Archive for May, 2009

Baby Class V

May 27, 2009

The fifth class was a bit of a let down. It was breastfeeding, which means there’s not all that much I can have to do with the class. Sure, there’s the ever important male “moral support” role, and a few small things they mentioned that I could check for the Mom, but basically, I’m of even less use here than I am on most things. Which is good, all things considered.

Basically, the class turned into a propaganda session in a matter of moments. There’s something magical about babies that they transform people into red-in-the-face advocates of whatever their particular m.o. is. I suppose it’s good that it’s babies and not, say, baseball. I haven’t had passionate discussions with too many people about the merits of playing the infield back in a tie game, or whether 2-1 is a good count for a hit and run. But we attended the holy church of breastfeeding last night, and they were pulling out all of the stops to convert erstwhile sinners, er, non breast feeders, into the group. Seriously, we were told how breastfed babies are smarter, better coordinated, healthier, perhaps even better looking. Since Julie and I weren’t breastfed, we considered this information stupidly, then fell down, coughing as we went, and were ashamed of our ugliness. (Not REALLY).

I was amused by turning this into a game. I would look at Julie and softly whisper “Hitler– NOT breastfed,” or “Jesus Christ- breastfed” or someone else equally obvious. We did get a few pieces of worthwhile information in the latter half of the show, when football holds were demonstrated, and the Lactation Consultant started imitating baby faces. My favorite was one where she flicked her tongue out and reminded me of Jesco White proclaiming that he saw a beautiful nekkid woman with the head of a snake and flicking his tongue out to imitate the snake. I did this to Julie a couple of times before she reminded me that most people would assume I was just pervertedly trying to assert my desire for some breast milk. So I quit.

One more class to go, and then I will recover my Tuesday evenings. More books are coming soon, as I’m about 2/3 through Molly Harper, and am working on three other books as well. Don’t ask how, or else I might start juxtaposing them– into a world of Biblical vampires playing sports in the World War II era. And since I wasn’t breastfed, I’m not smart enough to handle that.

Book 20- Bruce Springsteen’s America: The People Listening, A Poet Singing

May 21, 2009

See, I told you more books would come. This book was hard to finish, because frankly, it’s quite bad. It’s even more frustrating than normal bad books because it was a good idea. Robert Coles, a child psychologist and master of horrifically loopy and difficult to follow writing, talks with ten “just plain folks” who happen to like Springsteen. For some reason, they can’t be active fans who go out and catch concerts. These ten give their insights into what Springsteen means to them.

Unfortunately, this is lost in a deluge of the worst writing ever. Also, the ten people sound suspiciously alike, and suspiciously similar to Coles. I’m saying either they flat didn’t exist, or they did exist and Coles talked to them, and wrote their stories in his words.

Let this illustrate how awful Coles’s writing is. Julie sometimes will read to me in the car. She started this book in the car and after awhile (maybe 10-15 pages), was kind of slurring her speech. I was a bit alarmed that she was having some sort of mini-stroke, until she finally confessed that she was literally falling asleep while reading it aloud. She put the book down and was out in two seconds.

Don’t buy this book. Don’t read this book. In fact, you maybe shouldn’t even read me talking about this book. I’m sorry for wasting your time and mine.

Baby Class IV

May 20, 2009

I know, I was in the midst of writing about books and along came baby class.

The 4th edition was hampered by technological failure which prevented us from viewing a C-section birth. I wasn’t entirely sad about that, except that hearing about it without seeing it probably makes it seem even worse than it actually is.

They did split us into groups and let the women go look at the new babies, while the men were warned that their wives/girlfriends/lady friends etc, would be irritable and cranky, in pain, sleepless from breastfeeding, hormonal, difficult to deal with, etc etc etc. Actually only some of that is true. George, the male nurse who handled the class, was very helpful and candid.

