Back on The Farm

So we headed to The Farm for the weekend. Kates and Pheebs had been back there a couple times in the last few months, but it was my first time back since last fall ... I'd been looking forward to this trip for weeks.

On Friday night, we couldn't get on the road fast enough. And a trip that usually takes us about three hours took four hours thanks to a driving rainstorm and some fog. ... But always, when our drive ends, there's nothing like the serenity that envelopes us when we pull around the bend and the old farmhouse appears, sitting quietly among the rolling hills and forest with lights glimmering through its front windows.

Phoebe wasted no time settling in. She bounced and danced endlessly around the living room, in between tinkering with an old toy telephone and some rings set for her on the fireplace mantel. She also got into Grandpa's library; apparently she was feeling some spiritual reading for her bedtime story.

At 11, we settled into bed. Surrounded by a pitch black country side. No city lights. And all was quiet.

* * *

On Saturday morning I was awoken at 8:30 -- which I'm sure is the longest I've slept since before Phoebe was born -- to Phoebe jumping on the bed, giggling and shouting her trademark "Wee!"Kates had instigated Phoebe's jumping by turning on the iPod to "We Are the Sleepyheads" and the two of them danced around the room together to get me out of bed. It worked, and I must say it was a terrific and fun way to start the day.

Once they left the room, I just laid in bed, staring at the ceiling, listening to the music that continued to play and feeling ... at peace. Eventually, I got out of bed and took some time to just gaze at the surroundings ...

We had pancakes for breakfast and enjoyed watching the animals that ventured through the backyard. The horses grazed at the creek just outside the dining room window. We saw a badger and a pheasant, and Kates' father told us a story about a recent encounter he had in the yard with a 4-foot-long black cat.

With plans to attend the village of Viola's annual Horse & Colt Show, we left the farmhouse later in the morning and drove the rolling hills and curving passes of Richland County once more. The leaves on the trees were just starting to change and hadn't yet hit the brilliant peaks we experienced last fall, but our drive was scenic just the same. Phoebe obviously enjoyed the hills and curves as well, sending out a soft "wee" over every peek.

In Viola, we gathered at Grandma Perry's home before walking into town. We hit the Legion building for the chicken dinner -- plates piled high with a quarter pieces of chicken, baked beans and coleslaw. And then we picked a spot to watch the parade. For a couple hours, we watched the police and fire vehicles, marching bands, antique tractors, floats representing the local businesses and the horses -- always marking the end -- pass by.

It was a classic Americana ...

Finally, it was time to hit the carnival rides. ... First, Kates took Phoebe on the kiddie train; Phoebe had a grand time handling the steering wheel and pressing the musical buttons inside their little train car ...

Then, I got to take Phoebe for her first carousel ride. At first, she wasn't so sure about sitting atop that big white horse, and she squirmed for what seemed like forever before the ride started. But when it did start and that horse began gliding up and down, the look on her face was priceless. She held tightly to the pole, but her wide smile and the endless "Wee!" said it all. ...

We ended our carnival experience by taking Phoebe on the giant slide. Even I wasn't so sure about that one, but the carny politely gave us the "slow" mat, I climbed the big staircase with Phoebe, and then another carny at the top of the slide helped us settle onto the mat. We pushed off and I felt my eyes widen over the initial rush, but we slid down without wiping out and I was told at the bottom that Phoebe was smiling the whole ride.

Eventually, we were back at Grandma Perry's house, where a larger contingent of the family was now gathered. We caught up on each others' goings-on. Ellen told us about her neighbor's unschooled children and their porn-loving mother. We teased Lauren and the girls about the way they were torturing the goldfish they won. And Phoebe entertained the crowd as usual.

Later, back at the farmhouse, Kates' parents had left, leaving us to share the farmhouse with Orrin and Kelli for the night. We made sandwiches, shared Phoebe's Cheerios and listened to music while chatting about jobs, TV shows, and other life occurrences. And after awhile, with Phoebe bathed and put to bed, we settled in for a movie ...

We watched "The Bank Job," an excellent film -- which is based on a true story -- about a band of villains who conspire to steal whatever they can from a vault of safety deposit boxes in a London bank. Here's the trailer.

I loved it. ... Certainly, these guys were not as smooth as "Ocean's 11," but the premise, with all the planning and the eventual heist, is just as thrilling. Plus, the story doesn't stop when the deed is done. The film also captures the aftermath in the authorities' chase of the suspects, an unveiling of corrupt cops and their cronies, all of which leads to a satisfying ending. ... It was obvious how much all of us liked it when the credits started rolling, and we all leaped toward the TV to read the small print that detailed the characters' lives after the ordeal.

