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Books Film Music

My son’s media of the moment

A spinoff of an ongoing series

Library books galore. Between my work library and the two public libraries close to home, we’ve established a pretty regular rotation of titles old and new. Recent hits include The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak and Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons by Sara Levine.

Bluey. The first-ever clip I saw of Bluey was the claw game and it made me literally LOL. The best kids TV show, period.

“Dem Bones”. He really got into spooky season this year. He’s especially obsessed with all things bones and skeletons, so this old traditional was and remains a hit.

Pixar movies. Approaching 3 years old, he’s enjoyed and (mostly) stuck with the Disney/Pixar movies we’ve tried with him so far. My guess at his ranking (starting with the most loved): WALL-E, Moana, Luca, Monsters Inc., Ratatouille, Coco. Still not sure how far back in the Disney canon I want to bring him even as he gets older. There’s a lot of good stuff—though I would say that as a Millennial, wouldn’t I?—but in general Pixar is higher quality and a lot less dicey.

The Okee Dokee Brothers. Specifically “Haul Away Joe” and “Jamboree” and a few other songs on seemingly infinite rotation. Good thing I love them too.

Categories
Family Life

Moon moon moon, shining bright

I was playing soccer on the front lawn this evening with Mr. Two Years Old when the moon, waxing crescent, caught his curious eye in the encroaching darkness.

I asked him if he knew why the moon glowed. We’ve read books about it before, but he said he didn’t. I explained in the simplest language how it was sunlight he was seeing, and that it only hit part of the moon because it was round, like a ball.

After my brief lecture, he grabbed the ball and brought it next to one of the solar-powered lawn lights that illuminates our front walkway. “I want to make the soccer ball glow,” he said.

It was an excellent opportunity for an object lesson. We looked at how the ball was lit up only on one side, where the light was coming from.

I managed to photograph the view before he kicked the ball away for more scrimmaging:

I never know how much of what I explain actually makes sense to him or sticks in his mind. But I should know by now never to underestimate his intelligence and curiosity, because two year olds are made to be learners.

Categories
Photography

Recent Views

More photography here and on my Instagram.

Visited my alma mater for a meetup with friends and snagged this view, one I beheld many times as an undergrad:

Walkin’ in the rain:

Waiting for the darkness to descend on a Michigan beach ahead of the Independence Day fireworks (where I was stargazing with WALL-E):

Always a delight seeing my (and my son’s) favorite band, The Okee Dokee Brothers:

Anticipation in grandma’s backyard:

His first official haircut:

Bright spots during an evening concert in the park:

Came upon this leaf hitching a ride to work with me one morning:

Bummin’ around Boystown:

Categories
Typewriters

French Dispatch from a Remington Portable 3

Finally took some time to clean up this 1931 Remington Portable 3 with Mr. 2 Years Old, who understandably couldn’t keep his hands off of it. Aside from a faded ribbon, some dried chunks of rubber rattling around inside, and tons of dust bunnies (the compressed air can was a big hit), it’s working fine.

I got it over two years ago from my mother-in-law, who had gotten it for free from someone in her book club. It’s now the oldest typewriter in my collection by almost a decade.

Though it was made in the United States, the keyboard contains French diacritics, most notably the accent (`), cedilla (ç), circumflex (ˆ), and diaeresis (¨). The combination of the latter two on one typebar makes for a rather expressive key top:

The other notable feature (at least for my collection) is that the machine is attached to the base of the carrying case:

The rest of the case pops on and off fairly easily, and contains a little compartment presumably for storing supplies or secret dossiers.

Though I’m looking to slim down my collection, I think I’ll hold onto this one. It’s a fun typer and very solid for a portable. Vive la dactylographiée!

Categories
Film Life

Stargazing with WALL-E

Spent the holiday weekend at my wife’s family’s beach community, where they do a fireworks show every year on the beach. (Read my 2017 reflection about this experience.)

Though it was fun to watch Little Man experience fireworks for the first time, my personal highlight was being able to see the clear night sky without much light pollution for the first time in a while. And, man, was it glorious to behold.

All that love’s about

It echoed a moment that stood out in our recent rewatch of WALL-E, which we decided to try with Little Man after he gravitated to a WALL-E toy at Target (probably because it looked like a truck).

In the film’s transcendent first act, WALL-E pauses during his garbage collection routine and looks up to the sky just as the otherwise dense smog clears just enough for him to see stars. “It Only Takes a Moment” from Hello, Dolly! underscores the moment, specifically at the line “And that is all that love’s about.”

