Monday, August 26, 1996

99 Red Balloons

People come up to me all the time and say, "So David, how are you doing?" An anecdote from this past week serves as the ideal explanation to that question.

This week's issue of TV Guide is a commemorative issue celebrating the thirtieth year of Star Trek. As a collector's item, the magazine has issued four different cover photos featuring the four different captains of the four different Star Trek series. As my luck would have it, I got the Captain Kirk version of the magazine.

This says all that needs to be said about 1996 version of David. I'm a thirty one year old male who lives with his cat and is a faithful reader/subscriber of TV Guide. I like the "Cheers and Jeers" section. I am a Trekkie at heart. Just a short time ago I would have been disappointed to have received the William Shatner cover, but now I'm very glad I got the swashbuckling, macho, shoot first ask questions later, melodramatic Kirk over any of those other weenies.

This is not to say that my life lacks some interesting moments. Last weekend my best friend, my other best friend, Moms and Pops Mader, Mother Meek and many others came together on one softball field to witness a credible ending to another softball season for Joan's Jets. For the first time ever, our team won a tournament game, capping my first season (and most probably last) as Cap'n Dave. I hit my first home run of the season, we survived some really bad umpiring (isn't that the American way?), we all had some fun, and no one was hurt (well not too seriously anyway). To have many of the more significant players of my life in one spot at one time was a rare treat, one that almost seemed surrealistic in nature. It was one of those weekends you know you'll look back upon and relish. Phalen fields, the place where the past meets the future, where a crease in time saves nine. One of the most beautiful aspects of the game of softball is its timeless quality. There is no clock on the softball field, you play until the last out is made.

As always the softball season provided many lessons. My own game has always depended on my ability to place where I hit the ball and utilize my speed which is better than most players out there. I may have lost a step or so over the years, but my running ability is still the key part of my game. Unfortunately what this means is that my softball career will be over sooner than most people. In a game dominated by many who have ever growing beer bellies, those who can hit the softball a long, long way, who grunt before, during and after an at bat, youth is secondary to just being able to stand upright. Therefore, when my legs give out, I am finished.

Currently, I am back at my high school playing weight after expanding over the past few years to something nearly Clintonesque (you are not the only one M.N.). What has changed however are those rather important things like depth perception (nearing zero) and throwing ability (I have had to adopt the Mike Cubbage philosophy to playing third base. Cubbage was the Twins' third baseman during the mid-seventies. He had a quick release to make up for his inability to throw anything but a lob to first base). My arm definitely needs some work. On a key grounder to me at third, I made a throw that bounced about three feet in front of me on a throw meant to be a force out at second base.

Some would say running the bases and galloping around the galaxy are activities better left to the youth. But youth starts and ends in your heart. You are only as old as you feel. What you can no longer do physically can often times be compensated by the wisdom gained over the years. And just when it seems it is all over, along comes the next generation. Yes in 1996 Cap'n Dave might indeed be becoming more and more of a dork, but at least he is getting ever more comfortable in that role, and actually growing quite comfortably into the fit.

Monday, August 19, 1996

Cranberry Sauce

I think every man, woman, and child enjoys a good bowl of soup. And nothing adds to the pleasure of a bowl of soup better than a fistful of crackers. Soup is good, soup is popular and in the hands of the right chef, a bowl of soup can be an exquisite masterpiece.

The Cranberries gave a performance last Sunday night that was remindful of a good bowl of soup (supported by a solid opening set from Cracker). The group has received a certain amount of critical and popular acclaim, and now with three solid CDs out, they are staking their claim towards that ever so elusive goal of longevity.

At their best the Cranberries create the type of music that Paul McCartney might be creating if he was still into creating very good Beatlesque music. The melodies are lyrical and the lyrics are consistently inspiring. The difference being when McCartney sings the most annoying line ever written in rock music ("Wo wo wo, my love does it good") one wants to scream, "think up something other than the woes, Paul." When Delores O'Riordan does her rather remarkable vocal gymnastics in songs like Dreams and Hollywood, one can't help but be inspired by the ethereal flexibility and the remarkable ability to express heartfelt emotions through the sheer sound of one human's voice.

