OK, so a couple of weeks ago I did a list of 100 things that bug me. It's time to take up the opposite end of that particular spectrum, which brings me to this: 100 things that make me all warm and fuzzy inside, like a little kitten. On Prozac. This list is in no particular order, by the way, and it's most certainly not exhaustive. These aren't the only 100 things I love! (We'll also stipulate my loves of Berlioz, Rachmaninov, George Lucas, Star Wars, Tolkien, Guy Gavriel Kay, and Once and Again for the purposes of this list. Which means that none of those things will be cited here, because they're more than "loves" for me: they're things that shape who I am.)
1. The laptop on which I am writing this post. It's a Dell Inspiron 1520, and I just adore the thing. It's made my life so much cooler and niftier; I love being able to write at my actual writing desk with all of my books (well, quite a few of them, anyway) in easy reach, and I love being able to watch movies on a screen with really nice resolution, with my headphones on so I'm not exposing The Daughter to stuff like Pulp Fiction. I love being able to pack up my machine and go other places to write.
2. USB Flash drives. Wow, are these things ever cool. I want to get one of the 4GB ones, though; the three I already own are only 1GB.
3. Berries: strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and my beloved blueberries.
4. It doesn't happen nearly as often as it should, but there are few feelings in life more delicious in that horrible way than seeing the guy who aggressively passed you a mile back pulled over by a cop.
5. Reason #756 why I don't understand why Buffalo's been struggling for so many years: Unlike just about every other city east of the Mississippi, we watch the sun set over water.
6. Does it strike anyone else as odd that the Nobel Prize was never awarded to the person who thought to put chocolate chips into a cookie?
7. I used to dip a lot into the spiritual texts and scriptures of the world; I don't do enough of that these days. The Bhagavad Gita; the Tao te Ching, the Tibetan Book of the Dead. In the Bible, the books of Ecclesiastes, the Psalms, the Song of Songs. The Gospels of John and Luke. I even have a Koran, although I've never read into it much at all.
8. I always enjoy the Monday morning after the Super Bowl, when I'm always able to truthfully say that I didn't see the commercials. (And I never watch them, at least not intentionally. I use the commercials for the purpose God made them: to go to the bathroom and refill my drink and grab more chips.)
9. If I was forbidden to choose a specific ethnic food to eat at every meal for the remainder of my life, I'd almost certainly choose Chinese. If I was forbidden to eat Chinese food, I'd probably just stop eating entirely. Same effect, just faster.
10. The Daughter loves to make fun of this habit of mine, but I always smell my books. I really love the smell of paper and ink, in nearly all varieties.
11. But for all my love of Chinese food, where would the world be without pizza? Pizza, wonderful pizza, in all its forms. I feel such pity for those who rigidly adhere to the failed notion of One True Pizza.
12. I love the smell of The Wife's hairspray.
13. Sleeping in a very cold room in a soft bed with lots of blankets makes me happy.
14. For sheer tactile pleasure, few things beat sliding into an icy cold bed and feeling one's own body heat gradually taking hold under the blankets.
15. Of course, I'm a guy, which means I get a kick out of browsing Home Depot and other hardware emporia. Although I do wish they'd stock self-tapping finish head screws.
16. Audrey Hepburn? Yeah, I love her.
17. If I could, I would rely on candles for all my home lighting needs. Candlelight is beautiful, warm, and inviting. Candles are the stuff of romance.
18. Soft denim on bare skin.
19. The flavor of mint: in chocolate, in ice cream, in tea, on meat, in salads. I love mint.
20. It wreaks havoc on my hair, but I enjoy the fact that I have hair that blows out behind me in a strong breeze. I can get all Bravehearty about it. "FREEDOMMMMM!"
21. Cats are annoying, irritating freeloaders who demand food, get hair all over everything, poop at inopportune moments, and refuse to differentiate between the opening of a can of tuna and the opening of a can of, say, creamed corn. But I still love cats more than dogs. Go figure.
22. I love me some Get Fuzzy, although I do wish Satchel would get the upper hand more often.
23. I love spaceships in my science fiction. Dystopia? Fine. Utopia? Great. But I want spaceships.
24. If I had to go to Ollivander's shop on Diagon Alley and pick out my wand before entering Hogwarts, I'm sure that my wand would take the form of a Klein Tools ten-in-one screwdriver. That thing makes so many jobs easier. (What are the ten? Two Philips tips, two flathead tips, two star tips, two squarehead tips, and two sizes of nut driver.)
