Monthly Archives: April 2007

romulan ale


Apparently NPR got boatloads of hate mail when they played the sound of a dentist’s drill over the air as part of their series on singular noises, so I won’t recreate the scene for you here. However, I’m in the middle of a complete mouth overhaul, and today my left lower jaw got what had been coming to it for a number of years: two crowns and a filling. I feel like I just got sucker-punched by a Scotsman.

However, there have been four major discoveries in dentistry over the last thousand years: the tiny drill, injectable novocaine, nitrous oxide, and now… the MyVu Personal Viewing System!


Some commenter a few weeks ago told me I was materialistic and always talking about my products, so if you feel some righteous indignation coming on, please, for god’s sake, turn away. But I gotta tellsya that Tessa and I picked up a refurbished MyVu on eBay for cheap, and it’s one of the coolest things since the Colecovision. Just plug it into the top of your iPod or other mp4 player, and it recreates a 29″ TV about eight feet away in your glasses. It has been indispensable on all these trips we have to take; watching it on an airplane is bliss.

Yes, you look like Geordi from Star Trek:TNG, but you won’t care – you just put your living room on your nose. It still has a few quirks: it isn’t quite like being at the movies. The amount of space around the “screen” negates the nausea problem past viewers had, and takes some getting used to. But halfway through an episode of “Lost” or “Battlestar Galactica,” you feel like telling the rest of the world to kiss your 22nd-century arse.

My dentist always has a radio and headphones for patients enduring long procedures, so I figured, why not try the MyVu? I’m here to report that the MyVu downgraded the dentist experience from Total Misery to Vaguely Uncomfortable! And I got caught up with a bunch of my stories while my DDS did the dirty work. Even if she did have to tap my head a few times to get me to open wider.

After calling all the hygienists and other doctors in, my dental care professional is going to get one for her office. Might I suggest it for yours?

the oracle of wifi


I’m sure most of you know about this… George Tenet, head of the CIA in the early Bush years, is releasing a book in which he says Bush & Co. never seriously considered any other option than war with Iraq. He also feels betrayed by them using his “slam dunk” comment, that the Plame affair was a disaster, and he has several people around him that have come out to confirm that everything in his book is basically true. The Bushies are furious.

Now here’s my own blog from almost four years ago, on July 11, 2003:

George Tenet, the director of the CIA was hung out to dry today by taking blame for the “Iraq has been trying to purchase uranium from Niger” part of Bush’s State of the Union speech in January, even though any American with a pulse have got to figure there’s way more to this than meets the press. Either Tenet is the biggest fuck-up in government, or else he has been told to take a dive by the Powers That Be. Or, more interestingly, he was told to take a dive, and did so, but has some revenge cooked up. God knows the CIA had to be under a shitload of pressure from Cheney’s crew to find evidence of Hussein’s “Al-Qaeda connections” or some other bit of ephemera, so Tenet may be folding in order to play a longer hand of poker. Both Nixon and Johnson (and JFK, if he’d lived long enough) found out what happens when you blame the CIA for your own screw-ups.

So, do I, like, get any credit for that one, or must I just content myself with being the 10th Most Hottest Daddo Blogger?

bella ragazza


In keeping with my desire to have a guest blogger once a week, may I present our next-door-neighbor: raised in Providence, feted in Chicago, the celebrated Broadway and television director David Petrarca – Honorary Uncle to Lucy and excellent all-around dude. I told him to post one of his insanely good Italian recipes, but he had other things in mind. With no further ado, here he is:


First things first. If you haven’t voted for Ian as THE HOTTEST DADDY BLOG (Lord who makes these titles up) and BEST ALL-TIME BLOG please do it now.

My site was nominated for Hottest Daddy Blogger!

My site was nominated for Best Blog of All Time!

After the many days and hours of pleasure we’ve all derived from this site, it’s payback time! I know it’s a pain what with the having to register, but take a few minutes and shine the love!! Let’s get him on the front page!!

Now: did anyone watch the Democratic debate tonite? Probably not, since the election is almost 20 months away. It reminds me of how the retailers have slowly crept the start of the Xmas selling season from Thanksgiving to Halloween. I swear if they abolished the “no wearing white after Labor Day” rule, St. Nick would be selling back-to-school lunchboxes.

For those who missed it, there they were, all eight of them arranged in a choral semicircle looking like a South Carolina kindergarten class about to burst into a medley of show tunes. Hillary singing bass of course. They seemed so small to consider for what is surely the most daunting CEO job in the world.

The questions didn’t help matters. They ranged from overly simplistic (“Raise your hand if you support an impeachment procedure for Dick Cheney”) (duh) to the inane (“Name the top three countries threatening the US and what you would do about them if you become president”). Ok…90 seconds…GO!

