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July 1st , 2015

5 innocuous things that are making me happy in and around the present moment

- Everything is totally gay now and it is awesome! That's not innocuous but the fact that I had no ignorant hate speech come through on any of my social media outlets (outside of people posting it to mock it) kind of is. Seriously though, just thinking about it still makes me giddy. Turns out Churchill was right: "You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else."

- This Week in Indie Rock: Stream the new record from Cloud Nothings/Wavves, Belle and Sebastian on Seth Meyers, and more from Courtney Barnett.

- At the movies: James Bond drinks!: The Infographic, Great movie posters. We've also reached the halfway point in our 365 movies in 365 days experiment, and we are still ahead of schedule. Movie #192 was Peter Jackson's Meet the Feebles. It's hard to believe that I hadn't seen a movie about puppets so vulgar that they make the ones from Avenue Q look like teetotalers, and even harder to believe I hated it. I suppose if you are going to watch 365 movies you've never seen before, they can't all be winners.

- Thrillist's quest to turn everything into a list ranks every state in America. You'd think I wrote it based solely on the placement of Michigan and Ohio.

- Finally, you know how the moment you pay off your car someone inevitably rear ends you, or you run over a pot hole and need a new axle? I was two paychecks from being out of debt for the first time in my life, and then my son smashed out the rear window of the van. Then it rained so hard that we had to have a plumber come snake our drain. The real kicker though was that we have to replace our roof. Getting almost out of debt only to have the door slammed in your face is neither innocuous nor happy, but being able to stick your foot in before it closes and knowing that it's no big deal and everything is going to be just fine is. Still though...

 

Posted 4:27pm
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June 19th , 2015

5 innocuous things that are making me happy in and around the present moment

- I've been reading a pretty great biography of Elon Musk and I'm becoming more and more convinced that our grandkids will utter his name in the same breath as Edison, Ford, Gates and Jobs*. He's a real life Tony Stark, or Walt Disney with the engineering bonafides to make it happen. My money says he'll be the one to take us to Mars rather than NASA (and will do so at half the price). I don't say that lightly, because as we all know, I loves me some NASA.

*He of course could still end up being an R. Buckminster Fuller or (ironically) Tesla, but those guys are cooler than the above anyway.

- Of course outside of Musk's SpaceX concerns, he also founded Tesla and Solar City. Just thinking about it makes me feel incredibly stupid for driving a car with an internal combustion engine. Not of course as stupid as if I lived in Arizona, but you have to be a pretty solipsistic asshole to live in the desert. As an aside, I highly recommend subscribing to 538's significant digits newsletter. Consistently fascinating.

- This Week in Indie Rock: New Craig Finn and old (unreleased) Tom Petty. You can also watch Courtney Barnett on Fallon. You seriously should, because I can't say it any better than they do in the link: she's one of the best things we've got going on right now.

- If you've got nothing to do Saturday night, I'm gonna guess the bananapants crazy Lifetime movie staring Kristin Wiig and Will Ferrel is going to be, well bananapants. Watch it as a double feature with your VHS copy of Mother May I Sleep with Danger?

- Finally, the BDGF is off to Chicago for work starting tomorrow. Along side copious amounts of yard work while she's away, the Chandler Drive-In will be showing Andrei Tarkovsky's 1972, 3-hour Russian sci-fi classic Solaris and Fritz Lang's 1927 German masterpiece Metropolis (the two and a half hour restored director's cut).* It's gonna be awesome! I'm otherwise drinking in the backyard, so stop on by.

*Space is limited, so please RSVP if you want to attend.

Posted 2:39pm
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June 12th , 2015

5 innocuous things that are making me happy in and around the present moment

- There's some great love letters circulating the internet that are about some of the music I love most in this world. Here is the erstwhile Ron Swanson extolling the virtues of Jeff Tweedy and Wilco, which is a treat beyond measure. Here you can read a group calling themselves The Emo Council ranking The Promise Ring's entire catalog. They are too hard on Very Emergency, but otherwise it really made me nostalgic for being young and teeming with emotion.

- Watch! Weird Al sings in Jack White's record booth, Matt Damon stranded in space (again), the late great Christopher Lee knows him some swordfights and if you are a fan of things like Sharknado, you can cram that weak tea up your butt because Kung Fury shows you the meaning of the term banana pants crazy town.

