Latest Dilemma

Posted in library stuff, music, rambling on 24 May 08 by mikevc

So, here is my dilemma. Next weekend is the event that I have spent the last year and a half working toward as Chief of Central Services: the reopening of the Central Library in Houston. It is going to be a big deal and a lot of fun. There will be authors, music, food, puppets, dancing, games (video and other), books, and fun (again). I would encourage folks to attend.

It just so happens that the night before the celebration, the Old 97’s are coming to town. I have been a fan of them as long as I have known my wife (I know this is odd and seemingly random but I remember first discovering them the day before our first date (November 1997)). It was the 97’s who turned me on to Bloodshot Records and the whole alt-country thing of the late 90s, which opened a whole world of music I did not know existed at the time. In the past ten years or so, they have come to town numerous times but something has always prevented me from attending.   In most cases, I was out of town when they were here.  They are rumoured to be a great live band. I will grant that their latest release is good but not as great (to my ears) as their early stuff and they have strayed a bit from the country twang that was so endearing in their earliest releases (AND some members moved from Texas to Los Angeles (Booo!!)) but they remain a solid band and I still would like to catch their show.

Now, knowing that next weekend is realistically the biggest moment in my career (also 10 years), should I attend a show the night before? Part of me says I should since I will be so nervous I will be unable to sleep anyway and a great show will calm my nerves and take my mind off of the big event. Another (more sensible?) part says I shouldn’t because I will be exhausted and I need to be able to be in a great mood as I welcome thousands to the library.

So, what should I do?

It occurs to me that things must be going fairly well life-wise if this is the most serious problem I am facing.

I hate to admit it but…

Posted in music on 20 May 08 by mikevc

I am a big fan of Weezer. I have been since 1994 when I first heard the opening arpeggios-into-power-chords of “My Name is Jonas” on their eponymous debut (now known as the Blue Album) on my beloved yellow Sony Sports Walkman cassette player (which incidentally lasted longer than any MP3 player I have ever owned).  “Surfwax America” and “In the Garage” further solidified my loyalty to that first album, which was a staple of my running albums back when I did five miles a day.  Since then, Rivers and crew have put out some high quality albums but nothing that matched that first album.  Here’s hoping their eponymous new album (The Red Album) reaches those heights and maybe even inspires me to run again.

TV Brings Out My Vanity

Posted in library stuff, television on 20 May 08 by mikevc

As we get closer and closer to the Grand Opening of the library where I am in charge, I am having to do more and more TV spots. The prospect of going on TV itself doesn’t scare me. It is that I wish I could go on TV looking like I did ten years ago when I ran daily and did not live on a steady diet of fast food. When it all comes down to it and despite the gradual gain of the last ten years, I am still quite vain. So vain in fact that I don’t even watch myself when I do TV bits.

Another Book Meme

Posted in books on 28 April 08 by mikevc

So, here is another book-related meme I spotted on mamacita’s blog. Quick rules:

  1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
  2. Open the book to page 123.
  3. Find the fifth sentence.
  4. Post the next three sentences.

Not too exciting in my case, but away we go:

The book is Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov, which I was inspired to start reading thanks to the last post. I bought Oblomov a year ago and never started it. So, it does have more than 123 pages. Here are the three sentences following the on page 123:

“The fascination of the Oblomovka atmoshphere, way of life, and habits extended to Verkyhlovo, which had also once belonged to the Oblomovs; except for Stolz’s house, everything there was imbued with the same primitive laziness, simplicity of customs, peace, and inertia. The child’s heart and mind had been filled with the scenes, pictures, and habits of that life long before he set his eyes on his first book. And who can tell when the development of a child’s intellect begins?”

Leave it to Russian Literature to take the fun out of a good meme.

As if there were any doubt…106 Books of Pretension

Posted in books on 28 April 08 by mikevc

So, I was reading Otrops blog and he has a bit on there about the “106 books of pretension,” compiled from the books most frequently marked unread by Library Thing users. He closes by tagging all readers to identify books they have read; books they have started and not finished; and those owned but unread.

Here are my stats: For the love of…I know it would be bad but…

I have read 68 (and really enjoyed most) and started and not finished 3 (I have read 3/4 of Don Quixote about ten times but never made it to the end).

