Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Church Sign Generator

Looking for a way to kill some time? I suggest a visit to the Church Sign Generator website, where you can make a church sign say whatever you want, pious or not. If you really like your handiwork, you can order a magnet for $7.50 plus shipping.

I came across this site because someone in my office visited it and it was in the pull down address window. It seems like an excellent source of Christmas gifts.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Veronica Mars is Way Smarter Than Me

Some of the Culkins take Veronica Mars very seriously. In fact, there was almost a full fledged feud when it was believed two members of the family (who shall remain nameless, for their own protection) were dissing Veronica. (I wasn't actually there for that conversation and at least one of the defendants claims he wasn't actually criticizing the show. But it stirred up some bad feelings.) Anyway, I'm clearly on the pro-Veronica side of the family. I loved last season and had been enjoying this season a lot. But it did seem like Veronica (the character and the show) were a little softer this time around. The dark, ominous, nerve-wracking, stomach-churning edge just didn't seem to be there. Well, no longer. In the past three weeks, the show has returned to its creepy, glorious best. I think the show's creator Rob Thomas was just luring us into a false sense of calm, so the mid-season barrage of action would hit us all the harder. Just to scratch the surface, there has been (spoiler alert!) a dead body in a motel ice machine, a psycho Irish gang, a house set on fire, a kidnapping, including a scary Russian roulette scene, and the unsettling sight of Veronica willingly teaming up with a character known to be at best amoral, at worst the essence of evil. Plus we learned that Veronica has a Teenage Mutant Ninga Turtle sleeping bag. And there was a cameo by Joss Whedon. It sounds like this week will keep the streak going, as the show promises two endings (one which will be available online), plus another Buffy cameo, by the beloved Alyson Hannigan. For more, visit Watch with Kristin.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

A Neck Family Thanksgiving

For the first time everyone came to my house for Thanksgiving. I would like to say that it was my amazing cooking skills or my massive house that drew the Neck clan to San Antonio but it was my Mother's kindness coupled with my first semester of law school that brought them here. My Mom didn't want me to have to lug all 5o pounds of books and clothes (just ask Eric and Kate how I pack) and waste precious stuyding time driving the five hours home.

The Necks have finally succumbed to the Culkin insanity and made excessive exercise a part of the holiday. Mom, Dad, Mimi and Bob went on a five hour bike ride around the Spanish Missions on Wednesday and took a shorter ride on Thanksgiving that took them to O'Henry's house and the Alamo.

As usual the amazing meal had nothing to do with me and everything to do with Mom, Mimi, Kym and of course Bob and Dad handled the carving.

The dogs were definetly the stars fo the weekend. Nola and Oso became great friends. Nola spent the entire weekend bugging Oso and chasing after him. Here is a rare moment of them taking a nap togher. Nola has been sleeping ever since Oso left on Saturday morning.

On Friday we went to a traveling exhibit from the Vatican. I thought it was going to be a sampling of the amazing art that the Vatican owns. Instead it was an odd collection of bejweled tiaras, gold chalices and even a piece of one of the Pope's skull. That night we went to a lighted boat parade on the river that was suppose to be spectacular. The best way to describe it is to compare it to the Oswego 4th of July parade. If you have never been lucky enough to attend this amazing display of patriotism just imagine a 3 hour parade with 5 floats, 20 fire trucks, and a few cop cars. The boat parade did have a float with a cop band on it and there was a great conversation questioning whether they were real cops or just strippers dressed as cops and performing in a Christmas parade, (did I mention that it was a long parade)

I am now buckled down studying for finals for the next 2 and a half weeks, but at least I have a fridge full of left overs and enogh beer and wine to get me through.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Aimee Mann

Last night, we went to see Aimee Mann. The concert was the last in the Wall Street Rising series, of which the Blind Boys of Alabama show I discussed Tuesday was also a part.

A child of the '80s, I first knew Aimee Mann for her MTV "Voices Carry" fame. I lost track of her until her haunting but hummable sound track for Magnolia. (Every time I have seen her perform, she has reminded the audience that she lost an Oscar to "Phil Collins's cartoon monkey song." You can't blame her for being bitter.) It wasn't until someone gave me a ticket to see her interviewed at the 2002 New Yorker Festival, however, that I really started to pay attention. She was articulate and funny, while also grumpy and exasperated with the music industry, and played some great songs from her then-new album, Lost in Space. I've been a devoted fan ever since--especially after her cameo on Buffy the Vampire slayer. ("I hate playing vampire towns.")

