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December 21st, 2010

Notafinger!

So if you haven't heard by now, last Thursday I made a valiant effort in cutting off my left middle finger. I was being careless when making dinner and sliced a not insignificant portion off the side of my digit. Thankfully it is still attached and I now have some extra vicodin at the bedside in case of emergency. Plus the BDGF did a bang up job taking care of me, and she got to see that I can do something colossally stupid and not completely lose my shit. So while my typing is now limited and the long term effects this will have on my crappy guitar playing are yet to be determined, we'll call this a net positive. But the timing was lousy, as this all went down right before the holiday break and while I love a few days in a vicodin haze as much as the next guy, I could have really used that time to tie up things at work and finish my Christmas shopping. Ah well, back to that now. I'm off the rest of 2010, so posting will be sporadic at best the rest of the year. If I don't see ya, happy holidays and cheers! I love you guys...

- I dragged the BDGF and the girls back to Ohio for Xmas with the Brubakers last weekend, and I think it was a hit. Thanks in large part to the hotel pool, the BDGF's littlest said it was among her favorite places in the world, comparing it to Hawaii and St. Thomas. Of course it didn't hurt that my family is as fine a bunch of loving, caring and welcoming individuals as you will find, so thanks for that guys. I don't expect you'll always be at Hawaiian levels, but you're tops in my book.

- Yesterday I got the best two xmas presents that money can't buy. First, Sid agreed to wake up at the house xmas morning and open presents with his fake sisters. Then, after trivia the BDGF paid off a drunk promise by singing karaoke with me. She was the Heat Miser to my Snow Miser, and a finer rendition you are not likely to ever witness if I do say so myself. I can't thank my two favorite people in the world enough - you've managed to put an unbelievable cap on an amazing year. If I'm not the luckiest guy in the world, I don't know who is...

Posted 11:15am
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December 16h, 2010

This week in indie rock

- I'm a big fan of shoehorned Christmas items: Die Hard, The Pixies' "Holiday Song", drinking before noon. Add to that Neutral Milk Hotel's "Two-Headed Boy", performed here by the Dresden Dolls.

- Speaking of Xmas music, here's Coco, Zooey and M. Ward performing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Xmas."

- This maybe a tad anti-Xmas, but in honor of him being dead for 30 years, here's the Tweedster performing John Lennon's "God".

- And as long as we're on the video links and Beatles kick, here's Sir Paul on Saturday Night Live last weekend.

- I make a lot of hypothetical lists in my head as I have conversations in bars, and this one occurred to me the other day: songs where band members refer to each other by name. Here's what I have so far:

- Queen "Crazy Little Thing Called Love"
Freddy Mercury sings "Until I'm ready.." to which the band replies "Ready Freddy!"

- Van Halen "Unchained"
During the bridge, Diamond Dave mocks Eddie by noting "Hey man! That Suit is You!" Eddie replies by yelling into his guitar pick up "C'mon Dave, give me a break." Dave obliges "One break, coming up!" before they break back into the chorus.

- The Pixies "Monkey Gone to Heaven"
Black Francis pulls a standard live concert move of asking his lead guitarist to "Rock me Joe" right before his solo.

- The Beatles "Glass Onion"
John notes that "The Walrus was Paul", which was not meant as a compliment.

- The Promise Ring "Things Just Getting Good"
Davey Von Bohlen mentions all members of his band, including shoehorning in "Scott Schoenbeck", which is like landing a triple lindey.

Got more? I'm sure there are plenty. Impress me in the comments section.

- Finally, unrelated to indie rock, everyone's favorite gay congressman says they have the votes to repeal DADT. Drinks are on me tonight if they get this done...

Posted 11:14am
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December 15h, 2010

Don't go changin' just to please me

Change is a healthy, necessary part of life. As a big fat liberal and progressive, it's a foundational tenet of my personal philosophy. Sometimes change is organic and happens slowly like evolution by natural selection. These are the things we rarely notice in real time, but rather prompt realizations like "remember how I used to like Wham?" when you reminisce with old friends.

Other times we realize we need change. Whether you feel it building for years at a glacial pace or it overcomes you like an avalanche, often emotions of stagnation or depression or just a plain funk beg us for something - anything - different. And that's where you can get into trouble. Anything different leads to things as mild as bad haircuts and as severe as sleeping with crazy co-workers. Both make it difficult to look at yourself in the mirror the next day.

I have no idea how Jim Delany can shave this morning. All the aspirin in the world shouldn't take away the pain, and the cleansing power of a 1,000 hot showers should still leave him feeling dirty. As you probably know, the Big Ten unveiled it's new logo and division names for the revamped conference in 2011. You probably know because you could hear women shrieking and children crying across the midwest. The Big Ten had to expand, and they had done it with great aplomb until this series of abortions. A group of kindergartners armed with a dictionary and MS Paint couldn't have done much worse.

But that's ultimately a trifle. I'll personally call the divisions East and West and outside of the Moeman, no one wears clothing with the Big Ten logo on it, so what's the big deal? Recently several of my friends have seen the demise of their relationships. This is where the stakes are high and really matter. It's never an easy decision to walk away from something that you've invested a year or ten or even more of your life in, but if you find yourself considering the option on a daily basis, it's probably time for some difficult, necessary change.

The good thing is that most if not all of my friends trying to make that change seem happy with their choice. This is a huge load off of one's shoulders especially when you're friends with both sides of the ending relationship. If you don't have to take sides or spend all of your time with one of half of the relationship doing nothing but consoling, well let's just say that it's preferable. When you can celebrate change in the face of something lamentable, well that's what we all hope for. Thankfully relationships don't come with logos.

Posted 10:57am
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December 13th, 2010

Brrrrr.

This is what 113,000 watching a hockey game out of doors looks like:

Sid and I (plus the usual tailgate suspects) we're part of the world's largest hockey game Saturday - and then the weekend got really cold. There's half a foot of snow out there and the high temperature for today is 18 (with a low of 5). As much as I hate to tell the BDGF, winter is here.

Because me oh my does she hate the cold. I can handle the temperature dip - what gets me is the snow and my car's inability to handle more than half an inch of powder. I haven't gotten stuck yet, but it's been less than 48 hours and I've been close. Twice.

So we stock the bar to ensure we don't have to make any extra runs to the store, and take solace in our snow days, because rest assured winter is upon us. Let the BDGF's countdown to our L.A. exodus begin.

- This is a similar take to a joke on last Thursday's 30 Rock, but consider it my Xmas card:

- Finally, for anyone not on Facebook, here's Siddhartha and I at Saturday's pregame:

I need a haircut (and 20 trips to the gym), but we're still very handsome.

Posted 10:53am
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December 10th, 2010

The Optimist

In the senior edition of my high school newspaper my english teacher called me crabby. At 22 one of my coworkers called me a curmudgeon. Pessimist. Sarcastic. Asshole. This is more or less how I thought of myself for the first half to two thirds of my life - as the the angry young man looking for a fight, always ready to tell you how you were wrong.

Perhaps it was fatherhood, maybe it's just that you can't be angry forever, but at some point I began to see my self as a pragmatist. I think more than anything I figured out that it was more fun. Besides, it was an analytic and intellectual route. I don't innately see the bad of everything, there's just a lot of bad out there, so let's think about how we can mitigate it, while resigning ourselves to some.

Last night the BDGF turned to me and said "I hadn't read the paper all day yesterday, and I saw that headline about DADT and got so upset. Then you convinced me it was going to be OK and today it failed. You're such an optimist." Now this isn't the first time this criticism has been levied towards me. The last few years I've more than once described myself as pragmatic only to hear "Bullshit, you're an optimist."

There's something in me that cringes at this. A vestigial part of my 22 year old self that was ready to yell at kids to get off my lawn. I believe that optimist implies me to be a Dr. Pangloss, looking at a pile of shit and calling it a sundae. Finding silver linings is fine, but I believe in empirical evidence and the scientific method, not mom patting you on the head and telling you that things are going to be OK despite everything falling apart around you..

Of course after the BDGF called me an optimist (and then placated me by telling me that I'm also pragmatic) I cringed a tad and said "Well Lieberman and Collins are going to bring it as a stand alone bill tomorrow, so there's still a chance." at which point my brain quietly whispered "fuck. maybe she's right." I'm not sure how that transition occurred, I'm sure that my teenage self is pissed at 35 year old me, and I doubt you'll ever hear me you the word 'optimistic' much less refer to myself as an optimist. I do know that repealing DADT now also means that I was being pragmatic in my statements and would help to right my brain. So come on you fuckers in the Senate, vote your conscience. Do it to piss off John McCain if nothing else.

Posted 10:41am
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December 9th, 2010

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

- Every once in a while the BDGF will joke about trading me in for a younger model, to which I always laugh. Not because she's not capable of pulling someone younger and better looking than I, but because of this list. It doesn't even begin to encompass her stringent standards of cleanliness, which I always remind her that guys in their 20's could never adhere to. Luckily I was raised in an anal retentive household and had to keep things clean for a kid the last 15 years, or I never may have made the cut either.

- It's winter time in Michigan, thus what I like to refer to as 'boot season'. I don't mind the cold and the snow, but man do I hate to wear shoes. I can handle spring and fall when Chucks will suffice, but heavy December boots are a drag. The worst part is deciding whether to lace them all the way for comfort, or to go bare minimum tied so you can slip them easily on and off. What a lose/lose. But hey, we just bought tickets for Los Angeles at the end of the February, and I will kick off my shoes when we hit the tarmac.

- I showed the BDGF Punch Drunk Love for the first time the other night. Her assessment: I have a seriously dark side and the pacing and music of the movie created so much tension that she couldn't have handled it for five more minutes. I don't disagree with any of that, other than I think that movie is ultimately sweet and I love every second of it.

- For anyone worried about the state of Mittenfest due to proprietor Andy Garris being embroiled in legal issues: fear not. They just moved it to his new club Woodruff's. That Garris is a slippery one.

- Finally, I don't talk about the television much here, as I am constantly whittling down the number of shows I watch and outside of my morbid curiosity about Ben Folds on that singing reality show, I'm reticent to add new ones. But if you didn't watch The Walking Dead, fix that shit. Holy fuck was it good. I mean seriously. And while we're on the subject, I also got talked into Terriers and enjoyed it. It was just cancelled so you may not want to bother, but if you would enjoy Veronica Mars crossed with Moonlighting + Magnum P.I., go for it.

Posted 11:59am
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December 8th, 2010

Arrogance vs. Humility

We spent last week putting up the latest robot store window, and I have to say I'm pretty pleased. The picture (that I stole from the 826 newsletter) doesn't really do it justice, because there's more movement in it than McCain on the repeal of DADT.

As the process always goes, C Jason comes up with a wild and brilliant idea, and then we have to figure out how to make it reality. While we always have an idea of how it's going to go and we have a basic aesthetic at this point, the route is always uncharted. The BDGF got to help build some bots this time around and when she came to me with questions about how things were supposed to go, all I could give her was an "I don't know" and a Tim Gunn inspired "Make it work."

This fly by the seat of your pants style of creating is one of my favorite things in the world and sort of encapsulates how I approach almost everything. You decide to do something, so it has to get done, so it will get done. Simple as that. This is best exemplified by an exchange I had with C Jason last week where we were precariously putting something together and he ostensibly asked me "Will that work?" and I looked at him and said "Fuck if I know." He laughed and told me "I never know what answer I'm going to get from you - it's always either an arrogant dismissal of 'Of course it will' or a bewildered admission of who knows?" I didn't say it at the time, but those responses are usually interchangeable to me and at the end of the day, mean the same thing.

Last night Sid was tasked with making dinner from scratch for the entire family as part of a health class assignment. He was really excited and had built the evening up both publicly and in his mind. I started to get nervous when I came downstairs at 6:30 and he really hadn't started things yet, with dinner slated for 7:00. Things quickly devolved from there. Sid became overwhelmed and in over his head, so much so that when his performance was clearly not matching his expectations, he kind of lost it. Despite the assignment calling for autonomous completion of all aspects of the dinner, we pulled together in a team effort to salvage the evening, with Sid getting humbled a bit in the process.

The BDGF used to say to me a lot "You know how to do that?" and I would answer either "Of course" or "No, but I will." And again, these are ostensibly interchangeable. I'm confident and yes, arrogant enough to believe that I'm capable of completing any task. Sometimes this is hubris and every once in a while it leads to failure, but I'm wise enough to be OK with it when that happens, and to lean on those around me when I see things going that way. Part of my arrogance lies in knowing that I have people around me to help when I falter. I'm not sure that was the point of Sid's assignment, but he learned a valuable lesson either way.

Posted 10:37am
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December 7th, 2010

What's making Baby Jesus cry this week?

- So it sounds like we have a deal on tax cuts. I'm having a hard time imagining how Baby J would slap Bohner and McConnell on the back for going to bat for tax cuts for the rich, and frankly I'm trying to pull myself back off the ledge over Obama and the Dems letting them get away with it. But then I remind myself that I voted for a pragmatic President and there's a lot of good stuff in return for acquiescing, and if everyone hates a piece a legislation, it's usually a good compromise. At least that's what I am telling myself as opposed to "Obama is feckless and milquetoast." If they somehow manage to get DADT repeal, the DREAM act and a START treaty through now though, all is forgiven. I'm not holding my breath.

- Much like saying they watch PBS and listen to NPR, Americans over report how much they go to church. I shouldn't throw stones, as I often underreport how much I drink, and Baby J probably doesn't care for either of those things. However I do watch PBS and listen to NPR, so there.

- Speaking of NPR and other things conservatives don't want to pay for (no matter how little it actually costs them), the right is up in arms over an exhibit at the Smithsonian that shows Jesus with ants crawling on him. Never mind that it's a privately funded exhibit, enter Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League and world class idiot:

Why should the working class pay for the leisure of the elite when in fact one of the things the working class likes to do for leisure is to go to professional wrestling? And if I suggested we should have federal funds for professional wrestling to lower the cost of the ticket, people would think I'm insane. I don't go to museums any more than any Americans do.

If you've never been to the Smithsonian, you should totally go. They have everything there from the Gemini space capsule to the Hope Diamond to Fonzie's leather jacket. It makes me proud to be an American. But I guess that makes me elite, because I like science and learning. Maybe if Mr. Donohue would spend some time in museums, he wouldn't be so up in arms.

- War on Christmas: you fucked with wrong marine congressman. Inhofe is taking his ball and going home. That'll learn ya...

- Finally, you may remember how the BDGF enjoys telling her versions of Bible stories, like how Noah's sons Cain and Abel got in a fight because one of them wouldn't help build the Ark. Well sweetheart, prepare to have your mind blown and history rewritten, because I found our next vacation destination.

Posted 10:47am
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December 6th, 2010

Now we are six!

Welcome friends, to the (approximately) 1,208th post here at tbaggervance.com. It was six years ago that I started this repository for things that I thought needed to be said but had no forum in which to express them. It's hard to remember that far back, but I'm sure it was probably prompted by the first time I heard the word "blog" and thought yup, that's for me.

Of course I had no idea then what this would become. I certainly wouldn't have fathomed that I'd do it over 1,200 times. I never would have guessed that I'd go through obsessions relating to Scientology, gay marriage, marijuana legalization, and this picture:

I'd be surprised to find that I was spending more time talking about Baby Jesus than my record collection (which has gone from under 400 albums to over 1,500 in that time period. See? There, I talked about it. Stop feeling publicly neglected, record collection.) And the only thing more amazing than how stupidly personal I've unwittingly become in this space is that anyone takes the time to read it. Last month tbaggervance.com had 3,000* page hits. All I can say is thanks guys. I'd probably be doing this whether you took the time to at least check in once a week and scan for your name, but it definitely makes the process more fun with you along for the ride. Happy Birthday to us!

* a.) This doesn't mean 3,000 people visited the site, but impressive, eh? Plus more realistic than the 20,000 'successful requests' b.) These numbers are from last January. I'll update them when my statistics report comes back later today.

Posted 10:40am
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December 3rd, 2010

Pardon my French, but you're an asshole.

Hey kids. It's new window time at 826, so I was up late last night and am taking the afternoon off today, meaning that posting time is tight. But since I'm here, let me reiterate this which I posted on facebook yesterday:

This is in response to Mr. McCain's performance at the DADT hearing yesterday, which Jon Stewart did a good job of eviscerating last night. I don't have strong enough words to describe what a feckless, hypocritical and juvenile motherfucker I think McCain is. Seriously. It's like he's being inhabited by the ghost of Strom Thurmond. Either he believes this shit - making him so homophobic that he's willing to circumvent the military chain of command - or he's grandstanding and holding on to any modicum of power he can, shedding whatever was left of his dignity in the process. Lay down and die sir. I honor your service, but at this point I am embarrassed that you are an American.

Posted 10:58am
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December 2nd, 2010

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

- I'll keep throwing these at you if they continue to be this good (whether you like it or not). Here's Brendan Benson doing "Merry Christmas Everybody", which you should recognize from the Christmas episode of The Office (BBC version) if nothing else.

- Did I already mention this list of Brainiest Cities in America that lists Ann Arbor as #2? If you want to mine the list, South Bend checks in at 137, 33 points behind Detroit at 104. Columbus merits a respectable 48, meaning they must have ignored the 'student' population. Unsurprisingly not listed? East Lansing. Hey, it was only top 200...

- I just finished reading Christopher Hitchen's memoir Hitch 22 and highly recommend it. Hitch is fighting cancer, but he's also still fighting the evils of religion, as he did by squaring off against former PM Tony Blair the other night in Toronto. My fingers are crossed for him, but I think it would be fitting for his final act to be dispelling the myth that there are no atheists in foxholes.

- Nothing in the world makes me happier than a well reasoned, analytical argument that eviscerates agenda based stupidity. That makes this guy my hero. I also enjoyed silver fox Anderson Cooper's takedown of a Texas birther. In other news - there are still birthers.

- Finally, the holiday party season starts in earnest for me tonight. Normally this is where I lament the small talk and bad food and champion the restorative powers of alcohol. All these things haven't changed of course, but I've got the BDGF on my side now, so these things are entirely more palatable than they were without. Plus tonight is the always enjoyable 826 party, and we won't be attending my work party due to scheduling conflicts. Happy Holidays indeed.

Posted 10:53am
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December 1st, 2010

This Week in Indie Rock.

- Back when I was a cub reporter for The Michigan Daily, my first big assignment was to interview Buffalo Tom. They were one of my favorite alt-pop bands back in the day, so getting to interview them and go to the show was a pretty big deal. Unfortunately that album (1995's Sleepy Eyed) was followed three years later by the disappointing Smitten, which was followed by a descent into obscurity. But hey, alt-pop is back and big on the indie rock scene, so Buffalo Tom came back in 2007 with Three Easy Pieces, and are prepping another album as I type. Hear the fist 'single' here, and close your eyes and pretend 120 Minutes is on.

- Speaking of my college CD collection, the Jayhawks are back in studio again, ready to pump the alt country market for all it's worth. Somewhere, Barry Damman still has my Jayhawks t-shirt that he 'borrowed' back in 1996. At least I hope he does, because that shirt was sweet, and I hate to think of it as an oil rag in his garage.

- The "Best of" lists compiling 2010's most aurally pleasing albums are stating to hit the net. You could do worse than to start with Paste's version. I don't love the order, but most of '010's goodness is represented.

- Spoon is out there bilking fans by putting out a CD of a bunch of demos that were previously posted on their website. As a completist, I'm sure I probably have to have it.

- Speaking of, Jack White caused quite a stir by putting a rare White Stripes record on eBay, ostensibly charging a fan $500 for it. He makes a decent argument about why and how this went down, and everyone hates 'flippers', but I don't know man, this seems to be somewhere between weird and wrong. I guess as long as you put out enough standard black 'no frills' vinyl, I'll let the collectors fight amongst themselves.

- Finally, Fall's greatest web series, The Onion's AV Undercover, is back with a holiday edition. First up, The Walkmen cover Lindsay Buckingham's "Holiday Road" Merry Ho Ho.

Posted 2:08pm
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November 30th, 2010

Things we already knew to be true.

- The Defense Department's report on DADT is due in about an hour and, as is the world today, has already been leaked. Of course the report's been a sieve for a month now, so it's no surprise that 92% of service men and women give serving with gays a big fat yawn. Now we wait to find out on what grounds Senator McCain and the rest of his homophobic posse will choose to oppose DADT's repeal on. If a plurality of Americans want repeal, those serving don't see a problem, and it's a measure backed by the current administration and the Joint Chiefs, then I quote Edward G. Robinson: "Where's your messiah now?"

- Ypsilanti's reformed Elbow Room was a bright shining star for the almost four years it operated under Andy Garris. It was the same dingy place it has always been, but it also oozed charm and had nothing but benevolence for 826 Michigan, both mostly due to it being simpatico with Mr. Garris. But let's be honest, are any of us surprised at the allegations leveled here? They are only allegations yes, and many of them sound hyperbolized, but let us not pretend that their books were kept by PricewaterhouseCoopers. Not they should have been, mind you. One doesn't go to hole in the walls for fiduciary astuteness.

- The old joke goes that athletes always praise God when they win, but never seem to blame him when they lose. Enter Steve Johnson, who dropped an easy pass that would have upset the Steelers on Sunday, and then went on twitter to blame the man upstairs for his blatant whiff. So yes, while it is little talked about, God is interested in your day to day events, and your success or failure is subject to his whim. Now back to staring at the wall and waiting for the rapture for all of us!

Posted 11:47pm
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November 29th, 2010

Niedermeyer... dead. Wormer... dead. Kirshner/Nielsen...

It's doubly sad today. So much so that I couldn't choose to mourn only one in our traditional 'In memoriam' headline. Yesterday both Leslie Nielsen and Irvin Kirshner passed away. You know Leslie from the Naked Gun series and a million "Don't call me Shirley" references. You may not recognize Mr. Kirshner's name - but you should. Irvin directed The Empire Strikes Back, giving us both respite from George Lucas's heavy handed directing style and inarguably the best Star Wars film ever made. So rest in peace gentlemen. You not only were huge parts of entertaining me in my childhood, but have produced works that are so good that they will live on infinitely. Because no one will ever get tired of Enrico Palazzo or hearing Han Solo tell Princess Leia "I know."

- So Michigan lost to Ohio State. Again. I'm fairly over it, more upset that they had me believing for the first quarter of the game and getting all worked up over nothing. I'm also done debating the merits of Rich Rodriguez and whether he deserves another year to make it happen. I'll start to get excited about things again next August no matter what iteration of the football team preps to take the field. I will say this - I posted a facebook update during the game Saturday that said "It could be worse, I could be a Buckeye." As anyone on either side of the rivalry will tell you, Michigan sees Ohio as a state full of ignorant, hay seed, truck drivers and down there we're all stuck up, pseudo intellectuals who have an unearned sense of entitlement. Most of us are fine with both assessments, and said stereotypes are confirmed by the following exchange after that status update:

If he was trying to make my brain hurt by figuring out what "delusional intelligence" means, well mission accomplished. But I think we all know that was unintentional at best.

Posted 11:27am
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November 23rd, 2010

Thanks

- Thanks to my family. From Moeman to the Sibs to Damma and Chuck - you guys are amazing. And you probably shouldn't be reading my blog.

- Thanks to my children. You are loud, sticky and most of all, wonderful.

- Thanks to my friends. Lord knows I wouldn't put up with my shit, so it's awesome that you do.

- Thanks to the University of Michigan. Outside of the things listed above, my loyalty is pretty much yours.

- Thanks to Craig Finn. Watching you repeat a lyric that you just sang to the crowd off mic is maybe my favorite small thing in the history of the world.

- Thanks to Nick Kroll and Paul F. Tompkins. Chupacabra and Ice T are revelations.

- Maybe that last one should be thanks podcasts. You fill my day with humor and information, making me laugh and smarter. That is awkwardly phrased, but still correct.

- Thanks to booze. I couldn't do it without you. Specifically: Bell's brewery, The Grizz Den, and the stupendous, life giving, redeeming powers of Vodka.

- Thanks college football. You give purpose to my life three months a year - even when I lose money betting on you, you are still my friend.

- Thanks Steve Jobs. I sometimes give Macs a hard time, but I couldn't live without my iPhone. You have spoiled me.

- Thanks babymama. I watch everyone around me raise children and realize we did it better under harder circumstances (no offense everyone else, let us have our moment here).

- Thanks Michigan, state of. You have high unemployment and things are bleak, but at least we're not Ohio!

- Thanks Tom Brady. Don't worry about what the haters say about your hair. When they win three superbowls, then they can talk.

- Thanks for understanding, people, places and inanimate objects I left off this list. I am probably thankful for you, but this is stream of conscious.

- Finally, thanks to the BDGF, my absolute favorite person in the world. You are gorgeous, brilliant, and make me feel like I won the lottery every day we are together. Somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good...

Posted 11:32am
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November 22nd, 2010

Our long national nightmare is finally over

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. The last six months of my life have been mind bendingly fantastic. I never in a million years would have been able to foretell how the events of the last half year unfolded, but somehow that only serves to make them seem more magical and wondrous. I love the BDGF and our kids and the life we're carving out for ourselves.

But it all hasn't been sunshine and roses. And it's only now that we're out of the woods that I'm comfortable enough to talk about it in such a public forum. Moving in with the BDGF meant giving up my downtown apartment - a dream that burned bright and glorious if all too short. But I made my piece with it, as ultimately to call it a sacrifice when looking at what I was gaining in return is an affront to sacrifices.

What I wasn't anticipating or prepared for is what followed. The State of Michigan, city of Ann Arbor, and President Obama's stimulus plan decided to collude to surround my new domicile with construction in ever direction. First it was Plymouth Road - blocking my access to work. Then it was the intersection that provided access to downtown. Then it was Plymouth Road again.

Throughout it all, both Miller and Fourth Street - the ONLY two ways to get downtown from the house - have been under construction since seemingly time began. It's been a slap in the face and kick to crotch every single time I slap on a seatbelt. I did my best to persevere. I tried to remain indefatigable. I refused to second guess myself. Ultimately I knew they couldn't work on all of those roads forever. Could they?

Of course not. Plymouth is open, shiny and black. The main intersection to the house has bright, clean paint. And as of this morning, Miller is finished and our path to downtown is once again unobstructed. When I got the email this morning from the BDGF informing me of the good news, I wrote her back "BEST DAY OF MY LIFE!" It turns out that I made the right decision after all.

- In music news, in case you missed it variety, Girl Talk has a new album, and the Mittenfest lineup has been announced. Enjoy them both.

Posted 11:05am
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November 19th , 2010

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

- Tomorrow is the last home Michigan game of the season. While this year has been much more enjoyable than the previous two, it still has suffered a bit from the raised expectations of September being dashed once the weather turns and the Big Ten comes a callin'. So while we're 7-3 and staring down the barrel of 7-5, I'm going to go and enjoy breakfast on the grill, Captain Morgan, Admiral Nelson and Sailor Jerry, and one last round of washer toss. Hopefully I can throw away the disappoint when we lose 49-42. And who knows, with this team anything is possible (that involves an avalanche of points).

- In music news, the Beatles are on iTunes! If you haven't heard, you can now get the John, Paul, George and Ringo on your Apple approved device, which means I can finally uninstall my dashboard turntable. Here's 100 Beatles facts you probably already knew, and a list that of the 50 best Beatles covers. Warning - it doesn't include Ted Leo's "I'm Looking Through You" and does include U2's "Helter Skelter". I guess it could've been worse - Aerosmith's "Come Together" mercifully omitted.

- The other night I was compelled for reasons passing understanding (although largely probably due to seeing Josh Ritter perform) to get the guitar out and sing and play some tunes. Sid came up and we sang some duets and butchered some harmonies. The BDGF's littlest happened upon us and was in awe. She brought out her ukulele, sang along to 'It's the End of the World as We Know It," and asked her mother "How come we've never done THIS before?" An excellent question...

- Did you know that the Earth isn't getting warmer? That's according to an astonishing 70% of self-identified Tea Partiers. As the linked article (from the liberal rag The Economist) states (and I talked about just the other day): whether or not you believe in AGW is often neither here nor there, but it's science fact that the planet is warming, and to state otherwise is dangerous. You can't Bugs Bunny you're way out of this, walking off the cliff and not falling by saying you haven't learned about gravity yet. You'd have thought that the GOP would have learned something from the anti-intellectual curiosity posture of their former leader, but instead all evidence points to them doubling down. We can debate how racist and ignorant the Tea Party is, and you can point to the fact that they're ultimate platform is about limited government and the ideals of libertarianism, but this is now undisputed fact: 70% are at least woefully misinformed. I know it's a word they don't like to hear, much less understand, but that's science.

- Finally: it's Friday. Over the next eight days, I have to work only 20 hours, get to eat three Thanksgiving dinners, will watch two Michigan football games (one against Ohio State), see concerts by The Hold Steady and My Dear Disco and witness the penultimate Harry Potter movie. But right now, I'm concentrating on 5 o'clock and happy hour. Cheers everybody.

Posted 11:00am
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November 18th , 2010

No dark sarcasm in the classroom

From time to time my big brother and I will to get into quasi-philosophical arguments when we have been drinking for a while and the rest of the family has gone to bed. The topic at hand doesn't really matter, because the discussion eventually devolves into me saying "I went to Michigan and your degree is from the MAC," to which he responds "How much money did you make last year?" Remember that I said quasi-philosophical. And that we were drinking.

