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Archive for February, 2009

Clem Snide’s Hungry Bird

I haven’t worked in the traditional sense that employed people work since mid-June 2008 when motor neuron disease helped me slam close the door on my eight year teaching career. Sure, I’ve been busy writing two blogs and outlining my memoir, but neither of those pursuits have been anything more than a labor of love. (Of course, if anyone out there has the means to turn my written words into a paying gig, I would certainly love to hear from you). Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that while I’ve been keeping myself occupied these past several months, I’ve kind of lost touch with what it takes to be productive at a job. Simply stated, I have forgotten what it felt like to actually work.

But that all changed this past Friday when I received a package in the mail. As soon as the padded envelope was opened, I knew it was time for me to get to work. I only had one problem with my new assignment: since I had never done this type of job before, where do I begin?

It all started a few weeks ago when this guy named Bruce posted a comment on my blog. Apparently, Bruce was connected to a singer/songwriter named Eef Barzelay, who, in turn, was the beating heart behind the semi-famous indie rock band called Clem Snide. In his comment, Bruce asked me if I would be interested in reviewing the band’s soon to be released cd. Not being the kind of guy to turn down free music (or a new endeavor such as music reviewer), I quickly said yes to his offer and waited patiently for the special delivery.

Now, I am no stranger to reading music/record/cd reviews, being a longtime subscriber to both Entertainment Weekly and Rolling Stone magazines, but I am an absolute and utter newbie when it comes down to actually writing one. I noticed that most of the reviews I had read drew some comparison between the artist’s new offering and their subsequent efforts but I took a leap of faith and made the assumption that most, if not all, of my readers had yet to encounter the clever and ironic song-stylings of Clem Snide on their musical journeys through life thus far. So if comparing songs from the new disc to songs from the band’s previous five releases was out, I needed to figure out another angle.

So I slid the cd in the computer, placed my headphones over my ears and I listened.

I listened to the disc beginning to end, three times in a row, as I was surfing around the net. Then I went track by track, four to five times each, analyzing the lyrics and the music and feverishly jotting down notes (much to the amusement of my rather rude cubiclemate). I even brought the record with me to acupuncture (it didn’t skip, Bruce), and after a brief conversation with acupuncturist extraordinaire Jen, I was finally ready to write my review.

795041776624A review of Clem Snide’s Hungry Bird by Jason Picetti

When it comes to listening to a song, I’ve heard it said that you are either a music person or a lyrics person. Some folks enjoy what a tune has to say lyrically more than what it says musically while others are so enamored by the groove and feel of a song that they practically have no idea that words exist. Personally, I have always been a music guy. Sure, there are plenty of songs out there that I appreciate primarily for the lyrics, but for every one of those I know, I can name ten that I dig the music more. For me, first and foremost, it has always been about the music.

But that fundamental bias changed when I heard Hungry Bird, the new album from Clem Snide. The words and lyrics and images are so engaging and captivating and thought provoking that, as a listener, I found myself happily replaying each track to afford myself the opportunity to explore the depth and richness of the poetry echoing in my ears.

And please don’t misconstrue my praise of the lyrics as a condemnation of the music, for quite the opposite is true. The music is as subtle and nuanced and delectable as the words are and the music provides a true compliment to the lyrical complexity of the album as a whole.

clempressphotoTo me, listening to Hungry Bird is not unlike curling up with a good book or sitting on the couch under a blanket watching a cool movie on dvd. (By good book, I mean not a 52 week bestseller and by cool movie I mean not a mega blockbuster). From the almost primitive feel of the opening cut “Me No” to the reverent sadness of “Burn the Light” to the poignant track “Pray”, this record kept me on the edge of my seat, turning the pages to get to the end, in order to see how it turned out. While ultimately, my idea of what it all means may not be correct, you can be certain that I will listen to this album many times in the foreseeable future.

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72 Hours in Rocklin

Fehmeen, Emma, and I just got back to the “City of Good Living”, aka San Carlos, after a fun-filled three day vacation at Auntie Alia’s house in Rocklin. Although not as hectic and fast-paced as a tour of Washington DC or as sun-drenched and boozy as a stay in Cancun, our little family’s short trip to this small but growing community was perfectly suited to how the Picetti’s roll these days: in a Honda CRV, a stroller, and an electric-powered wheelchair. A good time was had by all.

