Thursday, December 23, 2004

Deep freeze

The subzero temperatures finally prompted us to put plastic over our windows. We did the same last year--having paid a staggering amount to heat this drafty old place the winter before.

We also resolved to plug up some cracks in our ancient windows. Lacking any fancier material, we used newsprint, which I guess is appropriate for the apartment of a newspaper journalist. Ironically, although our recycling bin contains zillions of copies of Isthmus, the paper for which I usually write, we mostly used Rick's Cafe for insulating purposes. No staples to remove.

When we visited San Francisco over Thanksgiving, our window plastic came up in several conversations. Our friends especially wanted to know whether we use a hair dryer to make the stuff taut. I admit there's something fascinating about the hair dryer process, and the instructions on the box even suggest it. However, we've gotten fine results just stretching the plastic with our hands.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Sweet music

I had a frisson of recognition when I read this on Terry Teachout's blog:
(You know your emotions are up in the air when every piece of music you hear, good and bad alike, makes you cry.)
Damn if the same thing hasn't been happening to me! I've lately found myself choked up by, among other things: "Somewhere in Texas, Pt. 1," a 53-second song on the Willie Nelson album Tougher Than Leather; "Remmem Valsen," a slow, sweet instrumental waltz by the Norskedalen Trio, a Wisconsin polka band featured on Smithsonian Folkways' Deep Polka compilation; "Ethiopian Jokes," a sloppy but earnest cri de coeur by the 1980s Knoxville band Smokin' Dave and the Primo Dopes; and everything the Madonnas sang at their show last Saturday.

As Teachout notes, this is a tough season for some of us, but I actually feel better about the holidays this year than I have in a long, long time. I've already been to two smashing parties, heard and sung some fabulous holiday music and gone shopping. So far, so good.

P.S. Also Loretta Lynn, "Van Lear Rose."

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Joy to the world

Tonight at Hilldale Mall there was a Salvation Army kettle staffed by a troop of girl scouts, average age about eight. They caroled as they rang the bell but had no music, so although the melodies were just fine the words were a little--sometimes a lot--off. But they were most enthusiastic. Cute.

Which is a bigger disaster, Vietnam or Iraq?

The question assumes they are both disasters, obviously. Some may disagree.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Let's go shopping (again)

I have had it with my web and e-mail service provider,, but after four years with one company I dread the chore of finding another one. So I put it to you, faithful readers, especially you faithful readers with your own web pages: who's your web-server provider? Do you use e-mail through them, too? Are their services expensive? Reliable?
This just in

OMG, Joyce blogged.
Sis boom bah

I made a point of watching "60 Minutes" last night, because I was dying to see Mike Wallace's interview with Ricky Williams, the star running back who abandoned his contract with the Miami Dolphins so he could study a spiritual healing practice in California.

My interest in sports has always been passing at best, but my ears prick up when I hear about maverick athletes like Williams, 27. Sports doesn't know what to do with these characters, whose utterances tend to be atypical of sports interviews; most athletes tell journalists things like, "We gotta get out there and compete down the stretch," but last night saw Williams saying, among other things, that NFL salaries are "blood money." That was before he went on to talk about his spiritual discipline, Ayurveda, and to mention that his hero is Bob Marley, for whom he named one of his daughters. Till recently Williams wore dreadlocks in tribute to his hero; I always loved this offensive picture of Williams and Mike Ditka.

Ricky Williams is my new favorite outsider athlete. Before him it was Billy Bean, the first openly gay professional baseball player, and before Bean it was the late Bison Dele, the former Chicago Bull and Detroit Piston who left pro basketball to live in a tent in Australia.

Back in the day there was speculation that Dele might be gay, and I wasn't a bit surprised when Wallace prompted Williams to talk about his sexuality. Williams has three children with three different women but is single now, and when asked by Wallace who the right girl might be, Williams replied that "they" haven't come along yet. Gay sports fans everywhere noted the gender-neutral pronoun.