Tuesday, December 28, 2010


This is the first of many discoveries I made over 2010. The rewards were great, serenaded with beautifully intense music throughout the year and bombarded with an eclectic display of films for my devouring taste. I love discovering new music and analyzing movies, so that has become my focus with this year-end countdown. Most of my music is current and the films may be just as current or hearken back to the dawning age of celluloid. Hope that my insight brings some new awareness to the world around you.

Micah P. Hinson & The Pioneer Saboteurs (2010)

Started listening to Micah P. Hinson a couple of years ago and I haven't stopped. He's been very productive, producing two original albums and a covers record since then, and his collaboration with the Pioneer Saboteurs (a different group of musicians that he pulls together for each album) is lingering with me this year. It has all of the great elements of Hinson's sound; guitars that growl then swoon, strings that sing such sweet melody, softness, harshness, a blow of gravel intensity. He's a strange cat in a world that seeks out conformity but he's not going anywhere near that. What makes this album different is that he doesn't try to make himself heard as strongly as before. His wretched voice stays lost behind the instrumentation most of the time, even on those songs that shout. Perhaps he's losing the last bits of strength he had left in that distinct voice and the future will call for further deterioration until he's rasping out his tunes in hushed whispered tones that will be almost impossible to understand. He can call it Micah P. Hinson and the Ethereal Atmospheres.

A Serious Man - The Coen Brothers (2009)

I'm still not sure what this movie was about, actually. My guess is that it's some sort of Jewish guilt karmic retribution tale that pummels down on poor Larry Gopnik, the ill-fated hero of the film. No matter what direction he takes in his life, nothing seems to go right. His wife is leaving him, he's on the verge of losing his job, he's having sexual thoughts about his neighbor, his brother is living on his couch and is being sought out by the authorities, a student is trying to bribe him, his son is up for his bar mitzvah but only wants smoke pot, his Rabbi won't even see him about his problems so he has to deal with the junior Rabbi who keeps telling him to look at the parking lot and appreciate his life, and he might have some horrible disease. Basically he's fucked and doesn't know why. He's having some serious issues with doubt regarding his faith. Nothing much comes to fruition by the end of the movie, either, but despite all of the mess that is made of this film, it has one thing going for it; the Coens made it. The vaunted duo of film-making genius decided to make this movie as an homage to their childhood and it has the perfect look and feel of a suburban neighborhood from the sixties. Once the movie is over, you can't help but remember all of the unique and interesting images that have been implanted into your brain. You know that there is something going on with the madness that comes from Coen land and you can't help but wonder about all of the subtle messages that were imparted. Maybe it's the perfect metaphor for how religion wriggles its way into our lives and tweaks us from the inside-out.

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Monday, December 27, 2010

35 Months (the second)

Christmas has come to CasaWeX and Quinn is loving it. She has an older brother who encourages her indulgences at every opportune moment so it's not very surprising that she is already aware of the yuletide spirit. She hasn't quite reached the point where she counts all of her presents (like someone else we know) but she loves to get excited and hates to be let down so the holidays has lifted her spirits.

I really love this age because she's so expressive and her energy comes from so many different angles. She loves pink but she plays with hot wheels. She loves movies so much that she gets angry when you turn it off, like you're truly disappointing her. She'll heartily eat something one day only to reject it the next. Her brother can make her cry in a moment, then a few minutes later she's making him cry because she fights back so ferociously. She has a couple of dolls that lie around but you can't get her kitty-cat out of her hands without a scream. Her nuances are so innate right now, that it's interesting to figure out what it is that is going to keep her attention at any given moment.

But she does love cats. It's such a shame that her Nonno is allergic because a little kitten would've been a really great present for Christmas this year. She told me the other day that she wanted to go to the kitty jail and look at the cats. Apparently she checked out the Humane Society's page in the newspaper that shows you all the pictures of the dogs and cats that need to be adopted. Her Nanna also has a big heart for animals and they probably sit together and pick out all of the cutest ones.

Well, since we couldn't get a real cat for Christmas, Christina did some of her magic and found the most awesome pink stuffed cat named Gaspar. It was the perfect gift, being both pink and a cat. At least that's what we thought. Quinn likes it enough but it has yet to replace her original kitty-cat and with all of the other gifts that descended upon our wonderful abode this holiday season, it seems that Gaspar has gotten a little lost in the shuffle.