* * *

When Sunday came, Orrin took a turn at making us pancakes for breakfast. Then, we finished out the morning by hiking to the top of the bluff, where we planted the pine trees -- finally! -- we brought back from Glen and Heather's wedding last November.

Kates and I were prepared to leave around lunch time. But we changed our minds upon realizing the Packers were playing at noon ... So we got Phoebe down for an early nap, and we raided the kitchen for chips, crackers, cheese, trail mix and wine coolers. Kates made nachos, and Orrin made salsa. The Packers beat the Rams, and we tried to put off our leaving time as long as we could ...

By 4, the car was packed, we got Phoebe buckled in and we said our good-byes, driving onto the country roads in a steady rain. We stopped for gas, I picked up a Mountain Dew to get myself caffeinated and soon we hit the interstate ...

Along with a wall of traffic. Suddenly it seemed like we had picked the worst possible time to drive home. It took us two hours to get through the first 50 miles of our drive. Hungry and needing a break, we pulled off the road and made a pit stop for dinner ...

We thought the worst was behind us.

Until we traveled back onto the interstate and started seeing the lightning bolts flashing ahead of us ... We drove straight into the heart of what I can only describe as a fierce storm. For about one hour of intense, white-knuckle driving I felt like our little Forrester -- with Ingrid Michaelson music as a calming force on the iPod -- was the Edmund Fitzgerald. And the rain drops that were pounding our car could only be compared to the frogs falling from the sky in "Magnolia." For a few minutes, the visibility was so bad that my only hope was to concentrate on the red taillights of the car directly in front of me. It was, without a doubt, the toughest driving I've ever done -- beating out The Summerfest Storm of three years ago and the snowstorm we navigated a couple years ago to get to Grandma's house for Christmas.

Phoebe -- I don't know how she does it -- had slept through the entire thing. ... We pulled into our driveway shortly after 9 a.m., unpacked and settled into the peace and serenity -- of our own home.


Humming along

Our DVR has been positively humming the last few days. Like it or not, fall is here and so is a brand new TV season ...

Kates and I finally found time to watch President Obama's appearance on Letterman ...

Mr. Obama showed aces with his comment that he was "black before the election." Beyond that, aside from his eloquence and charm, I thought his answers to questions about healthcare and the wars we're fighting were on par.

Although, I do think there was some truth in President Carter's statements last week. My hope is that Obama doesn't get too caught up in the discussion and remains focused on his agenda while allowing the race debate to take place outside the White House.

* * *

Now that we've almost completed the round of Fall Premieres '09, I can follow-up on my earlier list of new shows Kates and I planned to watch ... I can also report there have been some pleasant surprises ...

On Monday night, it was thoroughly enjoyable to get reacquainted with our old pals on CBS's comedy lineup. ("How I Met Your Mother:" Barney and Robin are totally a couple!) ... We're also quite intrigued with the possibilities of "Accidentally on Purpose."

After reading some not-so-great reviews beforehand, I had low hopes going in ... But I think one morning show DJ said it best: You've just got to buckle up and enjoy the ride!

I don't think any of CBS's Monday night shows made me laugh more than "Accidentally." And if you can make me laugh, you've won ... Sure the pace of Billie's and James's meet-up/baby news/moving in together was a little unrealistic, but I also thought the episode had about as much charm and wit as the stuff James showed in snagging Billie in the first place/wanting to stay with her/painting the baby's room, all by the end of the episode.

The pilot was hilarious. But only time will tell if the show can stand up beyond its first date.

On Wednesday ..."Modern Family" gets the prize as our favorite new show (I'm not counting "Glee," which technically debuted last spring) ... I love the premise, and I'm really excited to see Julie Bowen doing some comedy (sigh ... I miss "Ed."). ... The bit with the family looking over their appointment calendar to schedule a time that Dad could fire a BB gun at his son as payback for shooting his sister was beyond funny. And then, when the time came, the plan went haywire and Dad shoots his teenage daughter's senior class boyfriend ... It's also good to see Jesse Tyler Ferguson on TV again (sigh ... I miss "The Class." ... Here's an old, but still good read I dug up about it.)

