Monday, November 25, 2013

The Weekend; The Hunger Games

Hey!  Hope everyone is doing okay.  It's been rainy and cold here in Austin over the last few days.  I sorta like having an excuse to just sort of hunker down and stay warm at the house for a while.  I can only handle it in small doses, though, and then I start to get restless.

Amy has been out of town since Friday.  She's out in Arizona with her family.  I leave on Tuesday evening to fly out and meet her for the holiday.  I'm looking forward to seeing her!

So Friday I drove Amy to the airport and went to work.  Friday was when the cold and the wet rolled in, so Friday night I stayed home and got caught up on TV shows on my DVR.  I started watching Almost Human, the new J.J. Abrams sci fi show about a future cop and his robot partner. 
The show isn't super original in its ideas, and I think it will either rise or fall on the basis of the acting and the character development.  The show started with a kind of "detective distrusts robot partner" thing going on, but, perhaps sensing that the partner distrust motif is a little worn out in cop dramas (I still think of the first Lethal Weapon movie fondly), the show's creators sort of sharthanded the distrust scenario and quickly moved into a more entertaining buddy story between Karl Urban ( the world-weary human detective) and Michael Ealy (the bright-eyed robot who embraces his electronic emotions).  So far the show isn't particularly thought provoking, but by the second episode it was starting to seem sort of fun.  It could go either way.  It'll be interesting to see where they take it.

On Saturday I got some exercise, ran and errand or two, and went to see The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.  It was a pretty good movie.  Maybe better than the first one.  The movie, like the series of books, is getting progressively darker, and the audience is slowly led to understand that the violence which takes place in the Hunger Games' arena pales in comparison to the potential violence that the nation of Panem may face if a war breaks out between the impoverished, oppressed districts and the illustrious, authoritarian capital. 
I first read the Hunger Games books upon the suggestion (and near insistence) of some friends from work who were reading them.  I was struck, at the time, by the violence in the books and the dark philosophical messages in the novels.  The Hunger Games, both in movie and book form, are not simply tales of an action movie heroine overcoming difficult odds.  The books are actually more of a morality tale, meant to convey the idea that violence, even when undertaken for the most noble of purposes, exacts a high cost for both those who victoriously inflict it and those who are defeated by it.  No wars can be undertaken without sacrifice, and the consequences of battle are often as unforeseen as they are brutal. 
Further, The Hunger Games contains a depiction of a society of vastly unjust society, where the citizens of the opulent, decadent capital live lives of tremendous comfort, supported in their lifestyle by the oppressed suffering of the impoverished, famished citizens in the outlying districts.  The wealthy citizens of the capital are so removed from the lives of the citizens in the districts that they completely lose empathy for them and their plight.  Morality is not so much absent as it is suspended when considering the plight of people living outside of the capital.  While the citizens of the capital aren't exactly bad people, through years of custom they have come to be enthusiastically entertained by a game in which citizens from the districts are forced to fight to the death.  Any potential cognitive dissonance is overcome by government propaganda and habituation.

Soooo... it's been sort of weird to watch this series of movies splash it marketing campaign all over products ranging from fast food soft drink cups to bags of potato chips.  Americans, like the citizens of The Capitol, are drawn to The Hunger Games in search of a visceral thrill and a lot of on-screen action.  While The Hunger Games are obviously meant to be an allegorical work of fiction, we do live in a country that benefits tremendously from the resources of regions of the world where people are living in poverty and very difficult conditions.  We drive SUVs that guzzle oil pulled out of war-torn regions of the middle east and forge alliances with oil rich leaders regardless of their humanitarian or economic policies. We walk around talking on iPhones that are made cheaply in China, knowing that the Chinese govenrment continues to oppress and imprison political dissidents.  We wear inexpensive clothing that's maufactured in Bangladesh- disposable fast fashion constructed in factories with questionable working conditions, unconscionable wages, and spotty safety records.
And speaking more directly to circumstances within our nation's borders, it's hard not to see the decadent citizens of Panem's capital as surrogates for our society's wealthiest members (we do, after all, live in a country still struggling with unemployment but where the top 1% of the population owns 40% of our nation's wealth).
The Hunger Games, in the end, tells a story about the uprising that will almost inevitably occur when the ruling class becomes inured to the struggling and suffering of the people who support them.  The books contain warnings about the moral decay that can occur as one class of citizens loses empathy for anything other than itself.  In a movie that preaches the dangers of what can happen (namely revolution) when a class of people cast aside their moral compasses in favor of bright, shiny baubles and creature comforts, it's kind of ironic to see the advertising for that movie appearing on fast food wrappers and ads for Covergirl makeup.
Oh well.  Even if the movie is being sold as a big, dumb action flick, maybe the underlying themes will sort of sink in with the audience.  Maybe.
Otherwise, I guess, the joke is on the audience.  Our protagonist is Katniss, but we most closely resemble the citizens of The Capitol who made the hunger games possible in the first place.