His point was that you can get a good education anywhere. Let's call this the Will Hunting "You wasted $150,000 on an education you coulda got for $1.50 in late fees at the public library," theory of education. And it is true. Of course any MAC school doesn't afford one the resources or opportunities of a world class research University, to say nothing of the average student or professor who are there to help stimulate or guide you. But the fact remains that if you've managed to navigate the waters of 12 years of education and found universities willing to let you into their hallowed halls, you can make whatever you want out of that experience.

But that's just college. Or is it? I haven't seen Waiting for Superman yet. I hear it demonizes teachers unions - which I like - but I imagine it also inappropriately lauds charter schools as the be all end all. The BDGF and I talk about education. A lot. We haven't solved the problems of Ann Arbor schools much less those of the country yet, but we're diligently working on it. The problem I keep coming back to is how to raise up the kids that are currently uninterested in education due to culture, rearing or an innate inability to think about it in a Maslow's hierarchy of needs sense. Waiting for Superman may effectively manipulate you into feeling heartbroken over a kid who doesn't get into the super cool charter school that he's dying to attend because he loves to learn, but I'll bet you more often than not, that kid is going to be fine. Kids with involved parents and/or an internal drive to succeed may be let down by lesser schools, but are ultimately in much better shape than those who have neither.

Personally I am much more interested in ideas like this. And success stories like this. People interested in solving this issue should internalize these ideals, and figure out how we can replicate them. Because it may be true that you can get a good education anywhere, but you're looking at a guy who made a lot of sacrifices to go to one of the best schools in the country. I'd like that for everyone - with a little less sacrifice to get there.

Posted 10:50am
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November 17th , 2010

What's making Baby Jesus cry this week?

- Happy Holidays everybody! Here we are just a week before Thanksgiving and the Atheists are bringing out the big guns in the War on Christmas. Stupid religious billboards make me angry, so I get why the non-believers want throw counter punches at that, but it makes me uneasy. Prosthelytizing is prosthelytizing, even if it's an effort towards reason.

- Anyone out there only attending church for the tunes, Steve Martin removes a roadblock.

- Glenn Beck talks about Nazis with such authority you'd think he was in Germany in the 1930s. Then again when the Jewish Anti-Defamation league tells you to shut the fuck up, maybe it's time to back off the metaphor.

- I chide the South quite a bit for clinging to their guns and their religion, but this, well this gives me hope. So shines a good deed in a weary world...

- Of course to balance that out, Catholics are getting the band back together for (wait for it) Exorcisms! Oye vey.

- This may be apropos of nothing, but holy shit do the Palins suffer from Hillbillymouth. I'm not sure how Sarah feels about her offspring using the word faggot, but I think Baby J would at least giver her a "Come on..."

- Finally, while this story probably has details missing, I thought we all agreed that while gays are scary, lesbians were generally ok? I mean, they don't even abuse their children!

Posted 10:35am
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November 16th , 2010

Motivation

As a parent, you spend the better part of 18 years trying to figure out any way possible to reinforce positive behaviors and decentivize the bad ones. Motivation is everything. And unfortunately, not only do the positive rewards go from ten cent pieces of candy to gently used Japanese automobiles, but they also have to go beyond goods and services. You want your kid to become a forthright and involved adult long after you're not around anymore to ply them with sweets as the carrot on the stick. That's a complex stew of morality and ethics that at 35 I'm still trying to figure out, so it's no easy task. Especially when you're not willing to tell them it comes as fiat, top down from the invisible man in the sky who doesn't have a complaint department much less a process of arbitration.

I think it starts with basic behavioral psychology techniques. If you're consistent in your behavioral modeling, then things are as they are and you're half way to being a good person without thinking about it too much. Of course the other end is the tricky part. Sometimes you have to make your case and win the argument. There's usually more than one way to get the same result and I don't usually care what path you take. I think about that a lot when it comes to environmentalism. Sure I think that if you don't 'believe' in anthropogenic global warming that on some level you are being obtuse*, but if you're still integrating green ideals into your existence because it makes financial sense or to get us off of foreign oil or because that's what the neighbors do and you want to look cool, then you can think that Jesus put the oil in the ground for all I care. Just keep buying CFLs and hybrid cars.

My favorite instance of this is when we can instill good behaviors out of spite. I always assumed Cindy McCain came out for gay marriage and repealing DADT in part to stick it to her husband for inflicting Sarah Palin on the world. That is awesome. Which is why it saddened me so to see that John must have slapped her around a bit and got her to recant. Of course I can't really prove any of that. What I do know to be true is that I started giving blood as a fuck you to Ohio State. Every year leading up to the Michigan vs. Ohio State game the two schools hold a 'Blood Battle' to see who can get more people to donate blood. I can't remember the exact order of events, but at some point I heard them announce that OSU had gathered more donations, or we had lost one too many games to our rival in too short of time and I wanted to contribute to something that we could actually win. So I donated. Out of spite. And now I do it several times a year, whenever I can, because it's easy and it saves lives.

Ultimately, despite the universality of incentives and rewards, motivation is a pretty idiosyncratic. I give blood because I hate Ohio State and chances are that if I like you, I'll fix your computer for a six pack of good beer. Unfortunately I can't throw Two Hearted at Sid to motivate him to do well in school. Although I suppose the promise of college is as much about a four year keg party as it is a gateway to a career. As long as he ends up at Michigan, I don't care what his motivation is. Then we can truly use our dual hatred of OSU to make the world a better place.

*This is me being really, really, kind, fwiw.

Posted 11:10am
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November 15th , 2010

The Engagening

Turns out that the BDGF and I aren't the only ones who've been experiencing a whirlwind romance over the last year or so. A few months into our relationship bliss we were asked by our friend Mysterious Al to introduce him to some nice girls, as bliss can be infectious and seeing it makes you want it. So the BDGF set up a drink with her friend Kat, and nine months later they got engaged. Given that we were partially responsible for the whole thing, we decided to throw them an engagement party to celebrate their good fortune and our* success at matchmaking.

So outside of the cleaning and booze purchasing, I had three main tasks to accomplish:

1. The art
As with Jason and Amy's engagement party, we needed some art to commemorate the day. Since line drawings of the couple as robots has been done to death, the natural place to go was here:

Apologies for my mediocre Photoshop skills, but still funny, right?

2. The cocktail
Being her mother's daughter, the BDGF also insisted on a 'signature cocktail' for the event. We quickly decided on this:

I really can't explain how we came up with it, but there it is. It looked kind of like this:

3. The chalk board
As the BDGF ran out the door 30 minutes before the party was to start to run the children around, she asked me to 'Do something with the chalk board' that sits in our living room. I quickly scribbled this:

Most thought it was done by the children, which was OK with me.

Anyway, I think everyone had a good time. We all certainly couldn't be happier for Al and Kat - two of our favorite people who deserve every ounce of happiness that comes their way. Cheers kids.

*The BDGF's

Posted 2:18pm
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November 12th , 2010

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

- Earlier in the week we talked about our friends Jack and Meg, and then they went out and made news again. I love The White Stripes and three years is too long between albums, but reunited? Doesn't that term inherently imply a break up? No need to nit pick I guess, new White Stripes is new White Stripes. If I were to nit pick, it does seem like Jack has an almost Kiss-ian penchant for soaking his fans with merchandise opportunities. I mean, yeah it's cool stuff, but who needs a $500 White Stripes branded record player?

- No one else could possibly care, but the U is currently revamping its email and calendaring systems, and trying to decide between going with Google or Microsoft. After attending all the meetings, I'm firmly in the camp I assumed I would be going in. So this makes me happy. And for the record - as it has come up in my life more than once recently - please get a gmail account. I've had the same email address since 1994 so I understand cohesion. But those of you who have issues with crappy services like hotmail or those who change their email every three years when they change ISPs - go gmail. It's awesome and not going anywhere.

- To make yourself smarter and spark discussion: Watch! Maddow and Stewart! Hear! Dexter Filkins on Afghanistan. Read! Reaction to the Simpson-Bowles commission.

- The BDGF and I are planning our yearly February exodus from Michigan in search of sun. Early odds are on a trip to Los Angeles. This is based on a desire to go to cheap UCB comedy shows during the week and attend a taping of TPiR. Flimsy? You bet. So feel free to offer up reasons to go and things to attend while we're there. Especially if you have a cheap, cute hotel that the BDGF can sleep in without bringing her own sheets.

- Finally, tonight I go to bet the ponies and tomorrow we celebrate the engagement of Mysterious Al and Kat. Sandwiched in between there Michigan will ensure itself of a winning season for the first time in - well too long. Here's to what should be a banner weekend. Cheers.

Posted 11:34am
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November 11th , 2010

Out of the mouths of babes...

Ending a relationship when there are children involved is one of the hardest decisions one will ever have to make. It usually involves weighing your current misery against the potential misery of your offspring due to separation. This of course leads to a lot of 'staying together for the children' - until one or both of the adults can't take it anymore and decides life is better for everyone if we don't spend the majority of our days wanting to throw things at the other person over 5 feet tall in the house.

I got lucky in that I was never married, and thus never had to go through the pain of divorce. Not that it was ostensibly different emotionally, but much, much cheaper in any case. I got even luckier in that my babymama has her priorities in the right place. We obviously have our differences and things didn't work out as partners, but as co-parents we've done a pretty awesome job. It's been over eight years since we split, and we've managed to raise a kid we can be proud of without involving the legal system or killing each other. High five.

So I've said it before and I'll say it again - marriage? meh. If I'm not worried about God's covenant than what's the point of telling the state of Michigan? I don't need a piece of paper to tell the BDGF I love her and will always be there for her. Of course there is the children. What sort of example are we setting for the two teenagers and the seven year old? Unconventional sure, but one that's detrimental to their future relationships and emotional well being?

Well yesterday the youngest participated in a workshop and was asked "Why do you think people get married? Her response:

...because it is good to have someone to do things with; it’s like team work, so you don’t have to do everything by yourself and plus it is good because you get to have a sleepover all the time. 

We know this because the facilitator sent it to us as "the best answer ever for the question." I couldn't agree more. When you put it like that, marriage doesn't sound so bad after all.

Posted 10:33am
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November 10th , 2010

This Week in Indie Rock

- Monday night marked the return of Conan, and what will hopefully be the start of many cool musical acts getting a venue to hawk their wares started with favorite son Jack White. I meant to ask his big sister Meg about it last night, as we ran into her at the Brendan Benson show and hung out a bit, but I thought it might be gauche.

- I'm never sure whether or not to post crappy cell phone video from shows, as the quality is shit and I really have disdain for the people who spend their time recording said shitty footage only to what, watch it once ever again? But hey, this is Craig Finn as Kiki Dee, so thus deemed worthy.

- Being with the BDGF has more or less put an end to the Death Cab portion of my existence. It's part that I don't need the self loathing anymore, part that the BDGF's proclivities are to the more dynamic and raucous, and that's infectious. Nevertheless, here's Ben and his wife Zooey in some crappy cell phone footage performing new songs and Radiohead numbers. They are still adorable and I'll always love his voice.

- Speaking of voices I love, there's just something about Shatner.

- Mittenfest has quickly become the highlight of winter break every year, injecting mirth and warmth into a cold and dreary season. They just announced the band list for this year, as if you needed a reason to add it to your calendar.

- Finally, a jury just decided that a woman in Minnesota owes $1.5 million for pirating 24 songs. I'm not sure what the stupidest part of the story is - the RIAA for pursuing it in the first place, the woman for continuingly appealing a judgment that was once down to $25,000, or the fact that somehow one mp3 could possibly merit a $62,500 judgment. All I know for sure is that I'm glad I've never illegally downloaded anything from the internet. Whew...

Posted 11:47am
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November 9th , 2010

What's making Baby Jesus cry this week? Totally gay edition

- The "It Gets Better" project keeps getting, well, better. Watch as Sulu himself appropriately calls a homophobic asshat from Arizona douchebag - over and over again. Because Baby J once told you about whatever you do to the least of his people.*

- As the new Republican majority in the House gets ready to come in on its white horse and smite the liberal agenda with its flaming sword of righteous indignation, General Gates advises repealing DADT post haste. I agree, and so does the tbaggervance.com version of Baby Jesus.

- I note the tbaggervance.com version of Baby J, because it apparently is in violent opposition to that of Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter. I realize that my Catholicism is 'lapsed' and that I'm an 'Atheist', but that doesn't exactly jive with what I remember about the meek inheriting the earth.

- A word of caution to the xenophobic and Islamophobic amongst you - banning Sharia Law in your state (that has never has a single case where Sharia Law was applied) might not be a great idea, since it also probably invalidates the courts considering the Ten Commandments. Whoops.

- Finally, if you'll allow me to shoehorn this in, MSNBC and The Daily Show have traded barbs following the Rally for Sanity. TDS lumped MSNBC in with Fox in the obfuscation/noise business, and MSNBC came back with "How dare you?" and "Your rally wasn't about anything!" Well I disagree that the rally wasn't about anything, and I disagree that MSNBC=FOX. Here's Maddow talking about the difference. And here's Rush Limbaugh accusing liberals of lying about everything, after his fat, drug-addled ass salvos with "exercise is irrelevant." It's just not the same. Those that say it is are playing for the wrong team.

*Note: nothing 'least' about the gays, just sayin'.

Posted 10:53am
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November 8th , 2010

King of the Road

It's the journey, not the destination. We've all heard this trite bit of cliche that is supposed to teach us to stop and smell the roses or live in the moment - to not be completely wrapped up in singular goals but rather to enjoy yourself along the way. It's a reminder we all need from time to time, even if it's mostly hippy bullshit designed to placate failure.

Friday night Siddhartha and I went to the movies. He drove. I'm still trying to make the math make sense of it being 23 years since I saw Die Hard for the first time, and now at 35 my 15 year old is driving me to see another Bruce Willis action movie. But the night wasn't about the destination of the theater, rather the journey of getting there. If you've never been in a car where your teenager is driving with virtually no experience - harrowing doesn't begin to describe it. The urge to scream out warnings and corrections has to be suppressed every 3.8 seconds. But it's just another step in the journey of getting comfortable with your kid being out of your sight for five minutes, to sending them off in the world be on their own.

Saturday I entered Michigan Stadium looking for a bowl-eligible 6th win after 3 disappointing losses. Four hours later we emerged victorious 67-65 after a record setting day by both offenses. It was an afternoon filled with frustration and excitement, but after the kick in the junk that has been Michigan football for the last two years, I didn't care how we got there. I needed win number six. High scoring slug fests are a fun journey, but they're also a shitty way to spend an afternoon if you come out on the wrong end week after week.

I suppose that these two particular paradigms conform to these proclivities for me more often than not. Child rearing is all journey, as it's never ending. If you can't enjoy the process than you end up as some kind of stage mother, defining success by some insignificant accomplishment that you put on your progeny because you failed to achieve it in your life. Sports is all destination, as it's so finite. Your mood for the week can be defined by a few hours on Saturday and decided by kids who two years ago were classmates of my 5'4" 100# son. It's all a little silly. Kids need destinations because without them they're either ineffectual or spoiled assholes. And if it's not the journey we enjoy about sports, then what's with all the tailgating? As with everything we endure, it's ultimately about finding balance. Damn. More hippy bullshit.

Posted 10:44am
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November 5th , 2010

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

- So Tuesday sucked. I for one don't welcome our new smarmy, orange overlord. In the end it was folly to assume that the Democrats (of all people) could sustain snatching a national narrative from lock step Republicans. And I can't decide if articles like this make me want to bang my head into the ground even more, or soothe me because we still have the right guy in charge. I do know that the alternative is this, and any self identified Republican should be ashamed of their leadership. This assumes Republicans have any ounce of shame left, so is largely a moot point.

- In 1984, during the Detroit Tigers World Series run, my dad was headed to a game on a press pass and asked my brother and I what player's autograph we wanted. My brother being all of seven and not really caring, got legendary manager Sparky Anderson's autograph on his ball. My precocious 9 year old ass got Lance Parish. To add insult to injury, I still have my Lance Parish ball, and Taggart's Sparky has been lost to history. Sparky passed away yesterday. He got to be famous in a profession where that's not a fait accompli by being good. Not by being loud or controversial - just good. He was revered in my household and his class and good natured demeanor will be missed.

- After a two year sabbatical for laziness, I started going to the gym again yesterday. I was feeling a little soft in the middle now, and decided that I needed to get back on the horse and back down to my fighting weight. In my typical over zealous idiot fashion, I decided to dive right in and run a 5K on my first night out. Needless to say, things ache today. But I am resolute (and I signed up for a year commitment) so this is my new reality. And before you start - please don't ask me to participate in any sort of charity or fun run. I don't run outside or uphill. I may be an idiot but I'm not stupid.

- So Michigan got wrist slapped by the NCAA for too much stretching, basically because the Detroit Free Press* has a vendetta and are shitty, agenda serving pseudo-journalists. Good times when we're coming off a loss to a shitty Penn State team. Let's say this for the last time - the offense is amazing, the defense can be fixed, and starting over is going to put is in another hole of rebuilding that would likely cause me to die of a broken heart a la Natalie Portman. So please, let's just beat Illinois tomorrow and Purdouche next week and start talking about next year's awesomeness. OK? Thanks.

- Finally, today Siddhartha gets his driving permit, and can start hauling my drunk butt around. There's a lot of thirtysomethings in Ann Arbor that have been waiting for this day, as we no longer have to hope someone's wife is pregnant when we need a DD for things like beer fest. I'll go back into full freak out mode when he can drive by himself and he's out on the roads solo, but for now, I'm going to take solace in teaching him the phrase "Father, your chariot awaits..."

*dead to me

Posted 10:43am
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November 4th , 2010

My mathematical mind

For the majority of my college career I lived in a house with seven other guys. While we weren't part of the fraternity system, to compare it to Animal House isn't far from apt. We lived in the filth and squalor that is probably inevitable when you put eight 20 year olds together without adult supervision. My sister (ten years my senior) once walked into that house and immediately shrunk like a violet and asked "Can we leave?" - carefully not touching anything. And I remember thinking at the time "It's not even that dirty right now."

Looking back I have no idea how I ever survived it. I grew up in a fairly anal retentive household. Not to the point of it being a disorder mind you, but things, as a rule, were just so. Every once in a while my dad would go through the house and pick up all the shoes that littered the place and line them up in the hall under a sign "Shoes for sale", as a reminder to pick up our shit, or he'd throw it out. I remember being woken up early on weekend morning to the sound of the vacuum, because being a working mother, that's when my mom had time to do the deep cleaning.

So once I got out of college, I instantly reverted to being Moe and Judy's kid. It didn't hurt that I was all of the sudden also raising a son, and I wanted to provide him with same clean, orderly environment I was afforded. All of my siblings are the same - we were unknowingly indoctrinated into needing order in our lives. That proclivity has been put to the test living with the BDGF and more importantly - her girls. This morning I awoke to find four towels on the floor in the bathroom, along with one sopping wet in the sink. In the living room sat three vehicles large enough for a seven year old to ride around house on. My bathroom was a locker room, my living room a used car lot. I don't want to hyperbolize it and compare it coming downstairs in 1996 after we had 3 kegs and 150 people in our house, but when the BDGF and I got together, she made me promise to survive at least the next 30 years, which I did - but I can't be held responsible for the fact that the condition of our domicile this morning took two weeks off of my life. Lots of people talk about how exciting it would be to go back to college. I'm not one of them - if only because of the squalor.

Posted 10:34am
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November 3rd , 2010

Weeds

The other night Siddhartha and the BDGF were both in the kitchen when I noticed that he had finally surpassed her in height. This is significant not only because he was at minimum three inches shorter than her when they first met less than a year ago, but because it's starting to engender a bit of hope in his old man that he's not doomed to Tom Cruise-ian heights for the rest of his existence. Not only would this be significant for his athletic career, but the overall weight that would be lifted off of my shoulders to not have to worry about a Napoleon complex is slight but meaningful. Tall people - especially dudes - just have it easier.

Yesterday California's pot-legalization initiative - Prop 19 - went down to defeat. It's not something that I have any real stake in other than I think the fact that pot is illegal is mind numbingly stupid. At the same time three of the judges that made gay marriage legal in Iowa were given the boot by the electorate. These are backward trends on issues that I thought we were making real strides on. What can you do? We knew the House was gone for months so it's a little easier to take, but in any case all you can do is say 'fuck it', and try to remain indefatigable.

Sid may never make it to 5' 10", but we'll eventually see pot and gay marriage legal. The key is to never lose hope. I remember when I was resolute that Sid would be lucky to hit 5' 5", and they only people who talked about marijuana and marriage equality were pot heads and gays in long term relationships. Now he's 5' 4.5" and the places that you can smoke a joint while watching two dudes get hitched are growing. I may have little to no control over any of them, but watching all of them take root and grow is something worth hoping for and at the end of the day, is fun to watch unfold. When they come to fruition, life will be easier for a whole lot of people.

Posted 2:01pm
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November 2nd , 2010

V O T E !

I was just in a meeting with a bunch of Polish post-doctoral residents who were asking me myriad questions about the American voting process due to my proud display of my "I Voted!" sticker. After explaining the absentee voting process for people who are not in their state of residency during an election, they noticed someone without their requisite sticker and only out of their congenial manners of being guests in this country were they not immediately apoplectic. That was a good thing, as he explained to them his plan to vote after work. A sense of calm enveloped the room as they explained how important it was to vote and that we should all take it very seriously. I didn't continue the conversation, but in my head I asked them about there almost abject apoplecticism and what do they think/know about Americans and our current implementation of democracy? They responded by calling us overweight, uneducated bags of apathy and that the fact that we once fought so hard for freedom and representation and now treat it with a laissez faire attitude that would make The Economist blanche, well that's just an affront to all that is fair and decent in the world, much less a repudiation of our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that keeps us ibid. So dear readers - vote. Or suffer the wrath of the Poles.

- If you are in The Great Lakes State and haven't hit the polls yet, here's some analysis of the two statewide ballot proposals and The Daily's voter guide.

- As for me, I voted for a bunch of Democrats today, and a Republican for governor. I'm not that worried about a Republican takeover of the house. Not my druthers mind you, but I figure they'll either be obstructionist and get beat back in 2 years, or they'll learn to compromise and shit might get done. I'm trying to find a positive in the inevitability, because I'm not out of hope yet.

Posted 2:37pm
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November 1st , 2010

Sanity and Civility.

I don't know exactly how many people we on the Washington Mall last Saturday for The Daily Show's Rally to Restore Sanity. Reports vary, but as someone who spends most fall Saturdays surround by 110,000 people clad in Maize and Blue, I can tell you that it was a shit ton. An avalanche of humanity. If there wasn't twice as many people there as a home Michigan football game, I'll eat my hat.

As such, I'm sort of ironically the last person you want to ask about anything that actually happened on the stage that day. Seeing and hearing much of anything through the crowd was mostly an exercise in futility. You can watch it here. And Jon's summation seems to get across pretty well what the day was about. But on the ground surrounding the stage and its cavalcade of stars was an overwhelming civility. People being, well, nice. If you've ever been to a packed concert or tried to leave a full stadium at the same time as everyone else, you understand how maddeningly frustrating the crowd dynamic can be. This was the opposite of that.

The reason why all of those people were there, not screaming slogans or spewing vitriol but merely coalescing around an idea and mindset and reveling in being around others who feel the same? I think (noted conservative) Andrew Sullivan put it best:

...it is an identity politics: proud of being educated, sick of being stereotyped, interested in facts and reality, fed up with being condescended to ... and deeeply worried about the direction in this country.

If the ghost of Richard Nixon will allow me, Stewart and Colbert have sensed a silent plurality, alienated by both parties, still hoping for Obama's success, and yet unwilling to worship any politician or even take themselves too seriously for fear of falling into the same foul-smelling bullshit that already covers far too much of our political culture.

And that gave me not just a great afternoon. It gave me hope.

The trip to the rally was the BDGF's idea, as she had always wanted to march on Washington. It was a dream of mine as well, but I never had a sense of what single issue or cause would be important enough for me to do it. Well if this was about saying that there are more level-headed, reasonable people out there than the hyperbole of rhetoric on both sides of the aisle would assume, than I can't think of a better cause. Who knew there were so many of us?

- The sanity over the weekend was infectious. The BDGF and I stopped in a hotel bar Friday night as we were walking around and I had reached a point of no return on needing a bathroom. By the time I got to the bar, she was being chatted up by a fellow rally goer: a thirtysomething guy attending the rally with his aunt (whom he lived with and was asleep upstairs at 10pm) and was a graduate of OSU. We had a civil discussion about our two Universities, and then he offered up this little nugget: "It's not like it used to be. It's really hard to get into OSU now. You need at least a 32 on your ACT to get on main campus." I won't comment on the stupidity of that statement other than I didn't physically harm him or even verbally eviscerate him with my clearly much larger knowledge base, vocabulary, and comprehension of the facts. I said something like "you might want to check those numbers" and we left. The BDGF thanked me for not bullying the smaller kid. Sanity indeed.

- All of the sign photos are on Facebook.

Posted 11:12am
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October 28th , 2010

5 innocuous things that are making me happy in and around the present moment - Our Nation's Capitol Edition.

- I have seemingly spent a lot of whatever good karma I had saved up on the timing of our trip and the subsequent Rally for Sanity this weekend. Not only did they decide to have the event during a Michigan away game, but a Michigan away NIGHT game. So I get attend The Daily Show's Rally for Sanity, be a big hero to the BDGF and not have to resent any of it by checking scores on my phone the entire time. It also means that I get to watch the game at the Washington bar listed here, which sounds awesome.

- D.C. was once ground zero of a burgeoning punk scene. Minor Threat, Bad Brains and countless others started there back in the 1980s. I'm not sure what happened - maybe Marion Barry kicked out the jams like Giuliani squashed the porn theaters in Times square - but there doesn't appear to be a single interesting thing happening musically in the DC area all weekend. Right now the leader in the clubhouse for Friday night entertainment is the Spelling Buzz, which is a spelling bee combined with mandatory drinking. Luckily I am good at exactly one of those things.

- Sometimes the Onion folds in on itself and takes a sad reality and turns it into hilarity, but nails it so on the head that you immediately come back to the sad reality. So it goes with this headline:

Democrats: 'If We're Gonna Lose, Let's Go Down Running Away From Every Legislative Accomplishment We've Made'

I guess Obama tried to counter punch that last night talking to Jon, but it's far to little to late to be effective. I mean I hope not, but probably.

- Back home, many of you have read Rich Retyi's work on annarbor.com, and since my name has made it into his work more than once, I will return the favor and plug his new joint blog - inbedbyeleven.com. Also, the opening of Ann Arbor's latest brew pub is imminent. By all accounts, you'll know exactly when they are street legal and open for business by looking here.

- Finally, can I just say holy shit I'll be on a plane to DC 24 hours from now. I haven't been there since I was in high school, which basically means not at all. To get to have the experience of DC, PLUS the Daily Show Rally, PLUS Michigan football at night in a foreign land - and to it all with my best friend who also has sex with me? Holy shit I am a lucky man.

Posted 10:39am
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October 27th , 2010

I am Saddam Hussein.

When I was a kid my parents bought a conversion van and we drove everywhere. By everywhere I mean we drove the 12 hours to Minnesota a few times a year to see my brother who lived there at the time. My dad would rouse the entire house at 4am (not that much earlier than when he normally woke up) and drive through the morning to avoid traffic. I'd throw myself in the back, pull a blanket over my head and then intermittently wake up every hour or so to flip the tape on my walkman. When I did groggily rouse from my slumber I remember two things being omnipresent - the smell of my dad's pipe and the scratchy sound of talk radio.

At the time I didn't understand it, and I still don't understand how I've known my dad for 35 years and I've never once seen him voluntarily listen to music. While of course my relationship with music took the opposite direction, my love for talk radio is the same. Outside of a few forays during football season to catch scores or to hear what the local idiots are saying about Michigan, the radio in my car is always on NPR*. My commute is filled with 'Morning Edition' and 'BBC World News' and 'All Things Considered'. I download podcasts of 'Fresh Air' and 'Wait! Wait! Don't Tell Me!' and 'This American Life' just in case I'm not in my car to hear them.

As a consumer of a lot of different news media from a wide variety of sources, I think NPR is in the upper echelon of getting things right. Liberal sure, but not to a fault. I think they work hard to present both sides of an argument on a consistent basis. Say what you want about them firing Juan Williams, he was on the Diane Rehm Show on NPR four days later talking about it. That's a version of fair and balanced you're never going to see out of the shills on Fox News.

So is that why all-around good guy Karl Rove described me as Saddam Hussein for listening to NPR? Could it be that getting the news in a way that doesn't serve the narrative of the Republican party is a bad thing? What really flicks my junk is that he said that NPR and the Times are overwhelmingly liberal AND unaware of it. That's pot kettle black if I've ever heard it. NPR and the Old Gray Lady would be the first to admit their liberalism, but that they constantly fight against letting it bleed through into their news coverage. Find me someone at Fox News who can say that with a straight face.

I don't think my dad was listening to NPR on those long drives down a darkened I90. What he actually had on is neither here nor there at this point. Somehow my father's thirst for information found it's way into my adult personality and I'm obviously a better person for it. Even if a large part of it comes from communist (or I guess dictatorial?) sources like NPR.

- Michigan Radio just happens to be doing their annual pledge drive as I type. If you listen, you should donate. If you don't listen, try it. Nothing makes me feel better than to be in the car and have one of the kids ask me about a story that we're listening to on NPR. It'll make them smarter too.

