Southern Man

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Spring Break Recap

Southern Man had two weeks of Spring Break, kinda sorta; his day teaching job was out last week (when every other school in the state was still in session), and his evening teaching jobs had their break this week when all the rest of the schools were off. Furthermore, Southern Man's ex was out of the state for much of the week at a conference, so the kids spent much of the week bouncing back and forth between their grandparents and Casa Southern Man.

Southern Man had a chance to spend the evening and night with his youngest on Wednesday. At her request we went a second time to see Bridge to Terabithia (Southern Man's previous review here) and had a fine time there. Alas, he had to return her to her grandparents and go to work the next day. But then on Thursday night (actually early, early Friday morning) his eldest son returned from a week-long school trip to Ireland, so he spent the night and then the following day at Southern Man's workplace. The two older kids had a church function Friday evening, and after that middle daughter was returned to her grandparents (the girls were scheduled to volunteer at a local food pantry with grandma the next morning) eldest son and I went to a late showing of 300 (reviewed here).

The next day (Saturday) Southern Man retrieved the girls and had all three kids for the rest of the weekend. It was middle daughter's turn to set the agenda and we (by now joined by Southern Man's gf) spent the afternoon shopping at her request, including a visit to a most fabulous Asian market where we all bought all manner of interesting junk. We picked up a small mountain of Chinese take-out on the way home and had a wonderful feast in Southern Man's backyard, followed by a couple of hours of playing on the trampoline and just general fooling around. It was probably the most fun Southern Man's had with all three kid together since last summer. Wish it could have lasted forever.

And now it's Sunday morning and the kids have been delivered to church and back into their mom's care and the last vestige of Spring Break is over. And another two long weeks until Southern Man has any meaningful time with his children again...Lord, only You know how we all ache from the pain that comes from a broken home. May you continue to heal us all from the hurts of the past and comfort us in the future. Amen.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Movie Review - 300

300 appears to be the kind of movie that reviewers loath but moviegoers love. At the time of this post, the review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes gives it a barely passing rating. Indeed, many of the reviewers aren't content to simply bash 300 but also try to draw parallels to the current world situation and grumble that a weary nation isn't ready for a movie that glorifies warfare and wring their hands over the observation that once again we have light-skinned heroes slaughtering dark-skinned foes and imply that anyone who would actually enjoy this movie might not be quite right in the head and would have fit in well with, say, the Hitler Youth or Young Republicans or some other such outfit. However, the moviegoing public seems to be ignoring their politically-correct betters and are swarming to 300 in large numbers. And for good reason - it's quite a flick.

Now, for starters, be aware that this is another live-action comic book. It is in fact a most faithful recreation of the graphic novel 300 by Frank Miller (who also wrote the graphic novel Sin City, which also became a comic book movie) which was in turn inspired by his viewing of the 1962 film The 300 Spartans as a child, which describe the 480 BC Battle of Thermopylae at which (as we all now know) King Leonidas and three hundred hand-picked Spartans held King Xerxes I and mumble-thousand Persians at bay for three days before dying to a man - an act of such raw courage that the oft-feuding city-states of Greece put aside their endless quarrels and combined their forces with the result that the Athenian navy and an army led by ten thousand Spartans crushed Xerxes I at the battles of Salamis and Plataea and drove the Persians from Europe once and for all. But we're talking about a comic book here, so although Miller did his homework (including a visit to the hot gates themselves) and peppered the novel with quotes from Plutarch and other ancent historians, don't expect any serious accuracy here. The graphic novel (and thus the film) is about three hundred ass-kicking name-taking sword-swinging lance-hurling half-naked hunks versus teeming hordes of nameless Persians and masked Immortals and various hideous mutants and enormous monsters and gigantic critters and finally Xerxes I himself (who is portrayed as a ten-foot-tall demigod), many of whom perish in all sorts of imaginative ways. Especially decapitation. Lots of decapitations. Lots of other various amptations as well. This is the penultimate guy movie; the polar opposite of a chick flic. Testosterone and gore fairly drip from the screen. Sure, there are a few scenes covering the political going-ons back in Sparta and some nipples and buttocks here and there but, as Southern Man's son says, "the only thing wrong with this movie was too much unnecessary plot." You go to 300 to watch cartoon Spartans fight and bad guys die. This is not history, but history made myth. Elegant, stylish, outrageous, gorgeous comic-book myth. And it's a lot of fun to watch.

