Friday, December 29, 2006


Happy Birthday, Abby! As if everything beautiful I had ever experienced in my life was simply a prelude to you. We love you madly.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas, James

A sad way to start our Christmas morning. Truly the Godfather of Soul and the Master of Funk. When I bought my first James Brown album the man working the counter of the record store rang a special funk bell that chimed throughout the store. "Gotta ring the funk bell," he told me.

ATLANTA -- James Brown, the dynamic, pompadoured "Godfather of Soul," whose rasping vocals and revolutionary rhythms made him a founder of rap, funk and disco as well, died early Monday, his agent said. He was 73.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas Wrapping

I’m envious of the Amazon gifts that arrived the other day. They’re so perfectly wrapped- so taut and crisp. And inspiring. I want to wrap like that. But I wrap like a 5 year old. My folds start convincingly enough only to lose their delicate symmetry when I bring them together. Tape is amply employed but this seems only to make matters worse. The end result looks rumpled and hungover.

We’re off to Naperville to spend Christmas with Cathy’s family. 48 people coming over tomorrow and more then a third of them under the age of 7 with at least two of them younger then Abby. Here’s a picture of the peanut decked out in Santa garb picked out my her Grammy Lou and looking typically impish. Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Libraries Are Doing It For Themselves

This past semester I was happy to read about an exciting, nascent movement afoot in the library world called Library 2.0. There isn’t a succinct definition for it (it’s been called a “collective of ideas”) but as Michael Stephens, who writes about Library 2.0 issues on his blog, TametheWeb, nicely put it:

Library 2.0 simply means making your library’s space (virtual and physical) more interactive, collaborative, and driven by community needs. Examples of where to start include blogs, gaming nights for teens, and collaborative photo sites. The basic drive is to get people back into the library by making the library relevant to what they want and need in their daily lives…to make the library a destination and not an afterthought.

So, given the caveat that Library 2.0 is a nebulous term and that I only first came to know about it in September, I've come to understand it as a set of tools, most of them revolving around social technologies, that bring libraries into a much needed alignment with the kinds of Web applications and services most of its patrons are already using and benefiting from everyday. Of course, those advocating for Library 2.0 the most are always quick to jump in and say that it’s about more then just technology, that it’s an attitude or readjustment in the library world, one that’s attempting to move the profession away from stagnant traditionalist ways of thinking and toward fresh new ideas. That relevancy thing-- it's something that creeps up in all my classes, right after we discuss how libraries are in crisis.

One of the impediments to integrating these new attitudes according to Library 2.0 advocates, especially at the technological level, are library vendors, those companies who provide stuff like the databases and on-line subscription services. John Blyberg, probably my favorite of the small, committed band of Library 2.0 apostles, wrote that these vendors “literally determine what we can and cannot do with our systems.” Vendors and their services are, according to Blyberg, too slow, too patronizing and too prohibitive. They don’t make it easy for libraries to get into the guts of their systems, screw around with them and adopt them to their current needs. Instead, too many libraries sit around waiting and hoping that the vendors will eventually respond.

That being said, some libraries, frustrated by the limitations and high costs of commercial vendors, are taking matters into their own hands.

About three years ago, the Georgia Public Library Service (GPLS) looked for a new integrated library system (ILS) to serve its large consortial group of libraries across the state and found its needs frustrated by the commercial ILS market. This September 5, it debuted a new library system and catalog. Evergreen was developed by a small in-house team using open source technologies, at significantly lower cost than the commercial options that were available. This strategy has proven dramatically more flexible in meeting the needs of GPLS, and the new system has been welcomed by librarians and patrons alike.

But best of all, this:

Among Evergreen’s characteristics is spell-checking of search terms with suggested alternates, much like Google’s suggestions when you misspell a word.

Catalog spell-checking, where have you been all my life?

(Thanks to Joe for the link to the Library Journal article.)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Cassa Dei Bambini

My siblings and I were all products of Montessori schooling. At least for a year or two before beginning kindergarten. I don’t remember much about my own Montessori experience other then performing “I’m a Little Teapot” (I particularly recall the joy of singing and pantomiming “tip me over and pour me out!”) and “Frere Jacques” with great verve. I was reminded of all this tonight when a guest in my library management class told us that she believed the way she learns was hardwired by her own early childhood Montessori experience. The Montessori method has been around for a while though I know little about it other then the basics that it eschews the more traditional measurements of achievement in favor of allowing children to explore and learn individually at their own speed. The teachers are there, I suppose, to watch, learn and accommodate each child’s separate learning/exploring path. Right? Oh, I wish I had more time to read. Surely modern educators have studied the Montessori method and come up with some interesting findings concerning its validity, no?

The semester is almost over. One more assignment due next Wednesday that will have me under its cloud most of this weekend. After that we can concentrate on ‘o tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy. This will probably include Baileys on the rocks. It definitely will. Oh, yes. It’s been a very busy time for both Cathy and I over the last few months and we’re both looking forward to slowing things down and enjoying Abby’s last couple weeks of nought.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Troy Smith Just Won the Heisman

I was not a fair-weather fan this season. This afternoon made it all worth it. Very nice.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Kicked to the Curb

As one of the 13.3 percent of the city that actually participates in the city’s crummy blue bag recycling program (if only out of principle), it’s great news to hear that Daley is finally considering throwing in the towel and moving to curbside bins. Of course, there’s always this:

Late Tuesday, the mayor's office again sought to insert some wiggle room, saying through a spokesman that officials will review the pilot program before determining whether to roll the blue carts out citywide. But the mayor's comments just hours earlier showed he was finally giving up on a program he had so ardently defended.

This pilot program that will be under review is actually an expansion of an existing program in the Beverly ward, where participation rates were 80 percent. The city will now try curbside pickup in seven wards and continue to review, one supposes, how much better it works.

Anyway, particularly exciting is the fact that the curbside pick up is single-stream, meaning all recyclables will go into a single container. With the current blue bag program you have to separate paper from plastic and glass which, for some reason, Cathy and I continue to observe though both bags will, inevitably, be torn apart by the sweep and slide compactors found on most garbage trucks.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Just Like Mom Made

Cathy and I thought this is a great idea:

If you’re already having pumpkin-pie nightmares and sweet-potato panic attacks, hand dessert duty over to Flourish Bakery’s Family Traditions Recipe Support. Though you could order right off their menu (the carrot cake is delish), they are also happy to make your Grandma Ebbie’s chocolate pudding cake or Mom’s famous lemon bars. All you have to do is provide Flourish with t recipe (or a rough approximation if you can’t read Nana’s handwriting). Their pastry chefs do the rest.