- More costume ideas as Halloween aproacheth.

*Unless 'A Prairie Home Companion' is on. I'll never get Garrison Keilor.

Posted 10:38am
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October 26th , 2010

Limbo.

Tuesdays are the worst. At least when they're sitting and staring at a vacation the following weekend. Mondays have their inherent issues and at 4 days out, sit far too far from the vacation realm to merit true excitement. Wednesdays are a relief in that you can start to go laser guided focus on your trip and can remove the chucks on the momentum towards the weekend. But Tuesdays can suck it. I can't even start packing yet. Every fiber of my being wants to not only concentrate solely on heading to our nation's capitol but to actually be there. You'd think I'd be used to this as it's the feeling I get about every Thursday prior to a Michigan football game, but vacations are somehow worse. And as I haven't taken a vacation during Michigan football season in well, ever, when Thursday hits and my football anticipation collides with my vacation momentum, well if I need electroshock afterwards you'll understand.

- Here's a quick rundown of pop culture halloween costumes. In a pinch, you can always go 3 hole punch Jim.

- And of course your yearly guide to inappropriately slutty halloween costumes. Stay classy.

Posted 11:38am
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October 25th , 2010

Ways in which I am old, vol. 238.

There was a time when I lived for BW3s. This harkens back to an era when I had no idea that it was even a chain - not that it would have likely mattered to my college age self. It was about the wings. The Buffalo Chips. The tall, cheap, domestic beers. Plus they had NTN trivia, so the ability to go drink on the cheap and eat middle of the road bar food while displaying my skills at trivial knowledge was sort of a trifecta of perfection.

I should have seen the shark jump when they changed their name. BW3s hasn't been BW3s for something just short of a decade. It's now Buffalo Wild Wings and while I can't say that I miss the weck, it certainly signaled a shift away from what I wanted out of the place. BW3s is now the TGI Fridays of sports bars. The food menu has been broadened to appeal to a larger section of the population, and the beer selection has gone in the opposite direction to achieve the same effect. Outside of the massive amount of televisions showing every game so that you can see every contest no matter which way your head is turned, Bdubs no longer has any appeal to me.

It came to a head yesterday when the BDGF and I were looking for a quick bite on our way to see Bubba Clinton talk. We had a mere 45 minutes or so, but I figured that was ample time to grab a quick drink and a bite. Needless to say that after 35 minutes of waiting for our food, sipping the best worst beer they had available (Blue Moon? Seriously.) and watching our waiter perform janitorial services (before he was due to be directly handling our food) AND talking to a manager whose response was "Give us a break, we're all hung over," we figured out what we owed for the drinks, paid, and walked out.

We had screwed up the Clinton thing, so we went to Grizzly Peak for a craft beer, some real food and actual service. They only had one game on the 3 TVs there, but the lack of schizophrenic sports stimulus was more than made up for by a staff that was better than indifferent and cuisine that wasn't deep fried.

So maybe BW3s hasn't changed as much as I have. Maybe my pallet has matured and I'm adult enough to finally insist on not being shit on by a college kid who took a server's job to hit on drunk chicks. And yes, maybe one horrible experience shouldn't necessarily tank your opinion of a place and send it careening off of a cliff. But my love for beer, bar food and trivia hasn't abated, so clearly it's not just me. Luckily BW3s is an inanimate object that I can break up with cleanly without assessing the character flaws, growth or lack there of led to it. It's over Bdubs. Lose my number because you're officially dead to me.

- Hello Filipinos that read the blog! Enjoy the last week of Filipino American History Month. BTW, you're not Asian, you're Pacific Islanders.

Posted 1:46pm
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October 22nd , 2010

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

- I've been just short of apoplectic over the way that the Administration has handled DADT as of late. I've never doubted their commitment to ending the civil rights violating, antiquainted policy, but was frustrated over their feet dragging when they are supposed to be about the fierce urgency of now. But there's this, which reeks of wink wink, we're almost home. And then there's this, which is the leader of the free world telling gay teenagers that it's OK to be who you are. Sometimes even adults need to be reminded that it gets better.

- Speaking of doing the right thing, Zack Galifianakis recently spoke up about his discomfort over working with Mel Gibson. Then he was no longer working with Mel Gibson (and not because Zack got fired!). I've always told my kid that if you see something wrong going on, you say something, and this is why.

- I go back and forth on how much I like Bill Clinton as a president. I've always thought that he's smarmy, but on policies alone it's hard to argue that he wasn't effective in being a conservative Democrat and getting shit done. In any event, people always talk about how magnetic he is in person, so I'll probably try and attend this on Sunday.

- You can't make this shit up: "My biggest failure was not privatizing Social Security." I hate everyone who ever voted for him.

- Finally, I JUST found out the other day that the night that my BDGF took me by the hand and led me into a photobooth, thus changing our lives forever, happened on the day of her wedding anniversary. She didn't know it at the time either, but I find the irony/coincidence of it all H I L A R I O U S. Cheers everybody.

Posted 11:11am
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October 21st , 2010

Oh the righteous indignation is hot today.

- NPR has fired Juan Williams for saying he gets nervous when he sees Muslims boarding planes. I say kudos NPR, as one shouldn't incorporate fear mongering with the news. Whoops! Unless you're Fox, in which case that's how you make your money. Probably why this complete waste of human flesh still has his job, and Glenn Beck calls NPR "jack booted thugs". Man, that guy watched too many Spielberg movies growing up. Plus, have you heard NPR? Right, bunch of thugs. Michelle Norris and Terry Gross are goose stepping their way into your cars and living rooms guys.

- Meanwhile, some parents group is accusing GQ and 'Glee' in participating in pedophilia. GQ smartly points out that these girls aren't remotely in high school. They also should have noted that straight men don't watch 'Glee' and that this has been going on for like, ever. I mean Gabrielle Carteris was old enough to be my mom when she was on '90210', and she was playing someone my age.

- This was a while back, but worth talking about now that we're in the midst of a campaign finance debate. Target took a hit for donating to an anti-gay candidate. My point? This is why unlimited anonymous corporate donations are a bad thing. Now while I abhor the donation I'm not boycotting Target because I still like their over-arching philosophy. But people should be able to say "You support this, I don't support you." Think corporations want it that way? I can't believe we have to debate this.

- Finally, I'm not sure that this violates anything, other than anyone with a brain's innate sense of conflict of interest. I'm throwing up my hands and walking away for a moment.

Posted 1:06pm
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October 20th , 2010

What's making Baby Jesus cry this week?

- Win one for baby J! An appeals court has upheld Illinois' "Moment of Silence" for schoolkids. The court, in their Solomon like wisdom, upheld the law because it doesn't specify prayer. Nope, no prayer specification in the Illinois Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act. I'm against these moment of silence things, as they are always back door religious, but also generally think too much is made of them. But in this case, I mean, that's your justification? Jesus Christ...

- Even Baby J knows that society is inherently progressive, despite what half of your politicians tell you. That's why I've never understood Karl Rove's short term strategy of pandering to the religious right, as now it's hurting both the conservative movement and religion. Talk about making a deal with the devil.

- I think even the venerable Tiny Jesus would agree with me when I say "Someone get this fucking douche bag a Venn diagram."

- There's no telling which denomination or even religion Jesus and his Dad prefer, but I'm pretty sure Homer isn't Catholic. Even though they do use actual wine in their ceremonies, which with I'm sure he's on board.

- This is so dumb I hate to even post it, but yes, Rush thinks Obama is a demon. For fuck's sake who listens to this turd?

- My sainted mother loved John Kennedy, in no small part because he was Catholic. This was always a conundrum to me growing up, as I'm not old enough to have experienced the anti-Catholic sentiment that once existed in this country. Well hooray for the Pope's disciples, as 95% of the country would now vote for a Catholic! Of course, Atheists round out the bottom of the list at 45%. Fortunately I'm not running for office, but Mitt Romney should be nervous about that poll.

- Here's a nice little piece about Morality without God, which is a cogent argument even if I don't agree with all of it's assumptions about altruism.

- Finally, from the "no shit" department, Christine O'Donnell doesn't know that the separation of church and state is established by the first amendment to the Constitution. From the department of "Of fucking course", Rush agrees with her. But fear not for our collective selves, real Americans who read this blog, the entire audience blanched when she suggested such nonsense. This is what Limbaugh referred to as "really scary" and what I see as a triumph of the American educational system in the face of contradictory dogma and obfuscation on the part of the modern conservative movement. Heads up guys - you've alienated minorities and young people for decades. Take what ever victory you get Nov. 2nd and run with it, because you've actually already lost.

Posted 10:30am
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October 19th , 2010

I'm not as good as the interstates are.

I never used to sweat my report card. I'm a fairly confident intellectual and even when I was waiting for ACT scores, I never really doubted that they'd be up where I expected them to be. The only time I got nervous was when I was waiting to get into Michigan. That was a culmination of my entire academic career. I was essentially being graded on every grade I ever got, and there was no fixing it should it not go down the way I wanted. Had I failed to get in, it would have been an indictment of everything I thought I had achieved.

Last night Sid started drivers ed, and for the first time, I'm actually nervous as a parent. As a father, I've always viewed it as my job to prepare my kid to go out into the world without me. To push him to be his own person and test the limits of his freedom. To not protect him from falling, but to give him a hand back up and make sure he sees why he fell in the first place. Making mistakes is an expected, important thing, and when your dad expects you to do more on your own than you think your capable of, there's going to be a lot of them.

If there's one Moeman maxim that I've taken to heart more than any other, it's that the older you get, the smarter your parents are. So I've tried to push Sid when appropriate to do more than he's at times thought he could. To make him be independent and fearless in the face of adversity. It's not always been easy and he doesn't always listen. Such is the paradigm of father and son.

Now he's going to find himself behind the wheel of a large automobile. It's not that I don't trust him. It's not that he's not capable. It's not that I haven't drilled it into his head since he was three that if he ever gets behind the wheel of a car after drinking and the tree he runs into doesn't kill him, I will. These things are absolutes. It's that despite my advancing age I remember what it's like being 15/16/17 in a car. I remember the feeling of immortality and trying to do more than maybe your capable of. To try and push the limits of the freedom that an automobile provides.

Bottom line - he's going to do something colossally stupid. Probably more than once. And all I can do is hope that these things lead to missing bumpers and teenage vomit in the back of my car and nothing more. He's about to take a giant leap in freedom and personal responsibility, and all I can do is sit back and hope I've done a decent job of prep work. Every time he gets in the car and leaves, it'll be like waiting to get accepted to Michigan. Until it comes time for him to apply to U of M, which is when that embolism finally pops in my brain.

*this will be marginally less true the next time he has a girlfriend.

Posted 10:36am
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October 18th , 2010

Michigan doesn't play next week, so one last football post for a while. Promise.

Over the years I've gotten into a number of scrapes at Michigan Stadium. Ironically, it's always been with Michigan fans. It usually comes about when some fan* takes to booing the team on some level or even just repeatedly to my dismay being overtly and overly negative about our on the field prospects. Well, I have a problem keeping my mouth shut in those situations.

Maybe it's just the way that I was raised, but you don't boo your own team. Doubly so when we're talking about a bunch of kids who aren't getting paid to be out there. If this is 'your' team, how are you helping? Not that they can hear you from row 70 anyway, but if they could? I tell these dolts over and over again - save it for the bar after the game. You can show all your friends how smart you are with your critiques and how if you ran the team, we'd still be undefeated. Until then, cheer on YOUR team or shut the fuck up and get out of the stadium.

I'm not sure why it upsets me so. As the BDGF points out, I spend Thursday and Friday before a game getting pretty worked up about things, and then to have go sit in the stadium and take barbs from people that are supposed to be on my side? It makes my brain explode just a little bit. I understand anger and frustration and disappointment. But if you've decided to give up on the game or the team of a specific player or coach - go home. Stop ruining the game for everyone else still there and on board with trying to salvage something. Because I'm not going to keep my mouth shut, and I've got more people on my side than you do.

* These people are never alumni, usually it's the one game they go to for the year. This only exacerbates the situation, as why you'd want to pay that much money to go be Debbie Downer for three hours is beyond me.

Posted 10:52am
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October 15th , 2010

Football Fridays.

Tomorrow marks year three of what has become my new favorite tailgate tradition - the  O B E R O N   OUT. As Autumn begins to burn bright, our favorite summer ale is going down for a long winters nap. During our pre-Iowa festivities, we will celebrate Oberon's departure by drinking nothing but the official beer of summer. We will bid it a fond adieu as we welcome in Two-Hearted, its hoppy, winter replacement. Oh yeah, and we are getting a keg. So stop by and revel in the ridiculosity. Should be a scene man.

- Just announced (officially): Michigan will play Alabama in Texas to open the 2012 season. You can't keep the BDGF out of her quasi-home state, so you can bet your Denards we will be there.

- As we enter Michigan's half way point of 2010, the Daily grades them out. They take the surprising position of offense good, defense bad. Go figure.

- We talked about college athletes and those that profit off of them a few weeks back, but who has qualms with a shot called The Shoelace? And more importantly, who doesn't want one?

That's all I got. My brain is doing somersaults waiting for kick off, so it's a good thing I plan to quiet it tomorrow with the sweet nectar of Bell's finest. Go Blue.

Posted 2:39pm
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October 14th , 2010

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

- Whether we're talking about The Secret, Men are from Mars... or Joel Osteen, if you've found yourself in the middle of some populist movement that claims it can change your life or understanding, chances are it's some repackaged bullshit that anyone who's taken an introductory philosophy/psychology/history class can debunk in the time it takes me to drink a pint (not long, obv.) That's why I love this piece in The New Yorker on how Glenn Beck is parroting the John Birch Society. Stay classy, knucklehead.

- Speaking of, how come nobody wants to own up to paying for this little piece of public art? If you want to do something in public, you should own up to it. Stop being spineless; act like an adult. I guess the issue is that when you put these people in a public forum, they come off as what they are - uninformed idiots.

- The other day the BDGF's youngest and I raked some leaves:

Chloe

I now call her "Crunch", for her ability to stomp down the leaves in the compost bin and make room for more.

- Speaking of cute little girls, I got an unexpected visit from the Jesuses last week, and they brought the cutest, littlest, newest Jesus to Ann Arbor:

O

Here's hoping all three come back real soon.

- Finally, anyone who has ever heard Rilo Kiley's "A Better Son/Daughter" has immediately fallen in love with it and gone back to listen to it over and over in the times when they needed strength or reassurance. I played this video for the BDGF before the first game of the season this year and she immediately succumbed to its will. This made me become re-obsessed with it, and I trot it out now as I brace myself for this weekend.

Your ship may be comin' in,
You're weak but not givin' in,
And you'll fight it you'll go out fightin' all of 'em

Here's hoping for really fucking on.

Posted 11:08am
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October 13th , 2010

Wednesdays are for politickin'

- Yesterday a U.S. District judge, after ruling that DADT is unconstitutional (obv.) ordered an immediate cease and desist on the policy for the US military worldwide. Hooray! Now the real test - will the justice department appeal the ruling? Obama has previously said that he wants Congress to decide the issue. While I get that position and like the idea of not deciding things by fiat - come ON. If this is a policy that you don't agree with, seize the opportunity. By doing nothing. If you don't, I'll be the first to call it what it is - spineless. And you can officially put me on the voter apathy list for November.

- In bad decision news yesterday, lame duck Michigan Governor Jen Granholm VETOED a bill that would loosen restrictions on Sunday liquor sales. Come ON. Her problems with the bill? After calling our liquor laws antiquainted, she quibbled with the amounts available for free tastings and the ability for restaurants to deliver booze (a provision I didn't even know about but that is AWESOME.) First of all, sometimes you have to suck it up and live with the bad provisions of a good bill. Secondly, she wants a bunch of cash to restore the lame "Pure Michigan" advertising campaign? I'm not against promoting tourism, but how about not spending any money and increasing revenue, while we all get tipsy in the process? Talk about no-brainers.

- Finally, it's clearer than ever to any sane person paying a modicum of attention that the root of our problems politically is campaign finance. It's not just that loons like Michelle Bachmann and Sharon Angle are raising staggering sums of money. Or that Gingrich is offering no-prizes for $5000. We live in a post Citizens United world and money is flying in from every angle without limits or accountability. It's hard enough to move forward through the obfuscation when the electorate is uniformed, but when they're misinformed you're engendering a culture where he with the most cash wins. I suppose some would call that a free market principle. I see it as a threat to democracy. I realize that this has been going on for a while and the Democrats are complicit in it, so save your quid pro quo for someone who cares. It's worse now. And thanks to the pro-business W Supremes, it's only going to escalate from here on out. You wonder why people still run around blaming Bush? Because he fucked us so hard that it's going to hurt for a long time.

Posted 11:02am
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October 12th , 2010

Citizen Kane it ain't.

Back in 1998 a friend turned to me and said "When are we going to write a screenplay?" I said "Tomorrow." and we were off. Well, I was anyway. After a few weeks of writing and faxing (yup - faxing) pages to my co-author, I realized that if I was going to do this it was going to be a solo endeavor.

So for the next few weeks I wrote, and then for the next several years I edited. And rewrote. I printed out dozens of copies for people to read and comment on, which usually came back with stuff like "Funny." written in the margins. I suppose I didn't know how to write a screenplay, I couldn't expect my friends to know how to edit it after I begged them to read it.

Obviously nothing ever came of it, but it was a fun exercise and something I'm glad I did. At least I think so - I haven't read it in at least five years. I can kind of imagine how juvenile, crass and ultimately poorly written it is, but I'm not sure how much I want to confirm my instincts.

I recently had the BDGF read it (at her request) and she basically confirmed my fears - but she also wants me to rewrite it. After almost six years of blogging, I would hope that I'm better at finding through lines and turning a phrase, so maybe I will. Maybe I'll turn it into a novel. Or polish it, update, and send it out to studios. Or maybe I'll just post it here in all of its juvenile glory as a cautionary tale - or at least an example that yes, even competent writers such as myself once rambled like a mental patient for 100 pages. Yup, let's do that.*

*for anyone who undertakes reading this - it's fiction. You may recognize names and locations and yes, we tried to go to every bar in BG one night, but everything else is made up. Don't bother trying to read anything into it - especially to the character that is ostensibly me.

Posted 11:37am
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October 11th , 2010

From Great to Managed Expectations.

My Sunday morning started with me being referred to as a drunk asshole. That was considerably better than how my Saturday ended.

It all started when Denard Robinson emerged from his DeLorean right before kickoff Saturday as the 2009 version of himself. That propagated to me becoming the version of myself wherein I'm no fun to be around after a Michigan loss. And then unrelated to all of that, I was woefully reminded how scatter brained and unreliable teenagers can be.

Truthfully, it all came down to expectations, most of which were unwarranted. I expected an untenable precept to continue on unabated, when I should have known that a 20 year old college sophomore can't carry a worthless defense uphill on his back forever. The BDGF expected me to be my same cheery, tipsy self post game, when she should have known that I take things hard. And we both should have known that teenagers are markedly unreliable, since we've both been parenting long enough to have that little nugget shoved in our faces a million times.

Would Saturday have been better if we all would have taken a step back and tried harder to make an honest assessment of the world around us? Probably. But all of those expectations came from a place of hope and optimism. We usually want to believe the best about those around us, and sometimes we even need it. While managed expectations mitigate some of the shit that hits the fan, they still leave you sitting around waiting to be pooed on.

So now that the distant thought of but never spoken dream of Michigan playing in a Rose Bowl anytime soon is gone, and children have hopefully learned their lesson about not being a space cadet, we can get back to the business at hand of hoping for the best, but being ready for expectations being slightly unmet. Either way I'll probably be a drunk asshole, but hopefully the kind my BDGF likes.

Posted 1:41pm
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October 8th , 2010

Stop teasing your little brother.

The previous two seasons of Michigan football have been excruciating to say the least, but perhaps for no greater reason than how they have emboldened Michigan State. Michigan's football woes of late have allowed Sparty to forget the natural order of things and their place in it. While allowing for swings and variances and the ineptitude of Notre Dame's coaching decisions, you are who you are in college football. Michigan is the NCAA's all-time winningest program, in both quantity and winning percentage, and one of the best research universities in the world. State? How do I put this delicately? State chokes. They start hot and collapse, horrifically tumbling down the mountain like the agony of defeat at the start of ABC's Wide World of Sports. And while I'm sure you can get an education in East Lansing, let's not kid ourselves that that's the goal of most of the cretins that enroll there as freshmen. So I hope you've enjoyed your little furlough from reality Sparty. It ends tomorrow. Because the truth is: you're the weak, and Denard Robinson is the tyranny of evil men.

- Here's the annual college newspaper showdown between M and MSU, wherein we call them little brother and they call us arrogant. Which, like, duh.

- Speaking of Little Brother, god bless Mike Hart.

- This is mainly for Team Voltron: Ivan Maisel talks Denard.

- How good is Denard? Here's some scary numbers, Dave Revsine points out that last week Michigan averaged a yard every 1.9 seconds, but most importantly, he got name checked in The Onion. You have arrived, sir.

- Just so OSU doesn't feel left out, should we point out that this guy has a better arm than Pryor, or that the Buckeyes disrespect beer? Still, nice shot.

- The Daily looks at the five best games in the rivalry.

- And finally, it's common knowledge that East Lansing is a toilet filled with troglodytes and Ann Arbor is, well the second most educated city in America anyway. But in case you haven't heard about it, this is what happens when we release our nerd rage on you. In a related story, I heard a Sparty senior recently learned how to spell 'BOOBS' on his calculator. If only there was a way for him to spell  H A I L.

Posted 10:20am
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October 6th , 2010

Goddamn you half Japanese girls...

In 1996 Weezer released a masterpiece of self-loathing and sexual isolation in the form of Pinkerton. It was dark and weird - a juxtaposition of anthemic rock and confession that later spawned a thousand bad emo bands. But at the time, everyone hated it. Everyone hated it so much that they convinced Rivers Cuomo it was a bad album. In 2001 he said

It's a hideous record... It was such a hugely painful mistake that happened in front of hundreds of thousands of people and continues to happen on a grander and grander scale and just won't go away. It's like getting really drunk at a party and spilling your guts in front of everyone and feeling incredibly great and cathartic about it, and then waking up the next morning and realizing what a complete fool you made of yourself.

Pinkerton's heart-on-your-sleeve subject matter and subsequent panning caused Rivers to go away for five years and return determined to never really write about anything real again. It's lamentable, to the point that people are trying to pay Weezer to go away and stop ruining their teen memories like some musical George Lucas.

I love Pinkerton. It will always be in the top five of my favorite albums of all time. I love the way it rocks. I love that it's sloppy. I love that it's cohesive and more than anything, I love it's self-awareness and tortured soul. Weezer stopped being most of those things after Pinkerton, and that's sad.

But sometimes we get thrown bones in life. You get a chance at, well if not redemption, certainly a chance to hold something that's been lost, however briefly. January 8th, 2011, Weezer will play Pinkerton in its entirety in Chicago. While it's been a while since I was in my early 20's and identifying with the tortured soul of Rivers Cuomo, I have a feeling that being their live and letting Pinkerton wash over me will be like riding a bike. Do it to me everytime...

- Latest Belle and Sebastian is streaming over at NPR.

Posted 10:45am
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October 5th , 2010

But the lows are so extreme, that the good seems fucking cheap.

With apologies to you, loyal readers, I'm having trouble thinking about anything other than football. No indie rock, no politics, no religious hypocrisy - just Michigan football. Because right now this team is like being in a brand new relationship. We've had five dates so far and man is this chick smokin' hot. She doesn't have bad taste in music like the last one, and she actually seems to be engaged in the outside world in a way that doesn't involve People magazine or HBO shows about horse faced girls in NYC. I mean sure, she takes a regimen of half a dozen anti-psychotics a day to keep her 'balanced', but that's not a red flag is it?

I've had two revelations in the last 72 hours or so and I'm doing my best to mitigate the feelings that both of them have engendered in me. The first came with 1:15 left in the Indiana game. We'd somehow managed to keep the Hoosiers at arms length for 59 minutes, and then at almost the last possible minute, allowed them to pull even. I'd spent the majority of the game worrying about this possibility, expecting it to happen and welling up with a sense of dread about it. But then when it happened, and I looked up at the clock and thought "We got this." My next thought was "Shit, I'm fucked." because after two(+) years of being a battered wife for this football team, I realized I'd fallen back in love with it.

My next revelation came some time this morning as I was reading the paper, looking for information about the big game versus State this weekend. That's when I realized that despite the chronological order of the thing, we have the exact same wins as we did last season. Four non-conference wins (one against a 1-AA) and then a comeback versus Indiana. I try to tell myself "Yeah but Denard..." and "This year's competition was tougher..." but I don't want to be the one that goes all in with the hot chick when all of my friends absolutely can't stand her and are subtly trying to tell me to run before the fit hits the shan. I'm smart enough to remember going 5-7 last year, right? And we haven't accomplished anything this year other than the 5 wins of 2009.

I've been telling the BDGF that in my advancing years my fandom has quieted. That I don't take things as hard as I used to, because I've been beaten down by unmet expectations and the realization that you can't go undefeated every year (much less very often), so I'm ready for disappointment. The irony is that despite my whirlwind, over the moon amazing romance with her, I've forgot about the get-out-of-your-head, live-in-the-moment-and-enjoy-it thing that you need to really relax and take pleasure in the seemingly impossible. Because I'm back on the tightrope, trying to enjoy the incredible ride this has been so far, but waiting for the inevitable fall. After five dates with the hot, dysfunctional girl, it's time to take her to bed this weekend versus State. If she meets or exceeds expectations, throw caution to the wind and grab the once in a lifetime experience for all it's worth. If it's awful, well by now we should know that nothing's perfect. Except when it is.

Posted 11:31am
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October 4th , 2010

You're not helping, Elyce

Our yearly roadtrips to watch Michigan football play in foreign lands are opportunities for several things. To see other Big Ten universities? Sure. To compare their puny stadiums and downtown nightlife to that of Ann Arbor? Of course. Juvenile male bonding and general debauchery? Officially, no. But if it's not the over arching theme, perhaps my favorite part of these excursions is the chance to be Darth Vader.

Outside of the drunken louts in Columbus, most fans around the Big Ten are a pretty genial bunch. We've been mostly welcomed throughout the midwestern cities that house some of America's great Universities (and Michigan State), but that in no way precludes a fair amount of trash talk. Most of the Big Ten has an over-inflated sense of their importance when it comes to Michigan. Or at least they loathe our smug dismissal of them as anything but a minor trifle on our way to play Ohio State. This means when we walk into their tailgates on Saturday mornings clad in nothing by Maize and Blue, the jeers are cat calls are plentiful.

Most of these are rote, uncreative dreck like "Ann Arbor is a whore!" or the ubiquitous "Michigan sucks!" These are easily dismissed or responded to with a "Stay classy, ass hat," or a generous "Good luck today." But sometimes, you get something that actually makes you laugh or provides you with an opportunity for a witty retort. Saturday as we walked through the student ghetto apartment complex we were staying in, a group of students drinking on a balcony called to us "You guys are dicks! You have no friends!" Before we could even reply with a 'That's the best you got?" a girl on the same balcony noted "Well, there's one, two, three, four, five, six of them..." The original slanderer frustratingly turned to her and said "You're not helping, Elyce."

A short time later we were walking through enemy tailgates and noticed some twentysomethings playing tippy cup. Before we left their earshot, JT let off a "Let us know if you want a challenge," in their direction. Perhaps seeing their one opportunity to take Michigan down a peg before the day was out, they immediately motioned us over, noting "This'll be easy, they're old!" To his credit, he couldn't have known that we are known in many circles as the Ann Arbor Tippy Cup All Stars, nor at his tender age could he fathom the teacher that is experience. I can tell you that he knows now, because as our anchor bottomed out his cup, they were still on their leadoff player.

I felt bad emotionally scarring that kid for life. He'll probably never play the game again. But such is our role as villain in this scenario. I mean, Darth Vader is a bad analogy, because we're almost benevolent in our villainy and we're certainly not force choking anyone or cutting our only son's hand off or anything. But we are an intimidating black visage that represents all that is evil to these people, giving them something to rally against before all their hopes and dreams are taken from them. It's fun to be the bad guy. And we don't need any help from Elyce either.

Posted 11:11am
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September 30th , 2010

We are so good at roadtrips

It all started with a desperate, naive fan. In 2006, a friend of a friend was looking to trade her 2 tickets to Michigan AT Notre Dame for any two tickets for Iowa AT Michigan. Before you could say Lou Holtz what? Boike and I had two seats for what turned out to be a 47-21 beat down in the shadow of Touchdown Jesus. You add that kind of karma to our penchant for heading out of town to visit microbreweries, and a tradition was born.

After Notre Dame we hit Illinois and Iowa*. Tomorrow we head to Bloomington, IN and Indiana University. For perhaps the first time since 2006 the team has a real aura of hope; and for the first time since that wondrous year we've rented a house on campus as our lodgings for the weekend. While the bar for these trips is set impossibly high, 6 thirty somethings rolling into a tiny hamlet loaded with growlers full of Darkhorse beer and staying in an apartment in the student ghetto has - well let's call it potential. Pray for our souls, livers and Denard Robinson's knee.

- Speaking of college girls, turns out frosh gain less if their roommate is Weis-ian. It also make you look hotter when the two of you go to the bar together.

