june 2014

6.2.14
I finished watching the last three episodes of the second season of Hannibal over the weekend, and all I have to say is, Wow. I wasn't quite sold on the first season, but the ending intrigued me enough that I tuned in for the second season, which was much better in almost every regard. And those last five or six episodes...I just don't know how to put them in the context of anything that's been done on television before. Those episodes were quite possibly the longest sustained note that's ever been aired, and almost every minute of them was masterfully handled.

The conclusion sets us up for an even more invigorating third season, and it's going to be painful waiting almost another year before we can see them. At first I thought they'd have to start the timeline for this show much earlier than any of the existing movies because there's no way they would be allowed to mess with the canon, especially The Silence of the Lambs, but now I'd actually love to see them not only go through the Red Dragon storyline (which is planned for season 4) but also tackle the other two movies, including the Anthony Hopkins/Jodie foster movie that made the franchise famous.

I don't watch many dramas these days, and with Walking Dead still months and months away from its season 5 premiere, all I've got for the immediate future is the half season of Mad Men that's sitting on my DVR. I suppose this is as good a time as ever to dive into Breaking Bad on Netflix...


6.3.14
I don't know which warms my heart more: that the Cleveland Browns management squandered yet another first round pick on a quarterback that no one else expects to have a significant NFL career, or that the Cleveland fans are so dumb/desperate/deluded that they seem to think this was an absolutely brilliant move.

The coach is saying that Manziel is going to be the backup for the first year and that the QB1 spot belongs to Brian Hoyer, but we all know it's going to be less than a month before the clamor for Manziel to take the field will win out over good judgment and long-term planning. I just hope it happens before week 3 when they have to face the Ravens—if Manziel is the starter by then, that's going to mean the offense is in shambles, and there's no way that Johnny Football is going to right that ship.


6.4.14
This is one of those days that I feel like has some special significance that I've forgotten. No clue what that might be, though.


6.5.14
Does it bother anyone else that on @Midnight when host Chris Hardwick opens the show with the words "It's eleven fifty-nine and fifty-nine seconds...", it is never actually 11:59:59?


6.6.14
Sunday is our 18th wedding anniversary and the 26th anniversary of our first date. There are still days when it's hard to believe that I'm over 30, so it's really hard to comprehend that I've spent almost that many years with the same person.

To make any relationship last this long, especially one that started at the age when we did (we were still in high school), it takes both people being open to the other person changing; the ability to balance your careers, your relationships with your friends, and your lives with each other; and a true partnership in every sense of the word. But it also takes more than a little luck, and I feel very lucky indeed.


6.9.14
For our anniversary dinner (which we actually went to the night before our actual anniversary), I made reservations at Restaurant Eugene, which gets great reviews but which we haven't tried yet. As with our evenings at 4th & Swift and Cakes & Ale, I was really hoping to find a restaurant in Atlanta that could hold up to our two visits to Maryland's Volt, which is my gold standard for these kinds of intimate, intricately contrived dining experiences.

Although there were several good options on the a la carte menu, we decided to follow our waiter's advice and try the tasting menus, with Julie opting for the vegetable (but not vegetarian, which I'm sure has caused some issues over the years) and me for the chef's. This consisted of six courses (we chose not to include one of the two optional courses) with small treats interspersed between the formal courses.

Overall it was pretty good, and probably better than either of our experiences at 4th & Swift or Cakes & Ale, but still a far cry from Volt. As with the other Atlanta restaurants, the food was very good, but there wasn't a whole lot that I was served that had a significant wow factor, a dish that I would return specifically to have or that I'll remember for the rest of my life. They were better at provided little surprises, little bites, in between the formal courses, but while interesting, those were just bites, and hardly worth banking on as the centerpiece for a relatively expensive meal.

I wouldn't be against returning to any of these restaurants again in the future, but it would likely have to be when I see something on the menu that really catches my eye, but whenever I go back and look at their seasonal offerings, I don't see much that really piques my interest.

There are still a few other restaurants in this category in Atlanta, so I haven't lost hope that we'll find a local substitute for Volt, but the more I try other places in their category, the more impressed I become with our experiences there.


6.10.14
Saturday was also a big day for Will: his first swim lesson! I feel somewhat bad that he hasn't learned to swim yet—I feel like I knew how to swim much earlier, and was lucky enough to spend a lot of my childhood around water, and if he loves it as much as I do, I feel like I've deprived him. And by all appearances so far, he does: Julie told me that he was the only kid in his class who didn't run back and sit with their parent(s) when it wasn't their turn with the teacher, and when they tried to leave, he ran back and got in the pool twice.