I'm still holding out for Flourish to really wow me, but this is a very cool-- I hope people actually do bring in archaic recipes for their consideration.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Old Content

I know, it's time for a new video, but bare with me as I test this new fangled Youtube/Blogger synergy.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Lefty Frizzell anthology I picked up a couple years ago has turned out to be one of my favorites. Besides being my introduction to Frizzell’s unimpeachable style of honky-tonk, it also serves as one of the best reasons yet for my headlong crush on country music. One of the great lateral pleasures to come out of my Lefty love was the discovery that Willie Nelson recorded a tribute to Frizzell back in 1975. Nelson cut an album of Frizzell covers just months before Frizzell’s unlucky passing (he was 47, died of a stroke) that same year. Not wanting to look like he was taking advantage of his death, Nelson held off from releasing the album until 1977. Frizzell’s own sublime barroom swing and twang is beautifully distilled into Willie’s own sweet-tempered saunter. I’ve listened to it twice tonight—its mellow mood a perfect accompaniment to my own. Even better, it’s mood has subtly altered own. Perfect mid-October music.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Language of Flowers

Ed Valauskas, the curator of rare books at the Chicago Botanic Gardens and current holder of the Follett Chair at Dominican, gave a great talk in my Digital Libraries class this morning. It lagely focused on how the Garden went about digitizing and marketing their many rare volumes, one of which was a small book that described the language of flowers. In Victorian Europe it was very popular to send a message in the form of a flower bouquet. Upon receiving your boquet you'd fetch your language of flowers book and decode it. Here's an extensive decoder.

Why not send the love of your life some Syrian Mallow and your mom a handful of moss? If you're with enemy, don't hesitate to send them a Wild Licorice and Tansy smackdown!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

But I Don't Want To Write A Paper

Oh, the hilarity! You know you want to make one.

Friday, September 29, 2006


I’m glad Cat Power sobered up. The song that quite possibly has meant the most to me so far this year is The Greatest, the first cut on her album of the same name. I first heard it late last December, just before Abby was born. It surprised me, the first time I heard it, lush with Moon River strings and cottony smooth Teenie Hodges soul.

Abby is talking. Or mimicking. Probably both. Words are coming out of her mouth anyway. “Daddy” last Monday. “Dora” last Wednesday. “Grandpa” on Thursday. Then nothing quite so crisp and intelligible for the past week. She's letting her teeth grow. And she’s moving. Insatiable needs to climb legs, roll, tumble and climb again. She sees many things that she must, absolutely must, get a hold of and she zeroes in on them with great singular purpose if not an accompanying patience. And she’s dancing now, too-- with an excited wiggle whenever the rhythm catches her.

If I were to write an autobiography, this particular chapter of my life would be titled: “Crushed Cheerios Underfoot.”

In one of her New Yorker reviews Pauline Kael called a film (and I can't seem to find or recall just what film this was) "pleasantly bananas.” That’s exactly what I thought of Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz when when I managed to check it out (Comcast On Demand, under “Free Movies,” offers a healthy dose of old classics, crap and Hollywood curiosities such as this one) a couple weeks ago during Abby’s morning and afternoon naps. It was completely, pleasantly bananas. It ends with its protagonist (Roy Schneider, just a few years post-Jaws) performing a deathbed musical with Ben Vereen (just a few years post-Roots) as the MC. Hollywood didn’t make another musical as completely and pleasantly bananas until Moulin Rouge 20 years later.

I adore a lot of vocalists who’ve multi-tracked their voices. But none of them has so consistently emotionally walloped me over the years like Marvin Gaye’s multi-tracked vocal masterpiece, What’s Goin’ On. It’s my favorite vocal performance of all time. In fact, when the Motown marketers or the Gaye estate are planning the next reissue it should be requisite that an a cappella version of the entire album be included. This way we can luxuriate in his heartbroken doo-wop meditation. I think the party chatter that begins the album is still one of the coziest, funkiest and downright coolest slices of introductory ambience ever committed to magnetic tape.

It’s hard not to care when Ohio State finally has a great quarterback in Troy Smith. And is ranked #1. I usually don’t care at all this early in the season. I am truly a fare weathered Buckeye fan. While reading for school last Saturday I found myself moving incrementally—from checking in on the score via Yahoo to feverishly watching most of the third and then all of the fourth quarter on TV. At the beginning of the fourth quarter Troy Smith had one of those plays that cause excitable, tension prone viewers like myself to spontaneously uncoil from our chairs and leap into the air while manically pumping fists in the air and shouting boasts and brags. Here’s how Joe Drape described it in last Sundays NYT’s:

Smith, who came into the game as the nation’s third-most efficient passer and had not thrown an interception in 152 attempts, was struggling as the Nittany Lions’ defensive backs consistently bumped Ginn and company out of their routes.

Two minutes into the fourth quarter, on second down and 9 on the Penn State 37-yard line, Smith dropped back to pass and immediately felt pressure. He rolled right, and then did what Ohio State Coach Jim Tressel tells him never to do: he reversed field.

Suddenly, Smith was on his own 47-yard line.

“The first read wasn’t there,” he said. “I tried to come back and look to the other side of the field, but it was kind of clogged and crowded, and I just tried to improvise and keep things going. The Penn State defender was making ground on me.”

Robiskie, a sophomore and the least heralded member of the Buckeyes’ receiving corps, had run a hitch route to the sideline and recognized Smith was in trouble.

“I just wanted to work to get open because I know he can always make a play,” Robiskie said of Smith.

As Robiskie angled to the middle of the field, Smith launched a rocket. The ball split Penn State defensive backs Tony Davis and Anthony Scirrotto, hit Robiskie in the shoulder pads and carried him into the end zone.

“Smith made a super play,” Paterno said. “You can’t give up big plays in a game like this.”

Troy Smith, who was 5 years old when I was a Buckeye freshman.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Digital Libraries

One of the benefits of taking a class in a computer lab is that I can toss interesting links my professor shares with us into my blog to take a gander at later. My understanding of digitizing issues, especially as they apply to libraries, is minimal at best, so any chance to expand my understanding is a good thing. Maybe you're interested too?


Center For the Study of Digial Libraries

Scrolling Forward

Information Ecologies

Open Content Alliance

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Boogie Music Time, 11:57

I’ve been slowly dilly-dallying and tidying about on the follow up to my last self-released album, Bomba Charger, for almost 5 years now. I never intended on it taking so long. It’s been recorded in dollops, a scattering of evenings here, a sad Sunday afternoon there. I did it the Quaker way and recorded only when the spirit moved me, an animating force that I reckon would look a lot like this.