25. I think recumbent bikes look incredibly cool. I want one someday. (I also need to start riding my bike to and from work one of these years, after I get off my arse and get a pair of saddlebags.)
26. Pie, in all its forms, is wonderful stuff. Nothing's more satisfying in that "down home" way than a chicken or a beef pot pie. A good, large slice of apple pie, still warm, topped with high quality vanilla ice cream is as close as a dessert gets to heaven as is possible, I think. (Although I don't get the "cheddar cheese on apple pie" thing.) I only eat one or two slices of pumpkin pie each year, but I always love that stuff, too. And, of course, cream pies, which can either be consumed as is or humorously applied to someone's face. My favorite flavor? Coconut cream.
27. Firing up the grill on that first day in spring when it's still pretty cold out, or firing it up on that day in mid-to-late autumn when it's getting pretty cold out, and huddling over the charcoal fire as you turn the hot dogs or the sausages or the steaks. The colder the outside air, the better the grilled meat tastes.
28. Hayao Miyazaki, the great Japanese director of anime. His work is so chock full of wide-eyed wonder! I don't know how he does it. When I look at the total output of his, I can't help but think that he may well be the greatest living film director, period. (Although, admittedly, I have not yet seen Howl's Moving Castle, which actually received mixed reviews, if memory serves.)
29. Cheese. Cold cheese, broken off in a jagged chunk and eaten as is; tiny pieces of parmeggiano regiano, sprinkled with balsamic vinegar; spreadable cheese on a grain cracker; brie at room temperature placed on a piece of small rye bread; cream cheese on a toasted bagel; melted cheese on a pizza or a pasta dish. Cheese is a miracle.
30. Globes. It doesn't matter to me if a globe's map is accurate or out of date; a globe is still a beautiful thing, and an out-of-date globe still serves as a testament to the way we once viewed our world. And it doesn't even have to be a globe of our world, either: globes with star maps, or globes of Mars. In fact, I wonder why there aren't globes of imaginary worlds out there? (Probably because there aren't enough geeks like me out there who would find a globe of Coruscant something to seriously consider buying.)
31. Red wine, served with a slight chill. I like fruity and acidic wines, like Valpolicella. I like Zinfandel, the real Zin, wonderful red Zin. And, of course, Port. Port is terrific stuff.
32. I love walking on beaches as the waves roll in. I know, everybody loves walking on beaches as the waves roll in. But for me, it doesn't have to be the ocean. I get that same elemental feeling walking along the shores of Lake Erie.
33. But as much as I love walking on beaches as the waves roll in, I think I love walking beside rushing streams or rivers even more. It's the sense of journey that I like: the sea is such a big thing, something vast. But a river is just a road that's been made for the water, and it can take you places. The sound of running water as the river's current brings it across the rocks is one of nature's holiest sounds.
34. As a former brass player, I would have been loathe to admit this at the time, but I've always adored the sound of a string instrument, well-played. Any string instrument, really, although if pressed to name a favorite, of the classical strings I'd choose the cello. The violin and viola are both capable of singing their hearts out, too.
35. Annie Lennox. I could listen to her voice until the end of my days. Having her sing at the end of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was just the capstone of a staggering musical experience.
36. And as long as I'm on the subject, I'm not sure I could live without Howard Shore's music for The Lord of the Rings. I had absolutely no idea that Shore had something like this in him when I learned he was the composer for the trilogy. But then, I had no idea that anybody had something like that in them.
37. Wall sconces that hold candles. I only own one of them, unfortunately.
38. Older women with long hair. Too often, when women head into whatever it is we consider "elder years" these days – for purposes of this post, to pick an arbitrary figure, over fifty – women tend to cut their hair short or make liberal use of curlers or something like that. There's always something striking, though, about an older woman with a full head of long, silver hair. Or red. Or blonde.
39. Picking songs and pieces of music for mix CDs. I like to think I'm pretty good at this; my best effort, in my opinion, was a disc I made for my best friend last year when she was going through a very rough time at the same time that her birthday rolled around.
