the year of no safe harbor

As the year 2008 on the calendar comes to a close, I find myself taking stock. This was a year of poor relations with family. Mrs. Geek and I don’t know what happened to cause it all, but we didn’t seem to be on the same page with several people. Well, we know the facts of what happened, but we’re not sure why there has been a lack of communication in certain quarters. Is it because we now live at a new address, and moving 10 miles further away from some family members has made seeing them just that much more infrequent? Is it that the process of getting established in our first house has left us looking more inward to ourselves than outward to others? Are we just being too touchy? I don’t know.

All this even popped up on Christmas Day. We visited two groups of Mrs. Geek’s family, my in-laws. The first group has a couple people in it who just seem to communicate on a different wavelength than Mrs. Geek or myself — so talking with them since the miscarriage in September has been a series of awkward statements that seem to lack empathy about what happened to us. Christmas Day was no exception, though to be fair, what was said mostly fell into the “where on earth did you come up with that?” category.

Our problems with the second group on Christmas were more overt. We had a bit of a dust up with this group back in June that I didn’t mention here… over money. We’d received a financial gift last Christmas and it was felt that we’d not properly acknowledged it. This was false — Mrs. Geek had provided a verbal thank you last January, after some grumbling even then that our gratitude had not been shown quickly enough. This conversation was initially not remembered, and the way the whole thing was brought up made Mrs. Geek feel like she was about five years old. It was eventually all settled… or so we thought. Well, we got a financial gift this year again from the same people — along with a box of thank you notes. Again, Mrs. Geek and I five years old…

I realize lately that I wake up in the morning with some part of me emotionally clenched. I need to stop that. New Year’s Resolution #1: relax. After that, maybe we can start having better relations with different members of the family.

carving out a little quiet time for christmas

December has been quite the month around here, so far. It was prefaced by hosting Thanksgiving dinner. This was followed a mere 10 days later with a second dinner party to celebrate my birthday (not the actual day, but close enough.) That left me pretty tired of entertaining, and hardly in a frame of mind to experience “yuletide joy”.

So, I have been trying to take a few moments here to enjoy the season. Our tree this year is lovely (despite a box score of “Hardwood floors: 3 Christmas Ornaments: 1”) and has a nice evergreen smell when I walk in the door. I’ve also been enjoying the production of The Nutcracker showing on PBS this past week. I even made my Mom’s fruitcake the other night.

Winter is going to seem like such a dark, drab time once all the bright holiday lights come down. Best to enjoy them while they’re still here!

mws

Given the tough economic times this year, I’ve been struggling with new musical concepts to shill that will net me the benjamins (as the young folks say today) to really rock out my Christmas season. I think that it’s time to be svengali/evil genius behind an all girl pop group called MWS, short for “Models Who Sing”. Of course, fine print on all contracts and marketing materials will point out that “sing” is a marketing term which allows me to dictate who actually needs too sing, and who just needs to lip sync and look good. It goes without saying that the models will not have actual music contracts. Rather, they will have personal service contracts to me that will allow me to pay them a fixed salary with no royalties, and allow me to hire and fire them at will.

I figure that the marketing of MWS will occur in a few phases. In the first phase, the girls will be squeaky clean. They’ll show up at red carpets wearing couture that will reek of glamorous old Hollywood, and I will leak rumors to the press that the models will face fines for showing in appropriate amounts of skin in public. I figure this will last through maybe one or two albums.

At this point, a personal assistant of mine will appear on the scene. He will seem to take over day-to-day management of MWS. He will appear to have an affair with a model that I will call Model A and all sorts of tawdry paparazzi tabloid gossip will come out… about hotel balcony sex, illicit drug use, and late night private club boozing around. The models will appear to rebel from me, and go with the new management company fronted by the personal assistant (that is actually owned, through shell corporations, by me.)

At this point, Model A will do a full nude layout in Playboy and the other models will do layouts in “lads” magazines. Their third album will be full of girl power, third wave feminist empowerment themes, but the title and choruses will be questionable double entendres. I think the name “Stripper Pole” will figure prominently at this point, with the chorus of the title track running something like this:

Why don’t ya let me ride your
stripper pole?
I really wanna ride your
stripper pole.

At this point, things will appear to completely fall apart in a haze of personal foibles, bitchy backstabbing, and drunken personal appearances. Model A will temporarily appear to be fired, and a reality show will be created around the search for her replacement. That search will fail, and the manager, my former personal assistant, will be revealed by the show to be hopeless. MWS will then return to me, and a somewhat more conservative image… until I lose interest and think of a new band concept.

a jazz and blues christmas

I seems that it is my fate to write about Christmas music here every two years (see here and here.) My entry this time around is about my favorite new Christmas CD — Putumayo Presents: A Jazz & Blues Christmas.