Saturday night I went over and had pizza and watched Archer with my friends Libby and Jordan.  It was fun hanging out with them,. Archer makes me laugh (even when it turns out to be about cancer).  They have dogs named Omar (a giant Great Dane who is sort of a celebrity by virtue of his size) and Weller (who is less of a celebrity, but equally fun).
Saturday was good.  Thanks to Jordan and Libby for having me.

Sunday I did some chores and exercised.  In the afternoon I went to see the new Thor: The Dark World with Ryan and Jamie.  The Thor movie was just about exactly what I was expecting.  The villains were powerful, but their motivations, and thus, the plot of the movie itself, were vague and sort of nonsensical.  The important thing to know is that they really wanted to destroy the world (well, several worlds, really, but who's counting).  The special effects were pretty cool, and the movie was relatively lighthearted and entertaining.  I enjoyed it, but I couldn''t really tell you what it was about.  Something regarding space elves. 
No, I'm not kidding.

Sunday night I got together briefly with Reed and played some music.  It was fun.  then I watched Walking Dead.  Then I went to bed.

And that was my weekend!  Hope you guys are doing well and staying warm.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Weekend

Hey!  I hope everyone had a good weekend!
(Dan and Danielle.  Or is it Daniel
and Danielle?)
(Greg, Allison, Brandy, Ruben,
and Jordan)
Ours went by pretty quick.  On Friday night some folks from work (especially Libby) put together a happy hour at Austin Beer Garden Brewery for Amy and I in honor of our wedding.  It was a really nice time.  We were both happy and humbled to have our friends come out to celebrate our marriage (we sort of got married in a small, private ceremony, so we didn't really expect anything like this).  A number of people from my showed up for the happy hour as well as people from both Amy's old office (at the Legislative Council) and her new office (the Environmental Protection Division at the Attorney General's Office).  We even got gifts!  Reed and Jen Shaw came out as well.  It was a fun evening.

On Saturday morning Jen came by the house with Sloane.  They dropped off a wedding gift (very nice!) and Sloane got to pet Cassidy.  After they left, I rode my bike down to Pease Park to attend a birthday party that my friend, Ray, and his wife, Lisette, were throwing for his daughter, Camilla.  It was a fun party, and I hadn't seen Ray in years.  They had fajitas and rice and beans and beer, and the kids had pizza and cake.  It was good to have a chance to catch up with Ray.

(Ray cookin' up fajitas)
After the party I rode home to watch the second half of the UT game.  The Longhorns got destroyed by Oklahoma State.  Pretty ugly.  Oh well.  Goodbye Big 12 championship.

