Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

Come one, come all, and witness the spectacle!

Stop the presses!

It's stupendous!

It's sensational!

It's....well, words just fail me....

This July, in the heat of the summer, at any hour of the day, possibly at 11:59pm, Chris will attempt something that has not been tried since...OCTOBER!

Yes, beginning July 1st, Life or a Reasonable Facsimile Thereof, is going for...

Drum roll please!

Wait for it...

31 posts in 31 days!!!!!!

For free!

Tell all your friends, and come watch the train wreck.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson died yesterday.

I wasn't going to write anything about it. I haven't followed Michael Jackson for a couple of decades. I've been aware of the freak show that his life has become, and I thought I no longer cared. I saw him as a pathetic figure. His life no longer held any interest to me.

But I find I can't stop thinking about him.

This isn't about the things he may or may have not done. It's not about dangling babies or masks or plastic surgery or failed marriages or seedy allegations. It's not about the life of Michael Jackson at all.

It's about my life.

When I look back at my life, certain music appears, like sign posts, reminding me of certain times and places. Michael Jackson's "Thriller" is like a billboard.

Thriller was released in 1982, and it set the world on fire. It is still the best selling album of all time. Thriller changed EVERYTHING. I wanted to look like him. I wanted to dress like him. I wanted to move like him.

No one ever moved like Michael Jackson. I have one indelible Michael Jackson moment. It's the moment that everyone knows. The Motown 25th Anniversary television program. I was watching because I knew Michael Jackson would be performing "Billie Jean."

There was the glove.

The white socks and loafers.

The hat.

The sequins.

The song and the dancing.

And then...

He moved backward.


That was the first time I had ever seen someone moonwalk. It was surreal.

The next day I -- we -- everyone -- found a new use for our sunday shoes. I practiced for hours -- days, months -- trying to learn to moonwalk. I remember watching myself in the glass of the sliding door on my aunt's deck. And one time -- only one -- did I move smooth enough to feel like I had done it. It feels ridiculous to say so, but that was a real highlight for me as a kid.

Then came the jackets with the zippers, the Thriller video, the Eddie Van Halen guitar solo on Beat It. We are the World. Michael Jackson was everywhere. He was a cultural juggernaut that I think, for my generation -- this generation called "X" -- was only eclipsed by Star Wars.

Michael Jackson was a beacon. He was a pop culture god. He gave us dance. He introduced us to music we had never heard before. He launched, for better or worse, the world of music videos. Michael Jackson was our Elvis, our Beatles. And like they had been for the previous generation, he was our great departure from the music of our parents. Without any exaggeration, he was the King of Pop.

There will never be another phenomenon like Michael Jackson. The music world is different. No one can maintain that kind of supremacy any more, there are, simply, too many choices.

I don't pretend to know what his life was like. He often seemed so lost -- so out of touch with reality. So out of control. It was a sad and pathetic spiral downward, and as with Elvis and the Beatles, we're so often left wondering at the fall from grace. I can't excuse much of his behavior, and I, along with most people I suspect, feel there was plenty to be concerned about -- though I think it's important to point out that he was acquitted of the most damning charges. Say what you will about justice being administered differently to celebrities, we could also talk about the lucrative business of exploiting a celebrity as well. His life was not perfect, and his legacy will forever be a paradox of the highest heights and the lowest lows.

I don't feel like judging him.

I simply want to express my gratitude for the wonderful memories. I want to marvel again at those alien dance moves. I want to bask in awe, once more, at one of the most talented and exciting entertainers of all time. I want to think about the moments with friends, trying to moonwalk. I want to revel again, for a while, in the introduction to new and exciting things -- music that imprinted itself on my consciousness. Music that brought you to life.

Music that made you move.

Rest in Peace.

Michael Jackson
1958 - 2009

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Photostory Friday: My Candid Camera

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

I take a lot of pictures of people. If I had my choice, I would take all of my pictures from a hiding place.

It's not really that I'm shy, but I am fascinated by the human experience. The way we interact with one another. The things we do when we're alone.

The things we do, when we THINK we're alone.

Even portraits are better, when you can get the subject to drop their inhibitions (I know what you just thought, and no, I don't take those kind of pictures) and forget that there is a camera pointed at them.