All of this has been somewhat outweighed by Crib Gate, the name I’m giving to our scandalous efforts to find and buy a decent crib for less than the gross profit of a third world nation. Pretty much each day has brought its own ideas and possibilities, only to end in failure and disappointment. Part of the problem is education. We bought a tremendously helpful book called “Baby Bargains”, which while quite helpful is also quite bad because instead of looking at a crib and going “ooooh, this one looks so nice and cozy” or “Wow, I like the color of that finish”, we’re now saying things like “This one caused 23 children to die or break a leg last year because of defective parts” and “This one probably has toxic chemicals in the finish.”

Anyway, we shall persevere and hopefully get something done. I think we do have a new leader in the clubhouse, which just brings us to the question of will it actually get shipped and delivered on time. I’m sure there’ll be another post about the impossibility of inserting rail A into slot Z once the little bundle of pseudo-hardwood commerical happiness does arrive.

It is a difficult thing to reconcile one’s self to admitting that half of the pre-baby complication really has nothing to do with the baby and more to do with how we view ourselves. Frankly, the baby would probably be as happy sleeping in a $70 pack and play as any of the cribs. The baby likely doesn’t care if it’s breast or bottle fed, or if it wears cloth or disposable diapers. These decisions are more about making ourselves feel good about the results we thrust upon our little girl. This is both humbling and upsetting. I sometimes feel like I really would be a good person, if my ego would quit getting in the way. On the other hand, I’m glad that I recognize this. Being honest about why you want what you want is probably a good thing.

Anyway, enough philosophy from here on Walton’s Mountain. I promise some books are coming– including Molly Harper’s debut novel. It is still amazing to me that three of my peers and contemporaries have already published books, and a fourth is on the way, with Jerry Brewer’s new book (which promises to be wonderful) coming on September 1st.

Joe

Baby Class III

May 15, 2009

I’d like to post about five more books. I’d also like to have an extra brain to plug in when the normal one winds down. No such luck. I am reading three books (not literally at the same time, but bits and pieces of each at the same time frame), and I’m continuing my single minded goal of reading 50 new books in 2009.

Meanwhile, it was back to the land of drugs, pain and deep breathing- baby class. I was deeply amused when she mentioned prostaglandin (hope I spelled that right), which is a gel used to simulate the effects of sperm on the uterus– and thus, to possible commence labor. You’ve never heard so many people artfully trying to find a way to ask “Is it safe for me to have sex now/later/now and later with my pregnant wife/girlfriend/lady friend/etc etc?”

We also got to see a large number of painful looking invasive things that have to be done during birth. My personal favorite, and by favorite, I mean most odd and strange, was the use of a vaccum cup to pull out the baby. Visualize trying to stick one side of a NERF basketball goal to the baby’s head and yanking, and you’ve got the general idea (well, but with a vaccum feed attached to the thing, and no other side to the goal, and no foam basketball, and a lot of pain. So really they have nothing in common.).

I think this is the quasi-official weekend of buying the crib. I’m hoping it will coincide with the weekend Joe buys hot chicken again. And possibly not being the weekend in which Joe is again approached with an offer of sale of drugs outside the hot chicken establishment. Julie assures me it’s because the drug dealer was not used to encountering a lawyer talking on a cell phone with his mother (which yes, is exactly what I was doing) on a Saturday night outside the hot chicken shack.

I also notice that we’re about six weeks away from the one year anniversary of this blog (and about 81 days away from the projected date of arrival of my daughter, lest anyone think my priorities are skewed). I would have some sort of great party or Internetting event, but frankly, I have no idea what that would encompass. Feel free to include ideas, if you have any.

Baby Class II- The Va-Jay-Jay show

May 6, 2009

Yes, Baby Class II brought our group of expectant parents a bit more knowledge and a helpful opportunity to ask questions. It also brought us video views of two women being nearly torn into by their babies. Yes, in delighful, unedited footage, I saw two births.

And my immediate reaction, other than that the placenta really is quite disgusting, was that it was beautiful. Yes, undoubtedly painful, but beautiful. Maybe, in the words of Bob Dylan, “I’m too sensitive or else I’m getting soft.” Or maybe the reality that in about 13 weeks that’s going to be my daughter checking into the world is starting to sink in. I don’t know.

