Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Update and SXSW; Whiplash and Jodorowsky's Dune

So things have been good. Busy, but pretty good. Last week was my birthday and South by Southwest. Also, as often happens during SXSW week, spring finally made a legitimate appearance. 


On Tuesday, my actual birthday, we didn't do too much.  Instead, we planned a dinner with family for the weekend.  On Tuesday we stayed home and watched Whiplash, a movie about a student attending school at a prestigious music conservatory in New York.  The film largely focuses on the relationship between an extremely demanding music teacher/conductor, Terence Fletcher- played by J.K. Simmons, and one of his drummers, Andrew Nieman- played by Miles Teller.  Fletcher's demand for excellence in his students lends itself to behavior which becomes abusive.  The musicians, for their part, are eager, but also competitive and egotistical.
The film explores the relationship between single-minded ambition and unhealthy obsession.
I found it really entertaining.  I'm not saying that it was flawless, but it was very good.  We've seen this sort of story before, but it usually plays out in tales about athletes, chess champions, or other obvious competitors.  Music is something that people usually think of as more imaginative, creative, and expressive as opposed to cutthroat.
Anyone who's ever even been in high school band or orchestra, however, knows that music performance has its own world of fierce competition.  Music directors across the country spend tremendous amounts of time and energy training their students not to simply express themselves through their instruments, but to play technical pieces of music correctly.  In an educational environment, music students regular take part in competitions where judges evaluate their performance in very technical terms.
Whiplash sort of takes this idea to the extreme.  The musicians in this movie may love music, but they're primarily competing to be the best at what they do.  They don't just want to make happy music- they want to be remembered as GREAT musicians.
It was a good movie, and pretty intense for a film about people playing instruments.  Recommend.




In terms of SXSW, I escaped from work a little early on a couple of days this week so I could go check out some music.
I saw Ray Wylie Hubbard, Dreamers, American Aquarium, The Mastersons, Bill Carter with Will Sexton, Matthew E. White, The Dodos, Kevin Kinney, Songhoy Blues, and Castle, amongst others.


Unexpected standouts included American Aquarium, playing alt country from North Carolina, and Castle, a heavy metal band from San Francisco who were playing behind a tattoo parlor.  Songhoy Blues were from Mali, Africa, and had an interesting mix of African-influenced music and American blues rock.
I went out and wandered around during the afternoon and early evening and got home by dark to hang out with Amy.  It was fun.



(Ray Wylie Hubbard at Dogwood)



(Bill Carter with Will Sexton)

(American Aquarium)

(The Dodos)

(Songhoy Blues)

(Castle)

(random street performers on South Congress- her card said Cari Quoyeser)

On Friday it was raining, so we stayed home and hunkered down.  We watched Jodorowsky's Dune.  It was a sort of strange documentary about attempts by surrealist director Alexander Jodorowsky to create a version of Dune in the 1970s.  He assembled an all-star cast for the preproduction of the movie, getting work and commitments from people ranging from H.R. Giger to Salvador Dali to Pink Floyd to contribute work to the movie.
The movie was extremely ambitious, and would have been amazing if it had ever been made, but, in the end, I think the magnitude of Jodorowsky's ambition might have been what actually killed the project.  American studios, when asked to fund the project, balked.  Am I surprised?  Not really.  Jodorowsky, in order to get his movie made, was travelling the globe, rounding up an incredible amount of talent, often employing decadent food, expensive drinks, and high quality hallucinogens as part of the recruitment process.  That talent would undoubtedly come at an incredible cost.  Dali was being told that he would be paid $100,000 for every minute that he would appear on screen.  Orson Welles was being told that chefs from New York City would be flown to the set to prepare his meals.  Mick Jagger was going to be cast in a starring role.  Complex special effects would likely be needed, with no real sense of how they could be accomplished or what they would cost.
And all of this was in the service of a director who's two previous films, El Topo and The Holy Mountain, were considered psychedelic classics, but with fairly limited audience appeal.
Alexander Jodowrosky, for his part, even when interviewed for the film in his 80's, is extremely charismatic, gregarious, and engaging.  He's extremely likeable, and you can see why people would want to be part of this project.
But you also get the sense that he's a sort of surrealist Captain Ahab.
If I was a producer, I would have been thoroughly entertained by Jodowrosky, but the idea of trying to reconcile his dogged, relentless artistic vision with the real world constraints of a studio budget would have seemed impossible- especially given the high likelihood that the movie might never have found an audience beyond being a "cult classic".
But I enjoyed the documentary.  It made me want to go out and do something creative.