So once again Southern Man advises his loyal readers to ignore the critics and see this visual treat of a movie for themselves. But don't take impressionable children or (probably) your wife / gf. Like Southern Man said earlier, this is movie about guys, for guys. It's certainly on Souhern Man's short list of Reasons To Purchase A Big Screen TV in the not so distant future.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Cafe Review - Cocoflow

Cocoflow could best be described as a chocolate coffee shop. And when Southern Man says "chocolate" he means chocolate of the most decadent kind - truffles and trifles and triple-chocolate cookies and luscious dark chocolates of endless variety. And hot chocolate drinks and iced chocolate drinks and mochas. And even coffee, for those suffering from chocolate overload. They also offer a catering service specializing in Belgian chocolate fountains. Next time Southern Man needs to entertain a large crowd he'll look carefully at those chocolate fountains!

But Southern Man was on a non-chocolate-related mission, and that was to hear a good friend and his jazz band (no link, they don't yet have a web page that Southern Man knows of). Their performance at Cocoflow is reviewed in the next post.

Concert Review - 23rd Street Jazz Band

Southern Man has tried to follow the 23rd Street Jazz Band pretty much since their inception but never had a chance to really sit and listen to them. That chance came tonight at a local coffee-and-chocolate bar called Cocoflow (reviewed here) where they have been playing on the last few Thursday evenings.

The 23rd Street Jazz Band is comprised of lead guitarist Michael Fresonke, bassist Chris Black, percussionist Cody Bass, and a rotating collection of lead singers. Tonight's lead was a young lady from the music program at the university where Southern Man teaches (and she will remain anonymous here, as she wasn't named on the advertising posters and Southern Man tries to be careful about privacy on his blog). He will confess that Mr. Fresonke's reputation would probably suffer if (a) it were know that he has given Southern Man a guitar lesson or two and (b) if Southern Man were to actually publicly perform on said guitar.

The performance tonight was terrific. As one might imagine, their repertoire includes a number of jazz and big-band standards for a small but appreciative audience - a number of Gershwin tunes including Summetime, Can't Take That Away From Me and Love Is Here To Stay; jazz and big-band classics such as Cry Me A River, Sentimental Journey, and All Of Me; and of course de rigeur standards such as Duke Ellington's Don't Get Around Much Anymore and Harold Arlen's timeless Stormy Weather. The student vocalist was more smooth than sultry and gave a fine performance. The instrumental ensemble was mellow, tight and precise, never overpowering and alway a perfect compliment to the vocalist.

In the "it's a small world" department, it turns out that Southern Man's gf, an elementary teacher, had bassist Chris Black's daughter in class last year. We ended up at a table with Chris' spouse and mother-in-law (who turned out to be one of Southern Man's co-workers) and the four of us had a most pleasant hour-and-a-half of conversation and music. All in all, a fine evening and Southern Man is looking foward to the 23rd Street Jazz Band's next performance.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Happy Birthday To Me!

Southern Man had a very nice birthday today, even though he had to work at the tax office during the afternoon. Gf met him after work and took him to "our" favorite restaurant for steaks and drinks, and then we relaxed for a while at Casa Southern Man cuddling and watching TV. And Southern Man got birthday greeting phone calls from all of his siblings and parents and a couple of cousins as well. All in all, a most pleasant way to spend a birthday.

