jeudi 19 février 2009

Byrning Down The House

David Byrne then

David Byrne now

Once in a Lifetime
Who among us has never heard of or seen what is arguably one of the best rock documentaries ever made? And no, I'm not talking about Rob Reiner's This is Spinal Tap. That was the best mock rock documentary ever made, and no one will ever top it.
The immensely talented Jonathan Demme made the Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense. He was wise and modest enough to sit back and let the camera take the viewer to the concert. It was like sitting in the front row. I went to see it at a tiny theater in the Pike Place Market, on a Sunday night. Every seat was taken. The concert - I mean the film - began and within minutes I forgot I was watching celluloid. Apparently, so did everyone else. When my eyes left the screen for a second, I realized that many of my fellow theater patrons were in the aisle dancing. They too were transported; they too were at the concert.
I was a huge Talking Heads fan at the time, so it was not surprising that I loved the movie. The album that came out of it is one of my all-time favorites. I used to listen to one track, Psycho Killer, over and over, and loved to do so while driving, singing at the top of my lungs.
Until last night, I half believed that the magic of that experience came from Jonathan Demme's camera and not from reality. That's not quite true, but still I would never have known how close Demme gets to reality had we not gone to see David Byrne last night at Benaroya Hall in Seattle.
It was standing room only and, within minutes, people were dancing with joyous abandon in the aisles. Byrne has traded in his big white suit for white trousers, shirt and suspenders, plus some groovy little white shoes. His hair, too, is now white -- but what an electrical shock of white hair it is. He looks a little like Andy Warhol or Steve Martin. In fact, he is to music what Warhol is to visual pop art and Steve Martin is to stand-up comedy. The Man.
I'll be back in a flash to talk more about the concert and give y'all a link to his website. For my friends in New York, Byrne and crew have just added a couple of dates in late February at Radio City Music Hall. Get on it! For my friends in Europe, he's headed your way this spring. Don't miss it. Don't be caught letting the days go by or you'll miss this once in a lifetime experience. And let me tell you: the world still moves on a woman's hips!

mardi 10 février 2009

Flipping the bird

You know who you are.

An early valentine to my husband
I just read on a blog, the same one where my "cone bra" and cats are apparently subjects of interest to the wider world, that my husband has anger management problems.
The comment about me walking my cats was just inane. Picking on an animal is bad, but picking on one with a disability is just pathetic. As everyone knows, Munchkin has cerebellum hypoplasia, which affects her motor skills. She can barely take three steps without falling over. But she gets back up every time. She hits her head a lot too, and I worry that she will crack it open one day. She has tumbled down the steps to the basement at least once, when I took the guard rail away for just a second. She has a tiny brain, but apparently far more intelligence than some humans. And she is happy. She has mastered that art.

But back to my husband. I know some things about anger, out of control anger that leads to physical abuse. I have nothing to say about it in public. My husband Walt is not an angry man. He is a fundamentally happy man and a very caring one too. He has a terrific sense of humor, even though some of his jokes are so corny they make me cringe.

In his spare time, he coaches a select baseball team and a YMCA basketball team. Working with adolescent and, in the case of the YMCA, pre-adolescent boys is enough to try anyone's patience. Not to mention the challenge of dealing with parents and scheduling conflicts and so on. He handles it all with incredible grace and humor. But he's no pushover. He speaks his mind, but always with tact. I honestly don't think I would have the patience for that. The parents, even the ones who initially want to out-coach the coach, come to trust and admire him, and the kids respect him.

He is also a very attentive son. This may not be indicative of anything - I bet Norman Bates was nice to his mother - but in this department, Walt has really stepped up to the plate. Jo (his mom) has battled cancer twice and won both times. Walt has spent hours of his time - both free time and work time - sitting in hospital waiting rooms, eating hospital food, chatting with her during chemotherapy, etc. It may just be what adult children do for their parents and loved ones, but Walt does it unstintingly and with a smile on his face. And he makes sure his mom has one on hers as well. For her birthday, he bought her a puppy, a half shi-tzu half miniature schnauzer named Nelly. He often takes time out of his work day just to stop by and say hi to his mom. The fact that she usually has just baked some chocolate chip cookies has nothing to do with his devotion to his mom. He tries to get to her house every weekend to do yard chores. Sometimes I complain and say "what about our yard?" But deep down I am pleased that he takes such good care of his mom.

He takes good care of me, too. If he had anger issues, he certainly could use his physical stature to work them out on just about anyone. But he doesn't. For a word about his courage, see my post about the night he broke up a fight between two testosterone-driven punks. A week later, we read about another fight at another restaurant in our West Seattle neighborhood. This time, the punks were armed, and someone got killed.

Last weekend, I had to work pretty much non-stop. It was grueling and uninteresting. I had no time to do anything, even go outside for a walk. He kept the house clean, the dishes washed, the refrigerator stocked and food on the table. He lit candles, because he knows I like that, and rubbed my head and shoulders. Such long hours at the computer are physically painful.

So here's a thumbnail sketch of Walt: smart, funny, hard-working, caring, strong, good-looking, sweet. A devoted father and now a grandfather. A respectful son and a loving husband. He's got his secret rooms and his faults - we all do - but I don't dwell on them and neither does he.

Here's a song for Walt. In Spite of Ourselves, by John Prine (as sung by John Prine and Iris Dement):

She don't like her eggs all runny
She thinks crossin' her legs is funny
She looks down her nose at money
She gets it on like the Easter Bunny
She's my baby I'm her honey
I'm never gonna let her go

He ain't got laid in a month of Sundays
I caught him once and he was sniffin' my undies
He ain't too sharp but he gets things done
Drinks his beer like it's oxygen
He's my baby
And I'm his honey
Never gonna let him go

In spite of ourselves
We'll end up a'sittin' on a rainbow
Against all odds
Honey, we're the big door prize
We're gonna spite our noses
Right off of our faces
There won't be nothin' but big old hearts
Dancin' in our eyes.