I began recording new tracks for it in January of 2002, back when Cathy and I had been living in Berkeley for about 5 months and we used some holiday financial largesse to purchase Pro Tools in the form of a Digi 002. Pro Tools, for those who don’t know, is one of the most popular and widely used pieces of music production gear around. Chances are that any music you’re hearing these days has been recorded, edited and/or mixed using Pro Tools. I have one of their home versions. So, in any case, by the time we moved back to Chicago in February of 2004 I had accumulated roughly 45 songs in various states of maximalist disarray, most constructed using the sounds found on my trusty Yamaha CS1x, or sounds I fed to my equally steadfast Akai S20 sampler. Most were in need of some heavy tailoring.

And I’m close to finishing it now. But there’s still editing aplenty- and I’m still hoping to rope Dennis into a few more vocal bull-sessions- and then there's the frequently distracting addition of Reason to my arsenal-in addition to school, Abby and other bits of deliciousness vying for my time- all of which means that, realistically, I’ll probably have the whole thing completed and in folks hands by late Winter, early Spring of next year. Really.

Here’s why. Reason. Love it. Can’t wait to start jacking the beats, tweaking acid runs and dropping low frequency oscillations. And a bed of sequenced samples whispering in the breeze. It’s been my crush a long time now. Ever since Blue Monday on WMMS and my walkman. It’s time to boogie with the soul of the new machine.

Why Isn't the Pentagon Reporting The Good News?

From today's Washington Post:

Rising sectarian bloodshed has pushed violence in Iraq to its highest level in more than two years, and preventing civil war is now the most urgent mission of the growing contingent of 140,000 U.S. troops in the country, according to a new Pentagon report released yesterday.

But why aren't they reporting the good news?

No, wait! George is hot on the trail of some much better news! Things could be far worse, you know, and it's not really quite a civil war. Just bloody ups and downs. We just need to buck up and sacrifice more of that deficit spending and some soldiers lives before all will be made whole again. Otherwise Iraqi terrorists, who hate freedom, might kill your children.

One positive thing I've seen of late is that some polls are beginning to show, at long last, a slim majority of the public beginning to view Iraq as separate from the war on terror. Over the next two months, the administration and its lackies will be doing all they can to subdue that skepticism.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Back to school tomorrow. I went out and got all my supplies today. Very curious to see what we’ll be using all those Ziploc storage bags for!

One class will be held at the Harold Washington Library and the other will be at Dominican proper in River Forest. Like most things these days, heading back to school snuck up on me. My parents were here this weekend and I found myself having several conversations about Thanksgiving plans. We discussed turducken, which contrary to popular belief, wasn’t invented by the supremely avuncular John Madden. Where did August go? Where did the summer go? It seems only natural that having a child would cause time to pass with even greater rapidity. How is Abby already 8 months old tomorrow?

Sunday, August 27, 2006


Gilberto Gil, Brazil’s current Minister of Culture, recorded his album 1971 that very year while living in exile in London. I’ve only given a couple close listens to the album (I wish I had more time for close listens. One of the things I’ve come to appreciate during commutes to and from River Forest for school are the opportunities they give me to closely listen to a couple albums) so I’m still connecting and familiarizing myself to the songs (his cover of Windwood’s Can’t Find My Way Home is nice standout) but I’m really enjoying the supremely relaxed feel of many of its cuts. The track, Mama, for example, is a gorgeously breezy ballad that, like the rest of the album, comes soaked in a warm bath of silky reverb and casually saunters barefoot under a late August moon while Gil strums his acoustic (accompanied by the subtle bass playing and backing vocals of Chris B and laments Mama’s (Brazils?) desire to hold him too close to her apron strings. How else to read lines like, “I wanna kiss your face again/Am gonna go my way, mamma/ Don’t worry, don’t cry, don’t complain/Don’t try to hold me down”?

I wish I knew more about the specifics of the anti-government hi-jinx Gil and Velosa were up to that originally got them thrown in jail and eventually led to their exile. What little I do know about the military’s rule of Brazil from 1964 to 1985 was that there were, at least in the late 60’s and early 70’s, many within the military, especially during the time of Brazil's enormous economic expansion, who believed they had to strongly curtail any cultural/populist sentiment that questioned their authority. This included torture, disappearing and indiscriminate arrests. I’m guessing that they saw in Gil and Velosa, already hugely popular Brazilian pop stars, a couple of cocky upstarts who were not so covertly looking to subvert the authoritarian rule they found themselves and their music living under.

You can listen to every single one of Gil’s albums here on his amazing website.

Monday, July 31, 2006

How Is It I Extract Strength From the Beef I Eat?

I had forgotten how much I enjoyed Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself back when I first read it for a class I was taking in the mid-90’s. I’m currently reading Break, Blow, Burn: Camille Paglia Reads Forty-Three of the World’s Best Poems and it’s 17th. After each poem (Song of Myself, at 1,346 lines and 52 sections, is excerpted) Paglia offers clear and engaging insight into the poems meaning all but neutered of her patented Italian grade of high octane, exuberantly combative prose. There are no gems like “Women’s latent vampirism is not a social aberration but a development of her maternal function, for which nature has equipped her with tiresome thoroughness” or “In film, popular music, and commercials, we contemplate all the daemonic myths and sexual stereotypes of paganism that reform movements from Christianity to feminism have never been able to eradicate” as found in the archly playful introduction of her first book, Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence From Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson. In fact, there’s a refreshing pedagogic simplicity to her brief essays- they’re primers or refreshers (most of the 43 poems found here include numerous heavy hitters from the Western canon and, as such, have been anthologized out the wazoo) , introducing or reminding us of the poems merits. About Leaves of Grass she asserts that one of its central themes is “not war or moral struggle but expansion of consciousness. ‘I lean and loaf at my ease observing a spear of summer grass': like Wordsworth rejoicing in a field of wild daffodils, Whitman finds meaning in the random and commonplace.” And it’s in the poems many odes to the commonplace and its potential for consciousness raising that he gives us gems like this:

The boatmen and clam-diggers arose early and stop for me,
I tuck’d my trowser-ends in my boots and went and had a good
You should have been with us that day around the chowder-kettle.

or this physiological question,

Who goes there? Hankering, gross, mystical, nude;
How is it I extract strength from the beef I eat?

or this orgasmic couplet

Something I cannot see puts upward libidinous prongs,
Seas of bright juice suffuse heaven.

