Saturday, June 23, 2007

Insta-Lawn, Season Two

I have to say, and this isn't bragging because except for the money I had basically nothing to do with it, but I find it hard to imagine feeling any better about the condition of our lawn than I do at this very moment...

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Hydrangea Dawning

And here's an update. Same flowerhead, one week on...

One more week gone by. Total elapsed time, about 14 days.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Meet The New Boss (Not Even Remotely The Same As The Old Boss)

I posted on the Paris Hilton jail saga, so I guess I can stay off topic long enough to weigh in on the final episode of the Sopranos, before reverting back to more familiar, and familial, terrain. Like a movie that really works, Sunday night’s series finale is still with me, still kicking around up there, three days later, mainly because it ended on such an uncertain and unresolved note. I'll tell you what else is also with me, three days later - that damned Journey song. The last "envelopes" in the history of the Soprano crime family are the inordinately large royalty checks that are bound for Steve Perry and Neal Schon, following the bump in sales that occurred starting at, oh, about 10:05 p.m. Sunday night.

Some viewers have blasted series creator David Chase for not concluding his landmark show on a clear, specific and instructive moment of finality. Since Tony's violent death would have been, really, the only way achieve that, I guess these people were looking for a repeat of Sonny Corleone on the Causeway. In slow motion, maybe. I don't agree with that. There's a reason "Who shot J.R.?" works so much better as a question than an answer, and Chase applied this reality to his final episode. "I'll give you a nice car and all the gas you need," he seemed to be saying, "now you go where you want to go."

So, absent clear direction and a neat little bow, there has been a lot of chatter and speculation this week, around water coolers and online, relating to that final scene, the final moment, and whether or not Tony winds up getting whacked, causing the screen to go black and the sound to cut out before the credits rolled. I have to say I didn’t have that reaction as I watched it in the moment, I just felt like Chase was ending on the ultimate uncertainty that is and was Tony Soprano’s life – he never really knew what was going to happen next, who was going to come through that door, whether he was going to be able to enjoy a nice meal with his family or catch a bullet in the head.

I thought the final episode, itself, was just pitch perfect. Janice winds up desperate and alone, scrounging around for money and focused on whatever self-serving angles might remain, including having to “snag another husband.” Suddenly sanctimonious Phil gets whacked in the least dignified way possible, something we’d been hoping and rooting for going all the way back to the day he became Tony’s day-to-day contact with New York. Meadow is moving on and settling down, Anthony Jr. seems to finally be on relatively stable ground, “focused on the good times,” and Carmela has a new house to renovate, to go along with the money stashed in the backyard bird feeder.

In the span of just a few minutes there near the end, Tony goes to see his trusted #2, Silvio Dante, laying in a hospital bed, unconscious and bullet-ridden, machines breathing for him, and also his uncle, who is doing a different and more gentle kind of wasting away in a psych ward. I thought the scene between Tony and Uncle Junior was maybe the most powerful moment in the last episode. After everything he had been through, all the power he'd applied, decisions he'd made and terrible things he'd done over a course of a lifetime, Junior literally has to be told who he was, what he was. Upon hearing that he and his brother Johnny “ran North Jersey” for the mob, he musters a bemused little smile and a muted “that’s nice.” A response that would have been just as appropriate a reaction to getting flowers from an aunt, or finding a convenient parking space. So this is what it all adds up to.

Over the course of an amazing hour, we learn that one of Tony’s key guys has likely flipped, and it seems clear he’s going to be facing a difficult trial, assuming he survived the basket of onion rings in the ice cream parlor. Advocates of the “Tony got murdered at the end,” theory seem very wrapped up in the use of his perspective in that final scene. The way he walks into the restaurant and we see the place as he does, focused on the booth he’s going to sit in, then we see him, then we’re back behind his eyes again, looking at the selections on the table-side jukebox. Ominous figures lurk in the place, or do they? The guy at the counter in the Members Only jacket who winds up going to the bathroom that is maybe just out of Tony’s peripheral vision might be sizing him up in advance of a hit, or he might just be checking him out because at some point he’d seen his picture in the paper, knows who he is, and is a little uncomfortable to find himself in the same room as New Jersey's top mobster.