- If I asked you to riff on the premise that "Republicans get paid for working like this, Democrats get paid for working like this..." you're comedy would probably be vindicated by this list. Unless you're Ted Cruz, who thinks that JFK would be a Republican today. You would also probably get bigger laughs just repeating things that Ted Cruz says, because that guy is a complete joke.

- I've long struggled as the parent of gamer with some of the inherent anti-social aspects of your kid sitting in his room playing video games 24-7. Which is why I owe a big thanks (again) to science for proving that online gaming makes you more sociable. Yes, it also says it might give you Alzheimer's, but you take the good with the bad. I'm just happy knowing that when he does leave the basement, he knows how to talk to people IRL.

- Finally, I wrote a big 1,000 word piece about how I've been going to therapy for the last 2 months and how helpful it's been. Then I realized that the back half of that sentence pretty much says it all. Talking to someone who's neither judging you nor merely waiting for you to stop talking so that they can tell you happened to them today is awesome and worth every penny my insurance is paying. I doubt I'll still feel it necessary two months from now, but it's been a really great process for me and I recommend it to everyone. That and alcohol, which works differently but is just as effective in a pinch.

Posted 10:54am
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June 2nd , 2015

5 innocuous things that are making me happy in and around the present moment

- The silly season that is American politics approaching a national election is in full derp mode. Nevermind that we are 16+ months out - corporations have money to spend to ensure that they stay rich and we stay happy with the scraps, so let's do this. We've covered that Bernie Sanders is not your average old cook, and you've surely seen that Americans are now as self-identified as liberal as they are conservative. But did you know that's only because we're letting in too many filthy foreigners and not coercing them into Christianity?!? It's true, according to the most vile people on the planet anyway.* It's going to be an agonizing year and a half.

*and they don't even mention the Santorum, but who given this we can infer he agrees.

- David Letterman said goodbye last week. I loved his show from a time that most of the stuff probably went right over my head - when staying up to see the first 20 minutes felt like an adult victory. Plus my dad's writing ended up on his old NBC show a couple of times and I was famously voted most likely to succeed him in my high school yearbook, so I'll be expecting an apology call from Stephen Colbert any day now. I thought this Eddie Vedder performance from the last week was pretty rad. If that makes you feel old, here's new music from Destroyer, Dave Monks and Total Babes.

- I feel like I want to say something positive about Caitlyn Jenner and how great it is that societally we've gotten to a point where people who otherwise would have suffered their entire lives and lived in fear can know be comfortable as themselves*. And for anyone who wants to say something about the PC police or is not on board, this pretty much sums it up:

*p.s. we have a long way to go.

- My softball season starts tonight. I started playing about 15 years ago because a.) I figured we'd spend an hour playing the game and a couple hours drinking and b.) nobody in Ann Arbor knew that I was unathletic, so maybe I could trick them and simultaneously prove something to myself. The good news is it worked! I became part of an often pretty good team and after every game we hung out and had good times. Unfortunately I'm now old. On the positive side, I don't have to prove anything to anyone anymore. On the negative side, I now play in fear of injury. I could still wrap my psyche around that if the drinking was the same as it ever was, but we are still sponsored by a college bar. That means we are supposed to go there to drink after games, and I now have two kids in college. Being almost twice the age of everyone in a watering hole coupled with the idea of running into someone who only knows me as the dad of someone who is supposed to be drinking with 22 year olds makes me feel skeevy. At the end of the day, I look at the calendar and see that I have softball tonight and think boo, I'd rather be going to play trivia. My retirement may be imminent.

- Finally, Siddhartha started his first real big boy job this morning. Despite the fact that it is for a Japanese laser company and you can probably count in months the time when he will make more money than I do, when I dropped him off at work (because we carpool!) it still felt like the first day of school to dear old dad. Of course imaging him as a little kid and pondering where those years went is very balanced with the feeling of "about time," so don't cry for me Argentina. Even if this is what I saw when he stepped out of my car this morning:

Posted 11:42am
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May 27th, 2015

Non-interventionism.

So I'm sorry about yesterday. It was perhaps a tad untoward. I don't suffer fools lightly, which is often a good thing when it comes to trying to make the world a better place, but can be detrimental to one's mental well being. Yesterday was an attempt to square my personal emotional state.

Then I remembered the facebook. Facebook got to be a horrible place for me a while back, because every time I checked my timeline I was inundated with hate and ignorance and just the brutality of man's inhumanity to man. I wanted to walk away and be done with it, but I simultaneously didn't want to miss out on what was going on in the lives of people I enjoyed.