Saturday we went to dinner with Ryan, Jamie, and Dad (Mom was in Arizona visiting with her friends Barb and Jane).  We went up to North Austin for dinner at Reale's, a pretty good Italian restaurant that I used to eat at when we were growing up.  The location is different now, but the food is still pretty much the same.  It's really good.  The Steans family doesn't really have too many institutions like that which we've returned to over the years, so it felt kinda special.
We had a really nice dinner.  I really enjoyed the birthday time with the family.  Thanks, guys!


Sunday we ran some errands and just hung out.  Sunday night I went to band practice.  Everyone was there but Jim, and it went pretty well. 
Last night Amy made some sort of chicken biscuit bake recipe, and it was really good.  I don't know what witchcraft she uses to make her magical food, but her juju was strong last night.
So that was the week and weekend!  Very good.
Amy is doing well with the pregnancy.  She's doing very well, really.  I'm amazed by how gracefully she handles the whole thing.  She's gonna be a great mom. 
I love you, Amy!


(third trimester Amy!)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Update; Ryan and Jamie's B-Day

The weekend was nice. It felt good to have a couple of days off after having spent all of last weekend in our childbirth classes (which were helpful, but made it feel like we didn't get a weekend).
This weekend went by pretty fast.  On Friday night we walked to Central Market and had some dinner while listening to some pretty decent music.  It was fun. 
On Saturday Amy took me out to Kerbey for a birthday breakfast.  The weather was nice, and we sat outside.  It was good.  Afterwards we went shopping and ran errands and stuff.
Saturday evening my parents took us out for a nice birthday dinner to celebrate Ryan and Jamie's upcoming 40th birthdays.  We went to Perry's Steakhouse down on 7th Street.  We had a really nice time!  It's a cool restaurant.  I had pecan crusted red snapper with crab meat on top and a wine sauce.  Amy and Jamie had steak.  Ryan had a really big pork chop.  Everyone except Amy had some wine.  Jamie, Ryan, Mom, Dad, Susan, Dick, Juan, and Matt were in attendance along with Amy and myself.
(this is the kind of crew that could ruin Perry's reputation for fine dining)


(ladies from my family.  Undoubtedly in the midst of planning something
that will affect me in some way)


(I'm going to start serving my kabobs at home this same way) 
So it was fun to go downtown and have a fancy dinner with everyone. Really nice way to kick off Ryan and Jamie's 40th birthday celebration!
On Sunday we just sort of took care of some more errands and chores.  One of the more fun errands involved running to Costco to pick up a new camera.  We got a Nikkon D3300.  Baby camera!  I'm still in the early stages of figuring out how to use it, but I shot this picture with it...
(I used our new camera to snap a photo of Cassidy
 protecting the front yard)
I have/had an SLR camera that shoots traditional film, and I used to use it quite a bit, but once digital cameras came out, I sort of switched over and haven't used a SLR camera for a while (I started buying point and click digital cameras to use along with my phone, but I've never had a decent digital SLR). 
Anyway, I realized, upon trying to use the camera, that I'm sort of rusty, and I've sort of lost track of some of my basic photography skills.  I was never an expert, by any means, but I used to be better about being able to set shutter speeds, adjust aperture settings, and use flash in order to get the picture that I was looking for.  It's gonna be fun to get back into practice.


Last night Amy made delicious chicken enchiladas with red sauce.  Soooo good.
And last night we watched a video about baby care (every bit of this stuff helps, I've decided- I feel less anxious for having watched it), and then I followed the baby care video with The Walking Dead.  Such is my life as I prepare to role into my 42nd year here in 2015:  the optimism and hope that come with having a baby coupled with the constant fear of an apocalypse.
Maybe I'm thinking a little bit too hard about the symbolism behind my Sunday night, post-enchilada viewing choices.  ;-)


Anyway, that was the weekend! 
Hope you are all doing well!!!