"Cougar Town" also got our thumbs-up -- although I feel a little dirty saying that because the show is geared so tightly toward and about so-called cougar women ... Nonetheless, for me, Courtney Cox broke her Monica mold within the first two minutes of the show, and the casting is wonderful ("The Drew Carey Show," "Scrubs" and now "Cougar Town" -- Christa Miller, like Julie Bowen, gets me every time.)

(Here's a good read on "Modern Family" and the rebirth of the family comedy.)

Thursday night is stacked ... And it's looking like we'll be spending most of our time -- for now -- with "Flash Forward" and "Grey's Anatomy," while "The Office" and "30 Rock" get put off to Friday nights. ... We dropped "Community," deeming last week's premiere just plain dumb.

Starting with "FlashForward." ... Seriously!? There's a million questions going through my mind after watching the premiere. Like, why was a kangaroo jaunting through downtown Los Angeles after the flashforward? And who the heck was the guy in Detroit?! ... The acting, the "Lost"-like mysteries and the action-movie production are all factors that have me wanting more ...

But here's my beef: "Lost" has set the bar so high, and there will never be another show like it. I'm also skeptical of the glimpse of a future on April 29, 2010. Setting a specific date so near in the future -- not too mention the visions and the inherent desire to change circumstances -- reminds me too much of "Heroes." And those of us who fell so hard for that show during it's first season know how that turned out. What are we going to be left with when next April passes?

About last night's "Grey's" premiere ... Indeed, our roller coaster love affair with the docs at Seattle Grace will continue. Last night's episode succeeded again at pulling our heartstrings with real characters and raw emotions, with the laughter that's born from strong bonds mixed in. The twisted scene with the gang laughing hysterically at George's funeral is one that has stuck with me most. Yep, George died and Izzie lived -- the worst kept secret of TV's summer offseason.

Yet, my lingering thought on the episode is that it marked the end of an era for the show. With George gone and now the impending merger -- plus a handful of new characters (I do enjoy Arizona) -- "Grey's" is resembling less of its original self every season.

* * *

The death notices just keep coming ...

Last week: Patrick Swayze and Mary Travers.

I pulled out my "Peter, Paul & Mary: Ten Years Together" album for a good listen the other night ... It's easy to get caught up in the tributes and emotions of another great loss, but I must admit now that I don't listen to that album as much as I should. I hadn't realize how good their songs are.

* * *

While cleaning off our DVR, I also watched last week's "VH1 Divas" show. Is it wrong that I think Miley Cyrus gave the best performance of the show -- which was otherwise utterly boring?

On Tuesday, I did something I never ever thought I'd do. I downloaded a Miley Cyrus song. "Party in the U.S.A." from iTunes.

* * *

I stumbled onto this video last week ...

Every time I watch it, I break out laughing ... Ha-larious.


Little Girl's Foul Toss Makes Dad a Celebrity

I caught this story the other night. And I when I showed the video to Kates last night, it made me well up a little bit ...

For the record, I've caught two game balls in my lifetime. One at Kaufmann Stadium and one at Wrigley Field, but both were among my prized possessions stolen in the infamous burglary of 2006.

Now, I'm desperate to catch another one.

(Update 2009.10.10: Here's an excellent read from the Boston Globe about what makes catching foul balls so special.)


17 months and climbing

Phoebe turned 17 months old over the weekend.

Month 16 sure went fast, and for a time I wasn't sure there was a need to offer a monthly update ...

But there have been some interesting developments the last couple weeks ...

Phoebe has become a little daredevil.

I guess she’s always had a hint of that – what, with the way she romps recklessly on her rocking horse and says “Weee!” with that mischievous smile. God, I hope she doesn’t grow up to like biker dudes …

Over the weekend, Kates and I were having a conversation when all of sudden we stopped and caught Phoebe twirling in circles, looking to the sky and saying “Weee!” She twirled and twirled until she was so dizzy she flopped onto the floor … And after every fall, she got to her feet and tried it again. One time she made herself so dizzy she tripped and fell backward, knocking her head against a cabinet. Without missing a step – to our laughter – she got up and started twirling again.

Recently, she’s learned to climb furniture. And she loves to jump on it, too. Like a trampoline. And she loves falling into the pillows. With laughter … Once in awhile, Kates and I have allowed her to jump around on our bed for fun, as long as we’re present and keeping a close eye on her. But now, having the experience of looking in from another room and suddenly seeing her jumping on the couch has us rethinking that game …

It also has us discussing toddler tumbling classes for her.