* Purdue was sandwiched in there, but I couldn't make that one so it is thusly omitted.

Posted 11:15am
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September 29th , 2010

What's making Baby Jesus cry this week?

- With all apologies to the devout among you (and to Baby J) this should surprise no one. Us heathens are generally the fallen - those who've questioned and searched and walked away of our own volition. And that - as opposed to blind faith and being taught that "that's the way it is" - is generally going to lead in greater understanding, if not believing. Indoctrination works, but should be left for ensuring your children cheer for your alma matter.

- While we all expect an uptick now that I am available for weddings, bar mitzvahs and brises, weddings are at a 100 year low. Ironically I feel like the BDGF and I are at the forefront of this movement. Still, you want to save the marriage industry, I know some people who would love to throw some FABULOUS betrothals.

- Baby J had a sister?

- It's banned books week, so to quote Henry Jones Sr., let's try reading books instead of burning them. Even though the Bible - what with its sodomy, stonings and slavery, really isn't for children.

- I've never understood a lot of conservative positions when they come under the scrutiny of turning the other cheek and whatever you do to the least of my people, but can anyone untangle the logic of Latino = Gay = Un-American = Obama? That's what I thought.

- Unfortunately, the devil now has representation in the highest levels of the Michigan Student Assembly. Somehow, one of Michigan's Assistant Attorneys General is going after a gay student body president for being "Satan's representative on the student assembly." But it isn't because he's gay, it's because he is a "proponent of the radical homosexual agenda." As always, the only people worried about radical homo agendas are those that are worried that they could easily be 'turned'. Or as my buddy Bill used to say, methinks he doth protest too much.

- Finally, everyone during their teenage years has needed someone at some point to sit down and put their arm around them and tell them "it gets better." No one more so than Billy Lucas, a 15 year old Indiana boy who recently hanged himself because of the constant bullying he received over being gay. So when advice columnist Dan Savage heard about Billy, he started the "It gets better project" on youtube. And while Assistant Attorneys General may always be homophobic, it really does get better. Hopefully the next small town kid getting pushed around for being different hears that.

Posted 11:09am
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September 28th , 2010

This week in indie rock

- Number one with a bullet on your what to listen to this week list: Sufjan Stevens latest (and first since 2005's Illinoise) opus The Age of Adz. It's streaming in its entirety over at NPR and on first listen, it's as dreamy and quirky as I want it to be.

- Besting Sufjan in the where have you been category - Cake, releasing this week their first new single in 6 years. It's as Cake-y as Sufjan's album is Sufjan-y.

- Better still, Superchunk just dropped Majesty Shredding, their first full length since 2001. It rocks in a wildly appropriate and enjoyable late 90's kind of way. Here they are live on Fallon.

- For those who like Bill Simmons, Chuck Klosterman, the Sklar Brothers, John Fogarty and the general intersection of music and sports, here's a new Minnesota Twins anthem with lyrics and vocals by favorite son Craig Finn of The Hold Steady.

- As long as we're on TV appearances - yup, Vampire Weekend are officially courting stay at home moms by playing Ellen. This does not mean you can't like them anymore, but you get absolutely no credit for doing so.

- The best most exciting casting in rock/movie crossover since The Beatles in Walk Hard: Sascha Baron Cohen as Freddie Mercury. Can anybody find me...

- For Christa: here's some photos of Dan and Pat of The Black Keys.

- Finally - I'm not generally big on reissues (outside of those Beatle ones last year) but this super-deluxe Pinkerton looks awesome. Sure I kind of hate having to pay for an album a third time, but as long as the Blinkerton tour comes within driving distance, I promise to do so willingly.

Posted 3:34pm
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September 27th , 2010

Picture pages

I decided that this year I would get my picture taken with everyone who came out to celebrate my birthday. So with apologies for both dark lighting and those who came to the tailgate only, these are my friends:

-Also, I was serenaded by many spectacular people this weekend (and the annoying cowbell guy at the game) but thanks to Baughman, the topper was a happy birthday from the men's glee club at the tailgate:

Until next year...

Posted 1:59pm
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September 23rd , 2010

This shit would be really interesting if we weren't in the middle of it

Last night I finished the book Game Change, which is about the 2008 presidential campaign. It deals with the ins and outs of what went down 2+ years ago, and how every candidate's spouse is generally a pain in the ass. It's a captivating account of the process, and an interesting measuring stick of where we've come in retrospect of where we thought we were headed at the time. Bottom line - Obama is what we always knew him to be (despite rose-colored glasses) and Sarah Palin can never, under any circumstances, be the leader of the free world.*

Looking back on recent history is an interesting exercise, which of course is doubly pertinent for me as I turn 35 today. Last night the BDGF asked me if I was who I thought I'd be at 35. It's one of those rote questions we asked on birthdays, as societal norms tell us we are supposed to take stock during these arbitrary yardsticks in the passage of time.

My immediate response was to ask her "Well, who are you asking?" The 15 year old me would find it completely normal to have 3(ish) kids and live in a house, whereas the 30 year old version of myself would have laughed at the prospect. Of course given the details of the situation, 30 year old tbaggervance would have said "That makes sense," and the one without a drivers license would have said "No fucking way." (He grew up in Napoleon, give him a break on the cursing and close mindedness.) Of course all permutations of me would be impressed with how many albums I own and how smokin' hot my girlfriend is, so there's that.

The only issue I had with Game Change was its schmaltzy ending. Hillary goes to work for Barack after all the strife and turmoil of the campaign, putting a convenient bow on the narrative. Of course, I do see its necessity. Conventions of storytelling have there place, and if you're not going to continue on with White House transition teams and the rise of Glenn Beck, it was as good a place as any to cut it off. So I suppose if the structures of having a birthday insist that I take stock of things and assess the overall situation, I can unequivocally say this: I'm 35 and I've never been happier. I have a loving family, amazing friends and I'm proud of what I accomplish on a daily basis. I honestly can't imagine a more fulfilling life. Now if the President can get the economy on track, end DADT and keep another half dozen campaign promises, we'll all have that neat little bow on things.

* I can't stress this enough

- tbaggervance.com would also like to wish a happy birthday to John Coltrane, Bruce Springsteen, Ray Charles, Ani DiFranco, Karl Pilkington, Jason Alexander, Mike Germann and Augustus Caesar. You are all in good company - mine.

Posted 10:08am
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September 22nd , 2010

Exiting the target demographic

Stadium
courtesy the lovely and talented L. Zwica

There's something in me that wants to spend the day filling out forms. Tomorrow advertisers, retailers and the people who decide to keep making Michael Bay movies will no longer care what I think. It's my last day in the coveted 18-34 demographic, thus the end of my youth as I know it.

I could easily lament the power that the powers that be bestow upon a group of people who spend their time participating in group think and generally trying to blend in, but I get it. It's about brand loyalty. It's the knowledge that by the time you're in your mid to late 30's, you've settled down. You spend your days in routines - buying and watching the same things over and over again. Your lifestyle doesn't allow for newness and change - certainly not in the way that people in their 20's change loyalties faster than a 2am drunk chick looking for the guy with the nicest car to take her drunk butt home.

Last night the BDGF and I went to Detroit to see Tokyo Police Club. On a Tuesday. Was there drinking? Yes. Did we get home on Wednesday morning. Technically. Were we the oldest people there? Well if it's close enough for you to wonder... but probably not. My point is that while most people our age were home watching Glee we were getting our faces melted by a bunch of kids in their twenties, letting the sweet cacophony of rock and roll wash over us. So while I've seemingly started to conform to whatever I'm supposed to be at 35 with the wife, house, kids etc., I am not a number. Cram that form up your poop shoot.

- Of course Mssr. Glenn Beck sees the Rally to Restore Sanity as a progressive plot to get the young people to vote with the "labor unions". Thankfully I booked my tickets before I exited that target demo so that I can go have my frontal lobe wiped by ACORN and the AFL-CIO. And even more thankfully, I'm not yet in Fox News' target demo of septuagenarian and white as typing paper.

- Today is Bill Murray's birthday! I can only hope to be half as cool when I'm 60. Here's a little known story about a young, pre-fame Carl Spackler.

Posted 10:48am
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September 21st , 2010

Tales from the nanny state.

- Late last week Michigan's premier sports blog (mgoblog) posted that they had received a letter asking them to stop selling any player related merchandise - most specifically Denard Robinson t-shirts. This is one of those moral gray areas that you'll be hard pressed to find anyone taking a hard line stance on. Yes, people are making money off of someone else's exploits. But the U is also doing that by selling jerseys with their number on it. And at the end of the day, if these kids aren't allowed by the NCAA to profit off themselves, what does it hurt if some entrepreneurs do it? It all is basically showing support for the program, no? Anyway, the issue I had with mgoblog post is that he basically called for jihad against all other entities doing the same thing. Not only is that a whiny jackass move, it's antithetical of what I consider to be a certain internet/blogging aesthetic. If you get busted for downloading mp3s, are you going to turn in everyone else you know who's doing it? Well, as I am wont to do, I wrote a letter:

to: mgoblog@gmail.com
from: tbaggervance
subject: The t-shirt thing

Hey Brian, I don't get into the comments thing, but I'm a daily reader of the blog, more than once have purchased an mgoshirt, and my friends and I sold you tickets to the @ Ill game a couple years ago and I sat next to you. Which is neither here nor there, other than to say I'm a fan and wanted to say something, this being my forum to do so.

So... srsly? "take pictures of those stupid t-shirt stands... They deserve pain, too." What a shite attitude. I understand frustration that they're making cash off some of your ideas and you don't think they're as clever as you are, but if you think that you should be able to sell these shirts, then why demonize those guys? I'm just saying, what a petty crying game to ostensibly say "If I can't do this, then no one can, and I'm going to see to it. I mean, they're stupid and derivative and the U comes after ME?!?" Ugh. It reeks of corporate bullshit rather than happy blogger community.

I do love the site and your writing, but man did that strike me as pissy and leave a bad taste in my mouth. Just my two cents, as someone who thinks you are generally erudite and above the fray.
Go Blue,
-T

He wrote back "Because they stole a bunch of shirt designs? You don't think that's worthy of scorn?" Scorn, yes. But A. nobody likes a tattle tale and B. You're pissed because they stole the shirts where you quoted Simpson's catch phrases? It's a little pot/kettle/black don't you think?

- The Ann Arbor City council finally passed a ban on putting couches on your front porch. Hooray! Now no drunk college kid will ever die from... having... a couch... on their porch. I'm sorry that kid died in a fire where "there's a good trail of evidence to suggest an upholstered porch couch accelerated the fire." but come ON. Putting those couches inside is gonna fix this problem that doesn't exist? This is more about the fact that Burns Park people don't like to look at nasty couches on porches as they walk their dogs at night. That and punishing off campus houses because some kid died tragically. I used to go to parties in college where we used charcoal grills INDOORS and I'm not even in favor of banning that stupidity. Can they say anything about couches on your front lawn? Because that's where I suggest everyone puts their porch couches this weekend.

- The A2 powers that be are also undertaking "aggressive panhandling" downtown. Listen, I don't like being asked for cash every night by the same four people, but it's not exactly "aggressive" when someone says "Excuse me sir.." I say "sorry" and then they go away, that's not exactly b-e-a-g-g, r-e-s-s-s-i-v-e.

Posted 11:05am
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September 17th , 2010

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

Ed. note: Hey everybody! I apparently wrote this on friday and forgot to post it. Your loss is my gain is your gain, as you get to read it now without me having to write it again. Spoiler alert for the final paragraph - you bet your ass we booked this trip yesterday:

TDS

- Ah football season! The games! The beer! The gambling! All three are going swimmingly so far, and with a little luck we should get through the month fat, drunk and wealthy. Of course more football means more Tom Brady, in all his dreamy goodness. Here's mgoblue.com's definitive guide to Tom Brady's hair. Srsly.

- The other night we went to capsule night at the oldest fake daughter's hippy school. She attends one of those granola high schools where attendance is more of a suggestion than requirement and instead of grades you get "Rainbow Unicorn!"s or "Sad Panda :( "s. So guess which on of these was an actual quote from her "math" teacher:

1. Every day we get up and stand in a circle to play a game.
2. Yeah, you'll notice some of our books lying around. I suppose it's OK for a math book. I don't believe in math books.
3. What we do here is talk about thinking. Geometry is just a game we play along the way.

If you said "All three?" you'd be correct. It was all I could do not to slap that guy in the face. And just to confirm that he wasn't joking, when the eldest pseudo came home yesterday and I asked her what they did in maths, she said "We walked around like cats." I hope she can still add fractions by the end of the year. On the plus side, I totally want to audit her lit class. That guy was so awesome I almost answered one of his questions during our little session. Then I remembered I'm supposed to be a curmudgeon sitting there with my arms crossed waiting to get out of there. That was close.

- It's official people: Blinkerton is happening. I will move heaven and earth to see the Pinkerton night. Who's with me?

- Rolling Stone recently released its list of the Top 25 Record Stores in the country. Of course Encore is on it.

- Finally, last night this got announced. If you think the BDGF and I are going to miss it, you've got another thing coming. I've always wanted to rally on the Washington Mall for something I believed in passionately, and what better cause than this? We may fly, we may drive, but no matter how we get there, you should join us to help return the sanity that once made this country great.

Posted 10:44am
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September 16th , 2010

What's making Baby Jesus cry this weeK? Christine O'Donnell edition.

If you haven't had the pleasure yet, let me introduce you to Christine O'Donnell. She makes Palin look liberal and Angle look sane. And to hear her tell it, she's got the power of Jesus on her side.

- Let's start with the most prominent silliness, and perhaps the one that's the largest affront to my personal way of life: she's anti-masturbation. And vocal about it! Now you and I know that those are clearly the words of:

a.) a religious kook
b.) someone who has never masturbated or
c.) a liar.

The jury is out.

- I'm not enough of a biblical scholar to say what Jesus felt about the separation of church and state, but one thing is clear to O'Donnell: you can legislate morality. I'm assuming she wants to get to decide whose morality we legislate towards. I vote for mine.

- Perhaps the most delicious part of this whack job is that she's dividing the right. Rove knows she's an idiot and has no chance of winning (thus hurting the Republicans, as a sane person would have won in Delaware in a walk). That has the super crazies (Limbaugh, Palin, Hannity) apoplectic. This of course has me giggling uncontrollably. Listen, I'd much rather have a competent GOP checking the Dems and their inability to do most anything, but I'll take this for now.

- Certainly O'Donnell is using the Tea Party as her flaming chariot that she plans to ride in on and bring her brand of good ol' fashioned Jesus back to the masses, just as God intended. Sure she parrots the pseudo-populist anti-government rants that are so popular with the Fox News set, but make no mistake that she's just a 2000-era Rovian evangelical. Oh the irony...

- Finally, since blessed are the poor, we offer you a simple explanation of the Bush-era tax cuts debate. If anyone reading this falls into those top two brackets, I'm sorry, but suck it up. Blessed are the meek too you know.

Posted 12:22pm
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September 15th , 2010

This week in indie rock.

- Well hipsters, the new Weezer album dropped yesterday, which makes them omnipresent in the indie rock landscape. After their last three albums, it's easy to dismiss a new Weezer album out of hand because who needs the heartache of another unfulfilled promise? It's obvious that Rivers went into a shell after he wore his heart on his sleeve for 1996's Pinkerton and never quite came out again. Now he seems content to churn out middling post-punk power pop and fuck with his fans by naming his albums things like Ratitude and putting Jorge Garcia on their covers. Well, after hearing over and over again that their latest opus is somewhere between "Their best album since Pinkerton!" to "Not embarrassing." I decided to check it out. It's certainly their best album since Maladroit, but it's hard to accurately judge any effort when the bar has been lowered to below ground. Listen for yourself at their myspace page. I might go as far as to say I like most of it, but lets face it, I'm only buying a ticket to a Weezer concert if they do that thing where they play Pinkerton in its entirety.

- Speaking of Weezer, here's an AV Club interview with Rivers, and quite appropriately, the Thermals covering "My Name is Jonas."

- Remember the mini-mormon feud from last week? Well in my research I found out that the Osmonds were once out of their mind on god knows what. This is my happening and it freaks me out!

- Here's the Flaming Lips doing the Black Cab Sessions. Am I the only one that desperately wants Wayne Coyne to host a children's program?

- Jack White: Inventor.

- Finally, thanks Michigan, for being the state that books a New Pornographers show and then cancels it because, well, people might think you're promoting pornography. It's not like their called the Baby Rapers (dibs, btw.)

Posted 11:00am
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September 14th , 2010

Def Leppard's drummer only had one arm.

Last night for about 10 minutes, this man was the bane of my existence:

one armed man

Knowing the answer to a trivia question is satisfying. To be able to knowingly lean over to your team scribe and whisper a factoid that you unequivocally know to be true is a tiny accomplishment that you can pat yourself on the back over. That's of course assuming you don't blurt it out ASAP to one up someone else on the team whom you know also has the answer at their disposal. Even better is when you have the answer and sit back a second and watch everyone else reach into the annals of their brains to try and pluck the info from under some rock behind their high school locker combination, and then right before they come up with it, confidently say it in a calm, soothing voice. Damn I am a smug son of a bitch.

But the best is when you know the answer but you can't make your mouth say it. Last night the question was "Who is the drummer for Def Leppard?" Shit. Of course I know that. I wore out more than one copy of Hysteria back in the day. I purposefully styled my hair in junior high like Joe Elliot for Christ's sake.

hairJoe

It's not my proudest moment, but for my suffering I should at least be able to recall the goddamn name of the drummer. Guitar player Phil Collen? Sure I could remember his name, but not the fucking drummer. I toiled, rattling off other answers to other questions as they came but still occupying the majority of my processing power trying to come up with that one armed bastard's name.

Luckily, I was not alone. I sat there and mumbled names under my breath like a mental patient trying to trigger some sense memory when I looked at Stov and he said "Wasn't there a Rick?" Immediately my hair began to stand on end and I could feel the air tingle with electricity like just before a storm comes crashing in around you. My mouth started to form sounds without my brain's consent. My eyes widened and I started to say "Aaaaaaaaaaa..." when dawn broke in Stov's gray matter and he screamed "Allen!"

We high fived and I collapsed into my seat having achieved victory. It wasn't an arrogant "I knew it before you!" moment, nor a condescending "I can't believe you didn't know that." one. Truth be told, that exact moment was the only time in the rest of whatever days I have on this planet that I'll ever need that bit of trivia ever again. And of course it wasn't really my brain that coughed it up. But those moments of collective reasoning that bear fruit are the reason I love going to trivia. That and acting like a smug, self-important jackass.

Posted 2:32pm
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September 13th , 2010

The story of the Son-in-live, P O G O, and on the 64th day, they rested.

- Friday night was Jason and Amy's Ann Arbor reception to celebrate their recent wedded bliss, thus ending a near nine month odyssey of windows, parties and ceremonies. The event obviously fell to form of great people eating delicious food, consuming better booze and celebrating two spectacular people. The new part: I got to meet several of the BDGF's parents' friends, and each time was introduced as the son-in-live. Let's be honest, we can all think of worse things she could have said.

- Saturday we debuted this:

clubhouse

We had planned on doing this out of doors to allow for maximum viewing area and angles, but the weather didn't cooperate, so this was plan B. Luckily the garage was relatively clean and organized, and most of the women were happy to watch the game inside on a much smaller TV. We were also fortunate to have almost an entire leftover keg (of Oberon!) from J + A's reception the night before. Combine that with John's hubris of staying "If we win today, I'm going to ride that pogo stick," and then add Denard Robinson's 502 yard performance, and you get this. Here's to never growing up all the way.

- The BDGF made me promise (after much negotiation) to sleep until at LEAST 10:45 on Sunday. Given the state the house was in and how she knows that looms over my head, I managed to sneak out around 10:30. But after some quick clean up, we managed a day of doing next to nothing. We laid on the couch. We watched football. We drank more Oberon (that damn keg refuses to die.) After several months of largely busting our butts in home improvement, we felt that we had earned it. And Christ on a bike did it feel good.

Posted 10:55am
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September 10th , 2010

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

-Last night was Mysterious Al's birthday. We had a little surprise party.

Al

I'm not sure why Jen brought silly string, but luckily the people working there on Monday nights are different than were there last night, because we made a mess and they were not happy with us. I'd hate to have to show up to trivia Monday apologizing.

- There's pandering political ads and then there's this. I don't know one of this guy's positions but I'd vote for him. If he doesn't win in a walk then Wisconsinites are dead inside (something we've all suspected).

- As with every pro-gay ruling that comes down the pike, I desperately want someone to explain what this means exactly, but it's hooray in any case I suppose.

- It is really beginning to appear that rain is unavoidable tomorrow, thus putting a huge damper on the unveiling of the Chandler Backyard Jumbotron. Rest assured that the festivities will go on rain or shine and we'll figure something out should the wet come, but man if the weatherman could be really wrong this time, I'd appreciate it, because tomorrow is going to be awesome. Go Blue.

- Finally, tonight we celebrate (again) the nuptials of Jason and Amy Sumersquale. I think a couple of kegs of Oberon and a few cases of wine at Cobblestone are fitting capper to the months of festivities that this union has produced. And I'm sure we'll continue to celebrate these two down the road, because they are awesome and celebrating rules, but tomorrow morning the focus goes with laser guided accuracy to Kat and Mysterious Al. That ought to take the heat off who's going to get engaged next for at least six months or so (from everyone but the BDGF's mother anyway.)

Posted 10:25am
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September 9th , 2010

You'll get nothing and like it.

Sorry folks, but I'm at a loss for words today. Not for any specific reason mind you, things are great - I just don't have my pontification skills ready at the moment. Yesterday was uneventful and the next few days are going to be jam packed, so I'm going to take this moment to breathe. It's funny, because I was just talking to the BDGF the other night about how I've dabbled in every creative endeavor short of mime in my life, but blogging has easily been the most sustained and consistent. That's of course still true and will remain so for the foreseeable future, but I don't have it today. So move along, nothing to see here. Come back tomorrow and regale you with some stupid story or an angry screed about how Glenn Beck is a shithead.

Toodles,
-tbaggervance

Posted 11:02am
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September 8th , 2010

Irony is hard to convey in 144 characters.

One of twitter's greatest super powers is its ability to elicit response from your followers when you pose them a direct question. Take for example when Ann Arbor's favorite newlywife, Mrs. Amy Sumersquale, posed this query:

twitter

Since I have implicitly signed the social contract of the internet, I replied:

twitter

OK, it's not great comedy, but it made me giggle. Now not surprisingly, Tweeters like @BellsBrewery, @SlowsBBQ and @vodkatwits have started following my tweets over the past couple years, because I talk about their products. A lot. So it makes sense that we have tweet reciprocity with each other. But guess what I got in my inbox after my last tweet?

Mormons

I'm being followed by mormons! As to not waste this golden opportunity, I'll be sending out one (maybe more) tweet a day about the mormons until they stop tailing me. Here's today's:

underpants

So if you want to get in on this hot mormon action, leave tweet suggestions in the comments. Or just write your suggestions in an unknown language on some gold plates, and I'll place them in the bottom of a hat and translate them with my seer stones. Either way...

- I also got a follow request the other day from a Denver Brubaker. I immediately ignored it since I figured it was another bot or some lonely sad sack in Pennsylvania Dutch country looking for his family tree. But low and behold he's a cartoonist from Ann Arbor! And he's doing a workshop at the AADL. I should probably meet this guy, since we're the same age, huge nerds, and could be kin.

Posted 10:30am
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September 7th , 2010

The best of all possible worlds.

I'm not sure who's credited with first saying that it's the journey, not the destination, but I've always thought whomever that person is, they could suck it. I know it was Tom Petty who said the waiting is the hardest part, and he wrote "American Girl", so who am I to argue?

This weekend was the culmination of a lot of waiting, and I say this without a sense of irony nor any sort of wink to Dr. Pangloss, but it was the best of all possible worlds.

Pangloss

The photo on the right* should be self-explanatory. The promise of Rich Rodriguez came to fruition Saturday in the form of Denard Robinson. It was everything that we we had hoped for and more, and it was glorious.

On the left, well it might not mean much to most of you but that's the BDGF's garage. This is the only before picture I can readily find:

Old Garage

And that doesn't do justice to the trash heap that it was. The project was 95% the BDGF's hard work. She scraped and sanded and powerwashed that bitch all summer, and even though this was her baby, to sit and stare at it now feels like a great yoke has been lifted. And damn is it sharp to boot.

I realize that Michigan was 4-0 last year before utterly collapsing; that the garage still has gaps in the siding and rotting wood in places. Basically that sitting here and feeling satiated could be ultimately as hollow as Glen Beck's head. But this feels different. Next weekend we're going to put a movie screen on the side of that garage and watch Michigan take on Notre Dame. If the garage doesn't fall down and Michigan manages to look as good as they did this past Saturday well... the waiting is the hardest part.

*stolen from Michigan Exposures.

Posted 12:54pm
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September 3rd , 2010

Once more unto the breach, dear friends.

Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. As I sit on the precipice of another Michigan football season, it's time for a mental health check.

The last two years have been brutal. Flashes of brilliance can buoy you enough to bring hope for next season when you're 8-4, but even beating Notre Dame seems like a distant memory when you end the season 5-7 and have exactly 3 Big Ten wins over the last two years.

Since the term "must-win" and sink or swim, do or die analogies are both overwrought and over used in sports, let's say that the program is at a crossroads. The Rich Rodriguez experiment has up to now been a failure. Everything that could have gone wrong has, and the results have been below what anyone assumed would be worst care scenario. Yet here we are yet again, to get it the ol' college try. Literally.

Call me mentally ill but I'm optimistic. I have to be. I love college football with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns, and that means I want to enjoy it. I'm tired of losing and doing so in such a mind numbingly frustrating way that the games aren't even fun to watch. I'm tired of speculating what the possibilities are for next season - in late September. I don't want to speculate about the job security of Rich Rod anymore.

The bottom line is that I want Michigan to win. It's just more fun. Moreover, I don't want to walk into the stadium ever again thinking that we don't even have a puncher's chance to win. I want to drink post tailgate in celebration and not misery. Repeating yourself and expecting different results may be insanity in problem solving, but in sports that's called practice. And it makes perfect. I'll settle for something far short of that.

- Here's destroyer of worlds Lamar Woodley pumping up some kids for the BTN.

- Tomorrow Michigan Stadium opens with all of its fancy new renovations and us in our new seats. I'm a little too busy worrying about our secondary to think about such things, but maybe you can enjoy it.

- Michigan and Ohio State aren't in the same division in the new Big Ten realignment. With the game guaranteed to be at the end of the season, I'll take it.

- Speaking of tOSU, yes, they've had more grid iron success than Michigan in the last few years, but take heed Michiganders, they're still Ohio. Jesus Christ on a cracker how I ever survived 18 years there is a mystery.

- Finally, if you don't know about the man leading the team out on the field tomorrow, I defy you to read this and not tear up. Impossible is nothing people. Go Blue.

Posted 10:13am
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September 2nd , 2010

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

- Sometimes the song of the summer comes in late August, as Cee Lo's "Fuck You" has. You can also listen to the new Thermals album in its entirety over at NPR.

- Speaking of the Thermals, somebody over at the Majestic Theater complex in Detroit sure woke the fuck up. Upcoming shows at one of Metro Detroit's finest concert venues include said Thermals, Tokyo Police Club, Brendan Benson, Josh Ritter and Greg Dulli. This amount of concert goodness requires a trip to their box office for surcharge free tickets, so if you want to partake, be sure to let me know.

- Siddhartha's undefeated HS tennis streak is over as he lost a doubles match 2-8 the other day. What makes me happy was the way he handled it. He was playing against another school's #3 varsity doubles team, with a partner he'd never played with before (and who frankly, sucked at the game of tennis). He didn't make excuses, found positives in his performance, and neither said negative things about his teammate nor the opposition. The week before he missed a shot and dropped his racquet on the ground and stared at it quizzically. He was trying to be cute and all, but I told him after the game that if he ever pulled that shit again, I'd shove his racquet up his ass and break it off. So we're learning sportsmanship.

- I think it was the Jesuses who turned me onto the iPhone game Angry Birds, and I couldn't be more grateful. If I play a game on my iPhone, it's generally solitaire, scrabble, or trivial pursuit - but Angry Birds is a-fucking-ddicting. Why they're making a movie about it though, is beyond me.

- Finally, things are finally starting to take shape over at the house on Chandler. After months of scraping, painting, window installation, room finishing and massive amounts of dirt hauling, we are in final stages of it at least not looking like the place is a giant construction project. Of course there are miles to go before we sleep and plenty of new projects screaming to be attended to, but the progress we've made is both noticeable and satisfying. Now that football season is here, I think we've earned a bit of a break.

Posted 10:33am
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September 1st , 2010

What's making Baby Jesus cry this week? Totally gay edition

- We all know that Jesus brought a message of peace and love, unless that love exists between people who have identical genitalia. As such, his - what I'm assuming is official - website christwire.org gives you 9 signs that your husband might be gay. Warning to the BDGF - I'm ironic around my friends and prone to "sudden, heavy drinking." Keep an eye on my behavior...

- Is it just me or does the Pope look fabulous these days?

- I can only assume that the ludicrous misconception that gay=pedophile gets repeated so often is that it somehow excuses all that child rape that the Catholic church silently condones? I guess playing fast and loose with the facts becomes second nature when you've got God on your side, but come on, let's not obfuscate what we mean when we say Jesus loves the little children.