I guess the one major stumbling block for me in terms of Tony getting killed at the end is this – if that was what Chase intended, why didn’t the final shot switch to Tony’s perspective, his daughter Meadow entering the restaurant, at the moment the screen went black and the sound cut out? If he’s going back to Bobby Bacala's “you probably don't even hear it when it happens” thing, shouldn’t we be inside Tony’s head, behind his eyes, when the screen goes black? Seems like it to me. Tony looks up, we see Meadow rush through the door, uncertain expression on her face – maybe she’s witnessing terror, maybe she’s just self-conscious about being late for dinner or frustrated by the challenges of parallel parking… and then cut immediately to silent black.

Ultimately, if Tony was shot he most definitely had it coming, and if he wasn’t it appeared highly likely he was going to wind up rotting away alone in prison. He knew it, as he stood in his yard raking leaves, looking up at the tops of the trees and, for the moment, breathing in his freedom and strong sense of satisfaction over the life his work had built.

Either way, whether he was intended to die or go to jail, I’ll never be able to watch a Sopranos re-run again without smiling a little bit at the realization that, at the end of it all, the end of everything, the presumptive favorite to become the new boss of North Jersey is none other than the incessantly passed-over Pauley “Mix It With The Relish” Walnuts. Now there’s a viable spin-off. HBO’s very own version of “Joey.” Cut back on the substance, amp up the imbecilic and idiosyncratic humor… I smell another TV dynasty, and more Emmys!

Sunday, June 10, 2007


This is our 100th post. If "I think this world is perfect..." was a television sitcom - like Seinfeld - instead of a humble little blog, we would have invited Entertainment Tonight onto the set and unveiled an elaborately-decorated cake. We'd be lighting up cigars with $100 bills to celebrate our rich syndication deal, and Gwen and I would have brand new matching Range Rovers parked outside, compliments of an appreciative and benevolent studio.

Instead, to celebrate the trifecta of this significant milestone, Father's Day and my upcoming birthday, I took the girls down to the Apple store yesterday afternoon and, while they played in the kid-friendly iMac pavilion area, bought myself one of these.

Who needs cake?

Thursday, June 07, 2007


I’ve been going back and forth all day on whether or not to post on this Paris Hilton jail thing. It’s not exactly on point for a personal parenting journal, we don’t really do topical content here, but at the end of the day I couldn’t resist. I found a little flimsy justification in the fact that if our girls were 14 and 16, instead of 4 and 6, they might actually have asked me tonight why this privileged blonde woman they've been seeing so much of was given a new ankle accessory and sent home from jail just 72 hours into a 45-day sentence – that’s about 6 percent of the total for those of you playing along at home.

Before getting too caught up in the obvious incongruity of Paris Hilton and jail – which seems clearly to have benefited her in this instance – it’s worth spending just a minute or two on how we got here.

Last September, Paris Hilton was pulled over by police in Los Angeles who observed her driving a car that was weaving all over the road. She was found to be drunk. She said she only had one margarita – the socialite’s equivalent of “just a couple beers” – but the facts are the facts, she was driving drunk. Ask these people whether or not that’s a significant thing. She pleaded guilty to reckless driving and was sentenced to three years probation. As part of her sentence, her driver’s license was suspended. Case closed.

Only it wasn't. In January, she was pulled over again. Driving. Without a license. After checking with her publicist, she claimed not to have known her license was suspended as a result of her previous conviction. She then signed a document acknowledging that she understood she was not permitted to drive. A month later, police pulled her over again. Driving. Why she didn’t at the very start of this submit to the inconvenience and hellish indignity of a 24-hour car and driver is beyond me. Clearly that option is easily within her means. Instead, she decided somewhere along the line that this wasn’t necessary because laws, rules, restrictions and consequences had nothing, really, to do with her. Those pesky things are for other people.

So, in the end, she winds up sentenced to spend 45 days in jail. I have to admit I get a chuckle every time I hear someone refer to it in this context as “prison.” Prison is a bunch of thugs in Pelican Bay who are never getting out tattooing each other with ink from a ballpoint pen and some metal pieces they pulled out of a radiator. Before she even reports, Hilton's "prison" sentence is trimmed to 23 days for “good behavior” - neat trick, that - and it looked like that was the way it was going to go. She was going to be segregated from other inmates and spend all but an hour a day in solitary confinement – for her own protection. I feel like I could do the first few days of a stint like that catching up on sleep, but maybe that’s just me.