Saturday night we went to see Gravity.  It was a visually spectacular movie.  I felt like it was aspiring to be something more than an action movie, but in the end, a really good action movie was all that I thought it really was.  As my dad pointed out when I talked to him, it doesn't seem like the space stuff was super realistic (it's probably not all that easy to just truck back and forth between space platforms using jet packs or escape vehicles and technical support crew members probably aren't cross trained to pilot numerous forms of spacecraft).  The underlying theme of the movie, the reaffirmation of life in the face of painful loss, was okay, but not exactly original.  I guess that the beautiful imagery with Earth in the background lent a little more perspective or meaning to the whole thing, but, honestly, seeing our entire planet as a central feature of many scenes sort of had the strange consequence of making me feel that the plight of a few astronauts might not be, in the grand scheme of things, such a huge deal.  Nothing like an entire world in every shot to remind you that life is going to go on in spite of whatever happens to your main characters.  People use the phrase "a 20,000 foot view" or "a 30,000 foot view" in reference to the notion of keeping an eye on the bigger picture and not getting bogged down in relative minor details or entanglements.  Well, in Gravity the viewers are constantly faced with what is, we're told, literally a 559 kilometer high view.  In a movie where the characters aren't super well developed in the first places, it become sort of easy to feel disconnected from them as you watch the spectacle unfold.  I actually was sitting there thinking, "Well, if you wanna be involved in the sort of exploratory endeavor that actually involves expanding mankind's knowledge of space travel, I guess these are the sort of risks that you have to be willing to take."
Annnyway, that was our Saturday night.  Gravity was amazing to look at.  I will definitely give it that.

On Sunday we got up and went out for breakfast.  We went to Kerbey Lane, and it was pretty good.
We ran errands and did some shopping.  I went for another bike ride.  Stopped in briefly and visited Ryan and Jamie while I was out riding.  Amy went to the gym.  We walked Cassidy and brushed her.  I talked to my dad on the phone and managed to mess up the brakes on my bike while trying to adjust them (my bike is in the shop as I write this).  For dinner, Amy made a really great pasta recipe for a dish called chicken riggie (it uses rigatoni noodles).  It was a little bit spicy and a lotta delicious.  Afteer we ate I washed dishes.  Just so you don't think I'm a total bum!

And that was our weekend.  It was nice.

Hope everyone is doing okay!  As usual, it feels like fall is going by really fast.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Halloween Update

Hey!  So our first week of being married had some very good times, and a few moments that fell squarely into the bummer category.  We had a lot of fun, and managed to roll through the rough patches fairly gracefully.

On Wednesday night we got a lot of rain again in South Austin.  At our house, for the second time in a month, we probably got more than 6 inches of rain within a couple of hours (when this happened three weeks ago we probably got more than 10 inches of rain in our area).  So, anyway, for the second time in three weeks we got some rain seeping into our laundry as the water piled up in our back yard.  In the effort to keep things from getting too wet or damaged, I was up for most of the night with our wet vac, cleaning up water as it accumulated and setting up fans to dry moisture out of the laundry room.
The next day we turned on the news and found out that over a dozen homes in southeast Austin had been completely destroyed.  Five people in Austin and the surrounding community have been reported dead so far as a result of the flood.  So, all in all we got off lucky, but we need to do some drainage work at our place to keep these storms from messing up our house.

(a stone faced astronaut
with a smiley martian)
Thursday was Halloween.  The rain cleared out, and the weather turned nice.  Thursday night we went over to Ryan and Jamie's house to hand out candy with them.  For some reason Ryan and Jamie's neighborhood has an especially high volume of trick-or-treaters.  It's a fun place to be on Halloween.  The neighbors over there all decorate their houses, and they sit in chairs in their front yards on Halloween night and hand out candy.  Ryan and Jamie dress up every year (Superman  and Supergirl, of course), and Amy and I made a sort of half hearted effort as well.  The kids who come by have some really fun costumes.  So we handed out candy and then hung out with Ryan and Jamie a little bit afterward.  It was nice of them to have us.  When we got home, we watched The Haunted Palace on TV.  It's an old Vincent Price movie about the spirit of a dead warlock who inhabits a castle and possesses people.  It felt satisfyingly Halloweenish.

On Friday we took it easy.  We watched West of Memphis, a documentary about three teenagers who were tried and convicted for the murder of three young boys back in 1994.  It was an interesting and disconcerting movie.  Sort of an excellent about what happens when the justice system jumps to conclusions and overlooks evidence in defiance of logic.  It's a tough movie to watch, but I'm not sure I've ever seen anyone do a better job of someone putting together a privately funded investigation.

On Saturday we ran some errands and went grocery shopping and whatnot.  Saturday afternoon I went over to Ryan and Jamie's to watch the UT-Kansas game while Amy went to the gym.  I had a fun time watching the game with them and their gang.  I really enjoy watching UT play football when they're not completely collapsing.

