wildflowers. After it turned totally dark, she sat with mommy and daddy watching the fire and playing keep away from the dogs with her cookie. But all good things must come to an end, especially for those with small children. After our old knees gave up the bouncy-bouncy game, baby girl decided it was time to go inside.

More projects are in the works including a patio area in the crook of the boomerang, and a mulch-covered romping ground with a slide, climbing wall, and swingset to give the wildflowers a chance to recuperate from time to time.

Work is the operative word here. It is a lot of work, but we enjoy it, and times like last night make it all worth the effort.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

"Thursdays with Bill"

“Thursdays with Bill” I called them. Apologies to Mitch Albom, but that is what they became.

I met Bill in the early 90's while working a part-time job with a PC company that could not have spelled customer service with both Merriam and Webster at the chalkboard. I was putting myself through college, and this place inspired me to start my own business. “Surely I can do better than this.”

Bill was one of my first customers.

My wife and I attended a memorial service for Bill this past weekend.

Nearly every Thursday, I had spent an hour or three in Bill’s apartment helping him with his computer. In his seventies, his doctor told him to quit watching TV and reading and get something more interactive to keep his mind active. His family got a computer for him from the aforementioned company. We started with Solitaire to get used to the mouse, then moved on to the Internet and email.

Photography came next. Bill was already an avid photographer and traveler, and he came home with many megabytes of photos. I helped organize the growing collection in folders, and made backups on CD. He emailed his favorites to his kids. We hooked up his laptop to the big screen in the assisted care public meeting area for travelogues for his fellow residents, and often, several staff members.

Every Christmas, he designed his own card. We would go through the past year’s travel pics and put his faves on the card. U.S. Open, European river cruise, Russia, family get-togethers at various corners of the US where his children lived, each card offered a retrospective of the previous year. On the back of the card, he put: his name and all rights unreserved. There was also a graphic he used that was a PC mouse colored with a Christmas holly pattern; along the cord scrolled the words "not a creature was stirring."

Another project was to document his experiences in WWII. Bill was a captain in the Army Air Force and flew cargo planes across "the Burma hump" from India to China over the Himalayan Mountains. We recorded over 40 minutes worth of stories that he later shared with his family. His daughter later transcribed and added them to a scrapbook along with many of his favorite pictures.

As the Thursdays and the years added up, our working relationship turned into a friendship. We watched tennis matches during Wimbledon and the French, US, and Australian Opens. Bill was an avid player in his younger days. I had never watched tennis before, and to this day it is one of my favorite sports (Go Rafa, Go). Some days he was just not up to working on the computer, and we would just visit. He told me about his kids, and about his wife Molly, and about his life. I learned a lot about Bill and his family, and I learned a lot about myself.

As the years passed, Bill's health started to slip. PC tasks he had mastered years before had begun to get lost. I spoke to one of the resident assistants that I had gotten to know and she and some of the other staff had noticed. His family had started to notice.

Bill moved to the northwest to be closer to several of his children and their families. I met my wife-to-be around this time, and we married a short time after. Our baby girl was born a year and two weeks later. I sent pictures to Bill of our wedding, and later of our baby. I wrote him a letter to let him know how much our time together meant to me. I was a confirmed bachelor well into my thirties, but Bill's life and his glowing descriptions of his wife and family opened my eyes to what I was missing.

Like Mitch Albom in "Tuesdays with Morrie," my life was enriched during my Thursday computer sessions with Bill. For every PC tip he learned, I learned a dozen life lessons, and I gained a true friend.

At Bill's memorial service, I finally met in person the five children that I had gotten to know through Bill’s descriptions and vacation photos. The look in their eyes when I said, "I'm Bill's computer guy," made me feel like I was a part of their family. Several of them said that our computer sessions added years to his life, and I told them how much he had meant to me. I wanted to say so much more. I wanted to say the things that I have wrote in this post. The time was much too brief. My wife and I had planned for two weeks before to spend the whole weekend remodeling the still-vacant house we had lived in when we first married.

I composed most of this post in the sleepless early morning hours after Bill’s service. As the day and night passed after the service, I thought more and more about Bill and our Thursdays and his family. I really beat myself up over not taking advantage of not going to the wake afterwards and talking more with Bill’s kids, and telling them in person what Bill meant to me. Oh, we had our reasons, we had remodeling to do and we knew we would have not gotten much done that day, we are both a little on the introvert side, we would have used a valuable "grandparents watching the baby” day, but as I pulled plaster off the walls, I thought about the opportunity I had wasted in not talking to them.

As the week has passed, I have added to this post, and I have realized that I made the choice that was best for my family. We got the last of the old plaster off the walls, and got it hauled off to the dumpster. I like to think that it might have been the decision that Bill might have made. His family meant everything to him, and I feel the same.

Thank you Bill for teaching me so much and thank you for being my friend.