Last night only increased my fandom. It was a great show. The Tribeca Performing Arts Center is a relatively small space-only about 900 seats--and we were in the fourth row. After she and her band came out, Mann explained that this was their last date on a long tour, and they were ready to have some fun. Lucky for us! The band was in great form. She was really entertaining and goofy--one thing I really like about Aimee Mann is, while her lyrics are often cynical and downbeat, on stage she cracks a lot of jokes (while still remaining cynical.) One of her running themes was, "Are you all here because the Ryan Adams tickets were gone," along with, "This is a free show--do any of you know my songs?" I assume she was kidding, as, while her fan base may be small, it is rabid. Mann played a lot of songs from her more recent album, The Forgotten Arm, along with some older tunes. Then she asked for requests, setting off a unintelligible babble of voices. Claiming she couldn't make anything out, Mann said "Our preferred form of requests is paper airplanes. I hope you came prepared." The audience had, in fact, come prepared. Soon the stage was littered with paper airplanes carrying the names of songs. Mann seemed a little surprised by this response, commenting "I can't believe you have these supplies. These are on notebook paper. Who brings a notebook to a concert?" Some yelled back, "This is New York," which was kind of obnoxious, but, well, also kind of true. (Obviously it's completely true that the concert was taking place in New York. It's kind of true that New York is full of people who carry around notebooks at all times, just in case inspiration strikes.) The band soon abandoned the set list and attempted to fill the requests, although Mann often didn't remember her own lyrics; it was somehow really charming to see her try to get through her own songs. The show ended with a short encore and the fans on their feet in appreciation. It was one of those rare shows where everyone--the audience, the performers, even the tech guys--seem to be having a great time. And best of all it was free and for a great cause. How often can you say that?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Nola's gate

I have a child's gate that keeps Nola out of my office when I am studying. As you can see Nola can easily see me though the gate, but it stills causes him great pain when he is on the opposite side. The funny thing is that I am sure he could jump over the gate if he tried, but he hasn't quite figured it out yet. Soon he will be taller than the gate and I can just imagine him standing there looking over it still unable to get past it.

I am sure there is some greater lesson in this, perhaps even the obstacles that you think are too big, are passable if you just figure out the right way. But for know I just think it is cute and a little dignified how Nola stands there watching me study.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Daily Show and Colbert Report

Molly asked me to compare the Daily Show and the Colbert Report- as many of you know, I like to talk about the differences between these 2 shows rather obsessively.And I'm not the only member of the family who finds this topic fascinating.

Calvin insists that the Daily Show and the Colbert Report are almost exactly the same. Same content, same format-you know, the fake news thing. I disagree. Jon Stewart's persona on the Daily Show is (I'm assuming) much more closely related to his true personality than Stephen Colbert's right wing pedant pose relates to how he would behave if one had the good luck to run into him at a cocktail party. In other words, Stephen Colbert is playing a role- and that role draws broadly from a close observation of Bill O'Reilly.

Stephen Colbert has to ask all of his pompous yet probing questions himself- while Jon Stewart has a team of crack reporters to do this job for him.

Does Jon Stewart have an eagle on the Daily Show, or does he wave an American flag? I say no! Or does Jon Stewart ever run waving his arms from one part of the set to another? Absolutely not- in fact Jon Stewart rarely even stands up! And neither the new nor old Daily Show set had two rooms.

Although Kym told me not to stress this point- is there ever any red on the Daily Show set? Rarely.

I was at a party recently and was able to turn the conversation to this very topic- I managed to get everyone talking about the Daily Show and then I asked what people thought of the Colbert Report. One of the other guests expressed her extreme distaste for Stephen Colbert and his show, she said he was smug, pompous and stilted. She didn't get the joke- to her Colbert really is Bill O'Reilly! While I avoided speaking to that woman for the rest of the evening, I thought this really does prove my point.