Monday, March 09, 2015

Update

Well, after a somewhat spring-like December, January, and early February, things have been sort of cold and wet here in the first part of March. We had an ice day last week where I didn't go into work until 1:00, and Amy had the whole day off (the state offices closed once the schools announced that they'd be shut for the day).
(so never again will I mock the groundhog when he predicts 6 more
weeks of winter...)
Anyway, we've had a lot of rain and colder weather.  I think Amy and I are both ready for the sunshine to return.
This weekend was sort of unusual.  We spent about 12 hours in a childbirth class.
The class was pretty good.  They covered all kinds of stuff- anatomy, the childbirth process, pain management for contractions, medications and medical procedures, and some post-delivery tips for continuing care after you get home from the hospital.  So the class was designed to teach you what to expect, and to make you more confident and relaxed going into the child birth process.
I think the class accomplished that fairly well. 
The class was taught by a doula, and she did a good job.  I thought the class might have been improved somewhat by having a doctor come in to talk about some of the medical interventions and medications.  When describing the risks and benefits of these things, it might be good to have someone giving the talk who can speak a little bit about the sorts of emergency situations that the doctors are trying to avoid or might be required to deal with, as opposed to a doula with much less medical training (our doula literally described the doctor's role as simply catching the baby when it popped out and possibly stitching mom up, if needed).
Anyway, we've known 4 people who gave birth within the last few months, and half of them had cesarean section deliveries.  I'm not sure I'm ready to relegate doctors to the role of baby catchers...
That being said, the class had a lot of good information.  I do feel more informed and maybe a little more confident for having attended.  We also got a tour of the labor and delivery portion of our hospital (St. David's), and that was good!


Because we spent a lot of time in class, though, I don't have a lot to report.  We did our grocery shopping and ran some errands Friday night.  Saturday and Sunday nights we did some laundry.  We briefly saw Ryan and Jamie on Saturday because they let Cassidy come over to hang out with their dogs for the day.  It was good to see them, and Cassidy seemed to really appreciate visiting the cousin dogs.


Last night we watched The Overnighters.  I didn't really know anything about it, and Amy talked me into watching it.  It's a documentary that's sort of based upon the North Dakota oil boom that started in 2006 and is still ongoing.  The film is actually about men, the great majority of them poor and out of work, who moved to the small town of Williston to find jobs and opportunity.  They get to Williston and find that employment is harder to come by than they imagined, and that housing is all but unavailable.  A local church, Concordia Lutheran, opens its doors to provide these homeless men with food and shelter.  Some of the men are convicted criminals, some of them have substance abuse issues, and many of them are not likely to ever find employment.  The community becomes resentful of the influx of men, but pastor Jay Reinke, the central figure in the film, takes a very hard stand, insisting that his church provide shelter for these "overnighters".  I don't want to give too much away, so I'll go ahead and leave it at that, but the director of The Overnighters, Jesse Moss, definitely ended up with more than just a simple documentary about the logistics of the oil boom.  I'm sure that he was just as surprised as everyone else with the final product of his efforts.  I would definitely recommend the film.


Anyway, that was our weekend.  Lots of time in a hospital basement learning about bebes!!!

Monday, March 02, 2015

Work Baby Shower; Update

Well, the weather in Austin this weekend was kind of lame.  It was rainy and cold.  On the other hand, we have such nice weather so much of the time that I feel pretty lame complaining about the weather.  We've just had a run of clouds, rain, and dreariness lately, and I'm a sunshine sort of guy.
Anyway, life, nonetheless, is pretty good!
On Friday the folks up at my office threw a baby shower for Amy and I.  It was really nice.  there were snacks and cupcakes, and they gave us lots of cool baby stuff.  It was nice.  I'm really fortunate to have such nice, cool people for co-workers and friends.



Baby Nick- the less successful, more disappointing cousin of Baby New Year

Well, it wouldn't be a County Attorney event without...


So the work shower was cool! Friday night we ate pizza and went to bed early. We were both pretty tired.


Saturday we ran some errands. We did some shopping, organized some stuff, ran errands and tried to run errands (apparently a lot of people buy discount tires on Saturday), hung some more stuff in the nursery, etc.  Saturday night we listened to a couple of episodes of Serial.  I like it, but Amy is really hooked.  I'm a little surprised.  She's normally not a "true crime" sort of gal (or I didn't think that she was), but she says she likes the narration, and she says that listening to it as a story is a lot easier than it would be to watch a TV show that might have crime scene photos and whatnot.
On Sunday we ran a few more errands.  Amy printed out a bunch of the pictures from the photo album on our computer.  I got started on thank you cards.  In the evening I had band practice.  Well, it was actually Wastewood practice, with just Reed and I.  It felt good to play.  I had bought a tiny little PA system at Guitar Center, so we got to try that out for the vocals, and it seemed to work well.
I came home, and Amy had made a really good dish that had chicken and peppers and rice.  Yum!
We ate and listened to Serial.  I watched an episode of Walking Dead, and then went to sleep. 
The weekend!


