My pipes

I don't remember ever seeing Dad smoke a pipe, but I remember seeing his little pipe collection sitting around the house when I was growing up. When I was a junior in high school, Marco was a senior who smoked a pipe, and I thought it was so cool. When I started college and quickly became engrossed in Shakespeare and all that entails, it was inevitable that I would take up a pipe of my own. I started with Dad's old Dr. Grabow (along with tamping lessons from Marco), and have had a nice bowl most weekends since then.

Now I smoke three pipes (you have to rotate, of course). The oldest was a Christmas gift from Mom (what a mom!), which she picked out herself - she has great taste. It's beginning to show some wear, and could really use a new stem. I'll have to retire it sometime when I buy my next pipe, but for now it has a wonderful nostalgic feeling.

My second pipe was purchased in New Orleans, handmade by Edwin Jansen, who owns a great pipe shop there that was his father's (and may be his grandson's by now). Edwin was so talkative, and very strict about breaking in a pipe gently. I remember he rubbed honey in the bowl with his thumb before my first smoke, and then I walked out into the rainy street (with Trey) happily puffing.

I bought my third pipe here in Austin, after being jealous for years of my pal Hue's Savinelli pipe. This is my first really "fine" pipe, made in Italy and featuring a cool balsa wood filter system to keep the pipe juice out of your mouth (yes, it's just as gross as it sounds). It feels to good to smoke a truly excellent pipe - it does make a difference.

While you smoke a pipe, you have to keep the tobacco packed with a tamping tool. My tamping tool was a hand-me-down from Dad, who bought it when he was living in Germany. I love using it, thinking about Dad as a young man using it in some German beer garden.

I have a fancy pipe lighter, but recently switched to Swan matches (made by appointment of Her Majesty the Queen). These matches are short, but made to burn slowly so you have plenty of time to light up.


Shower : 4 of 5

An excellent Chinese film about the inevitable clash of tradition (the bath house) and modern culture (the shower). The film has excellent acting among all three main characters, a father and his two sons. One son is mentally ill, and stays with the father to work in the house, while the other son has moved away to be a "businessman". When the father dies, it's up to the businessman to take care of his brother. The film is full of cool culture, such as cricket fighting and karaoke, that play a major part in the plot as well.

The Tao of Steve : 4 of 5

A really fun movie with some interesting messages. This was especially interesting for me, having read the Tao Te Ching and other philosophical works thrown around in the film's many conversations. Dex is a guy much like so many of us, but he uses his knowledge of how to be a "Steve" to win all the women he wants. Of course, then he really falls in love and blah, blah, blah - the main thing is seeing a loser win, right? Some excellent Santa Fe scenery is a bonus, too - an all-around nice film.


Six Flags Fiesta Texas

From coasters to carousels, have a blast at Six Flags.

View photos: Six Flags Fiesta Texas


Amrita / Banana Yoshimoto : 3 of 5

I started reading Banana Yoshimoto when I was with a friend in a bookstore who pointed out Kitchen to me. It was a small book with a cute cover, so I gave it a try. In the next few months, I had read everything Banana I could get my hands on. Amrita is much longer than her other novels, and far more rambling actually, but in a way, that's what makes it so beautiful. In some ways it's like poetry, and in other ways it's like a Raymond Carver story that never ends. You can't help but feeling it's a diary you're reading, which is probably why I loved it.


Stereo Total / Stereo Total : 4 of 5

First Dae played this band for me, then Matt got hooked on them. When I recently went to visit Dae, we listed to this in the car, and when I got back to Austin, I could not get the song C'est le Mort out of my head! This band plays funky grooves and sings in German, French, and a little English, but you can sing along in any language even if you don't know what you're saying. The songs are so catchy - beware!


NYC Central Park

Relax with my pals as we take a nap in peaceful Central Park.

View photos: NYC 2000 Central Park


NYC Coney Island

Thrilling shots of the famous Cyclone rollercoaster, plus action-packed Brooklyn fire photos!

View photos: NYC 2000 Coney Island


Eastern Caribbean Cruise

For my parents' wedding anniversary, I decided to take them on a cruise. I had wanted to cruise for quite a while, and Mom and Dad probably would have never cruised on their own, so it was a perfect excuse to go. We took a nice little three day cruise on the Carnival Ecstasy (the ship that soon afterwards had a fire onboard), starting in Miami, cruising to Nassau for a day, and cruising back. Nassau wasn't much of anything, but we absolutely loved the cruise itself - Mom got over her seasickness quickly and we enjoyed eating everything in sight and watching the Vegas-style shows. Mom also fancied Koz, our waiter, making sure she got a big hug on the last day.


