Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Seattle Tip of the Week Four: Guests

When guests come to visit in Seattle, there are a variety of activities you can do. The one thing you are required by law to do (Seattle Municipal Code 1:1) is go on and on about coffee, and sample every good coffee shop in the city. I have ingested more coffee this week than I had in my entire life up until now; and it's great.

I hit the highlights with my friends. We went to Vivace, Victrola. We did the neighborhood tour, with my personal favorite, Makeda. We even missed a few I would have liked to show off, like Fiore and El Diablo. But, as with food, there are only so many pounds of coffee you can consume before exploding. There is just too much good coffee in Seattle. That is a fact. I doubt there is a place outside of Italy to get better. As a Seattle denizen, I am legally and morally obligated to point this out to visitors.

Now, however, I am forced to come down for a week. I think this is the cause of most of the strange behavior in Seattle. The person you see acting surly and withdrawn on the street may not be a jerk. He could be coming down after having ten shots of espresso a day for a week. He may actually be a pleasant person, adjusting to the lack of caffeine high. Keep that in mind when you visit us, and be gentle. Also, try our coffee. It's amazing.

ps. Enjoy the lovely picture of Arkaedi Sue. She's great.

Night Train... To Normalcy

Everyone is slowly returning to their homes, and the summer visiting season is over. I'm really sad I won't get to hang out with my friends as much, and some of them I may not see for months. But, I'm excited to get into our routine, and be with my kids full time.

We've developed a nice rhythm, and I really enjoy my working with them. It's the perfect work for me, because it's hard, but real. I know them well, and I love the opportunity to have this level of engagement with them. Soon enough, they'll be too big. Before I realize it, honestly, they'll be living their lives without any input from me. Which is fantastic, of course. But it makes me cherish this time.

Visits with my friends are wonderful, and they really recharge me. They also remind me why I need recharged: to do the work I was meant to do. For the next few years, that means taking care of my wee ones.

And eating chocolate and drinking coffee. That too.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Make Sure They Know You Love Them Well

Sometimes I don't update my blog because I'm just doing my normal routine, and nothing is happening. Sometimes, I'm insanely busy. This week has been insanely busy. So, I won't write anything about riding the train in Snoqualmie, or the falls, or days at Carkeek. Grandmas came to visit too, which was awesome. (Viri hasn't stopped talking about them.) Instead of these various exciting events, I will tell you about two of our best friends coming to visit.

I'm not the kind of person who has a lot of friends. I have a group of friends, and a ton of acquaintances. So, when my friends come to visit, it's a big deal. Especially these friends, who have been dear to me and Jaime both since we were kids. Well, teenagers, at least. Closer to my kids than to my current age, I could say.

We've done some standard Seattle things, like visit the market and various vegan eateries. But the greatest thing has been just sitting around, chatting, and catching up. J might argue that the greatest thing is discovering a board game in which she gets to be a medic. I still have more in common with these guys than most people I meet in Seattle, which is amazing. I still can double up laughing, which is good to know.

So, with J's graduation, nice visits, and the return of Smartz to Seattle, this has been an awesome week. I'm soon back to my boring, if rewarding, days, so I'm going to soak up this week. The rest of the year is going to be easier knowing I can still have some old school fun when I need it.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Dr. Jaime Awesome, ND

wake up, wake up
this night is gone
wake up

abandon abandon
even your dear self

there is an idiot
in our market place
selling a precious soul

if you doubt my word
get up this moment
and head for the market now

don’t listen to trickery
don’t listen to the witches
don’t wash blood with blood

first turn yourself upside down
empty yourself like a cup of wine
then fill to the brim with the essence

a voice is descending
from the heavens
a healer is coming

if you desire healing
let yourself fall ill
let yourself fall ill


I cannot contain my pride and joy, I am no longer able to keep silent! (Okay, I have never been able to keep silent; I'm not even silent when I'm asleep.) The official announcement has been made. Jaime, soon to be Dr. Jaime, is the 2009-2010 Bastyr teaching fellow!