Because I lack the desire to create a narrative thread which would cleverly tie the events of the trip together, I’m just gonna list the highlights of each day for you to read and enjoy. So read and enjoy.

Monday, Feb 16

  • We arrive at Alia’s house at 1030 pm. Emma is happy to see her Auntie, as are Fehmeen and I to see our new home of the next three days. Of course we were happy to see Alia, as well.
  • When The Bug sacked out at 1100 pm, our hostess/landlord offered us some home-made chili as we watched tv on her fabulous sectional. For the record, the couch was comf and the chili was delish.
  • By midnight, I had had enough so I was escorted to bed. Fehmeen and Alia continued chatting until 300 am. Man, it’s a good thing that Fehmeen and I didn’t have to get up and go to work the next morning after only four hours of sleep. That would have been rough.

Tuesday, Feb 17

  • I arose from my night’s rest at 1030 am. Emma and Fehmeen played in the family room as I slumbered. Ah, vacation.
  • We drove the family truckster to the Roseville Galleria mall and had lunch at Rubio’s in the food court. If food courts had ratings, this one was five-star all the way. Even Panda Express looked swanky.
  • After our meal, we discovered the Rain Forest play area for Emma to romp around in. Witness the romping around:
  • bat flower spin
  • frog rain
  • Back at the old homestead, Fehmeen and Alia went about the necessary preparations for cooking a meal consisting of lamb, potatoes, and salad.
  • By 800 pm, dinner is served. Fehmeen, Alia, Emma, Najmeen, Aria, Elan, Papa, and I thoroughly enjoy our supper. All I can say is that it was scrump.
  • We watched the last half of Idol while we ate our dessert of chocolate cake, carrot cake, and chocolate covered caramel popcorn from this place in the mall called Popcornopolis.

Wednesday, Feb 18

  • Again, I awoke from my night’s rest at 1030 am. In some respects, it’s good to be me.
  • Papa took Fehmeen, Emma and I to lunch at BJ’s.
  • After lunch, we chose to bail on our planned excursion to the zoo, instead opting to visit the Roseville Galleria so Emma could visit the other play area. The comcast construction site theme wasn’t nearly as cool as the rain forest one, fyi.
  • Back home for a quick one hour power nap.
  • With Auntie Alia babysitting the Bug, Fehmeen and I head back to the Roseville Galleria for her birthday dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, compliments of her brother, Ameer.
  • Post-dinner, we entered the mall in search of birthday gifts for co-workers Janet and Diane.
  • Khan family trivia time: Fehmeen’s grandpa has lived here for ten years and made his first trip to the Galleria with us today. We have been here for two days and been to the mall three times. Must be a generational thing.
  • Once home, we watched a dvd copy of the soon-to-be-named best picture Slumdog Millionaire. Outstanding film; can’t wait to buy it when it officially comes out.

Thursday, Feb 19

  • Up and at ’em early today: 900 am.
  • While Fehmeen packed up the car, Emma (and I) watched The Wiggles on tv. The Bug’s opinion in two words: Loves it!!!
  • On the road by noon, home by 230 pm.

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Emma’s Not So Infinite Playlist

Music has been a major part of my daughter Emma’s life for the past nineteen months. For those of you keeping score at home, you are probably thinking to yourselves, ‘Isn’t the Bug only about ten months old?’ and ‘Doesn’t the old man know his own daughter’s age?’ Well, the answer to both of those questions, astute readers, is yes and yes, but do you honestly think that I would actually wait until she was out of her mama’s belly to commence with her music appreciation studies? Hell no.

The truth is as soon as we discovered that Fehmeen was pregnant, so started Emma’s musical education. It began with morning commute-time selections of Bob Marley, the Beatles, and the Eagles which soon transformed into Oasis, Dr. Hook, and (even a few milder and mellower selections of my hero) Tom Waits. During our evenings together, we would take turns singing to her in Fehmeen’s belly as we lay in bed dreaming about our family’s future. Even during labor in the hospital, Emma’s arrival into her mother’s arms for the first time was accompanied by Stevie Wonder’s Isn’t She Lovely.