And my list:

  • Books I have read are in bold
  • Books started and unfinished are in italics

And here’s the list:

  1. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
  2. Anna Karenina
  3. Crime and Punishment (2 times)
  4. Catch-22
  5. One Hundred Years of Solitude
  6. Wuthering Heights
  7. The Silmarillion
  8. Life of Pi – This overrated and frankly silly book was part of the reason I gave up reading fiction for several years. Maybe if I had finished it…
  9. The Name of the Rose
  10. Don Quixote (This is the book I cannot finish. I have read it a dozen times but never gotten through it.)
  11. Moby Dick (2 times)
  12. Ulysses (at least 3 times)
  13. Madame Bovary
  14. The Odyssey
  15. Pride and Prejudice
  16. Jane Eyre
  17. The Tale of Two Cities
  18. The Brothers Karamazov (4 times – I reread whenever I need to be reminded of great lit…oh, how pretentious)
  19. Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
  20. War and Peace
  21. Vanity Fair
  22. The Time Traveler’s Wife
  23. The Iliad
  24. Emma
  25. The Blind Assassin
  26. The Kite Runner – read it but think it overrated and sentimental
  27. Mrs. Dalloway
  28. Great Expectations
  29. American Gods
  30. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
  31. Atlas Shrugged
  32. Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
  33. Memoirs of a Geisha
  34. Middlesex
  35. Quicksilver
  36. Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
  37. The Canterbury tales
  38. The Historian : a novel
  39. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
  40. Love in the Time of Cholera
  41. Brave New world
  42. The Fountainhead
  43. Foucault’s Pendulum
  44. Middlemarch
  45. Frankenstein
  46. The Count of Monte Cristo
  47. Dracula
  48. A Clockwork Orange – read by accident; forgot books on a trip and this was in apartment we were staying in; surprisingly good
  49. Anansi Boys
  50. The Once and Future King
  51. The Grapes of Wrath (at least 4 times)
  52. The Poisonwood Bible : a novel
  53. 1984 (3 times)
  54. Angels & Demons
  55. The Inferno (in 3 different translations) – Please withhold comments until the end of the list
  56. The Satanic Verses – Perhaps the only Rushdie I have never read
  57. Sense and Sensibility
  58. The Picture of Dorian Gray
  59. Mansfield Park
  60. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  61. To the Lighthouse
  62. Tess of the D’Urbervilles
  63. Oliver Twist
  64. Gulliver’s Travels
  65. Les Misérables
  66. The Corrections
  67. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
  68. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
  69. Dune
  70. The Prince
  71. The Sound and the Fury
  72. Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
  73. The God of Small Things
  74. A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
  75. Cryptonomicon
  76. Neverwhere
  77. A Confederacy of Dunces – Good God, Otrops!! Waste no more time and read it!
  78. A Short History of Nearly Everything
  79. Dubliners
  80. The Unbearable Lightness of Being
  81. Beloved
  82. Slaughterhouse-Five
  83. The Scarlet Letter
  84. Eats, Shoots & Leaves
  85. The Mists of Avalon
  86. Oryx and Crake : a novel
  87. Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
  88. Cloud Atlas
  89. The Confusion
  90. Lolita
  91. Persuasion
  92. Northanger Abbey (3 times – love it – hilarious)
  93. The Catcher in the Rye
  94. On the Road
  95. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  96. Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
  97. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values
  98. The Aeneid
  99. Watership Down
  100. Gravity’s Rainbow
  101. The Hobbit
  102. In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
  103. White Teeth
  104. Treasure Island
  105. David Copperfield
  106. The Three Musketeers

So, consider yourself tagged as well. And ‘fess up to your reading pretension.

New Pictures and Flickr

Posted in boys, family, pictures on 20 April 08 by mikevc

My brother Otrops was very kind and sent us a Flickr membership since we had hit the 200 mark (the limit for free accounts). So, I am trying to do a better job taking pictures of the boys. I uploaded a number of pictures on Flickr just now. So, if you want to see the boys at Earth Day, Toby’s Open House, or enjoying an Astros game, check it out on my Flickr account.

Astros Fun

Posted in baseball, boys, family on 20 April 08 by mikevc

I have not written much the past few weeks. Busy, busy, busy with the opening of the new Cenral Library (under 40 days left). I have been having a lot of fun at Minute Maid with various family members. Toby and I went to a Tuesday $2 game last week. Toby was quite good at screaming “Go Astros” and “Lose Cardinals!”. After the first two innings we spent most of the time in the SqueezePlay playground. He slept through the final three innings. Cardinal 5, Astros 3.