There has got to be a better way for us to interview our next leader. Lets face it, sound bites are just as bad as 450-page position papers on health care (again, thank you Hillary… gold star, now erase the board and clap the erasers). Besides, our perverse desire for tearing people down and waiting for a fatal flaw to reveal itself is why most people tune in.

Sure, there’s always the chance someone might actually propose something of substance, or an unrehearsed moment of actual humanity could occur. Go to YouTube and watch candidate Mike Gravel’s Lear-like rants to realize that the lack of campaign reform is NOT standing in the way of ANYONE.

The front runners provided no surprises: Omaba was stately, Hillary succeeded in carefully modulating her voice, and Edwards appeared circumspect (while wearing the obligatory breast cancer ribbon pin). It was a better night for the middle guys. Biden was the smartest and had the biggest laugh of the night. When asked if he could assure his fellow Americans that his history of gaffes and penchant for verbose answers would be curtailed if he were president, he answered simply “yes”.

Richardson sweated profusely while trying to raise the level of discourse and, sadly, did not look presidential, even after the host reminded the audience of his four (that’s right, FOUR) nominations for the Nobel Peace prize. Always the bridesmaid never the bride, he would be a great VP choice. Dodd just reminded me of Dukakis. I think it will be a long time before a New Englander gets the nod again.

And then the two crazies: Kucinich and Gravel (who???) Wow. If there was ever a case for a background check, these two could be the poster boys. Enuf said.

Maybe its time to rethink the idea of a single daddy (or mommy) figure running this mega-corporation. Maybe it should be a 3 or 4-person job. Our founding fathers couldn’t have envisioned a country so big and diverse that it could impact the very survival of the planet. Heck, their own act of terrorism consisted of dumping some tea into Boston Harbor. I doubt they imagined a time when someone could dump a teabox of radioactive material into the same harbor and destroy a city with a greater population then the entire original 13 colonies.

Watching those little candidates, all lined up in their Sunday best, I couldn’t help but see a glimmer of hope shining off all that hair gel. Just maybe, if all eight could manage to sing from their hearts AND stay in harmony, together they could make a sound way more beautiful then each on their own. Even with Hillary holding the bass line.



David Petrarca directing “Everwood,” 2005

treason’s harbour


There we were, in the existential, horrorshow aftermath of September 11, having spent all day helping ash-covered parents find their kids, making phone calls for 10-year-olds whose mothers were still in the Bronx, and wondering what the fuck had just happened to our city. Our so-called “President” G.W. Bush was on some airplane in an undisclosed location, and by late afternoon, the word started circulating that Islamist terrorists were to blame.

We were desperate for somebody to Be In Charge, and that evening, somebody was: Rudy Giuliani, our lame-duck mayor, standing with some city officials in front of a big clock on the wall, as if he was somehow going to slow down time enough for us to catch our breath. And he did.

His exhortations for us to stay calm, to dispel thoughts of retaliation against other religions or races, was so brilliant, so soul-fulfilling, so necessary – that Tessa and I turned to each other, and, having once despised the man, smiled through tears. Someone had actually said it: even on this day, the worst day in America, it is NOT OKAY to savage other people for believing differently.

If many Americans thought this Giuliani was too good to be true, they were right: apparently, these days, it’s not okay to savage other people unless they happen to be Democrats. Today he said that Democrats “do not understand the full nature and scope of the terrorist war against us” and if they were elected we’d suffer “more losses.” Giuliani is worse than just an asshole – he’s a cynical, tragic bastard, because he has proven than he knows better.

How often can the Republicans flog this horse before even the staunchest cowboys say “enough already”? It’s one thing for five-time draft-deferrer (and Known Coward) Dick Cheney to say this crap, but Giuliani? This is someone in whom we’d put an enormous amount of faith, someone who seemed genuinely changed by the lunar landscape of Ground Zero and had not just made political party affiliation meaningless, but had forged insoluble ties between Christian New Yorkers and Muslim New Yorkers. The man probably saved lives in those early days. And now he says if Democrats are elected, we’ll have more losses?

This is beyond sad, it’s despicable. It’s the Republican playbook all over again: stand on the smoking mountain of charred remains and announce that you possess the only secret that will keep it from happening again. Rudy, you kept us sane for those horrible weeks, and for that you’ll always have my gratitude. But for now, honestly, go back to your mistress and leave matters of national security to the adults who don’t need a national crisis to find their moral compass.