For as long as she has been able to express it, Emma has exhibited signs that she digs music. When she was a newborn, she would stop whatever she was doing in order to listen to what was being played for her. As she got a bit older and was crying non-stop in her car-seat whenever we went anywhere, the only thing that would calm her was her Elvis for Babies cd. Now that she’s older, Emma claps along with and dances to any music that she hears, be it from her toys, the stereo, the computer, or the television.

And believe it or not, she has great rhythm for a ten month old, in addition to good taste.

Here are some of Emma’s greatest hits so far. Click on the link to hear (and in some cases see) what all the hoopla is about. Plus, I think that it would be super cool for Emma herself to find this page when she’s old enough and rediscover what she was into in her early days. (Hi, Bug!)

One of my students, Colin S, bought Emma a Led Zeppelin lullaby cd. Her favorite track was Kashmir.

Emma and I formed an early bond laying around watching abba videos together on youtube.

The Bug clapped along to music for the first time when she discovered internet sensation Golimar.

Remember when I mentioned the Elvis lullaby that was instrumental in soothing Emma’s car-seat anxieties? I couldn’t find the actual version, but if you tune out the techno beat, it’s fairly close. here

Without a doubt, her all-time favorite. No More Monkeys is da baby bomb. Hang on through the low tech spoken word portion for the real treat: claymation monkeys and the funkiest version of the song ever recorded.

I went looking for Beetlejuice and I found the Wiggles. A current chart climber on the list.

The sweetest song on the list. Fehmeen sings this song to Emma some nights as a lullaby, albeit with slightly altered lyrics in the chorus (see the words on the picture below). You get a gold star if you knew this song was our first dance at our wedding.

bday-pic

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I like living in my head sometimes. The relative solitude serves me well. It’s a place that I can go to get away from the world swirling around outside my being. I am alone with my thoughts and ideas and dreams. In my head, I can relive key moments of the past or try to visualize events of the future. Sometimes, though, I pay attention to everything and nothing.

The streets of the city are black and wet. Reflections on the ground of the light from overhead street lamps shine like a thousand moons. Round stars of either red, yellow or green appear at every intersection. Stop, go, proceed with caution. As a stranger to this town, the signs on the buildings pass by much too quickly for me to grasp their true intention and meaning. Unanswered questions plague me for as long as it takes to lose sight of them in the side view mirror. Some linger longer.

I take notice of the rain just as the wipers work to remove it from the windshield. Effortless in their respective actions, the beads and the blades perform a rhythmic dance together under the red, yellow, and green stars.
To my right, it’s almost as if I can see through the vertical raindrops as they splash down on the illuminated headlight of the car twenty inches away from my dry body. Transfixed, I continue gazing over my shoulder at all the world has to offer me from this point of view.

Soon, there are no more interesting things to look at so I shift my attention inward. Although there is a conversation taking place around me, I hear no words, I hear no sound, I hear no voices. I have been able to do this my whole life, not just now when I have little choice in the matter. Perhaps I’ve been preparing for this for awhile. I think about that rainy day last January when I was told that I was dying and how it feels to be me right now, how it feels to be living my life right now, doing the things I am doing right now, and doesn’t really feel like I’m dying. I’m certainly not living my life the way I imagined it but who really does, anyway. Who really does?

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Six Word Memoirs of Our Own

A quick disclaimer: the idea behind today’s entry is not my own. I originally heard about the notion in an email I received from a coworker but after a little investigation, I discovered a magazine called SMITH to be the literary entity most likely responsible for the concept of the Six Word Memoir being sent out into the world and into our collective consciousness.

The Six Word Memoir breaks down like this: tell the story of you in six words. That’s it. Distill the essence of what it is to be you in only six words.