This is a lovely bit of foreshadowing for later in the movie, when WALL-E and EVE perform their fire extinguisher-fueled space ballet among the stars—a scene I love so much I named it one of my favorite movie music moments. (The movie itself is #2 on my best of 2008 list.)

The robot toddler

Another takeaway from the movie this time around was something I couldn’t have realized before having a kid: WALL-E embodies all the best characteristics of toddlers.

He’s diligent, curious, enthusiastic, loving, loyal, temperamental. He’s a tinkerer who tosses aside a diamond ring because he’s more interested in the box it came in. He’s eager to show EVE all his toys when she visits his home. He basically has two speeds: inching along or sprinting. He’s charmingly clumsy, quick to make friends, and an accidental agent of chaos—but one that ultimately brings life to those around him.

In short, an excellent role model, and not just for kids. Here’s to all of us being more like WALL-E.

Categories
Life Nature

Mulch ado about gardening

We’re finally, finally, doing stuff in our yard and garden areas. Some of it is remedial caretaking—fertilizing and weeding the lawn, removing dead bushes and trees—but a lot of it has focused on beautification and planting vegetables we’re not totally sure will thrive but are giving a try anyway.

I gotta say: I’ve really loved it. Perhaps because the work is the polar opposite of my digital, desk-bound day job: it’s an ancient practice, outside, requiring arduous physical labor, with visual progress toward to an end goal but no screens whatsoever.

The key reason we’ve been able to do so much thus far is Mr. 2 Years Old is now old enough to help, and boy does he enjoy it. We got him his own set of tools so he can work along with us, both for real and in the little dirt area we set aside just for him to romp around in. So far it’s collected a bunch of rocks and sticks, though we also set him up with a geranium to water.

As is the case with homeownership writ large, the list of things to do is seemingly endless and grows longer the more ambitious we get. Who knows what we’ll actually get to this year. That said, I’m kinda shocked by how much progress we’ve made with only partial weekends and the scattered weekday morning at our disposal.

Next up on the list: laying down a goodly amount of fragrant cypress mulch!

Categories
Life

What music is that noise?

We were driving with Mr. 2 Year Old and he heard some noise outside and said: “What music is that noise?” And I’ve thought a lot about it since.

Categories
Books Music Television

My son’s media of the moment

Based on the ongoing series, here are the books, movies, and music my two year old is into recently.

So. Many. Books. We have shelves stuffed with board and picture books in four different rooms of our house, plus a stash of library books, so he’s never lacking literature. Some current favorites: Sandra Boynton’s Pookie series, Tap Tap Bang Bang, There’s a Mouse About the House!, and really anything related to trucks.

So. Much. Music. He’s a big fan of the Super Simple Songs catalog, which introduces him to childhood staples like “BINGO” and “Old McDonald”. But it’s very important to me that he gets exposed to quality music for adults too. The last few weeks we’ve listened and/or danced to pop and rock (The Beatles, Paul Simon, HAIM), soul (Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, Ben E. King), classical (Mozart, Haydn, Handel), country/folk (Willie Nelson, Uncle Earl, Joe Pug), hip hop (Jay Z, The Roots), and jazz (Stan Getz, Oscar Peterson). Cue The Onion.

Peppa Pig. Might be my favorite of his things to watch. It’s the go-to for when we (or he) need a break. The delightful British silliness has made me laugh a few times.

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. Like its ancestor Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, it’s a sincere (often saccharine), educational, and wholesome vessel for social-emotional development. Bonus points for all the jingles that are helpful for kids and parents (e.g. “When you feel so mad that you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to four.”).

Caitie’s Classroom. Part of the aforementioned Super Simple universe, this YouTube show is also very Mister Rogers-esque, with the cheerful Caitie leading crafts, songs, and field trips that he’s learned a lot from already.

Categories
Design

Tiles, trains, and all the magnetic feels

Two of my favorite activities to do with Mr. Two Years Old is play with his train tracks and Magna-Tiles. We started with a relatively small batch of both, but then he got big upgrades for Christmas and from his cousins as hand-me-downs, so recently we’ve been really going wild.

When we first got the tiles we tried to recreate the structure that was on the box. It took about five minutes before we abandoned any attempts to follow the instructions and just went rogue.

There’s the satisfaction in building something with your hands, and then there’s the satisfaction of feeling the magnetic snap as you piece together the different shapes into fantastical structures.

He really gets into the building part, sometimes for a surprisingly long time for a toddler, but then loses interest just as quickly. Whatever grand creation we’d just whipped into being usually gets summarily knocked down or abandoned for another activity.

Build it up, knock it down.