$1.95 away from salvation


Item 1. Yes, I can be a little obsessed, especially on the Mother’s Little Helper, but I’ve been looking for this tiny electrical part for weeks now, and I can’t find it. Y’see, at our farm, we have this overhead ceiling fan with a light in it. The light is not ordinary: it is a “mini candelabra base” (E11) socket, which is even smaller than your run-of-the-mill “candelabra base” (E12) light you find in chandeliers and wall sconces.

They make incredibly bright lights for the mini-candelabra, all the way up to a blinding 500 watts, enough to give you a Cozumel tan and fry funnel cakes. However, with our ban on old-style lights (incandescent and halogen), I’m trying to find an adapter.

A simple goddamn adapter. Something that will turn a mini-candelabra base into a Plain Old candelabra base. They have an adapter for everything else on earth, including all other light bulb sockets. Shit, they have treasonous adapters that turn French light sockets into German ones. But not this motherscratcher. After plowing through the web for almost three hours, I finally found a site that had one, along with a picture:


Gleefully, I hugged my wife and jumped up and down, until I noticed this written at the top of the page:

NOTE: This part is now either discontinued with no available replacement or completely out of stock with no estimated in-stock date.

GOD DAMMIT! Can someone PUH-LEEEEZE tell me if they know anything about an E-11 to E-12 adapter before I explode in golden spasms of geek asscockery?

Item 2. I’m writing a FAQ for a semi-redesign of this site. What questions would you like answered?

Item 3. Looking at my statistics, I started getting a bunch of hits from something called Blogger’s Choice Awards. Lo and behold, the awesome Ms. Cluver had nominated me for both “Best Blog of All Time” and, hilariously, “Hottest Daddy Blogger.”

Now, I don’t need kudos of this kind to assuage my ancient demons, but my 8-year-old self does, and if you vote for me, I get to go back in a time machine and tell that weird-looking kid with the violin that he might get to be one of the Hottest Daddy ANYTHINGS if he can just make it through another thirty years of acne.

So here are the image links if you’re inclined to login and vote. Feel free to add snarky commentary while you’re there!

My site was nominated for Best Blog of All Time!

My site was nominated for Hottest Daddy Blogger!

lit by knowledge and the fireflies above


Even when we were in school, I thought Earth Day was boring, and I still do. Despite being a rabid, frothing environmentalist, there was always something so kumbaya about the whole thing, and my only tangible memory was being a Cub Scout and having to plant little saplings outside the power plant in Cedar Rapids, IA. It was hot, we had shitty shovels that couldn’t dig a big enough hole, and honestly, I just wanted to go home and watch Mork.

It’s impossible to speak about your environmental convictions without putting your audience into a coma. I don’t mean arguments about global warming, which always descends into a slugfest if you happen to be hanging out with Republicans, I mean talking about composting and recycling and all that shit. I was recruited by SEAC (the Student Environmental Action Committee) at Carolina because they thought I could make the whole thing palatable to your average student, but it’s pretty hard to make the Dioxin Problem sexy.

That said, I thought I’d use this Earth Day to show you something:


That’s my bedside table, and yes, that’s a convertible Carolina blue Volkswagen radio/iPod player, and guess what, I’m already married so I don’t have worry what the chicks might think. More importantly, however, is the bedside table lamp, which is an LED light bulb.

It looks and behaves just like an ordinary light bulb, but is technologically ahead of both your ordinary incandescent bulb and even the new compact fluorescents. It replaced the 15-watt bulb I used to keep there (low light so I wouldn’t bother Tessa when she was sleeping) but it uses 1.4 watts. The bulb I used to have in there was rated to last 1,000 hours; the LED bulb will last 100,000.

I think that’s frickin’ awesome. I bought it here and it’s only a matter of time until LED bulbs come down in price and shoot upwards in brightness. In fact, that’s why I took this picture. It won’t be long until all lights are LED (aka solid-state, or SSL) and this was our first. Consider it a picture of a guy standing proudly next to his Model T in 1909.

Here’s the problem with new technology: the first edition of anything can ruin its reputation. For instance, CFLs – compact fluorescent lights, the twisty ones you now see at Walmart and Home Depot – spent a few years putting out ghastly, bright, blue-white light that looked like the opening scenes of “Joe Versus the Volcano.”

Those days are completely over, but it’s hard to convince anybody. I’m here to tell you that we swapped out every last incandescent bulb in our house and replaced them with CFLs, and if/when you visit, you’d never know. They come in ordinary bulb shape now, they emit a nice comforting yellow-white light, and many of them are dimmable. We get ours here (with the ordinary-looking ones here), but as long as they have a color temperature of 2800K or below, you can get them anywhere, cheaper by the day.