The worst is her fascination with our living room rocking chair. It’s a rickety old thing that Kates picked up at a resale store for her first apartment, but it’s a good-looking piece that sits in a “reading corner” of our living room, between the TV cabinet and a coffee table. Phoebe has figured out how to pull herself on to it, using her right arm on the TV cabinet and her left arm on the chair’s arm. Then she swings her legs around and pulls herself upright on the chair, and the jumping commences.

And that leads us to the tantrums, which, as toddlers go, have become more, um, entertaining … If she wants to jump on the couch and needs help getting on it, she’ll scurry to us and say “Up, pees.” If Kates or I decide it’s not a good idea to allow her up, we’ll politely tell her no. The “Up, pees” requests become more intense and heartfelt, we don’t give in, and Phoebe stomps away with an avalanche of screams and groans, before collapsing into her beloved blanket.

Or there’s the complete meltdown, like we had the other night when it was time for Phoebe to go to bed and we took away the keys she was playing with … As I’ve mentioned before, Phoebe is fascinated with our keys. So Kates and I were sitting with her at the back door as she played with a set of keys and worked at inserting one of the keys into the keyhole. (She’s just like her daddy and her grandpa in that sense. When she wants something, or has to figure out how to make something work, her focus is on that – eyebrows furled, mouth agape – and nothing else until she gets it right …) She did get it a few times, and Kates and I applauded her for it. But after about 20 minutes of watching her, we decided it was time to start preparing for bed. I gently took the keys from her, we told her it was time for bed, and the meltdown began …

Loud screams, stomping feet, huge tears, she crumbles onto the floor. Often, she gets herself so worked up, she’s bordering on hyperventilation and it takes what can seem like an eternity to calm her … She sure does have a set of lungs on her, though – which I suppose bodes well for any singing aspirations.

Aside from the tantrums – although that is all part of the fun – our nights with Phoebe, after a hard day’s work, have rarely seemed dull or vexing.

More and more lately, Kates and I have taken to nightly walks around our neighborhood with Phoebe, and a stop at the park down the block. Phoebe’s at an age now where she can find the fun in running all over the park and climbing – again, the climbing – on the play equipment. And it’s oh so delightful to watch … Over the weekend, we took her to the park and finally got her over her fear of slides. (Any previous attempt to put her on a slide resulted in kicking and screaming) … When I took her back to the park last night, I couldn’t keep her away from the slide.

Her interest in books keeps growing, too. Before we put her to bed, she never fails to pull a handful of books from her shelf and set them on our laps to be read. … Any Sandra Boynton book, “Skippy John Jones” and “Good Night Moon” are guaranteed to get a look every night.

On TV, “Sesame Street” is her absolute favorite … She points out and shouts “Elmo!” or “Ernie” every time they appear in the screen, and she watches intently as ever whenever we put the show on … Our only problem now is finding a way to keep her from standing to close to the TV while she watches it.

Guess the last month has been eventful, after all.


Cheers and jeers

“Brett, who?” was exactly what I said last night when the Packers clinched their first win of the season.

I will try not to wax about every Packers game this season …

But last night’s game was fantastic.

I decided early on I would have to sacrifice my valuable sleep time. I wasn’t going to bed early. I wasn’t going to risk missing the end of a Packers-Bears game

In between brushing teeth and changing to pajamas, I caught Mason Crosby’s 39-yard field goal to give the Packers a lead early in the fourth quarter. And then I watched Jay Cutler lead the Bears down the field, only to settle for the field goal of their own, and the lead returned to the Bears …

Then, I settled into bed as the Packers regained the ball with barely two minutes left in the game …

Bring up third-and-1. When Aaron Rodgers launched that ball toward the sideline, and it fell into Greg Jennings’ arms, I sat straight up in the bed, thrust both fists in the air, and shouted a squelched “Yes!” so as to not wake Phoebe who was sleeping across the hall.

Still, it was enough for Kates to shush me from the bathroom.

If only Pheebs knew what she was missing.

* * *

In the meantime ...

I've been hearing all morning about something Kanye West did at last night's MTV's Music Video Awards ...

Now, I've finally seen the video and read the accounts of him stealing the stage from Taylor Swift.

I heard about one musician who equaled the display to "stomping on a kitty."

Pretty much.


Michael Jordan, hall of famer

Congratulations, Michael

I have no words to describe him, either.

TV Week

This is a post I've sort of been dreading writing – not because I don’t want to write it, but because it means summer is officially over and the onslaught of a new TV season is upon us ... It’s been such an enjoyable, free summer away from the pull of the TV set.

