The Shapiro Files

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Beautiful Song

Yesterday was Melody’s baby naming ceremony (also known as a Brit Bat or Simchat Bat), which was held as part of a triple-ceremony along with her cousins Jared and Brett. We’d like to thank everyone who attended and would especially like to extend our deepest gratitude to Uncle Shelly for taking time out of his already incredibly busy schedule to officiate the ceremony (a triple-naming no less) and to Marcie’s parents for hosting the event (VERY yummy bagels!).

And now, we can officially announce Melody’s Hebrew name:

Shira Chana

Like Melody, the name “Shira” means “song.” Besides the obvious reasons for choosing this name, we also chose it because music is perhaps humankind’s most basic form of creative expression. Anyone can make music with nothing more than their own voice. Also, in Judaism, most of our prayers are sung — thus elevating prayer above mere human speech. So this all makes the name Shira all that more meaningful.

As for Melody’s Hebrew middle name, Chana, this was Marcie’s maternal grandmother’s Hebrew name. This alone makes the name very special. But also, the name has several different meaning such as “grace,” “gracious,” or “beautiful.” So the combined name Shira Chana means “beautiful song.” I can’t think of anything more appropriate for our daughter than that!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Netflix Weekend Wrap-Up #9

Previous installments: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8

At long last, I finally had a chance to watch something from my Netflix queue that isn't just another of the many films from 2005 I missed:

The Trial (1962) - The result of the final time Director Orson Welles maintained 100% creative control from beginning to end of a project and a film I've been wanting to see for years now. I'm pleased to report that The Trial is a brilliant merging of Franz Kafka's famous novel/parable with Welles' unique visual style. In terms of the later, it's absolutely breathtaking, with every single shot a work of art. The camera placement, deep focus (depth of field), set design, and stark lighting used throughout are all examples of what made Welles such a genius. And of course, the film is much more than just a collection of incredibly imagery. In terms of content, this film captures the spirit of Kafka's surreal narrative extremely well. It's been years since I've read the novel, so I can't talk to how faithful an adaptation this is. But it certainly gets the nightmarish quality down perfectly. The film is also very well-cast with Anthony Perkins giving a great leading performance along with a whole bunch of excellent supporting players (including Orson Welles himself).

I should note that this is very much an "art film" and is not going to suit everyone's tastes. But for fans of Kafka and Welles, you can't do any better than this (well, I suppose except for Citizen Kane, which is downright mainstream compared to this film). On a final note, my Netflix rating below is for the film, not the DVD. Despite an accompanying mini-documentary talking about the film restoration methods used in making the DVD, I thought the video looked like a bad second (or third) generation analog video tape transfer (with bad artificial sharpening to boot) than anything you'd normally find the digital domain. And just as bad, the audio was muffled (not to mention out of sync) and I found myself straining (and frequently rewinding) to hear all the dialogue. So anyone seeking out this film, just know that unless it gets re-released by Criterion (or another reputable home video production company), some of Welles's brilliance will be lost in translation. My Netflix rating: 5 stars

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Oy Bidet

A few posts ago, I related Marcie’s and my adventure of almost putting an offer on a home in Sunnyvale, whose defining feature was a Koi pond in the backyard. Well, last week we found another home we also liked very much — so much, in fact, that we actually did put an offer on it. It was a lovely three-bedroom home with a fourth bonus room (technically a den, because it doesn’t have a closet) that would be perfect as a combination music studio/Life Visions Video office. The extra room even had an additional outdoor-access entrance we could have used for client visits. The whole house was kept very well up-to-date and I was pleased to learn there were Ethernet ports in every room (fed through a very nice full-access voice/data panel in the entryway coat closet). But just as the Koi pond in that other house was a little foreign to us, this house also had an unfamiliar feature: a bidet in the master bathroom. Although I’ve always thought that the idea of a bidet was an excellent one, I’ve never actually had any experience with that particular appliance. I realized that if our offer on the house was accepted, I’d have to go online to find instructions on how to operate it. Of course, knowing the nature of the Internet, I can only imagine what other odd and disturbing things would also appear in those search results!