Sitting in our house in Los Angeles, I added up all the wattage we use for lighting, and it came to 1055 watts. After replacing them all, it came to 155 watts. 155 watts to have every light on in our entire house at once. We just lopped our lighting power bill by 85 percent, and the bulbs last around 10,000 hours.

Okay, I know several of you just fell asleep, but THAT, my friends, is SEXY. 22% of all power in America goes to lighting. Just think of the possibilities for a split second, and then you can forget about Earth Day.

babies and bathwater


The Worst Conversation My Wife and I Have Ever Had:

Ian is in the bathtub recovering from hoops. He yells to his wife in the adjoining room.

IAN: So, like, is the rap on the French preschool that it’s too frou-frou for the parents, and after a few months they can’t stand the whole “our students are little trees” thing and get tired of their kids going to Oz every day and so the parents start feeling left out?


Twenty seconds pass.

IAN: That may have been the worst conversation we’ve ever had. Actually, that may be the worst conversation we’ll ever have.

TESSA: I wouldn’t say that. Give us time.





one of my aggressively stupid pictures of Jamie taken for art class, June 1989

Tonight Jamie Block showed up on one of his whirlwind visits to Los Angeles – if you’re unfamiliar with Block, I’ve waxed romantic about him in these pages heretofore. He was due to play a gig at the Mint just south of Hollywood, with the two other members of his band flying in from New York and Texas. I got there at 10:30 hoping to see the boys, but instead was ushered into the green room, where the band was loading up on Coronas and scotch. They’d been told a booking error had scheduled them a week from today, and thus crossed the country for no apparent reason.

There was also a music journalist there, an extremely nice woman who gamely interviewed them despite their lack of actually performing. After a few minutes, the manager came in and said they had a recording studio out back, and if the band wanted to play for the journalist, they could do it back there. Insulted yet sanguine, they said sure.

So we wandered through the bowels of the Mint, like Spinal Tap trying to find the stage via a janitorial labyrinth. At last a door led outside, where we were met – no lie – by giant bales of hay. Like for elephants. Behind the hay was another door, which led into a recording studio.

Dark red velvet was draped from the cavernous, twenty-foot ceilings, all covered with eggshell foam and velour. 40-year-old guitars and basses hung on the walls, including a late-60s Hofner violin bass made famous by Paul McCartney. I have been in a lot of recording studios in my day, and frankly, this was the most elegant, creative space I’d ever seen. It was like a piece of New Orleans in 1967 had drifted into Hollywood.

The band quickly set up shop and played songs some of you heard in the East Village in years past, and also new ones several of you downloaded from iTunes. I was present only as an amicus curiae, strictly moral support; however, by the third song, I was placed in front of a gorgeous Rhodes electric keyboard forged sometime in the 1970s. After a couple of chords, I was jamming on that thing like Billy Preston.

Block even pulled out Bob Dylan’s “Mozambique,” a song from a collection Jamie and I should have entitled “Songs We Played in 1988 to Seduce Unwitting Pi Phis.” We’ve run through this one countless times, and I thought we’d perfected the definitive version a decade ago. Not so. The four of us unleashed the prettiest, dead-on version ever. At the end, the recording engineer, usually the most cynical heard-it-seen-it-all-before brand of human available, was speechless. Used to kicking people out, he invited us to play all night, and I did make it to about 1am thanks to the bar’s foresight in possessing a delightful Macallan 18.

In the end, losing the spot at the Mint turned out to be the best thing Block has done in a long time. Like Gill Holland, Lindsay Bowen and other UNC luminaries, he possesses an uncanny ability to land on his feet in the most insane situations; they’re the kind of guys who’d never book a hotel room for road trips, because they’d always run into some old friend with a waterbed for each of us.

I’m incorrigibly social and unrelentingly gregarious, but I never had the serendipity those fellas had. When I’d lose my motel key, I’d be sleeping upright in a train station with all my money stolen. The key is to stick as close to the cats with nine lives as you can.


jamming at the farm while snowed in, December 2005

and other living things


A moment of silence for fellow ACC school Virginia Tech, suffering the worst single-gun rampage in American history. This is the part where I add my knee-jerk liberal comment about guns, but let’s just skip it: working for real gun reform in this country is hopeless. It’s so ingrained in our culture that I confess I occasionally think about getting one for the farm in case Everything Falls Apart.

Either way, it’s unknowably sad for all the families. Those kids could have been any one of us, schlepping our way to class at 9am on Monday, seventy years of their lives left to enjoy. Chapel Hill had its reckoning back in 1995, but this is leagues worse, an abominable tragedy. Can’t we make bullets as least as hard to get as prescription drugs?