Categories
Books Nature

A mind for winter

As above…

…snow below:

Before the recent heat wave started melting the abundant snow, I was able to enjoy a moment in the snowfall with Mr. Two Year Old, which is where I grabbed the clips above. I’m so glad he loved it as much as I did.

Anytime I’m able to dwell in idyllic winter weather I think of Adam Gopnik’s Winter: Five Windows on the Season, which I read back in 2014. I’m always on the lookout for quotes and books that capture the alluring spirit of winter and why I love it so much, and that book definitely delivered.

But I realized I hadn’t actually taken any notes from it, so I did something I rarely do: I reread a book. Admittedly it was less a full reread and more a skimming for the best quotes, but I’m glad I did because there was lots I failed to note and appreciate the first time.

I included my favorite quotes below, but before that I also want to highlight an excerpt from a poem Gopnik himself quotes—1794’s “The Winter Evening” by English poet William Cowper:

   Oh Winter! ruler of th’ inverted year,
Thy scatter’d hair with sleet like ashes fill’d,
Thy breath congeal’d upon thy lips, thy cheeks
Fring’d with a beard made white with other snows
Than those of age; thy forehead wrapt in clouds,
A leafless branch thy sceptre, and thy throne
A sliding car, indebted to no wheels,
But urg’d by storms along its slipp’ry way;
I love thee, all unlovely as thou seem’st,
And dreaded as thou art!  …
I crown thee King of intimate delights,
Fire-side enjoyments, home-born happiness,
And all the comforts that the lowly roof
Of undisturb’d retirement, and the hours
Of long uninterrupted evening, know.

Quotes

  • A mind of winter, a mind for winter, not sensing the season as a loss of warmth and light, and with them hope of life and divinity, but ready to respond to it as a positive, and even purifying presence of something else—the beautiful and peaceful, yes, but also the mysterious, the strange, the sublime.
  • Winter’s persona changes with our perception of safety from it. … The romance of winter is possible only when we have a warm, secure indoors to retreat to, and winter becomes a season to look at as much as one to live through.
  • In the past two hundred years we have turned winter from something to survive to something to survey, from a thing to be afraid of to a thing to be aware of.
  • The iceberg becomes representative of the ultimate common mystery of the mind—what you don’t see is what counts most—and the snowflake becomes a representation of the radical individualism of each person.
  • The final truth about snowflakes is that they become more individual as they fall; that, buffeted by wind and time, they are translated, as if by magic, into ever stranger and more complex patterns, until at last they touch earth. Then, like us, they melt.
  • We celebrate continuity and want to renew it; we recognize that continuity has its discontents, and want to reverse it. (re: reversal festivals and renewal feasts)
  • The reason we should be engaged with material life is that our abundance can lead us to acts of altruism.
  • That’s the complex inheritance of modern Christmas. Our recuperative winter is one in which renewal and reversal, anxiety and abundance, epiphany and uneasiness are knotted together. 
  • The earth does renew itself; we don’t. And so we want to connect our human cycle of mere growth and decay, where winter holds no spring, to the natural cycle of renewal. We can’t do it, of course, but we can’t stop trying.
  • The symbolism of the modern, ambivalent, anxiety-ridden, double-faced Christmas is winter symbolism. We need the warmth in order to enter the cold, and at Christmas we need the cold in order to reassert the warmth, need the imagery of the bleak midwinter in order to invoke the star above the stable. If the world has globalized Christmas, Christmas has winterized the world. And so the empire of the winter holiday extends from one end of this continent to another.
  • It is necessary to assert snow in order to evoke sunshine, to make a theatre of winter in order to promise spring, to chill the Baby in order to let him do his thing, to submit to helplessness and winter in order to evoke power and new light.
  • If we didn’t remember winter in spring, it wouldn’t be as lovely; if we didn’t think of spring in winter, or search winter to find some new emotion of its own to make up for the absent ones, half of the keyboard of life would be missing. We would be playing life with no flats or sharps, on a piano with no black keys.
  • Winter stress makes summer sweetness—and the stress of warm times makes us long for the strange sweetness of cold ones.
  • Stress makes sweetness, and snow and ice are the frosting of loss.
  • That feeling that only the thinnest of membranes, the simple pane of glass separating the onlooker—the poet or the painter or the ordinary child—from the threat beyond is one that has receded from our immediate experience.
  • But instead we give the coldness names, we write it poetry, we play it music, we experience it as a personality—and this is and remains the act of humanism. Armed with that hope, we see not waste and cold but light and mystery and wonder and something called January. We see not stilled atoms in a senseless world. We see winter.
  • Winter is the white page on which we write our hearts.