I’m Going to Indie Rock My Way To The Bank!

There is something deeply twisted about this. I love the goofy names of the instructors. (I didn’t link to the actual dvd because… well, I like you.)

They’re called things like “Chaos” and “Page Turner.” When you resort to porn names, you are really in an odd area. I was willing to accept porn indie rockers, actually. It didn’t seem like such a leap from singing about love to…love. But this is amazing. Sad and funny at the same time. Like inflatable furniture.

I’m looking forward to the spin offs. Yoga for the straight edger, with Bold lyrics to meditate to! Special guest instructor Drug Free. I’m as straight as the line that my plank pose forms! Yoga for Goth kids, with your instructor Gloom, and his submissive slave, Doom. You don’t actually do a workout in the goth yoga. You practice getting into and out of leather costumes.

I don’t really get the audience here. I truly hope it’s teenagers and college kids looking to workout, and not housewives trying to reclaim some strange credibility for their kids. Although the irony factor probably falls away quickly with something like this, I suppose that is an option too.

I do feel god about this in one way: this is the death knell for indie rock. No one can ever use that phrase again without me thinking of this hilarious marketing campaign and being a little bit happier than I was before I ever knew who the Get Up Kids were. So thank you, anonymous businessman, for making me laugh about love songs…again.


Waylon and Willie, and the Pretty

Unlike the lad, Arkaedi Sue has developed quite the love of music. She is a big fan of Elvis, at least the rendition sung badly by Papa, and she absolutely loves late seventies country. We have done a good bit of dancing to “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies” and “Ain’t No God in Mexico,” which is no end of fun.

I really enjoy this musical period myself. There is a humor and self-awareness that I really like, and you know that they are just having a blast. Some of the most quotable and strange lines come from these songs. “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies”:

[Cowboys like] little warm puppies, children and girls of the night.

“Ain’t No God in Mexico”:

If I’d never seen the sunshine then I would not curse the rain. If my feet could fit the railroad tracks, I guess I’d been a train.

Jennings got strange in old age, and rumor has it later took seriously goofy songs he wrote in jest, like “Okie from Muskogee.” If that’s true, it’s sad. At least Willie has kept his sense of fun.

Growing up, I was surrounded by the dueling stupid periods of country music: 80s and 90s country, pop beats and stupid hats, with boastful songs and rich suburban kids claiming they were truly country, repeatedly, and had the mullets to prove it. And Vegas style, shiny sequined jackets and short hair. The Willies, Waylons and Johnny Cash artists were out there, I imagine, but they didn’t trickle down from the smoky old pool rooms to my television in West By God. Which is for the best, I suppose. I like them now, and I can give them to my kids without any preconceived ideas or fantasies of my youth. I wasn’t a cowboy, I was a bored child in the country reading comic books. Now, Arkaedi Sue can be a dancing child in Seattle, but there’s plenty of room to pretend to be a cowgirl. Or an outlaw musician. She’ll look better in the braids than Willie.

PS. That first image is Willie, pre-braids. I like the turtleneck. The hippies did bad things to you, my friend. Braids AND pot? Sad.

I’ve Failed At This, Let’s Protest It!

I’m not a terribly opinionated person these days. That is a change in me from my punk rock roots.

This isn’t to say that I don’t have opinions, because of course I do. But the fiery, I’m right and you’re stupid brand of egotism that sometimes reared its head in me as a punk rocker are less of an issue with me now. One reason is the realization that I’m not always right, and there may be ways of approaching issues differently that are effective. And the ongoing ridiculousness of punk rock is another.

I’ve always enjoyed the punk scene, the various bands and groups that have passed through my life. I feel like I’ve learned a lot from being involved, and I’ll always be glad that I was. But I needed a small group of dedicated and fun people, which I got in the contained scenes in which I was involved. The punk scene was what me and my friends were doing, not a movement or a subculture or a music magazine. Most of my friends were a part of it, we did most of the work and had most of the fun, and everyone knew everyone else. Often more intimately than was sensible or hygienic. Anytime I ventured into the broader subculture, I was appalled and annoyed. I didn’t get the flag waving, the fashion silliness, the divisions. (Apparently neither did anyone else: indie rock became emo, hardcore became metal. People ask me what my band sounded like and I throw up my hands and scream, “I don’t know!”)

Punk rock was the protest of my friends, and in a small way maybe the protest of my generation. The bands we liked did songs about sexism, capitalism, and gender identity. But somewhere the political expressions of a small group of sincere, silly kids became something like a movement. It crossed paths with the evil hydra of political protest, and went careening into hell.

