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A Rush of Media to the Head

During my two weeks of vacation this summer and the two weeks that Dinka and Veronika stayed on after I came home, I consumed an enormous amount of media by my standards. Some people might think that doing anything so ordinary as seeing a movie or reading a book on vacation is a waste, but vacation is for doing the things you love but don't have time to do during the rest of the year, right? Well, my reading, movie-watching and music-listening time is the first to go when things get busy so I made sure not to neglect it on vacation.

I realize now that, without meaning to, I chose some of the more popular items on my queue to consume and they were received with mixed results. I was: disappointed (Fahrenheit 9/11, Monster), befuddled except for the excellent Jack Nicholson part (Easy Rider), pleasantly surprised (Batman Begins, Jack Johnson's In Between Dreams), saddened (deeply: Million Dollar Baby, moderately: Josip Novakovich's Plum Brandy), encouraged (Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning), impressed (Donnie Darko, Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point), all econned out (Freakonomics), tickled (Hitch, Melinda and Melinda), and delighted (Wedding Crashers).

While this kind of frivolous entertainment is certainly acceptable in summer, my dear friend Fall is fast approaching and that means it's time to get serious for a moment, gentlemen. Autumn is the time for pondering life's larger questions, having that extra glass of scotch, feeling the nip of the air on your rosy cheeks, breaking out the wool and tweed, and taking in as much of the glorious nature surrounding us that you possibly can.

On that note, I will embark on two projects this fall to maintain the proper state of mind (that is, two projects not involving scotch or autumn leaves). The first? Listen to every available Bob Dylan album in chronological order. I have called myself a Dylan fan for a while now but there's simply too much of his catalog that I'm not familiar with. I know I won't be able to listen to everything but I'll do my best by buying, borrowing, checking out from the library and pulling from my existing collection whatever I can. This project happens to coincide nicely with the release of Martin Scorcese's documentary on Mr. Dylan, No Direction Home, airing next week on PBS and already out on DVD. The second project? Reading a substantial and terribly important work of fiction, whose title is as yet undecided. I've been reading a lot of existentialism and now it's time to feel it expressed in the art of the time. I'm reading Irrational Man, William Barrett's history of existential thought as a primer (which is enthralling, despite how it may sound). I'm open to suggestions here, anything from Dostoevsky (Karamazov was last summer's work, Crime and Punishment is on the shelf) to Tolstoy, Goethe to Faulkner, and beyond. As long as it's heavy enough to make my shoulder hurt from carrying it around and keep my brain chugging, I'll consider it.

Happy beginning of fall to all of you, and may you undertake equally ambitious projects. If you fall short, as I inevitably will, the season will be there to console you.

September 24, 2005 | Comments (2)

What a Weekend

Labor Day weekend was a perfect three and a half days from a Veronika and Papa perspective. Dinka's morning/noon/evening sickness kept my overly ambitious plans in check—I would have had us in three states in as many days—and confined us to Veronika's favorite local activities. We sure did pack them in:

I think Veronika dreams about weekends like that, or at least thinks about them when she's supposed to be sleeping but isn't, like she's doing right now. Almost everything about this weekend was as good as could be expected. The perfect end-of-summer weather—high 70s (° F) with no humidity and not a cloud in the sky—provided us with perhaps the last opportunity to swim of the summer. Veronika was on her very best behavior, presumably because we did everything she wanted for three days straight. The only problem was that we were missing the crucial third part of our family, Mama. Even when she came along, she was too tired and/or sick to enjoy the time much. Veronika and I did our best to not be burdensome but only time will help, I suppose.

Veronika is so much fun to be with right now, it's indescribable. Not only is it one of my favorite things to do now, it's one of the best things I've ever known in my life. Just to see her face light up when she sees the object of her obsession—ever since the trip, it's been planes—is enough to turn around a bad day. She's so engaged in the world around her now that it's a pleasure to take her places and see her mind at work. She's a master of the two- and three-word combinations and has even started combining those combinations, coming pretty close to sentences at times. Yesterday I put one of her necklaces around my forehead. She frowned, took it off me, said "No, like this" and demonstrated how to do it correctly. A little while later, she wanted to watch Winnie the Pooh and before putting the DVD in, she breathed onto it, lifted her shirt and wiped it on her bare belly to clean it. How do you describe how awesome this stuff is?

On the new baby front, I unexpectedly felt my first twinges of a feeling that Kevin Fanning touched on in the second new fathers roundtable at The Morning News—how can I share my time with another child? I was sitting on the beach on Labor Day when it hit me, Veronika wrapped in a towel and sitting in my lap, basking in the September sun and the glory of a wonderful weekend. I was so full of love and happiness in that moment that I couldn't imagine how having another child wouldn't somehow diminish what I had with Veronika or could give to her. I guess this is probably something that you can't understand until the second child arrives. Given the way that family life has turned out so far, I'm not too worried about it.

September 11, 2005 | Comments (1)

Explaining Nothing

Like many others, my mind has been on Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath a lot lately. I will admit that at first I didn't give it much thought. The destruction to New Orleans would be bad and business would be affected for weeks, but the South goes through this all the time, right? But the storm came and went and the news broadcasts became harder to watch with each day. That it is possible to withstand such a natural disaster and then fall so far short in providing immediate aid to those in need is unthinkable. How could we not get food and water to people that had survived and were in a safe place? To think that any percentage of these deaths could have been preventable is horrifying. I'm afraid that Kanye might have a point, not that I'm well informed enough to make that claim.

This afternoon I was sitting in the park, Dinka beside me and decidedly nauseous, Veronika galloping around a gazebo, carefree as can be. As I watched her from a distance, I could see her mind working, making up her own games, looking and listening and fitting things into the system of the world that is developing in her mind. With each new step that she takes, I can't wait for the next to come, for her to be old enough to question everything and be able to talk it out with me. At the same time, I still don't know how I'll be able to explain times like these, since I can't say much about them myself, as has been obvious for two paragraphs now.

September 04, 2005 | Comments (1)