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So what am I waiting for?

Posted by joeabbott on March 30, 2012

I’m finding my motivation to be a bit “wanting” these days. I get free time and do little to nothing with it. I’ll read books, do a crossword, or play around with video games, but that doesn’t really amount to “doing something”. I’m still bummed at having lost Spencer, the weather has only had a few nice days here in months, and Suzy’s still battling a nagging cough from a bad cold she had. In all, I’m just in a funk and seeing things a sad or depressing terms.

In the spirit of the study that showed if you force yourself to smile and laugh, your brain will ultimately produce the “juice” that it would if you really were happy … and so you end up at the same place: enjoying things … I’ll write about a few of the more enjoyable “accomplishments” from the past few weeks.

imageFirst Date

No, not my first date … the play! As I’ve oft mentioned, Suzy and I have season tickets to the 5th Avenue Theater … we likely won’t renew but it’s been fun. And a couple weekends ago we caught the play First Date at a Saturday matinee.

The show is a one-act play centering on two people, Casey and Aaron, on their blind date. At first blush they appear to be an ill match for one another but over the course of the show (their evening), she (Casey, a gal with a bit of an edge and a penchant for “bad boys”) learns that trading up for a quiet, decent man may be what she needs; and he (Aaron, a Jewish guy who was left standing under the chuppah … a wedding canopy similar to the “altar” at a catholic wedding … after his fiancé dumped him on his wedding day) exorcises the demons of his “ex” and internal battles over dating a gentile.

While not a manic show, it absolutely had its moments of wild numbers and although it brought up social issues and questions, it mostly left those at the door while serving up a bit of fun entertainment. A series of numbers titled Bailout Song #1/#2/#3 were great fun as the main couple froze on stage while an over-the-top friend of Casey takes the stage and tries to reach her on the phone to serve as a potential distraction or reason for her to leave the date early. Casey never answers these calls and the song and theatrics of her calling friend were crowd-pleasers.

The play mainly takes place in a bistro where the couple size each other up and share their first impressions through songs, where their internal dialogs with friends surface into song-and-dance numbers, and where they go through what to order, how to get over the conversation lulls, and who pays for the meal. At one point the waiter, a budding poet/song-writer/performer comes out and informs them that their order will be up shortly but, first, a quick original number called I’d Order Love. It was a hoot as he assumed a soft Frank Sinatra sort of demeanor, crooned out his number with subtle and snappy footwork, and encouraged the bistro couples to dance along. Good stuff.

Overall it was both modern but tame and great fun. I sat next to a “grandma” type and only experienced a few cringe-worthy moments as the actors cursed or gyrated through the show. Those were infrequent and never dwelt upon, making it a much more substance driven, fun, laugh-out-loud show.

Another fun part to the show for Suzy and I is that we’re starting to recognize some of the performers. Suzy can remember some of their names but I’m still referring to our favorite male actor as “Guy Masterson” (he played that character in Guys and Dolls) and while we don’t have a favorite female actress, we still spot a few ladies from the various other shows we’ve seen. They do an excellent job so it’s fun to see them appear in a number of roles.

First Date was a lot of fun with its high-energy numbers and catchy (if forgettable … I’m bad remembering specifics) tunes. It was fun enough to see the first time that I’d happily see it again (if I was given tickets).

History’s Greatest Lies

image

If you look on my bookshelf you’ll find a books across a tremendous range of topics but you’ll find several clusters: a bunch of books on mountaineering and adventure stories, scads of books about science and engineering, and a surprising number of books on history.

The history stuff seems to be the oddest grouping, as I can’t remember a date that isn’t part of a rhyme you might ask a school-age child to memorize, I can’t recall ever bringing up an historical fact during a conversation (“ … say, that reminds me of a story about the Battle of Hastings; you see, in 1066 the French were …”), and it’s not part of something I do (like mountaineering or science stuff).

But, the number of books I have on the topic of history suggest I must like this sort of thing!

The book I just finished reading is one I started a while back and abandoned. I stopped reading it not because I didn’t like it … it’s just that other books came into my life and as History’s Greatest Lies is essentially a collection of short stories, which makes it easier to put down and come back to later.

Like a number of other books that I get, it came from the tables at Costco and I picked it up on whim. For the most part, if you are any sort of student of history, the majority of the stories aren’t surprising and hardly merit being called a “great lie”, but it was an enjoyable read. I was actually surprised a number of the stories were in the books … doesn’t everyone know that Paul Revere didn’t actually complete his famed ride? And does anyone really think of Jesse James as a “Robin Hood” and not just another gangster?

