My pets

What's the most lovable pain in the ass in the world? A pet, of course. When I was young, I was allergic to most pets, but somehow my allergies subsided as I grew older. I've definitely made up for lost time, because I've had the joy and agony of living with a lot of cute animals.

Surrogate Pets

Stanze died almost a year ago after living a long and cuddly life. It took quite a while for the loss to sink in, but I feel pretty adjusted now. I'm currently petless - I know I would love to have another Beagle, but I'm really enjoying the lack of pet responsibility! One way I get by is through "surrogate pets" - I get to play with these two great dogs several times a week. First is Gregor, owned by my pal Scott at work, who spends most days in the office with us. He's a beautiful, amazingly trained Australian Shepherd, and he loves to play catch and have his ears (or butt) scratched. Second is Dolly, owned by my band pal Chris, who I get to see at band rehearsal and various parties. She's mostly Rat Terrier, and is alternately hyperactive and snuggly. Both of these dogs are fantastic, and I always love spending time with them.


I remember coming home from work one day to find a big cardboard box on the table with a kitty in it - no prior discussion, we just suddenly were cat owners again. We named him Bagherra (the panther in the Jungle Book, which Chris watched every day at the time), and this little guy grew on us fast. Bagherra was very cool - he actually learned to use the doggie door on his own and started using the bathroom outside, so we ditched the stinky litter box. He was fun to play with and meowed a lot, and brought us lots of dead things so we could be proud (yuck). When Cheri and I separated, it was obvious that Cheri should take Bagherra and I would get Stanze. I hated to see him go, but I got the more lovable end of the deal!


We decided to keep a puppy from Stanze's second litter, and I named this rascally pup Wolfie (after Constanze's name for Mozart, of course). Wolfie was a fun little dog - more active than Stanze and a blast to play with. It was interesting to see the son grow up with his mother - I think dogs reach a point where they forget they are family and just become equals, then play-fight all the time. Alas, Wolfie became a problem when we started taking care of our foster child Chris - he just couldn't handle the harassment and snapped at Chris too much. Of course, it was easy to find a cool Beagle a good home.


When Cheri's boss got married, the couple ended up with too many pets. Suddenly we were the caretakers of a gray Persian cat - I think it's original name was Harlow or something, but Cheri renamed it Cleo. I suppose she was a cuddly enough cat (I'm not a cat hater, even though I prefer dogs), but what a pain in the ass! We were too young and lazy to brush her, so her long hair became matted and gross. She had an amazing habit of peeing on any paper laying around - newspaper, school work, anything. The final straw was when Cleo peed on a pastel Cheri was working on, so we had yet another free pet giveaway.
This isn't Cleo, but it's close enough.


It was a dark and stormy night, and a stray Border Collie mutt decided to give birth in my parents' front yard bushes! She stayed in those bushes until the puppies were all given away, and then guess what happened - Cheri wanted to keep the mother! My parents named her Cookie, but Cheri had to rename her Tiffany. I guess she was a good dog, but I could never get close to her - she was really skittish (life as a stray, I guess) and eventually drove both of us crazy. We ended up putting a free dog ad in the paper and made sure she got a good home.
Being a mutt, the real Tiffany didn't have the cool white fur - just black.


About a month after I got married, Cheri and I visited a pet store and went crazy for a little Beagle puppy because she yelped when we had to leave. I was completely against getting a dog - I thought I might be still allergic, and I knew it would be a hassle in our efficiency apartment. But, of course, we bought Stanze. Now I'm a devoted dog lover, but all of my predictions were true - Stanze barked so much that she got us evicted from our little newlywed home, and chewed up so much stuff that even Cheri got tired of her. But soon that wore off, and Stanze became the incredible puppy that still licks my toes today.

