Monday, March 30, 2015


So our weekend was pretty good.  The weather was beautiful!!

On Friday night we watched the Roger Ebert documentary, Life Itself.  The documentary was pretty good, for the most part.  I learned a lot about Roger Ebert's background, his approach to film criticism, and about the background behind At the Movies, the film review show that Ebert hosted with Gene Siskel.
I watched At the Movies quite a bit when I was growing up.  Back then, of course, you couldn't just pull up film trailers on the internet, so I liked watching At the Movies to get a sense of what was going to be coming out.  I also liked At the Movies because I loved watching Siskel and Ebert argue.  I was fascinated by the fact that two intelligent men who each had such a great amount of knowledge in their subject area could frequently disagree so profoundly about the value of various movies.  I loved the fact that you could tell, as an audience member, that these two guys were really passionate about their arguments, and were genuinely annoyed with one another when they didn't see eye-to-eye.  I liked the fact that they both really wanted to prove the other person wrong, but they agreed (mostly) to stick to a common language of reason and logical analysis as being the confines of their battlefield.  Long before I ever even thought about going to law school, I remember watching Siskel and Ebert go at it, and I sort of realized that a good amount of fun could be had by trying to win a debate against an opponent in front of an audience.  In addition, the show made me realize that, ultimately, being right or wrong in an argument about film (or art- or a great many other topics) is decided by supporting personal opinions with reason.  You can have pretty different viewpoints about a film, and each person can still be right insofar as he can present a compelling, logical argument and explain why a thing is good or bad.
Anyway, At the Movies had a special place in my childhood.
The one drawback of Life Itself, I felt, was that it spent a little too much time focusing on Ebert's health difficulties at the very end of his life.  I don't mean to take anything away from Roger Ebert and the courage that he and his family showed during his illness and ultimate death, but I feel like the thing that made Roger Ebert remarkable was the life that he led- not the way that he died. 
And he had a very interesting life.

Saturday we went out to breakfast, ran an errand or two, and then spent much of the day around the house doing chores.  I trimmed hedges and did a little yard work, and the weather was so beautiful that it felt sort of fun.  We went for some walks, got a little exercise, and had a very pleasant day.  Saturday night I went to Ryan and Jamie's 40th birthday party.  It was fun!  I got to catch up with some folks, eat some good food, and relax.  Amy stayed home due to an achy back and some general pregnancy-related fatigue.    I hung out at the party for a little while and then headed home.  It was a good time.
(Ryan leads the tour of his comic collection and toasts his birthday)

Happy birthday, Ryan and Jamie!!

Sunday we got up and ran to the store.  We got some exercise, and in the afternoon we dropped by a birthday party that our friends Rosa and Nathan were throwing for their children and their family.  It was a nice event.  The weather was sunny and nice, and the company was good.  We ran into the Blooms, Giselle, and Jennifer and David at the party as well.  It was a nice time.

Sunday evening I had band practice.  It was good.  We were all in attendance.  We played some old tunes.  Somehow we pulled off a version of "Bertha" by the Grateful Dead that was much better than we deserved.

(Reed photographs Reed before band practice)
And that was more or less our weekend.  It was pretty nice.  You gotta love Austin in the spring.

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)


(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


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!