I am, of course, incredibly proud of her. She has done amazing work in the past years to get this program finished, and also given birth to my two children in the process. I can't imagine caring for all of us and completing med school has been a piece of cake. In fact, I know it has been strenuous and frustrating, especially the parts involving caring for me. But she did it, she is awesome, and she is now Dr. Jaime. (Well, Dr. Barker. Or Dr. Huelse-Barker. She can't decide.)

For seventeen years I have been following Jaime around, waiting for Jaime, being in love with Jaime. Do I deserve her amazing presence? Cupcake says no. I am grateful for it, nonetheless. She is my guiding star, my light, my one noble thing. I told her seventeen years ago that whatever else happened, I have already won the game. And I still think that.

Jaime is the most amazing person I have ever met. She is a loving mother, a perfect wife, and a very underrated comedian. (Seriously. She is funny as hell.) She is now on her way to being a great doctor, and helping countless others with her wisdom and compassion.

Congratulations, Dr. Beautiful. I love you.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Whatfor You Bury Me In The Cold, Cold, Ground?

Grand Illusion Cinema, bless its wiring and paneling, is showing a collection of Bugs Bunny shorts. Most of them are the classic ones, that we've all seen. There were a few I don't recall. It is amazing how good they are. The animation looks fantastic, the jokes are actually funny. They were made to be hilarious, and they are. Perfect.

Bugs was great for a lot of reasons, but one of my favorites is that he is thrust into situations in which he must take control, and does. He doesn't always win, even though it seems like he does. He gets smashed and blown up too, just like Daffy. But unlike Daffy, he didn't ask to be there, and he can often find a way out.

The shorts were such a blast to see, and they reminded me powerfully of my own childhood. Which is shocking, when you think that most of the cartoons were made before my father was born, much less me. I watched them, sure, but I watched a ton of stuff as a kid. These stuck with me. Cartoons made in the forties and fifties, and they resonate with me way stronger than any of the silly crap made in the seventies or eighties.

I don't get the ironic nostalgia for the crap of my childhood. Some I liked, some I didn't. But I don't hold any delusion that they are great works. Sure, I like the old Transformers okay... but even as a boy I knew it was a toy commercial. Bugs Bunny, however... that goofy rabbit was art.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Land Of Fortified Wine, Harbors...Er, Left Side Of Boats

Portland! We just spent a fun couple of days there. I always love this city, and every time I go I enjoy it. There is a great feel to it, and I finally figured out what it is; it's a human sized city. It is scaled to exactly what I imagine a real city is. Maybe I formed my image of cities around this size, growing up near to Columbus and Pittsburgh. Portland is like if you took Pittsburgh and added good food, a ton of radical politics, and light rail. Namely, awesome.

Portland is built around people. It has great public transportation, every neighborhood is accessible enough. It has less vegan food than Seattle, but the people making and serving it seem less pretentious too. The farmer's markets are packed, and the girls are way cuter than Seattle girls. All around a great place.

I didn't get to do a ton of stuff I wanted to do, but that's just fine, because I'll be back in Portland in a few weeks. We did get to ride all over town on streetcars, and take the aerial tram thing over the city. So, Viri's checklist is done. I found out where the new Food Fight grocery is, no thanks to my stupid GPS. (Garmin: We'll Mislead You And Steal Your Car!)

I'll have more to say on Portland in a later post, but the highlight of the trip may have been on the car ride down. Viri put his water bottle down on top of his cupcake, and was talking to to cupcake about its fate. "Are you alright there, cupcake? Under the water bottle?" Jaime answered for the cupcake: "Cupcake says no."

I think Cupcake Says No will be my newest fun catch phrase when I face down super villains. And for once, it comes from Jaime and not Viri!

Stay tuned here, more fun Portland pics and stories to come, including, but not limited to, Arkaedi's first swim, Viri's sky train, and Pointing and saying 'car'!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Up From The Depths!