Dad's Fish

When I was growing up in California, I was very allergic to dogs, so I had no real pets of my own. Dad had a huge fish tank, however, and I always had fun watching the fish swim around and even mating (but I had more fun watching Dad enjoy the fish and even filming them with his Super-8 camera). Dad's tank was full of Cichlids, an exotic kind of fish, but very aggressive. We had two fish that actually mated and gave birth, though their young didn't last long. The worst fish was a big bruiser Dad named Jack Dempsey, who fought the other fish all the time. When he ate up those little baby fish, Dad decided he had to go - the toilet was too good for Jack, so he got the garbage disposal!


Meet the Parents : 3 of 5

A very clever comedy along the lines of There's Something About Mary (but not quite as funny). Robert De Niro does a great job as the former-CIA father, Ben Stiller does an OK job at being Ben Stiller, and whoever plays the lead girl is a real cutie. Some of the jokes are predictable and cheap, but hey, this film isn't looking to do anything fancy - just make you laugh. My favorite joke by far is when the parents realize their daughter's middle name is Martha and she's involved with a man whose last name is Focker. That's about as deep as it gets.

Pay It Forward : 3 of 5

The trailer alone made this film look interesting, seeming to capitalize on the American Beauty style of not really saying what the movie is about, but making you want to see it anyway. Pay It Forward is quite enjoyable, mostly because Kevin Spacey is such a quality actor. I'm not really a fan of Helen Hunt, but she fits the role of a skanky woman to a tee. Believe it or not, I didn't see The Sixth Sense, so this was my first exposure to Haley, and he did a fine job with the bitter tears bit. The end of the film is entirely unnecessary, unfortunately - it only crams the message down your throat.


Timbuktu / Paul Auster : 4 of 5

Paul Auster is another author on the "read everything" list - after seeing Smoke I plowed through everything until there was nothing left to read (I skipped his memoir, however). Timbuktu is his latest, and probably his shortest, but this is a fantastic story. The book is told completely from a dog's point of view, which may not be a new device, but I'm sure it's never been done as well as it is here. Mr. Bones the dog thinks, loves, wonders, and even dreams, and we get to discover things like joy and death from an entirely new perspective. The end is such a teaser, but that's Auster for you.


Sarah Cracknell / Kelly's Locker : 4 of 5

Sarah Cracknell is, of course, the vocalist for Saint Etienne, one of my favorite bands. Sarah recently released Lipside, her first solo album, that's absolutely perfect. Her second CD is more of an EP, including a few remixes of some Lipside tunes, along with some choice new ones. The remixes are mostly techno feeling, while the new tunes are pop disco-ish with that wonderful European pinch (Taking Off for France is oh so good). If you don't really like upbeat dance music, I would recommend buying this CD for the cover photo alone.


Thanksgiving 2000 with Chris & Eliza

A fantastic feast complemented by an incredible amount of booze.

View photos: Thanksgiving 2000

Virgin Islands Cruise

The first cruise was so wonderful, we had to cruise again next year! This time we bought each other tickets for Christmas, and decided to do a four day cruise on the Royal Caribbean Nordic Empress. We flew to Puerto Rico to catch the ship, then sailed to St. Thomas, St. Martin, and St. Croix. This time the ports were wonderful, and had several fun excursions seeing fantastic beaches and even taking a catamaran ride. Once again, the food and entertainment were fantastic, and we managed to stay up late every night to keep eating. Mom was prepared with seasickness patches this time, so everything was "smooth sailing".


LA with Dae

A recent trip to visit Dae, soak up some sun, and take in some movie magic (along with several pounds of Korean cooking).

View photos: LA with Dae


Quiz Show : 4 of 5

Somehow I missed this in the theater, even though it won Best Picture! I'm glad I finally rented it, because this is a very entertaining film. The story does a good job of exploring the relationship of the willing "pawn" of the TV executives who feed the questions and answers and the government investigator (played by Dr. Fleshman from Northern Exposure, doing a very bad accent) who uncovers the nastiness. There are also some interesting scenes with the contestant's family (all college professor/author types). It's weird to think of this as a true story, especially with all the game show craze we have going on now - who knows what Regis could be up to?