O'Riordan was a treat to watch. She has a funky way of moving, pacing the stage, alternating between an awkward walk (she was wearing a knee brace) and dancing up a storm. One of the local paper's reviews criticized her performance as being too showy, as she artfully played the audience (most of whom sang along to many of the songs). Of course being a performer and putting on a SHOW does not necessarily mean that the quality of the art has to suffer. Many of the songs came off much better live than they do recorded. Ode to My Family a song that used to get on my nerves a bit was genuinely moving. And Joe which O'Riordan described as a song she wrote remembering what it was like sitting on her grandfather's lap as a little girl, was heart stopping. An early highlight was the second song, Free to Decide, which I knew was being greatly enjoyed by my ticket purchaser (she told me it's her song). My favorite moment from the show was a lilting light version of Patsy Cline's Crazy sung with such feeling that it wasn't hard to imagine a young girl in Ireland listening to that far away voice that matched her own.

The group tends to misstep when they try to make big statements. Thus songs like I Shot John Lennon and Zombie (which O'Riordan introduced by saying that her country, Ireland, has suffered so long at the hands of terrorists, and now America is headed down the same path, and we must stop the madness) tend to show a lack of insight or depth. Writing a song from the perspective of Lennon's killer is a promising premise for a good song, but if you are going to take on such a topic you better at least give it a little more purpose than "what a sad and sorry sickening sight."

O'Riordan is already being constantly compared to Sinead O'Connor because both are female vocalists from Ireland with versatile voices. The pitfalls the Cranberries occasionally fall into is to take themselves too seriously (just like that other Irish group, U2). What separates them from other groups is their ability to write some terrific melodies and express universally felt emotions on a personal level.

Sitting there watching the show I couldn't help but think back to one of my early days at Cheapo when my favorite ex-Cheapo employee asked me, if I could be anyone one in the world who would I be? Off the top of my head I said Smokey Robinson because he seemed like such a happy gentleman. It took many years to change my mind, but I now have a new candidate. As I watched guitarist Noel Hogan spinning his head, totally immersed in the mood of the moment and the music, I thought, that's the guy I wanna be. To be able to create something, whether it is words, sounds, pictures, movements, that can get a crowd full of people sharing the same thoughts and feelings and having the time of their lives at the same time, why hey, that's no small feat. Nothing to sneeze at.

Monday, August 12, 1996

Farmer Dave

"They used to grow food in Kansas. Now they want to grow it on the moon and eat it raw. I can see the day coming when even a home garden is gonna be against the law."
-Bob Dylan

One of the arguments I used to talk myself into buying a house last spring was the picture of myself on a hot summer's day, peacefully sitting in my garden and producing a healthy crop. I could see myself in my mind's eye, winding down after a hard day at the office, tilling the soil, carefully weeding, conscientiously watering and enjoying the fruits (or vegetables) of my own hard labor.

When my friend heard this she burst out laughing. She just couldn't picture it.

In retrospect I would be the first to admit that some of the thinking that went into my house buying decision making was me being my typical sort of flaky, sort of think things through and hope for the best, things will somehow turn out self. But deciding to have a garden doesn't fall into that category. Sure it has been a burden on certain long days when I'll come home and the last thing I want to do is sit outside fighting the bugs, battling the onslaught of my newest mortal enemy, Creeping Charlie (he's everywhere, keeps popping up and sticks around forever). But there is something soothing about being in the world of my garden, the subculture, that is most certainly therapeutic.

Plus you can't beat the end result.

The last few weeks I have greatly enjoyed a bushel of fresh vegetables. First it was the peas and beans. This past weekend I got some jumbo cucumbers and cherry tomatoes. Not that I'm biased or anything, but they are the best damn tasting vegetables I've ever had! Man, are those boys tasty! And I ain't no veggie virgin either. I have reached the stage in my Yuppiedum where a big old salad sounds much more appealing to me than a hunk of T-bone steak.

I've even learned some things in the process. When I started planting last spring I was skeptical that anything would grow so I went with the theory the more stuff I planted the more of a chance that I would end up with something. So I just sort of scattered as many seeds as I could the best I could. To my surprise nearly everything grew. I've had more peas this summer than the rest of my life combined. Lesson #1: have faith that things will grow. Plant things conservatively and you won't end up with a jungle.