And in case you're wondering, Southern Man will be stating his age in hexadecimal for the next nine years or so. I'll give you three guesses as to what that age is...

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Another Geocaching Day!

Sadly, gf wasn't feeling well today but Southern Man hung out with her anyway. We sat through one of those one-hour time-share spiels in order to cash in on the free vacation, had a lovely lunch with Southern Man's mother and his baby girl and one of gf's daughters, then headed back to her house - and then when she decided to take a nap Southern Man headed over to the lake by himself for a little more geocaching. There were five on his list (including the DNF from yesterday) and he ended up finding three of them (but the DNF from yesterday eludes him still). One was quite a challenge for a somewhat overweight fortysomething but he managed to get to it anyway. The other two finds were quite straightforward and easy to find, even though they were micros. But now Southern Man has not one but two DNFs within walking distance of gf's house and they will bother him until he finds them. Alas, the next chance to go out will probably be next weekend.

And there are at least a dozen more caches within a mile or two of her place around that lake and in the adjoining wildlife refuge. Not to mention the dozen or so around the lake near Casa Southern Man. There is much geocaching yet to be done!

Friday, March 09, 2007

A Geocaching Day

After a long, cold winter spring is finally here, which means that Southern Man can once again play at geocaching. Southern Man's gf lives near a lovely lake with lots of caches, so she and I went for a walk this afternoon to try to find a couple. We ended up batting five hundred with one DNF and one microcache found. There are several others within easy walking distance from her place, and I hope to try for a few more tomorrow. Hopefully she will enjoy it as much as I. It is a lot of fun just to be outdoors with her.

There are several flavors of caches. The most common types are "regular" and "micro." A regular cache is usually a fairly large container - a TupperwareTM or Rubbermaid TM or army-surplus ammo box - with a logbook and a bunch of trinkets. Finders can take a trinket but are expected to leave something of equal or greater value. Some caches have themes - all toy cars or all frogs or some such thing. Caches can also contain "travel bugs" that are usually on a mission to reach some other part of the country. There are even caches that specialize as "Travel Bug Motels." The other common type of cache is a "microcache." These are usually only large enough to hold a little roll of paper for the log. They can be fiendishly difficult to find! To get cache locations, log in to and look at the list for the area in which you are interested. The web site gives the GPS coordinates, which you can use in your portable GPS reciever or do as Southern Man does and punch them into Google Earth for a satellite view of the site (which is a heck of a lot more accurate than his old borrowed GPS anyway) And when you do find them, you sign the logbook and perhaps exchange trinkets, then later log in to your online account, indicate that you found that cache, and write a few choice online comments.

So here is a bit of geocaching lingo and a few acronyms:
  • CITO - Cache In, Trash Out; the practice of taking a trash bag while geocaching and carrying out whatever trash and litter you can pick up.

  • DNF - Did Not Find.

  • FTF - First To Find; usually accompanied by the FTF Dance.

  • GPS - Global Positioning System reciever; primary tool of geocachers.

  • MIA - Missing In Action; indicates a cache that has been "muggled" or otherwise lost, or a travel bug that isn't found in the cache indicated by the online logs.

  • Microcache - a small, often well hidden or camoflaged cache containing just a logbook.

  • Muggles - non geo-cachers. Used as both a noun and a verb, as in "Don't let the muggles see you" and "damn, that cache must have been muggled."

  • TB or TBUG - Travel Bug.

  • TFTC - Thanks For The Cache; often used in online log entries.

  • TFTH - Thanks ForThe Hide / Hunt.

  • TFTMC - Thanks For The Micro-Cache.

  • TNLN - Took nothing, left nothing; used in online log entries for those occasions when you (for whatever reason) didn't exchange trinkets at a regular cache.

  • SL - used online to indicate that you Signed the Logbook at the actual cache.
Southern Man hopes that a few who read this will become interested in geocaching and give it a try. It's good, clean, outdoor fun!