Then, why do you let it pull you back in? you ask. … Wish I had a better answer. Other than that some stuff on TV is just so darn entertaining (See below: Glee). And fascinating. And eye-opening.

Ah, but the fall TV season is upon us ...

So let’s get’s started.

* * *

After much thought, I'm giving up on "Desperate Housewives" and "Brothers & Sisters."

Sad I know. They've been our Sunday night mainstays for as long as both have been on the air. In fact, we haven't missed an episode of either show.

Kates insists she’s sticking with “Brothers & Sisters,” but I'm taking a hard line on my drama intake this year. I just can't take it anymore. I'm desperate for lighter, funnier fare. Stuff that leaves me happy and giddy when I go to bed at night and prepare to face another day of my somewhat dramatic work in this crazy tough world we live.

I'm facing it. "Desperate Housewives" will never be as fresh and bold and riveting and colorful as it was in that mind-boggling first season.

And "Brothers and Sisters" has become too predictable; I'm tired of watching the Walker clan spill each other's secrets and the inevitable blowup during another one of the family's classic dinners. It’s a formula for every episode, it seems.

And yet, I’m hanging on to “Grey’s Anatomy,” which like its former Sunday night ABC counterpart will never be as fresh and dreamy as it was that first season of love. But I can’t yet bare to break up with it.

* * *

Speaking of fresh, colorful shows ...

"Glee" is back!

Kates and I had to put it off an extra night because we committed Wednesday night to watching President Obama's healthcare speech (which was wonderful, we thought).

Like just about every one else in America who caught last spring's pilot episode, we've been anxiously awaiting it's return this fall ... And, despite some reviews that suggested otherwise, we thought the new episode was even funnier and entertaining than the pilot. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

It's punchy, snarky humor about a high school glee club -- without the sugar and sweetness of "High School Musical." Wednesday night's episode was loaded with one-liners.

I looooove Emma and the way she stutters and stumbles in the presence of Will. ... I, too, enjoy watching Terri and Quinn, even though they're supposed to be the villains. Quinn's performance of "I Say A Little Prayer" and its visually cool choreography was arguably my favorite musical number of the night.

Remembering Jessalyn Gilsig and Jayma Mays as their more serious characters on "Heroes" also made it fun to see them in comedic roles.

Yes, the show could not have cast a better person for Sue Sylvester than Jane Lynch. And yes, I too was shocked at how raunchy the "Push It" performance was for a network primetime show -- but it was all in the name of comedy.

* * *

Ellen Degeneres as the fourth “American Idol” judge …?

Wha … ?


I’m not sure what to think of this one.

I’m a huge fan of the good ‘ol sunny, bubbly Ellen. (See Jenna Bush’s phone call to her dad.)

But as a judge on “American Idol?” Not seeing it.

My initial reaction was that – while it will be entertaining to see how she contrasts with Simon Cowell – she’s not a music person (A music lover, yes. But she’s not a music industry person). She’s a comedian. And thus the show becomes less about music and more centered on its judges and their distinct personalities and slams on one another.

My initial reaction was that I didn’t like the idea one bit.

Then again, especially since the news of Paula Abdul’s departure, I’ve been on the fence of whether to return to Idol for its ninth season.

With Ellen in the “Idol” house, I’m thinking I’m going to have to return, which proves the powers-that-be are creating a new buzz about the show and they just might know what they’re doing after all.

* * *

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned Kates and I are getting into “Mad Men”

I’m still saying it’s really too bad it took us three years, and now we’re playing catch-up.

But Sunday night’s episode I thought was the best we’ve seen yet … Between Peggy’s search for a roommate and the death of Grandpa Draper – which I totally did not see coming this soon. Then, there was poor Sally Draper, whose emotions EW summed up swimmingly in its review of the episode …

Can someone please give Kiernan Shipka an ice cream sundae The young actress, who plays tortured Sally Draper, certainly earned a special treat with that performance on the front stoop (''no! no! no!'') and later in the kitchen amongst the adults. It was an episode about family, and the fraught tether that binds its members. Parents demand too little or too much, inevitably disappointing in small and large ways. Children crave recognition and approval, even when they're breaking free of legacy. And nobody dealt with their familial pain and longing better than little Sally, who seemed to experience all seven stages of grief in the one hour.

* * *

TV columnist Tom Shales had a good read the other day about the challenge “Saturday Night Live” faces this year after last year’s dynamite season.

I couldn’t agree more with the notion that it’s not looking good.