Last Saturday, I was given tickets from a co-worker with season tickets who could not make it out. So, Letitia and I went sans kids. It was quite fun and we had great seats. I think I can convert L. to a fan if I bring her to more games with just the two of us. Marlins 0, Astros 5.

Today, we used the kids discount coupons from being members of the Astros Buddies Club. We cleaned up on “stuff”, ironic when you consider how hard we are working to get rid of the “stuff” that is overtaking our small house. We all got free caps, Jonah and T. both got another free cap and a hamper for joining the Buddies Club. Jonah waited in line and got a Lemonade Day backpack and–as part of signing up–got to get one item autographed by Jeff Bagwell. We got a mini-bat for Jonah. You can see him with Bagwell here. This picture was taken just as Jonah is telling him where he should sign the bat. I am afraid that all of the good work that was done in getting L. to become a fan was undone at this game because of the crowd’s (and her husband’s?) reaction (I think the phrase “mob-like” was used) to a terrible call (everyone in the stadium knew Spilborghs dropped the ball and Spilborghs knew he dropped the ball; we were in the bleachers and saw it clearly; judge for yourself in the video).

Anyway, I have been having a lot of fun at some entertaining and competitive games despite the Astros dismal–as usual–early season standings.

Check Out My Muxtape

Posted in music, web fun on 18 April 08 by mikevc

I know I broke the cardinal rule of compilation makin’ by putting the same band on twice but I figure I can bend the rules a bit as I age.

If you have a muxtape, let me know; I’ll check it out.

This is the Life

Posted in Toby, ukulele on 9 April 08 by mikevc

Tonight as I was playing my ukulele, Toby (age four) came in the room and asked if he could play music with me. I told him of course he could. I asked him to bring one of his instruments. He left and came back with his soccer-ball-shaped guitar and joined me as I was playing “Nothing but Flowers” by the Talking Heads. I showed him how to sing the “You’ve got it, you’ve got it” parts. He laid down behind me and sang along with my uke playing and out-of-tune singing while he strummed open chords on his out-of-tune guitar. After we finished the song, he said: “Wow, this is the life: laying down and playing music with your favorite person.” Indeed.

Great Music…Free Downloads!

Posted in music on 9 April 08 by mikevc

I loved what Radiohead did in releasing their album as a download for whatever the user wanted to pay. The main problem I had with the whole thing is I happen to find Radiohead’s music vastly overrated and insincere. I did download In Rainbows for a nominal fee several months ago. As I suspected, I did not enjoy it and have rarley listened to it since then. But, I love the idea of making music available and asking folks to pay what it is worth to them. In that vein, I want to point folks to two great bands who have done the same type of thing recently.

Glossary, a band who I had never heard of until last week, has released their latest album The Better Angels of Our Nature as a free download on their web page.  I was directed to their site from a trusted music blog and I have not been let down.  I downloaded the album free of charge earlier this week and it has been in very heavy rotation in my iTunes and has inspired me to investigate previous releases.  Before I do that, I will definitely purchase one of their handmade copies of the CD to help support the band.   I could go on and try dancing about architecture (Zappa? Costello? anyone?) in describing their music but instead I will encourage folks to just go and download a song or the entire album and experience it yourself.

The second band I discovered that had done this is the Dexateens with their new release Lost and Found. This is a band I had heard of but with a limited music budget have never been quite inspired to purchase their music.  Well, thanks to their free download, I am becoming a fan.  In fact, in addition to the new R.E.M. album (I am as amazed as anyone that I am listening to this given that I have not purchased a R.E.M. album since Green soured me on them in the late ’80s; but this is a really good album), these two freely downloaded albums are all I have been listening to for days.  The cool thing about the Dexateens site is you can donate money either when downloading or after.  I am a big fan of the pay after download model, where I can pay an artist based on how good I find an album and, thus, how much I will listen to it.  As I have said before, I could see paying two or three times the cost of a CD to artists I listen to over and over again (I believe I have used the example of The Drive-By Truckers in the past) and paying much less to ones I listen to less or shelve after a few listens.  Anyway, I will be donating my fair share to the Dexateens.

So, check ’em out and see what you think.  And, here’s to hoping many more musicians and bands go this avenue for releasing their music.