One large reason for this is that people fall into these little offshoots of pop culture when they don’t do a very good job of fitting into the broader society. Some people form a critique of aspects of their social structure, and decide it isn’t for them. Some simply fail their way into whatever group is too nice or open to kick them out. As is pointed out to my hero Homer Simpson, in any other country they would have starved to death long ago.

So, the reason for this train of thought: I was approached by a gaggle of punk rockers at the bus stop as I was trying to get my kids moving. They asked me for money for the bus. I’m a nice guy, I had a few quarters, so I gave it to them. I wanted to point out, though, that it isn’t anti-capitalist to beg money for the bus from guys who have kids, based on the assumption that they are not poor like you. It’s just that I am doing the capitalist slaving for them. So instead of wasting their precious time being enslaved to the man, my enslavement to the man allows them to ride the bus in addition to allowing my kids to eat. (Technically, I work for myself, kinda. So the man referred to is me. But still.)

I knew a ton of these people when I was more involved with the political world. They lived off of food stamps or disability, and spent their days railing against the system and trying to pick up college girls. Which is fine. (MORE than fine.) But once you fail severely at being a part of the system, you lose credibility when you attack it. I always liked the former big shot businessman who quits and works as an organizer. All six or seven of them that have ever existed.

We need people to challenge the problems of this society. But we need sincerity and self awareness from these people in order for anything real to happen. I see so little of that that I cannot be involved in any way with people that, ostensibly, I agree with. Which says something unfortunate about the state of activism today, or about Americans today.

One big problem is the romanticism of the movement. People protest wars and injustice as though there is something good in it. There isn’t. I would very much like it if there were no problems, and no protests. That is the ideal state of being. If things are bad enough that we must do something about it, that isn’t nice: it’s merely necessary. You almost get the sense that these people are happy that problems exist, so they can protest and fight. I am against unregulated business polluting our environment and paying us crap because that is bad for us. I’m not happy to be against it. It isn’t good that we have to even have the conversation! When it becomes a lifestyle, we’re in a weird area.

I feel about political awareness the same way I do about violence. I don’t like it, I wish it didn’t exist, but I do my duty to my friends and family if I am threatened. Choosing to ignore it and fetishizing it are both poor options, to my mind.

(PS Edit: I have corrected a million things in this post, any more typos just have to be accepted. Or protested!)

Dancin’ Party

It is always interesting to me how I love working with children, but have no patience for various children’s activities. This isn’t a weakness in my field: on the contrary, kids see that about me and love it. Listening to Raffi uncritically gets blank stares from children. Telling children you are quite certain Raffi is high as a kite gets appreciative, knowing nods. Kids get this stuff better than we think.

I love having little dance parties with the kids. I complain about the music, and they laugh at me. They love it. Direct Source, some bizarre and probably evil music company, puts out a lot of music marketed to kids about dancing and fun. Mostly they are creepy songs, with strange lyrics that are either not meant to be comprehended or are missives from Hell’s black heart. I hope the former. (They also publish Conway Twitty. Obviously the latter.)

Viri doesn’t usually get into these, but occasionally he’ll break out some choice moves. When the ladies are present and not biting on his typical “I’m a shark monster you’re a giant turtle” line. You know, the real ice queens.

One song on the cd “Best of Dancin’ Party” has a line, and I hope desperately that I’m wrong here, saying “That’s what I call ballin’ the jag.” Either I am hearing it way wrong, or this isn’t meant for a kid’s cd. I mean Conway, maybe. But not children! I don’t understand who puts together these compilations, or really why. I can’t imagine there is any benevolence in a company called Direct Source, but who am I to judge.

Oh, wait, I’m the guy who spends his days surrounded by the stuff. I’m exactly the guy to judge. And I do!

On a side note, this is a goofy and light post because today I made a huge mistake and screwed up Jaime’s residency application. I opened a sealed envelope that was meant for the school, and now a new one has to be ordered, and there may not be time before the deadline. So I feel like the load of loads, and don’t want to keep beating myself up over it. J is being very sweet, but the fact is it was a stupid mistake and shouldn’t have happened. Sometimes I don’t really pay attention, it’s a major fault of mine. I live in my head, and today I saw how that can screw up real things, like our plans for the next year, with one careless moment. So, lesson heard. I hope I can really learn it. My goal from this is to break that habit, and really think things through before stumbling around town like an idiot man-child. I’m going to make more mistakes, of course, but I’ll be damned if I’ll make them so easily now. The loading stops here!