- I'm pretty sure Baby J was no economist, but outlawing gay marriage will improve the economy? Have you been to a gay wedding? Making gay marriage legal would explode the cake, floral, tuxedo and general accoutrement industries.

- Finally, with my new role as Reverend, I've come to realize that with great power comes great responsibility. This minister faces (church) trial for having the audacity to marry gay people. I'd like to say, for the record, that if you are homosexual and wish to spend the rest of your life with your partner, that I would gay marry the shit out of you. By the power vested in me by the internet, I now pronounce you husband and husband. Or wife and wife.

Posted 11:04am
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August 31st , 2010

I'm gonna live forever.

Ever since I was a child, I've suspected that I might be immortal. This idea hit its peak with the release of Unbreakable, when I doubled down on the theory noting the kinship I'd always felt with Bruce Willis. Certainly my actions over the years verify if nothing else my belief in this postulate, as I routinely participate in the stupid and risky behavior of a teenager.

Well hello sweet, sweet verification and redemption. This study shows that those teetotalers who don't drink at all have a higher mortality rate than those of us who drink a lot. Now hold on to your butts because here comes the science: if we extrapolate that out to the nth degree, someone who consumes the amount of booze that I do could conceivably live forever. It's science. So cheers everybody. Rest assured that tbaggervance.com will be around a millennia from now, keeping the people of the future entertained with our (drunken) antics and opinions.

- Speaking of booze, here's a smart article about arcane alcohol laws and why I have to cab it home from the bar. Although someday soon I hope the BDGF and I are back downtown, living the dream. Heck if we're both going to live forever, I bet we can get a sweet rate on a 1,000 year mortgage.

- Summer is seriously waning, what with school starting next week and college football kicking off this Saturday (OK Thursday). More on all that later, but here's a list of the best songs of summer 2010. Since this isn't Stereogum or Pitchfork, I've literally only heard 5 of their top 25 songs. However, I agree whole heartedly with this, this and this. Especially since I happen to know a Hurricane Chloe that swept into the harbor (the end of) this summer...

Posted 10:52am
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August 30th , 2010

Come Together.

In one of life's great ironic twists, I got to do this last week:

MC Reverend

Of course I hope it's only ironic in a religious sense, because nothing gave me more of a thrill to help bring together (or at least help make it official) two of my favorite people. Everything went beautifully. It was cute and off the cuff and idiosyncratic in a way that was perfectly Jason and Amy. I am of the opinion that more weddings should be like this.

Then there was this:

Sumersquale

While Jason and Amy were officially becoming part of each other's families, I was getting thrown in the deep end of the DePasquale pool. The BDGF's family couldn't have been more welcoming and gracious (as they always are) and I can't thank them enough for letting Sid and I be a small, fake part of their family. So thanks, mazel tov, congratulations, cheers and here's to happily ever after...

Posted 11:08am
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August 24th , 2010

I now pronounce you husband and wife.

After the last two weeks or so, I need a vacation. Luckily, C Jason and Amy Sumersquale have perfectly timed their wedding to give me a break. We're headed to the beach tomorrow for some nuptials and hard earned relaxation, and my fingers are crossed that everyone will be drunk at the wedding and only remember my performance as officiant as appropriate. Failing mass intoxication, at least I'll be drunk and can fall back on that.*

- Music videos are back like it's 1982! Here's Ted Leo's new Broadway Musical. Watch The Thermals new single. And to shoehorn in one more thing, here's Scott Pilgrim vs. The Animation.

- More music? More music. Weezer plans a tour where they play the Weezer songs you want to hear (hint: not the new stuff) and Conan O'Brien releases a new single (which I bought on vinyl to support both Coco and Detroit's favorite son Jack White.)

- The Elbow Room was trashed? How dare you...

- Yesterday, Sid won his tennis match, the BDGF's eldest won her field hockey game, and the BDGF and I's team won trivia. Not for nothing, our house is full of win.

- Finally, before I check my brain at the door and stop thinking about home improvement for the the first time in months*, here's Michael Ian Black laying the wood to some ignorance, and just for ljv, no, the tea party's not racist.

*j/k BDGF et al.

Posted 10:43am
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August 23rd , 2010

Dorm room preparation.

So this is what I've been up to the last two weeks:

And while I can't readily find a picture of in its barren state, believe me when I tell you that it took a significant amount of work to get it to this stage:

But now it's done! Sort of. The light switch is on the outside of the room. And the lights are fluorescent shop lights. The ceiling isn't painted and there are no baseboards or moldings. Other than that and trimming out the window and door though, hooray! We're finished! The goal was to get it to a livable state before the BDGF's youngest returned from Oregon. I'd like to take a moment to tell our architect who laughed in my face 3 weeks ago when I gave him our time line to suck it.

The question I've gotten over and over again during all this home improvement is: how do you know how to do all that? The short answer: I don't. The fact is that it had to get done. We have three kids and two bedrooms, and forcing any combination of two of them to live together was a non-starter, so there was no other choice. We had an unfinished space and over the years I've done my share of helping friends do carpentry and electrical work and dry walling, so why not just jump in the deep end of the pool and take it on myself? With no other option, how could it not get done?

Of course the most dangerous aspect of the whole process (outside of sore and strained muscles, a few nicks on the arm and hammering my thumb purple) was the potential strain on the BDGF and I's relationship. The prospect of a fortnight of fourteen hour days completing a project that was sure to go awry here and there comes with a high potentiality for couples to lose their shit and take it out on each other. Thankfully, not us. I couldn't imagine a better partner, in the truest sense of the world. I owe her and C Jason, Stov, Al, Markie C, John, Pete, Troy and Thomas (and everyone else who came by and worked around the house - even to have a beer and keep us sane) a huge debt of gratitude. Thanks guys - Sid should be well prepared to move into the dorms in 3 years - when he shares the same amount of space with another drunk, smelly dude.

Posted 10:43am
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August 20th , 2010

Alas, poor Yorick...

- This is likely the dozenth obituary that I've given for John McCain, as he's fallen through the looking glass into ultimate self parody - but if Sarah Palin was the last nail in the coffin, this might be the last shovel full of dirt on his grave. A lot of people fall victim to Machiavellian power grabs where they don't even see the fact that they're selling their soul and whoring themselves out until it's far too late, but I can't think of a sadder one than Sen. McCain. Perhaps he's always been a say what they want to hear charlatan, and there just happened to be a time where what he was shilling what I was buying, and perhaps you can justify his position switches because the cognitive dissonance in your brain tells you that, well, the way he thinks now that I agree with is always what he really thought. But I can't think of a bigger example of someone once so respected being more of a shell of his former self. Totally chic to totally geek...

- Take in contrast Roger Ebert. The man has gone through some incredibly debilitating health issues and by any measure should have quietly drifted away into obscurity after a fairly well respected career in the public eye. Instead, he turned back to his stock in trade - the pen - and has resurrected himself as some sort of internet bon vivant. His take on the "Ground Zero Mosque" is probably as comprehensively dead on as I could imagine. Totally geek to totally geek...

Posted 10:31am
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August 19th , 2010

5 innocuous things that are making me happy in and around the present moment - not really edition

- Doing the right thing usually sucks and has unintended consequences. I don't want to harp on the "My body is failing me" meme, but it is now clear to me that giving blood last Friday and THEN getting two painful shots on Tuesday that make my arms feel like someone tried to break them with a baseball bat may not have been a great idea from a timing perspective.

- We won our softball league! This is a good and awesome thing, minus the fact that my kids came to watch the big important game and I easily played my worst game of the year. You can see how my average dropped to .559 here (this is mainly a link for the BDGF, who keeps our book and was shocked to find out that we had a web page for our softball stats that we 'failed' to tell her about. There you go sweet.)

- Yesterday I was driving Sid around when suddenly my car started making horrible noises upon acceleration. I understand that my car is now 8 years old and has been relatively trouble free, so when you have a little exhaust problem that costs you $300 you should both expect it and be happy it wasn't worse. However, no one likes spending money on their car only to get it back with no noticeable improvement. Plus, I'm trying to finish a bedroom, I could have used that cash elsewhere.

- Scott Pilgrim vs. The World made no money last weekend. This is a blow to those of us who like our films creative and esoteric, much less to those of us who love Scott Pilgrim and Edgar Wright. Take solace in the film's sure to be cult classic status, and that the talented people involved will work again - albeit likely with smaller budgeted films in the short term.

- Michigan's chances for an even moderately successful football season are evaporating more quickly than my sobriety at a tailgate. We lost another corner the other day, meaning that anyone with a modicum of passing proficiency will score on us like a drunken prom date, leaving out seemingly anemic offense the task of scoring 35 a game to carry the burden of success. I will spend the season pretending not to care and avoiding all contact with Barlow.

Posted 10:50am
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August 17th , 2010

Setting up the dominos

Yesterday I woke up and my left hand was asleep. When I was driving home for lunch and the tingling and numbness hadn't abated, I had a mild freak out that I might be having a heart attack. Luckily (correlationaly, as a consequence of) after I calmed down and realized that the most likely reason for the feeling was what I've done to my body over the last week, it went away.

Not in 20 years since the days of two a day football practices and doing back breaking landscaping for a summer job has my body ached like this. My hands feel like they're broken. My shoulders commiserate with Atlas himself after the first millennia or so. My forearms feel like I arm wrestled Popeye.

You'd think I have something to show for it. The BDGF looked at her mother's 27 point plan for home improvement and gasped "We've been busting our asses for a fortnight and we still can't check one thing off this list." I, upon perusing the list, noted that everything on the list is in process and shortly, we'll be able to cross everything off in the span of a 48 hour period.

So while the garage is half painted and Sid's room is half finished, we're on the cusp of greatness. This weekend at some point that first domino will fall and then it will be an avalanche of completeness. Then we can sit back, relax, and enjoy football season. Until the next thing breaks...

Posted 11:44am
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August 16th , 2010

Age is just a number

Much is made about the difference in ages between the BDGF and I. And when I say much I mostly mean jokes. Her being born in the decade before me and having aged into the decade after mine makes this low hanging fruit. Add in my previous penchant for dating girls much my junior and there are ample opportunities for barbs that cut both ways.

Jokes aside, I love that the BDGF is the age she is. There are myriad reasons why, but superficially I've always argued that dating someone older than you is a much safer bet than dating someone younger. Dating someone in their 20's is a crap shoot. Statistically, most people don't age well. They get fat. They go bald. Their skin does things that people spend billions of dollars every year to counteract. Things sag. So while you can grab someone young and beautiful and roll the dice - hoping that they maintain that gym membership and their DNA isn't a ticking timebomb, you'll never know for sure until time takes its toll - which it usually does.

However, when you date someone older than you, the writing is one the wall. The only surprise is when they will trade you in for a younger model. Find someone who looks ten years younger than they are and the world is your oyster. That's what I've got in the BDGF. We were entering the State Theater Saturday night to go see The Black Keys and passing through the requisite ID check to get in the building. The BDGF was in line in front of me when I heard "No. No. Really? Woooooooooo..." That's when I looked up to find the bouncer holding her ID in my face, asking me "Do you see this?" pointing to her birthdate. "Of course I do, that's my wife." I told him. That's when he high fived me and let me in to the venue, noting "I don't need to see your ID. Anyone who can pull that is good."

- The Sarah Palins and Newt Gingrinches of the world are using the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" to score political points based on people's xenophobia. Our president weighed in on the issue, saying only that they have every right to be there. And while Palin used this as an opportunity to further pander and fear monger, I'd like to a second to note that Fox & Friends (weekend edition, Doocy would have gone to the base) defended the President defending the constitution. Kudos kids. So shines a good dead in a weary world.

Posted 10:52am
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August 13th , 2010

Your Indie Rock Weekend

Mine will be spent seeing the Black Keys in downtown Detroit. Here's some things for you to peruse in lieu of being as cool as me...

- The AV Club Undercover project is still going on, and is still producing things that are awesome. Here's Mates of State covering The Replacements, and this may be the crowning jewel of the series: The Swell Season doing 'Two Headed Boy'.

- For reasons I am unsure of, Spoon was on Fallon the other night.

- Apparently Jack White lost his shit up on stage the other night. All I know is that picture included with the article makes me question my BDGF's taste in men, no matter how well they can play the guitar. Yes, that and the fact that she dates me.

- Scott Pilgrim vs. The World premiers today, and it is steeped in indie rock goodness. Hear a portion of Nigel Godrich's score here, and stream the entire soundtrack here.

- The Arts, Beats and Eats festival has just announced their music line up, and boy is it a yawner. I once saw Sloan here, so I'm always hopeful that they'll surprise me, and every year I end up disappointed.

- Weezer has fallen down the rabbit hole of ridiculousness, and not in the good way.

- Finally, my favorite band from 1983-1987 is putting out a new album. I will neither buy, download or listen to any part of it, not even out of morbid curiosity. I feel like this will be the best thing to come out of the endeavor. That and I may listen to Fair Warning right now, because that album still kicks ass.

Posted 11:10am
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August 11th , 2010

Walk this, bitches.

I've basically got one move in softball - and that's to weakly bloop the ball over the shortstop's head so that it lands between him and the left center fielder. It's neither flashy nor exciting, but it is effective and luckily, I can do it fairly consistently. The problem is that when opposing teams watch me do this to them once or twice, they bring the left center fielder waaaaaay in, thus nullifying my ability put the ball in the one spot I'm capable of putting it. This usually frustrates and angers me to the point that I try to kill the ball and launch it over their heads, leading to me popping out to someone in the infield.

That's exactly what happened last night. I started off 2 for 2 with my bloop shots. Then they brought left center in and effectively neutered me. My next two at bats - pop ups. What happened next was as big of a call out to one's manhood that you'll likely see on a softball diamond. With runners on second and third and me on deck, the opposing team chose to walk the guy in front of me to load the bases and put me at the plate. This is the equivalent of saying "Fuck that guy, he can't hurt us. We'll put an extra guy on base because what does it matter."

So I walk up to the plate, 0 for my last 2 and I've been scouted perfectly so the defensive shift is on to take away my bread and butter. After my failure to crush the ball on the previous two attempts, my only choice is to try and put the ball on the ground and hope it finds a hole (or someone makes an error). So with my sports dignity hanging in the balance, I pick an outside pitch and burn it to the gap between short and third, getting a single and an RBI. I resisted the urge to flip them the bird and tell them to suck it when I reached first, because that's not sportsmanlike. Besides, the next guy at bat hit a grand slam and we won the game 18-5. That's as suck it as it gets.

- Here's a great interview with Scott Pilgrim vs. The World director Edgar Wright.

- Levi Johnston reality show? I'm listening...

Posted 11:05am
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August 9th , 2010

DePasquale, Durkee, Brubaker & Flora

We're officially a law firm. OK, we just sound like one. But you have to admit, it's very post-modern, high concept sitcom of us to have five people with four surnames under one roof. Over the past week (and especially the past two days) I've vacillated wildly between "Hey! We're almost done! That was easy!" and "Holy shit we can never do anything fun again because there's so much work to do." The truth, as always, lies somewhere in between - but thankfully is closer to the former. We busted our collective asses this weekend and things are mostly in place. I have to say that with my possessions in drawers and my pictures on the walls - it feels like home. Of course that's mostly because the people I love are there, and that's the real genesis of ease and comfort. Now all we have to do is finish off Sid's room and complete the pseudo-mother-in-law's 27 point plan for home improvement, and we can finally sit down and relax.

- Here's a conservative on Fox News talking about gay marriage - and he's 100% right!

- Of course that's Ted Olsen - one of the main men in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, which came down on the side of right late last week. The BDGF and I have said we won't marry until it's legal for same sex couples to do so too in all 50 states. I can honestly say, please take that excuse away from us.

- And finally, speaking of justice and getting things right in the face of idiotic blather and fear mongering, the "ground zero mosque" is moving forward. Here's Mayor Michael Bloomberg giving a reasoned, impassioned and eloquent statement as to why it's important. Again, you are not smart enough to circumvent this logic, so those of you vigilantly working to thwart our collective progress - please quietly lay down and die.

Posted 10:25am
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August 4th , 2010

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

- Yesterday I saw this story in the NYTimes about iDosing - which is this internet phenomenon where kids supposedly listen to sounds and music that make you feel like you're on drugs. As you suspected, it's complete bullshit. What I found interesting though, is that the expert they talked to for the article, Dr. Brian Fligor, is a guy I went to high school with and we used to be in a garage band together. Now he's been mentioned in the NYTimes and tbaggervance.com. Banner week for that guy.

- People spend a lot of time and energy thinking about their dream job. I love to write, but would deadlines and not getting to pick my subject matter ruin it for me? I love movies, but would reviewing them for a living take the magic out of it? I love music, but how tedious would it be to own a record store? This guy probably thought he was living a dream when he got a job at a music shop. Yeah, not so much.

- Tomorrow the BDGF and I join the Stovriggs and Barlow in Cedar Point for a day of chili cheese fries and roller coasters. Growing up, Cedar Point was the yearly family vacation destination, so I always feel like I'm the mayor of the place when I'm there - or at least a local surrounded by tourists. I realize that it's this line of thinking that contributed to me getting thumped last weekend, but I think we'll be safe at the Point.

- Following CP, we're headed to Put-in-Bay. This would usually be cause for an entire pre-trip build up and post-trip dissection, but alas the BDGF and I will only be there Thursday night/Friday afternoon because...

- Friday night the BDGF's eldest returns from Oregon. Even though she's only my fake daughter, I've missed her terribly and can't wait to get her back. But more importantly, the BDGF gets her back, and nothing will remove the smile on my face seeing those two back together. I don't care how much shit I get for saying it - way better than a weekend in PIB.

Posted 10:22am
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August 3rd , 2010

Basil Marceaux for governor

It's primary day in Michigan, so all you Michiganders get out there and V O T E. If you haven't been following things, check out Michigan Radio before you head to the polls. But whom I really would like to address is those out there in the tbaggervance.com readership who are residents of the great state of Tennessee. I encourage you Tennesseeans - with ultimate voracity - to get out there and vote for Basil Marceaux. I could extol his virtues and point to the many great facts available on his website (VOTE FOR ME AND IF I WIN I WILL IMMUNE YOU FROM ALL STATE CRIMES FOR THE REST OF YOU LIFE!) but I'd rather let the man speak for himself. Vote Basil Marceaux. Everyone carry guns, if you kill someone though, you get murdered.

- Here's 50 great facts from Mental Floss. God bless Alan Thicke.

- Life imitates art imitating life. Here's Tina Fey in a commercial that's more dated than when I had a mullet. Apparently 30 Rock writes itself.

Posted 10:59am
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August 2nd , 2010

Vegas hates me

"Have a good time, but not too good of a time." I heard this a lot before leaving for Vegas on Friday. From the BDGF. From her mother. From anyone who knows me and knows Vegas and could imagine what kind of trouble could ensue. It always seemed like a weird sentiment to me, because presumably they mean "Don't do something that gets you arrested." but getting arrested isn't fun, so of course I'm going to stop short of that.

Apparently I had too good of time. Or something like that. Let this be the first, last and only word on what happened to me this time in Vegas. Without getting into it and reliving the ordeal again, early Saturday morning I got mugged. Details are sketchy at best, but I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, turned a corner, got cold cocked and had my ATM card, phone and some cash stolen. Vegas robs me again, literally this time.

I'm fine, thanks for asking. Luckily they didn't get my ID or credit cards, minimizing the damage. My head is luckily as hard as a rock, and my pride, while bruised, will recover. I can earn more money and buy a new phone. The BDGF has made sure that from this point forward I A.) Use the buddy system. B.) Don't take shortcuts. I will be on a very short leash going forward. This is for the best.

So again, I'm fine, no worries. After my last two visits to Sin City, I'm not going to be in a hurry to go back. We had a lot of good times together, but our relationship is now strained beyond its breaking point. More than anything, I want to put it all behind me and move on to the exciting prospects of he next few weeks. Vegas, it was fun while it lasted, but I need to go be a grown up for awhile.

Posted 10:40am
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July 29th , 2010

The tbaggervance.com movie review: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

To call the adaptation of genre fiction a tight rope walk is a vast understatement. To bottom line it: one must please existing fans of the work, while making it as palatable as possible to the masses (that and fitting a large, expansive universe into a two hour time frame). Trying to be as faithful as possible to the source work and keeping things, well, literal - nets you something like the first few Harry Potter movies - boring schlock where fans can go "Hey, I remember reading that!" but ultimately netting you an unwatchable movie. Ignore the fans and go bland so that it plays in Peoria, well the internet has made the nerd armies too powerful for that scenario (see Fantastic Four).

The real route to success lies in getting the overall tone right. If a genre movie feels like the source material, the nerds will give you a pass when you move around a timeline or two or amalgamate some minor characters for the sake of storytelling. This allows you to make things palatable, as well as shoe horn in as many references as possible to make the geeks salivate. Talented directors and screenwriters make this possible and turn properties like Spider-man and the X-Men into huge commercial and critical successes.

Scott Pilgrim is playing on another level. Even in 2010 when summers are chock full of superhero movies, Scott Pilgrim asks for a little bit more. It's soaked in video game culture. It's got superhero level feats of strength, without anyone actually being a superhero. Characters travel through 'subspace', a concept that's never really explained to those uninitiated with the source material. I have no idea how this will play with the unwashed masses looking to see a Michael Cera movie, but here's hoping they take that leap of faith and buy into it, because it is amazing.

For the nerds, it's a faithful adaptation. The filmmakers (Edgar Wright - Shaun of the Dead) get the tone right while playing a bit with structure, mostly in the interest of time. Casting is neigh on perfect and there's so many subtle nods packed in each frame, I can't wait to watch it again to see what I missed. For everyone else - it's a kinetic thrill ride that's at points touching, hilarious, and action packed. Make no mistake, this is a love story - one that just happens to occasionally be a musical, occasionally is a video game, is often an out and out surreal comedy and throughout a kick ass action movie. Makes sense, right?

I'm torn as to what to think of the movie's ultimate chance at success. Sure, it doesn't matter because this is the movie I wanted to see, so I shouldn't care what anyone else thinks or how much money it makes. But deep down it would make me really happy for this little graphic novel that I've loved for all these years to resonate with audiences at large. For people to embrace its scattershot references and genres and see the throughline. At the end of the day, I really want the proletariat to find joy in something that wasn't watered down and spoon fed to them, because that's the only way were going to keep getting movies like this one made, and with a little luck, kill the career of Michael Bay.

Posted 11:13am
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July 28th , 2010

(anything) + tbaggervance = awesome

It's been my running hypothesis for these last 20 years or so that everything goes better with booze. While things like running and jumping and driving a car have attempted to derail this theory, I still hold that it remains overwhelmingly true (and especially and coincidentally, when watching people run and jump or drive cars.) Well we're working on a new theory around here, and it's that everything goes better with tbaggervance. Since we are admittedly biased and have a love of science (science!), we offer you the following empirical evidence:

- Even longer than I have loved booze, I have loved comic books. I continue to read them to this day. New issues come out on Wednesday, and before my store shift at 826 I always stop in Vault of Midnight to pick up the latest books to hit the shelves. Well guess who just got named comic book shop of the year? Need I say more?

- About 15 years ago I came to Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan and fell hard and fast for both places, passively and immediately deciding to never leave. As such, I started working for the U before I even had my diploma and have never had another job since. So would it surprise you that Michigan was recently named one of the best colleges to work for in the United States? Of course it doesn't.

- As noted late last week, I attended Beerfest last Friday. This was a concession to the more popular Saturday version of the fest, but upon attending, a decidedly soothing and easy one to make. Which is probably why I am quoted in the annarbor.com write up on event.

Posted 2:30pm
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July 27th , 2010

My fair, thick skin

It's the end of July, which means my skin is its usual summer shade of bright pink. It's the price of being a ginger. Growing up was a constant merry go round of burn/peel, burn/peel throughout the summer. These days I'm generally more careful about putting on the sunblock and staying in the shade - mostly because I know that no matter how much constant exposure to the sun's rays I receive, I am never going to be tan (not even an Oompa Loompa/John Boehner shade of deep orange). Still, as ardent as I try to be, put me outside for a weekend and all the vigilance in the world won't keep me from getting pink in a spot or two. Until they make sunscreen a bright blue color that makes us look like smurfs, I'll inevitably miss a spot here and there.

But as fair and susceptible to solar energy as my skin is, it's equally as thick. I can take just about any comment and let it roll off my back. OK, well usually I try and have a witty retort at the ready, but the point is that I'm generally fine with whatever barbs or criticisms people want to hurl at me. I think it's one of the main reasons I managed to have a kid at 19 and never got married. As you can imagine, if you find yourself in that situation you get asked that question a lot. And at 19 when you're still a deer in the headlights of parenthood, you can't tell people to mind their own business and fuck off (although instinctually, that's completely where I was at.) Truth be told I'm not sure how I got through it, but I persevered. When Kara and I finally called it quits for good, I had an 8 year run of almost never having to field that particular query. People figured I was resigned to bachelorhood, and we were all finally on the same page.

Until now. The first words out of my grandfather's mouth at my brother's reception was "So when are you getting married?" The first question I got from the BDGF's mom when we saw her over the weekend was "So is that it for weddings in your family?" When I told her that, well, my nephew was getting married next summer, she quickly came back with "Wrong answer." Clearly I am back on the clock when it comes to having to dodge the question of whether or not I'm going to ever make an honest woman out of the BDGF. The pressure comes not from her, mind you. We're pretty much on the same page that the government or church has got no business peering into our commitment to each other. I won't sit and here and promise that it will never happen, because the heat will start to accumulate as the years begin to mount and chances are we'll get broken down and for no other reason just be tired of answering the question and explaining ourselves. But it ultimately matters not to me, because I'll still occasionally refer to her as my wife regardless, and more importantly, I'm already as committed as I can possibly be. Hopefully the BDGF can see that a lot more in my actions and the way I look at her than she could in a signed piece of paper.

Posted 1:40pm
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July 23rd , 2010

Sophie's Choice

Many years ago two of my very best friends decided to get married, and decided to do it quickly. No one was pregnant nor about to be deported, so I'm not sure what the rush was. Perhaps they had been together so long they just had a "let's do it and get it over with" mentality. It's pretty much neither here nor there, other than the fact that in their rush they had to get married when the church and reception hall were available, and that only option just happened to be the same day of the Michigan vs. Notre Dame football game.

I'd understand if these people were tOSU fans (sort of anyway - you don't get married during football season period in my mind), but these were Michigan people - one even an alumnus. So while I in no way wanted to miss their blessed union, I also in no way wanted to miss a home Michigan/Notre Dame game. So I did my best to have it both ways. Moeman drove me up to the game, and then whisked me back to Ohio afterwards, so I could at least make most of the reception. The bride didn't exactly agree with my decision, the husbands and boyfriends whose wives and girlfriends didn't give them the option that I had envied me. I'd say if I had to do it again, I'd do it exactly the same.

Tomorrow is my little brother's wedding reception. It's also Beerfest. Now I've already traveled once to watch my brother get actually married (at some expense mind you) and Beerfest is only once a year. Maybe I could go to Beerfest for a couple hours and then hit the tail end of the littlest Brubaker's reception? Unfortunately that scenario would likely lead to my mother rising from the grave and beating me senselessly with my own beer stein. So while it's not the same, there is a Friday night Beerfest too. It's shorter and the whole crew won't be there, but at least I get a taste before heading back to Napoleon to glad hand relatives and friends of the family. Hopefully I'll still be drunk from the night before when I get there.

Posted 10:54am
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July 22nd , 2010

This week in indie rock

- My friend Pants tried to get me into Frightened Rabbit a few years back, but whatever album they had out at the time didn't resonate with me and I kinda sorta dismissed them. Well couple my recent love of Scottish bands along with the mere title of their latest (Winter of Mixed Drinks) and I'm ready to give them another go. Here's FR covering the Lemonheads classic "Confetti".

- Stuff continues to leak from the star-studded White House gala a few weeks back honoring Paul McCartney. Here's Detroit's favorite son Jack White doing Sir Paul's "Mother Nature's Son". There's something cool yet unnerving watching Jack play guitar five feet from POTUS.

- If you haven't caught on as to just how fucking cool Scott Pilgrim is, when it came time to write Scott's band songs for the movie, they got fucking Beck. That's right, I said it. Here's a Sex Bob-omb bonus track from the deluxe edition of the soundtrack.

- Finally, I half expected to see my picture when I clicked on this link. Of course the two guys depicted do have eerily similar glasses to mine. Shit, I'm a stereotype.

Posted 10:57am
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July 21st , 2010

Happy endings

I once read about a study that determined in certain circumstances, more pain is preferable to less pain (and not in a masochistic or 17 year old girl cutting on herself kind of way). What they did was take patients who were having a certain, fairly painful surgery and have them rate their overall experience with the procedure after it was finished. In one set of patients, they immediately took the catheter out as soon as they could in post-op. In the second, they left the catheter in for an extra hour or so. Now having a catheter in is painful, but the second group - the one that had it in longer - rated their experience as better overall. Why? Well despite the extra pain of the catheter, that discomfort is nothing compared to the overall pain of the surgery they had undergone. When they pulled the catheter out of the first group, they were still reeling from the procedure. The second group had more time to come down post-op before the experience ended. You see, we rate our experiences by both the most intense portion of it and how it ultimately ends. In this case, that meant that the group that was in pain longer (due to increased catheter time) rated their experience as better overall because at the end of it, they were more removed from the lingering pain of the most intense portion of the ordeal.