That said, the book did surface a number of stories that helped illuminate (or at least offer another viewpoint on) issues around Nero’s reign during the burning of Rome, the character of the Gothic “barbarians” who sacked Rome, and Cortez’s expedition to Mexico.

imageOn top of helping me fill out details around topics I’d heard of, it also introduced me to a couple issues I hadn’t known were issues! William Weir, the author, introduced me to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (which is a disturbing little story … even moreso that a quick search of the Internet suggest not everyone’s aware the Protocols document was a hoax), and he wrote about the fact that John Dillinger may not have killed by the FBI in 1934 (see Roger Ebert’s write up on the topic here).

Most disappointingly, he covered the story of Harold Lasseter. This was a story I’d heard about a few years back and secretly yearned to be true: a man proclaimed to have found a “reef of gold” in the Australian bush but was lost at the time and unable to relocate it. What a fantastic story! Hidden treasure! Unfortunately for me, Weir convincingly puts together a series of details that strongly paint the picture of Lasseter being a bit unhinged and patently a liar who likely fabricate the entire story. Alas, a reef of gold would be quite a find.

Anyhow, I finished up this book the other day and will be dipping my hand to my bookshelf to snare another book for whiling away a bit of time. I have a friend’s copy of Norman Maclean’s Young Men and Fire  which looks like it may be next. And, look at that … it’s another “history” book that happens to be an “adventure” book, too! FTW!!

Games Games Games

I have access to a lot of games and I play more than a grown man should. And yet, I enjoy it so I’m not about to shy away from talking about a little Xbox time!

imageAfter finishing getting all the achievements in Skyrim … a bit too much Skyrim, by my own admission … I went back to pick up the finish a couple other games I’d started and put aside. First on the list was Torchlight … a classic “dungeons and dragons” sort of “go through the dungeon, kill the baddies, and get loot”. And “loot” seems to be the major draw to this game: what neat sword/shield/armor/weapon might I find in the next level?! Not a lot of suspense or story … just moving through a dungeon, whacking animate skeletons or what have you, and collecting the booty they drop.

imageAfter that I completed a game I really enjoyed, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. This was the third game in the AC canon that I’ve played and easily the most enjoyable. The first AC introduced me to the titular assassin, Altair, who magically ran across rooftops, dove into far-below piles of hay, and dispatched the despised Templar enemies. In AC 2, you become the charismatic Ezio Auditore Da Firenze as a youth and follow his uncle’s guidance in your ancestor’s footsteps to become the latest in the line of assassins. The main gameplay change to that story was building up a safe house villa and introduction to the Borgia as allies to the Templar who you must fight.

In AC:B, your villa falls under siege and is destroyed, so you run the streets of Rome, again taking out Borgia and assuming control of their towers, as you recruit other assassins to your cause. That was the game I completed and it was a lot of fun. I had already completed most of the story, so it was just a matter of finding a few hidden treasures and engaging in a bit of achievement hunting. I spend way too much time finding all the hidden treasures throughout the game, running and jumping from rooftops, and simply enjoying the acrobatic motion of the assassin as he fights and eludes capture. Great game.

imageAt this point, another friend was playing National Geographic: Challenge! and it looked to be a fun diversion. I got it so Suzy and I could play but it didn’t lend itself well to being a good co-op game. We could go head-to-head, but that’s less fun than working cooperatively. As a result, I spent about 8 hours over three days just playing it to get all the achievements. Mission accomplished. It wasn’t really all that fun.

The game has a bunch of puzzles and quizzes that had potential but only had two modes: easy and hard. On “easy” it would ask things like:

Q: Which is not one of the Great Lakes?

A: Lake Woebegon, Lake Erie, Lake Superior, Lake Michigan

Where the correct choice was always simple to spot. On “hard”, it would ask questions to things you’d never heard of … like famous authors from Trinidad, or who served the most terms in a some authority position in Madagascar and things like that. It lived up to the “hard” rating, that’s for sure!

And now I’m just playing a Sudoku game and puttering around with that. I have a few games on the shelf to complete or start, but I’m getting the itch to push a few odd jobs off my table saw and start building things again. Now I just need the temperature in Seattle to get above 45° so I’m not chilled too much working out in my shop!

 

 

And that’s it

I’m sure I’ll be writing a bit more this coming weekend. I have a bunch of things piled onto my desk and mental “blog this” notes attached to most of them. Thanks for reading!

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