Fake Miniature Fun!

I discovered recently that there is a website that allows you to make a photo appear to be a model. It’s called tilt-shift, though purists argue that the miniature effect making isn’t really tilt shift. I don’t know the photography nuance but boy, is it fun.

Here are some photos that I took, in Japan and in Hawaii. I could be crushed by Gamera at any second! The effect isn’t so great with these photos, since they were taken from ground level and don’t include a huge sweep. It works best with a huge crowd, from above. Still, a fun little feature. I can’t wait to get some nice panoramic shots of Seattle and try this out.

Running around the web during nap time leads to goofy discoveries like this. There is a good reason I am naturally inclined to live in a hut without electricity: this is what I do with it when I have it.

He’s a Jaguar, You Know

I got to watch Godzilla vs. Megalon again today, and enjoy the Jet Jaguar theme song. It doesn’t get any more comprehensible, but it is a fun movie to watch with other people. I’m not totally sure, but I think it is the third time that I have put it on when Herc and Sarah have come over.

I genuinely love the old kaiju movies. There is something sincere about them, which is odd when you consider they are goofy films about giant monsters crushing Japan. Most of the movies don’t even pretend to be anything else; they stick a guy in a huge rubber suit, tack on a cliche message about meddling in God’s domain, and have at it.

Godzilla vs. Megalon is one of my favorites, though, if only for Jet Jaguar. He’s a big robot, designed by people, though he becomes sentient somehow during the movie. He has his own theme song, which I haven’t fully translated. The first line cracks me up every time. Roughly translated, it goes, “He was made by people, he’s a robot but… Jet Jaguar. Jet Jaguar. He’s a jaguar after all.”

Jaime disagrees with me, and thinks “He’s a Jaguar, you know” is a better translation. I don’t agree linguistically, but I have to agree that, “He’s a jaguar, you know” is an awesome line. I’m going to start using it in daily conversation. (President Obama’s pick of the Secretary of the Interior is John Thompson. He went to Yale. He’s a jaguar, you know.)

Something of my fascination with Japan can be explained be these films, I just know it. There is a grandiose mythos attached to a goofy, simple architecture. Everything is mismatched yet uniform. I know there is a way that this makes some kind of connection in my brain.

And if not, hey I got two guys in rubber suits duking it out on a sound stage in Tokyo. Maybe, just maybe, that’s enough.

(No, it isn’t.)

Danger: Coffee Here

One of the fun yet bad habits I have picked up living in Seattle is coffee. Not the strange suburban “triple hazelnut mint julep banana nut surprise” kind of coffee drinking, but the slightly better, though arguably still irritating, “trying different blends and debating single origin savoring the shot” kind of coffee drinking.

I was given an espresso machine, so life is wonderful. It is, however, a dangerous invention for me. If I were the kind of person who could take coffee in moderation, it would be fine. I tend to overdo, however. Not the ten cup a day kind of thing, thankfully for those around me. But I will have three or four shots, a bit more than I should really intake in a normal day. Especially considering that my normal energy level is a bit higher than average. It helps when dealing with kids, but it makes normal adults around me want to tie me to a bench outside of the donut shop while they have a quiet drink inside.

As I have said in the past, though, it’s worth it. Hot beverages make the world a nicer place, if only for a few minutes. Have found some great new places to try, and until Jaime literally tries to restrain me, I’ll keep enjoying delicious warm beverages.

Seattle Tip of the Week

Today I’m starting another regular feature of this little blog of mine. It’ll be a general tip to living in our fair city of Seattle.

Unlike most other urban places in the country, Seattle has remained pretty provincial. I don’t mean this in the derogatory way that some people do when discussing Seattle, but I do think it’s true. This causes some strange occurrences for those who are used to other large cities.

Traffic, for instance. We deal with it, if you’ve spent any time in cities, you hate it but it happens. Seattle is not terribly difficult to navigate, really, but it boggles the minds of people who attempt to drive here. After living in Osaka, and getting around large east coast cities, I find Seattle relatively tame. But the average Seattle motorist is appalled that anyone else is driving on their roads. They shake fists, and express comic disgust when you wait for people at crosswalks, or pull to the right for a fire engine. Being good Northwesterners, they don’t do anything as garish as honking or squealing tires; but you can tell they want to scream at you. On the rare occasions they do honk I usually jump in surprise. I never did that in Osaka. Viri: “That car’s talking.” Nordic reserve prevents any outward display of emotion beyond a toss of the hand, or an exaggerated “What?” face in your direction. (If you ever challenged them on this I bet they’d tell you they had been rehearsing a play.)