Over the weekend the BDGF and I had a couple of hours to kill so I suggested we put in a movie. I decided to show her Once. For those of you who have never seen it (shame on you), Once is a little Irish indie movie from a few years back about a guy and a girl who meet and make music together. I don't want to spoil anything for those of you who haven't seen it (shame on you), but let's just say that I've seen the thing over a dozen times, and I still generally cry for about 30 of it's 90 minutes. It's a beautiful, touching film. For those of you that don't know the BDGF, she doesn't like sad anything. She has no time for sad music, can't abide sad movies and hates sad endings. Anyone who's looked through my iTunes library or DVD collection knows that I'm a horse of a different color. I quite like sad. I'm fond of bittersweet and adore tragic. I mean hey, I like happy too. I like all emotions. Sometimes I want to watch something that's going to make me angry. I want to experience things that elicit a response, and it doesn't always have to be one that reassures me or makes me smile.

When we finished Once the BDGF immediately turned to me and asked "Why do you keep showing me movies like that?" I wiped the tears from my eyes and said "Because it's beautiful." We rate our experiences by their most intense moment and how they end. I love the ending of Once. In my head it's real and hopeful and perfect. The BDGF felt differently. But maybe intensity trumps the ending of an experience, because in the intervening four days since she saw the movie, she's mentioned it to about a dozen people. Either that or the BDGF doesn't mind a little emotional variance. Either way I hope she makes peace with it, because there's a lot of sad but beautiful out there that I don't want to miss.

Posted 1:02pm
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July 20th , 2010

What's gone down in the last 24 hours

- Scott Pilgrim 6 drops today. It's wildly unfair in my brain that Sid and the BDGF get to read it before I do, when they'd be completely in the dark if I hadn't introduced them to it. Ah well, such is the curse of being on the ground floor of the super cool and then being willing to share the wonder.

- It appears that I have found someone to sublet my apartment for the majority of the upcoming year. This shit is happening people. I've got a little over three weeks to move my shit across town. Save your offer of helping to move - we will instead be using your talents of manual labor to help quickly build Sid a bedroom and apply paint to our garage. This all has to be done by football season guys, so let's get a move on.

- Last night we won Monday night trivia for the third straight week. When I was say 9 or 10 and the 'adults' were playing trivia, I'd huddle close and offer answers when I thought I had a decent guess. Inevitably they'd ignore me two or three straight times and offer some idiotic bullshit answer instead of my wise, sage one, thus getting questions wrong. When this didn't lead to them taking me seriously, I'd go hide by myself and cry. So I'd like to say a big fuck you and suck it to all my aunts and uncles and family friends who ignored and scoffed at my wisdom. I understand you were probably intimidated by my intellect back then, but still, it wasn't very nice. Also, I could've beat you back then and I'd literally* crush you now.

*not literally.

Posted 11:02am
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July 19th , 2010

My favorite thing that I wrote this week

Sometimes I type words that don't appear here, and while I swear I do my best to save the best of my brain for you, dear readers, sometimes I come up with something that I like that is sourced elsewhere. So as to not to cheat you of my favorite line of the week, I bring it to you now (with apologies for the meta and self aggrandizing nature of this experiment).

For basic context, I was having an email discussion with someone this week about this horseshit. And without recreating the entire discussion, it pretty much ended with me saying this about Mr. Rove and the person I was talking to:

Well you two have fun mutually masturbating each other while you read aloud from The Prince and spitball ideas about the next idiot you can find to run this country into the ground.

Normally I would have just posted that to facebook and be done with it, but my pseudo in-laws are on there, and that's made me gun shy. I mean, I'll still send drunk tweets that are inappropriate, but let's try to show a little tact, eh?

- Here is my favorite thing that Sarah Palin wrote this week.
     1. That's a lot of heart stabbin'.
     2. @TwinTowers has its own twitter account? Too soon.
     3. If two blocks is too raw and real, how large of a non-Muslin zone
         should we place around ground zero?
For those not willing to read that whole linked page, she goes on to compare herself to Shakespeare. No, not some other Shakespeare, the famous one. Governor, You cram these words into mine ears against the stomach of my sense.

- And here's my favorite Krugman column of the week. Ah, the sweet refreshing calm of logic.

Posted 11:15am
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July 16th , 2010

Ways in which I am old, vol. 417

Today is Siddhartha's 15th birthday. A few years back I decided to give a nickname every year based on the age he was turning. It's usually something stupid that sticks around for all of about 48 hours, but it has become tradition nonethless. Last year I called him BG (for former Michigan quarterback (and wearer of #14) Brian Griese.) The year before that it was Tiger Beat (in honor of his entry to teenagerdom). Before that it was domino (obviously). Now that he's 15 and coming into his own, I thought about giving him the moniker of "Sid Vicious". But then I looked at him and came up with the more appropriate "Sid Jonas".

As always, Sid getting older makes me stop for 30 seconds and steady myself, then I completely forget about it and move on. It is sort of amazing that I've been doing this parenting thing for 15 years now, but more so, that I've been doing it right. Sid, you're an amazing individual and I couldn't be prouder. As always, thankfully you look like your mother and act like me. I'd apologize for that, but let's face it - it could be worse. I've always wanted nothing more for you than to have the confidence to be yourself, and all I can say is so far, so good. Happy Birthday Siddhartha.

- Sid and I are waiting with bated breath for both the literary conclusion to the Scott Pilgrim series, as well as its filmic adaptation. Here's trailer remix #2 to get the hair on your arm to stand on end.

- I think Vampire Weekend was the first band that Sid really made his own, and continues to be his favorite to this day. So sorry kid, they're getting sued.

- Finally, through little to no out and out indoctrination, Sid has become quite a little lefty progressive. So I am sure my little environmentalist will be happy to hear they've plugged the leak in the gulf. Hooray!

Posted 10:15am
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July 15th , 2010

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

- It is only 5 days until we get the conclusion to Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series. I toyed with the idea of rounding up the other two giant Scott Pilgrim nerds I know (Sid and the BDGF) and heading to Cananada for this, but that's a lot of business - especially 8 hours in the car after the summer we've had so far. Either way, we're all super excited. Here's the first of several new trailer mashups for the movie to placate you/stoke your embers (depending on how you see these things).

- During the BDGF and I's 5,000 mile road odyssey earlier this summer, we listened to almost every known comedy album in the universe. One of my favorites was and is Paul F. Tompkins. Mr. Tompkins has an agreement with the online community, that if you can get 300 people to sign on, he'll come to your city for a show. So if you haven't already, join the Bring Paul F. Tompkins to Detroit Facebook page.

- Oh Louisiana and Iowa. You're so lovely with the New Orleans and the allowing gay marriage (respectively, those are mutually exclusive amenities at the moment), yet such idiocy and vitriol on the other hand. Here's a delightful billboard you can see when traveling through the corn state. And here's the Senator David Vitter from Louisiana who publicly backs birther lawsuits. Thank you both for allowing me to crudely apply stereotypes to a large swath of people and thus dismiss them.

- We don't talk too much about local politics here, because the readers of this here blog extend far beyond the borders of our sleepy hamlet, and truth be told, I don't pay too much attention. Well, that and when I do I am always disappointed. I read everything I could about Argo dam over the past year, hoping and praying that they would demolish the fucker. It's still there. And if I have to live through one more disappointment when it comes to light/commuter rail in SE Michigan, I may finally break down into tears over it. Anyway, it's time to choose a mayor in A2, and let's cross our fingers that incumbent John Hieftje wins in a walk, because his opponent is a scary bitch. Patricia Lesko is one of those conspiracy theorists who comes in from the fringe screaming about backroom deal this and corrupt that, even though everyone is relatively happy and healthy and there's no real evidence of anything. Oh, and she also ran an anonymous website for years throwing every city official under the bus. That's fucking gutless. Which is why I'm glad Hieftje finally called her on her shit the other night. Get out and vote in the primaries next month everyone.

- Tonight: The Hold Fucking Steady at the State Theater in downtown Detroit. It's a wonderful life...

Posted 10:36am
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July 14th , 2010

Qualitative analysis

For no real rhyme or reason, it has come time once again to reiterate some truths that should be self evident to you, our dear readers, about how and why we do that voodoo that we do here at tbaggervance.com. This endeavor started largely as a way for to share the things I found on the internet and to opine about stuff that I felt something for one way or the other. As things evolved, I injected more and more of my personal life into things, because I like to pretend my life is interesting to peoples other than myself. You can call me delusional, but here you are reading this, so there.

As things progressed and I approached Malcolm Gladwell's mythical 10,000 hours, posts got generally longer, I started to spell check, and hopefully, the writing got better. But as you've undoubtedly noticed, we have yet to hire an editor. I'm fond of saying that it doesn't take any longer to write this blog than it does to type it. And that's as true as I can make it, and it will always be that way.

I fancy myself a decent writer, but more importantly, I enjoy it. You know what I don't enjoy? Editing. It's boring and I'm not great at it. The minute this blog becomes an obligation or feels like work, I'll stop doing it. Eventually we all imagine me devolving into a dottering old drunk who sits alone at the bar muttering to himself about politics and how shitty the new Arcade Fire album is anyway, right?

So this may seem like an overly defensive post just to say "Look, my grammar ain't perfect, see? Stick it up your poop shoot." But hey, I'm an artist man, and I'm not going to apologize for the way I do things. Or alternately, I write my posts the way I write my posts. Either way, I don't give a DAMN what you think you're entitled to. But seriously, thanks for reading everybody. Every once in a while one of you says the nicest thing about this little patch of real estate and it warms the cockles of my heart. I'll try to remember that rather than the times you point out that I missed a comma or dangled a participle, because that just makes me want to beat you about the head with my copy of Strunk & White.

Posted 10:58am
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July 13th , 2010

SWM looking for a 26" HDTV

The BDGF likes to make fun of the fact that I previously got dates by posting ads on Craigslist. Come to think of it, previous relationships refused to admit that we met on CL or that it had anything to do with our getting together. Personally, I'm not big on stigmas, so the BDGF can throw it in my face all she likes and Ayesha can tell herself we met at Honeycreek if it helps her sleep at night. Truth be told, it gets rough out there from time to time, so anyway you can meet someone, throw it at the wall and see if it sticks (although I personally would advocate for checking out your friend's siblings at the moment).

But as wondrous and bountiful as the personals section of CL is with people willing to let you buy them drinks and then clumsily make out with them, it turns out it's not just for hook ups. As previously and ongoingly mentioned, we're rapidly prepping a house so that we can add myself and a half time half Asian into the mix. This involves not only elaborate fun like adding egress and bathrooms, but simple good times like cleaning out 8 years of detritus from storage rooms and garages. But fortunately, one man's detritus can be another man's treasure. And when it's too big to ship (and thus list on ebay) there's only one place to go - Craigslist.

We managed to sell everything we listed on CL in less than 24 hours. And as I type, I'm trying to swap the cash we made for a used flat screen TV for the bedroom. The CL giveth and taketh, and they are both good things. But the true test of its powers are on the line as I just finally listed the sublet for my apartment. As great as CL has been to me, it's kind of all for naught if it fails me in this instance. Stay on target CL. Stay on target...

Posted 10:55am
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July 12th , 2010

Development arrested

Friday night the BDGF and I, along with our entourage, went and saw the band We Were Promised Jetpacks at the Magic Stick in Detroit. I don't know if we were the oldest people in the room that night, but let's just say we brought the average age of the room up (which you tend to do when you're over 30 and you go to see a bunch of 22 year old Scottish kids play punk tunes.) Anyway, before we departed for the motor city that evening, we were teaching at 826 with the BDGF's little brother (who happens to be my age). He asked what we were doing that evening and the BDGF told him about the show - to which he responded "When did we trade places?"

There's a lot of theories out there about people reaching a certain age and then staying there, never to mature further nor increase their load of responsibility. At the same time, it's argued that some people are as staid and measured as a 40 something insurance salesman by the time they hit puberty. Forced to live a life of austerity, they're grown-ups at birth.

Certainly I know many of the former - people who never quite seemed to advance past high school or college despite owning a home and raising children. And there's people like my little brother who have always seemed to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders and had concerns beyond their years. But I refuse to believe that anything is so black and white.

Yes, I have a juvenile sense of humor. Yes, I too often treat my body like a carefree teenager who just discovered that alcohol and sex feel good. And it would be argued by those pop psychologists out there that I will forever be around 22 years old, trying to recapture whatever piece of youth I feel that I lost by becoming a father before I hit 20. But I was also always the kid you could give a task to and he'd sit there and quietly do it until it was finished. And I've been reading about politics since I was in junior high. Despite my proclivity for certain things associated with youth, I've always maintined a sense of patience and intellectual pragmatism that sits at odds with that.

My point is that while being with the BDGF makes me feel like a giddy 17 year old who gets excited when his girlfriend merely walks into a room, we also spent half of our weekend scraping paint and doing yardwork and trying pump up the aesthetics and thus overall value of our house. We taught a workshop at 826 before going to drink PBRs in a dirty club in downtown Detroit. I won't speak for the BDGF, but I often feel simultaneously like the world's oldest and youngest 34 year old - and I like that dichotomy. As for the BDGF and her response to her little brother's query of when did she usurp his place of being the young, fun concert goer? She quickly retorted "I don't know, but we're not trading back." Good answer.

Posted 11:39am
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July 9th , 2010

When life gives you lemons, just say 'Fuck the lemons,' and bail.

This quote is almost so unbelievable that I could show it to you and let you ponder on it, scratching your head incredulously, and leave it at that:

I think that two wrongs don't make a right. And I have been in the situation of counseling young girls, not 13 but 15, who have had very at risk, difficult pregnancies. And my counsel was to look for some alternatives, which they did. And they found that they had made what was really a lemon situation into lemonade.

That's Sharon Angle, the GOPs choice in Nevada to replace Harry Reid, on advising a girl that was raped by her father against having an abortion. I don't want to debate the merits of Senator Reid, as he's not someone I want to go to bat for. However, SERIOUSLY? One of things I constantly fear as a non-believer is that doctrine and dogma can replace analytical thought or even common sense. But when it replaces empathy? This line of thinking is almost as callous as the people who perpetrate these crimes. I'm going to go vomit now.

- As long as we're on the subject, here's another dandy from the Republican governor of Indiana:

And atheism leads to brutality. All the horrific crimes of the last century were committed by atheists -Stalin and Hitler and Mao and so forth- because it flows very naturally from an idea that there is no judgment and there is nothing other than the brief time we spend on this Earth.

So let's ignore the fact that I just got called Stalin and Hitler, and that this little screed ignores the fact that every other atrocity not mentioned here and took place before the 20th century was done in the direct name of someone's god. I happen to know a few people raised without a stitch of religion, and they haven't committed even a little genocide. The idea that one needs a higher power to come to the realization that murder and theft go against the grain of an affable society is so ludicrous and has been so debunked that I kind of can't believe I'm typing this right now.

Posted 11:13am
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July 8th , 2010

Why Me? The Bob Lamonta Story

While the BDGF's brother may be my cultural touchstone soulmate*, there exists a large traverse of pop cultural references between the two of us. To be fair, that's true of most people, especially girls who don't have entire episodes of Firefly committed to memory nor make obscure references to 1980's submarine movies starring Sean Connery. Besides, the BDGF has never missed a Star Wars reference and beat me to the punch once or twice herself in quoting Han Solo, so point of fact, she's fairly well versed. For a girl.

But again, I don't expect anyone to parse the nuance of comedy bits from the 1990s just so they vaguely smirk at my inane references. Of course that doesn't mean I can't from time to time expose the BDGF to some of my favorites so that she can go "Oh, that's where that's from." when I repeat something ad nauseam for seemingly no one's amusement but my own. Case in point, I'm fond of flexing my muscles and saying "I'm strong - like the Hulk!" so when the two of us were discussing things to watch last night, I thought "Hey! Want to see where that reference comes from?" Once I assured her that she wouldn't have to watch anything involving the actual Incredible Hulk, she said sure.

While the specific Mr. Show sketch I got that line from is hilarious, I, thinking like a dude, didn't contemplate the showing of it to my BDGF. It's not that she didn't get it or think it wasn't funny, but she used to think it was cute when I said the line, and now she'll have an image of retarded Bob Odenkirk in her head when I do it. Man, my shoes hurt.

*we're both a pretty specific type of nerd

Posted 10:34am
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July 7th , 2010

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

- New laptop! Work generously provides me with a new laptop every 3 years, and Christmas hath come early this year, as my shiny new machine shows up tomorrow, a good 6 months ahead of schedule. This is momentarily assuaging my fury that construction throughout Ann Arbor has currently doubled my 12 minute commute to and from said work every damn day. Fucking American Investment and Recovery Act fixing our shitty roads...

- Softball! After a miserable 2009, our softball team is humming along like a well oiled machine this season, and as anyone who has ever played any competitive anything ever will tell you, it feels so much better to win. And while I'm sure that mentioning it will cause me to go one for my next 36 at bats, I'm hitting a cool .636 so far this year.

- Egress! I already know more about this shit than I ever wanted to, but it is necessary so we muddle through the best we can. Again, I may be jinxing myself as we have yet to talk to one actual builder in person, but our first over-the-phone estimate was as much as a third less than we thought we were going to have to fork over. If this holds out, next round is on me.

- You may look at this graph and laugh at the naivite of most college students, and you wouldn't be wrong to do so. However, look closer, because you missed the take home point - it takes less drinks to induce unwanted sex than it does a hangover. Also, estimated number of drinks show that most people associate hangovers with unwanted sex. High Five?

- Hopefully for the last time, climate science is vindicated. Have you been outside lately? It's fuckin' A hot. Global warming deniers are mostly conspiracy theory crackpots like this guy. That and religious zealots and those whose bottom lines might be negatively affected by dialing back the poison they put into the environment. You'd have thunk that after we learned not to listen to the tobacco companies about the safety of cigarettes, we wouldn't make such a similar mistake about something so much more important.

Posted 11:45am
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July 6th , 2010

Innnnnnnnnndyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!

Here's a recap of the weekend that was, as I'm still a little slow on the uptake this morning, and it's about all I'm capable of. Apologies to those of you who were there, making this redundant.

- Friday we went and saw a performance of Cinematic Titanic, which if you don't want to click on the hyperlink, is basically live MST3K. All I can say is man I miss that show.

- Saturday was a four trip to Lowes day (something there will likely be a lot of in the future). We accomplished some good stuff, but it's ultimately boring to you, dear readers, unless you find putting up gutters and other water runoff solutions interesting. We rewarded ourselves with a trip to the drive in to see Toy Story 3, which caused tears to openly stream down my face (in a good way).

- Sunday we celebrated 234 years of rich white men's reticence to pay taxes in the only way we know how - with beer, meat and fireworks. And if that wasn't enough, we capped 'Merica's b-day with a screening of the greatest movie of all time - Raiders of the Lost Ark. That's the second time I've watched that movie al fresco this summer, which I'm pretty sure means I've already won summer 2010.

- Monday it was too hot to do anything, so we had drunk brunch at home in the AC. After a quick nap, we closed the weekend by winning trivia at Connors. I love knowing people that are wicked smart.

- Today starts Ann Arbor's new recycling rules, which means you can finally start putting #5 plastics in your bin. Since almost everything is made of #5, this is a good thing. Of course this dredged up the disagreement between the BDGF and I, as she throws her deposits into her recycling bin, rather than taking them back to the store for 10 cents a pop. I keep telling her that Judy B (my sainted mother) would spin in her grave knowing that we were throwing away money like that. With all the beer we drink, it adds up...

Posted 10:34am
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July 2nd , 2010

2 bedroom, 1 bath - available August

Outside of my 7 years in Arbor Village Apartments, I've spent my 16 years in Ann Arbor moving every summer. I've found a way to view this in a positive light, as it discourages the accumulation of needless crap, forces you to be organized and provides you with an opportunity to take stock of where you're at in life by putting all of it into boxes. Plus, since in all likelihood all spend the rest of my days here in our little utopian hamlet, moving around to the different neighborhoods in town is as close as I'll get to pulling up stakes for a new city.

That being said, I really thought that I had found a somewhat permanent residence in my current digs. Living downtown has been everything I ever imagined and more. I'm sure the bartenders at the Peak always thought it was odd when a week went by without my showing up, but now they call to see if I'm OK when I don't show up every couple of days. I had found home and assumed I'd be staying put for years to come. As such, I signed a lease extension last November tying me to the place through Aug. 2011. Can't see why not, right?

Of course fast forward to now and I am in need of subtleties. We'll get into the whole ins and outs of why and what's actually happening a lot in the coming months* (to the point of you'll likely be massively bored by it) but for now, I need someone to live in my beloved downtown abode. Rent is reasonable and I'm flexible and most importantly, I promise that living there will be a transformative experience in your existence. Plus, if you get a mug club card at the Peak, it's like you're being paid to drink there.

- Tokyo Police Club and The New Pornographers both played Letterman last week and they were both awesome.

- Here's a good excuse for some of you (Barlow) next time your wife wakes up and asks "What are you DOING?"

- The Lord giveth and he taketh away. And sometimes, he giveth by takething. We lost Briarwood Dollar Movies this week, but we also had the blight of the Full Moon/Monkey Bar excised from Main Street. Please replace it with a proper drinking establishment.

* I'm moving in with the BDGF, for those with can'treadbetweenthelinesosis.

Posted 10:55am
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July 1st , 2010

What's making Baby Jesus cry this week? Sharon Angle edition

There's a new player on the TEA party/GOP scene and she's zooming past the Palins and Bachmans of the world to vie for biggest batshit crazy loon in politics. Her name is Sharon Angle and now that she's opened her mouth, the treats are falling out like a busted pinata.

- Let's start off by letting Sharon tell us about God's plan, which may or may not include you being raped by a family member, getting impregnated and then carrying that baby to term.

- Now Ms. Angle's bio lists her as a teacher and politician, with a degree in Fine Arts, but did you also know she's a constitutional scholar? So when she tells you that separation of church and state is unconstitutional, it must be true.

- I don't know how she feels about this then. One can only assume that it's the liberal activist judges that currently rule the court. I'm no scholar, just a mere enthusiast, but it's nice to see that the court can get something right. I guess as long as it doesn't have big business on one side of the argument, we still have a chance.

- It's been a while since I read my bible or heard any sort of sermon, but I remember one on a mount somewhere and someone saying something about the poor and meek and merciful being blessed. Clearly not blessed are the spoiled and lazy, who don't want all of the jobs that are out there unfulfilled.

- And finally, just so she doesn't feel left out, let's throw in Sarah Palin. She must be feeling a little lonely, as I'm pretty sure she's still waiting on that divine intervention to smite that oil right out of the ocean. It's nice to see she still holds out some hope for man, because otherwise mentioning solution/miracle would be redundant.

Posted 10:53am
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June 30th , 2010

5 innocuous things that are making me happy in and around the present moment - post Kadota edition

- Mount Rushmore is super awesome and I can't recommend it enough should you find yourself within a couple hours of it. Classy, understated, regal, and awe-inspiring. You know what isn't? Crazy Horse. When we saw that the Crazy Horse memorial was a mere 10 minutes away from Rushmore, we figured "We're not ever coming back, so this is our one chance. We might as well..." Our problem was, we didn't exactly do our homework before making the trek. Here is what we knew/assumed before visiting Crazy Horse:

1. It is crazy big. Crazy Horse (when completed) will be the world's largest monument/sculpture/something or other.
2. It isn't done. We knew that they weren't finished. We both had a rough assumption however, that they'd been working on this for 20 years or so and were mostly finished.

We had the big part right. When completed, it will be the world's largest sculpture. By our rough estimates after visiting the place, this will be around the 12th of never. The project started in 1948 and after 62 years of "work", they have half a face carved out. THAT'S IT. And here's the bitch of it - Rushmore charged us $10 for the entire car to get in, and that pass is good for an entire year. Crazy Bitch charged us $10 a piece for the day. And when we walked into the visitor's center and asked how do we see the monument, the guy laughed and said "Walk out side and look up, or you can pay (PAY!) to take the bus to the bottom of the mountain for a better view." In short, the Crazy Horse monument is a fucking tourist trap run by white people that I'm sure has the actual Crazy Horse spinning in his grave (as well as all of the members of Neil Young's former backing band).

- The Jesuses were kind enough to let us stay with them (twice) and let us play with their adorable daughter Ophelia. Thanks for the hospitality kiddos, even if I didn't get to visit any of Sioux Falls 3,735 "casinos" and there exists a Sean Connery/Robert DeNiro deficiency.

Steve- The BDGF got to meet the Jesuses, I got to meet her ex-husband. It went innocuously enough, he shook my hand but wouldn't look me in the eye. I will say this, he does fancy himself quite the 2001 era Johnny Damon.

- Thank Christ for smartphones, the Yelp app, and microbreweries. I can see how chain restaurants survive by sitting close to the highway and being just bland a familiar enough to lure you in, but man what an archaic way to go about your business. The BDGF and I pick a town a few hours in advance of where we expect to be when we are hungry. Then (if it's the two of us) search "brewery" on Yelp and go the one that sounds the best. It's a flawless, beautiful system that keeps us away from the Chilis and Olive Gardens of the world. Of course there is some mild panic when we can't get decent cell phone service. Seriously SKadota - put up some 3G towers. Hell, I'd be happy with a little EDGE network service. It's as primitive as can be out there.

- In the last month, the BDGF and I have driven over 5,000 miles and visited 12 states (including both of the ones that begin with "South"), and the closest we came to an argument was when I got upset with the Arby's drive thru lady somewhere north of Cincinnati for not having what I wanted to eat. Thank you gorgeous for being the world's best travel companion. I look forward to the many adventures yet to come (just not in a car anytime soon).

Posted 11:29am
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June 29th , 2010

Home on the range.

Almost anyone will tell you that communication is the cornerstone of any successful relationship. People who can't articulate themselves end up not getting their needs fulfilled. And even if you agree with your partner, if you don't express that agreement, you can accidentally end up on the opposite sides of an argument without their actually being two sides to disagree about.

Enter technology. Cell phones are great - especially when they are used for anything other than actually talking. Txt messaging has taken the necessary task of getting in touch with people, and removed the messy, anxiety producing 'talking' part of the equation. That's better living through science. The only major drawback is that it is sometimes hard to read nuance, inflection and sarcasm in a txt message. This can lead, as Robert Plant used to say, to communication breakdown.

The BDGF was in a tad bit of denial about shipping her adorable daughters off for 6-8 weeks. This is an understandable phenomenon and one begrudged by no one. However, this directly led to a denial of the responsibility of finding us a place to stay for the night in rural Western South Kadota. We needed a hotel room on Friday for after we dropped off the girls, and as of Wednesday, mere hours before we were to depart, we had none.

So when I went to pick her up for lunch at noon on wednesday (four hours prior to departure) she showed me a cute little bed and breakfast on top of a 300 foot butte just south of the Badlands. Sounds great, said I. She emailed the place and we went to lunch, followed by my return to work. A short time later, I received this txt message:

Only thing circle ranch has for friday is that homesteader cabin w no elec or plumbing! She called it 'great fun if you're up for the adventure'. Yikes!

Turns out the bed and breakfast also offered an actual homesteader cabin from the 1880's. Now at this point it's worth a quick aside to note that the BDGF is both used to a more upscale experience, and a bit of a germophobe (she's been known to bring her own sheets to actual civilized hotels.) So if you had asked me prior to our trip "What are the chances that you could get the BDGF to stay in a building with no electricity or plumbing for a night, miles removed from civilization?" I'd have put the odds somewhere around 1,000,000 to 1.

Thus I responded to her txt message:

Who doesn't love adventure?

Which led to this exchange:

Really? Check out the web page and let me know if you really want to do it. Adventure for sure!

Well I'm up for it if you are. What are the other options?

Idk could be fun? It's $85 and close to the park. The best western likely costs just a little less and has zero charm or adventure.

Then let's have an adventure sweet and hope for the best!

I responded to her inquiry about playing Little House on the Prairie thinking "not in a million years would this ever happen." As it turns out, she never thought I'd give it a thumbs up. Somehow this escalated into us roughing it. Big time. I should have told her "Excitement? Adventure? A Jedi craves not these things."

Friday. After dropping off the girls and calming the BDGF down with a touch of booze, we decided to go check in before driving west to Mt. Rushmore. We climbed the 300 foot butte and headed to the main house. After paying for the room, the clerk asked if we were joining them for breakfast. We said sure (as we had already signed up and paid for it) and asked what time. The clerk said "7:30" and the BDGF said "Until...?" which was met with a "7:30". Strike one.

Time to go actually see the place. We asked where our cabin was located, which went something like this: "Head back out from where you came and take a left at Grandma's house. You'll travel down the butte and then in half am mile or so take a left at the fork in the road (if you see the one eyed bison you've gone too far). Then in about another mile you'll run into some hay bales. You're right behind that but before the river." Umm, do we need a key? (Laughing) "No." Strike two.

Strike three?

homestead

We walked around our love shack with all of our collective muscles tensed saying things like "What have you gotten me into?" "What have I gotten you into? What have YOU gotten ME into?" We got back in the car and on the road toot suite, driving down the highway and staring longingly at Motel 6's and Days Inns, making jokes about eating the $85 and staying anywhere else. Unfortunately for the BDGF, I'm far too cheap for such nonsense.