40. Poetry collections. I can't imagine why people don't read more poetry these days; poetry shows us what language can do. I wish I could write better poetry than I do. (Maybe I can, and it's a matter of practice. I've written some free-form poems that I actually think work pretty well. It's when I try to use a specific form that I want to rip my hair out by the root.)
41. Beautiful stationery and note cards. Giving hand-written cards is a pleasure that we don't much indulge these days, sadly enough. I like to print my own cards sometimes, choosing my own art and doing the printing myself. But I also like finding beautiful fine arts cards in various places, both in real life and online.
42. The starship Enterprise, the movie version (NCC-1701 and NCC-1701A). Those are my favorite incarnations of the Big E. The Enterprise-D looked really awesome from some angles, but incredibly goofy from other angles; the Enterprise-E was a cool ship, but it always looked too "warship" for my tastes. The Enterprise and Enterprise-A got it right by making the ship graceful, like a seagoing vessel.
43. The Millennium Falcon. Duh. That ship's unlikely to ever be dethroned as my favorite fictional spaceship of all time. What always makes me realize what great pilots Han and Lando are aren't just the way they fly through hazardous situations like pursuit by Star Destroyers, asteroid fields, or the superstructure of the Death Star. What's really amazing about that is that while nearly every other ship in Star Wars has a cockpit or bridge that's in line with the center of the ship, the Falcon doesn't. So when Han or Lando are flying that "bucket of bolts" in and out of trouble, they have to physically and mentally account for the fact that the entire bulk of the ship resides to their left.
44. Mucinex, with lots of sweet, sweet pseudoephedrine. That stuff has saved my life more than a few times. (Phenylephrine? Fuhgeddaboudit!)
45. Burgundy. Not the wine, the color. I like burgundy.
46. And hunter green.
47. And red.
48. And blue.
49. And yellow.
50. And pink.
51. And purple.
52. Black's nice, too.
53. The first two seasons of The West Wing. Maybe Aaron Sorkin will one day return to the heights he scaled back then, even if some of the plots hinge on improbabilities: would Sam really not know that Leo's daughter is a grown-up woman? Would a high-priced Washington call-girl really not know what POTUS means? Would a high-ranking member of the White House senior staff really disappear from her job so completely that nobody would ever mention her again? Would the entire White House senior staff really have encyclopedic knowledge of Gilbert&Sullivan?
54. Oh yeah, and on that subject, Gilbert&Sullivan. The Mikado, The HMS Pinafore, and The Pirates of Penzance are the only ones I know, really, but wow, are they fun to listen to.
55. The Simpsons and Futurama. I'm listing them together because they come from the brain of Matt Groening, who's just a genius. Sure, The Simpsons isn't as funny as it used to be, but it's still funnier than just about anything else (including The Family Guy, which in my opinion is only interesting for the evil baby and the dog).
56. Creed. Not the band, but the background character on The Office, who is apparently living a life of crime or something. He only gets about thirty seconds of dialog per episode, but it's always something funny.
57. Fireworks. Watching fireworks is a fine, fine thing. I just wish someone could make in real life the fireworks that Gandalf makes.
58. Footbridges and boardwalks. There are a number of parks in this area whose trails involve boardwalks and footbridges over water. I always find something pleasing about such things. It always feels to me like I'm walking through and over nature as opposed to trodding upon it.
59. OK, fine, you win, Twenty-first Century! I give in! I cry uncle! I love my cell phone. There, I said it. However, I don't talk much on it because nobody much calls me.
60. Cookies! Chocolate chip cookies. Peanut butter cookies. Sugar cookies. Butter cookies. Oreos. White chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies. Toffee chip cookies. Russian tea cakes. Coconut macaroons. Oatmeal raisin cookies. Fudge stripe cookies. Maple sandwich cookies. Mint-flavored Newman-O's. Gingersnaps. I adore cookies.
61. Sausages. I'm sure I'll eventually find a kind of sausage that I don't like, but so far, I haven't: I've loved every one I've ever tried. (Although haggis may test me a bit. That is technically a sausage, isn't it? Meat and spices inside a casing, in this case a sheep's stomach?)
62. Saving Get Fuzzy for the very last thing I read in the Sunday paper each week, and reading Get Fuzzy first thing each morning when I'm getting ready for work. (Which I then immediately negate by reading For Better or For Worse; but then I negate that by reading xkcd.)