I picked this CD up as an impulse buy while I was in the checkout line at Whole Foods Paychecks getting holiday party provisions. I am never really sure what to expect when it comes to Christmas CDs. I knew that tracks by B.B. King, Charles Brown, and Ray Charles had some promise, but the rest of the artists were unknown to me.

This is a very solid mix. The whole thing has a rather New Orleans feel — a mixture of blues and jazz, with some jazzy funk thrown in for good measure. The B.B. King and Charles Brown tracks are both solid citizens, though B.B.’s track tends to sound a bit like a generic blues from him… that’s nothing bad, just nothing terribly special. The Ray Charles version of “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” is positively righteous. “Santa Baby” is an abused track, more often than not (see the Pussycat Dolls version) but in the hands of Emelie-Claire Barlow, it is lively and elegant. “Here Comes Santa Claus” is a slightly funky boogie woogie instrumental when played by The Ramsay Lewis Trio. New Orleans Jazz drips from “The Christmas Blues” by Topsy Chapman and Lars Edegran. The final track, “All I Ask For Christmas” by the Mighty Blue Kings sounds like a James Hunter song that happens to be sung by Charlie Musselwhite (even though it isn’t.) I skipped commenting on a few tracks, but there are no throwaways here. Everyone is playing with taste and soul.

So, if you find yourself in line at Whole Paychecks during the next few weeks and spot “A Jazz and Blues Christmas”, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed… well unless you’ve been pining for that Britney Spears Christmas album for several years now. If that’s the case, there’s no hope for you. Just go home.

pieroghi nightmares

The holiday season continues apace around here, but not without some bumps in the road. I’d gone back to my Eastern European roots over the Thanksgiving holiday and made a batch of pieroghi. I took the entire Thanksgiving week off, in part to prep the house for hosting our first Thanksgiving dinner… but that is another entry. Rather than eat the pieroghi right away, I made them on the Tuesday of Thanksgiving week and froze them.

I took my first stab at cooking them on Saturday — and they came out awful! I think I made the dough too thin because it cracked during the freezing process. As soon as those frozen pieroghi hit boiling water, the dough shattered and the potato filling dissolved away into the water. The remaining pasta noodles still tasted good with the traditional browned butter and onions, but pieroghi, they were not.

I tried again last night with better success. I defrosted them first a bit in the microwave, and then gently lowered them into simmering water and gently brought them to a boil. The results were not perfect, but did give me a fairly enjoyable bowl of pieroghi.

The pieroghi extracted their revenge overnight, while they sat heavy in my stomach. I had the weirdest dreams all night — including one dream where I went from third person narrator/observer to first person small child suddenly knocked out of bed onto the ground/floor, covered by a blanket. I was very afraid of the dark as a child, and all I could do was sit under that blanket, like it was an umbrella dome covering me, waiting paralyzed for some monster to poke and make a dimple in that curved surface. The fear made me sort of hyperventilate in real life, which caused Mrs. Geek to wake me up for making “Hannibal Lector noises”. I stayed up for about an hour after that… and had other, less scary dreams until morning.

a sour note prior to Turkey Day

Thanksgiving this year was prefaced by a rather unfortunate event: Mrs. Geek’s car was burgled and her computer bag (containing the computer issued to her by her school) was stolen. Mrs. Geek took her father for a late lunch last Wednesday afternoon; it was his birthday. She left her car parked on the street with the bag on the back seat. Someone smashed a window and took the bag.

The immediate physical consequences of the act were dealt with during a 20 minute while-you-wait window repair on Friday. Other effects still linger, however. There is the triangulation of insurance companies (auto and homeowners insurance — auto covers the window, but not the computer, which covered by homeownners) and institutions (Mrs. Geek’s school) who each have something to say about who pays what and when (mostly us paying it seems, thanks to deductables). There is also the question a replacement computer — the school cannot afford to be down a computer right now because its aging computer inventory is already being rode hard and put away wet. Mrs. Geek needs to find a replacement, no matter who pays what.

For the latter at least, there is e-Bay. Given the age and duties of the lost computer, a brand spanking new replacement does not seem to be required. Thankfully, there appear to be a goodly number of nearly identical computers out there for substantially less money.

Curse you, smash-and-grab evil doers! A hex on you for brining this worry and bureaucracy into the Christmas season!