I was, like everyone else, worried that creating a new show might stretch thin the resources of writers and performers, and the quality of both shows would suffer. Luckily, there seems to be plenty of content due to the present political atmosphere to support even more spin-offs.

One last note- did anyone else see Rob Cordry play the convicted sex offender that Larry David invited to a Seder on “Curb Your Enthusiasm”?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Daily Show

Last night, Eric and I went to a taping of the Daily Show. Like the Colbert Report, there was a lot of waiting involved--but it was much smoother and more organized. I got there at 4 and Eric joined me at 4:40. We were let in a little after 5 and hung around a dingy, depressing basement room. We got great seats after we were finally allowed in the studio--in the center, just a few rows back. I've been a critic of the new set, but it actually looks really cool in person, much better than on TV. Jon Stewart's desk is translucent and you can see that he has a little ledge to rest his feet on. He makes us short people proud. There was a warm up comedian, who was funny, in a mean-spirited, mocking of others way; I was quite relieved he didn't focus in on us. Then Jon himself came out and took questions. Eric and I wished Molly were with us, because she would have thought of a really good question, wouldn't have been afraid to raise her hand, and, with her red hair, would have had a good chance of being noticed. As it was, the questions were kind of lame, but he was funny. Then the show started. Rosario Dawson was the guest, which was a little bit of a let down, but she was actually a lot funnier and more on the ball than I would have guessed. The highlight however was that it was a night Lewis Black was on. Jon Stewart kept cracking up off camera as Black ranted and raved. There was some sort of technical difficulty and a piece of video wasn't shown, which meant one of Black's jokes didn't make any sense at all. They stopped the taping and there was big pow-wow up at the desk, then they played the tape and we all laughed. On the broadcast last night it was edited in seamlessly. At the end, Jon Stewart asked us all to come back soon. Given the fact that I requested the tickets last February for the next available date, that seems unlikely, but I'll give it a shot.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

My Best Concert Ever

I love music, I mean really love music. Not in the let me listen to the radio as I drive kind of love, but in the let me spend all my money and lots of spare time finding, listening, and thinking about music.

As a result I have been to a lot of concerts and I can say without a doubt that the best show I have ever been to is the Blind Boys of Alabama concert in 2002 in the Gospel Tent at Jazzfest. I have seen them three times since and they are always amazing, but by far that show was spectacular. I credit it to their amazing abilities and also to the pure energy that is always present in the Gospel Tent at Jazzfest. As Kate mentioned, the lead singer has a tendency to jump off the stage and walk around. In case anyone was uncertain, they really are blind so you can imagine what happens when they enter the audience without warning. The show ran over about 25 mins, that may not seem like a long time but shows DO NOT go over at Jazzfest, they run a pretty tight ship. The fact that the Blind Boys were allowed to continue for 25 extra minutes is amazing. When I saw Fats Domino they made him leave the stage after he went over by 10 mins.

One of my coolest possessions is an album cover autographed by all the Blind Boys that one of my friends, John, got for me. I was in Idaho at the time and missed one of their shows in Austin and Johh got me the new album and autograph to send me a little "soul" to cheer me up. It was one of the highlights of my life in Idaho.

The pictures are from a show at Jazzfest in 2004. All of their albums are great including the one they recorded with Ben Harper. Go out and get yourself a little soul, it will help I promise.

By the way I agree about Catpower, great name, not so great talent.

Jimmy Carters

Last night, Neilson and I went to the first of the Music Downtown shows. They are a series of concerts sponsored by Wall Street Rising at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center this week, designed to draw people into downtown Manhattan in a post 9/11 world. The shows are free, but like a lot things that are free in New York, getting tickets was a hassle. Neilson had to stand in line for four hours for them. (I waited for the Shakespeare in the Park tickets, in case you are thinking this arrangement is unfair.) The bill was a kind of a strange combo--melancholy hipster Cat Power along with the gospel group The Blind Boys of Alabama. I didn't know anything about these groups before the show--we got these tickets because the Ryan Adams ones had been snapped up already. (We also have tickets for Aimee Mann on Sunday).

I really like Cat Power's name, but, other than that, she proved not to be to my taste. Neilson described her as "dirgelike" and that just about sums it up. So if you like dirges, seek her out.