63. Matryoshka dolls are incredibly cool. I wouldn't mind owning one of those giant ones someday, the ones that have twenty or more dolls nesting inside.
64. Jenna Fischer. She's the first actress I've ever seen who actually manages to get me to use the worn-out phrase "the girl next door".
65. The way I feel after working out. I love that feeling, both tired and energized at the same time.
66. OK, I suppose I'm at least partly a "typical guy" in the sense that I do occasionally compare my progress at the gym to that of some other guys I see there, and I love that I can lift more weight for more reps than several guys who are there all the time and who are always loudly conversing about their workout regimens and the proteins they eat and all that jazz. (And there are lots of other guys who make me look like a 98-pound weakling, of course. But I'll catch them, too. Oh yes.)
67. Ivy. We have an ivy plant that was part of the flower arrangement my parents gave to us when The Daughter was born, almost nine years ago. The flowering part of that plant perished long ago, but the ivy remains, in two pots.
68. Eating outside in spring and summer.
69. The art of the pre-Raphaelite school in Great Britain, particularly the work of Arthur Hughes.
70. Emeril Lagasse. I know that it's fun to hate on him and make fun of him for how much of a brand he's become and his overuse of "BAM!", but to be honest, I learned a lot about kitchen techniques from watching his show and I've never made a single recipe from one of his cookbooks that didn't turn out wonderfully.
71. The Montana Rockies. It's been years since I was there, but I always found the northern Rockies preferable to the ones in Colorado, even if the Colorado Rockies are higher.
72. Persian kittens. All kittens rock, obviously, but the Persians are just so adorable!
73. Popcorn. My favorite of all snacks! I tend to prefer it with butter, but we also love fresh kettlecorn with that salty sweetness it has, and I have a terrific recipe for caramel corn that I haven't made in far too long.
74. Warm slippers on a cold morning.
75. Ms. Pac Man is still my favorite video game, however many years it's been since I first played it. (Although there was a close second that I played a lot when I was in college, but I can't remember the name of it for the life of me, so I can't even search out an emulator program and a ROM to download so I could play it again. The premise was that you control a little guy whose job is to pop bubbles, using several implements like a gun that shoots strings of barbed wire straight up, which then anchor themselves into the ceiling of the game board or whatever. When you pop a large bubble, though, it pops into two smaller bubbles, which then each have to be popped into two smaller bubbles, and one more level thereof before they're popped out of existence. And coming into contact with a bubble results in loss of life. Sounds easy, but on some of the upper levels, when there are more obstacles for the bubbles to bounce off randomly, it gets really difficult when you get sixteen little bubbles caroming all over the place. If that rings a bell with anyone, let me know! I got so good at this game in college that I was eventually able to defeat it on a single quarter.)
76. Few things bring out the "Gee whiz!" little kid in me in the way an elaborate model railroad layout does.
77. The astronomical paintings of artists like Jon Lomberg and Adolf Shaller, many of which formed the visual backdrop for Carl Sagan's Cosmos. Artists like these do so much to convey the awesome majesty of our immense universe.
78. Long drives without predetermined destination. I have a feeling these will become more and more of a luxury in the future, but oh well. Maybe increased transportation costs will lead to increases in local manufacturing, too. (Hey, I can dream.)
79. Shrimp. If there's a way to prepare shrimp such that I don't like them, I have yet to find it. Remember Bubba's list of the ways to prepare shrimp in Forrest Gump? That little monologue always makes me hungry.
80. I love opening old books at the library and finding things tucked into the pages. Most times it's an old printout from the library with due dates and such, but sometimes I find someone's grocery list or research notes. And other times, I can get a glimpse into a life that's long over.
81. I love William Shatner, and his spiritual heir, David Caruso.
82. I love answering machines, coupled with my epiphany several years back that there's no real reason why I should ever answer a ringing phone. Off went the ringer, and thus peace returned.
83. Sharp knives, clean pans and a full fridge. (Note to self: get the knives sharpened.)
84. Fountain pens are wonderful old-school instruments that yield all manner of pleasure in their use. I don't get to use mine enough these days...but I'm finally getting used to writing on a computer screen, after however-many-years of vacillating between typing and writing longhand.