Space: 1999 Vol 2 : 4 of 5

This classic science fiction series has just been released on DVD, so Netflix is usually out of all four volumes - anyway, I was lucky enough to get Volume 2 (I'll just have to keep waiting for the first!), and thoroughly enjoyed it! I used to love this series as a kid - I had a huge toy Eagle and figures, plus the cool gun (and I even drew my own episodes as a comic strip)! I can't believe how many aspects of the show I had forgotten - the bell bottom uniforms, the computers printing results on tape, the Doctor Who-eqsue music and bizarre stories! This volume has three episodes, all involving bizarre mystical aliens and forces that make very little sense - but seeing those cool Eagles and those great sets, it makes me want my old toys again.


Space: 1999 Vol 4 : 4 of 5

Once again, I have to watch these episodes out of order due their Netflix demand, but I don't think it matters that much - I'm realizing that every plotline contains a weird mystical force that is never explained (so the plot can have lots of holes without anyone noticing). Still, I love watching this show! This volume contained some really interesting ideas, such as an alien race giving the moon an atmosphere (so we get to see the Moonbase Alpha residents play tennis in shorts), and a "Voyager" spacecraft that has an engine that wipes out entire civilizations as it continues on its peaceful mission. I'm starting to get to know the character names again, and man, do I wish I still had those Space: 1999 toys!


Surf Crazy : 3 of 5

Continuing my Bruce Brown marathon, Surf Crazy was Bruce's second film and it's a good one. Much better music selection than Surfing Hollow Days, and lots of excellent footage, of course (including a manta ray breaking the surface behind some unlucky surfer). I loved seeing a quick scene of the Huntington Beach pier, since I was just there so recently. A few bizarre scenes sneak in, as usual - this time Bruce chronicles some guy trying to build a jet airplane by attaching firecrackers to balsa wood gliders. What the hell?


Surfin' Shorts : 3 of 5

If you read my review of Endless Summer, then you know how much I enjoy watching surfing. I looked around on Netflix and quickly discovered that Bruce Brown made many other surfing films besides Endless Summer, so I put them in my queue to help me ring in the sunny weather. Surfin' Shorts contains three short films. The first is a very interesting TV spot where he talks about styles of surfing with a sportscaster, and then there are two "infomercials" (or the 60s equivalent) where Bruce spends a lot of time narrating about swimming trunks while we watch some boys surf. The other informercial is about skateboarding, made when it was an entirely new sport - you certainly wouldn't see barefoot kids with no pads and helmets doing those tricks today! Bruce Brown's style is so laid back and unpretentious - it's just tons of fun to watch.


Surfing Hollow Days : 2 of 5

Continuing with my Bruce Brown marathon, Surfing Hollow Days (a pun on hollow waves and holidays) was made in 1960-61. All of the scenery and shots are fantastic, but Bruce or someone picked the worst music possible for this one. Once you get past that, there are some really memorable scenes - footage of the very first two rides at Pipeline (which we discover that Bruce helped name!), plus the usual silly stuff, including some old dude using a kit to look like a surfer - including clothes, tanning paint, and bumps for his feet! There is also a terrifying shot of a complete shadow of a shark inside a wave while some guy surfs past in Australia. Lots of fun, but it gets two stars because of the music alone.


The Blue Room : 4 of 5

This was the play that got so much attention when it played in New York, since Nicole Kidman appeared stark naked on stage. Let me tell you, this play was indeed full of nudity - I was prepared for it, but it was still pretty "wow", I must say. Body parts aside, the play is pretty interesting - 10 scenes all involving a sex act in which one character continues on to the next scene, so a single man and woman both play five roles. The actors in this production were really good - there was never an indication they were aware of the audience while they explored complex emotions and each other's pants.

Tenchi in Tokyo 6: A New Challenge : 4 of 5

My pal Matt (now living in Japan) introduced me to the entire world of Tenchi Muyo, and now that I'm into the Tenchi in Tokyo series, I am so glad he did! This series is much more soap opera than the original series, with Tenchi living apart from all of his space girlfriends and courting a super cute student in Tokyo. In the 6th DVD, the clan of space girls is breaking up now that they know Tenchi is interested in someone else, so these three episodes are kind of sad. I just hope Ryoko and Ayeka can be happy, and that Tenchi and Sakuya finally admit they're in love!