We're planning to go to the beach again this summer, so hopefully that will give him a chance to practice swimming in the ocean, but swimming seems to be a big thing here in Atlanta, so if he continues to show interest in swimming, we probably need to look at joining a community pool (which really means putting our name on a waiting list to join, since most of the ones near us don't seem to have any current open memberships).


6.11.14
When we were at the Decatur Art Festival a couple of weeks ago, we bought a Japanese-inspired print from a local artist, Keith Rosemond II (who also goes by Keith Two—I think he uses his formal name for his day job as a graphic designer and the Keith Two name for his artwork), but unlike most of the art we've purchased over the years, we actually took the time to hang this one up, along with two complementary pieces.

We feel like, after almost two years, we're pretty settled into the new house, but one thing we haven't done is add much art to the walls in our bedroom and the living room/dining room space. The Keith Two piece was pretty big, so we decided to make that a centerpiece in the dining room area.


Don and Judie's House—Keith Two

We also had a couple of other pieces that were a good thematic/visual fit with this print, so we added those to the adjoining wall in such a way that if you're looking at that corner, you can see all three pieces.


Tripus—Teresa

The first of these two complementary pieces is a print by a contemporary Japanese artist who goes by Teresa, and it's called Tripus (like an octopus but with only three tentacles). I got this from a toy store/art gallery in Chicago called Rotofugi as part of their show called Beauty & the Kaiju, which featured Japanese custom toys and artwork. I like the way the waving tentacles mirror the curves of the waves in the Keith Two piece.


Fireworks at Ryogoku—Hiroshige

The final piece is an actual Japanese woodblock print by Hiroshige, Fireworks at Ryogoku, that I got a few years ago and which we had actually framed but never found a good spot to hang. The colors in the image in this post aren't quite like ours—the sky is more blue and less grey, and the colors in general are much richer and the red pops more—but otherwise that's our print.

The two small pieces are both dwarfed by the larger piece from Keith Two (they are about the same size, and each of them is less than a quarter the size of the bigger print), but when we pair them together, hanging them vertically with the slightly larger Teresa piece on top, they hold their own against the larger print.

Overall I'm very happy with how these three pieces play off one another, and I like the loose cultural connections: a contemporary American artist, a contemporary Japanese artist, and one of the seminal historical Japanese artists who influenced both of them. And while they are all prints, they all use different methods, and they all have distinctly different styles even though there are elements that tie them together.


6.12.14
I finally finished Quicksilver, the first volume of three in Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, in which we moved the narrative forward...not at all. In fact, we moved backwards a little bit.

The book starts with Daniel Waterhouse preparing to leave Massachusetts to go back to his native England, and ends, due to the shifting timelines that Stephenson employs, with him preparing to take the trip that moves him to Massachusetts in the first place. So the end of the book actually occurs BEFORE the beginning of the book (although once we get past the Massachusetts chapters in the first book of three that make up the first volume (of three), the narrative proceeds in a fairly linear way even as it shifts between the viewpoints of different primary characters).

Don't get me wrong—I might have loved the experience of reading this book, savoring the descriptions and the slow, looping forward progress of what you could call the plot if you're in the mood to restrict your attempts to describe the book to conventional terms even more than I loved Cryptonomicon, but I end up at the end of it asking the same question: What, exactly, is the point of all this loveliness?

I'm on the brink of concluding that Neal Stephenson is engaging with the written word and narrative structure in the same way that Mark Rothko engaged with paint and canvas: does a painting really have to be of anything recognizable in traditional representational terms if it's beautiful and leads to contemplation? Does a story have to have traditional structures of meaning and message if it's enjoyable to read and gives you insights into the world and the human beings who inhabit it?

Like Rothko putting layers of paint on a canvas and reducing art to that act and the viewer's brain engaging with it at that same level, Stephenson seems to be stringing together letters and words into pleasing sequences that don't necessarily have to have any other purpose to their existence other than to be read and enjoyed in the moment.

Granted, I haven't finished the entire Baroque Cycle, but based on my experience with Cryptonomicon, I'm not convinced that whatever "conclusion" we reach by the end of the trilogy will be any more satisfying (or even AS satisfying) as the many hundreds of moments of joy I've experienced reflecting on a particularly apt description or well-crafted sentence while reading Quicksilver.


6.13.14
Shortly after I moved to Atlanta, I discovered that one of my college roommates lived only ten minutes away from me, and we soon reconnected and struck up our dormant friendship. We didn't see each other every week or anything, but I saw him every month or two leading up to our 20th college reunion last year.

And then...nothing. For a long time. This wasn't because either of us was avoiding the other—it was that typical scenario where you get so bogged down in the day-to-day that days quickly turn into weeks and then months, and then suddenly it's been a year since you've seen each other.