The thing is, you are totally in control of what Facebook shows you. You can pick and choose whose myopic ramblings you see. So I started muting everyone. All the religious claptrap, the anti-Obama hate speech, the posts from people I haven't seen in 20 years and their kids whom I will never meet - gone. Facebook became a nice little corner of the internet for me and about two dozen friends.

Thankfully I remembered all of this shortly after yesterday's blog post, and more importantly, realized that it applies to life on the whole. I mean, not completely, but too often more than we realize. Not only do I never have to respond to LJV when he sends me something about how stupid liberals are ruining everything, I don't have to read it. Thanks to technology, I never have to know he even sent it. With a few clicks, I expunged the hatred from my life. Voila!

We can't truly live in a bubble where things we don't like or dissenting viewpoints never enter our purview. That's bad. We need back and forth and opposition and to be pushed and to push back. What we don't need is the comments section of political news stories. We don't need Fox News or reason.com or people that seemingly exist merely to poke our personal beehives. We shouldn't suffer fools lightly, but we also don't have to invite them into our lives.

Posted 4:40pm
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May 26th, 2015

The internet is for trolls.

I was gonna post something today. Honest. But instead I spent those ten minutes arguing with long time blog agitant LJV.

LJV sent me an email today with the headline "Hasn't even called a play yet..." Some of you may have guessed that this is in reference to UM football coach Jim Harbaugh and the flack that occurred over his support of the movie American Sniper being shown on campus. If you haven't heard of the faux scandal, good for you, it's a nothing story. If you've ever been on a college campus before, you know that students are outraged about everything. It's part of the job description for being young and educated. LJV seems to think that Jim Harbaugh is going to be crushed by the liberal bubble of Ann Arbor.

I normally don't care about such trivial things, but a few weeks ago when this story happened, LJV sent me another email about an incident involving vandalism, with the line "I've always felt that liberals are the most intolerant people on earth." Finally realizing that he was going to continue to bait me until I gave him the "liberal outrage" that he so clearly craved, I sent him this:

Fine. Here you go.

Here's the Daily's coverage. Compare and contrast to your galactically incompetent "journalists" at reason

I'm glad you know Harbaugh's mind so well.  Your right, he probably had no idea what climate he was walking into when he took the job, despite his tenures here and at Stanford. I'd say you're a myopic, pliant idiot who clings to a philosophy most intelligent people dabble with for five minutes in college before learning how the world really works, but I know you're like a 98 pound weekly under the boards who cries "foul" every time somebody hip checks him, so...

The real problem Larry is that I find much of your logic and lines of thought jingoistic, xenophobic and misogynistic. Like your little line about this story earlier that said liberals were intolerant because some college kids committed vandalism.  Where are your emails about the Duggars, who spend thousands of dollars and all of their time fighting against equal rights for the LGBT community, while they let their son off the hook for molesting their own daughters? Because Jesus? But hey, we have to protect women and children.  To paraphrase, if kids got raped at Denny's one tenth of the amount they did in church, we'd burn every single fucking one of them to the ground and salt the earth behind us. 

I don't know why I'd cancel my season tickets. I have no problem that Harbaugh likes American Sniper (even though it's not a very good movie). And I like that he met with people that have a problem with his tweet. I don't care that they kept out journalists, because reason.com would have attempted to drum up outrage no matter what was said behind those closed doors. Here's how reason.com covers the Duggars

That was just the first link I clicked after a search. There may be more thoughtful pieces on the site, but as far as I'm concerned, you all can take a flying fuck and get off my dick, because I don't have the time nor the inclination to explain how obtuse you all are. The adults will be in the next room trying to make the tiniest bit of progress with your collective albatross around our necks holding us back. 

I won't post any more of his musings on the subject, as to not promote ignorance and hate speech. I'm sure you all are savvy enough to find him* if you want his side, or just go read any libertarian publication on the internet. Stop reading if vomit is induced.

*I'd start looking under bridges in Henry County, Ohio.

Posted 2:06pm
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May 13th, 2015

5 innocuous things that are making me happy in and around the present moment

- Science* says that people generally stop listening to new music at 33. That intuitively sounds about right. Unfortunately, as far as I'm concerned. I find myself increasingly frustrated by both the depictions and actualities of getting older as I rage against the dying of the light. When I saw While We're Young, all I could think was "Well that's ridiculous. People in their forties aren't like that," which quickly morphed into "Well at least I'm not like that." For some reason I see stilted 40 somethings in pop culture as an affront to my particular age rather than validation that I'm still plugged into the world rather than standing by and watching it pass me by. That probably stems from my deep seeded fear that someday soon my clothes or haircut or behavior will shortly be ludicrous for someone in their forties. Is this a real thing? Am I just scared of being 40? Certainly the phenomenon exists, but whether or not I need to be worried about it or not is ultimately not for me to say, which is probably the scary part.