Upon further reflection, I must have been sipping on the old whiskey when I planted things last spring. The rows aren't exactly straight, they are more like smiley faces. Thus the cucumbers are intertwining with the tomatoes and it is hard to tell where exactly the peas end. Lesson #2: be meticulous in planting things in rows, giving yourself room to maneuver in the garden.

The hardest part however has been the mixture I have with the perennials growing next to my vegetables. Since I wasn't exactly sure what perennials to expect, I had an even harder time than I normally would in determining what was a weed and what was a plant. After all in the overall grand scheme of things is there really a difference? Isn't my little garden just a microcosm of the bigger world where some of us are weeds just trying to survive against our more established and recognized and respected peers? Lesson #3: gardening is great for getting philosophical.

And with the newsletter growing in new, bigger and better directions every week, I would be amiss in reporting that the very first newsletter I edited was for the Minnesota Horticultural Society. I applied for the job solely on my journalism background and that I had access to a computer. I knew even less about that subject than I do the subjects covered in these pages, but looking back the seeds of what has sprung here were most certainly planted way back then. With the right fertilizer most anything will grow.

Monday, August 5, 1996

Killing Time

In today's society nothing is more valuable than time. Our technological advances like fax machines, P.C.'s, V.C.R.'s, beepers, cell phones are designed to help cut down on the amount of time it takes to do a common task. Personal planners and calendars are as important as food, water and shelter for many people these days. Anything that takes longer than deemed necessary, like having to stand in line, being put on hold, and mail that doesn't arrive overnight not only inconveniences people, but genuinely pisses them off.

With all this emphasis on convenience, it is almost a crime to waste someone else's time. People are willing to pay a little bit more for a product or a service if it will save them a little time. Any short cut, anything that is seen as a time saving measure is treasured more than gold. Therefore enduring two hours of a complete waste of time is difficult to justify. You can't turn back the clock, you can't get back lost time. Not too many of us have time to spare, time to kill.

There will come a time when time comes to an end. And just a little bit before then, Hollywood will stop making movies because there will be no more stories to be told (plus all TV shows will have already been made into motion pictures). Judging from the movie, A Time to Kill, we may be closer to that time than any of us wants to believe. We've already seen this movie before, only better in other movies such as To Kill a Mockingbird, and Mississippi Burning.

A Time to Kill
is a story about time. It was John Grisham's first novel and it probably took a long time for him to write. There are a lot of words. It took a long time for the book to become a movie. It wants to tell a story with a message. Our justice system does not work and is corrupt. Everyone from the judge to the jury, from the lawyers to the witnesses are cynically out of control. Just when is a murder justified?

Should have been, would have been, could have been, wanna be. A Time To Kill is all that and more. With a cast of Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacey, Sandra Bullock and Matthew McConaughey this movie should have been decent. And it would have been had the story not been yet another brainless courtroom formula picture with a blurred message. The movie wants to say something but contradicts itself at every turn.

It argues that the Samuel L. Jackson is ultimately just in taking the law into his own hands because the crime committed against his daughter is atrocious enough that the system can't possibly work and justice will not be served. What it fails to demonstrate however is why Jackson is any more justified in his actions than the clueless Klansmen are in theirs. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

Of course some of us don't go to movies to be educated, enlightened over even entertained. Some of us go because of the appeal of the star. As long as your favorite star is up there on the screen, you will watch just about anything. Thus it must be said that Sandra Bullock once again is a delight the few times she is on the screen. Her role as a talented young law student is an attempt to return to the art of serious acting in serious filmmaking attempts. Unfortunately, even her instant likeability can't rescue the dreck of A Time To Kill. Her finest role remains in 1993's Wrestling Ernest Hemingway and she obviously is trying to get away from that which made her ultra-popular if not lightweight in While You Were Sleeping and The Net. By the time her character is essentially disposed of in A Time to Kill in one of the movie's many brutal scenes, one is sitting uncomfortably in one's seat waiting for the inevitable conclusion, the big court room speech, to take place.

It is time however for Sandra to find a film that can both utilize her charismatic talents along with deliver a message worth paying attention to. This one isn't it.