We rectified that last night, meeting for dinner at the first place we met in Atlanta, a little neighborhood pub around the corner from his house and about a ten minute drive from mine. As usual, it was really great to see him and talk to him—we discussed books, movie, television, family, and swim teams—and both of us wondered how we let a whole year slip by without making plans together.

At the end of the night, we vowed not to let that happen again. We're shooting for once a month, and while I really hope we can meet that, I know we're not going to let it go past two months—I think both of us are highly motivated knowing now just how easy it is for a year to slip past.


6.16.14
I finally realized what was special about June 4: it's my work anniversary—two years ago on that day I started my new job and new life in Atlanta.


6.17.14
Signed Will up for a fall soccer league today. He's not very big and not very athletic and he's never played an organized team sport before, so we're hoping he'll enjoy it. We did sign him up with a friend of his so that they'll be on the same team, and that should help some.

Worst case scenario, it's only seven weeks this fall, but I hope he likes it and gets enough out of it so that we can continue it next spring.


6.18.14
Taking Will to visit my mom today. She was planning to come for a visit at the end of May, but she had to have surgery on her knee in April and won't be able to put any weight on it until at least the second week of July (meaning she'll miss his birthday party as well), so we decided to take him to visit her for a few days.

It's going to be a busy few weeks—three days after we get back from this visit, I have to go out of town for a couple of days for a conference, and then the week after that is the July 4 holiday weekend, when much of the family will be coming to Atlanta for Will's birthday. So it's going to be sometime around the second or third week of July before I have a normal week/weekend, but my mom hasn't seen him for a while, and he hasn't been to her house since we first moved to Atlanta two years ago, so this is the right thing to do.


6.23.14
My intention after finishing Quicksilver was to jump immediatley into its sequel, The Confusion, but instead I started reading a book that I had forgotten I'd purchased: The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory by Jesse Walker. It is exactly what the title leads you to believe: a history of paranoia and conspiracy theories in the United States, from the time of the founding fathers to the current day.

The framework is to classify paranoia into different strains (the Enemy Outside, the Enemy Above, the Enemy Below, etc.) and then give examples of different conspiracy theories that exemplify and combine these different categories, and then to trace the evolution/mutation of these basic types in the 20th century, when communications technology leading up to (and including) the internet made it increasingly easy to spread conspiracy theories to wider and wider groups of people.

The book provides some interesting historical anecdotes that I didn't know, but it's most interesting point is that conspiracy theories have always been a part of our culture, during wartime and peacetime, during times of prosperity and times of economic stress, and that they have always been cultivated by and directed at both the left and the right sides of our political spectrum, and that they have also always been fairly mainstream even though they are typically depicted as only being originated by/believed by the extremes. He's also pretty good at showing how the same conspiracy theory will show up in different times under different guises (i.e., the Indian captivity narrative that was popular in the colonial era also shows up in fears about slave rebellions in the 19th century and race war/race riot fears of the 20th century).

Overall it was a pretty good read, but there were times when I felt like he had fully explored a concept and he kept hitting me over the head with more examples, as if he didn't expect me to understand the examples he had already given. And for someone who dove deeply into conspiracy theories for a few years a decade or so ago (mostly of the alien/UFO variety, and always as what Walker would term an ironic conspiracy buff and not a sincere one), the level of detail of specifc conspiracies and conspiracy theorists was sometimes irritatingly vague—just as I was beginning to engage with the details of a theory, he'd be off on another one, leaving the full story tantalizingly but frustratingly out of reach.

So if you really want to get in depth with specific conspiracy theories, I'd recommend looking for books specifically about those theories so you can really dig into them. This book has a good central thesis, and it's well-researched so that it could point you in the right direction for further reading on the finer details of specific theories, but it's too brief and its goals are too broad to be anything more than a brief history of the many strains of conspiracy theories that have shaped our culture.


6.24.14
I leave for a business trip tomorrow that lasts until Friday, so no more posts til next week. Praying that the Delta gods finally have pity on me and give me a flight that isn't canceled or significantly delayed...


6.30.14
Business trip went pretty well, although Delta made it four for four on the trip up there—after stressing because all the lots I usually park in were full and barely making it to the gate in time for boarding, I was greeted with a message that said the flight was going to be delayed at least an hour.

The return trip went off without a hitch, however, and I was home on Friday night by 7:30 with a weekend to recover and a short (although packed) week at work ahead of me. I thought this might be it for me for business trips this year, but I was just assigned to go on a site visit August to look at a software implementation at one of our peer institutions. Let's just hope Delta can continue their streak of one of flights that leave and arrive on time and not start a new streak of delays and cancelations (I know, I know, but a boy can dream).

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