85. Of course, living in Buffalo, I cannot help but love chicken wings. My favorites are the traditional Buffalo wings, usually ordered "Medium" (or a notch below, if I'm having wings at Duff's); but I do enjoy "non-traditional" wing preparations. I like to cook them on the charcoal grill and baste them in barbecue sauce so the sugars in the sauce burn and get all crunchy. I like the garlic wings at the Quaker Steak and Lube (a Pennsylvania chain that has a location in Erie, and they've just opened in Syracuse, so maybe we'll get one here too one of these days).
86. I like to burn incense, especially the ones that smell of burning wood. I have a box of pine-scented incense cones that make Casa Jaquandor smell like a campfire.
87. I love to bury myself in warm blankets on a cold morning. All the better if someone else is with me.
88. The common scents and aromas of my life: coffee beans that have just been freshly ground; tea that's just finished steeping; just about anything baking in the oven; the sawdust of freshly cut wood; the ink on the printed page; the spray from the orange as I cut through its peel.
89. Movie heroes: Inigo Montoya, Chihiro, Ashitaka, San, Kiki, Rick Blaine, Ilsa Laszlo, Captain Jack Sparrow, Captain Hector Barbossa, Captain Geoffrey Thorpe, James Bond, Indiana Jones, Philo Beddoe. (And many more.)
90. Movie villains: Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Belloq, Major Strasser, Captain Hector Barbossa, Davy Jones, The Sheriff of Nottingham, Nurse Ratched, Hannibal Lecter. (And many more.)
91. TV and movie lovers: Rick and Ilsa, Rick and Lily, Melvin and Carol, Jack and Rose, Ashitaka and San, Sam and Annie, Harry and Sally, Archie and Wanda, Josh and Donna, Mulder and Scully.
92. On long drive at night, especially in the midwest, you will sometimes find yourself driving for miles next to a train that's running on a set of tracks parallel to the road you're on. I always find something mildly romantic about this.
93. Sometimes I'll start doing some writing in mid-to-late afternoon, and I'll get fairly wrapped up in what I'm doing, so much so that I won't realize until it's been dark for quite a while that it's gotten dark at all.
94. I dig the word "gotten", even though I'm not sure it's a word at all.
95. The characters from the books I grew up with: Taran and Princess Eilonwy and Lord Gwydion, Johnny Van Dixon and Professor Childermass, Lewis Barnavelt and Rose Rita Pottinger, Tom Dennis and John Dennis Fitzgerald, the Ingalls family.
96. I have a tendency to display an certain outward cynicism about life in general, but I think I inherited from my grandmother a certain unquenchable optimism. She was the kind of person who could look on a completely overcast sky, pick out a patch of clouds a little bit lighter gray than the surrounding ones, and on that basis announce with conviction that it was starting to clear up. And of course, rightly or wrongly in each particular case, it did eventually clear up, didn't it? Reaching a better time turns out to be an exercise in patience and waiting, nothing more.
97. I love that there are two spacecraft right now, Voyagers I and II, that carry with them for all time a tiny snippet of the best that humanity has to offer, and that this spacecraft will likely outlast every single war or hatred that exists now on this planet.
98. Blogging and my six-plus-year outpost in Blogistan. I don't blog as much as I used to, but this forum and the bloggers and readers with whom I exchange thoughts and ideas continue to enrich my life in ways that surprise me each day. I love to read missives from people all over: the substitute teacher in Illinois who struggles to reach the kids he's thrown in with; the woman in Oregon who tries to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up (which seems to me a very healthy attitude to take when one is 50 years old); the freelance writer in Ohio who has since I started blogging become one of SF's brightest new authors; the guy in Utah who geeks out with abandon; a computer programmer in Butler, PA who makes me wish I was more of a computer gamer; a woman in Oklahoma who always seems to be looking for something interesting instead of settling into dull routine; another woman from someplace else who approaches everything in life as an opportunity to learn something; a woman in New York City who blogs with her heart on such display that I always come away awed. There are so many more, as well, more than I can read in a day or even a week. And that's saying nothing at all about the wonderful bloggers here in Buffalo, people whom I've actually met and come away liking all the more having done so, and it's also saying nothing of the lurkers who come here once in a while and whose presence I only know by looking at my SiteMeter. I'll never have big traffic here, I know, but I'm proud of the traffic that I do have, and I thank each and everyone of you for it.
100. You. You know who you are.
And there we have it: 100 things I love. Tune in next time for 100 things on which I have no opinion whatsoever!