The key words being “upward” and “juice.”

Photo taken from Walt Whitman Archive

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

American Movie: An American Folk Art

I’m just now beginning to edit together on iMovie some of the footage I took with our digital recorder last summer in Hilton (Yes, but does it have enough arch support?) Head. When my Mom turned 60 back in January of 2005 she had already made it known that what she wanted most was for all her children and their families to stay under one roof for a week on Hilton Head. My parents had owned a place there for over a decade, a cozy two floor condo with a late 70’s vibe and conveniently located across the street from the beach, before recently selling it and buying another, with a better view of the Atlantic, in the warmer climates of Tarpon Springs, Florida. Over those 10 years their condo in Hilton Head had served as the hub of numerous Breitenbach vacations, though the last time we had all been together, the last time we had all spent a week heading out to the beach or pool together for lazy afternoons and out to dinners in humidity swamped evenings was in the summer of 2002 when we all came together to celebrate my Dad’s own 60th.

So I filmed about 50 minutes of footage last summer- Cathy and I packing, my nieces and nephews playing in the pool, all of us singing Happy Birthday, a sunrise, sand castle building on the beach. I’m not too good at premeditating what I’m going to shoot or why, though I’d like to be. I’m still learning how to keep the camera near and how to reflexively take it up and begin filming. I’m learning about how cameras can steal the spirit of some and bring out the rascal in others. I’ve got a lot to learn. But mostly I’m still enthralled by how what ultimately is filmed, edited or not, can accumulate a kind of mythic resonance within families and become part of family folklore.

So, given that I’m prone to thinking about such things, I was especially excited to see that Joe had a link on his blog a couple months ago to, a site whose mission includes building a “national preserve of hard-to-find documentary films about American folk or roots cultures” and “to give them renewed life by streaming them on the internet.” And not just that! When browsing through their catalog of subjects, under the heading "Arts and Crafts Traditional" I found a link to the 19 minute documentary “Home Movie: An American Folk Art,” made in 1975 for a Smithsonian Institute festival. The filmmakers (Ernst Edward Star and Steven Zeitlin, then graduate students) had put out a call to the public to send them their home movies and photographs with the goal of then studying and editing them into Home Movie. According to the documentaries accompanying blurb, after sifting through all these family movies and photographs, Star and Zeitlin “began to see that, just as certain categories of stories recur from family to family, certain kinds of images recur in home movie archives. Scenes of holiday celebrations, birthdays, picnics, and vacations dominate these collections, and children, from infancy through high school graduation, at the mercy of their parents, are favorite subjects for the home photographer.”

The documentary itself is priceless. Not simply because the filmmakers interests helped to give my own inchoate fascinations with this subject some glimmers of coherence but because the documentary itself, now over 30 years old, has taken on and accumulated its own patina of funky nostalgia. Watching the documentaries first few minutes, where one of the filmmakers (Zeitlin, I’m guessing) appears sitting next to a projector dressed in what now radiates a kind of grad student geek chic and soulfully, earnestly pontificates (he seems to be reading directly from his thesis) about what lies at the heart of our need to record these moments, these holidays, birthdays and vacations, I was struck by how much it resembled a scene or an outtake from a Wes Anderson film. I thought, if Wes Anderson is one of the current masters of mining a very specific kind of Americana quirky, then this introduction was one of his templates. I also really liked what Zeitlin was saying. Speaking about what makes home movies a “unique folk art” he expounds that,

…where the art comes into it is in the act of selection. Why, for instance, did my parents film that particular scene? I figured out that I must have spent close to 150,000 hours at home before I went to college. How many of them could have been spent playing in the pool?

Clearly homes movies are not a random sample of our past but an idealization based on how we chose to preserve, remember and be remembered. From one perspective, home movies reflect the ideals of a particular family. For my parents, it was their home, their kids, their puppies, their little yellow pool with the 4 horses on it. It was what was distinctive and what was memorable about their own family that they sought to preserve on that sunny afternoon. I watched hundreds of home movies and saw hundreds of water sprinklers and planted pools. I began to realize that on another level, homes movies are an American tradition and as such they tell us something about American values and ideas. In that simple scene of youthful parents, happy children and a backyard swimming pool we catch a glimpse of an American dream.

What follows is a montage of scenes demonstrating this American dream—of children mostly-- children running through snow, jumping in leaves, playing on beaches, taking baths, newborns wrapped in swaddling, having birthday parties, enjoying Christmas morning, dancing-- all accompanied by a delicately mournful Eric Satie piece for piano. Theres a strong whiff of melancholy to it, these seemingly random moments that have been conferred a special kind of meaning simply because they were privileged with having been filmed. Soon our graduate friend Zeitlin returns to get all elysian and informs us that home movies are endowed with, in fact, a third and “universal level” of values depicted in home movies, the first two being the values “important to individual families” and “America as a whole. “ But what are these so-called universal values? Thankfully, Zeitlin throws it down for us:

By attempting to preserve that which is most beautiful to his life, the home movie maker might be seen as partaking in what seems to be a universal desire to create a golden age. From Shangri-La to Eden man has always needed visions of peace and harmony to guide him through the inevitable complexities of his present world. The home movie maker may be no more aware of the fact that he is filming a golden age then Adam and Eve were that they were living in paradise. But to an individual family, the world depicted in home movies might serve as their own golden age.

For the remainder of the documentary, Zeitlin and Star visit members of three of the families who had responded to their open call for footage and have them provide commentary as they watch their home movies together, a precursor to the director/actor commentary now found on so many DVDs. The filmmakers don’t ask too many questions that would support their thesis of home movies being conduits for a lost golden age, choosing instead to let the families randomly enthuse about how somebody always sits in the sun in just such a way, and how this or that uncle still has the same hairstyle 20 years later and how it hardly seems like a decade has passed since that wedding. birthday or graduation.

Now that simple editing software comes bundled with home computers, I’m interested in how many people are using these tools to construct narratives out of the more or less random footage they’ve taken. How do you create an additional layer of meaning or thematic structure to this footage and make it something more then a collection of disparate shots? How do you arrange it in such a way, edit it, so that it tells an engaging story? It's time for some new folklorists to step up and make a documentary about how children of the digital age and their parents have and will continue to create folk art by what they select to film and, more importantly, what and how they chose to edit.