Hope everyone is staying warm and dry!  It's March.  I'm ready for the cold to end!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Update

Our weekend was good!  Friday night we went out to dinner.  Afterward we went home, and we listened to Serial.  Lots of different friends have been telling me about Serial, and then Amy developed a curiosity about it, so now we're listening to the podcasts.  For those who haven't listened, Serial is a podcast from the developers of NPR's This American Life.  It's a nonfiction audio series telling a story over multiple episodes- in this case a real life murder mystery revolving around the killing of a young high school student, Hae Min Lee, and the subsequent conviction of her ex boyfriend, Adnan Masud Syed, for the crime.  The podcast primarily reflects the investigative work of journalist Sarah Koenig as she interviews people who knew the defendant and/or the victim, sifts through various pieces of evidence, and occasionally expresses her own personal thoughts, feelings, and biases about the various players and theories surrounding the murder.
The podcast is interesting.  The content certainly isn't revolutionary.  Television and print media have been full of true crime stories for many decades.  What makes Serial sort of interesting and unique is the combination of narrative viewpoint (Koenig very much tells the story from her own point of view, explaining how she got interested in the story, how she met each of the people, and how her opinions change regarding Syed's guilt or innocence as her investigation progresses) coupled with the intimacy and immediacy that comes from the recorded one-on-one interviews that Koenig conducts with her subjects.  There's something about the radio interviews that seems to capture the personality of Koenig's subjects in a way that courtroom testimony and/or on-camera interviews do not.  People seem to let their guard down a little.  The interviews sound like a regular conversation between two people as opposed to the more rigid, guarded responses that people appear to have when they know that they are being watched or filmed.
And the quality of the journalism is strong.  Koenig not only does a good job of tracking people down, searching for evidence, and talking to relevant witnesses, but also openly discusses her biases and emotional reactions to her subjects.  As an audience member, I feel far less manipulated by a journalist who tells you that they have an opinion (thereby allowing you to agree or disagree) as opposed to a reporter who more subtly presents evidence in a way that is designed to bring an audience around to seeing their point of view.
Annnnyway, we're liking Serial.  We have many more episodes to listen to, but we're liking it.



Steanso puts baby in the corner

On Saturday Amy went to a hair appointment, and I went out to lunch with Ryan.  We went to a sandwich shop down near Ryan's house called Independence Fine Foods.  Pretty good little deli style place.    It was good to find some time to sit down and hang out.
Saturday afternoon/early evening we drove over to pick up a crib from a friend of a friend named Clark.  Clark's kids had grown out of their crib, so we swooped in to take it off their hands.  It was very cool of them to give it to us.  It was also sort of the final piece in our nursery (aside from maybe some knickknacks and pictures and stuff), so it feels good to have it in place and know that the baby has a room to call his own.  So that was Saturday night.  We ate dinner, and put together a crib.  I think I played a little Grand Theft Auto while Amy worked on some sort of crafts.

Sunday we ran errands in the morning.  In the afternoon we went over to Mary and Chad's house to visit with them and see three week old baby Truett.  They all seemed to be doing well, if slightly sleepy (which made me a little sleepy).  We hung out with them and visited for a while.  It was good to catch up.
After that I worked out and went to band practice.  Frank, Reed, Jim, and I got together to play.  We hadn't played in months, so it felt good (if slightly rusty).  Thanks to Reed for hosting.
Amy went to an Oscars get together over at Shelly and Kit's house.  I got done with band practice, made a sandwich, watched Walking Dead, and was already falling asleep when my party animal wife came rolling in.  It sounds like she had a really good time.

And that was the weekend!  It was nice.  Way too short.
Hope everyone is doing well!


**  Addendum- the very cool quilt on the wall in the picture above was done by Amy and Jean!  Amy did the needlepoint in the panels, and Jean made the quilt!
    


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Update

Hey! Hope everyone had a good weekend! Amy and I both had Monday off for President's Day, so we got a 3 day weekend. Pretty cool. We did a lot of house stuff and chores stuff, mostly. 
On Friday night we stayed home and watched Edge of Tomorrow.  Neither of us had seen that movie before, and I was really impressed.  It's about a soldier (played by Tom Cruise) who ends up in a sort of time loop while fighting against aliens during an invasion.  The movie was well written, interesting, and more creative than anything I'd seen in a long time- especially from a blockbuster, Hollywood sci-fi action flick.  We both enjoyed it.
On Saturday we got a lot of the nursery stuff put away (babies, for being so small, amass a shocking amount of stuff, apparently). I put some cube-like shelves together for use in the nursery.  I wrote baby shower thank you cards and visited with our landscape guy about our ongoing drainage situation.