The Blind Boys of Alabama, however, were amazing. The original members of the group met at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind in 1939 and some of them are still going strong. They are now joined by some younger--and some sighted--members. They performed rousing versions of gospel classics along with some modern tunes, accompanied by two electric guitars and a bass, joking and hamming it up. There was an incredible "Amazing Grace," sung to the tune of the "House of the Rising Sun." The highlight came when one of the founders--Jimmy Carter--came out into the audience. By the end of his trip around the auditorium the whole crowd was on its feet, clapping and stomping and cheering. I jumped up even before I was conscious that I wanted to, and, for the first time, I understand how revival meetings work their magic.

It must be a good week for Jimmy Carters. I put aside my intense distaste for Larry King to watch some of his interview of former President Jimmy Carter on Sunday. It was really powerful to see the devout Baptist take fundamentalist Christians--and fundamentalists of all religions--to task for their belief that their relationship with God makes them superior and gives them the right to subjugate others. Go Jimmy!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Four Eyes

I got new glasses recently, which is making me ridiculously happy. While some people dream of using their lottery winnings to buy fancy houses or fast cars, the first thing I would do with my windfall is buy pairs and pairs of glasses, in every shape and size. I used to resist wearing glasses, forcing myself to put my contacts in no matter how uncomfortable, but now I have embraced my life as a Four Eyes. It's easier, it's more comfortable, and, as I have suffered through several strange, painful eye conditions, it's more healthy. Plus, glasses have come a long way and there are many cute choices out there. I get mine at Sol Moscot's, which I highly recommend. The Moscot family has been in the eye business for four generations. Hyman Moscot, Sol's father, sold glasses from a pushcart on the Lower East Side at the turn of the twentieth century, after immigrating from Eastern Europe. The business is now run by Sol's grandsons. The staff there is incredibly friendly and helpful, letting you try on pair after pair and giving honest opinions about how each one looks.

What I like about my new eyeglasses is that, while they look dark brown in the picture, they actually have a lot of green in them, which gives a flash of color in certain light. They also have subtle cat's eye shape, which is interesting but not over-the-top wacky, which is not my style. Also, I now look more than ever like the girl on the cool Poketo wallet that Jody got me when she and Calvin went to Comic-Con. (She is a character in Derek Kirk Kim's Same Difference which you can read at lowbright.com)

Many people have asked me if I bought this wallet because she looks so much like me, but Jody says that the product's cuteness was the only factor in her decision. In any case, the wallet has given me an unearned coolness at my local video store. The hipster clerk was scornfully ringing up my purchase of VCR tapes, probably thinking what kind of nerd uses a VCR these days. (My answer--the kind of nerd who tapes full seasons of The Wire and Six Feet Under for her friends without cable.) His whole attitude changed when he saw my wallet, which he gushed over. Now whenever I go in, he is super friendly, always remembers my name, and asks me if he has told me how much he likes my wallet.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Anyone for Pizza?

When I was in New York I bought an exceptionally cool bag in order to be more like Jody. I never got a red leather jacket like hers so I have to make up for it with awesome bags. Freitag bags are made from recycled tarps, seat blts, and inner tubes and can withstand even first year law books.

I took it to class and literally the first comment I got was "What do you have a pizza in there?" Someone had asked Jody the same question a few weeks ago in NYC so I really can't be that surprised, but it is just more evidence of the uncoolness of San Antonio.

Don't get me wrong, San Antonio does have some great things going for it, but it also has about 5,000 Chili's, 10,000 Applebees, a few hundred Gaps, and too many conservatives for my taste.

I must say that being surrounded by conservatives is hard, until recently I haven't known many conservatives up close, Republicans were sort of like an elusive bird that the Discovery channel does a show on, but noone has ever actually seen. Now my life is like the movie Birds and the only places to eat or shop come in the big box store format.

I am trying to think of it as immersion opposition research, and for the time being at least I can keep my pizzas warm.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

No Shame in 8002

One of my classmates actually told me that there was no shame in coming in 8002 among the women in the marathon, I think that he was trying to console me, but I have to agree, there is no shame in 8002! Next Year I will be 8000.