My friend Julie told me yesterday afternoon that her daughters love to watch footage of themselves taken over the years. “It’s like a Disney movie for them,” she said, “you just put it on and their happy as can be.” And I find myself wondering how these movies and their repetitive viewings of them help (or hidner?) to shape memories and identities. How will they come to know themselves, their childhood, through these videos? How does video, as film critic Jonathan Romney once wrote, become a “prosthesis for human memory?” How rich and strange to think of the multitude of raw footage taken of their lives they’ll have to look back on when I compare it to my own archive of footage-- a fleeting 2 or so hours of super-8 my Dad filmed from roughly the late 60’s to the late 70’s. Footage, I might add, that languished for almost 20 years in various closets and attic crawl spaces before my Mom had them converted to DVD.

Ross McElwee, whose work I love, is probably the foremost purveyor of this personalized cinema verite I find myself so interested in. He’s certainly one of its most eloquent elucidators. A few years back when Cineaste interviewed him he had this to say:

McElwee: I think it’s going to be very interesting, by the way, to see what happens with this digital generation of parents who have recorded their kids’ every footstep. People were shooting a fair amount of super-8 film in the Sixties and Seventies. But it was expensive and difficult to load, and editing it was extremely time-consuming. Most people didn’t edit their footage; most footage was not viewed more than once. Digital video, or video in general enables parents to keep a constant record of a family as it grows up. So that very question you raised- “Am I remembering this correctly?”- needn’t be an issue. People can just go back to the data bank and see exactly how little Jimmy spooned his peas into his mouth at age four. There’ll be a record of it. And how strange is that?

How strange is that?

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Cheney In Undisclosed Location Growling

This paragraph from an article in yesternays NYT's concerning Thursday's 5-3 Supreme Court ruling on tribunals caught my eye:

In the courtroom on Thursday, the chief justice sat silently in his center chair as Justice Stevens, sitting to his immediate right as the senior associate justice, read from the majority opinion. It made for a striking tableau on the final day of the first term of the Roberts court: the young chief justice, observing his work of just a year earlier taken apart point by point by the tenacious 86-year old Justice Stevens, winner of the Bronze Star for his service as a Navy officer in World War II.

First, what a relief this ruling was. This was the last chance to reign in one of the more odious and inhumane elements of Cheney's runaway executive power grab and, thankfully, Kennedy swung with the more loveable bloc of justices because, obviously, you know where Roberts would have sat had he not recused himself because of his ruling in favor of the administration on the appellate panal last July. The above quote is one big old dollop of vicarious, well deserved comeuppance.

Second, Stevens is 86. He was born in 1920 (in Chicago) and if you're the praying kind I'd imagine you'd want to put in a request to the almighty, whoever that may be, to keep him blooming until there's a change in the political winds.

Thirdly, as if we didn't already know, Roberts and Alito will be joining Thomas and Scalia as card carrying members of the less lovable bloc of justices. Kennedy, more often then not, bears their stench and yet, partisan as this court is (and can we simply drop the pretense that the Supremes are or ever have been impartial arbiters of justice), his infrequent deviations may be the only favorable rulings we get for many years to come.

Lastly, yes, it really is 4:30 in the morning. Sleep training y'all. Sleep training, crying and adrenaline. Are there studies on this-- there's gotta be. That little peanut's cry affects me something fierce.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The Greatest Thing That Ever Came To Kansas

This poem by James Dickey destroyed me (still does) when I first read it 10 or so years ago. It details the awful falling of a stewardess who is accidentally sucked out the door of an airplane somewhere over the midwest. Dickey once said this about the stewardess in Falling:

"Falling" is a record of the way she feels as she falls; panic at first and then a kind of goddess-like invulnerability. She discovers that the human body can actually fly a little bit. She tries to find water to fall into, but in the end she can’t and falls into a cornfield and dies there. She undresses on the way down, because since she’s going to die she wants to die, as she says, "beyond explanation." She would rather be found naked in a cornfield than in an airline uniform. So she takes off everything, is clean, purely desirable, purely woman, and dies in that way. I also tried to think of the mystical possibility there might be for farmers in that vicinity, under those conditions.

It's rather long but worth your time, especially the poems end, which is perfect.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Hello, I'm Adorable

Just a little super cuteness before we head off to do a little reading. More later, especially concerning the showing of a new 35mm print of Victor Erice's The Spirit of the Beehive, one of the most beautiful and poetic depectitions of childhood I've ever seen. I watched a well-worn VHS copy of it a few years back when we were living in Berkeley, so an opportunity to see it on the big screen is really exciting. It's showing at the Music Box July 7-13th and I can't recommend it highly enough. If I have my way, all Chicagoites will be joining me to watch it.

London Summer

With all this peculiar late-September like weather we had this weekend I think this song needs to come to our rescue. It's from the wonderful compilation London Is The Place For Me 2: Calypso & Kwela, Highlife & Jazz From Young Black London and it captures some of those elements that exemplify summer-- the lilting quality of the gently looping bass that introduces the song, the soothing splashes of percussion and muted horn that nicely merge along with the balm of weaving vocal chants and a lovely daub of flute all conspire so that I can practically see that big old fat summer sun quietly slipping into a pair of swim trunks for a dip in the pool. Gorgeous. Thanks, Joe!

Yolanda: Ambrose Campbell

Update: Yousendit seems to have been having some problems with the original download link. They sent me a new link, so please let me know if you want to download this (you do!) but are still having problems.

Oh, and Happy Birthday to my Dad! Like Paul McCartney, he's turning 64.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Movies I Saw Numerous Times Over the Three Months My Parents Subscribed to Cable Television in the Early 80's

Ice Castles
Hawk the Slayer

The Incredible Shrinking Woman
Cannonball Run
Any Which Way You Can
The Black Hole
Urban Cowboy

What am I forgetting?
Socks, Be Gone With You!

There’s much I’d like to share with you (or at you) though I’m finding the miserable state of my sock collection to be the most pressing. This caught me completely off guard, as if, huddled together in the dispiriting corners of my sock drawer, they made a collective agreement to simultaneously go threadbare in the heels and hollow in the toes.

So I’ve gone about throwing them away. On any given day you can find a discarded pair in our trash atop banana peals, coffee grounds and various Abby related discharges. Initially I felt that odd maudlin regret you sometimes get when parting with articles of clothing (“Oh, I’ve had some mighty good times in those socks!) though this has quickly given way to a late spring-cleaning resolve to rid myself of as many cheerless socks as possible.