The camera, in any form, changes reality. We become self conscious. If we're going to be immortalized -- and that's just a what a picture is -- we want to present our best side. Or, better than our best if possible.

I enjoy shooting pictures of all kinds -- portraits, landscapes, artsy stuff -- but I live for the moments.

The stories.

The unfiltered, uncontaminated, unaffected living of life.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

365: Week 25

Day 169

June 18: I'm not sure this is what Playskool had in mind.

Day 170

June 19: This is a sure sign of summer.

Emma in her bathing suit, with nappy dreadlocks from playing in the sprinklers all day, you ask?


All the good towels, spread all over the backyard.

Day 171

June 20: This is my favorite shot of the week. Matt got a new bicycle for his birthday (a day early, because I'm a softie), and he was taking his little sister for a ride around the cul-de-sac.

Matthew is a typical little brother. But he is an OUTSTANDING big brother.

Emma practically worships the ground he walks on. And this picture typifies their relationship -- not only does she go where he goes, he (usually, and happily) brings her along.

Day 172

June 21: There's a reason I have this shot of Emma, and not of the other two.

Emma jumps, with both feet, into the action. If you're going into battle, you want Emma.

Day 173

June 22: I know "Every rose has it's thorn," but really, our white rose bush takes it to the extreme. I pruned the roses Monday night, and on a one foot section that I clipped, I counted no less than 22 thorns.

Day 174

June 23: Self Portrait.

I am a HUGE Indiana Jones fan.

This is my ten foot long, twelve plait, kangaroo skin bullwhip.

It's just like Indy's.

It's made by the same manufacturer.

It cost an obscene amount of money (no, I'm not rich, but such is my mania).

It took me nearly 250 shots to get this picture.

And I only caught myself in the back of the ear once.

Day 175

June 24: We went to see the new Megan Fox.....er....um.....the new Transformers movie tonight.

It was a LOT of fun (except for the crying babies -- babies! -- and the talking little -- little -- kids), but I would NOT recommend it for kids under 11 or 12 (the language is a little colorful).

Three stars!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Pendulum Swings

"Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started, is no reason for us not to try to win."
--Atticus Finch

I've been trying to decide how to approach this subject, or whether to address it at all. I try to stay away from politics on this blog. My own political views are independent, and personal. But this is not an issue of politics.

It's an issue of freedom.

I was barely politically aware in 1989, at the time of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. But I will forever have, burned in to my memory, the image of a defiant young protestor facing down a Chinese tank.

In Iran, right now, there is massive upheaval over the results of the recent elections. The regime in power claims a landslide victory. The people in the streets say otherwise.

And the world is watching.

Make no mistake. There are no free and democratic elections in that part of the world. Elections are held simply to bolster the strength and image of the parties in power. The outcome is never in doubt.

Until the people have had enough.

Until they decide to take a bullet, over the status quo.

Until they determine to live free, or die.

That's when the pendulum swings.

Freedom isn't a bestowal from on high. It is won, from the ground up. Your freedom is seized, and held, either by you, or by someone else. It is maintained through determination, and eternal vigilance. And sometimes by blood.

"The Tree of Liberty must be refreshed, from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants."
--Thomas Jefferson

That is great rhetoric.

But watching the birth of liberty isn't always pleasant, is it? And, in the world we live in, this revolution isn't taking place half a world away, it's in our homes. It's on our phones. And that may be it's saving grace.

I believe that greater freedom anywhere, is greater freedom everywhere.

I don't know how this will end. In Tiananmen Square, it ended in blood and death and repression. But it planted a seed. And, in Iran, as in (and even more than) China, this cannot be ignored. It cannot be swept away and written out of the history books. It has happened.

It is happening.

And we are all witnesses.

"The birthday of a new world is at hand. We have it within our power to begin the world all over again."
--Thomas Paine

Sunday, June 21, 2009

To Matthew

My emotions are always close to the surface on Father's Day. Today especially.

You see, ten years ago today I became the father of a son.

I have two girls, one older and one younger than Matthew. I love them with all my heart. Being the father of daughters is so exquisite an experience. They are beauty and grace. They are elegance and light. They are the crown jewels of my life.