So after a few national monuments and some local microbreweries, we head back through dark of night to our homestead. We made sure to pick up enough intoxicants along the way to keep us sufficiently lubricated through the night. We got to about 5 minutes from the place and the BDGF's death grip on my hand prompted me to ask "You ok sweetheart?" I think I heard a meek "No?" in response.

We finally parked the van outside our lodging for the evening and grabbed our bags and booze and headed inside. We threw our things down, lit the kerosene lamp and then proceeded to sit on the front porch and get lit. And you know what? We had a really good time. We drank, we talked. We basked in the full moon and enjoyed the silence (outside of my iPod blaring through the portable, battery operated speakers I had brought). When we awoke in the morning, we agreed on two things. First, that once in a lifetime experiences are named as such for a reason - they are best experienced exactly once. Second, when discussing the specifics of our next vacation, we will do so in person, face to face.

Posted 10:51am
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June 23rd , 2010

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

Later this very day the BDGF, her two lovely daughters and I will pack up the family truckster and head West to drop them with real dad for the summer. Here's hoping that 16+ hours in the car with girls aged 14 and 7 goes as well as our excursion with Siddhartha did. Gulp.

- Beachhouse! The BDGF's ma and pa have a cozy little place on Lake Michigan, so leg one of our expedition takes us to Michigan City, IN, where we'll have a cocktail or two and perhaps do a little night swimming before we hit the meat of the trip. It's a rough life at times...

- Jesuses! We planned our route for this little adventure around the idea that we could stop and see my two favorite pious former Ann Arborites (and their latest edition - the Big O) in Sioux Falls, South Kadota. It's been too long and I can't wait to spend some time with AJ and MJ - and the littlest Jesus, Ophelia (whom we're trying really hard not to call OJ).

- Badlands! Our turnaround will be in the Badlands of Kadota. I never would have imagined myself a national park buff, but after my trip to the Grand Canyon, I feel like it's my duty to see this stuff if I'm anywhere near it. Plus, there's a Springsteen song about it, so double obligation.

- C+C! I'll certainly miss the BDGF's darling daughters for the next few weeks, so shipping them off isn't a point of happiness. But cutting our collective children by 66% will be a healthy break and I am glad I can be here for my BDGF to keep her busy and tipsy until they return.

- Murphy! The real excitement in this whole process is that we're saying goodbye to the world's dumbest dog, Murphy. I've always known that I'm not a dog person. Dogs are for people who don't have children and feel the need to care for something. That and people with children who are weak willed and cave after six months of their tykes yelling "I want a dog!" Turns out the BDGF isn't a dog person either. So given that neither of us are keen on animal care and the girls were indifferent at best, the shaggy beast is getting bequeathed to the ex in one final divorce concession. Murph - I never liked you and won't miss you in any way. Not the way you chewed my shoes. Not cleaning up your shit in the yard. Not hearing you bark incessantly for no reason. And certainly not trying to track you down when you escaped out of the house, usually when we were in a hurry to get somewhere. Don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.

Posted 11:10am
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June 22nd , 2010

This Week in Indie Rock

- Last Saturday the BDGF took Siddhartha and I to the Ann Arbor Summer Festival's tribute to the Beatle's 50th anniversary. Chris Bathgate doing "Across the Universe"? Thornetta Davis rocking "We Can Work it Out"? Auggie from the Hard Lessons nailing "I've got a Feeling" with a bunch of school kids? Gypsy rockers noodling around with "Can't Buy Me Love"? Yes, yes, hell yes and fuck no. Turns out Sid has an aversion to Django Reinhardt. But otherwise, an evening with some Beatles tunes can't be beat. Thanks sweetheart.

- Here's a cool live version of The Hold Steady doing "Sweet Part of the City" for pitchfork.tv

- THS is playing next month with the Gaslight Anthem, who are overrated in my opinion but still cool - as evidenced by their cover of the Pearl Jam classic "State of Love and Trust", a jam many of my high school bands rocked.

- Hope springs eternal that 2010 will have a new Radiohead album in it.

- It will definitely have a Scott Pilgrim soundtrack. I'm wicked excited about this, since I've been imagining Sex-Bob-omb songs for years now. I never imagined them as Beck compositions, but I'm trusting Edgar and Bryan to get this right.

- Here's friend of the blog and Canadian songstress Karyn Ellis doing an interview with the CBC, which is pretty exciting, as I've never heard her voice except in song.

- Finally, we all know that Neko case has the sultriest voice on the Earth and oozes sex appeal like nobody's business - these are universal constants that allow me to put my faith in science and be convinced that the universe has order and meaning. But did you also know that she will fuck you up? I, for one, am feeling a little flush.

Posted 1:37pm
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June 21st , 2010

Will this day never end?

Hey everybody! It's the looooooongest day of the year. Go play outside. It's nice out.

- It's doubly officially summer today as school ended for the year Friday, meaning it's the first day of the next 80+ where I have to drag my sorry butt out of bed before 8am while the BDGF sleeps her summer away. It should be quite the relationship test based on my bitter jealousy alone.

- And this bodes well for 2010 shaping up to be the Summer of Crazy. What's your horse's name? Miracle!

- First it was Mitchs, now the Elbow Room? What's with bars closing with absolutely no notice? I mean, you'd think there'd be money in saying "Last chance!" to all of your patrons. I don't have any special attachment to the place, but I'd had enough good times there that I would've stopped in for a drink if I had known that it would cease to exist shortly.

- Finally, happy father's day to all the dads out there (albeit belatedly). I've been a dad forever so it's old hat for me, but I will say that I kind of always assumed I'd never know what it's like to have more kids, so celebrating my first father's day with my two fake daughters was good times. Everyone else seems intent on having three kids, so I'm glad I can fit into the paradigm and do it the easy way.

Posted 1:37pm
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June 18th , 2010

Too soon.

Last night I attended an 8th grade graduation. School functions aren't really my cup of tea, but when it comes to my kids (even the fake ones) of course I wouldn't miss it. The principal took the stage to start the proceedings with some opening remarks and the very first words out of her mouth were "Does anyone here remember anything anyone said at any of their commencement ceremonies?" Finally! Someone who gets it. This should be a svelte, well oiled machine of a ceremony where people's self-important bullshit is tossed aside in favor of appropriately celebrating this milestone in the kid's lives.

She went on to explain how she has a bevy of resources she uses to build these speeches around, as she likes to talk about what was going on when they started their journey in kindergarten. Huh. Ok. I guess we can all get a good chuckle about how we used to listen to Snow Patrol and had that retarded cowboy as president. But she didn't need to look up anything in their case (oh shit) because they will forever be known, as the class of 9/11. (I kid you not).

She then went on to explain that no one will ever accuse them of having pre-9/11 thinking (hold for awkward laughter). That they will never know what it's like to greet someone at the gate at the airport (the tragedy). That before they started school, no one knew what a full body scanner or underwear bomber was (she's really hung up on this airport thing). In total, she called them the class of 9/11 about 15 times in ten minutes, eyes welling up the entire time.

Now I was 25 years old when it happened so I can't say for sure, but what do you think the chances are that a bunch of kids who were 5 and 6 at the time, consider the fact that it happened when they were in KINDERGARTEN the defining aspect of their pre-high school education? I mean, I can't decide if it was more inappropriate or irrelevant. In any case, it was fucking bizarre - and ironically, one commencement speech that no one in the room will likely ever forget.

- So Siddhartha is now a sophomore. The BDGF's eldest is now a freshman. This ostensibly gives me two kids in high school. Let that sink in. This is supposed to make me feel old, but I mostly just think it's kinda cool. There isn't a smarter, more conscientious, good looking pair of pseudo-siblings out there, and I suppose that helps.

- There's a new Scott Pilgrim trailer and it's even more epically awesome than the first. The summer movie season has sucked butt so far this year, and I have a feeling will only find redemption in the hands of Mr. Pilgrim.

Posted 10:38am
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June 17th , 2010

What's making Baby Jesus cry this week?

It's more than just daddy deciding to smite a giant roadside idol of him. We've got gay marriage, fightin' Irish and painters of light on the agenda...

- Final arguments were just presented in the gay marriage case in California. Redemption, thy name is Ted Olsen. OK, not wholly, but still, the world needs more people who call bullshit on their friends. It's kind of the only way to move forward on anything.

- With apologies to those I'm related to who own works of his "art", Thomas Kinkaide offends me on multiple levels - most of them aesthetic. But turns out he's a miserable human being too! Who would have guessed that his personality is as abhorrent as his paintings.

- As if thything wasn't enough, guess who has the costliest season ticket in all of college football? Listen, I'm fond of saying that the right price for a ticket to a football game is as high as they can make it and still sell the fucker out, but it's kind of insult to injury when you're charging your fans more than anyone else (by $1000 no less) and then asking them to come a shit hole like South Bend to boot. Baby J says ouch.

- The last time I heard anyone ask Sid about his religiosity, he responded with "I'm spiritual, but not religious." He was a mere 12 years old or so at the time, so I figured a.) He's still figuring this stuff out and not ready to commit to anything yet and b.) he's parroting a phrase he heard somewhere to avoid a conversation he doesn't want to have. Turns out a lot of people are doing that these days. The BDGF asked me about Sid and religion once and I told her that story. Last week she threw it back at him and he clearly didn't remember the incident, because when she said "Your dad said you were spiritual but not religious," he responded with a "yeah right." He's taken his first step into a larger world.

Posted 11:44am
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June 16th , 2010

Proportional response.

There's a scene in the first season of The West Wing where an untested President Bartlett is tasked with responding to an American plane being shot down by a foreign government. Turns out that he had a friend on that plane, and in short, he'd very much like to bomb those responsible back to the stone age. When his military advisors inform him that it may not be wise to start WWIII over a service plane being shot down, the President opines "Some day you'll have to explain the virtue of a Proportional Response."

I'm not sure what people thought President Obama would come out and say last night. Even if you go back to the campaign and look past the rhetoric, Obama has always been a prudent, measured fellow. He's a singles hitter, and a spray one at that. Not looking to hit home runs nor even to leg out doubles, he surveys the field, looks for holes, and tries to find a patch of green to land the ball in. It's all about on-base percentage, small ball and manufacturing runs. He'll steal a base here or there if he can get in position to hustle in on a sac fly, because at the end of the day, all he wants is to take what the defense will give him.

So the lefties who wanted outrage and a call for a carbon tax, and those on the right who preemptively yesterday yelled "You better not!" both should've known that's not what they were going to get. He gave a somewhat milquetoast call to use the spill as impedance for a clean energy economy, and then told BP to give him their wallet so he can dole out the compensation. Spit spot. Neat, clean, measured - the proportional response.

I'll probably never get the President I want. He's* probably unelectable. There don't appear to be any sane Libertarians nor any fiscally conservative Democrats left. God knows the social liberals in the GOP have been run out on a rail. But in absence of my druthers, I'll take exactly what I got and what we as a country needed - the anti-W. We replaced an idiot cowboy ideologue who made decisions by some amalgamation of Jesus, his gut and a magic 8-ball with a cautious professor who will make centrist compromises even when those he's making concessions to can't see or won't admit that he's laying up instead of going for the green**. Sure it may not be the best solution in anyone's estimation, but as Fitzwallace tells President Bartlett in his query about the proportional response, "It isn't virtuous, Mr. President. It's all there is."

* I considered doing a he/she thing here, because they could be a woman, but it read better the other way and I hate pronoun insistence.

** sorry for the preponderance of sports metaphors.

Update 11:49am:
- This is the alternative. Just sayin'.

Posted 11:13am
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June 15th , 2010

Wiped clean, by the wrath of God.

Oh the irony. I'd decry this if it were vandalism, but the idea of Big Butter Jesus being smote by God's own fury is absolutely delectable. I mean come on people - if you're going to bow down to the great unknown and rely on signs to guide you to the divine - well there you have it. I'm glad that Sid, the BDGF and I got to see this big piece of crazy before the big art critic in the sky decided enough was enough. Thanks to all of you who emailed me this (not surprisingly, it was a lot of you) because yes, this makes me giggle uncontrollably. For those of you who suggested that God/Baby J/the Anti-Christ reads my blog and did this as a personal favor - stay on my good side. I'm going to go watch Indiana Jones III because I can't get Sean Connery's voice out of my head. Indiana, let it go...

- There's apparently trailers for video games now. And yes, these two get the nerd in me so excited I need to hit my inhaler. First up, it's tons of 8-bit love in the new Scott Pilgrim game. Second, and no offense to SP but more importantly, they're remaking the greatest video game of all time, Goldeneye, for the Wii. Some nerds are upset that it's Daniel Craig's face in the new version - I'm just salivating at the prospect of running explosives in the facility again.

- And finally, let's tie together idolatry and nerd boners with the ubiquity of Star Wars. Here's some sculptures not deemed worthy of God's own thunder. And these? I can't imagine any dude who actually finds these sexy and not ridiculous would ever get laid in the first place.

Posted 10:35am
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June 14th , 2010

Binge/Purge.

There was a time when the entirety of my existence was contained in a 9x13 room that I shared with another dude. I had some clothes, some books and some CDs. Fortunately I didn't need much more than that at the time, because frankly there wasn't room for much else. Then like everyone else who has ever existed, I eventually got older and accumulated more stuff. One of them was a human being that shared half my DNA, and he liked stuff has much as the next person, so he started accumulating things too (much of it of the small plastic crap variety). This apexed around the time he was 7 and we were living in a house. Once we transitioned back to apartment living, he started to crawl out of the cheap plastic crap phase of being a kid, and I decided that maybe I didn't need mint-in-box star wars toys anymore. So we pared down. We're still awash in vinyl albums, books, video games and DVDs, but we're not applying for monk status here - that stuff makes us happy.

The BDGF talks about fitting all of her worldly possessions into her Fiat. Needless to say that was a time long before two kids and a house with a basement. Last weekend we were tasked with starting to clear out the detritus of what will hence be known as the apex of the seven year old. Truth be told, it's also her being a few years older than I and being in the same place for quite some time. In any event, above is just a few of the 20+ bags of stuff that no one arguably needed in the first place that we purged from her domicile. Things are now far less cluttered and much more organized. It's an exciting blank canvass that we'll get to do some fun things with. And of course an opportunity to start accumulating more stuff.

Posted 11:37am
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June 11th , 2010

I went back to Ohio.

It's Aye Ziggy Zoomba time tonight as the BDGF and I head down to O - hi - o for a wedding. It'll be the first time I'm dragging her to the hinterland, so fingers crossed. Luckily we're stopping just short of a full on Napoleon immersion experience and she only has to manage all of those same people in the town where we got drunk a lot in the middle 1990's. It won't help that all anyone will want to talk about is Big Ten expansion and its merits or lack thereof. Speaking of, I finally managed to find a girl who's NOT from one of Michigan's conference rivals and now Texas A+M may join the Big Ten? I can't catch a fucking break. At least her graduate degree is from U of M.

- Coco with Jack White ? Awesome.

- Just the other day I wrote about my distaste for Ann Arbor institution The Ark and its milquetoast ways. It's fitting that annarbor.com posted this fluff piece in response. That site has it out for me man.

- So let me get this straight (no pun intended)... DADT is slowed because the conservative Democrat who chairs the House Armed Serviced committee doesn't want kids to know that the gays exist? How do we elect people this colossally stupid? What kind of skeletons are in his family's closet that he still thinks that not talking about something makes it go away? It's the childish level of ignorance that really gets me.

- A finally warning for the BDGF as we delve into the Buckeye state - this is pretty indicative of what goes on down there. Just sayin'.

Posted 10:14am
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June 10th , 2010

Traditioooooooon. Tradition!

I'm all for change. I'm a liberal and a progressive and generally think that finding new ways to do things keeps life interesting. Standing in the way of the inevitable is the job of conservatives and religious zealots who can't see the forest through the trees. I'm supposed to be of the ilk that calls out those people for curmudgeons they are - to champion the fresh approach and embrace the new.

However, there's certain things I don't like fucked with. The last round of Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies have tarnished my childhood memories of falling in love with the serial adventure flick. Sure sometimes eras end. Tiger games aren't the same without Ernie Harwell and college football is a tad more hallow without the voice of Keith Jackson. There's nothing we can do about that. But there's a move afoot in college football for bigger and more that's going to forever sully a portion of the game I love more than any other.

I came of age in Bo Schembechler's Big Ten. You played one good school in September and depending on how you did, your expectations were set for the year. Then you generally rolled through October and come November, you played Ohio State for the right to go to the Rose Bowl. It happened that way year in and year out. Your ultimate goal was to win the conference and there was a simple beauty in that. When I was a senior in college, we went undefeated and won the Rose Bowl. We never got to play the other undefeated team that year, and despite what your average tOSU fan might try and tell you, that in no way tarnished a perfect, glorious season.

A dozen years later, the landscape has changed. I realize the BCS is bastardization of trying to have your cake and eat it to with the Bowl system, and I'll eat that shit pile because it (mostly) preserves the way I think things should be. I also concede that someday there will some sort of actual National Championship tournament, because the public won't stand for ambiguity and the NCAA won't leave those theoretical dollars lying on the table. I have no problem with the Big Ten having its own TV network, and while stadium luxury boxes may be something I will never personally be able to afford, I don't begrudge their existence.

What I'm not comfortable with is Nebraska in the same conference as Michigan. The cognitive dissonance is too great. It doesn't jive with the way the universe is supposed to exist in my head. Someday soon we'll have these bloated, 16 team conferences because championship games bring in revenue, and larger cable channel footprints mean more eyes on your teams. Gone will be the days when Michigan and tOSU slug it out in a 13-9 game for the right to spend a a few weeks in Pasadena and get beat down by a speedy Pac Ten team. In my world, there's something lost there.

In the grand scheme of things it means nothing. If you don't care about college football you may think me an idiot. My son's generation will barely remember the landscape of college football that I grew up in. By the time I'm 50, I'll likely be one of the few people left who thinks of the time of my youth as the good ol' days. I'll take my solace in finally being able to give Nebraska the savage beating they've had coming since 1998 and in someday winning an outright, undisputed National Championship; but I'll miss Moeman coming home late at night, late in November with a rose in his teeth and having that be enough.

Posted 11:10am
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June 9th , 2010

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

- Obama, McCartney, Costello, Dave Grohl and Jack White. On stage at the same time. Right? If that doesn't make you smile nothing will. Bonus prize: McCartney gets in a dig at W, which will never not make me happy.

- As I get older and even more curmudgeonly (get off my lawn!), I of course find this to be true. College kids are just assholes. Unfortunately it could also be that they're just poised to all become Republicans. In any event, my kids (both real and fake) should not take any cues from this. Come 18, you're off to college and then godspeed. Your bedrooms will be instantly converted to offices and exercise rooms.

- Father's Day is still a ways out, but I saw this and just thought it was a beautiful sentiment. Your father wants beer. And five minutes of peace and quiet to watch a ballgame or a movie where things blow up. That's really about it.

- Anyone planning in advance for my birthday: Pixies in Austin Texas. Come on, I deserve it!

- The weather for last night's softball game was less than ideal, so instead of making the kids play in the rain and wet, the BDGF and I left our combo brood to play nice for a couple of hours indoors. Fortunately, when we returned no one was crying and the place was still standing. I'm unbelievably lucky and grateful for my BDGF, but it's doubly amazing that I get to be around her gorgeous girls as well. Of course she gets Sid too, which goes without saying at least partially makes up for having to endure me. The fact that our collective kids are so amazing should make it a foregone conclusion that they would get along so famously, but as we move forward in this, it's reassuring to see them all having fun together. Of course someday soon they could be fighting over resources and become the bickering pseudo siblings that their ages would dictate, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Posted 1:54pm
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June 8th , 2010

I'm not the only asshole out there.

I've been called a snob more times than I care to think about. It's usually preceded by the modifier 'music', which makes it more palatable, but it's still not generally meant as a compliment. "Elitist" gets thrown around more than even the word "liberal" as an insult, and I understand that about as much as I do the popularity of NASCAR. What's the matter with wanting and aspiring to be the best? I mean, I spend a lot of time decrying the lack of accountability we have in this society, but we also suffer from diminished expectations. Related? Sure. Let's expect less and when we don't even achieve that, get out your roledex of reasons as to why - none of which ever seems to be "because I suck."

So I have standards. And they're not, as you can imagine, always lofty or snooty ones. I believe some things are better left down and dirty. None more so than my two favorite things - drinking and rock and roll. So if you've ever been to Ann Arbor's premier bullshit venue The Ark, you can imagine what I think of it. Here's what I wrote on Yelp:

I really, really, really want to love the Ark. Its a non-profit run by people who love music in downtown Ann Arbor!?! I should be volunteering here, not hating.  But this place makes my skin crawl.  Here's what I wrote on my blog after my last Ark experience:

There is one reason and one reason only to attend a show at The Ark - John Lennon and George Harrison have risen from the dead and are performing a one night only reunion show with the surviving Beatles. Even then, only go if offered a free ticket and there is a complimentary hand job at the door. This is the place where aging hippies and bland frat boys go to see their milquetoast acoustic funk jams. Its dark (as in "I know I showed up five minutes late but how the fuck am I supposed to find a seat?). Everyone stays seated and only politely claps after the song is finished. You have to be a MEMBER to get a drink - and then its only beer (with Heineken being their idea of 'Premium'). I think someday, when I am burning in my own special concentric circle of hell, I will be seated at the front row of The Ark, forced to watch Pavement perform Slanted and Enchanted over and over again for eternity.

All that and its over priced.  In another life, we we're probably scorching lovers, but in this one Ark, we are mortal enemies.

The Ark has been reviewed 20 times on Yelp. Guess how many one star reviews it has other than mine? In fact, it only has one other review that's not 4 star plus. I've written some scathing things on Yelp and while I feel they are all justified, this one has always given me pause, because it makes me seem rather asshole-ish (again - not that it's not true.) That's why my day was made last week when a fellow Yelper sent me the following compliment: You have nicely encapsulated how I feel about the music scene in A2.  Thank you.

So thanks Elizabeth B. Its reassuring to know that I'm not alone in my principles, misguided as they may be.

- It's a common talking point to note "Let gays get married so they can be as miserable as the rest of us." This encapsulates that sentiment beautifully.

Posted 10:22am
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June 7th , 2010

The last single Brubaker

Little Bertie B up and got married last Friday. There's some pictures on Facebook. I commend him for both eschewing conventions and doing things his own way, and for giving me an excuse to take a beach vacation with my favorite two people in the world. Outside of the fact that the Putt Putt course we played on Saturday had Bible verses at every hole, the weekend was perfect. Some thoughts:

- Ohio exists as a buffer zone between me and the south. You can see things get weirder and weirder as you travel down I-75. More and more Waffle Houses start popping up. The Southern drawl starts to become more prevalent as you approach Cincinnati. Before you know it there's fifty foot crosses on the side of the road and stone statues of Jesus that are larger than the house I grew up in. By the time you hit Kentucky you're greeted with water towers that say "Florence Y'all". It does feel good to get back in the bubble and not contemplate how scarily close all that crazy is.

- When I was in high school we'd occasionally* in the summer stand around in the country and drink until we did something stupid. Sometimes we'd plan ahead and setup tents to avoid the looming DUI that awaited us. Other times it'd be a "Fuck, we can't drive home now" surprise that "snuck" up on us. This would lead to sleeping in the front seat of your car, to be awoken by the cruel sun several hours later. It was always a jarring, disorienting experience. On the way down to Hilton Head we were playing it by ear as to whether to grab a hotel room for a few Z's or just pull over and catch a cat nap before hitting the road again. We chose the latter and pulled into a rest stop around 3am somewhere in Tennessee. It was cramped. I was exhausted. After about 45 minutes of listless rest, a semi pulls up right behind us, takes 10 minutes to get himself parked (because he isn't supposed to be there - there's no room) and then finally settles in to let his super loud engine idle 3 feet from my head. There was no going back to bed after that. So thanks random asshole trucker, I always wanted to spend my first day of vacation on 45 minutes sleep.

- Big thanks to everyone over the weekend for making everything so great. To my little brother for inviting us and not making me dance in hog trough (even if you wouldn't let me sing a song a capella for you and your wife to dance to). To my sister for getting us a room with a view and taking care of all that bullshit. To the rest of my family for being so nice to the BDGF and not asking me when we're getting married. And to my BDGF and Sid - I've taken many a road trip in my day, and despite the fact that we had to make four stops in two hours to feed everyone and get gas on the way down, I've never had better travel companions. If three people spend 30+ hours in a vehicle together over 4 days, you'd assume they were spending much of it arguing or swallowing their anger. Fingers crossed you weren't doing too much of the latter.

* always

Posted 11:15am
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June 2nd , 2010

I'm gone to Carolina. Literally.

Hey kiddos. I'm headed off to Hilton Head, South Carolina to watch my little brother get married. The most interesting part may be the 900+ miles in the van with Sid and the BDGF. Maybe I will write a post or two in the van when it's not my turn to drive, maybe you won't hear from me until Monday. In any event, when I do return it'll be as the last unmarried Brubaker - which yes, was always somewhat of a foregone conclusion, but when things go from assumed to reality it's cause for reflection and celebration. Not too much mind you, because if I hear "So when are you going to get married?" more than once before my feet return to Ann Arbor soil, it could get ugly.

- Wormer... dead. Niedermeyer... dead. Haney... Turns out the co-creator of Trivial Pursuit recently passed away. And while I don't believe, if there's a heaven, that guys in it. My stock in trade has always revolved around being smart, so couple that with my competitive asshole-ishness, and there's no better platform in the world than TP. I've taken on rooms of people single handedly. I've gotten in screaming matches. I've been kicked out of people's homes. When I was little, I would cry when I'd continually have the right answer and no adults would listen to me. After all of that, there's still few things in this world I'd rather do than sit down and play a serious game of Trivial Pursuit. Thanks Mr. Haney. Rest in peace, with all six pie pieces.

Posted 11:00am
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June 1st , 2010

The luckiest

I am battered and beaten. Three straight nights on a sofa bed and two long days on the beach left my skin a shade of pink normally reserved for Hello Kitties and my back twisted into one giant monkey fist. But sometimes, such is the price of fun. It was a fantastic weekend filled with sun, sand and family. I finally got to enjoy the true benefits of the BDGF's parents beach house and she got to meet most of the rest of my family (yes, I made out a little better than she did). All of it hath left me exhausted. Having to turn around and drive to Hilton Head, SC tomorrow isn't helping, but there's no doubt in my mind that that'll be worth it too. At the end of the day, what the Moeman said to me more than once Saturday night was absolutely right - "Tyler, you're a lucky guy."

- I've spent most of my morning watching the new Scott Pilgrim trailer over and over again. It has yet to not leave me with goosebumps.

- Yesterday was Memorial Day, so thanks to all the men and women who gave their lives so kids like this one could continue to fight for the rule of law.

- And the title of this post pretty much says it all - Remember when America was the progressive country?

- Finally, for those whom I've told and refused to believe me, and for those who've heard me elude to it here - I give you my nephew's stomach.

Certainly never being at a loss as to how to spell his last name contributed to his getting that diploma signed over the weekend.

Posted 10:42am
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May 28th , 2010

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

- Sometimes you really regret not having that 'before' picture. Yesterday I finally finished cleaning up the 20 years of wood and lumber that had accumulated in the back corner of the BDGF's yard. I have no idea how people let these things happen, but I accidentally started to clean things up back there a month and a half ago, and once I got started I wouldn't be satisfied until things were finished. Things are finally reclaimed back there. I'd show you a picture, but without the context, it's just a yard. You'll have to trust me that it's kind of a big deal.

- Your indie rock weekend: Black Keys on Letterman, streaming new Ratatat album, and <blech> new Vampire Weekend <blerg> from that fucking <vomit> vampire movie.

- Last night we were playing Trivial Pursuit at Markie C's birthday party and the BDGF and I's game winning question was "What four word phrase summed up the Clinton era policy on gays in the military?" Yes, a softball. But awesome that we got that on the day it was (mostly) repealed. Suck it, Inhofe (and the homophobic everywhere).

- I was searching through my starred items in Google Reader and came across this gem from C Jason, which never fails to make me laugh.

- Finally, my little nephew DRK graduates from high school this weekend. It's a tad bizarre, since I've known him his entire life and now he's taller than I am, is graduating high school and has his last name tattooed across his belly (if you're lucky, I will return with pictures of this). Anyway, I give him a hard time for his taste in movies, which can be distilled down to two words: Jason Statham. So instead of a traditional hallmark card, I made him a DVD case and this is the cover:

Congrats DRK. May you eventually find a job that has tattoo removal in its benefits package.

Posted 11:07am
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May 27th , 2010

tbaggervance responds to your internet musings (whether you asked him to or not)

- Last night on twitter, @laylamsu8 said: I demand all of you tell me your three characteristics of your ideal bar. Please? Who am I to not oblige? So I tweeted back: the juke box, what's on tap, and who goes there. That and location are the only factors to consider. This is a slight oversimplification, but hey, I only had 140 characters. Interestingly, this discussion seemed to stem from the tweet: Three characteristics of an ideal bar: good TVs, local (proximity), good food & hot waitresses, though not required. @randeazie Which no offense to @randeazie, I couldn't disagree more with (and that's four things). Sometimes yes, I go to the bar for sports which necesitates TVs. And every once in a while yes, I have to eat. But some of my favorite bars have no or poorly placed TVs and bad service from burley dudes. I guess I took my cue from what drives me away from bars - if the music, drinks or people are awful, I just plain won't go. If all three are great, that's my jam.