Filines Basement, here I come.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

True 'Dat

From Kevin Drum:

CONGRESS WAKES UP....I'm a little late on this, but let me join the bandwagon of mockery directed at members of Congress who have finally decided that the executive branch has overstepped its congressional boundaries. After six years of signing statements, domestic surveillance, habeus corpus violations, torture of prisoners, and secret overseas prisons — all done with no oversight from Congress — what finally woke them up was a raid on a congressman's office. That can't be tolerated. Not for one second.

Well, maybe not. But at least the FBI got a search warrant signed by a judge. Congress should feel lucky they were treated with such sensitivity.

Could you imagine what dirt lies under all those Congressional rugs?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Now We Send Flowers

Back in the yonder halcyon days known as the mid-70’s (the Ford and Carter years for those of you using Presidents as the preeminent distinguishable feature on the time line) I bought my Mom cheap perfume for Mother’s Day. My best friend and I had each been given $5 to purchase gifts that declared our budding recognition for all our moms had done for us. But then we eyed a frisbee we both decided was very important to have. The perfume was $2.95 a bottle and smelled vaguely of Formica. With what money remained we were able to pull our resources together and purchase the frisbee for ourselves. This is how Moms sometimes continue to make sacrifices for their children without ever knowing it.

For many years this bottle of perfume remained wisely neglected in my parent’s medicine cabinet. Then it disappeared.

Happy Mother’s Day to my Mom and my baby’s Mama and to Mom’s everywhere who are unknowingly giving even when they’re receiving.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Eternal Feminine Is In Opie’s Hands

As the ads for Opie’s big screen adaptation of Dan Brown’s bewilderingly popular The Da Vinci Code become more conspicuous, I recently found myself feeling unmistakingly squirrelly (which is to say nuts) concerning my failure to read a book, no matter what its merits, over 30 million others already have. There’s an odd anxiety that comes with being unenlightened by something dominating the best-seller list for so long. Cathy, too, had read it back when we lived in Berkeley after a professor recommended it. “I couldn’t put it down,” he enthusiastically blurbed to her. So she bought the hardback at Cody’s for 30% off. And it seems like oodles of folks in my orbit have read it. Its ubiquity was/is disquieting. So I finally picked up our copy the other day and am currently half way through. It’s awful. Not such a surprise. But I’ll finish it because it asks so very little. (And seeing as how we are, as a country, decidedly estranged from books, especially books that ask for reflection, this may be the crux of its popularity.) I also keep wondering how Opie, competent Hollywood hack he is, will make it better. Well, for one, she’s in it. We’ll gladly pay $9 to watch Audrey on the big screen and sigh.

But really, what’s with this book? It’s all Chiclet chapters, warmed over Golden Bough (though all this talk of the sacred feminine makes me want to pull Camille Paglia’s swaggering Sexual Personae from the shelves and see how it holds up 16 years after it hypnotized me), hackneyed scenarios and gems of heelarious dialogue such as this:

(Note, if you haven’t read it, this excerpted scene joins our hero, the eminent Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, as he dishes on Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa with a group of inmates as part of one of those ever popular prison outreach programs.)

“…Because Da Vinci was a big fan of feminine principles, he made Mona Lisa look more majestic from the left than the right.”
“I heard he was a fag,” said a small man with a goatee .
Langdon winced. “Historians don’t generally put it quite that way, but yes, Da Vinci was a homosexual.”
“Is that why he was into that whole feminine thing?”
“Actually, Da Vinci was in tune with the balance between male and female. He believed that a human soul could not be enlightened unless it had both male and female elements.”
“You mean chicks with dicks?” someone called.”

Ha Ha! Whoa, Daddy! Here’s hoping Opie had the good sense to keep the script churning with dick jokes aplenty! In the very least, we’ll have that. I’ve heard that in the film this scene ends with Langdon, played by Tom Hanks, and the inmates kicking back with some spud juice and tossing the old salad. Just squeaked by with that PG-13.

I’ll let you know when I’m done.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Surprise Kiss On Demand

Watched way too much tv yesterday. It’s all this on-demand magic I’m finding on my in-law’s cable. Since they subscribe to HBO I can dip into big taster displays of the on-demand content the network makes available for those occasional afternoons Abby and I come to the Heritage (I love that name, so regal and old world refined) and she takes 2 hour naps on my lap. Most of the movies HBO offers aren’t ones I’d want to spend any more time with let alone watch a first time (She-Devil, anyone?) though I did watch Vacation again a couple weeks ago and found myself almost waking the peanut up numerous times with ripples of suppressed laughter. (When Clark falls asleep on the road…the camera pans from the Griswald kids asleep in the backseat to mom snoozing in the passenger and then pauses just ever so slightly before panning over to Clark with this head thrown back over the seat happily snoring away. This is sitcom goofy, but Ramis was slaying with this stuff back in the late 70's and early 80's.) And watching Rear Window again early last month came with the revelation of Grace Kelly and Jimmy Stewart’s first kiss, one which happens unexpectedly--in Hitchcock’s celebrated interviews with Francois Truffaut he called it a “surprise kiss.” The first time we see Kelly’s face it practically blooms onto the screen while moving languorously in slow motion downward to Stewarts awaiting lips. She’s like some enchanted current drifting onto the screen and offering the surprise of something unexpectedly sensual.

Yesterday I watched the first 6 episodes of HBO’s Entourage and really enjoyed it. It’s got a sweet harmless center surrounded by a white noise of fatuous dick jokes, rabid pussy philosophizing and copious smoking of the herb. Jeremy Piven’s rapacious agent, Ari, is the scene stealer so far, but I also have a soft spot for Kevin Dillon’s sweetly dumb and desperate Johnny “Drama.”

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Listening To Arthur Lee Records

As if I didn’t already want to carry Tracyanne Campbell’s books home from school, she’s gone and named the lead single from the upcoming Camera Obscura album, Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken. This, of course, a perfectly coquettish homage to Lloyd Cole and the Commotions’ Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken, only one of my most favorite songs ever from the still utterly awesome Rattlesnakes album. An album that's all of 22 years old at that! Sheesh! You can hear the Camera Obscura song here. If this is any indication, Camera Obscura just keep getting better and better. Gives me that old teenage feeling.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Disco Delicious

This really is a terrific compilation of creamy and delicious disco goodness. Even great to hear Situation again from that cassette bargain-bin classic, Upstairs at Erics. And other then Once In A Lifetime it's all sparkling new to me. Springtime is Larry Levan time.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Wildfire Virus

According to this article in the Tribune, Chicago has recently been experiencing an outbreak of the Norovirus. According to the spokeswoman for the Cook County Department of Public Health, “[I]t's really such an easy virus to spread. It really takes off like wildfire.” That’s for sure.