Amy stitched this for the nursery.  It's from Dune.  The Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear.
When Amy and I met, she was literally reading a copy of Dune.  Talking about that book was one
of our first conversations.  So if Dune helped bring this kid into the world, it's more than
earned a spot in the nursery!


On Saturday night, Valentine's Day, we went out and had some Thai food for dinner.  It was nice.  It felt relaxing, the food was good, and I enjoyed having dinner with Amy.

On Sunday we did some shopping and ran a few errands.  We also hung some stuff up in the nursery.

Nursery progress.
In the afternoon we drove over to our friends Adam and Katie's house to meet their new daughter, Ophelia.  Ophelia was born about 6 weeks ago.  She's awfully cute.  Adam and Katie seem to be doing well, also, and it was great to see their little family settling in to life together so nicely.

Ophelia and Amy
Sunday night we watched Pacific Rim.  I had seen it once before, and Amy had never seen it.  Pacific Rim is a fun movie.  Amy really liked it, and I think I actually enjoyed it more the second time around.  The movie has a pretty good sense of humor, and going into it the second time I was more prepared for the way that Guillermo del Toro sort of emulated Japanese anime and kaiju films.  The movie is more than a bit melodramatic, but so is the source material that it's derived from.  Throw in some awesome shots of city-wrecking robot versus kaiju combat, and it's hard not to be entertained. 

On Monday we had the day off for President's Day.  I'm not exactly sure why, but when it comes to vacation time I will not look a gift horse in the mouth.  So on Monday my parents came over for a little while.  They're getting us some blinds for our back door, so we figured out how that would work.  We did a little bit of shopping, and worked on hanging some more stuff up.  Our house hasn't had things put back up on the walls since we got it painted, so we're figuring out how we want to do it this time, starting with a clean slate.
Monday night Amy made a really good red beans and rice recipe with chicken sausage and bacon.  Very tasty, and the slow simmering made the house smell good.

Anyway, that was about it.  Other from that we exercised and took Cassidy for walks and just sort of hung out.  Another 3 day weekend that went by too fast.


Monday, February 09, 2015

Baby Shower; Update

Howdy!  Hope y'all are doing okay!  The weather here in Austin has been spring-like and incredibly nice.  Hard to believe we're still in the first half of February.
We had a good weekend.
Friday night we ate pizza and just sort of hung out.  We watched The Heat, starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy.  It was a fun movie.  Not groundbreakingly original, but thoroughly entertaining.  It made us laugh really hard (which felt good after a long, busy week).  Definitely in the tradition of some of the silliest, goofiest comedy buddy movies that I've seen.  (Reminded me of David Spade and Chris Farley or even Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy in 48 Hours).


On Saturday my family threw a big baby shower for Amy and I out at their house.  It was really nice!  There was great food and drink and lots of friends.  Everyone seemed to get along really well and enjoy one another's company.  It's always fun to see different friends from different parts of your life coming together.  It's even more fun when everyone seems to have a good time together!
As busy as things get, it's really nice to have these sorts of events where we get a chance to see old friends and catch up.  It was really good of so many people to take time out of their schedules to come out to Steiner Ranch to celebrate with us.
We got a bunch of really nice baby presents.  We are extremely grateful, not just for the presents and the shower itself, but for all of the support that we've gotten from our family and friends.  It's very humbling.  Thanks for the shower, Mom and Dad!  Thanks for helping out, Ryan and Jamie!











On Sunday I got up and went out to breakfast with my college friend, Richard, and his wife, Joy.  Amy was feeling just a little tired and/or slightly amiss on Sunday morning (her sleep patterns have been thrown off a bit by pregnancy), so she didn't make it.   Joy and Richard were in town from Houston and missed the shower on Saturday because they had a wedding to attend, but it was great to catch up with them over breakfast!  It sounds like life is going well for them down near Houston.  They already have three kids, so in addition to catching up on some news about the Trinity gang, I got to hear some cautionary parenting tales while eating my eggs.  It was really good to see them!


The rest of Sunday involved shopping, chores, and so forth.  Ryan popped in for a while to drop off presents that we couldn't fit in our car, so we got to catch up with him a bit.


And that was about it!


It was a good weekend.  Great shower!  Thanks to everyone!