- For anyone under 33, here's some new Ezra Furman, Warm Soda and Someone Still Love You Boris Yeltsin. For everyone else of a certain age, here's Jack Black and Jimmy Fallon covering "More Than Words." Lord to be >33 forever.

- I've voted for Republicans, Democrats and Independents before, for every level of political office. Most of that was in a simpler time when I was still figuring things out and we all lived in a different world - well, different political climate anyway. 18 months from now I will almost certainly cast my vote for a female candidate for president for the first time, which will feel right and good. But someday, I'd like to vote for an actual progressive for the highest office in the land. I guess I did that once when I voted for Nader, but I cast that ballot knowing full well he wouldn't so much carry a single state, much less mine. It'd be nice to do it for someone who actually had a shot. As much as I'm ready, willing and able to vote for Hillary, I'd really like to throw my support behind someone like Bernie Sanders. Apparently trying to stay and feel young brings with it a bit of naive optimism.

- The 365 movies in 365 days project is in full swing and I am officially ahead of schedule for the first time (thanks to this website for making the math easy.) I am currently devouring submarine movies and the recommendations from lovely blog readers who have been kind enough to pass along suggestions. By far the worst thing I've seen so far is Gentlemen Broncos, which thankfully was my own fault for watching and not something someone offered up as a worthwhile endeavor. The BDGF is out of town this weekend, so weather permitting, I hope to be able to devour something out of doors Saturday night. Anyone with a good drive-in style summer movie that I haven't seen yet, I'm waiting anxiously to hear it.

- Finally, I'm trying to concentrate on doing some actual writing here. I suppose that's funny to say in a post that doesn't contain a whole lot of actual writing, but nevertheless it is true. I feel like it's been something missing in my life. If not exactly missing, then I was reminded by my last post how happy it makes me to turn a couple of disjointed thoughts or events into a 400 word essay that purports to say something. It may not be art or even any good, but for whatever reason, this is the only pseudo-artistic endeavor I've ever been able to do consistently without beating myself up about its shortcomings (this is probably mostly because of the restrictions I place on how I do this. If I allowed myself aggressive editing instead of relying on stream of consciousness, it'd be another chore I grow to resent.) Anyway, trying to look at the world , ponder it and make sense of it is something I want to get back to. Just apparently only 100 words at a time today.

*And when we say science we mean "science".

Posted 4:11pm
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May 5th, 2015

Herding Cats.

Cats are nature's most solipsistic animals. They do what they want, when they want. I'm amazed that they can be trained to defecate in the same place over and over again, but I guess thanks evolution for that? In any case, I'm not telling you anything you don't know, cats are indifferent to your wants and needs. I'd say they're all dicks if I wasn't ultimately jealous of how intractable they are in their cat-ness.

The BDGF's Littlest has the indefatigableness of youth. Despite my insistence that you can't train a cat to do much of anything, she was determined to apply her horsewomanship skills to our little Amelie. She was convinced that she could get a cat to jump over obstacles just like she does with the ponies. She wasn't wrong.

 

But neither was I. After a long day of "training" Amelie, she finally had enough and took off. She took refuge under the neighbor's porch and refused to come out for a few hours. After making her point she eventually came out because her stomach is ultimately the boss, but even the Littlest realized that maybe trying to bend a cat to your will is a fool's errand.

The older kids have just finished another year of college, which means we are back to five people in our household. And while there's still only two people paying the bills, there's technically two more adults around now. Of course they're also still technically teenagers, so they have a cat-like level of solipsism as well. The BDGF put it most succinctly: we love our children and love having them around, but we didn't really enjoy having college roommates when we were in college, yet here we are doing it all over again 20+ years later.

For me, it helps to think of it as herding cats. There's only so much you're going to get them to comply with. Be happy when they want to cuddle in your lap and find consolation in the fact that they do still need you, just remember that you can't really dictate how or when it happens. The rest of the time just be happy that they mostly remember to shit in a box.

Posted 10:25am
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April 24th, 2015

5 innocuous things that are making me happy in and around the present moment

- For all you snooty art lovers out there, here's a quiz asking you to identify famous works based on small bits of the piece. I got 13 of 16 and if you can do better, then I doff my cap to you sir or madam.