Reboot Vol 1 : 4 of 5

One of the first all CGI Saturday morning series, Reboot was way ahead of its time, and much more entertaining than today's Max Steele fare. This DVD series features the third season (I'm totally pissed they skipped the first two!), which has lots of characters and action - not much development, but so creative! The show takes place inside a computer, and when the user plays games, they take over entire sections of the city of Mainframe, endangering the inhabitants. Our heroes enter the game and "reboot" into a character from the game so they can defeat the user, end the game, and save the poor Biomes. Besides all of this fun, the evil Megabyte and Hexadecimal are viruses trying to thwart the whole shebang (I know, it sounds so camp, but it's so cool!). Seeing each of the games is the best part - I'll be watching all of these I can!


The Red Violin : 5 of 5

Another movie that I saw at the theater (this time with Ernesto) that was so fantastic I needed to watch it on DVD. When Ernesto and I saw it, there was much discussion about what exactly Samuel L. Jackson's character does at the end (he doesn't say "motherfucker", unfortunately), but when viewing it at home it seems obvious. This is a beautiful film, taking place in five locales and time periods, following the mysterious instrument and it's owners. Some shots are incredible (notably the "stationery" violin/many players sequence and the slow-mo spin as the violin is shot).


The Road to El Dorado : 4 of 5

I was completely surprised by how great this movie was - I can't believe I let it pass me by at the theater! Sometimes it's hard to trust another studio besides Disney with a full-length animated feature, but The Road to El Dorado completely delivers. The story is interesting and exciting, the animation is wonderful (with just a little too much CG in places), the voices are incredible (Kevin Kline and Kenneth Branagh are excellent together), and even the songs are very nice (although Elton John has the balls to sing all of them - I just don't like his bizarre over-enunciation). I was glued to the screen for the whole movie - it never slows to the boredom point. I believe this film pretty much bombed at the box office - I never heard a thing about it after it's release, but it definitely deserves a good look!


Austin Symphony October Concert : 3 of 5

After seeing my first symphony during my college years, I have always made an effort to go. The ASO October concert featured selections to go with the seasonal Halloween theme: Berlioz' Faust (selections), Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique, and an excellent Beethoven piano concerto thrown in to highlight the featured pianist. I decided to go alone at the last minute, which turned out to be a great decision, since I was offered a free ticket by a season ticket holder whose husband was home with their sick daughter (I paid for it by listening to her talk incessantly). Fantastique is one of my favorite pieces, and the ASO did a fine job, except for one lousy tuba mistake that cannot go unmentioned. ASO has such nice strings, why can't they get some brass that will stay awake?

The Rugrats Movie : 2 of 5

The best part of Rugrats is watching the babies use their imagination - we see the circus, jungle, or spaceship as if it were real, and then at the end it transforms back into the table, the kitchen, or the backyard. Unfortunately, the movie almost completely ignores this aspect, and instead gives us a "real" adventure that's a little ridiculous. Still, we get lots of fun mis-words (like pirates singing "Yo ho ho and a buckle of yum!") and pretty cool animation, using lots of computer-generated 2D work (which was pioneered in The Iron Giant). The worst thing, however, is the songs - every single little ditty is all-out stupid - Disney would have put a nude scene in Snow White before releasing this crappy soundtrack!


I found this one through eTour - the latest "offensive Flash cartoon" site. When I first visited Icebox, I was greeted by Mr. Wong, and I couldn't believe how funny and over the top it was! Unfortunately, the other cartoon series aren't half as funny, but go watch Wong anyway!

Visit site: Icebox

Pokemon Yellow / GameBoy Color : 4 of 5

This game is a commitment. I didn't think I would be that into it, but once you start, you're reading strategy guides and surfing the web for secrets (won't anyone trade me a Bedrill?). Pretty lousy color, but a great game, updated from the classic Red and Blue to be more like the TV show. Pika pika!