She thinks all my jokes are corny
Convict movies make her horny
She likes ketchup on her scrambled eggs
Swears like a sailor when shaves her legs
She takes a lickin'
And keeps on tickin'
I'm never gonna let her go.

He's got more balls than a big brass monkey
He's a wacked out werido and a lovebug junkie
Sly as a fox and crazy as a loon
Payday comes and he's howlin' at the moon
He's my baby I don't mean maybe
Never gonna let him go

In spite of ourselves
We'll end up a'sittin' on a rainbow
Against all odds
Honey, we're the big door prize
We're gonna spite our noses
Right off of our faces
There won't be nothin' but big old hearts
Dancin' in our eyes.
There won't be nothin' but big old hearts
Dancin' in our eyes.

jeudi 5 février 2009

Welcome frenemies!

A few of my favorite things

I had a weird experience this week that ended up as an epiphany. It was a fairly typical day. I worked all morning and then took Neko for a long walk. I discovered upon my return that someone had blown up a photo of me and posted a URL to it on the Seattle PI blog. Not only that, but the poster posted as SkepticalBystander, thus stealing my name as well. Not that anyone thought it was me. That wasn't the point. The point was to inflict pain and send me a message: hey! We have been to your blog! We know who you are! We know where you live! We have invaded your space! We are space invaders!
Naturally, I called the PI and had the posts removed, but they sat online for at least an hour before I saw them. I don't know how many people happened to see them, saw my photo, visited my blog. Some other kind soul had the wonderful idea of copying the URL and posting it on another blog, much later in the day. A friend called and told me. I was on my way out, so I set my blog to private in order to think peacefully about what to do. I set it to private four minutes after it was posted.
I must admit it was jolting to see a giant photo of me come into view on the screen. When I called the PI, I was upset. When my friend called to tell me about the second one - surrounded by some silly posts about me and my husband following teenagers into a restroom, which in fact is not true, but never mind - I envisioned an exhausting battle for my privacy. And then I thought, "fuck it"! My life is an open book. If strangers and frenemies want to visit this blog, take photos from it, quote from it, ridicule what they find here, whatver - if that gives them satisfaction and fills their lonely hours, then so be it. I'm not going to live my life "as if." And neither should anyone else.
In fact, from now on, I'm going to use this space in part to write about the murder case I have been following since November 2007, which is when British exchange student Meredith Kercher was brutally tortured and then murdered. Three suspects were eventually apprehended, and one of them, Rudy Guede, an Ivory Coast national with dual citizenship, who has lived in Italy since the age of five, opted for a fast-track trial and has been sentenced to 30 years in prison. The other two suspects were indicted by the judge who found Rudy guilty and are currently standing trial. One of them is an American exchange student from Seattle, who was Meredith's flatmate. Her name is Amanda Knox. For reasons that may become clearer as I write, I became interested in this case and in the media frenzy surrounding it. I started reading and then posting on a couple of blogs.
For many reasons, which may also become clearer, this case has inflamed passions in the blogosphere. The discussion got very personal very quickly. Knox supporters in Seattle - some of them friends and family, including an ex-boyfriend, others working for the PR firm hired almost immediately after Knox was arrested - joined the fray. Being new to all of this I didn't know, but apparently Friends and Family of suspects often do get involved in these online battles. But most observers agree that this particular group is more vicious and aggressive than most.
My position from the start has been that of a skeptical bystander - hence my moniker. I did not and do know know if Knox was involved, but for a long time I have believed that there are enough clues and enough troubling elements that the Italians had every reason to indict her and Raffaele Sollecito, who is now her ex-lover. They had only just begun seeing one another when Meredith was murdered, but Knox has allegedly described their relationship as the most intense of her life. Remember, she was all of 20 when this happened.
For reasons that will emerge, I am one of the targets of much of the wrath of the hysterical pro-Knox contigent, but also of the hysterical anti-Knox contingent. The lunatic fringes, so to speak.
I don't know if this first interactive experience in the blogosphere will be my last. But I do know that I'll see this case through to the end. I never knew Meredith, and obviously never will, but I have grown to like her so much. My heart jumps whenever I see a photo of her smiling face. Such a lovely smile, both shy and inviting. Nobody can know what Meredith suffered, and nobody can pretend to understand or share the pain - the unbearable pain - of her surviving family. All I know is this: Meredith did nothing wrong, nothing to deserve this. What happened to her could have happened to anyone. It isn't because you've been raped or lost a loved one that you can relate. It is because you're a human being, and you're alive. But you could have been that other human being. You could have been the one who was home alone that night. And because you are lucky enough not to have been that human being on that particular night, you should care about her and what happened to her. No one is fussy; we are all potential targets. No one is lucky all the time, and anyone can get unlucky. On any given night. And when you read the report of the sentencing judge, and you begin to get a feel for what Meredith must have endured, you feel that justice must be done for her. Those accused of killing her deserve a fair trial and they shall have that. It might be a bummer for them to spend time in jail, but they are alive. They should be grateful for that.
So some little prankster decided to publish my photo on a blog. My privacy was invaded. Big deal. Then someone with a burning grudge decided to pile on a bit. Ouch! But you know what? I'm alive, and I'm so grateful to be living my life. What harm can a minor annoyance like that cause in an otherwise happy life? You know what they say? Living well is the best revenge!