At first, I thought it to be an impossible task but after a bit of careful consideration, I came up with this:

Father of Emma, husband of Fehmeen

And that worked but it didn’t quite encapsulate what it means to be me, right here and right now. A few moments later, these six words came to mind:

Trying to live a lifetime, now

Better, but still not perfect. A bit on the hopelessly depressing side and not exactly where I’m coming from, even now, diagnosis and all. So I pondered it some more and before I knew it, the words were there. My six word memoir:

Speech and movement compromised, spirit unaffected.

With that said, now it’s your turn. Your assignment, faithful reader (both contributor and lurker), is to create your own Six Word Memoir and post it up in the comments section below. Even if you choose not to share, I believe that you will find the exercise both fulfilling and meaningful. I know that I did.

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I would like to take the opportunity to provide you, dear reader, with an update of sorts from a previous ALS Boy blog entry entitled The Perfect Shitstorm. In that column, I recall airing out the somewhat disheveled state of my ALS treatment network that seemingly and simultaneously collapsed right around the holidays. I am delighted to report that everything is back on track now, and that, at least for the time being, the storm clouds have passed.

Acupuncture. About two weeks prior to her stateside return, I received an email from Jen while she was on vacation in Mexico in regards to my escalating health drama:

…the universe is giving you the opprotunity to experince yourself for yourself, without those support team members and the routine matrix in which they/we exist. Awesome! Stay present, notice yourself and your moods, get all oprah/eckhart tolle and disengage with the ego- but know that this is a divine moment and keep breathing. You might observe some strengths of yours that you were attributing to a therapy, or not.

I am so fortunate that I can always count on Jen to provide me both sage advice and some much needed perspective on important life issues, even when she is three thousand miles away. In terms of my last two acupuncture sessions, oh man, what can I say? On a scale of one to ten, with ten being as close to lying in the sun on a tropical beach as you can get without getting sand in your shorts, I rate them as 9.5 , with points being deducted only because my new Eef Barzelay cd began skipping endlessly and woke me up. Other than that relatively minor speedbump on the pathway to the tranquil and blissful desert island in my mind, all is as it was and should be in the Land of the Tiny Needle.

Physical Therapy. Whenever I see Robin after a one or two week furlough, I always feel like my body is annoyed at me. Sure, my underworked muscles creak through my customized Body by ALS exercise regimen with the not so greatest of ease, but in the end, I totally and completely realize how vitally important it is to keep my body moving. And the fifteen minutes that Robin spends at the end of each session stretching my legs and arms and fingers out? FuggetAboutIt!!! I would walk on a treadmill (for the first time in over a year) at the rate of 0.3 mph (my pace yesterday, all three and a half minutes of it) for the length of a 26 mile marathon (which would take me over three and a half days to complete, fellow math geeks) just to have Robin work on my appreciative extremities.

Clinical Trial Pill. After an initial flurry of phone calls and impassioned emails to nearly everyone we know at UCSF went unreturned (thanks to their attending an ALS conference in Beantown), Fehmeen was able to get in contact with my neurologist, Dr Lomen-Hoerth, who gave us the phone number of the lab that has the ability and authority to concoct a compound of my clinical trial pill. One phone call, one fax of my rx, and two days for shipping later, I was swimming in a three month supply of my personal wonder drug. Episodes of drooling, laughing, and crying have all returned to nearly pre-crisis levels.

Nutrition/Chiropractic. Three weeks of not seeing Dr Sarah is never a good thing. My diet had gone south for the winter and I was running low on and even out of some of my supplements. Hell, my neck and spine were so far out of whack that I couldn’t even remember what it felt like to be adjusted. I was in sorry-ass shape. With Fehmeen assisting her in the area of muscle testing me, Sarah deduced that a few of my internal organs were in distress so she temporarily upped my supplement intake and reiterated the importance of staying away from neurotoxic foods like breads and pasta. Next came about two dozen chiropractic adjustments (my favorite being the one for my neck…CRACK) and I shuffled out of there a new man.

QiGong. I had worked with Charles one time before when he and Christina teamed up to provide therapy for me during a joint session this past November. Sure, I was devastated when I learned of Christina’s immediate departure but I knew she was leaving me in truly capable hands when she referred me to Charles’ care. This kind and gentle man is an absolute master of his craft and in each of our four sessions together, I practically walk on air for days after our meetings.