My personal highlights of the race were:

A group of runners from the Netherlands that couldn't get over a great sign that said "Your Feet are like Feathers". They kept repeating it for about a mile.
A ton of Hasidic Jews running across the course and trying not to hit anyone.

Golddigger! Twice along the course

There is a small park in Brooklyn that everyone cut across the corner of to avoid a right angle turn and a spectator yelled "Way to cut corners" and a runner shouted back "Fuck You" I am a firm beliver that the crowds should never boo or criticize runners, it was a classic moment though.

The end of the Queensboro bridge and the runner beside me yelling "Who's ready for Manhatten? Who's ready for Manhatten? Who's ready for Manhatten?"

Meet the Press being played at the beginning of the race.

My great family and all the cameras. It was a great race and I had so much fun in New York. It was also my first time for my name to be in the New York Times. I plan on many more chances, hopefully they will come in the form of op eds or political pieces. In my defense my suitcase only weighed 49 pounds!

Here is Nola with my medal. He is sad he couldn't be there, but hopes to meet everyone soon.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

More Marathon Memories

Cheering on the runners.

Waiting for the bathroom in McDonalds.

Cousin pride (and love.)

My father asked me to make sure we took pictures of the big event. I don't think he needed to worry.

Here is Eric holding up the runners' suitcases, each of which weighed 50 pounds. He and I felt like we had run a marathon after we carried them up to Jody's fifth floor apartment. (Just kidding Kym and Molly. You know how proud we are of you.)

Monday, November 07, 2005


Kym and Molly ran in the Marathon yesterday- it was wonderful. Here are a few pics from Calvin.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Carbo Loading

Kym, Molly, Eric, John, and Betsy and I are at Jody's, recovering from a long day of eating. We started with yuppy and yummy organic donuts from Donut Plant on Grand Street, moved on to salty snack foods, then concluded with a tasty dinner, including roast chicken, ravioli, garlic bread, and salad. Tomorrow Molly and Kym will be running the marathon, so they were carbo loading. The rest of us were just eating too much. Now Jody is making signs to cheer on the runners and rest of us are lying around trying to digest. We will post more tomorrow on the ultimate family death march. Kate

Earlier in the day, during the eating of the donuts, we watched several episodes of Lost and read Television Without Pity simultaneously, on 2 different laptops, a mac and a pc. Basically it was a typical Culkin gathering, tons of food and even more TV talk. In general we are disapointed with the TV season so far, but continue to watch through the less then stellar shows. I found this all wonderful because it calmed my pre-race jetters, and for once I had an excuse for eating my own weight in bread. Molly

Friday, November 04, 2005

A Wrinkle in Elvis

Above is Elvis contemplating The Severed Wasp, one of the Madeleine L'Engle's books for adults. The plot includes a sympathetic Nazi, a randy Catholic priest, a few horrific injuries to children, weighty discussions of classical music and theological matters (and not a little proselytizing), and a mystery of sorts centering around New York's glorious Cathedral Church of St. John Divine. Although I found this book absurd, for some reason I couldn't put it down--but just the thought of such a complicated story exhausted Elvis.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Only a Year?

I find it incredibly hard to believe that it was only a year since the last election. As Kate pointed out a ton has happenend, some unexpected and some rather predictable.

As I was reading my old email I remebered so clearly that day and also how I prayed that this administration would go just a little too far. I hoped that they would push people just enough to wake them up from this bizare haze of conservatism. I never really thought that they would implode on themselves with such rapid succession, but that is where we stand.

I have been increasingly annoyed with the Democratic leadership's attitude of lets sit back and watch them combust. I personally vote for throwing some gasoline on the fire and really sending them down in a blazing inferno, but Dean or Reid haven't returned my calls lately and someone forgot to pass my message onto O'Bama.

I think there is hope though. The Democrats in the Senate finally remembering that they asked for an intelligence report over a year ago and demanding answers is a nice start. Now if only they can stand up to Alito we just may have a fighting chance.