Being the father of a son is different.

Having a son is chance to pass on things that you cannot pass on to your daughters. Your name. It's a chance to mold a new man. A chance to try and refine the things you wish you had done better. To teach nobility and honor. A chance to learn, from his perspective, what it truly means to be a man.

To Matthew:

Ten years ago this evening was one of the most precious days of my life. It was the day I met you. You scared us by coming into the world a little too early, and with a few too many complications.

That day was the first time I had cried since my own father had died, six months earlier. I cried when I thought of passing my name on to you, as my father had passed his on to me. I felt my dad there, briefly, an unbroken line of the generations.

You were a delightful baby, so easy going, so uncomplicated. Your personality was manifest, even at that early date.

Matthew, the past ten years of watching you grow, from a child to a young man have been so rewarding for me. You are a wonderful young man. You are an amazing son.

You are noble.

You are kind.

You are unselfish and gracious.

You are wonderful friend.

You are an incredible brother.

You are funny.

You are Christlike.

You are forgiving of your father's many failings.

I am so proud to be your father. No son means more to a father than you do to me.

Matthew Christopher Thornblad: you bear my name, and you have never dishonored it. You make me want to be a better man.

When I grow up, I want to be just like you!

I love you Matt, happy birthday!

I do love all of my kids, here's proof:

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Photostory Friday: I used to be kinda cool...

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

We get season passes, each year, to Lagoon -- an amusement park, a few miles from our home. We usually go over for a couple of hours on Monday nights, in the Summer. This past Monday evening, my two older kids and I were in the line for the Sky Ride -- a ski-lift type ride, that transports you from one end of the park to the other. And that's where we pick up our story:

The gondolas only carry two people, and as we approached the head of the line, my kids began to argue over who got to sit with me. 

Let me rephrase that.

They began arguing over who HAD to sit with me. 

(They did this right in front of me, as though I wasn't there at all).

Matt likes to ride alone, for the "adventure" of it, but Jordan rarely takes a stand on anything. And while she didn't come right out and say how her life would be "like ruined!" if she sat with me, it was obvious that she REALLY wanted to ride alone. 

So, I let her go. 

As Matthew and I rose in to air, in the car behind Jordan, everything came into focus. You see, the Sky Ride goes both ways across the park.

And, boys ride it too.

In the course of  the five minute ride, no fewer than four boys had something to say to my daughter (one said that the imaginary friend, sitting next to him, thought she was hot). 

So my ego was somewhat soothed, but not completely. 

I got even, by informing the randy, little cretins that I was her father (Matt thought we should make violent gestures too, but I thought that might get me arrested). They went from salivating wolves to sheepish puppies, pretty fast.

That was fun. 

I suppose I cramped Jordan's style, but even though she looks sixteen, she's still only ELEVEN!


I guess it's time to invest in that shotgun.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

365: Week 24

Day 162

June 11: Watching the sunset has always been one of my favorite things to do. We lucked out when we moved last year, our backyard has a fantastic view of the western horizon (with the exception of the occasional power pole).

Sunset is also one of my favorite times to take pictures -- the light is so warm and dramatic. 

Maybe watching the sunset is an inherited trait?

Day 163

June 12: When you can't think of anything else to take a picture of -- look for the Ham!

Day 164

June 13: Saturday afternoon, we had a very violent storm rip through the neighborhood. The only thing comparable I've ever seen, was a tornado storm I witnessed in Indiana one time. Is it weird that I'm exhilarated by that kind of thing? It only lasted about 10 minutes, but it ravaged our white roses. 

And the trampoline. 

Day 165

June 14: We grew our own centerpiece. 

Fortunately, the pink roses faired better than the white ones did. 

Day 166

June 15: The White Rollercoaster. 

Catchy name isn't it? 

Actually, it's only about half white now -- eventually, it will be all brown. This is the main rollercoaster at our local amusement park. It was built in 1921, and they claim that it is one of the few wooden rollercoasters between Denver and the West Coast -- which isn't saying much, since between Denver and the West Coast, you pretty much just have Utah and Nevada. 

It used to be a thrilling ride, but now it feels like it has slowed down (maybe Disneyland ruined me for Lagoon). The greater thrill now is wondering if it's going to fall down while you are riding it.

Day 167

June 16: Nature's greatest fireworks show?

Day 168

June 17: Self portrait.

I love my sandals, I wear them until frostbite sets in. I hate having hot feet. 

Wait! Some of you are asking: "THIS? Coming from a guy who wears socks AND slippers to bed?!"

Others of you are asking: "He wears socks and slippers to bed?!"

Yes and yes.

It's totally different

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Things I did once: #'s 6 and 7

This post will be rated PG-13 (maybe 14) due to content. 

My wife tells me that I need to be posting more than just twice a week.

Remember that. 

This was her idea.

My most embarrassing moments.

We all do it. It's one of the ways we express affection and appreciation. Athletes do it -- manly men. Parents do it. We don't even give it a second thought. EVERYONE does it!

What is it? 

It's the butt pat. 

And when it's done to that "special person" there's a little extra zzziinnnggg!!! Maybe your hand lingers just a little bit, your fingers caressing just a little, because...it's okay....

Have you ever had a moment where your body acted without checking with your brain first?

Here's how it went down:

Me: (washing dishes, with that special woman) "Looks like the dishes are done, thanks for the help. I love you." 

That special woman: "No problem. I love you too." 

Me: Swatting -- ZZZZIIINGGG!....lingering.......(I can't believe I'm typing this)...caressing...turning and walking away......

.........Looooooooong pause...............

Me: "Sorry about that mom."

Well, that moment is only eclipsed by this one: 

Men only have so much blood in their bodies, and it's generally all concentrated in one area or another -- and if it's SOMEWHERE ELSE then it's not in the brain, doing all those brainy, thinky things. And the brain is way up in the head -- the blood is fighting gravity all the way. 

Here's the scene:

My wife and I are in the hotel in San Diego. It's our honeymoon. We're both new at doing IT, and we've been.......... practicing. 

My wife has headed into the restroom. After a moment, I follow her. 

The blood is really fighting gravity. 

I slide open the door and see my naked bride (the blood just took a nose dive), sitting on the toilet. 


Me: (Feeling randy and masculine and hot and a little dirty and oblivious to anything but the naked woman before me, and in my best, and irresistible and sexiest, come-hither-and-try-to-control-yourself-on-second-thought-don't voice) "Hey baby! What are you doin'?"

My bride: "What do you think I'm doing?"

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Photostory Friday: Happy Anniversary. And thanks.

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

All the photos I'm posting today, I have posted before, but that's okay -- sometimes it's about the photo, and sometimes it's about the story. 

It's been a year -- a year and a week, actually. It was Friday, June 6, 2008 when the first Photostory Friday was posted (well, to be honest, even then most of us were posting on Thursday evenings). I had gotten an email from my sister-in-law, Pam, about this photo/blog event coming up, co-hosted by her friend, Cecily. 

"This might be fun," she said. 

A year later, and I've only missed one week (blasted Disneyland vacation!). Photostory Friday has become part of my weekly routine, and I wanted to take the chance here to express my gratitude to our hosts -- Mamageek and Cecily, for this weekly event. I don't know why you began Photostory Friday, I suppose it probably wasn't with the intention of changing the world, but I want you to know that it has changed my little corner of the globe.

I've been able to take another look at some of my old photos, and remember why I love them .

I think more about the pictures that I take. I see stories, where I once saw only images.


I'm less inclined to throw out any image without taking a second look at it. Often I find something that speaks to me, just below the surface. It was just waiting for me to listen. 

I look closer at the world around me. There is beauty in the most unexpected places.


Many of my posts have been about my kids. I think more broadly and deeply about my relationship with them. That is a real blessing. 

I've also met some wonderful people in the past year, through Photostory Friday. So many of you have left so many kind and thoughtful comments here. And beyond that, when my world came crashing down in January, when my wife was diagnosed with cancer, you, my friends, were so supportive. That meant the world to me. I'm so grateful to know each of you (you know, in that anonymous blogging kind of way :p  -- Cecily, Pam is coming to town in July for a month or so -- maybe it's finally time to get those kids together!)

So, to you Mamageek, and to you Cecily, and to all the rest of you, I say thank you.