It’s been way too long since I offered up such a hearty abundance of foodstuffs to the porcelain god and I liked it that way. Vomiting—its nauseating encroachment, attempts to avoid and the final elemental heaving—well, it’s fucking awful, isn’t it? The spadmodic inefficiency of it all. 11:00 pm. 2:00 am. 4:30 am. The primal contractions and acid tinged expulsions. And when the Norovirus is done with the stomach it sets to work on the intestines. I’ll spare you those details.

When Cathy called our pediatrician to find out what this meant for Abby (if you’re showing symptoms, stay away, otherwise wash hands thoroughly before handling the wiggliest and cutest baby in the world), the nurse who answered said that half of all calls coming in that day were regarding “stomach flu.” Folks at Cathy’s office were absent because of it. It visited me for a few days. But I’m much better now.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Out On The Wiley, Windy Moors

One of last years most welcome and pleasant surprises was Kate Bush’s lovely and heartfelt Aerial album. Over the last 20 years Bush’s music has managed to carve out a very specific and cherished niche in my music listening universe. Albums like The Kick Inside,The Dreaming, Hounds of Love, the best-of The Whole Story and The Sensual World all managed to swooningly fill that niche. I think one of the most endearing and enduring qualities about these albums is their fierce romanticism, the murmuring undercurrent of something vaguely misty and mythological-- a fairytale whiff of unicorns, witches and rainbows. All is forgiven when you hear what she's done with this. Kate Bush was and continues to be the coolest lady at your local Renaissance Faire-- she knows a little about the black arts and she plays a mean harpsichord. And she won't be handing out Elephant Ears, golden and delightfully doughy though they may be.

When her debut album, The Kick Inside, was released in 1978 she was just a wee 17 years old. Its first single, Wuthering Heights, was a big hit on the International charts, another way of saying it didn’t make much of splash in the U.S. Still, the Germans and various other European countries were hungry for expressive dance in soft focus, so Kate made a video for it.

Now, I honestly adore the video. Really, you should too. Did you check it out? You honestly should. You don’t have to watch it all, just try to make it through first minute to the chorus when things call for a few cartwheels. There’s a Talent Show histrionics about it that I find incredibly charming. There’s also a sweetness and light in witnessing a dreamy teenager bursting onto the scene with a song as odd and rich as Wuthering Heights. It moves her this way.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

My Own Private Hanami

This article from last week’s Economist caught my eye. I really liked this:

When the saura (cherry blossoms) bloom, Japanese people sit in parks getting raucously sloshed and contemplating the transience of life, as symbolized by those briefly spectacular flowers. Everybody agrees that alcohol heightens the experience.

It’s 75 degrees out. I have the windows open in the living room for the first time this year and dappled sunlight is giving everything a becalming golden luminescence. Since grandma has Abby for the day the incredible Remikks Potpourri is enjoying some highly audible time (“a little bit of drums, a little bit of bass!”) on the stereo. And I’m drinking a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, “alcohol 5.6% by volume.” Everybody in Japan agrees it heightens the experience. I’ll probably have another.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Viva Sweet Spring

Abby is a constant. She’s there in the woozy minutes before dawn, nestled in the cradle of my arms while my head is still thick and confused with sleep. We shuffle down the hall and up the stairs and are comforted by the first outlines of blue creeping through the blinds. She’s smiling up at me. I stop to look down at her and she’s looking right back, her eyes wide and stunned with prospects.

She talks to the fan. What must it be like, to have spent nine months, as our pediatrician told us, “in a liquid environment,” where all your insatiable nascent needs were met and encompassed by the fine tuning of one of evolutions most exquisitely calibrated vessels, only to arrive into a world where you’re suddenly dependent on two people of good intentions who are unable, however much they fumble and attempt, to fully understand the outburst of your newfound desires? Only the fan knows. We walk into each room and turn them on their lowest settings, the better to make out the contours of their solacing blades and becalming revolve. Afternoons we’ve lounged on our backs side by side watching them turn while we waved our arms in delight at their rotary charms. I don’t pretend to be learning some secret lesson from the innocence of her untainted infant wisdom—the fan is as dumb an inanimate object as our lamps and toaster, but I am prepared to indulge her for the joy it offers, the solace it provides…all the laughter it sends rippling from her and washing over me.

There are many cries. They vary in duration, intensity, emotional affect and histrionics. They roughly translate as, “I’m hungry,” “I’m tired,” “I’m bored,” “I’m sitting in a deluge of my own uncontrollable making and it truly sucks,” “I’m overwhelmed,” “I’m frightened and so very sad to find that I just woke up in my car seat alone in this dank room and I’m terribly sad—why, oh why did you see fit to abandon me this way like some unoffending gypsy cast asunder and destitute?” While each elicits a pacifying response on our part, it’s that last cry that gets me the most. It’s how when I open the door and allow the hallway light to slant in and brush aside the shadows and crouch down to where my face hovers just a few inches from her own and I see the fullest manifestation of a doleful expression I’ve ever witnessed. It’s how it reverberates and tugs and sends precision pangs tumbling through me. It’s how I pick her up and she curls into me with her legs tucked up and her head warm and pressed against my neck.

A while back I wrote about how having a baby was one of life’s great quotidian events, simultaneously mundane and irresistibly astonishing. We recognize that our own aura of astonishment naturally advances as far as the grandparents, the grandmas in particular, who share and cheer along with the minutia of our excited reports on the latest Abby astonishments. There’s also an abundance of mundane here too. It took us a while to admit that it’s okay for parenthood to occasionally have fits of dullness. There are the doldrums, for example, of Abby asleep in my lap while I sit unable to stir myself to read another line of whatever book or magazine lies before me and a fog settles along my brain. This is when we praise the genius of the iPod shuffle setting. These waves of the mundane are minor struggles and tundra soon gives way to blossom.

Abby has been with us for a little more then three months. Born fast, furious and spindly while most everybody else slept that early December morning, I remember how I first walked over to where the pediatrician and nurse were tending to her with my hands held tentatively behind my back. I remember she was awake, as most newborns are for the first couple of hours, her face turned away from me, and how when I spoke to her she turned her head, her eyes blinking against the heat lamps, and looked right at me. I remember how much I hoped she recognized my voice from all the nights and mornings I had talked to her. "Hello, my little girl," I told her, "I'm so happy to see you. I'm so glad you're finally here."