Call to Arms

It has been one year since we woke up with that sick feeling in our stomachs, knowing that we had four more years of Bush Jr. There was still some hope that someone would prove the Republicans rigged the machines and stole the election (which I will always believe, I don't care if it makes me sound like a crackpot), but it was a faint chance at best. One of my co-workers and I were discussing how horrible we felt November 3, 2004--how bad we envisioned things would be--yet, now, looking back our predictions seem almost optimistic. Things are so much worse. An American city almost wiped off the map and two Supreme Court vacancies, just to start out. In the past few weeks, there is a sense that the tide is turning, that the Republicans will be held accountable, that the Democrats have finally, as Jon Stewart put it, grown donkey balls, and that there is chance the country will start to right (or left) itself. Let's hope so. Anyway, in the wake of the election, Molly, who was living in D.C., was bombarded with e-mails and phone calls regarding the reaction in the nation's capital. She responded with a call to arms that inspired everyone who one read it and planted the seed for this blog. I am posting it here as a ray of light on this dark anniversary.

Hi everyone,
I have gotten many emails and phone calls about the election. I wanted to write about what it is like here in DC and then what I feel we have been challenged to do.

On Tuesday night and Wednesday morning I think most democrats were devastated, myself included. I work in an office that appeared dazed and certainly defeated. No one could really believe what had happened and even worse what would happen to us all over the next four years. Then the news broke that Kerry had called Bush and there were many tears and even more rants. I think everyone watched Kerry and Edward's speech with a great sadness. But after that was all over the anger and determination took over. The general feeling here in DC among progressives and democrats is that we will fight this administration at every turn.

My initial reaction was, well I guess I will leave DC and return when the disaster is over, but of course that won't work. This administration has awoken an entire generation of people that is watching their every move. But watching will not get us anywhere, we must all fight them at every confirmation, every backward policy decision, every mispronunciation of 3 syllable words. I know we will loose a ton, maybe even the majority of the fights but the important thing is that we stand up and say no loud enough for the middle of America to hear us and wake up from their haze of fear and misguided "morals."

I know alot of us are scared of what will happen in the next four years. Well Bush wanted us to be afraid and now we are, but I know that I will use my fear of his policies against him.

So basically I think that what we need is a call to arms against this administration. It will be a long hard 4 years but think of all the opportunities to be clever with shirts and signs at protests. Kym is printing up "My body is not an incubator" shirts as we speak.

I will talk to you all soon.


Wednesday, November 02, 2005


As a Buffy fan, I always felt guilty I didn't watch Firefly, and now that I've seen Serenity, I feel even more guilty. It is really a good movie, although, as is always the case with me and science fiction, there were times when I didn't know exactly what was going on. No matter. The story takes place in the future, when the "old Earth" has become too crowded and the new earths have been established around the universe. There has been a war between the controlling power the Alliance and the Independents, which the Independents lost. The movie centers around a band of former Independents who now roam the galaxy in a beloved but aged space craft, making their living in a less-than-above-board manner. Along with them is a doctor who saved his telepathic sister from the Alliance training facility, where she was being turned into a weapon. The setup clearly owns a lot to Star Wars. While Hans Solo may have been a lovable rougue, however, the Serenity crew is much more complex--charming, sympathetic characters who at times do things that are unpleasant and even immoral. Eventually, the crew finds a higher purpose as they become involved in a dangerous quest to expose the evil-doing of the Alliance. I've read a lot about how fun this movie is and it is fun, especially the blending of sci-fi and western and the fast and furious dialogue. But I found the movie a lot more than fun. First of all, it is has parts that are dark and creepy and upsetting. Joss Whedon is never one to pull his punches--he was willing to kill off Buffy's mother and he is willing to kill off beloved characters here as well. (At one point I though none of them might make it through.) Also, fun as it is, Serenity also really seemed telling about America, our vision of ourselves, and the way we are seen by others. The image of the rag-tag bunch of noble-minded misfits fighting off the better organized oppressor is as American as apple pie and is in fact at the center of our founding myth--how many times in your elementary school years did you read about the valiant, out-numbered patriots bringing the well-funded, well-trained, well-dressed Redcoats to their knees? But, now of course many people in the world see America--or at least the American government--as something more like the Alliance: the sole superpower attempting to control the fate of all of humanity. Maybe that split identity is part of the reason we're in such a mess right now