- This week in late night musical performances: Matt & Kim prove that even if their new songs aren't my favorite, they're still the most fun live and Elvis Costello sweetly says goodbye to Letterman.

- I'm up to movie #104 in my 365 movies in 365 days challenge. A third of the way through, I'm starting to believe I can do it. I'm currently filling knowledge gaps and blind spots with the works of Terrence Malick and early Jack Nicholson films, but the real roadblock at this point feels like it'll be continuing to find things I'm interested in when I get to 200 or 250 - especially since my largest hole is in foreign films, and it requires a certain mindset to do subtitles. So anyone with ideas, please hit me up. Just remember that I've seen a lot of movies.

- Last night the BDGF and I were having a discussion about online correspondence etiquette and word usage and spelling and the like, you know, as people are wont to do. Neither of us are great spellers, and the BDGF admitted to often googling a word to check the spelling, and sometimes substituting one word for another out of convenience. I'm often doing the former, but am loathe to do the latter. I love words, and I will often google words to make sure they mean what I assume they do, much less to assure that I'm spelling them correctly. But once I have a word I want to use in my head, I'd rather spend 20 minutes finding the correct spelling and using than swap it out for something that ostensibly means the same thing. See if you can find the word I had to look up in the next paragraph!

- Finally, I got a check this week from my dad's estate. The money is nice, but the whole thing is... weird. I honestly can't think of a more appropriate word. Since it's the last bit of procedural foofaraw, I suppose it should be some sort of closure, but I doubt that ever comes when you're talking about a parent's death. All I can think to do is try and make something good out of the influx, because what else is there?

Posted 11:27am
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April 16th, 2015

The force will be with you. Always.

In 1998 I downloaded the first Star Wars Prequel trailer (on a 56k modem - it took awhile) and my roommate and I poured over the low-res video for hours, trying to ascertain what everything was and how cool it was going to be. Needless to say, we wrong about almost everything, including how great it was going to be.

Today this came out, and I'm honestly still a little light headed.

 

Truth be told, coming out of Episode I 16 years ago, I was still pretty pumped and excited. We had already purchased tickets to see it again 12 hours later, and even that second time I thought it was 'good'. But in hindsight, both fairly immediately and in the long view, what the entire trilogy was missing most (amongst many things) was Han Solo. Which is why seeing a gray and grizzled Harrison Ford here makes me swoon. Quite literally.

This movie could still blow harder than Jake Lloyd's delivery of "What a re midichlorians?" and like Harrison Ford, being a wiser, more grizzled version of myself, I suspect it will probably be fairly middling with a few great parts (hey, Darth Maul is still cool!) but holy fucking Jesus H. Christ on a bike, Han and Chewy? Punch it!

Posted 3:02pm
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April 7th, 2015

5 innocuous things that are making me happy in and around the present moment

- Mid-week watch list: Billy Eichner takes to the streets again, this time with David Letterman, Van Halen is back performing on TV, this time Diamond David Lee Roth says "Fuck it" and doesn't even pretend to sing, Death Cab plays Tiny Desk, this time Ben Gibbard is turning into Michael Stipe, and The Muppets perform 90's hip-hop classics, this time Gonzo crushes "The Humpty Dance".

- Fill out your alphabetic bracket before the AV Club tells you the best 00's indie rock bands that start with every letter in the alphabet.

- Archer is over for another year, but you can watch this supercut of Archer literary references AND go down the nerd rabbit hole with this easter egg hunt from last season. Like Tommy Shaw, someone has too much time on their hands.

- On the face of it, this would be sadness for anyone trying to open a distillery in Ann Arbor with dreams of claiming firsties. On the other hand, if you have no money and decide to see it as an impetus to proceed with a scaled back, more idiosyncratic version of your dream, well then you can also see it as freeing. There's also comfort in owning annarbordistilling.com. Just sayin'.

- Finally, I'm off to Portlandia tomorrow for a week amongst the bearded hipsters and beer making hippies. More importantly, I'll be touring Bridge Town's numerous distilleries and spending some quality time with one of my favorite people in the world. As we've often noted, having your best friends scatter across the country is wholly lamentable, with the only benefit being that you now have vacation destinations with kick ass tour guides. I look forward to availing myself of that solace as I trek to the Pacific Northwest for the first time. Cheers.

Posted 9:17am
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