Kates and I were equally shocked to learn of Michaela Watkins’ dismissal from the show. After her funny turn on “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” we were thrilled to see her cast on SNL, where her Hoda Kotb and a number of other characters were instant goodness. … But I can side with Lorne Michaels’ reported opinion that Watkins deserves her own show. It’s just too bad he thought she deserved it after just one season on SNL.

On the other hand, I won’t be missing Casey Wilson who was also dismissed from SNL. I just didn't think she was funny.

* * *

Here’s some of the new shows Kates and I are eyeing up and looking to try this fall … The keyword is try. If it's anything like previous years, we'll end up holding on to one or two of these ...

a Accidentally on Purpose
a Jay Leno
a Hank
a The Middle
a Modern Family
a Cougar Town
a FlashForward
a Community



It's been a great day.

I was productive at the office, knocking out two lengthy, in-depth stories for the weekend. I took off from there at my customary time, worked outside, painted a cabinet I'm refinishing while listening to Pat & Ron call the Cubs on WGN. Made myself a tasty toasted ham, turkey and cheese sandwich with lots of fixings for lunch. It's a gorgeous sunny day. And now I'm watching the rest of the Cubs game on television -- and they're winning (Correction: They were winning when I started this post. The Reds have just tied the game.)

But underneath it all, the memories of this date never cease in my mind ...

And it hardly seems like its been as long as eight years ago, making it hard for me to fathom some students remember little of it ...


Beatles for sale

All this Beatles buzz surrounding the new “Rock Band” video game and the release of their remastered albums finally got to me last night ..

I pulled out my Beatles collection on the iPod and blared it in the kitchen as we cleaned up from our dinner and started getting Phoebe ready for bed …

As we sang and danced to almost every song, I couldn’t help but smile when I realized I was wildly singing “Eight Days A Week” note for note the same way I probably sang it when I was 8 years old and mimicking a rock ‘n’ roll star on my keyboard.

It also struck me – for the umpteenth time – that not only are the songs so uber singable, but after 40-some years, they stand up amazingly well. Some of those guitar riffs could easily be pulled off today, and I'd be willing to bet their sound would still be at or near the top of the charts if it were brand new today … But the Beatles came up with that music way ahead of their time. And that is what makes them so enduring.

EW has a good ranking of the Beatles’ albums that, for the most part, is right on in its descriptions and highlights. Although I'd rank the frontrunners a little differently ...

I'd start, hands down, with "Abbey Road" at No. 1. Then I'd have to go with "Magical Mystery Tour" at No. 2, and "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" at No. 3, before putting "Revolver" at No. 4 and on down the line with the way EW ranks them ...

Paste also produced worthy reviews of every Beatles album. And Chuck Klosterman has a good read about the reissues.

EW also has a ranking of the 50 best Beatles songs, complete with YouTube videos.

Adding to the unending rankings and lists, Ann Powers has been pondering what might go on a Beatles mix tape.

Without going into too much explanation, I think mine would have to go something like this -- if it were put on a 90-minute cassette tape, 45 minutes to each side ... Because a 60-minute tape would have been far too short ... Maybe I should have gone with one of those newer 120-minute tapes. Then, I'd be able to include "In My Life," and "A Day in the Life," and "Day Tripper," and ... Hmm ...

1. I Feel Fine
2. Here Comes the Sun
3. Magical Mystery Tour
4. She Loves You
5. Eight Days A Week
6. A Hard Day's Night
7. Ticket To Ride
8. Help!
9. Yesterday
10. Penny Lane
11. We Can Work It Out
12. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
13. Lucy In the Sky With the Diamonds
14. Hey Jude

1. Strawberry Fields Forever
2. Baby You're A Rich Man
3. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
4. Lady Madonna
5. Lovely Rita
6. I Will
7. Hello, Goodbye
8. Octopus's Garden
9. Something

(... and I'd end it with the brilliant B-side medley from "Abbey Road" -- minus "Sun King" -- to stay within the time constraints, of course ... )

10. Because
11. You Never Give Me Your Money
12. Mean Mr. Mustard
13. Polythene Pam
14. She Came In Through the Bathroom Window
15. Golden Slumbers
16. Carry That Weight
17. The End

I'm so far removed from video gaming at this point that I have no idea what gaming platform "Rock Band" is played on -- and I don't own a video game system. I also have no intentions of racing out to buy the new, remastered versions of the albums -- because I'm in the camp that thinks all the recordings I have now are perfect already, thank you very much.

But it sure is fun to "Meet The Beatles" again and again.