The amount of presents are just one aspect of the holidays that create such frenetic tension this time of year. The party's are another. Both Christina and I have rather large families and the gatherings can expand beyond normal consciousness. We've had moments where it felt like we could hardly breathe as the chaos rang around us. Lucas and Quinn would probably love to go to all of them and gorge themselves with all the holiday cheer but there's only so much sanity that can be contained in us parents. We do what we can and this year we decided to go over to my Mom's family affair on Christmas day, something we haven't done for awhile now.

We had a moment a few years ago where we felt rejected by the theme of the season and all of its religious fervor. This is definitely not the time of year for guilt of any kind, we can get enough of that by looking back on all the things we didn't accomplish over the past year, and those dogmatic personalities who try to label everything for everyone else have the ability to push people away. Well, we left for awhile and on our way back, I started thinking about the true purpose of the season. For me, it comes down to the spirit of generosity and appreciation that is inherent in the way we embrace one another during this time of year. We share with one another and give to one another and open our homes and expand our communities. These are the aspects of the holidays that I wanted to perceive and I could feel it blooming within me as I thought about everyone in my life.

On the days that I feel like I'm a good parent, I know that I am actively participating in my children's lives. I listen to them and embrace them. I offer them opportunities to grow and learn. When we do that with the people around us, whether they be family or friends or neighbors or co-workers, then we are being good people. We are truly connecting with the spirit of the season.

The kids had fun at my Aunt's house, of course. They played with their cousins and ran around like mad little people, something I remember fondly about Christmas gatherings of the past. Quinn was the sweetest, she being the only girl amongst six boys. She kept up with them for most of the evening but whenever the boys would get swallowed up by the hand-held-game-vision thingies that everyone but our kids have nowadays, she would vanish. I found her in the playroom with the real toys, her favorite being a wood kitchen cabinet set that was just her height. It was such a beautiful moment to stand in the doorway and see her cooking up a meal for herself simply using her imagination. Guess I know what to get her for her birthday.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

74 Months

Ever since Lucas learned to crawl we've had our two little dogs running away from him as he's scrambled and chased after them. Mishu and Schmokie have been with us from the very beginning, the first two "little ones" in our family. Unfortunately that dynamic has changed, as Schmokie has left us for greener pastures, as they say.

It's so crazy around here after the event, which wasn't a peaceful passing, and I was very concerned about how Lucas and Quinn were going to handle the entire situation. This is the first time that they are dealing with the death of a loved one and Schmokie was dearly loved.

Death is such a powerful presence in our lives but we rarely address it in our society. I'm not sure how it first came up with the kids but Lucas is usually very pragmatic when he speaks about it. There's not any type of perception that we go to a better place or that our soul moves on or even that we have a multiple lives, though the idea of reincarnation is connected to the branch of Buddhism that we follow. What he understands is that everybody dies and no one truly knows what happens after death.

With Schmokie's death, we've become inherently aware that, even though we don't know exactly what happens to those who die, those who remain behind suffer tremendously. We each deal with this profound experience in our own way. Some of us deny it, hold it in and digest it in our guts, over-analyzing and being very cerebral about it. Some of us just accept it and try to appreciate the nuances of life as it transforms around us. Some of us grieve deeply and allow the sadness to bubble out, in order to find some way to overcome the intense loss. Some of us get angry and manic and depressed and overwhelmed.

For a couple of days Lucas was sad about it, allowing a few moments with tear-stained eyes to overflow and wash his cheeks, seeking the comfort of Christina's warm arms. Quinn doesn't seem to be very aware of what happened but she's asked a lot of questions, of which we try to be as honest as we can be with her. They've resorted to playing a game called Blood. Taking their stuffed animals, they pretend that their stuffed companions have passed on from this life and they take some time to bury them and talk about what they mean to them. This follows a similar ceremony that we had with Schmokie and it's very interesting to watch them process the entire event in their own little way. It's effective and human and my heart goes out to them.

After all that has happened, Schmokie was truly Christina's companion. The kids often tortured the dogs to the point that they would snap at their little outstretched hands and I tolerated the little guy, where Mishu is considered more my dog. So Christina lost a truly great friend, who provided much nourishment for her and after I thought about his too-short history, I realized that he was meant for her. He came to her so that she could traverse a difficult time in her life. He gave her his heart and she's lost a little bit of hers now that he's left us.

He was very cute and only gave you love, expressing complete devotion with those precious eyes and lolling tongue that always brought a smile to your face. He carved out a unique place in our home and he will be forever missed.

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