There is also no use of the turn signal in any circumstance. You can take a left turn at sixty from a busy street across four lanes, no worries. I wonder if motorists occasionally wonder why the stick that turns the light on moves, and makes funny clicking noises when it does. I imagine they incorporate it into their reverie as they cruise. This is so bad that it has inspired a bit of urban legend that Washington state does not require use of turn signals. (Note: it does.)

Despite this apparent concern over traffic, however, everyone drives slowly. The rare transplant who speeds along city streets is treated with disgust. I have caught this behavior like a virus; I’m the slowest driver on Earth now. Grandmothers in east coast towns would roar past me in droves.

So, when you come to Seattle, drive leisurely. Take your time, don’t bother with signaling or noticing fire engines or pedestrians. Be mellow, don’t have any baggage or hang ups. We’re all fine here. Everything’s fine. How are you?

Child Juggling. Fun. Low Cost, Join a League!

I spend most of my time dealing with kids. Either my children or someone else’s child is typically with me wherever I go. I enjoy this quite a bit, and it amazes me that most people don’t. I had a bizarre conversation with a mother this week who was basically trying to find a way to find ways to keep her child away from her.

I understand needing a break, certainly. Kids take a lot of energy and time. But if I get more than a few hours away from my kids, I miss them. As they grow, they’re going to have more and more of their own activities and hobbies, and my time will naturally decrease. That is the way things work, and it’s fine. I look forward to being older and having my children live full and productive lives, and I don’t regret that this will happen. But I can’t imagine wishing that time away sooner.

One of the reasons I work with children is that I love them. They are so direct, and sweet. People sometimes think they are angelic, or pure, which I think is a big mistake. They hit and bite and scream too. But they do it honestly. There is a sincerity to kids, especially toddlers, that I really enjoy. The hippies who wish we could all just “be like kids” are pretty messed up, however. I’m glad I don’t cry when I drop a raisin, or hide when I poop. I’m grateful to my wife when I bring up buying a new computer and she doesn’t just scream at me or hit me and take the credit cards. Adult dialogue is rewarding and useful.

That said, I also don’t get the people who want their children, or any children for that matter, to just go away. They are fun, and goofy and sincere. That’s worth a little trouble. And they very quickly grow up and go away. That’s worth the time.

Some of Viri’s greatest hits so far:

“The poop was trying to escape. I said no, poop! Don’t go back in my butt!”

“HA HA HA. This.”

“People falling is funny. Butts are funny too.”

“I left and you were sad and missed me and you cried.”

“Hi, Haley! Shut up, Nick!”


The death of Ricardo Montalban was a bit sad for me. He was a great one, and of course one of the best movie villains of all time. It reminded me of the weird stage I’m at culturally, where a lot of the people I grew up watching are dying. There will be a point, when I’m not much older than this, that a large percentage of my movie heros and villains are deceased. Odd. Once again I spent time thinking of the profound ways in which aging affected me, and missed this small but important element.

Montalban was a classic though. The perfect anti-Shatner. He played Khan just right, and created an iconic movie adversary. He was arrogant and slick, and always pushing the limits of everyone around him. That’s the kind of guy you want to battle against. Well, no… I want to battle against a guy who messes up a lot and gives me a big lead and choreographs his evil scheme. But if I were Kirk, that’s who I’d want. Someone who pushes you to be your best. There should be an alternate ending where he gets a job with Starfleet training cadets, and he always wins. And the cadet graduates if he gets the proper energy and emotion into his “Khan!” scream of defiance.

The conflict between Khan and Kirk was great fun to watch, and made Wrath of Khan a great film. Certainly the best in a hit or miss franchise. Star Trek is at its best when it sticks to the basics, a cowboy movie on the edge of space. Kirk is one aspect of our culture, the brazen sheriff, looking out for his people. Spock is the other, the civilized person making sense of a xrazy world. It’s a fun theme, and it can really work when someone like Montalban is having a grand time with it. He digs right into the universe, and has at it.

Of course, Kirk won against him. He doesn’t believe in a no win situation. Gotta love Kirk. I think people hate Kirk because he has become Shatner over the years. My wife hates the mention of Kirk. But he really is a neat character. He’s very flawed, a noble figure with some personality problems. Hopefully Abrams does some good things with him. If the trailer is a sign of things to come, he will.