But alas, in the end, we were pretty significantly outbid and didn’t get the house. We were extremely disappointed and now the home search continues. On the plus side, at least I won’t have to worry about getting bidet instructions now.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Netflix Weekend Wrap-Up #8

Previous installments: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7

After several very busy weeks, Marcie and finally had a chance to catch up with yet another missed 2005 release:

Walk the Line (2005) - At the Academy Awards earlier this year, host Jon Stewart made a joke about Walk the Line being the same film as the Ray Charles biopic Ray, only with white people. As it turns out, that joke is pretty reflective of reality. Although competently photographed and acted, this film was about as formulaic and by-the-numbers as any biopic about a famous musician. There was simply nothing special or interesting about this movie. Even worse, this film was directed with a sledgehammer. “Subtle” clearly is not a word in director James Mangold’s vocabulary. How many scenes do we need to see of Cash and his wife fighting accompanied by shots of their children crying to get the point that they were being less than ideal role models to their kids? OK, we get it! Bad parents=sad children. And gee whiz, do we really have to sit through another audition scene in which the prepared song doesn’t pass the audition but then the protagonist pulls an unrehearsed song from his memory and sings it with so much conviction that it leads to a record deal?! I realize that the script was probably more-or-less based on real events, but it’s the way those events were interpreted and portrayed that put them so far over the top and beyond believability.

On the plus side, the music was good (although I would have preferred that Joaquin Phoenix lip-sync to a professional vocalist, rather than attempt to do all the singing himself — admirable as his attempt was) and all performances were fairly strong. Otherwise, there was really nothing special about this one. My Netflix rating: 2 stars

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Melody Photos for the Impatient

Those of you who have been kind enough to regularly visit this blog over the past year know that I like posting online photo albums featuring Melody at key developmental milestones (two weeks, two months, six months, etc.). By spreading out publication of the albums in this way, it makes each new publication a special event (not to mention it gives me a manageable reproducible pattern I can follow with our future children!) and also gives me self-imposed deadlines for selecting and processing photos. And what I mean by “processing” is that I color-correct, crop, and generally “tweak” all photos in Photoshop before including them in the albums. This way, photos are optimized for online viewing and allows me to improve upon my otherwise mediocre photography skills. This takes quite some time to do, which is yet another reason I like spreading out the albums.

However, my brother Daniel and other family members have said that I need to make photos available more regularly. So I finally gave in and created a new Shutterfly photo album to appease the impatient. For the most part, photos uploaded to this new album will be raw unedited images and you’ll find many more photos there than will likely end up in the official albums. I’ll be uploading new photos roughly once a week (or whenever I have a new batch of photos) and will always put the newest ones at the beginning of the album. So if you start from page 1 and work your way to the end, you’ll see Melody getting smaller and smaller as you go along!

So for anyone who just can’t get enough Melody photos, bookmark this page and check back often.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Koi Vey

KoiIt’s been quite a week. As I mentioned in my previous entry, Kol Emeth held a huge event honoring Marcie’s uncle, Rabbi Shelly Lewis. The event ended up being attended by about 700 people and Marcie’s video was very much the highlight of the event (well, at least prior to Shelly and Lorri getting up at the end and saying a few words, of course). It was exciting to know that all of Marcie’s hard work really paid off.

After the event, we were very excited about our finally having some long-desired downtime. But alas, we ended up having another very busy/stressful week despite our expectations otherwise. For one thing, the response to Marcie’s video was so great that we ended up getting lots of orders for personal DVD copies (don’t worry folks: video sales proceeds are going to Kol Emeth) and it’s turned into quite an undertaking keeping up. But even more significantly, Marcie discovered a Sunnyvale home on the market that she wanted us to seriously consider purchasing. Although we like our little house in West San Jose, we’ve always thought it would be preferable to live near slightly better schools (our local elementary and junior high schools are OK, but the high school isn’t quite what we’d want for Melody) and even be closer to the rest of Marcie’s family in Los Altos/Mountain View.

However, the problem with trying to buy property in the Silicon Valley is that housing costs are ludicrously high and so you have to often make some pretty significant compromises (thus our living in a smallish home in West San Jose). The chief compromise of the Sunnyvale house was its tiny size (even smaller than our current house). Also, a public park bordered the back fence, freeway noise was omnipresent (though not overwhelmingly loud), and the kitchen was just plain weird. The trade-off was that the house was on a huge lot. The backyard was enormous with incredibly impressive landscaping, a swimming pool, a spa, and even a Koi pond! But of course, you live inside a house, not in a backyard. Thus the main reason for getting that house would be to add on to make it big enough for a growing family. But again, this is the Silicon Valley, which means that the cost of merely buying the house itself would be so high that there would be nothing left for expanding (let alone fixing that strange kitchen). After crunching some numbers, we realized it could be as much as 10 years to accumulate enough funds to expand the house to a functional size. In the meantime, we’d be packed in like sardines. So, after a very long and agonizing period of consideration, we decided to pass.

In the end, this was probably a good thing. After all, what do Marcie and I know about maintaining a Koi pond?! The poor fish would be doomed from the start. Now that we’ve passed on the house, PETA can rest easy.