Saturday night we went to a birthday party for our friend Ani.  She and her husband, John, threw a party with a Mad Men theme.  We had a good time.  They made cocktails and served food, and people mostly showed up in sort of dressy attire- some of it with a 60's era theme.  It was very nice of them to have us.

(banana may or may not be telling Cruella
de Vil to "talk to the hand")
After that party we went to a Halloween/Dia de los Muertos party over at Mandy's house.  We had a good time over there!  There were drinks and food and music and dancing.  People were friendly, and in wacky costumes.   

(the lovely lady in the right of this pic
makes the lovely lady on the left even lovelier
because she does her hair!)
(apparently it's TOTALLY possible
to have a meaningful conversation about
Texas politics with a guy in a hot dog

We had a good time at Mandy's party Saturday night and wandered home and happily crawled into bed.
Sometime early Sunday morning Amy woke up not feeling very well.  She hadn't had that much to drink Saurday night, but, nonetheless, I think we both initially thought it might have somehow been from alcohol.  She quickly got much sicker than anything the alcohol alone would account for, though.  She was up for a large portion of the night, and by the late morning on Sunday it was clear that something weird was going on.
Anyway, we ultimately had to take her over to a minor emergency clinic for some anti nausea medication.  The doctor said she was sick from either food poisoning (she and I didn't eat the same stuff the day before- I had eaten at Ryan's when I went to the football game) or some kind of stomach bug. I felt really bad for her.  She was doing better by that evening, though, for the most part (although feeling pretty worn out). 

(I was sleep deprived and sort of out of it
when I walked past this dog wearing sunglasses
outside the pharmacy.  He had the windows down
and was listening to the Spice Girls)

So that was the week and our weekend.  A few ups and downs.  Sunday evening was very quiet.  I watched Walking Dead while Amy did some reading and ate chicken soup.
Hope everyone else had a good weekend!
Now let's hope we get some more rain, but that it doesn't flood again in South Austin.

Friday, November 01, 2013


Amy and I got married this weekend.

It's sort of weird to write a blog post about it because there's no way that one of my lame ol' blog posts will do the experience justice.  Still, I have a tradition of trying to document big events in my life on this site, so I feel the need to give it a try.

First off, let me say that it feels really amazing to be married to Amy.  She's a warm, beautiful, funny, intelligent, strong woman, and as we went through the events of the weekend, I looked at her time and time again and felt unbelievably fortunate to be marrying her.  I still can't believe it.  She's the love of my life and my best friend.
I love you, Amy.

Amy's family arrived in town on Thursday from Phoenix.  Along with my parents, we met Amy's family at the airport.  Heidi and Matt, Amy's sister and brother-in-law, stayed with my parents out in Steiner Ranch, so they loaded their kids, Scott and Nathan, into the car and headed out to northwest Austin.  Amy's parents had rented a vacation home in a neighborhood close to our house, sort of in the Barton Hills area.  We headed over to the rental house to meet up with Amy's grandparents, Jerry and Carol, who made the two day drive to Austin from Phoenix.

(post coffee smiles)
We got them settled in, and had a nice dinner at Hyde Park Grill that night.  Afterward Amy's parents and grandparents stopped by our house for some coffee and some pumpkin bread.  I had a nice time catching up with everyone.

(we took Matt the Teacher to see
Matt the Electrician)
On Friday night, Amy and I, determined to give Matt a "true Austin" experience, took he and Greg and my dad over to Strange Brew to hear some music.  We went to see Matt the Electrician, whom we had never seen before, joined by special guest Lex Land.  It was a fun night.  Both performers did sort of singer-songwriter style sets, and they both had interesting music and good voices.  Matt the Electrician's music had lyrics which alternated between earnest, poignant, and funny, and Lex Land had a sort of jazzy vocal style with a catalog of tunes which, she admitted, seemed to dwell on heartbreak an awful lot.
The guys at Strange Brew do a great job of balancing and mixing sound, and the show sounded great.  We had a nice time.  The medium sized crowd seemed happy and entertained.  Hopefully it was a good Austin music experience for Greg and Matt.  They seemed to enjoy it.