She does the red carpet at the MTV Movie Awards Sunday night and, before the clock strikes midnight, turns herself in to begin her sentence. She says before she goes “inside” that she turned down an opportunity to buy her way into a private cushy jail because she wanted to pay her debt properly, make amends for her actions. I didn’t believe that line at the time because I didn’t think officials in California – knowing how closely this case was being watched – would give Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood, Extra! and Paris’ namesake Perez (Hilton) the opportunity to document such a high-end and “spa-like” incarceration. Seemed much more likely to have been something her “people” had raised as a possibility during a desperation brainstorm, along the lines of, “well, Paris, we could try to get you assigned to a pay-your-own-way work camp or something, which would be a nicer location, but it’s not very likely the state would go for it.” That exchange gets passed off to the grizzled and tough-as-nails press corps covering the red carpet at an MTV event as an offer extended and courageously rejected by Paris “I Did The Crime, I’ll Do The Time” Hilton, and reported as such.

So she wraps up with MTV and – craft service food still gurgling in her traumatized stomach – reports for her incarceration a couple of days ahead of her reservation. Showing up early is a smart move, a critical card her handlers and advisers must have pulled out repeatedly in the discussions that led to her early release: “look, she wanted to do this… she came in early, for Pete’s sake! She didn’t even have to be here until Tuesday, she came in Sunday, she understands the severity of this, she just wanted to get it behind her!”

There were limited reports on visitors coming and going this week and by Thursday morning she was out. OUT. Can you imagine? Sent home early. From jail. This prison guy in the press conference today was the best thing out there since “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” She wasn’t released, he said, just reassigned to her residence. Four Seasons Nevis was all full up, so they sent her home. The justification was an undisclosed medical condition. Here’s the condition – she was freaking out because she didn’t want to be locked up in jail!

It’s not hard to envision the behind-the-scenes dialogue that resulted in this. Some therapist, his credentials exceeded only by his compensation, appealing to authorities thusly: “Look, my patient is losing it, OK? LOSING IT! She’s not eating and she’s not going to eat. She was 95 pounds walking in here and she’s got 20 days left, you do the math. She’s about to have a nervous breakdown. Have you seen your linens? That bologna sandwich today was like something out of the Middle Ages! She wanted to do this, she came here EARLY remember, but this situation is really getting out of control, and this is going to be on your hands. Do you want this on your hands? You want to break this woman? Publicly. Over a TRAFFIC TICKET? She could hurt herself. She’s suffered enough, she’s truly, truly sorry. She’s learned her lesson. And even if she hasn’t, we got her a car and a driver. I promise you she won’t be arrested again. Put a bracelet on her ankle, confine her to home, take out the hair extensions, do whatever you need to do, just get her out of here. You don’t need this anymore. Help me, help you. Help ME, help YOU!”

I don’t know, Paris seemed pretty hearty and adaptable when she piled into a private jet and famously celebrated her 21st birthday at five different parties all around the world. The stress and uncertainty of new surroundings didn’t seem like much of an issue back then. And all those red carpets with disparate branded backgrounds featuring jarring corporate sponsorship logos, they never fazed her. Say what you will about Martha Stewart, at least she did the time - in general population. And she didn't drive her car through her stockbroker's office in a tequila haze.

There’s a reason Morgan Freeman and his buddies up at Shawshank took bets on which newbie was going to have the wheels come off on opening night. It’s JAIL. It’s traumatic, it’s the result of doing something bad. And how many times in your life have you ever heard of someone sentenced to time in jail being sent home early with a monitoring device because they found a doctor to vouch for the fact that they really didn’t care for it very much? Turns out Andy Dufresne played it all wrong. He didn’t have to spend 20 years tunneling through the wall with a rock hammer. All he had to do was call a therapist.

On Finding Humans

Tucking Madison into bed the other night, trying to explain why the Christmas lists she and Ava created on their eMac computer (more than six months early) can’t be transferred to our soon-to-be-discarded Dell PC and printed out. Grasping for examples that might be accessible to a 6-year-old, I come up with the following:

“The two computers don’t speak the same language, they use different programs. So the page that we made on your Apple can’t be read by the Windows computer.”

Blank stare, I’m failing as a parent. I compose myself for another attempt:

“Um, it’s like this... We speak English, and we can understand each other when we talk. But if we went to another country, like Spain, the people there speak Spanish, and they wouldn’t be able to understand the things we were saying, because they use a different language. So we could talk to each other, but the people in Spain wouldn’t understand what we were saying.”

Madison nods. She’s getting it.

“Right,” she says. “Unless we found some humans.”

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Viewer Mail

A few of my recent posts have actually generated some incoming e-mail, so I thought I would respond here in addition to the messages I sent back to the respective writers. First off, I’m happy to report that Ava is fine. She is running around and bouncing all over the place, as usual, and seems to have lost not a step or an iota of fun-loving spirit. I believe that may be the first time in my life that I have used the word “iota” in a sentence, and I’ll be 41 next month, so we can chalk this post up as historic right now.

We really do appreciate all the calls, messages and visits over the last few days, and appreciate even more the fact that the worst moment we faced together in this thing was the actual break and the hour or so it took to get Ava’s arm squared away and in a pretty purple cast. Since then it’s been pretty smooth sailing. We’ve given her Motrin occasionally when she reports that her arm hurts – typically at night – but that’s about it.

[Ava's definition of taking it easy and being careful, three days after she fell off a fence and smashed both bones in her left arm.]

We had the dress rehearsal for the girls’ upcoming dance recital this morning. Long-term readers will remember the drama of last year’s installment, and I’m happy to report that this time around everything went great – Ava put her costume on, danced and everything, even with a cast, which she somehow manages to make look adorable, on her arm.

One other note on the rehearsal – at this point every kid under the age of 12 in America must be wearing Crocs, because I stopped counting pairs after hitting double digits within about five minutes of our arrival. I can’t even imagine how many of these things this company is going to sell over the next few months, but now that we’re shareholders at least we stand to benefit.

The post on my growing Australian fan base prompted one Aussie reader to write, and it was great to know that Sitemeter isn’t fabricating all this exotic international traffic in an attempt to get me to upgrade my subscription and actually pay them something. Since I don’t have comments enabled on the blog, I covered why here, e-mail is really the only way for me to correspond with readers, and it’s a great and welcome development when someone who enjoys the site takes the time to knock out a little message, especially from halfway around the world. Thanks Anna.

Finally, I got an e-mail from a good friend and long-time reader, tweaking me from across the country for the “Three Great Days” post about our terrific Memorial Day weekend. No need for me to try to recreate or characterize the verbiage, here it is:

“Subject: your bucolic – READ FICTIONAL -- weekend

Don’t your kids ever misbehave, talk back, sass you, get time outs? Or is it just mine?”

I was so unfamiliar with the terms used in this writer’s message that I actually had to break out the dictionary and acquaint myself with words like “misbehave” and “sass.” I assumed “time out” had something to do with a sporting event, but the reference didn’t seem to make sense in this context so I really couldn’t be sure.

Of course our children misbehave, talk back, sass, and even argue at times. They can be demanding and impatient. Give Madison any kind of significant helping of sugar and you’d better be prepared for an out-of-control outburst that actually holds a candle to the famous "NO... MORE... WIRE... HANGERS!" scene in Mommie Dearest. It’s not pretty, although on the rare occasions when it happens it is also, mercifully, short-lived. I’m sure our family dynamic is more or less representative of everyone else’s. I don’t rush off to the computer to document the latest example of bad behavior, or most recent parental challenge, because this isn’t intended to be a clinical or 100-percent comprehensive “warts and all” examination of our lives together. Anyone looking for that kind of entertainment can watch Dr. Phil.

And, after all, the title of the blog is “I think this world is perfect,” not “Raising Mouthy Brats,” or “We had kids… what the F were we thinking?”

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Flora Redux

I'm not planning to make a regular habit of this, but there is some really incredible stuff happening out in our yard right now, which prompted me to again spend some time out there with my camera this morning. These are new developments just since last weekend. I promise this is it for a while.