Taviri recently got into the Godzilla animated series from the seventies. It was produced by Hanna-Barbera, and it is painful. Sure, I'm glad he's not into Barney. But this is some bad, bad cartoon awfulness. Even Viri is able to see the animation and continuity problems. The scale changes oddly, so that sometimes Godzilla is thirty feet tall, sometimes he's five hundred feet tall. It's disconcerting. (Viri: "Godzilla's big now.") The plots all center on the basic theme of ship gets into trouble, calls Godzilla, Godzilla saves them all. One insane story involves time travel. It stomps science into a bloody pulp.

The series is hard to watch, partially because of the ridiculous illogical plots, mostly because of the jerky Hanna-Barbera animation. (Company motto: We Obviously Don't Care) They tried a little with the characters. The woman is an actual doctor! There is a black guy who isn't too awfully stereotyped! He does get the best line ever: "Right on! And right on time!" I bet the voice actor had a hard time not really going to town with that line read. There is a line between recognizing current cultural trends and racism, Hanna-Barbera, and you obviously can not see it.

This show also introduced Godzooky. He's like a little nephew of Godzilla, but he flies! Viri likes him. It's strange he's the nephew. I guess they didn't want to have Godzilla have a wife. He evidently has a sister or brother, though. I hope it's a sister, and she's named Godxena.

The female doctor actually does stuff, even though the men writing the show had issues. She has a line about size in every episode. Seriously, she is always saying, "It's huge!" or "I can't believe the size of it!" I wish the animators had been more savvy, and animated her frowning at the captain of the ship. Or the writers had just gone all out and added, "I'm glad something on this ship is" to some of the scenes. It's another in the long tradition of men who write and draw for a living having huge issues with their manhood. She also says "We've got to stop it before the explosion!" which is innocent enough. Still, a fun line. I'm going to work it into my every day conversation.

Oh, and Godzilla shoots rays from his eyes. I guess he decided breathing fire wasn't enough. Seriously, writers, how much cocaine did you do in the seventies? And did you really call it blow? Or did we make that up later?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

When Shirts Attack

It's kind of a parent fail for not helping. Thanks, mom and dad, for filming my pain instead of easing it. Still, I've watched Viri struggle with clothes too. There's a fine line between growth experience and hilarious suffering.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Lincoln Park Geoducks: Ew

Today was a disgusting day, and I didn't even know it. We went down to Lincoln Park, and walked out onto lovely beaches at low tide. We spotted some strange squirting beasties, which we couldn't identify. Turns out, they're geoducks, pronounced "gooey ducks" and they're disgusting!

Lincoln Park is as fine a Seattle locale as you could ask for, nice beach, tall trees. It's also infested with strange and awful phallic clams who eat people. (Okay, they don't eat people. But still.)

I'm not really a fan of a lot of animals close up. I figure that since I don't eat them, they can show me the kindness of staying away from me. If they want to hang out at zoos and parks, that's okay, but stay back. I won't capture them, skin them and cook them, and they'll be off in the woods or seas living their life. Everyone is happy, and I'll be in a nice cafe with waiters bringing me plant life, preferably in the form of coffee beans roasted and brewed in water. (Screw plants; I'll kill them with my bare hands for fun.)

Luckily, I didn't know about these awful clams before the trip to the beach today. The next time we go to Lincoln Park to enjoy the loveliness, we'll come prepared. I'm not sure what that means, but it felt good to type it. Geoducks. Ew.

Lincoln Park in the summer, though. Wow. I know I say that about all of the Seattle parks. It is still very definitely a true statement though. In as much as "wow" can be true. Let's see. It's an exclamation that is relevant, then. Look, just go to the parks. They're great.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Paint My Muscle Car Prune Colored!

One of my all time favorite Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes. And wonderfully quotable!
"Dammit, why aren't you old?"

My Gut Says Maybe

I'm one of nature's mediators. I have strong opinions, I guess, though I tend to mostly state them for comic effect. So, I have strong opinions that are silly. Or, I feel self conscious about the opinions and state them comically. Either way, this puts me in the position of being in the middle. I'm not fond of extreme ideas and opinions, especially about what other people should do or think. I like leaving people alone to think up things. I don't hate anyone, for being different, or for supporting this or that. I can see both sides of issues, and tend to fall in the middle. This is a strange and unpopular position. I don't even like it myself. But, naturally, I can see why I end up there.