Movie times

Kates and I crossed a couple more movies from our summer movie list over the weekend ...

First up, "The Pursuit of Happyness" ...

Will Smith plays Chris Gardner, an entrepreneur who’s had some tough luck selling portable x-ray machines in San Francisco. But one day, he bumps into a man who is obviously doing well and inquires what he does for a living. The stock broker explains, and Gardner's interests are piqued ... He wiggles his way into an unpaid internship at a brokerage firm and vows to do whatever he needs to do to get ahead and win the one open position when the training period ends. Along the way, he loses his wife, his car, his home and must take care of his boy -- played wonderfully by Will Smith's son Jaden.

The storyline, which is based on true events, is beyond humbling and inspiring -- and astonishing -- in the ways Gardner forges ahead to succeed. In order to get the attention of a manager overseeing the internship, he sweats to solve a Rubik's cube in the time it takes to ride their cab across town. Later, he lies to a prospective buyer to get another in -- and he gets himself invited to a 49ers game in the same breath. All the while, none of the big dogs he's working with on a daily basis have a clue he's living in restrooms and homeless shelters from night to night. Somehow Gardner comes dressed and ready to work in a suit every day.

It's also worth mentioning the film's excellent cinematography, which immediately pulls you back to the early 1980s with its sets and fashion. ... Check out the trailer. It'll make you cry ...

The second film of the weekend was the Pixar favorite, "Ratatouille."

In it, a rat named Remy with an uncanny sense of smell and the culinary arts invades the kitchen of a fine French restaurant. By accident, he teams up with a young chef and they secretly begin creating dishes that get the restaurant's patrons raving while saving the restaurant's reputation as a dying dinner spot ... Along the way Remy learns lessons about life, friends, and family.

While the movie doesn't stir up the kind of laughter found in Pixar greats like "Toy Story" or the "The Incredibles," it is wildly entertaining. The kitchen scenes and surrounding adventures are packed with whirling action. ... Check out the trailer.

I enjoyed both movies enough to add them to The List.


Teach your children

I'm not getting the controversy over President Obama's upcoming speech to school children.

In fact, the furor over it upsets me.

Sure, I'm of the opinion that George W. Bush made some questionable calls in the Oval Office. But I still respect him for his courage and ability to take on the highest office in the land. And still, would I raise the kind of ruckus that people are raising over Obama's speech if it were Bush talking to school children? Of course not.

He's the President of the United States. The leader of the Free World.

The President is a figure schoolchildren should be encouraged to look up to for his work ethic and leadership. He's a person we, as citizens of this country, should respect and honor, whether he's black or white, male or female, Democrat or Republican.

For all of his accomplishments, why wouldn't a parent want Obama to encourage his or her child to work hard in school and go after their dreams?

The speech -- which will likely last a mere 10 minutes and probably won't seriously disrupt classroom instruction, as some opponents of it are charging -- implores students to take responsibility for their education and work hard toward their goals. The Presidents relays some of his own childhood experiences and makes a request for the students to "show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed."

A news report on the controversey tonight included a parent who cited Obama's stance on abortion and healthcare, among other hot-button issues, as her reasons for not allowing her child to have the president's views "pushed down her child's throat" -- or something to that effect. ... For godsakes people, the speech is a universe away from those subjects! He's only encouraging your children to stay in school and put forth their best efforts!

And what else does it say of the schools who agree to block -- or censor? -- students from seeing Obama's speech. To borrow a point from one of my cohorts, it's almost like parents telling their children's schools that they can't teach about the legacy of Abraham Lincoln, or the lessons of 9/11, or science.

One school in our area is prohibiting its teachers from showing the speech to students on Tuesday, but allowing them to show a recorded version later only if it fits into the teacher's curriculum. Furthermore, the school is barring any student from entering the White House's video contest in conjunction with the speech because "it violates the school's policies on proper Internet usage," or something like that. ... What does that say about encouraging our students to learn technology, or be creative, or helping them discover new interests that could, say, inspire them to become filmmakers?

I applaud the schools that encourage their students to watch Tuesday's address.

See Cartoons by Cartoon by John Cole - Courtesy of Politicalcartoons.com - Email this Cartoon


Woman breaks off long nails

From the Associated Press's " Well, duh ..." wire ...

Woman says life easier after breaking long nails.

Just reading this story makes me uncomfortable ... Like the feeling of nails scratching a chalkboard.


Radio head

So I got in my car this afternoon to drive to pick up Phoebe ...

And my radio wasn't working.

Hmm. Interesting.