Book 19- Searching for Robert Johnson by Peter Guralnick

May 5, 2009

One of the principal advantages of the blues, as an art form, is the shadowy haze from which the bluesman comes, and into which he returns. The early days of blues recordings coincide with the last peak of a truly segregated and rural American South. The music is eery and unintelligible, but practically drips with intensity and mystery. Who were these guys? Where did they (and their sounds) come from?

King among the mysteries of the blues would be Robert Johnson– a man of whom exactly two known photographs exist, who died at about age 27 from a mysterious ailment or poisoning, and who is rumored to be buried in multiple places. Johnson is another of the singers and players who is the subject of a story of a musical deal with Satan– his soul for his skills. Certainly, as Johnson wrote and sang, the stuff he had was gonna bust your brains out.

The voice is in constant flux– high and lonesome, low and growly, then almost speaking in short bursts. The guitar playing is so sophisticated that it’s near impossible to replicate. Bass, melody and chords co-existing in precision. And the song writing– “Dust My Broom”, “Sweet Home Chicago”, “Love in Vain”, “Stop Breakin’ Down”, etc etc etc. Robert Johnson was the real deal.

And Peter Guralnick, in this VERY short book, tries to figure out who he is. Guralnick’s scholarship is exemplary, and he is known both about what he knows and what he doesn’t know. Unfortunately, there’s not much that anybody knows. Knowing much about Robert Johnson is as impossible as knowing much about Shakespeare.

Still, Guralnick is a pro’s pro as a writer. His style is smooth and effective, and his research is top notch. Photographs accompany the text, not of Johnson, but of contemporary scenes and people, and they help to create a mental picture where a physical picture just doesn’t exist.

I recommend “Searching for Robert Johnson”. I also recommend the music, but it is likely a taste for purists. It’s creepy as Hell, folks, but it IS the blues, and swirling through the shadows of obscurity, it is history.

Joe

Book 18- Hello Everybody, This is Cawood Ledford by Cawood Ledford

May 5, 2009

Sports on the radio is one of those concepts that people either get or they don’t get. I get it. Love it. One of the best things about XM radio is being able to be out on a work trip on a summer afternoon and to dial in baseball from Chicago or New York or L.A. or wherever, and for an inning or two or three, just be able to drink it in. I like radio sports so much I amazed myself by listening to an entire round of golf at The Masters last year. And I don’t even PLAY golf.

Anyway, if there were a Mount Rushmore of radio, and maybe just of people in Kentucky, Cawood Leford would be on it. Cawood managed to be true to his Eastern Kentucky roots, but still exuded class and dignity in his radio work. He spent 39 years calling Kentucky basketball and football, and also took great pleasure in announcing numerous Kentucky Derbies.

His book is a very quick read, thin on his personal life and thick with remembrances of coaches and athletes of days past. There are some interesting moments, such as learning that Louisville tried to steal Cawood away in the early 1970s, or that after an argument with Charlie Bradshaw, Cawood feared that he would be fired from UK radio. Mostly, the book is Cawood’s attempt at putting his years behind the microphone into some sort of overall perspective. Unfortunately, there is little about announcing here. Like the craftsman he was, Cawood gave away few secrets.

An interesting supplement to the book are a couple of notes which Tom Leach, current UK broadcaster, has posted on his web page. These notes are critiques that Cawood sent Leach after he retired, on Leach’s request. The writing is direct and honest, and for every bit of wisdom he provided, it’s funny to note that both Cawood and Leach do exactly what he says to do. This is what is missing in Cawood’s book- a little bit of hints on the technique that made Cawood so fluid.

Anyway, I also should reveal that I met Cawood Ledford in 1998, six years after he retired, and a few years before he died. I was at the Harlan National Guard Armory to hear football coach Hal Mumme speak, and I walked in the door, and there, standing by the hospitality table covered with name tags was Cawood Ledford. I picked up a tag and filled my name in. “This guy,” I said to the lady at the table, “probably doesn’t need a tag.” Cawood smiled at that.

Joe