On Friday Amy joined her mother, sister, and grandmother out at my folks' house for some hangout time with Scott and Nathan.  I joined, Ryan, Dad, Jerry, Greg, and Matt for lunch at Curra's and then we went to see Captain Phillips.  I enjoyed the movie.  I found the story compelling and the acting solid.  There have been some allegations about the film's accuracy, but I've read the director's response to the complaints, and it sounds to me like he did just about everything that a person could do in terms of trying to preserve the historical integrity of this kind of movie (i.e., all of the crew except one were interviewed for the film, the primary military responders were interviewed.  It sounds likely that any complaints about the film's version of events may be the product of crew members who have filed lawsuits against the corporate owners of the Mersk Alabama- people who might have a financial stake in a different version of events). 
At any rate, it's a pretty amazing story.

(party on the patio!)
Friday night we went out to my parent's house for a dinner with Amy's family and my own.  Ryan, Jamie, Susan, Ciara, and Uncle Donald were all part of the assembly.  Mom and Dad had a local restaurant deliver lasagna and a chicken pasta dish along with salad and dessert.  They even had a guy show up and play steel drums for a while (turns out they had met him at a party they had been to this summer).  We talked and played with the kids and ate food and just hung out.  It was a very nice evening!

Saturday the women from our two families went to get manicures and pedicures.  I went with my dad over to his barbershop and got a pre-wedding haircut and a beard trim.  Saturday evening Amy went out to dinner with her family, and I went over to Ryan and Jamie's house with my parents to watch the UT-TCU game.  It was a good game, but a storm rolled into the Fort Worth area during the first half, and there was a rain delay that lasted almost three hours.  I didn't make it to the end of the game.  Knowing that I needed to get married the next morning, I left before the delay was over and headed home.  Still, I had a fun time hanging out with my family the night before the wedding.  I even drank some Scotch!  (gracias, Roundball!)
Late Saturday night it rained and thundered.  We were a little worried that it would be pouring rain during our wedding ceremony, but eventually the rain stopped and things cleared up.
Our wedding ceremony was really nice.  It was out at Chapel Dulcinea, which is sort of out in the Driftwood Area.  It's a little chapel up on a hillside, and it's quite scenic.  Judge Jan Breland, an old friend of mine since my earliest days of criminal practice, was our officiant.  She did a really good job, and it was nice to have someone who genuinely cares about us doing the ceremony.

(ringing the bell at Chapel
Our wedding was very nice.  It was perfect for us.  We didn't want a big wedding, not because we don't value our friends (of course we do!), but, to be honest, because the idea of having performing a ceremony in front of an audience sort of made both of us nervous.  We got married while surrounded by family, and the relatively short ceremony was conducted by an old friend.  The setting was very pretty. 

(Amy celebrates while I respond to
a well-timed congratulatory text
from my friend, Lee)
Sunday afternoon Amy and I joined our photographer in Butler Park to take a few more pictures.  We didn't do engagement pictures or anything like that, but we had hired a photographer for the day, so we figured that we ought to try to take advantage of the opportunity and have some nice pictures taken of us as a couple.  Eventually I'll post some of the wedding and post-wedding pictures (right now the photographer has most of them).

(Sunday Salt Lick with the family)
Sunday evening we went to the Salt Lick and had barbecue with our families.  It was a fun, relaxed meal.  It felt good to just sort of unwind with our peeps after having finally tied the knot and put the ceremony behind us.  We ate and drank and played with the kids, and everyone seemed to have a good time.

And that was basically it.  I had taken Monday off work, so Amy said goodbye to her parents before they headed to the airport, and then we spent some time just cleaning up the house, decompressing, and hanging out.

Our wedding was really nice.  It was small and relaxed, but felt very special at the same time.  We wanted to get married in an intimate setting without a lot of fanfare, but still have the people in with us who have supported us the most throughout our lives.  Thanks to both of our families for being part of the experience and for helping to make it such a great weekend.  We love you guys.

I love you, Amy!