I thought maybe the volume was turned down. But when I turned the volume dial up, there was still no sound coming from the radio.

I started driving anyway, hoping at some point the radio would just produce some music. Some sound. Anything.

But it never did.

Did I miss something? Did all of the radio stations go off the air in protest of something? Is it a Labor Day weekend thing? Was there a federal mandate issued? Is there some sort of national emergency happening that I don't know about?

The more I drove, the more uncomfortable the silence in my car made me.

I cannot drive -- no, I cannot live without a radio in my car. It's not just the music I'd miss, but the Cubs and Brewers games, the zany morning shows.

Did my radio just die of old age? Couldn't be, my car isn't that old. But maybe that's what happened. How does that happen anyway? Great, what if I have to get a completely new radio? How much does that cost? Am I going to have to replace the speakers, too? The whole stereo system?

Maybe I just blew a fuse.

That happened to me once when I was making the 10-hour drive from Missouri to Wisconsin. I drove almost the entire route with my windows half down and no radio -- and through a rainstorm in the final stretch -- after I blew a fuse that controlled the power windows, power locks and stereo.

So I tried putting down the windows.

Yep, they still work. It's not a blown fuse.


I kept driving and finally arrived at Phoebe's daycare ... Within a couple minutes of getting out of the car and seeing her playing, I forgot about the radio. I chatted with her caretaker, then gathered Phoebe's things and started strapping her into the car seat.

Then I took my place in the driver's seat and pulled out of the driveway. Once I had the car turned forward, I tried the radio again ...

Counting Crows blared through the car, startling both Phoebe and I.

I reset the volume, sighed in relief and started driving home. Happily.

Overheard in the newsroom

... One of my favorite blogs is "Overheard in the Newsroom."

Today, I submitted this piece of dialogue heard in our newsroom ...

Reporter: "I'm not feeling a lot of love for that video."

Editor: "Well then let's make some love."


Primitive Internet Report

Another great video signaling the death of newspapers from my friend Trisha ...


In the last three days, I’ve taken two walks with Phoebe. Just the two of us. No iPod in my ears. Just exploring our neighborhood, admiring the gardens and soaking in the sun. And clearing my head… I need to do a whole lot more of that.

Who flipped the switch on fall a month early this year? … It’s been a mild summer, after all. But this week we’ve had low 70s during the day and 40s over night – and lots of sun. I’m not complaining; I’m loving it, actually. It’s perfect.

After spending several days at home – alone -- with Phoebe during that last few weeks, I’m convinced being a toddler is the best age. (George Constanza once had an excellent take on why we should live our lives backwards …) The most stressful things Phoebe has to face every day are eating green beans and Cheerios, or figuring out how to arrange her blocks. She’s teaching me more and more about letting everything else go and just playing …

I'm still starting my work day at 5 a.m. every morning. As I get myself out of bed and start getting ready each morning, I think This has gotta end some time, right? Six months in, it still doesn't feel permanent.

After three years of watching and reading all the buzz, Kates and I have finally started watching AMC’s “Mad Men.” … I like it. Love the 1960s nostalgia and the take on society then compared to now. And I think Peggy is a fascinating character.

We purchased the new Ingrid Michaelson album last week. We love her music and we love the new album. We listened to it all weekend long ... It's tough to name a favorite -- because there's so many catchy and singable songs on the collection -- but Kates and I really enjoy Ingrid's achingly beautiful "The Chain." ... Even though just about every time we play it, Phoebe ruins it with her babbling or by playing one of her own musical toys.

I’m noticing more and more lately as I wake up in the morning and look at my bed-matted hair in the mirror – there’s a whole lot of gray in there. Part of me really likes it; part of me wants to groan.

Kates started her ninth year of teaching last week. Where have the years gone?

In Cubdom, Santo is sufferer-in-chief

Here's a great read about Ron Santo and is Cubs broadcasts ...

I'm sad I haven't found much time this summer to listen to Pat & Ron call the Cubs games. But listening to any game that Ron is broadcasting is like watching your favorite team play in the World Series and you're watching it in a bar with your best friend. You live and die with every play ...


Dodgers acquire Thome and Garland

... And down the stretch they come!

Here comes news this morning that the Dodgers have acquired Jim Thome -- one of my long-time favorites in the game -- and Jon Garland.

Thome's aging, but I'll take it.

With hope waning for my hometowns -- the Brewers and Cubs -- my attention is turning more and more to my feel-goods -- the Dodgers and the Tigers.