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Smile (Or the Joy of the Mutually Reinforced Pattern)

Abby had been smiling in her sleep for some time now, but never while awake. That all changed a few weeks ago. Now, with each day, she smiles more often and for greater durations. With that "social smile" she's also become far more interactive, swiping at the odd little creatures dangling off her mobile, making sustained eye contact and chattering away. It's giddy stuff for us. We thought we should share some of it with you. There is video posted here. It's pretty compressed, and while that translates into a grainy picture it does have the benefit of downloading fairly quickly. We'll try with future video posts to toy with making the quality of the image better without making it so it takes too long to download. No fancy editing here either-- maybe in the future we'll try to make some more creative short Abby films available.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Missed the Shore

Bopping along to my Best of 2005 mix on the way to catch the El this morning, I politely declined somebody handing out political flyers by the Bryn Mawr entrance. It wasn't until I was halfway up the stairs to the platform that her introduction had registered through the batter of my musical biscuits. "Hi, I'm Debra Shore!" "No thanks," I had mumbled as I walked into the station. But wait...Debra Shore?! Wasn't there an article about her in the Chicago Reader a couple months back? Didn't Cathy tell me more about her? And, in fact it was her.

Shore is running for office, one of those offices that you usually don't give much thought about (if you're like me, you find an organization you trust who has already vetted the qualifications of such mystery candidates and offers their recommendations-- this is particularly useful when it comes to judges) but one that's incredibly important nonetheless. She's running for the office of Commissioner of the Metropolitan Water District (or MWRD, which I've heard my fair share about through Cathy) and she deserves your vote. You can read more about her here. Here's a little taste of what makes her so worthy from her campaign site:

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District is a vitally important and altogether overlooked public agency. With an annual budget of more than $800 million and as owner of more than 7,000 acres in the region, it deserves more scrutiny. Its responsibility to treat wastewater and to manage storm water for the five million residents and many industries in Cook County makes it an essential contributor to our quality of life.

Yet few people know what the agency does and it has virtually no benchmarks with which to measure performance. With your help I intend to bring environmental accountability and leadership into the MWRD. I believe we cannot be merely users and abusers of natural resources but must become caring stewards

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Two With Jeff Bridges

Originally uploaded by chrisbreitenbach.
Watched Fat City and Thunderbolt and Lightfoot this weekend, a couple early 70’s films with Jeff Bridges. Has there, in the last 40 years, been a more amiable American actor, one more nonchalant and consistently likeable? I dig the dude. A couple years back (!) when I placed these films in my Netflix queue I had recently watched K-Pax, that supremely inane film, and marveled at how, even when surrounded by such cloying ontological piffle (his film career is studded with ridiculous but ephemerally pleasant crap like this) Bridges was still singularly entertaining, keeping his distance from the shark-jump hamming of Kevin Spacey and keeping the film watchable.

Back in the early 70’s Bridges excelled in playing rascally, ingratiating good ‘ol boy characters as both his supporting roles in Fat City and Thunderbolt and Lightfoot nicely showcase. He’s good in Fat City as a young boxer with potential, playing wholesome against Stacy Keach’s (surprisingly good—I almost got the taste of Mike Hammer out of my mouth) gone to seed former pro. But he’s really really good in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, a big hit when it was originally released, in full ingratiating rascal mode and playing Eastwood’s sidekick. The film itself veers a bit too widely from comedy to tragedy but there are a ton of rewards along the way to make it worthwhile. Eastwood, for one, is great here in one of his first comedic roles- laconic and graceful and already a legend. And most of the film takes place in Montana, something the director, Michael Cimino, takes full advantage of by including various shots that languorously take in the big sky and the rolling landscape adding a gentle, reposing texture to the film and its strange mix of the zany and tragic. And perhaps most importantly, it also stars Geoffrey Lewis, who will forever be a part of those early days of cable when I must have watched Every Which Way But Loose a few dozen times over the course of a couple months.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

My Pretty Little Snowflake

Abby at 4 days.
Originally uploaded by chrisbreitenbach.
Over the past couple nights it’s rained in our living room for hours. As part of our newfound duties as placating guardians of our newborns uncompromising wee small hours of the night whims, I’ve taken to setting her Moses basket (I’m thinking of adorning it with stills from the Ten Commandments) in front of the stereo speakers and playing one of my favorite ambient recordings of rain. The hope here is to give my weary but welcoming arms a brief respite and to maintain a small measure of Abby sleep stasis. It seems to be working like a charm tonight as there’s been nary a peep from her. Ha! There we go, as if on cue-- just as I was writing that last sentence she grunted (or is it a snort? sometimes her collection of barnyard grunts, Mesozoic chirps and satisfied soughs collude in potent ways) a small protest- almost always evidence that awakening proceedings are being launched.

I’m still not entirely sure how this is affecting Abby though I’m certain there have been more then a few studies regarding how music or ambient sound influences a child’s well being-- the common sense consensus being something along the lines that white noise, whether it’s a washing machine, the steady hum of tires on pavement, waves curling onto a shoreline or Brian Eno’s Thursday Afternoon-- all are all genuinely healthy tools for pacifying newborns. The recording is from Ryko’s Atmosphere Collection and is called Summer Rain: A Day On Cape Cod. Given my fondness for ambient sounds (my 3 favorites: 1) Summer rain 2) the misty hum of an old-school vaporizer and 3) a three way tie between morning birds, crickets chirping and the distant and singularly nostalgic sound of children’s voices on a playground) I’ve long enjoyed this recording because it’s just straight up rain falling, a becalming pitter patter (I have no doubt Abby is in need of a diaper change)as captured from the porch of a summer cottage.

Wait! Wait a second. I’m a Dad. I’m a parent. I have a kid, a baby girl and she’s here and wiggly and gorgeous and when I look at her I can sometimes see hints and expressions of a dozen different family members—how when she flutters her eyes, makes a milky smile or pouts her bottom lip there’s this uncanny (and entirely lovely…yes, I’m gushing) new merging of identity and genes introducing itself. Watching her face you see the fleeting mimic of a grandparent now gone, a nephew, my wife, me. What, we had wondered over the last 9 months, would she look like? Whose eyes would she have? Whose nose? Lips? How would we recognize ourselves in her and how would she be uniquely herself?

She’s too much. I had to have a t-shirt with her picture on it. This post’s accompanying photograph is the one I used. She’s our beautiful bundle of domestic anarchy and we love her something fierce.

We have pictures. Go here. The password is: