Friday, December 28, 2007

Cool new tool

Check out this great new tool -- it lets you edit clips online and then embed them in your web site. Sweet! Pretty smart little viral marketing tool for the Sweeney Todd movie too...

Thursday, December 27, 2007

I've got blisters on me fingers!

Mark sauntered forth today and bought himself a Guitar Hero for the PlayStation2 his ex Greta gave us. Must admit, that little plastic guitar is a little addicting. You basically have to rock out to a bunch of songs by pressing one of the five "keys" and flicking a little strum thingie.

"I blew it out by going up!" Mark reports.

He's playing the Van Halen/Kinks song You Really Got me.

According to the legend of the game, the harder you rock, the bigger the arenas you get to play. I'm not sure what happens when you hit maximum rockoutedness. We're pretty far from there at the moment.

(Pause to take my turn)

"Man, you suck," Mark says. Everybody's a critic. He's right. I only got 69 percent of the notes to his 74.

"Watch out," he says, grabbing the guitar. "I'm going to blow this one out."

And so he does.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Christmas Report

A casual poll of the M&M many finds the multitudes content.

K&V are gaming happily in Long Beach.
Rita is getting her dose of Xmas spirit at Casa Michie and Manuel.

Manuel and friends learned that Manuel makes a way bitchin' tamale.
M&M sure enjoyed them, and Manuel promised to teach Mark how to make them.

The M&M girls dug their new video Ipods and movie posters of Depp, Hepburn, and more.

Freda is with her kids and grands in D.C., enjoying xmases Vietnamese and English.

M&M watched a double feature this afternoon: Sweeney Todd and Savages, both pretty good

Mnicol loved her dvds from Mark of the first season of Hooouse,

Rosetta Stone Italian gifts from Mark and Kate promise to make us both fluent.

ciao M&Mers,

Thank you all for being with us this year. It has been awesome.
I hope you'll stay with us in '08 for more great adventures.

On Janice, on Judy, Laur, Dan, Sandy, and Postman,
On Mich, on Rita, Renee, Rowes, and Freda,
Nicolosis, Cohennas, Matassas and more
and whoever else is lurking out there,
love on you all

And don't forget:
Tell the people you love that you love them.
Tell them now.
Seize the day.

Merry Christmas to all.

And a happy New Year.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Morning Script Meeting

Mark and I were chatting this morning about writing a script for a new superhero vs villain movie (think Superman, etc). I was saying it's time for a great really terrible woman supervillain. The closest I think we've come was Catwoman, and she wasn't really all that terrible.

My first stab at the idea is this villain is a woman whose face is half beautiful and half grotesque -- frozen in place like a terrible death scream. When you see her from the right, you think, hmm, what a hottie, and then when she turns to face you you're all eeww, gross!

I offered the backstory that she got a pimple behind her ear one day that hurt a little, then a little more, then turned out to be infected by a bacteria that tranformed her into horror bitch. (Frozen Face is our working name for her. I think we need to work on that.)

Mark argued that her disfigurement would have to come through some character flaw -- like, she was beautiful already, but wanted to be even more beautiful, and so the horror face was a result of cosmetic surgery gone wrong.

Mark argues that evil villains need to start out evil, and when bad things happen to them it's because they're evil.

I argued that people can become evil because the bad things that happen to them seethe in them and make them rotten. True, he says, but America won't buy a super villain that became evil by accident. America likes their comic evil to be evil, and good to be good, with no nuance, he said.

Personally, I think that the fact that the accident has been the reason behind so many superheros (Accidente! A spider bites a boy and he becomes spiderman! Accidente, Two guys kill Bruce Wayne's parents, making him become Batman!) means that the same accidentalism could succeed as the transforming backstory for villains. What think you?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Merry Christmas from Bing and Bowie

If you've never seen this you've got to check it out. If so, you know it's one of the all-time classics, maybe the best Christmas duet ever. From Bing Crosby's Christmas Special in 1977, 30 years ago.

Man, David Bowie was young.

M&M Christmas weekend challenge

Last weekend after Michelle posted some photos of our holiday decorating day, I had the idea of inviting M&M readers to send us their own pics. But Ronelle beat me to it, e-mailing these photos of her family's Oceanport, N.J., stylings even before I got around to asking. Thanks Ronelle.

Here you go, and let's see what you've got!

Addendum: For a terrific slide show of Kaye's winter solstice walk in Long Beach, check it out at the NiteNote.

Double new addendum: I forgot to add the long-promised picture of Ronelle that she sent earlier this week. So that's now posted below. I believe the little girl is Gia, Ronelle's niece or cousin, I'm not sure which, on her mom's side.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

I Am Legend

I don't usually jump in here and review movies because Mark's so good at doing it, I worry that I won't measure up. Oh well, can't live in fear. Or even if you do, can't go around being a big giant wuss.

See what I'm talking about? This review has gotten off on the totally wrong foot.

Anyways, we saw Will Smith's latest tonite, and I'm going to say up front I'm just giving it 2.5 gliomas. I give maximum gliomage to special effects. Futuristic wild New York -- with deer hopping around between abandoned cars -- was just awesome.

Don't want to give anything away, so I'll keep it sketchy -- I really liked the premise that gets you to the crazy zombie filled world devoid of anyone but Will Smith. I liked the quiet first third of the film, which was reminiscent of the Tom Hanks talking to the volleyball section of Castaway.

I can only give the movie 2.5 Glis because it gets way too cheesy in toward the end. I'm reading over other reviews on this movie now -- which is the third remake of the book of the same name -- and it looks like the cheeseball ending was not in the original. Too bad they schmaltzed up what looks like a much better story line in the original.

Here's an interesting post from BeyondHollywood on the ending:

"Something is wrong with the ending of Will Smith’s upcoming “I am Legend”, the latest movie adaptation of Richard Matheson’s novel of the same name. Or at least, something is “wrong” according to the studio that produced the movie, because they have just finished reshoots on the film. Of course, no one knows if the reshoots had anything to do with the ending at all, but ... it probably does. It’s widely known, ... that the 2007 version of “I am Legend” is barely faithful to Matheson’s book, so one would expect the ending would also be different. The book’s ending was very, shall we say, non-audience friendly, and what kind of a Big Budget Will Smith movie would this be if the ending was non-audience friendly?"

This movie definitely has the feeling of a film that was mucked up because the test audience didn't like the depressing ending. Too bad dudes -- should have trusted the original Sci Fi tale ...

Okay Mark. Add some poetry and some smart stuff.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


This is how I knew Chuck Taylor was a faithful reader (though never a commenter) of M&M: When I whipped out my little camera last night to take his picture, he said "I was expecting that," and quickly reached for his too.

Actually, Chuck already had acknowledged reading and enjoying the blog, which was cool. Instead of lunch, we met for a post-work (for him) drink at a cool bar downtown called The Bookstore. It was nice of him to fit me into his busy schedule -- the guy starts work at 5:30 in the morning and was just leaving the office when we met at 6.

Hard to believe Chuck and I have known each other for 20 years now. When I started at the Seattle Times as a bureau reporter in 1987 Chuck was a page designer, I think, and also a fill-in or part-time night city editor, which is how I usually crossed paths with him. Over the years he had several other jobs there, memorably as a Boeing beat reporter and local media reporter/critic. Later, when the Seattle Newspaper Guild went on strike against the Times and P-I, Chuck organized and edited a rogue paper by striking reporters and photographers that was quite good. That led to a job as managing editor of the Seattle Weekly and then to his current job, editor of the startup Web-only news site, Crosscut.

Chuck and I were never close friends, but always friendly. And we always had a lot of respect, I think, for each other's work. I've certainly never seen Chuck take on something without making it much better. We also share an entrepreneurial spirit and occasional work restlessness that has kept us connected. We joked last night, in fact, that of the many many drinks or meals we've shared over the years quite a few involved one of us feeling out the other about a gig.

Last night was no exception. We talked briefly about part-time editing or occasional writing opportunities there might be for me at Crosscut. And we engaged in a fun, not overly nasty edition of "5 Guys and a Mac," the sort of fantasy-newspaper game Mich and I invented a couple decades ago -- you take turns picking five reporters to staff your fantasy paper in a heads-up competition. (We agreed Danny Westneat is by far the best columnist in town, and I volunteered that my first pick from the P-I would be the rock-steady reporter Jennifer Langston.)

Anyway, it was fun. I don't know if anything ever will come of the Crosscut job ideas we talked about last night, although I like the publication a lot and would be honored to work for it.

Meantime I'd certainly be happy to draft Chuck for my 5 Guys and Mac team.

A blustery day ...

... in New Jersey. Or at least it was a couple of days ago.

Here's a note and some pictures Ronelle sent the other day:

Hi Mark,

I promised you some pictures of the angry Atlantic to go with your usual view of the peaceful Pacific. Today we are in the midst of a good old fashioned Nor’Easter with lots of wind and rain…so what better day to venture out for some pics, right?

Here they are…



Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas comes to M&M

We spent the weekend buying and decorating a Christmas tree and hanging lights outside on our tree and across the porch. Here's the results:

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Don't you miss it! Don't you miss it! Some of you people just about missed it

Okay, had to resurrect an old Talking Heads line for the headline -- couldn't help myself. Rita's excellent recipe for the GoodYaDaughter cookies was buried in the comments, so I thought I'd pull it out just in case you missed it hiding there:

l bag raisins
1 bag figs
1 bag whole almonds
1 bag walnuts
skin of orange
skin of tangerine
2 tsp. cinnamon
Grind together

Add approx 5 c. strong, cold coffee with sugar added to desired sweetness.
Saturate overnight in refrigerator.

2 lbs flour
2 - 3 tsp. baking powder
1 cup sugar
Sm. can crisco (Melted)
Make well in flour, slowly pour crisco. Form ball - let rest in frige l-l 1/2 hrs.
Roll dough, cut into squares (approx. 3"). Fill middle, roll and shape into cresents (not S's)

Bake, seam down, 350 oven 30-35 min. (small slit in tops)

Top with powdered sugar.


Friday, December 14, 2007


The Girls enjoying the grandma cookies.

A Tragic Tale

I hate to confess this, but today I was lamer than I remember being at any time during my grown up life. I completely zoned on a lunch date, leaving my friend John Currie twiddling his thumbs waiting for me for almost an hour. Stunning. Can you believe I have such lameness in me?

I made plans last week to meet John -- The P-I's recently retired business manager, a savvy businessman and a nice guy -- for lunch. He's one of those sharp guys who sees the lay of the land, and how to best maneuver it with great success. I still have a lot to learn about being a manager, so I had asked him if he'd mind giving me his thoughts on how I could be better at my my job.

We made plans to meet today at Maggie Bluffs, just 10 minutes from work.

What could be easier?
I put the appointment on my calendar, of course, but my Outlook on my home computer thinks midnight is noon, and noon is midnight. So last night at 11 p.m. it started telling me every five minutes "Meet John Currie for lunch. Meet John Currie for lunch. Meet John Currie for lunch." I kept dismissing the reminder, until finally I told it, look, snooze for eight hours.

Jump to this morning. As I'm getting dressed and remind myself -- don't wear the usual Friday jeans -- going to lunch with John. Don't know how fancy the restaurant is.

As I was leaving the house, I ran back in to get the camera. Having lunch with John. Need to take the standard M&M blog lunch portrait.

Jump to 10 a.m. Jump to 11 a.m. Does the Outlook remind me to have lunch with John? No, it's snoozing.

Do I remember to have lunch with John? Somehow -- after all that self-reminding -- somehow I do not.

I'm meeting with some students from PLU, then the news meeting starts. I'm riding the flow of the day, and forget, for some reason, that this day is special, I'm having lunch with John Currie.

The news meeting ends. I sit back at my desk. It's after noon. I think, okay, what next?

In the back of my mind I hear my cell phone softly tell me that a message has been left. "Beep."

Who could that be? I think mildly.

I glance at the ripe banana sitting on my desk. Lunchtime, I think. Wonder what I'll eat today.

And the realization dawns. Horrifingly.

How embarrassing. How stupid! What a rookie mistake.

John was so gracious. He was either not too mad at me, or a real good pretender. But I couldn't stop being mortified.

I had a burger and fries, and felt ridiculous through about 80 percent of our visit. What a dope. He was seeing the lay of the land, allright. At 43, there I was being as lame as a person could possibly be. Poop.

Even though I was pretty much self-loathing the whole time, it was great to see John. He's looking muy refresco and relaxed since his retirement. He has an awesome tugboat just a few steps from the place where we had lunch, and filled me with stories of all the amazing tucked away places he and his wife have been able to go on it.

I particularly admired -- is it a wheel house? -- the place you sit to drive -- and the bathroom, which is super teeny but still managed to have a shower, toilet and sink.

I sat in the driver's seat, put on John's boat driving glasses, and pretended to take the tug out for a little spin. It reminded me of Waaay back in the day when I was 13 and living on Wonder Drive in Fort Worth, and me and my brothers and sister used to pile into my dad's station wagon in the driveway and pretend we were driving to Rome.

Besides Red Light Green Light and Statue, going for a drive was one of my all time favorite games. Playing it again for just a second on John's cool tugboat made me forget all about being mortified.

For just a second.

Why is my Whee-Lo so lame?

Maybe Val, or Gregory House can help me diagnose this. I bought a Whee-Lo at Restoration Hardware the other day, because a friend of mine has one and I got addicted to playing with it. I loved the way it spins faster and faster and faster, and makes that awesome whizzing sound.

But my stupid Whee-Lo for some reason gets a bit of speed going and - bloop - falls right off the track. Are the tracks too close together or too far apart? Did Mark break it or did it suck right out of the box? (kidding!)

And the winners are:

One of the things I love about this time of year is all the year-end wrap-up stories and best-of lists. I've never known anyone in a newsroom who liked producing these things, but as a reader I've always appreciated them and I know they're very popular. (Yet another clue, maybe, about why newspapers are in such great decline.)

With the Golden Globe nominations announced yesterday the Oscar chatter has begun in earnest, and I thought it was a good time to post the first M&M Movies of the Year list. This comes with two big caveats. First, it's really just my list, not M&M's; Michelle will have to produce her own if she wants to. And second, it's incomplete because there are still a few hyped and worthy-looking award-season releases we haven't seen yet, including "Juno," "The Savages," "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," "There Will Be Blood," "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," "Sweeney Todd," and "Charlie Wilson's War."

As I was putting together this post, I assembled an index to our previous M&M movie reviews on one page, here. One thing I noticed is that I've been pretty generous with the gliomas. A lot of the flicks here got four Gs, which seems excessive. Then again, we're usually seeing the best-looking or -reviewed movies, so maybe it's possible that so many are excellent. Still, in the future I'm going to try to be more discerning with my tumors.

Even with all those warnings, I find it hard to nominate my top five movies of 2007. Here they are (unranked, at this point). Please let us know what's on your list.

No Country For Old Men
Michael Clayton
I'm Not There
Into the Wild

Also, for fun clicking, Time has produced an entire Top 10 issue, with year-end lists in 50 categories encompassing news, the arts, science, tech, sports, pop culture and more. It's worth a look.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Today is ...

It seems like Michelle got tired of praying for a verb and posting an Italian word of the day. So I'll pick up today -- "oggi" means today -- by repeating what I just heard on my My Daily Phrase Italian podcast.

Today we learned days of the week.

Today, Thursday is giovedi. Oggi e giovedi.

Domani, Friday, is venerdi.

Then sabato, domenica, lunedi, martedi, mercoledi and back to giovedi.

That's all for today. Tutti per oggi. Buona notte e grazie.

i biscotti

That's "the cookies" to you and me.

When I was a kid, my Grandma Matassa used to make these amazing Sicilian treats around the holidays and sometimes send us some from New York. They were sort of S-shaped cookies -- baked dough with a little sprinkle of powdered sugar on the outside, with a dark, fig and nut filling that wasn't quite sweet but was totally delectable. Well, I thought so anyway, and my dad, and I think my sister Lisa. I'm not sure anyone else really liked them.

Around our house these cookies were called something that sounded like "goojidahda." You never quite knew on the Italian pronunciation, as nothing was every written down, everything just spoken in what at best was a broken, second-generation Sicilian dialect that probably wouldn't have passed muster on Long Island, let alone Italy.

Anyway, I hadn't had the cookies for years, decades probably, until last Christmas when I was still recovering from surgery and Mom sprung a surprise package on us. Delicious. We tore through the entire box and it was one of the highlights of the season. I even looked up the spelling -- il cuccidato, for one cookie, or i cuccidati for the plural. So Dad's pronunciation was pretty close: cooch-ee-daht-ee.

Last week, I received a box in the mail from Eugene, marked "fragile" on the brown postal paper. I mentioned it to Mom and she said I was supposed to open it right away, not wait until Christmas. Even so, I let it sit for a week, thinking I'd wait until we got a Christmas tree.

Then last night I was flipping through a catalog and saw a picture of some fig cookies and a light bulb went off. I opened the box and sure enough: cuccidati!

Man, these are some yum holiday treats, especially with a glass of red wine or a good, strong cup of coffee. They'll never last until Christmas.

Thanks Mom! You should tell M&M-ville how to make them.

Che cosa?

Allora, Michelle!

Dove l'italiano per oggi?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A little help?

Excuse me, I could use some help from a few of our faithful readers.

Laurie, Janice and Ronelle, could you please email me your street address? I practically remember Ronelle's and Laurie's, but not quite.


Update: I got what I need. Thanks all.

St. Jerome is a fraud

I prayed to the patron saint of translators for a verb, but still no dice. Another noun: inglese.

As you surely can guess, that means English.

Now, week in review. Without looking back, go to the comments and give me the words for silk, directions, belly, pepper, party, winter and train.

Monday, December 10, 2007


Technically, my only movie girlfriend -- and an excellent one she is -- is Michelle. Girlfriend and movie girlfriend extraordinaire.

But back in the day, in a joking way, my "movie girlfriend" was Janet Horne, a breaking news editor at the Seattle Times. When we worked together we used to talk about movies all the time and compare tastes, and also bitch about the paper's movie coverage and even complain that our spouses didn't want to go to the movies as often as we did. One of these days, we always said, we should sneak out of this stupid place after the news meeting and catch a matinée. Janet started calling me her movie boyfriend; I returned the nickname, and it was a fun inside joke that lasted for years.

That comes to mind now because, while waiting in line for popcorn at the movies tonight, who should I run into but Janet Horne and her friend, a woman I didn't know, also there to see "Atonement." Well, I said, this is as close as we've ever come to having a movie date.

Even though Janet and I never actually consummated our movie-friend status by seeing a movie together, the theme of "Atonement" puts me in the mood to confess. Like the excellent book by Ian McEwan, which Michelle and I both read about three or four years ago, the Joe Wright film turns on a long-suppressed truth -- a lie, really -- that screws up a potentially wonderful relationship, sends an innocent man to jail, creates pain and havoc that spans a major world war and leaves the perpetrator/narrator scarred with guilt for the rest of her long life.

It's a beautiful, emotional and thoughtful story. I was afraid it might not translate perfectly to film since so much of McEwan's novel is internal and depends on shifting perspectives. Further troubling were the mixed reviews the movie received on its release last week. There were some raves, but some pans too, including by the New York Times ("a small symphony of literal-minded irrelevance").

But Wright and the screenwriter Christopher Hampton (working with McEwan), overcame the obstacles wonderfully, I think. The editing is terrific, conveying the shifting time settings or perspectives, for example, with simple repeated details, like the glint off a dropped earring, or the tapping of an envelope on a door frame.

In the middle of the picture is a spectacular long tracking shot of soldiers on a beach. I recall the Times review complaining that when you see it you think what a great tracking shot rather than, how moving. But I'm sorry, it is a great tracking shot, and moving too. It's not technique in the service of nothing; it works perfectly for this moment in the story.

The acting is solid all around, especially by the girl who plays 13-year-old Briony, a central character, and the casting is inspired -- particularly as Briony ages into a young woman and, finally, into Vanessa Redgrave.

Gina has been pining to see this -- she likes James McAvoy, one of the stars, and Dario Marianelli, the composer -- but it would have to be despite the movie's R rating (probably deserved, for language, a sex scene, an implied sexual assault and some gruesome battle scenes). Even so, I know she'd like it.

Laurie, thank you for your comment earlier and for lurking here. If we share movie tastes at all, and I think we do, you should see this. It's one of the better movies this year. I recommend the book too. 4 gliomas.

Today I tried St. Jude

But still no dice. Another noun.

La seta. Silk. As in, "I went to la festa on il treno with a seta scarf covering il mio giant ventre. Mark say, hey, pass il pepe."

Oops. Didn't manage to get le indicazioni in there.

PS: Well darn. I see what I'm doing wrong. All along I should have been praying to St. Jerome, the patron Saint of Translators. Tomorrow I will try him.

He's just old and red and sweaty

It's a chilly but very pretty day today, and it's my last afternoon before a week of chemo, so I decided to try to stretch out my normal mile-long run and go a bit longer. But I ran out of gas and had to walk the last few blocks back to the house.

So I'm staggering along the sidewalk, trying to catch my breath, when a little girl, about 3 or 4, emerges from behind a gate followed by her mother. The girl looks at me then turns around and says something I can't hear to her mom. I see the woman look at me and then back down at the daughter and, over the Talking Heads blaring in my earbuds, I hear her say, "No honey, he's not weird."

I was out of earshot before she finished the explanation.

Party weekend

Sandwiched around the fabulous Sharon Jones concert this weekend were a couple of big P-I events: the annual holiday party on Saturday evening and the wedding of a couple of friends from the paper on Sunday. Both were good parties -- the wedding, especially, was very cool.

Saturday's holiday party was at the Museum of History and Industry, or MOHAI as it's known here in Seattle. It's part of a tradition at this paper of holding the Christmas-season parties at places that aren't especially festive. An exception was last year when they held it at a cool new Asian restaurant in a skyscraper downtown; excellent food and drink at that one. Before that, since Michelle and I have been at the paper, one P-I party was at the new downtown public library (terrible), another at Pacific Science Center, a sort of kids museum/activity center by the Space Needle.

Setting aside, the evening's always a nice, low-key backdrop for non-work chat and a glass of wine. I've actually enjoyed the parties more, I think, since I've been off work. It's more fun to see people when you haven't just sat through a boring meeting with them the day before.

On Sunday evening, we took Gina and Franny with us to the wedding of Claudia Rowe, a P-I reporter, and Dan Kearney, an editor at the paper. The wedding was on the Skansonia, an old, docked ferry at the north end of Lake Union, which was very nicely decked out and turned out to be a great spot to get married. The bride and groom were radiant with joy, the ceremony itself (presided over by a friend, the husband of another reporter at work), was light and funny and personal and engaging; just right. And the food was terrific. A 4-glioma wedding, for sure.

The girls were a bit of a hit too. I was almost embarrassed, with so many people telling me how beautiful they looked. But it was true, and very cool and sophisticated-seeming too (nice trick!). And when I think back on the last time most of these P-I folks saw G&F, as cute but much younger-seeming girls at the public-library party, I see why they were so impressed.

One strange conversational tic I noticed at both weekend events, especially Saturday's party, was the intrusion of Facebook. As I noted in an earlier post, that social-networking site has recently beat its little wildfire path through our friends and workmates. But being a cynical bunch of old journalists, we're all a little chagrined that we've been caught up in it, I think. So I heard many snippets the other night of reporters apologetically explaining why they have a Facebook profile -- I needed to sign up to track a source or find a document or keep an eye on my kids -- before trading knowing jokes about something posted on each other's "wall," or the latest "Scrabulous" game, or a long-lost (but now Facebooked!) friend.

Man, I said at one point, the only thing more pathetic than the fact that we're all on Facebook is that when we actually see each other in person we stand around talking about it.

We all laughed ... and then promised to Facebook each other pictures of the party, which has been happening ever since. Goofy.

For those without a Facebook account, I'm going to go really old-school and put up a few pics here on the blog. Here you go. Party on!

M&M at the P-I holiday party.

P-I colleagues Chris Grygiel and Caroline Chen

Photographers Karen Ducey of the P-I and Dean Rutz of the Seattle Times. Dean had his own experience with neurosurgery, and they were very cool and helpful to me when I was going through mine.

Radiant bride Claudia Rowe and retired P-I writer Mary Lynn Lyke

Latest in my long-running series capturing Michelle with P-I reporter (and West Seattle friend) Angela Galloway

Our boss and friend David McCumber, at the wedding with his adorable kids Dylan and Katie

The fabulous Gina and Franny at the wedding (and Michelle's not so bad either)

For the sake of comparison: Gina and Franny at the library party, December 2005

Sunday, December 9, 2007

I prayed to St. Christopher for a verb

But all I got was this stupid noun. At least it's a noun we can all relate to: Il ventre. No, not the ventricles. This means "the belly." As in, man, I ate all that delicious bread and jam and now look at my giant il ventre! I blame Kaye."

Hardest Working Woman in Show Business

For a slideshow with larger images go here.
I was wrong about one thing. When you see Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, you forget all about Aretha Franklin, the Temps, the Spinners, Tower of Power or almost any of those other '60s/'70s soul-funk acts. If you think of anybody, and the entire evening is structured to invite the comparison, it's The Godfather of Soul, Mr. James Brown.

At one point, Jones herself tried to evoke Tina Turner -- "I ain't got Tina Turner legs, but these little legs are gonna do a little Tina Turner strut" -- but even that didn't stick.

From before the time Jones even comes onstage, the show feels like a James Brown Revue. The eight-piece Dap-Kings -- with two guitars, bass, tenor and baritone saxophones, trumpet, drums and percussion -- recall Brown's legendary band, the J.B.'s. Then, like Fats Gonder used to do with Brown, guitarist Binky Griptite gives Jones an extended, hyperbolic, boxing-champ style introduction before bringing her on.

By the end, when Jones sang Brown's "It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World" as an encore -- she really turns that song around! -- the comparison was unavoidable and complete.

Mostly what you get during the show, though, is not a JB tribute or nostalgia act, but an original, totally moving experience. It's music that almost dares you not to dance. And unlike some great performers -- like Bob Dylan or Neil Young, whose music I love but who rarely engage at all with the audience, or like Bruce Springsteen, who does, but who apparently trusts the experience so little that he has been caught applying fake sweat -- SJ&TDK really seem to love playing the gig. She talked to the crowd throughout, and several times brought audience members onstage to dance with her. It seemed like there was no place she'd rather have been.

The show didn't end until after 1 in the morning -- amazing considering the starting time was listed as 9. Then again, the main act didn't start anywhere near 9; it was more like 11:15. Running late after the P-I holiday party, we were afraid we'd miss the start of the show. Instead we waited around until 10, when a three-piece opening act came on ("We are Megatron!"). They were OK, I guess, in a sort of Les McCann-meets-Herb Albpert, TV theme song way, but I thought the set would never end. I was Megabored. The big finish of their set was an extended jam on the theme from "Sesame Street," which, weirdly, the entire audience seemed to know and dig. I felt old.

Michelle had a photo pass and took some incredible pictures of Sharon and the band. I hope she'll post some soon. Me, I went to bed with a soulful, grooving ringing in my ears, and woke up with Jones' awesome version of "This Land is Your Land" in my head.

Don't miss this show if it comes to your town. Final grade: an easy 4 gliomas.

Evening update: You can now see these and fan photos on SPI.

Comfort Food

Man, Janicio is reading my mind. Today she posted this comment:

"update: a newly discovered comfort food: small slices of sharp cheddar with some of Kate's most excellent grape preserves on a neutral-tasting cracker, then a small slice of blue cheese with a drop of honey. repeat. Can be prepared and eaten with one hand and goes very well with painkillers."

Last night I was thinking of doing a comfort food post about Kaye's jam too. After we got back from the VERY awesome 5 glioma Sharon Jones concert, I discovered possibly the best ever use of Kaye's jam: Take a loaf of fresh baked sourdough bread, tear off chunks and just dip it in the jam. Dip it good. Swirl it around. Don't be shy, get that jam on there! Eat, repeat. Warning: This is delicious, but very bad for your diet. It also causes you to run out of jam rather quickly.

Saturday, December 8, 2007


Today's word is il treno. That's train to you and me.


Latest in my series of lunch dates was Dave Boardman, my old boss, mentor and friend from the Seattle Times. We met at Il Fornaio downtown, the same place Mich and I lunched with our cousin Rick a week or so ago.

I owe Boardman a lot. When I first started at the Seattle Times in 1987 (that story's available here), I was in the suburban South King County bureau, an OK job at the time time but not where I wanted to be long-term. Five or six months after I started there, a reporting job in the two-person state capital bureau came open and I applied. Boardman was politics editor at the time and I had never met him, but after an interview and a couple of tense days of waiting around he gave me the gig. It turned out, I think, that no one else from within the paper applied, and the choice was between me and some cub reporter from Cleveland who only seemed about half interested. No matter, I was thrilled to get the assignment, and to this day it remains one of my all-time favorite journalism jobs.

Boardman was a good boss and an excellent editor. He taught me a lot about developing story ideas off the news, and I think we were a great team. We could almost read each other's minds about what a story needed. He pushed me to finish stories much faster and with more depth than I thought was possible, and -- I'll say on my own behalf -- I think I delivered. Later, when he was city editor he hired me as politics editor, a job that led to plenty more opportunities. I grew a lot under his tutorship, and a lot of the things I've done as an editor since are things I learned from Dave.

He also was a good friend. When Greta and I were producing her first solo album Dave was a financial supporter. He turned us onto an amazing rental house at Green Lake, owned by a friend of his -- Carol Smith, who later became a friend and colleague at the P-I. When Greta was in the hospital delivering Gina -- a story in itself, complete with 30-hour labor and a C-section -- somebody broke into our house. Somehow Boardman found out about it, notified me at the hospital and secured our place until I could get home. He's a big-hearted guy.

Somewhere along the line, though, we had a falling out at work. The details aren't important at this point, but it's safe to say we had different ideas about when and how I should take the next steps in my career. I was mad about it for years -- not without justification, I think.

But, you know, time marches on. I've been sick, and I have to say Dave was one of the first people to offer support and friendship. When we launched "Team Mark," to send me to the World Series of Poker this summer, Dave was an early and generous contributor.

A couple of weeks ago, he sent me this cool photo of the girls performing with Greta at Pacific Place, and we decided to meet for lunch.

Our date Thursday was nice. We talked about my health, his job, our kids, and caught up after a long time of not seeing each other one-on-one. Dave asked me what was the biggest difference between working at the Times and the P-I. I told him the truth: The P-I is a warmer, more collegial place to work, and I think that is both its greatest strength and biggest weakness. Everybody really likes each other, but the result, it sometimes seems to me, is that management is reluctant to make tough decisions that would help the paper for fear of making someone unhappy and ruining the vibe.

Anyway, after all this time it was nice to reconnect with Boardman.

Tonight, before the Sharon Jones concert (the evening's highlight), is the P-I holiday party. We'll all be happy to see each other, I'm sure.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Today's word is... le indicazioni

That means directions, or information.

As in, "can you give me directions to a casino that is not full of idiots who call three bets cold and catch impossible cards on the river, and take all of your money?"

Mom, can you translate that for me?

The carrot incident

For the benefit of Freda, who was out of town at the time and somehow couldn't get the link to work from a previous comment, here is that item from October about the M&M carrot war.

The triumphant poker return of M&M

Temporarily, at least.

Michelle and I used to play cards together all the time -- usually a couple of times a week, and almost always on a Friday or Saturday night when the drunk frat boys are out juicing up the game. We had our ups and downs, like all card players, but as I always put it: In most games that we both were in, I liked our chances.

In the past year or so, though, my time off work has allowed me to play during the day when I've felt up to it, and that has changed the dynamic on a couple of levels. For one thing, it encouraged Michelle to admit that she really doesn't enjoy playing nearly as much as I do; it's fine with her if I go play by myself while she's working. And so we rarely play together, and almost never on the weekends. And that, I find, has toughened up the games and hurt my "win rate," as the gamblers call it.

We also don't play as much as we used to with our friend and (my former) boss David. Last Sunday, David asked if we wanted to join him at the Muckleshoot Casino, our favorite local room, after the girls went back to Greta's. We did, and it was a good night.

Michelle had that old impenetrable Nicolosi table image, plus she was catching cards, and she stacked chips all night. Betting her best hands, running inscrutable bluffs, raising on the come and hitting ... basically just running all over the table. I made a few hands too and finished up, although with a much smaller win than Michelle's. David, playing at our same table, had a little bad luck, got behind and made a slight comeback to finish narrowly down for the evening.

It was a very fun session, and when it was over Michelle and I cashed out $300 to the good (her $230, my $70). I thought: We're back!

If you're a compulsive gambler, the thing about winning -- curiously, like the other two outcomes, losing and breaking even -- is that it makes you want to play again. Sparing the details, I went out twice this week while Michelle was working and promptly gave back the $300 profit; two racks of chips in one session at the Muck and one over at the Roxy, near our house. Never won a single pot in either game.

Up and down, like I said.

Now, tonight, a rare Friday when we don't have Gina and Franny, we're going to try again. David may meet us.

Wish us luck. We'll report on the results later.

Midnight update: Not so triumphant. One thing I've noticed about this game: When you win, it's skill; when you lose, it's bad luck. Tonight our luck was extremely bad. Also, and this is possibly only coincidental, David didn't join us tonight after all.

The details are boring and infuriating, so let's just leave it at this: We didn't win as much last weekend as we lost this weekend.

Like Michelle says, we need a new hobby.

New M&M site!

If you just can't get enough of M&M, come check out our new supplemental website. Not much there yet, but someday it'll be cool, trust us.

Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings

Tomorrow night, after the annual P-I holiday party, Michelle and I are going to a cool little Capitol Hill nightclub, Neumos, to see one my favorite new bands of the past few years, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings.

Fittingly, it was a couple of P-I friends, Lino Fernandez and Tahirih Brown, who turned me on to the band a couple of years ago. Jones and the DK are part of the neo-soul or soul revival movement, and like Angie Stone, another of my favorites from this genre, when they get it right they're totally transporting -- I feel like I'm back in the early '70s and getting my groove on with my big 'fro and my superfly Temptations/Pips/O'Jays spin-step moves.

The first SJ&DK album I heard, 2005's "Naturally," hit this ideal about half the time, I thought. Jones has a big ol' voice in the Southern gospel choir/soul singer tradition, and she can bring it like Aretha when she wants to. The Dap-Kings, with their tight horn section, funky guitars and sharp percussion, have that 1960s-'70s sound down cold. Occasionally, though, as on "Fish in the Dish," I felt like they were trying so hard to mimic that old sound that they were more like a Martha & the Vandellas knockoff cover band than an authentic act.

The new record, though, "100 Days, 100 Nights," is 100 percent solid, front to back. The songs and the sound are richer and more varied, and if anything Sharon and the band are even more in the pocket. I could listen to it over and over, and have. Check out the title track, or "Humble Me" or "Be Easy" or "Let Them Knock."

This week I listened to an interesting "Fresh Air" interview with Jones and the band's co-founder Gabe Roth, aka Bosco Mann. They got together almost accidentally. The band was already working on a record and called in Jones, on a friend's recommendation, to do some back-up vocals. She nailed all three harmonizing back-up parts on the first take and ended up singing lead too.

The interview also took some of the mystery and, I thought, fun from one of the new album's seemingly sly, double-entendre songs, "When the Other Foot Drops, Uncle." Turns out the "crafty little pencil" that's "running out of lead" really is a pencil; the song is political, not sexual. Oh well, still a good tune. Check out the interview here.

We missed Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings the last time they were in Seattle, but from what I hear they're even better in person than they are on record. What if Aretha Franklin had toured with Tower of Power? I can't wait for the show.

"100 Days, 100 Nights": 4 gliomas. Concert review tk.

Meantime, check their stuff out on YouTube:

Thursday, December 6, 2007


Yes friends, that's the l'italiano word for the day. Mark guessed it meant fire. I was thinking it was kind of inferno-ey looking myself.

But in fact, our word for today l'inverno, l'inverno, l'inverno ...

Means winter.

Freda, can you make a sentence out of party, pepper and winter?

What do these two people have in common?

That's our friend and M&M regular Janice, with Michelle above, and Pedro Martinez, baseball pitcher extraordinaire, left.

The answer, my friends, is rotator cuff surgery.

As you may have noted in the comments here, Janice is going in for rotator cuff surgery tomorrow, the latest treatment in a shoulder injury that won't go away. I don't know a lot about the operation -- here's a description -- but just from following baseball all these years I know that it's no picnic and often requires a year-long recuperation, with therapy.

On the other hand, as Pedro and other sports stars have shown, you can come back from rotator cuff and still dominate. I predict Janice will be back fly-tying and -casting in no time. Watch out, trout!

We'll be thinking of her tomorrow. Here's a big M&M toast and best wishes for a successful surgery and speedy recovery.

Good luck, Janice!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Hey you guys!

We're making the first annual M&M Calendar and we need a couple of key dates to add:

Val's birthday
Janice's birthday
Laurie's birthday
Ronelle's birthday

Come across, please!

Thank you,


The word for today is la festa.

Yes my friends, this does mean Party. Also "holiday."

I swear I didn't cheat.

The use it in a sentence challenge today goes to Janice. Make it up if you have to.

The Hijacking of a Language

Okay, pretend you never heard of Apple or Microsoft -- or their products. Now read this sentence, featured in the comments on the PI's Microsoft blog:

"The reason leopard looks like vista is because vista looks like tiger."

I thought it was funny, anyways.

'A diver, huh?'

That quote, from one stop in my three-part hospital visit today, reminded me of my famous first attempt at skydiving. When we landed that day, my instructor and tandem jumper unhooked our parachutes and safety straps then looked at me and said, "Screamer, huh?" It wasn't until that point that I realized I'd been screaming for our entire 12,000-foot fall.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Today is my monthly oncologist appointment and bimonthly MRI scan, and also time to stop at the hospital lab for my weekly blood draw. It's a time of month that always makes me cranky, mainly because it means I'm about to start another round of chemo. On top of that, today's appointments were annoyingly split between early this morning and this afternoon, meaning two trips back and forth between West Seattle and the University of Washington across town. I had decided to avoid that by hanging out for several hours at the University Village shopping center, but after a stop at the Starbucks and quick tours through the bookstore and Apple store I got bored and tired and came back home instead.

Anyway, when I showed up for my MRI this morning the tech lady whose job was to hook up an IV for the contrast dye greeted me with a cheery, "Did you bring your veins with you today?"

I hoped so, remembering my last visit here when the rookie tech stabbed my arm five times and spilled blood all over the chair and my arm before getting a vein. This time, no problem, and the MRI was its loud but normal no-sweat self; half an hour later I was out of there.

So I stopped by the lab to get the blood draw. What would make sense, it seems to me, would be if they could use the same IV to draw the blood that they had just used for the contrast, but no, it was sort-of explained to me, that was against procedures. So the lab lady tapped my right arm and whipped out her needle.

Poke. Nothing. Poke. Nothing.

That's when she said, "Oh, you've got a diver, huh?"

Turns out that's her term, or maybe it's blood-industry jargon, for a vein that seems to dive below the surface out of the way of the incoming needle. So I guess I didn't bring my veins with me today after all, at least not all of them.

No problem, my new friend reassured me, we'll just find another spot. She went on to tell some horror tales of patients, mostly heroin abusers who had ruined all their veins and had to be poked behind the knee or between the toes. One guy, she heard, had so abused his veins but was so desperate for a fix that he was found in a bathroom with a needle stuck in his eyeball.

I could feel little beads of sweat starting to form on my forehead about that time, but she found a non-diver in my right hand and that was that.

Now I'm heading back for a consultation with Dr. Spence or his able nurse practitioner, Jennifer. Update to come.

On the skydiving, by the way: I didn't want my legacy to be "screamer," so I went again a couple of months later. No screaming. Just pure, silent, terror.

Evening update: This afternoon's appointment was no biggie. Dr. Spence seemed pleased by the new scan; no new growth equals good news, he said. We did our little routine -- squeeze my finger, look at my nose -- and then he locked and loaded for another round, still at the reduced dosage that I've been on for the past two cycles. That'll start on Monday.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Many years ago, back when I met Mark, he told me that he liked to cook. For years, I kept hearing this "like to cook" story, but never saw much evidence of it. Once, he made a little dish of grilled sausage, pepper and onions, and man, it was good. But that was it for years. Then he pulled out the famous family sausage and meatball spaghetti recipe. Again, delicious. But cooker Mark went back into hibernation for years.

Now, all of a sudden, Mark's a total cooker. Tonite, he made a genius rotini with eggplant and riccotta. Last week, he made the delish sausage and meetball. He's made a few other things lately. I've gotten to the point where I call hopefully when it's time to come home and ask "what's for dinner?"

If this is part of the personality change that comes with having a scoop of your brain removed, I say bring it on.

What's for dinner tomorrow?

Il Pepe

Okay, today we start our daily Italian vocabulary word feature. I have a box of 1,000 vocabulary words, and every night I will dip, without looking, into the box for our new word. Today the word is "Il pepe."

Noun: pepper (spice)

Il pepe. Maybe Kaye can use it in a sentence. I don't know enough words yet.

'Just fire me'

Last night was the final meeting of Franny's weekly acting class at Seattle Children's Theatre, and the last half-hour was open for parents to come check out what the kids have been learning. It wasn't really a performance, more like a demonstration of the theater games they've been working on -- mostly basic improvisation exercises designed to teach observation and movement onstage.

The class was all girls, eight or nine of them, all about Franny's middle-school age. The parents all seemed into it and supportive, although some weren't exactly theater savants.

Trying to jump-start one improv, the teacher, Andy, asked the audience to suggest a verb.

"Two!" shouted one woman.

"OK," Andy said. "I'm thinking more of an action verb. Anything else ...?" I heard the woman mutter to her husband: "Shoot, that's not even a verb, is it?"

Later, when Andy asked for an object, the husband tossed him his hat. Thank you, Andy said, but I really just need a suggestion of an object.

So in one of the improv games -- Mean Boss, I think it was called -- Franny was asked to step outside the room while the rest of the class agreed on the setup. They were workers in a factory, assembling basketballs, and one girl was designated the boss who would question Franny when she came in about why she was late for work. Fran's job was to pick up clues from the other factory workers, standing behind the boss, who wordlessly were trying to help her offer the agreed-upon nonsensical excuse: She was late because she had to climb a tree to rescue a cat who had gotten stuck chasing a vacuum cleaner (goofy, I know).

"Why are you late," the boss demanded.

Franny, looking over the other girl's shoulder, quickly picked up that she was late because she had climbed a tree for her cat. But with time running out she couldn't guess the bit about the vacuum, and the mean boss (in a persuasive performance, I thought) was getting impatient with Frank's fumbled excuses.

"What? Tell me why you were late!"

"Fifteen seconds," said Andy, the teacher.

Franny looked at him and then back at the mean-boss girl.

"Oh, heck," she said, "I don't know why I'm late. Just fire me."

Pretty good. The place cracked up. Franny ate it up, I could tell. The next semester of classes starts after the new year. I know she's looking forward to continuing.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Make my day

The first e-mail I opened this morning was from Rebecca McKinney, the West Seattle High School teacher whose journalism class I spoke with last week. She thanked me for coming and said the students enjoyed the visit. That was really cool.

Before my visit I confessed some trepidation to both Michelle and Mich -- high school students can be a rough crowd -- but figured that if even one kid came away feeling encouraged about journalism that would be good.

Given that, Ms. McKinney's note this morning really made my day:

Thanks so much for coming out last week. Your talk was very informative. My students write a journal entry at the beginning of every class and on Friday I asked them what they learned from you. There were many good reports, but one in particular that I thought was worth sharing was, "Yesterday I learned that I really do want to be a journalist. He reassured me that this is what I want to do with my life. This guy was realistic and he showed the bad and good sides of journalism." Thanks again.
Rebecka McKinney


Saturday, December 1, 2007

Snow Day

What a full day we had -- we started out dancing in the snow. Then the Bailey Family walked by, and it turns out it was Bailey's ninth birthday, and on top of that, she's having her first ever sleepover tonite. Plus which, she wished that it would snow on her birthday, and then it did! It just so turned out that I happened to have a Sleepover Kit in my car, so I gave it to her for her birthday. Wow, was she ever happy.

Then we walked on down to the junction and hit up the cupcake store. Then, onto the antique store for a hat purchase. Then home again, home again, for delish home made pizza. Pretty good day. Here's the replay.

For a slideshow with larger images go here.

West Seattle snow walk

It was a beautiful, snowy day here today -- surprising, because it never actually snows when they predict it will. We went for a walk to the Junction. Michelle took a bunch of pics but hasn't posted anything but the doggies yet, so I thought I'd put up a few.

'Making pizza, huh?'

That was the bagboy at the store tonight, when I went to pick up a few things. I'm guessing the giveaway was the two pizza pans and the pizza slicer and maybe, if he were really paying attention, the can of Italian tomatoes, the mozarella cheese, Italian sausage and a few other ingredients.

"But where's the dough," he asked.

That was already home on the counter, "resting," as Grandma Matassa used to say. Following Mom's instructions I had made and kneaded the dough and left it under a blanket to rise. This wasn't the fist time I'd made pizza, but it's been probably 20 years and I wasn't sure how it would come out.

I got a little help in the tossing and spreading phase from Michelle and Franny:

I think it worked OK, judging purely by the fact that Gina and Franny asked for seconds, which they never do around here. I made two pies -- sausage, scarfed mainly by me and Michelle, and kalamata olives and basil, the girls' favorite. Everybody said they liked it, and I thought it tasted pretty good, but the dough wasn't as thick as Mom's and so didn't match the perfect pizza of my youth.

I'm not sure exactly where I went wrong -- maybe it needed a little more kneading, maybe a little more rising -- but it was close enough for now, and I'm sure next time will be better.

For a slideshow with larger images go here.