Tuesday, September 19, 2006

End of Summer hoorahs

Two weekends ago we went camping. It was perfect. September is one of my favorite months because it ushers in the Fall season, which is the best season of the year. Fall is the best season of the year because it represents the world putting itself to bed, making preparations for the coming winter. Winter is the season of turning inward. Much of Nature lies dormant and Man's role is one of internal thought and exploration. This exploration in turn leads to explosive growth in the Spring, the season of rebirth. Okay, so maybe Winter is the best season in spiritual terms, but Fall is the season where the weather starts to turn cold. There's a definite earthy scent in the air and the colors are my favorite. And that's why Fall is the best season.

So, as I was saying, we went camping recently. Unbelievably, this was the first time my wife and I have ever been camping together, which also means it was our first camping trip as a family of four. Hard to believe because my wife and I were both avid outdoorsy types before we met. Well, I was at least. Every day of every season was a good day for wandering in the woods. We went hiking every chance we got. But we just never got around to camping out together.

So, as I was saying, we went camping recently. It was a blast! We went with another couple, long time immigrant friends of ours (they're from New York), who also have two young children. We went to a local state campground, with a swimming lake and everything. I led a near-vertical hike up a mountain trail, and my wife headed up a trip to the lake-side beach. Meanwhile, my buddy and I spent a couple of hours at the campsite doing "guy stuff." Which of course means we spent the time drinking beer and talking about work and family life. Yes, guys do that second part. A little.

Our new tent and sleeping bags were awesome. The branches that I pruned from our four maple trees the month before served as the bulk of our firewood. My homegrown, organic firewood was companioned by the "city wood" brought by the other couple...remnants of 2x4 lumber salvaged from some backyard construction in their neighborhood. Their dried pine 2x4's burned more easily and brighter than my semi-green maple logs, but together, as a whole, we had the perfect campfire.

Overall, it was the perfect 2-family camping trip. The burgers and dogs were tasty, the day was warm, and the night was chilly. Even the storm of yellowjackets that was angered by the children's loud and rambunctious play was perfect because it turned out that none of the resident victims were allergic. As if yellowjacket stings aren't bad enough on their own. Tenacious little buggers, those 'jackets.

What a great weekend.

Playing on XM: something with strings and flutes, reminiscent of Jethro Tull. Ah, it's "A Raft of Penguins" by Ian Anderson.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Cub Scouts stole my free time

We just came back from the first official Cub Scout pack meeting of the year. We've been involved for about a month and I'm already wondering "how the hell did THAT happen?" My boys are the perfect age and I personally believe in what Scouting has to offer. But now, after just a few weeks of associating myself with this group, I am more involved than my sons are.

A week ago I volunteered to be Assistant Den Leader for my son's den. The Den Leader was grateful because they normally try to keep the dens around 6-8 boys in size, but because of new kids and transfers, this den is bursting at 12. When she informed the Pack Leader (the leader of the dens), I saw a gleam in his eye that left me just a little frightened. That gleam smacked of "he's one of US now!" And tonight I stepped up and volunteered to take over the pack's monthly newsletter.

Actually, I'm looking forward to it. I haven't had an outlet for community service for a long time. Last year I volunteered in my sons' school one morning a week, but, even though I felt like I was able to influence a few young minds and help out an overworked teacher, it wasn't enough. And I admit that I've always wanted to become involved in scouting as an adult. My own time as a boy scout was cut short by my parent's divorce. But the lessons I learned in that short, stunted year held on. It never occurred to me to get involved BEFORE I had kids of my own. Who knows, if I'd done that, I might not have chosen to have children.

Sorry. I digress. Scouting is like a cult. They draw you in and give you meaning. Luckily, this cult trains their members to be productive and caring members of society. The only bad thing about it is the one or two parents who are there to prove how good they are as parents and how good their child is. Almost all of the parents involved are there because they want to help make a difference in the lives of the children. In fact, it's that atmosphere that has pulled me in so hard and fast. But there's always one or two who want to use their children's success as a merit badge of their own. Not because they are proud of their child...there's not a thing wrong with that. But because they are proud of themselves.

Today as part of his homework, my youngest had to search the house for items that started with specific letters: C, F, H, W, and a few others. When he hit W, he was stumped. The rest of us started offering suggestions: Watch, Wheel, Loudon Wainwright III. The one that he grasped was "Wife." My wife suggested he write something like "My father's wife blah blah blah." He wrote "Wife. 39 years old. She is fun to have around."

Needless to say, I'm freaked. I mean, hey, he's 6 years old. I read Oedipus Rex. I have a degree in Psychology. I'm watching my back. And if he starts working on his Assassin Badge at the next Den meeting...I'm moving out.

Playing on XM: Kodo

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Pry it from my cold, dead hands

I was thinking today about Charlton Heston. I don't know why...it was just one of those random epiphanies that I often have in the excremeditation chamber (aka, the bathroom). What? That's where I do most of MY best thinking. It's been empirically shown that most brilliant ideas and breakthroughs occur while the in the "thinking position."

So, anyway, it occurred to me just what a glorious movie career this man has had, and I wondered what an impact those roles must have had on his personal outlook and psyche. Let's take a look and I'll show you what I mean.

Briefly, we're talking about a man who has played biblical figures Moses AND God. His "historical" roles include Judah Ben Hur, Michaelangelo, El Cid, Sherlock Holmes, Andrew Jackson, and the shaper-of-worlds Thomas Jefferson. That alone is an impressive list, and most of them were impressive performances.

And then there are his BEST roles, or they're MY favorites at least.

In Omega Man, Heston portrayed a man who woke up to find himself one of the last survivors of a vampiric plague. Luckily he was saved by a hot babe with a gun.

In The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers, he was the malevolent puppeteer behind the throne, Cardinal Richelieu. A minor role in the films, but an important character. By the way, it SHOULD go without saying that these are the ONLY versions of the story to see. Seriously with the talents of Richard Chamberlain, Michael York, Oliver Reed, Frank Finlay, and Christopher Lee(!)...how could any other version compete? And that's not counting the beauty and stunning performances of Raquel Welch and Faye Dunaway!! Mmm...Faye Dunaway...

Soylent Green presented him as the man who uncovered the truth about the world's overpopulation problem. He also delivers one of his most famous taglines in this movie.

Planet of the Apes remains one of my most treasured boyhood films. Not only do we get gorilla cowboys and my first look at science fiction, but we get Heston's greatest moment in film history: his emotional breakdown on the beach at the close of the movie.

One of the best things about these movies is you always get plenty of Charlton Heston musing about his (character's) lot in the Grand Scheme of Things. It's roles like these that turn humble, so-so actors into brilliant men. Men who are capable of going on to lead the free world's gun club.

And, as an aside, all four of those movies are based on really good BOOKS...read them!

And that was pretty much the thought that came to me in an instant of neural explosions. I don't really know where these things come from. Maybe, standing there, head bowed and alone with my own inner musings, I just felt some kind of kinship to the man. Yes, you can take this from me when you can pry it from my cold, dead hands.

Wait, that's not where I wanted this to go at all. I just wanted to talk about Charlton Heston's awesome B-movie film career. Where'd that other stuff come from? *sigh*

Playing on XM: Los Lonely Boys