Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I didn't expect it to happen this soon.

My toddler Robin ran up to me last night and asked me a question of some sort in Spanish. I smiled nervously and fumbled out the words "Oh, is that Spanish?". But there was an awkward pause as we both knew: At two years old, my daughter was already smarter than me.

I knew she would figure it out eventually, but I thought maybe it would be a calculus problem in high school or something equally menatally challenging. You know, something that even fairly intelligent Dads have been felled by. But, alas, it was a simple Spanish phrase, taught to her by Dora the Explorer. If only Dora had been a pudgy German girl, I might have stood a chance.

"Yes. Spanish." She said and walked off, mildly disappointed. Oh well, it was bound to happen sometime.

Fun with Dermatology

Today I went to the dermatologist for the first time in like 8 years. Merry Christmas, Mom.

I don't know if you guys have been to the dermatologist lately, but apparently you have to be naked and humiliated there now. Maybe it's just the fact that I've aged dramatically and fallen out of shape, but I didn't remember that being the case the last time I went.

If you have to be naked and you look like me, ideally, you would want someone larger, much older and totally unattractive attending you. I feel that dermatologists should take this into account and hire accordingly. It's only polite. You certainly don't want someone your exact age, of the opposite sex, and in better shape than you, which is exactly who came to the waiting room door this morning and called my name.

I went to the back with her, and we sat down. She immediately asked me to describe my moles. This is possibly the worst conversation two humans could ever share with one another. I awkwardly went through the list. She was disturbingly interested and took some notes. She told me to undress and put on some giant burlap boxers, which she handed me. I wasn't sure how these boxers were better than my actual boxers, which seem to handle all my shame-covering needs quite nicely and with a little more dignity, but I complied with her wishes. Before leaving, she told me the way I was supposed to signal the doctor that I was undressed and ready for examination was to leave the door cracked open. Hmm. I spotted the flaw with this suggestion instantly.

Despite my better judgement, I put the burlaps on and cracked open the door, which was pretty awesome. I could hear the nurses walking by the slightly opened door, and could only assume that they'd trained themselves to avoid unspeakable horrors by looking away from the doors as they progressed down the hall. I took a deep breath, held in the gut, and waited.

Finally the doctor came in, announcing himself with a knock at the door. I guess that's polite, but it's a little weird. I thought about asking "Who is it?" but opted for "Come in". I wonder if they ever get "Just a minute", and if that creeps them out.

He instantly blurted "Wow, you're... fair", which I can only assume was the closest polite word he could think of to "translucent." He inspected my speckled skin and recommended a "broad rimmed, panama style hat". Apparently he's a dermatologist by trade, but a milliner at heart.

Now I don't know if you've seen a Whitener in the flesh, but we are a Potato-ish people who grow numerous oddities all over our pale skin. I think the doctor and his assistant were pretty impressed. "There's one there." "And two over there!" They kept calling out. "Yes, I have a lot of them." "There's another one!".

All in all, it was not one of my proudest moments. I have a year to get in shape before my next appointment.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Words & Phrases that Robin finds hilarious.

Baked Potato.




Chicken Bone.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

My Job is Weird.

Recently we tried to win the Domino's pizza account at my work, which meant we had to come up with a new tagline for them. Currently their tagline is: Get the Door. It's Domino's. which isn't all that bad, really.

Anyway, writing taglines is mostly about writing really bad ones until someone else comes up with the one they go with. That's been my experience, anyway. But I think it's kind of fun to try.

Here are my favorite rejected taglines Mitch and I came up with for Domino's Pizza, most of them rejected for good reason. Here goes:

Let us in your house! We're covered in cheese.

This slice of pizza is your ticket to funtown. Seriously,
hang on to it.

Open up! We know you're in there! Because you ordered a pizza.

If you're boring and lame, please don't call for our awesome pizza.

Legally, we can't bring all these pizzas to your house unless you call first.

Knock Knock. Who's there? It's pizza.

We await your orders.

Pizza is imminent!

If your pizza is cold, we eat it in front of you to punish ourselves.

If you ever open your door and don't see pizza, you should call us.

AND, my favorite:

We're going to take a slice at you.

There you have it. So, I guess my point is I get paid to do this.
Oh, and also we didn't win the account.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I drive bad.

I just got blog-tagged by my friend Angela, which is something I didn't even know could happen. Apparently, it can; and for this particular tag, I have to post about my worst bad habit, then challenge someone else to do the same. Hmm. Thanks, Ang.

Thinking my wife would know my worst bad habit better than anyone else, I decided to go and ask her. She told me, then got really excited about it and listed several more, so I had to remind her that I only needed to hear about the WORST bad habit and after that she could keep it to herself, thank you very much.

So, according to Erin, my worst bad habit is my driving. In particular, the slowness of my driving. Something about my ability to go from 60 to 35 without even noticing it, especially if I'm talking.

She's not the first to criticize my driving techniques (as I prefer to think of them). My friend and coworker Mitch once approached the subject from a different angle: "You don't really drive in the direction of where you're going, you just start driving and turning and eventually work your way there on a random path." Is that bad?, I thought... but I couldn't really defend myself to Mitch because once at work I didn't pull up my parking break and my truck rolled around the parking deck until it stopped somewhere on his car's bumper.

I guess I should have realized it before now, but it's actually taken me a while to accept that I'm not the fastest (or best) driver. I remember going on a cross country trips with some friends, where we would all rotate driving to make it there through the night. Oddly, my turn never came up even after everyone else had 2 or 3 turns. I guess no one likes to meander Whitener-style.

Fine with me. My only defense to complainers is that I just don't like driving. At least, I don't like driving fast. I like to take my time with the windows down, listening to music. Concentrating on where I'm going or how fast I get there sounds like hard work to me.

It's all about the journey, man, not the destination.

So, that's my bad habit. In return, I "tag" my friend Chris Glenn. Sorry man.

My advice: don't ask your wife.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Another Movie Update.

Since my post the other day was all about this kind of thing, I felt I should point out some developing news: Apparently, Ridley Scott is going to direct a Monopoly movie.


Mm-hmm. Based on the board game.



I can only assume Russell Crowe will be playing the street-tough iron.

Strange news, but it did make me realize that a Hungry, Hungry Hippos movie would actually be really, really awesome. I mean really. Hippos on a rampage. So, maybe this will lead to that.

Why do you hate my eyeballs?

Today I got hit in one eye with a sharp toddler fingernail and the other eye with a surprisingly well-handled drumstick. Robin was the former, Lucy was the latter.

Through searing eyeball pain, I marveled at the fact that you don't see as many dads with eyepatches as you would think, based on the sheer numer of eye pokings that must take place at any given second around the world.

4 Chords & The Truth

This is a great city to live in. I saw Bob Dylan last night at Stubb's BBQ, a smallish outdoor venue. I was about 30-40 ft from him, so I could see all his facial expressions and odd leg movements. I don't know a lot of his stuff, besides the stuff that everybody knows, but it was a pretty neat show all in all. Espeically from a 65 year old dude in a Mariachi outfit of sorts. I didn't know what to expect from the show, but I enjoyed it.

You think I'm over the hill
You think I'm past my prime
Let me see what you got
We can have a whoppin' good time

Said Bob during "Spirit on the Water". Leave it to Bob to sum up the experience for you.

Surprising (to me) is that Bob played the keyboard almost the entire time. And, he does "new arrangements" of all of his songs so that it's hard to know them even when you hear them, which is not the best thing ever, but it's interesting.

On the way in it was so crowded that the people I went with started talking about that Who concert in Ohio where people got trampled trying to rush the stage. Oddly, the guy in line in front of us piped up with "I was at that show". Later, we were looking for a place to stand and settled for a moment until we realized we stopped right next to that guy. We repositioned just in case that guy was the actual trampling initiator.

The show highlights (for me) were It Ain't Me, Babe, Cry A While and the aforementioned Spirit on the Water. Thunder on the Mountain was pretty awesome, too, but it creeped me out a little bit because apparently it's about Bob's fascination with Alicia Keys, and that's disturbing.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Kingdom of the Whuzzah?

Yes, it's official. The next installment will be called "Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull."


Did they let George "Attack of the Phantom Menace" Lucas come up with that one? Oh, I guess so.

I have to say it makes me a little less interested. What does the Crystal Skull refer to? How am I supposed to care? Perhaps it's referring to Harrison Ford's crystallized skull, petrified with age? Probably not.

Anyway, that's the new name. I challenge you in the comments to come up with better. Here's my attempts.

Indiana Jones & The Aging Relative Who Won't Leave
Indiana Jones & Wasn't it Gross in the Last One Where He and His Dad Slept With the Same Lady
Indiana Jones & The Walker To Help Me Get Around A Little Better
Indiana Jones & The Shia LeBouf For Some Reason

Ok, I'm done.

There's going to be a JOUST movie.

Seriously. A movie of the old video game Joust. You know, knights riding ostriches in outer space, fighting for giant eggs over pits of lava? That Joust.

They better include that creepy hand that came out of the Lava every now and then to grab you. I'm a stickler about that.

Actually, I think this is awesome news, but the trend of taking beloved obscure things from my childhood, digitizing them, then making me pay to see them in the theater is getting a little creepy. What's next? What's left?

This is a good time to introduce my Conversation Snippets From the Future MachineTM.

That's right, a machine that picks up conversations from the future. Let's set it to Nerd Talk, 5 years from now and tune in and see what we get...


"I wasn't really excited about the Burger Time movie at first, but then I heard Tarantino was directing..."


"I'll go see Elevator Action, but I heard there's only one real elevator scene in it."

"I was skeptical about Michel Gondry's Mad Magazine movie until he cast Robert Downey jr. as Alfred E. Newman. Now it's going to be awesome."

"Hostess Fruit Pies? Jon Voigt will star in ANYTHING."


"They're making the E.T. Atari game into a movie? That doesn't even make sense!"


Wow, pretty fun machine. Seriously, though, Hollywood, when you make Pitfall The Movie, PLEASE don't let it star Brendan Fraser. I feel like I've seen that movie already.

But it should have that crazy tarzan sound effect whenever anyone uses a vine. I'm a stickler about that.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Keeping Austin Weird.

It turns out that the town of Austin is in full support of a guy dancing around town in a Kangaroo costume playing Australia's national anthem on a keytar.

Let me back up.

As most of you may know, Austin's unofficial motto is "Keep Austin Weird", emblazoned in sticker form across cars, minivans and your average station wagon covered in disco balls and flowers with a statue of a mermaid on top.

I've only been living here a year now, but I have to say, like everyone else in town, that you get used to it.

"A guy crossing the road on a scooter wearing a batman cowl, a tiny batman doll's body strapped underneath his chin? Of course. That makes perfect sense."

"An 80 year old man sticking his head out of the back window of his pickup, consoling a giant caged exotic bird with cooing noises as he plummets down the highway? Naturally."

"A guy jogging in a diaper? It must be noon already."

I've seen all those things and it barely stalled my conversation each time. Ok, except maybe the guy in the diaper.

Well, I'm proud to say I've done my part to keep the legend going. Last week we had to film a commercial here in town where it totally made sense to have my friend Mitch dress up in a Kangaroo costume and dance around various Austin landmarks playing the Australian national anthem on his keytar.

Some other cities wouldn't put up with that crap.

Not Austin. People were driving by, honking their horns, giving us enthusiastic thumbs ups all around. "Yeah!!! That's right!" One guy yelled. Cheers poured out of another car full of folks. I'm not sure if they knew what they were in full support of, exactly, but they were definitely behind it, 100%.


Thursday, September 6, 2007

Speaking of Lucy...

If God told me my whole purpose in life was to watch that kid eat an apple, I'd be totally fine with that.

Seriously, you should see her lie on the floor eating an apple slice. With her crazy teeth. And loud, satisfied munching. She just stares at you very calmly, totally comfortable with herself, and occasionally lifts her eyebrows in fake surprise for no reason.

My wife pointed out that that probably was my purpose in life, so I guess it works out pretty well for me.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Floppy Muscle Power

How is it that kids, let's say around 1 1/2 years old, can totally go floppy at will?

What I mean is, if you try to pick my daughter Lucy up, and she's not game, she can totally relax all her muscles in such a way where it's impossible to lift her at all. Like an overloaded water balloon, she flops to safety. I think it's her super power. Maybe she was bitten by a radioactive overloaded water balloon or something.

Anyway, why do we totally lose this ability when we become adults? I'm pretty sure if anyone wanted to scoop me off of the sidewalk and into their black unmarked van they could do it. But if I could go totally floppy...

Band names, pt. II

So, the point of yesterdays post was to lead up to this: I have a new band and I need a new band name. And, as I proved yesterday, band names are hard. Or, at least I proved I'm bad at coming up with them.

My new band is me on guitar & singing, Brian Jordan on lead guitar/pedal steel, Chris Troutman on bass, Jerry Bodrie on drums, and Michael Anderson on keyboards.

Currently we're planning on using the name:

The Sheeps

I like the way it's plural, but wrong at being plural. Plus sheep are nice. The new band is going to have a nice sound, kind of laid back with some distorted bass, warm reverby keyboard, nice twangy guitar and some pleasant harmonies. I wanted the name to kind of have a pastoral feel about it, but I'm not 100% sold on it yet.

What do you guys think of the name? I'd be interested to know. Here are some alternates that have been considered to various degrees:

Wes Whitener & The Library of Congress
Library Card
The Library
Apple Tree
Rock & Roll Confidant
The pigeons and birds
Mono Lake
the new fiction
The Barn Owls
birds illustrated
the little sunsets
farmers of georgia
the letter writers
the famous characters
the plums
the nonfiction section

Again, band names are hard.

I'm also playing bass in my friend Mitch's band, and that band doesn't have a name yet either. We've got a huge list, though, and we're trying. My favorite two for that band are:

Tested by Tigers
Because I'm the King


Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Band names I have subjected others to

So, I've been playing in "bands" since I was in like the 5th grade, some more pretend than others, but all with pretty stupid names, it turns out. At the suggestion of my friend Brian, I complied a list of all the bands I've played in, from Elementary school through College and beyond, into the probably-too-old-to-still-have-a-band days.

My requirement to be on the list was to have made a recording of some kind, even if it was hitting record on my dad's Commodore 64 tape cassette player and "singing" without instruments.

Please enjoy the following awful names, with unnecessary & incredibly long commentary on some of the standout names to follow.

Here goes:

Wesley & Nathan
Him & The Other Guy
Rubber Duckies From Hell
Suction Cup Monkey
The Invisible Pine cones
Bliss Trip
Mr. Antelope
The Funk Alans
The Options
David Dancing
The Bakery Boys
Peachtree Salvage
Baby Jessica
The Chromosomes
Wes Whitener & the Holy Roman Empire
The Adults
Ft. Lauderdale Mi Amour
Rock and Roll Summer

Adventure: This was my first experience recording things. My friend Greg Fast and I, in elementary school, recorded the audio track for a puppet show we wrote (I guess so that we could focus on the puppetry), which featured numerous songs, mostly about Centipede and Pac-Man. My favorite song goes "They were friends, They were friends" over and over. Pretty darn cute.

Wesley & Nathan
: This was my friend Nathan and me, obviously. This went from Elementary to Middle School. We wanted to be Weird Al, like every middle school boy should. I think our shining moments were "Fig Time" (Peter Gabriels's Big Time), "Living with the Mayor" (Bon Jovi's Living on a Prayer) and "Material Girl" which was obviously Madonna's Material Girl, but the twist here was that our version was about a woman made completely of cloth. So you know that was awesome.

Him & The Other Guy
: This was the beginning of a long musical friendship between Fred Copley and myself. I played the casio, Fred played a Flying V guitar. Our musical teaming began in middle school and lasted through college, when he realized that playing with me meant he would be in bands with names like "Him and The Other Guy" and he promptly began to write non-middle school level music on his own. These were fun times, though. Our first tune was called "Black Widow" because we thought we had to be really scary and tough. In those days, we just wrote a song to record it once, then never played it again, which I think is kind of nice.

Rubber Duckies From Hell: This was a band I played in during middle school and probably the first band I played in with a drummer, my friend Todd. Our original name was going to be "Jimmy Stewart's Rubber Duckies From Hell" but we were actually worried about getting sued, so we dropped the first part. I guess our 60 min. Magnavox cassette tape could've ended up in the wrong hands. "Inflatable Spanish Sushi on a Stick", our only hit, is still one of the best songs I've ever been a part of.

Suction Cup Monkey: Well, this one is a terrible name, but close to my heart because I loved being in this band all through high school. We changed our name a couple of times, because folks booking us at shows kept saying "Sucksum Butt Chunky". We had a large number of people in the band over time, and eventually played a lot of fun parties and several pointless shows at seedy clubs in downtown Atlanta. Our last day of school party during our senior year of high school was legendary (in my mind.) Ending on "This Monkey's gone to Heaven" was a nice touch. Ah, those were nice times. I was often a dork, but it was fun.

Crushed: Ok, this one almost doesn't count, because we never recorded anything. My friend Todd asked his dad if he could help us get paying gigs, and his dad told us to learn 50 songs and then he would book us shows (turns out he meant weddings and parties, he was a DJ). So we worked hard on songs we thought we should learn for that, but didn't really care for. "I Remember You" By Skid Row and for some reason "California Sun". Eventually we realized that we never would learn 50 songs and that Todd's dad probably knew that.

The Invisible Pinecones: One of the better names, sadly. My friend Nathan's band.

Bliss Trip: This was Suction Cup Monkey trying to find a better name, and failing miserably. Turns out "Bliss Trip" sounds like "Blister Rip" which means exactly the opposite thing. And either way the name is terrible.

Mr. Antelope: This is what we tried after "Bliss Trip". I can't remember the reasoning but I bet it was interesting. Lasted all of a month or so before switching back to Suction Cup Monkey and suggesting to folks that they just call us SCM. Turns out they just didn't call us.

The Funk Alans: My friend Alan and I recorded a couple songs under this name. Alan was a part of Suction Cup Monkey for several years before "finding peace" and giving up the drums, which is the best drummer-quitting excuse I've ever heard.

Mulch: This was basically my friends Sean & Errol and whoever they invited over to play songs with them, mostly people who didn't know how to play their instruments. It was very, very fun.

David Dancing: Hmm. This was a band that Fred and I got drafted into at our church with some older guys. It was my first foray into playing in a faux heavy metal band, except this one was not in on the joke.

The Bakery Boys: This band barely existed, but included Sean from SCM and Mulch and our friend Tim on drums. We did record a few songs, one of which was an ironic cover of "fight for your right to party" in which we realized the line "Dad you're just jealous we're the Beastie Boys” had to change because we weren't the Beastie Boys. Hence the name Bakery Boys.

Peachtree Salvage: This was my band my Freshman year of college, named after a thrift store in the metro Atlanta area. I still kind of like this name.

Baby Jessica: I had nothing to do with this name, another joint effort with my friend Nathan, but I do remember a pretty awesome cover of Jack & Diane at our first and only show in Athens.

Wes Whitener & The Holy Roman Empire: Well, this name started when it was just me on guitar and my friend Amy McCollum on the drums. I thought it was pretty great to have one person, a girl drummer (My Pastor's wife, even) and refer to her as the Holy Roman Empire. Our first show was at the Q-Zar laser tag in Athens, where Servotron had just played a show. I assumed they had mikes and a PA, and was wrong, so I sang in to a headset mike that got broadcast throughout the laser tag playing area. A Capella. So that was pretty awesome. Eventually we added Davis on bass and another guy Brian on keys, and played a couple of shows during the Olympics in downtown Athens, which was a whole lot of fun. Later, another band appeared with the name Holy Roman Empire so we dropped it.

The Adults: WW & The Holy Roman Empire became the Adults, and played one show under that name on Live in the Lobby at 90.5. Then we found out there was already a punk band of sorts with that name, so we dropped it.

Ft. Lauderdale Mi Amour: Formerly the Adults. This name lasted about a week before switching it to:

Rock and Roll Summer: For some reason I was really particular about not being Rock N' Roll Summer. Something about that N' bothered me. Seems like a weird thing to mandate, looking back. This was some of the most fun I've had in a band.

Pants!: This band was formed at my last job, McKinney, by my boss David in order to enter the Battle of the Ad Bands in NY. We won that with our faux heavy metal Rock Opera about pants and then won the next year as well (with the opening song "Did you see us last year, we were awesome"). Then we entered the Fortune 500 Battle of the Ad bands at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and won that as well. That was one of my favorite band moments, because we closed with the song "Thank You for Inducting Us to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame" which is clearly not what happened, and caused a lot of concern from the Hall of Fame staffers. We even presented ourselves onstage with a giant check for a million trillion dollars. Good times. We ended the band with a recording at one of the best recording studios I've ever been in, and got an excellent sounding recording of our faux metal tunes. To quote my friend Jerry, the drummer: "Why is THIS the best recording I ever made?"

Whew, that was a long and only-fun-for-me list. Hope you found a way to enjoy or read it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Random Acts of Quesionable Music Taste.

Regularly in The Onion's AV Club, they get famous people to hit random on their iPod and comment on the first 5 tracks that come up. Since no other hugely popular web magazine is going to ask me to do that, I decided that this one could. So, here you go, 5 random tracks on my iPod.

1. A Good Man is Easy to Kill
ARTIST: Beulah
ALBUM: The Coast is Never Clear.

Despite the negative song and album title, this is a really fun, unpretentious band, with lots of trumpets and normal guys singing songs. I prefer the their album When the Heartstrings Break, but this one's good, too.

ARTIST: The Pixies

Weird, got a death thing going on here. This is a weird song from the classic Pixies album. The Pixies were my favorite band all through high school. Even then, I was puzzled as to why they would write a songs about the Old Testament story of David killing Bathsheba's husband Uriah. I guess because ol' Frank's dad was a minister, and he seems to like writing about dark tragedies in an oddly comic way.

3. Kamera
ALBUM: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

Well, this is proving to be a pretty safe random test. Who can complain about Wilco? "Which apples belong and which ones don't" is a really nice line.

4. Olde Tyme Waves
ARTIST: Elf Power
ALBUM: A Dream in Sound.

Elf Power is a great old Athens band, who seem to like the Velvet Underground, like myself... but maybe they don't like the same things about VU that I do. Meaning, sometimes they get into artsy weird territory that's a little boring to me. This is a fun song though, and there's some great tracks on this album.

5. Ezekiel Bread
ARTIST: Half-Handed Cloud
ALBUM: Thy is a Word and Feet Need Lamps

This is a great band, mostly one guy who plays a lot of the instruments. He kind of falls in between Danielson Famile's intentional playful ugliness and Sufjan Steven's intricate, pretty songwriting. This album is pretty good, if you're just listening to them for the first time I would go with Halos & Lassos.

Well, that was pretty painless. But kind of fun. Try it yourself in the comments section!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Mother Teresa had doubts?

Could it be that she was human, like every other Christian who ever lived?

It's nice how we like to deify someone and make them the standard of perfect goodness, then get shocked when we find out that they're not actually supernatural. Mother Theresa never presented herself as a perfect person. (That would have been an awkward ceremony, methinks.) She just spent her life helping others and we did the rest. So, it's a little absurd for someone quoted in the article to use the word "hypocrisy", even though the article itself seems to want to shy away from that thought.

If you don't have doubts or dry spells as a Christian, I'd say something's not right. It's the people that go on and on about their super-tight relationship with God that you have to watch. I'm definitely sorry to hear about her personal struggles, but it's clear she wasn't talking about doubt that God exists, but puzzlement over why she couldn't feel his love tangibly like she had in the past. I think all Christians can relate to that at some point in their lives. Heck, we all even doubt God's existance sometimes. Someone once said, "If there's no room for doubt, then there's no room for us." We have no way to tell what was going on in her heart, but either way, I'm sure she's not having that problem where she is now.

That said, I will say that the photo on Time's cover reminded me of a quote from Mystery Science Theater's Crow T. Robot:

"Mother Theresa called... she HATES you!"

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Big Ears, Bad Listener

The new trend in children's programming is to have the character on the show talk to your child and ask them questions as if they were in the room with you. It works on the assumption that your child is either an idiot or recently transported here from the 17h century. I'm not sure, but I think it started with Dora the Slow-Talking-Redundant-Explorer.There's a whole lot of this going on:

DORA: What color is an apple?

(Unbelieveably long pause.)

DORA: That's right, RED! And where do they grow?

(Excruciatingly long pause. Dora blinks. Her monkey's eyebrows may move slightly, but that's optional.)

DORA: On trees! That's right!

Apparently super long pauses save you some cash in the scripting AND animation phase.

How did we come to this? What ever happened to storylines like "Run, Vanity Smurf, or Gargamel will crush you and seal your soul forever into his evil satanic jar!" or even "Gummy Bears, let's unite and save our village from the famine... and molten lava!" Those were exciting times.

I can only assume the foray into boredom is intended to pass children's television off as an educational tool. For example, those announcements at the beginning of all Noggin shows that go like this: "Wow Wow Wubzy teaches preschoolers about interpersonal dynamics, abstract problem solving, foreign diplomacy and the subtle and appropriate use of symbolism." Really? Well, Wubzy take it from here, I'm going to check my email and see you kids when it's time for you to write your dissertation.

It's an annoying trend, and I'm proud to say my 2 year old is not falling for it.

The other day, Mickey Mouse casually strolled onto the screen and asked Robin, "Do you want to go inside my clubhouse?"

"NO!" She promptly yelled.

"Ok, here we go!" said Mickey, as the music kicked in.

"I SAID NO, MICKEY MOUSE!" Robin yelled, full of righteous anger.

I love that kid.

Stuff I'm listening to lately, Pt 1

Here's a random spattering of stuff I'm listening to right now. I have an emusic subscription, which is great for trying new stuff that you wouldn't just go out and buy, especially smaller bands that you might not hear about otherwise.

That said, my first selection is from the well-known but often underrated Kinks. Released in 1971, Muswell Hillbillies is the Kinks' foray into the world of alt-country; in fact, it's apparently credited as being an early example of that style of music. It's definitely a country-themed album, with lots of acoustic-based rockers. Ray Davies distinct brand of catchy songwriting is something I've admired since I was a kid and there's some really fun songs on this album.

However, there are a number of tracks that are really annoying (ones where Ray adopts a "character voice" or that feature a New Orleans Jazz-style backing ensemble grate the most). I think that's probably what's kept this album from become the well-known classic it could have been, with a little editing. "20th Century Man", "Holloway Jail", "Mountain Woman", "Muswell Hillbilly" and "Complicated Life" make a nice little EP, though, if you take them out and put them on a separate playlist, which I've done. Like on The Village Green Preservation Society (a great album, considered by some to be the Kinks' Pet Sounds), the songs are mostly about how lame modern life is compared to the glorified old days. I can sympathize. Check out some selected lines from 20th Century Man:

"This is the twentieth century/too much aggravation/it's the age of insanity/What has become of the green pleasant fields of Jerusalem"


"You keep all your smart modern writers/Give me William Shakespeare/You keep all your smart modern painters/I'll take Rembrandt, Titian, Da Vinci and Gainsborough"

one more:

"We gotta get out of here/we gotta find a solution/I'm a twentieth century man but I don't want to die here"

I like when he says in that last line that he doesn't want to die in the 20th Century. But he's clearly not talking about living until the 21st Century because he's fondly remembering the past the entire song. So, I can only assume he wants to build a time machine of some sort, which, of course, is awesome.

Anyway, if you like the Kinks, subtext about time travel, and a little bit of twang check out Muswell Hillbillies.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Problem with Rain Guards.

If that title doesn't get you excited to read this post, I don't know what will.

When I bought my truck several years ago, a friend of mine pointed out that it had rain guards. "Those are kind of hick-ish," he said. I evaluated them and decided that I needed them because I didn't have AC, and would have to roll my window down when it was raining.

Well, I have a new name for them. Spider Hiders.

Spiders were kind of annoying when I lived in Georgia. So I took my family and moved to North Carolina, only to discover there were 10 times the amount of spiders there than in Georgia. Not satisfied with my spider per inch ratio, I then took my family to Austin, where there is a spider of consequential size on every existing molecule. Perfect.

And speaking of perfect, it turns out that Rain Guards are the perfect place to be a horrifying spider. Here's how it works. A spider or ten crawls into my rain guard during the night. The next morning I get into my car, roll the windows down (no AC) and head to work. Spiders feel the wind, crawl into the roof of my car and drop promptly into my lap.

I'd like to say I welcome these terrifying visitors with a calm "oh!" and escort them safely out the window. That's pretty much what happens, except I also drive into the median screaming and flailing like a banshee having a seizure. My thought is usually that I'll die in a flaming wreck, and everyone will be left wondering why I drove off the overpass into the aquifer below. Meanwhile the spider slinks away unscathed and possibly in my pant leg.

It took me a while to realize the rain guards were causing my spider problem, so now in the mornings I check the guards first. If I see a spider, I usually leave the window up long enough for the wind to blow it away on the interstate. (If you're curious, the average spider can hold on at up to 70mph on a windy day. But higher than that, not so much.) Yesterday, however, I looked into the guard and saw just a couple of tiny legs in the corner. "Wow," I thought, "that spider really tucked himself up in there, he must have ridden with me before."

I couldn't find a stick long enough to ensure my skin wouldn't make spider contact, so I did what any PETA member confronted with the same situation would do: I grabbed the garden hose and started spraying into my rain guard at full blast. Suddenly the furry hand of a giant curled around the top of the rain guard. I'm not kidding, the spider was huge. Tarantula-esque in appearance. It looked something like this, if anyone can help me identify it. He ran over the top of the car to head for the other side's rain guards, and I sprayed him again. Eventually, I washed my entire car and convinced him to fall disgustingly down to my driveway. There was a pause, then we both started running back toward the truck. The spider was fast, but I was faster. I got in the truck and backed it down the driveway. I stopped to see if the spider was still there in the driveway but he wasn't. I could only assume he was attached to the bottom of my truck, Cape Fear style, ready to go to my work. I drove there as fast as I could.

My friend Jerry's going to help me figure out how to remove my rain guards sometime next week.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Movie Review: The King of Kong

This movie is really, really great. I highly recommend it. Even if you don't love Donkey Kong, it's one of the best documentaries you will ever see. I even forgot it was a documentary for a while and got sad because I realized that there might not be a happy Hollywood ending.

Billy Mitchell, video game world champion, is a really great villian, with some super great lines. As about 15 people gather around to watch a video tape of Billy playing a video game, he claims "Helen of Troy didn't get this much attention". Amazing. There's a picture of him above, hardily approving his own brand of hot sauce.

It also helps to have the best theater in the world a few miles from your house. I can never leave Austin because the Alamo Drafthouse is so great. Not only do they have the best popcorn, cheesesticks, hamburgers, and homemade chocolates, but they hooked an actual Donkey Kong game up to the screen and let people play while the audience cheered them on during the pre-show. Anyone who could make their game last for 5 minutes (which is actually hard to do) got to be entered for a chance to win the machine. It was great fun.

What if this was my car of choice?

That would be pretty funny, if all I drove was a purple '93 Prowler.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Movie Review: Miss Potter

Erin and I decided to try out the pay per view movies that are available on our DVR for the first time tonight. We had to choose between seven movies about people getting disemboweled or decapitated and about 10 involving killer puppets or Eddie Murphy dressed as Norbit. So we settled upon Miss Potter, which we thought might be a pleasant british comedy/drama.

We were wrong.

Miss Potter is the tale of one woman's decent into madness. Her name is Renee Zellweger. She has clearly gone insane.

How did this happen? Remember Jerry MacGuire, where it was like they found a real, actual person and put her on screen next to what was left of Tom Cruise? She seemed so personable and down to earth. Now she is a babbling madwoman whose squinty anxious twittering around the screen makes Mr. Bean look subtle and nuanced.

Not only that, but this time she drags Ewan MacGregor and Emily Watson with her. Together, they manage to act like no human has ever acted before. There's some good english actors in this, and they do nice work, but when any one of these characters get on screen it's like you're watching a really bad play that some crazy people who thought they were british made up. Ewan MacGregor looks like he should be hunting Dudley Do-right and tying Nell to some train tracks. Emily Watson and her forehead look like she's hoping to get the part of the Leader in the next Hulk movie. And all three of them look like they've just gotten out of a wind tunnel and ran in the extreme cold before getting on set. Did they even have a make up person? Did someone look through the lens at some point? I mean, I'm a ruddy complexion guy myself, but they've really reached new heights of splotchiness in this film.

Erin did point out that Ewan McObiewan should have gotten an oscar for being able to pretend like he was falling in love with Renee as she "said" the line: "I have more delightful friends, like Mrs. Puddleduck, the most stupid duck the world has ever known." He smiles lovingly, and she returns the favor by giving him a tender "I'm about to pull out a kitchen knife and start stabbing like crazy" look.

I'm sure the goal of the movie was not to make me cringe in terror when I see Peter Cottontail, or Turtle Squirelegs or whoever, but there you have it. There's even a scene where she literally starts to lose her mind and her drawings come to life and try to run away fom her as she tears the papers up, leaving only Peter Cottontail's jacket hanging on a post, with evil crows flying all around it. Really? That's what your Beatrix Potter movies going to do?

Oh well, at least after 24 hours it deletes from my DVR. If only my brain were so lucky.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

I have a blog.

It was hard to come up with a title for my blog. But I did it. Here were the rejects:

My Secret Internet Diary
The Amazing Internort
Settle for Wes
Blog Flume (taken)
Bloggles the Mind (taken)
I Tell You Things About Me
Words to Live Near


Blog In Your Eye.

I think I did okay, for all that.

So, welome to my Mind Grapes.