Political stuff usually puts me in the most hot water, if I let myself get drawn into discussions. Mostly I don't. But if I do, the person invariably starts talking about how the Democrats are tax and spend maniacs looking to control our minds with government funding. And the Republicans are gun toting redneck racists. I smile and nod, because I can see where people get all of these ideas. At the same time, I can also see that I like roads and schools, so I don't mind taxes. (Of course it was Republican Oliver Wendell Holmes who said you buy civilization with taxes, which I appreciate.) And I don't think you can legislate morality and want people to leave me alone, so I see why people vote Republican. I'm frightened of the libertarians, and almost as confused by the socialists as they themselves seem to be. I don't hate and fear the government, but I don't put too much faith in it either. I'm an Ursula LeGuin anarchist, meaning I appreciate the theoretical basis and the principals of mutual aid, and remain skeptical of politicians.

I don't find many who are natural mediators. Actually, when I have dared this conversation with people, I usually get the response, "Oh that means you are [whatever I am]!" I don't like that, because it is partly true, but it is mostly false. Sure, it does mean I can see how people arrive at their conclusions, and I'm interested in why they think what they think. But I don't support their point of view. I don't think what they think in important ways. To paraphrase Homer Simpson, I do not wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

This is why I avoid the conversation. I like that there are all kinds of people in the world. I like the tapestry, the warp and weave of the universe. I don't want people to be punished for anything they are or think, and too many belief systems come down to a limitation of imagination. The universe is here. It is real, it exists. It doesn't need your support or belief, and it is perfect. I don't mean this in a hippie "there's no right or wrong dude!" way, because that is a poor way to run a society. There are ways to harm people, to make life miserable, and we need to stand up to people trying to promulgate hate and evil. But people just living their lives, being basically decent neighbors, don't need to think like you. Listening to each other can have great benefits, and other ways of approaching situations can help us approach our own. That's what I'm saying.

See? I'm mediating again. I can't help it.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Nice Robot, Don't Hurt Me.

One of Viri's favorite movies is now one of mine. It's one that most of you have probably seen, 1999's The Iron Giant. I really can't say enough good things about this film, the second movie about a huge sentient being that I saw this week, and the far less strange one. (I highly recommend the strange one too. Just don't see it with kids.)

The movie, in case you haven't seen it, is about a giant robot who lands in Maine, and is befriended by a little boy. A strange CIA type guy is trying to find the robot and destroy it, and the boy and his beatnik friend help the robot hide. It's an amazing story, exploring themes of love and friendship and humanity, and it's cleverly (or bizarrely, I guess, depending on your perspective) packaged into this kids' movie about a big robot. (As Viri insists, a "nice robot.")

It's one of the rare films that makes me teary-eyed every time I watch it. The basic message, and one that my three year old quickly got, is that you are who you choose to be. Not who you pretend to be, or who others say you need to be, but who you put work and energy and time into being. It's a cool message, and one that director Brad Bird would slip into his big Pixar movie as well. It's a nice message for the intended audience, I think. As a parent of young children, it's a nice message for your kids to see. They are just entering that age when they will be defined by their friends, their social status, and any number of other things. It's good to be reminded, and to remind them, that your choices define you. Our free will allows us to pick up or set aside options, and to take charge of the process of becoming. Part of that, of course, is choosing friends and social circles and other things that will define us. Part of it is realizing those things are part of our world, and learning to love what there is to be loved.

Already my son is learning that we grow, and change, and we can take charge of that process. We can't control every element of a situation, or even a lot of the elements; but we can make choices that matter. It is choosing that makes you a nice robot, or a bad robot. Not exactly how Viri would put it, but the basic sentiment remains. (Viri said things like this, and basically summarized the movie: "I'm a nice robot! I'm big! Don't hurt me! I'm mad, I'll shoot you with my laser cannon! I'm going home now. I help people. Robot's going to get fixed? All better? Good.)