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Hey all of y’all, and welcome to another issue of R and R Revisited, aka R Cubed. I hope you had an enjoyable weekend doing whatever it was you did. Can you believe that it’s already February? Just two days ago, it felt like January. Next month, it’ll be March. Now before I get into the various items of the column proper, I would like to take a second to tell you what’s in my ear as I write this column. Call it Sesame Street Syndrome (or S Cubed), but today’s edition of Rants and Raves is brought to you by Bon Jovi’s 1988 neo-classic cd, New Jersey. Please excuse me if I spontaneously break into song as I write this; I am a total bitch for hook-laden eighties arena rock. Enjoy the column.

Monday Morning QB. I feel obligated to apologize profusely (and I’m not merely saying that “I state my regret” a la Dwight Shrute) to anyone who attempted to slog through even one line of my Super Bowl Pool Party blog entry from yesterday. I learned two or three important lessons from my incoherent mess of my blogging in real time experiment: 1) I can think waaaaayyy faster than I can type. I came to this unfortunate conclusion during the first commercial break and by then I was already committed to seeing the project through. 2) Blogging in real time is kind of pointless when no one is out there reading and responding in real time. Duh. 3) With all the typing and publishing going on during the game, I literally had no time to properly gorge myself on nutritionally devoid empty calories. Or at least as many as I would have liked to have had. Again, my apologies about yesterday. It won’t happen again.

“Your love is like Bad Medicine…”

Return to Form. From the simulated fire drill to the celebrity roast and all points in between, The Office really came through with the laughs in the hour long post Super Bowl episode. The question now is can they keep it going? If not, you suck, roasted!!!

“You were born to be my baby, and baby I was made to be your man…”

Time to Revoke my Man Card. I spent my Saturday evening at the Khan family house in Union City. Given the choice of what to watch on tv, I settled on the double feature of the movies 13 Going On 30 and The Devil Wears Prada. I even expressed serious interest in going to see Confessions of a Shopaholic when it comes out. Who the hell am I?

Fist Bump. I would like to say thank you to my cousin-in-law Aria for hanging out with me Saturday night. I really appreciate you taking the time and having the patience to talk with me. You are a cool kid and I’m glad that you find factoring in algebra to be easy. Too bad Farah bailed on us after she promised to get Cold Stone for us.

(Don’t) Call Me Mr Pee. When we moved to San Carlos, one of the first things we did was to install a lift to more easily transport me from the floor of the garage up the three steps to the house. Visualize it as a small, single person elevator and you’ve got the right idea. One evening last month as I was taking the thirty second ride up, I was overcome by the most uncompromising need to pee ever. Knowing full well that I didn’t have a cupcake’s chance at fat camp of making it all the way down the hall and into the bathroom, I stopped the lift halfway up and mumbled/moaned, “Gotta pee now,” to Fehmeen. Thinking quickly, she dumped the cans and bottles from a nearby foot tall plastic trash can and handed the empty container to me. I proceeded to relieve my distressed bladder into the recycling can as I stood on the lift. I have to say that it sure beat pissing in my pants…again.

A Sure Sign of the Apocalypse. It takes a big man to admit it but I kinda sorta like a few tunes on the new Britney Spears cd. I find myself singing along to songs like Womanizer and Circus every time I hear them (it’s my own fault since I bought Fehmeen the cd for Christmas). The real gem on the album is called If You Seek Amy. While lyrically, the words don’t necessarily make sense in actual context, it is fun to recite the words of the title phonetically. Try it, you know you want to.

As The Bug Turns. Emma is ten months old as of yesterday. She is crawling on her hands and knees but covers more ground in half the time doing the army crawl. She flings herself with reckless abandon up and down the step from the kitchen to the family room. She pulls herself from a sitting position to a standing one on the coffee table. Emma enjoys eating big people food (including Grandma Maureen’s pish pash dish which she grades as a solid B+) and she mimics every sound we make (even coughs). If I haven’t mentioned it before, I’ll say it now: The Bug Rules. I love you, Emma.

“I’ll be there for you, these five words I swear to you…”

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