- So Michigan had to self sanction itself the other day, because the people in the compliance office were stupid and lazy. Its ultimately a non-story trumped up by the worst newspaper in America (The Freep - don't ever read it again). In any event, it's got nothing to do with Rich Rodriguez and it irritates me that this is taking up both time and space in my brain when I should be concentrating solely on how to mathematically project how many times Denard Robinson will have touchdown runs of 50 yards or more. Anyway, you can imagine my reaction when one of my former college roommates posted on facebook the other day something akin to "Time for Rodriquez to go and get somebody in who understands big ten football. Maybe Tressel has an assistant we can steal like we did to Woody with Bo."* So I commented "This is so overtly ignorant that it bugs me." A.) Rodriguez is ultimately repsonsible for all actions of the football team, yes, but this has nothing to do with his ability to coach and this is really about institutional control, not football. B.) We didn't steal Bo. He was a former Woody assisstant coaching at Miami (OH) when we plucked him from obscurity to lead us in 40 years of football glory. But I digress. My friend commented back "I also would have accepted 'That's the dumbest thing I've heard in 10 years.'" because that's something I used to say in college. Someday I'll make a list of retired catchphrases.

*This was apparently dumb enough to merit removal from facebook, so I'm going from memory. My wording is wrong, my assessment of the sentiment is right.

Posted 10:47am
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May 26th , 2010

Softballs and Danny Aiello.

There's a reason that the term softball is used synonymously with 'low hanging fruit' and 'duck soup'. Getting a hit a third of the time in baseball will land you in the hall of fame. Getting a hit half the time in softball is about average. Still, when you haven't done it in a while, it can be a little nerve racking. OK, not the actual making contact part, but the part where it goes where you want and the defense doesn't catch it - that can induce nervousness. That's where I was last night - a nine month interval in bat swings and the BDGF and her girls looking on for the first time - all making me really not want to look like Chevy Chase doing Gerald Ford.

Luckily I found an outside pitch that I turned on and drove over the shortstop's head and into the outfield. Last year our team and my swing never found their happy place. As a consequence, we've been dropped down a level of competition for 2010. Hopefully this is a minor footnote that no one remembers when we are celebrating our fourth championship at the end of the year.

- I've been a listener to the podcast filmspotting almost since its inception. I generally use it as background noise as I work, but sometimes I find something so intriguing that I have to respond. Last week they announced a contest asking listeners to name Bruce Willis' best role. I responded thusly:

Hey Adam and Matty,
This may sound strange and I am certainly in the minority, but I am an ardent supporter and defender of Hudson Hawk. The appeal of Bruce Willis is that he's both John McLain AND David Addison. While Hudson Hawk has its flaws, it still stands as a worthwhile attempt to blend those two elements and have it both ways. Watch this movie knowing that it's a vanity project and an (albeit misguided) parody of itself, and you will enjoy yourself. He cracks wise! He saves the day! He sings! Two out of three ain't bad.

Thanks guys
- Tyler Brubaker

I then completely forgot about it until I heard my name (45 minutes in) during this week's show! Yes they said it was randomly chosen and they called me contrarian, but the former is an obvious lie and the latter, well let's say I've been called worse.

Posted 2:24pm
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May 25th , 2010

Now available for weddings, funerals and brises.

Fervent readers will remember that a few months back my dear, dear friends Jason and Amy asked me to officiate their wedding. As such, I needed to make this happen:

I am now a Reverend in the Universal Life Church. I also received one of these over the weekend:

So I suppose I can marry you in Italy. Which I will totally do if you pay for my plane ticket, btw. The BDGF was reading my passport documentation as we were driving around Saturday and noted that if you publicly renounce your US citizenship or become a citizen of another country, then you are no longer a US citizen. This led to the question - does my ordination mean I'm no longer Catholic?

Turns out that no longer being Catholic is a lot harder than no longer being an American. According to this site, you need to do the following:

1. For the abandonment of the Catholic Church to be validly configured as a true actus formalis defectionis ab Ecclesia so that the exceptions foreseen in the previously mentioned canons would apply, it is necessary that there concretely be:

a) the internal decision to leave the Catholic Church;
b) the realization and external manifestation of that decision; and
c) the reception of that decision by the competent ecclesiastical authority.

So while I reached A and B many moons ago, even my ordination doesn't count as C in their minds. Truth be told, what do I care? I've often argued that if you were raised Catholic it's a little bit like being Jewish - in so far as renounce all you want, it's still there somewhere, lying dormant. It's not like I'm not angry enough to even write that letter and try and make it happen. So they can continue to count me in their little roll call and we can otherwise stay completely out of each other's lives. The BDGF has vowed to keep the priests away from my deathbed and my corpse out of any churches, and I can handle myself until then.

In the meantime, feel free to address me as Rev., or your Holiness. I'll be walking around and making a lot of "By the power vested in me..." declarations. Let's all hope J & A knew what they were getting into when they made this decision.

Posted 11:37am
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May 24th , 2010

Never tell me the odds.

Friday was the official 30th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back - surely the best of the Star Wars franchise and perhaps one of the best sci-fi action adventure movies of all time. We celebrated this fact a few weeks ago by screening the movie on the side of the BDGF's garage as part of our "Hey it's nice out, let's watch a movie outside" series. But something must have seeped into my brain about Friday being the official anniversary, because that night I had one of the nerdiest dreams ever dreamt by any nerd in the last 30 years.

I can't quite remember all of the context for this, but somehow I was at a party or on a panel with Harrison Ford (the actor, not Han Solo). We were having a casual conversation about something and at some point he eluded to something and I was like "Wait, did you have sex with Natalie Portman?!?" And he kind of sloughed it off but gave me a wink and a nod to say "You're goddamn right I did."

After he gave that knowing glance I immediately woke up and my only thought was "That means he had sex with Princess Leia AND her mom!" Then I proceeded to lay there for an hour and try to wrap my brain around the awesomeness of that - were it actually true.

- Further down the nerd hole - The Periodic Table of Empire Strikes Back Elements.

- Here's the entire triology told in two minutes - with Legos.

- 30 Empire references in pop culture.

- Finally, here's some famous people's musings on Empire.

Posted 10:11am
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May 21st , 2010

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

- Last night I was cleaning up some stuff in the BDGF's back yard (not a euphemism) and managed to jam a sliver of wood deep into my thumb. Some of it is still there. I don't say this because it's actively making me happy, but it fucking hurts and it's pretty much all I can think about. Here's hoping it either works itself out of my body or I can dig it out some time soon. That will be cause for celebration.

- Don't tell Oberon, but I saw this and thought "I'm kind of missing Two Hearted right now." It's kind of blasphemous, since I just finished my first minikeg of Oberon of the season. Also, I hear the Griz has Poolside on tap right now. That's good beer too (don't worry Oberon, you're still the love of my life.)

- Who doesn't love a good paradox? How about the one where red states have higher teenage pregnancy and divorce rates than blue states? Keep preaching abstinence and getting married so Jesus approves of your intercourse.

- America has its first Tea Party candidate on the national stage and boy oh boy is he shot out of a canon. Rand Paul celebrated winning his Senate primary by making some overtly racist comments. Then he went out and called Obama "un-American" for criticizing BP. You know BP - that oil company who was negligent and then spilled billions of gallons of oil into the ocean? How dare you sir. Countdown to teabagger flameout in 5... 4... 3...

- and in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make. Or something like that.

Posted 10:32am
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May 20th , 2010

No dark sarcasm in the classroom.

My feelings about teachers and the educational system are ultimately defined by two experiences. The positive one is based on the fact that my mother was a teacher. This informed me as to how caring, dedicated and talented people can make a serious difference in students' lives. For those reasons I'll always vote for more money for education and go to bat for the incredible people who do this impossible job. The negative experience is the teacher's strike that occurred my senior year of high school. That quickly proved how those same dedicated professionals can become the ugliest kind of indifferent assholes. It was an early lesson about the evils of teacher's unions and forever turned me against the stupidity of a system based on seniority rather than merit.

I suppose at the end of the day it's not that different than my view of people in general - love them individually, don't trust them for a second as a whole. Taking things on a case by case basis is hard work though. Forcing accountability and finding the right metrics to measure progress is serious business. Last night the BDGF and I talked about this piece in the NYT for about three hours. I personally love almost everything about Race to the Top, but mostly because it heralds a sea change in the way Democrats are thinking about education. Education reform is in dire need for the same reasons we needed health care reform - because we're paying far too much money for shitty outcomes. And to continue the analogy, no this doesn't go far enough, but it's an awesome first step. If we can get enough politicians to stop being beholden to the goddamn unions, we've got a shot at helping a whole lot of kids achieve way more than they ever could under the current paradigm. That's change we can believe in.

- Speaking of, people are lining up to call the Texas Board of Education idiots. No shit.

- More Scott Pilgrim. This time, an interview with creator Bryan Lee O'Malley. Scott, if you're life had a face, I would punch it in the balls.

Posted 10:55am
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May 19th , 2010

On the road again.

In the next 6 weeks I will travel over 4400 miles in an automobile. That's over 72 hours behind the wheel. First the warm up trip to Chicago for Memorial Day weekend. At a mere 240 miles, this is old hat and can be done in my sleep. Two days later we turn around and drive 906 miles to Hilton Head, South Carolina. My little brother is getting married down there and that whole fiasco will probably merit several posts in the upcoming weeks. Finally, a fortnight after that the BDGF and I head to the Badlands of South Kadota (1086 miles) to drop of her girls for the summer. Now I am generally excited about seeing parts of this great land that I've either never experienced or haven't seen in over 20 years. But damn that's a lot of time in the car. Luckily the BDGF is a great travel companion and my iPod is bottomless trove of things to occupy my brain. Prepare yourself America - I'm coming to see you.

- Here's a fairly comprehensive list of the video game references in Scott Pilgrim. Needless to say I can't wait for vol. 6 and the movie.

- New Studybots!

Posted 10:53am
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May 18th , 2010

I sit alone in my righteous indignation.

I am a stubborn asshole. I can take any perceived wrong doing by another person and run with it. If I've been slighted in some way don't expect me to be the peacemaker. The big problem with this is sometimes you feel slighted for nonexistent reasons. Sometimes you perceive a wrong doing and your perception isn't reality. When that's the case and your a man with my character flaws, you can be forced to sit and stew - angry at the world for no good goddamn reason at all with no way to fix it. Having a girlfriend in my life is supposed to help mitigate this - as she is the one who slaps me in the head and says 'stop being a stubborn asshole.' But what happens when the misconception has to due with the girlfriend? That's a real Joseph Heller. Hopefully I will continue to get better at not being that person. And that the BDGF continues to forgive (and slap) me when I slip.

- The lineup for the Austin City Limits festival has just been announced and holy balls is it awesome. I generally eschew the festival scene, but it wouldn't take much to talk me into this.

- I watched this video nine times already and I still don't have a clue how to administer CPR.

- It's graduation season, so memorable commencement speeches are finding their way online. This one by Rachel Maddow is pretty good, but I've yet to see anything that comes close to my all time favorite address by Mr. Eugene Mirman.

Posted 12:30pm
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May 17th , 2010

tbaggervance.com's 2010 guide to summer festivals.

Holy shit. Do you know that Memorial Day weekend is in less than two weeks? It's summer people, and that means, bbq, boozing out of doors and summer festivals. We here at tbaggervance.com do our best to provide you with a comprehensive list of what you can do for around Michigan for free* or close to it. There'll be a link over there on the right all summer, so come back and check us out when you need to remember what's playing at Top of the Park or when to leave town because Art Fair is coming.
* or not.

Edward Money
May 28th
The Money Man returns for his 47th* year of opening the Pine Knob concert season. Stov and I finally realized a lifelong dream of attending this last year, and I can whole heartedly say that it was worth the wait. It so lived up to its billing that we vowed to make it a yearly tradition. Of course I don't think I can go this year, so there you have it.
* approximate.

Taste of Ann Arbor
June 6th
A great excuse to come downtown, taste some goodies and, of course, drink outside. Of all the times they close down Main Street over the summer, this is the least annoying one.

Sonic Lunch
June 3rd through August
I can be fairly lazy so I never made it downtown for this last year. I promise to rectify that in 2010, as eating outside while listening to live music sounds delightful. As soon as the lineup is posted, let's make a lunch date.

Ann Arbor Summer Festival
June 18th-July 11th
Devo, Cinematic Titanic and Top of the Park. The Ann Arbor Summer Festival is one of the coolest things about summer in A2. This summer's lineup features screenings of stuff like Star Trek, The Fantastic Mr. Fox and the greatest movie ever made - Raiders of the Lost Ark. Awesome

Detroit River Days
June 18th-21th
The lineup for this year's River Days has yet to be announced, but previous years have featured artists such as Weird Al and Rick Springfield (not together - that would open a worm hole and swallow the universe) so mark your calendars.

Common Ground Fest
July 12-18th
East Lansing is bullshit, so this costs money. But you can see your favorite has-been b-listers like Sammy Hagar, Tesla and Alice Cooper. Personally, I'm looking forward to seeing Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (only 10 years after it would have actually been cool to do so.)

Elvis Fest
July 9-10
I've yet to be convinced that this is worthwhile, but I note it hear because people tell me it is.

Ann Arbor Art Fairs
July 21-24
Traffic! Fanny packs! Sweaty obese people! There's nothing new to say about Art Fair.

Pitchfork Music Fest
July 16-18
The cool and affordable alternative to Lollapalooza. Come watch hipsters melt in the sun.

Beerfest
July 23-24
My little brother decided to have his wedding reception on this Saturday, so I'm going to play it by ear as whether to attend Beerfest or be kicked out of my family. It's 6:5 and pick 'em. The alternative is going to the Friday session, which might be a new fun experience, so keep that in mind.

Lollapalooza
August 6-8
See a lot of great bands in a sea of humanity for a lot of money.

Woodward Ave Dream Cruise
August 21
As always, noted here so that you don't accidentally try and go to Detroit this weekend.

Arts, Beats & Eats
Labor Day Weekend
This annual summer closer moves to Royal Oak this year, making it much more palatable than the schlep to fucking Pontiac. No lineup yet, but I saw Sloan here once, so good bands are possible. Keep an eye out.

Posted 11:52am
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May 14th , 2010

Your indie rock weekend.

- I would never say this in front of my kid, but since Ben Folds abandoned the Five I find him kind of Randy Newman-y (and not in a good way). That being said, I still love the guy and this Elliot Smith cover at the AV Club is awesome.

- Wilco? Craig Ferguson? OK.

- The Hold Steady? Steve Colbert? Awesome. Although, bands always sound shitty on Colbert. They're clearly still not equipped to deal with the rock.

- Speaking of Craig and the boys, NPR has a full show of theirs streaming now.

- Moral and financial crisis? How dare you listen to the sultry, dulcet tones of The New Pornographers? C'mon Mormons, what's in a name? Would Neko be as hot if they were The New Abstainers? Yes. Yes she would. In celebration, let's bring out her album cover from last years Middle Cyclone:

Like the corners of my mind...

- Several years ago I had a profile on some online dating site and I got a message from a girl who said she thought I was cute. We chatted back and forth a bit, and while it never went anywhere (what with her being Canadian*) we became kind of friendly. Turns out she's a singer songwriter who rocks. She just released an album and was mentioned this week in the Globe and Mail in the same breath as the Hold Steady and BTO. Well played Karyn.

- Finally, it saddens me deeply that so many good artists are whoring out for Mormon vampire movies (no offense Angie). The Black Keys? Dead Weather? Beck? Vampire Weekend? Name affiliation on the last one aside, this makes me want to vomit uncontrollably. The BDGF and I were talking last night about indie rock and how technology and media integration have changed the way we consume music (seriously, we were) but this has gone too far. I don't want to live in a world where Jack White has to put his music in shitty movies that teach women to be subservient to dudes who look good with their shirts off. Blech.

*Being Canadian is not a minus mind you (quite the opposite, I would have loved to date a Canadian). But she lived in Cananada, so you know...

Posted 10:36am
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May 13th , 2010

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

- Details of the American Power Act were released yesterday. I'm feeling kind of meh about it. It's full of giveaways and it doesn't have near enough teeth for my tastes, but anything is better than nothing, so OK. I'm more excited about these - especially the Nevada Battery Hole.

- Speaking of green, I've long awaited the transition from CFLs bulbs to LEDs. Ever since I started twisting those curly bulbs into my light sockets, I knew it was a stop gap until they figured out how to make LEDs viable. That day may be now. I'll need to see these bad boys in action before I convert my entire house, but it's reason for excitement (if you a huge green nerd like Al Gore or tbaggervance.)

- Hey idiot Tea Party protestors and those who like to bandy about terms like socialist - tax bills in 2009 were the lowest in over 50 years. I personally am ready to raise taxes a bit to get the deficit under control (and yes, cut spending too).

- I desperately want this. That scene in Empire was one of my earliest salient memories.

- Finally, the best of Dr. Steve Brule. For your health!

Posted 10:47am
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May 12th , 2010

How to comport yourself on the internet.

- A year ago or so, The Ann Arbor News folded, leaving our sleepy little hamlet of 100,000 people without a newspaper. In its wake arose annarbor.com - a website that attempts to fill the gap left by not having a daily broadsheet. It's OK. It's a lot like the old paper, except the writing is generally worse, and a lot of the 'reporting' seems to be based on linking to other people's blogs and websites. Take for example this article about how people are reacting to the smoking ban. 1.) If you're going to glom on to my deft prose, have the respect to pull the full quote. There's no context for my Scorcese analogy, thus it just hangs there not making sense. But maybe that's on purpose because 2.) How is that illustrative? If anything, I was saying I don't like the smoking ban. How does that contrast with someone who was whining about it being smoky? Clearly this cat looked up A2 restaurants famous for being smoky and found my review which mentions that the ban is in effect, and ta da! - blog post. Now I know how Krugman must feel when I link to him.

- Yesterday I saw some I know like a group on Facebook called  STOP HAVING BABIES WHEN YOU CAN'T PAY FOR THE ONES YOU ALREADY HAVE! Now I don't want to get into the politics of the actual statement, which is neither hear nor there. I'd tend to agree with the sentiment. However, the only way to effectively use ALL CAPS on the internet is for humor and hyperbole. When you use it for serious emphasis, you come off as ignorant and douchey, because ALL CAPS is the equivalent of YELLING. And YELLING out of context seems silly in the real world too.

- Clearly the biggest use for the internet outside of porn is spreading your stupid, wrong headed ideas to the world at large - only to be fact checked by millions of others so that we can all see how stupid and wrong headed you are. Take Sarah Palin, who recently said that our laws should be created around "God of the Bible and the ten commandments. It's pretty simple" Simple yes. And stupid. Much like Sarah Palin. A.) The ten commandments don't deal with law at all outside of stealing and killing, and I'm pretty sure we don't need Jesus to tell us that those are wrong. B.) Does this mean Sarah is now on board with HCR? How would this affect Republican foreign policy? And listen, I really don't think it's fair to stone a drunkard to death. But that's just me. So if you're going to pander to the masses and say things that sound nice but are actually galactically stupid, best stay away from the internet. Or better yet, just STFU.

Posted 10:55am
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May 11th , 2010

Think Different.

There was a time when I used nothing but Apples. In 1996 I had barely ever touched a PC running Windows and I thought it was a stupid operating system that tried to co-opt Apple's OS and did so really poorly. Then I somehow fell into a job where I worked with computers. That job quickly went about ditching its Apple computers and switching to Windows machines. The reasons were obvious even then - the world runs on Windows and your options for myriad things are limited on a Mac. More often than not, you can't afford to limit your options. So I learned Windows and never looked back.

Don't get me wrong, I still love Apple. I have an iPhone and several iPods. Someday I'll probably drop the cash for an iPad for the childrens (once it gets a front facing camera anyway. C'mon Jobs - stop holding back on shit we want just so you can offer it in your second gen model a year later. I'm calling shenanigans on that BS.) But let's be honest - there's little reason to buy a Mac. Now if your job is video editing or in some sort of design field - yes, Macs offer several advantages. And if you work in education you probably have a Mac and that's justifiable. Otherwise, you likely have a Mac because it's a status symbol. Or it's cute. Or you think it's easier to use. And if you want to justify the expense for the first two reasons I'm OK with that. It's your money. But the third is a misnomer. At least from my perspective. Save me the argument about viruses, almost everyone I know who has a Mac has had to at some point pay exorbitant amounts of cash to Apple's "geniuses" to open up their hardware and fix something that has gone wrong. At the end of the day, is that easier? If you want simple solutions I guess Macs are easy, but highly customizable ones aren't even an option.

Here's where Apple eats it: they make it neigh on impossible to fix or customize their shit. If your Apple product breaks, you're at their mercy. I could take any Windows/Linux box completely apart and put it back together in 15 minutes. If one part breaks I can swap it out on the cheap toot suite. Apples are glued together and use proprietary this and that and are designed for you to submit and not ask questions. Windows has gone more and more this way to, again, try and mimic Apple. It's frustrating as hell to any of us who know what they're doing. Inevitably, when you try and make something simple for the masses, you obfuscate it for the pros. Which I understand as a business model, and ironically, keeps me in business rather than takes it from me (keep changing shit, it takes average users forever to learn new ways of doing things). But I digress.

Apple is a hardware company and they are great at it. But they are expensive and if you decide you wanted more in some way after you make your initial purchase, or something breaks, good luck. Of course the caveat to all of this is that for weeks now the BDGF's had a MacBook sitting on her kitchen table all but completely dead. I took a cursory look and then dismissed it because the easy tricks didn't work and hell, Apple locks their shit down tight, right? But I finally sat down yesterday to try and figure out what was going on and of course, my initial diagnosis was right (dead hard drive) and once I got the right tools in front of me, got it fixed fairly easily. But then again I am a genius. Good luck to you trying to perform such an operation without a set of star bit drivers or experience formatting hard drives. You have those, right?

- As long as we're being nerdy - new Studybots!

Posted 10:49am
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May 10th , 2010

Word to your moms.

Moms are awesome. Say what you will about gender stereotypes, moms give you comfort in a way no one else - much less dads - can. When your hurting in any way - be it boo boo or heart break - having mom there will always make it better (at least in some small way that only mom can muster). I think of all the great moms I know and hope that their children will grow up to appreciate how lucky they are. It's been a while since my mom was around and I miss the sense of well being that mom provides. Even though she's gone, I still carry around a lot of what she tried to instill in me and it helps to reassure me and pick me up when I need it. So cherish your mom and internalize that love and warmth. It's a singular thing you can only get from one source.

- That's all I got. I had a great weekend that didn't necessarily lend itself to great revelations, and I'm swamped at work. So go read about whether or not Elena Kagen is gay. That should hold you over until tomorrow.

Posted 2:58pm
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May 7th , 2010

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

- While I hate the word 'sexception', I am a big believer in them. The BDGF gets Craig Finn and Jack White, I get Tom Brady and Neko Case. Here's the auburn haired songstress with the rest of the New Pornographers on Fallon. Ah Neko, if you need a place to stay when you're in Pontiac next month, call me.

- I cut my hair the other day. I was raised to take it like a man, and I generally do in all instances save two - the dentist chair and haircuts. I stopped going to the former and for the last decade, I've done the latter myself. This way I'm not paying someone exorbitant amounts of money to give me a hair cut I don't like. I can do that in the comfort of my own bathroom after 3 or 4 vodka sodas. Little did I know that there are salons who will get you drunk while they butcher you. BDGF - keep this in mind next time you're trying to convince me to let a professional cut my hair. Now if we can find a dentist with an open bar...

- Next Saturday the BDGF and I are taking our eldest childrens to see Josh Ritter at the Vic in Chicago. Here's an article about the troubadour in the NYTimes. Here's hoping the kids stay interested enough during the quiet moments whilst waiting for the bombast. Because we all love the bombast.

- I just had lunch with Dave Eggers. He's an inspiring cat and I am usually awed by his commitment to what he does. There was a ton of people there and I didn't get any one on one time with him, but I did want to thank him for inadvertently putting me together with the BDGF. I've been touting 826 as a dating service ever since.

- Right now there's a big to-do in A2 over a black principal giving preferential treatment to black kids at his school (background here). The BDGF was sketching out the details to me yesterday, and without getting into what's hearsay and what isn't, let's take it as hypothetical. A.) The guy was booted from a previous school for being too hard on the black kids (black parents didn't like this, the white parents apparently loved him.) This makes me like the guy. B.) He starts a black only lunch group at his new school where the kids get to play basketball and eat pizza, culminating in said kids getting a field trip to meet a black rocket scientist. C.) This prompts an uproar from students and parents alike over preferential treatment. When the field trip kids get back to school, they get booed by their classmates. (I'd boo too if I didn't get off to go see rocket stuff.) The principal comes in to quell the booing, asking "Does anybody have a problem with this?" One little girl raises her hand and says "Excuse me, I kinda do." The principal ignores her/shouts her down by reiterating his question. Now I get that this guy is trying to close the achievement gap which is important, but he screwed it up at every turn. The blacks only thing is likely illegal, and is arrogant and egregious enough in my mind to get him fired. But if C happened and he had the temerity to ignore a student with the fortitude to question him, well he should definitely get the boot for that. Sometimes intent is irrelevant. The AZ law, it could be argued, is designed to deal with a problem that the state has and the federal government is failing to adequately address. But that's irrelevant because it gives license to officers to stop people for being hispanic. These are serious and complicated issues without easy answers. Things like exclusion and acting unilaterally don't seem to be conducive to solving the problems that plaque us.

and P.S., I don't know how that makes me innocuously happy, other than I enjoy having the discussion. So there you go.

Posted 10:31am
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May 6th , 2010

What's making Baby Jesus cry this week?

Today is the unconstitutional National Day of Prayer. Before John McCain got batshit crazy senile and I was considering voting for him in the 2000 election*, I justified it by convincing myself that in his heart of hearts he was pro choice. I similarly believe that Obama is about as religious as Richard Dawkins, he just can't afford to say so. Perhaps it's naive wishful thinking on my part, but it's what I want to be true, so I'll continue to look for clues and assume he knows better. Wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more.

- I offer this unto you without comment.

- I love how upset people get over Pastafarianism. This poor girl, well let's just say that name calling is not an analytical argument. Plus, she should learn appropriate use of "quotation marks."

- Philosopher Larry David makes an argument for religious people being happier than us non-believers, but then blows it up by noting that if you don't have a job that you like and you're not getting sex, you can't be happy eriod. He is a wise man.

- Stephen Baldwin is basically one of the douchiest Christians of all time. You know the type - the ones who want you to find Jesus through skateboarding. Plus, he's ruining soul patches for the rest of us. But hey! He's been persecuted for his faith, so you should send him money so he can bring forth the rapture.

- Here's a hugely disturbing expose featuring a straight guy who went undercover at a gay conversion camp. A lot of people's lives wouldn't have to be ruined if Baby Jesus would have said it's OK if you're a dude and you like penis. I mean, you're not even supposed to like your own penis if you're Catholic, and that can't be what Jesus' dad intended.

- This may not be what most priests believe, but it seems to be what the ones that rise to the top adhere to.

- I once read a great fake screenplay for a fourth Indiana Jones movie in which he finds Noah's Ark. Needless to say it was better than the fourth Indy movie that actually came to fruition. It's kind of ironic that I hated Indy with aliens but love Indy with old religious artifacts that are magic. Huh. Anyway, Bill Maher wants people to stop finding Noah's Ark. I agree. Unless it's Indiana Jones who finds it and it helps to wash away the memory of him in the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. /vomit.

* In my defense, this was before I knew he would do or say anything to get elected and was not, as we all assumed, a man of principles.

Posted 10:31am
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May 5th , 2010

Wormer... dead. Niedermeyer... dead. Harwell...

Now that I'm an adult, nothing is summer quite like Oberon. If I have one in my hand it means I am outside - without a coat - barbecuing or bocce balling or just sitting around, appreciating that I am sans coat. But when I was a kid nothing was summer quite like the voice of Ernie Harwell. If Ernie's voice was crackling out of the AM radio into the ether, it meant I was outside catching fireflies or building legos on the artificial carpet of our back porch. I'm sure there's hundreds of thousands if not millions of people who felt the same way at some point over his five decade career, and that is legacy enough. But his sparse style and classy demeanor give everyone something to take away from the way he comported himself. It may be cliche to say that they don't make 'em like Ernie Harwell anymore, but that doesn't make it any less true. That makes his passing all the more lamentable. Rest in peace Mr. Harwell. Thanks for everything.

- This is the most common paradigm that exists in the IT world: Person comes to you with complaint. You ask a series of questions to determine what is actually happening, then ask if they tried a few basic things (e.g. restart the machine) to fix it themselves. They swear up and down that they already tried your suggestions (and more!) You go take a look and either a.) the problem cannot be replicated or b.) you fix said problem by trying the first solution you verbally offered, that they swear to have tried. It's at this point you get a response of "I swear I tried that," or "How'd you do that?" This isn't rocket science. I understand that your mind plays tricks on you and you play tricks back. Having authority stand over you and watch you do something can cause you to do things correctly, rather than going through the motions without realizing you are making the same mistake over and over again. The thing I don't understand is how much people don't want to hear that. I don't know if it's because it comes off as assholish, or that people want to blame their machines and not their actions. I've taken to just smiling and telling the user that the machine knows it's in trouble because daddy's in the room. That's why I make the big bucks.

- This new Tokyo Police Club song will make you... D A N C E!

Posted 1:56pm
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May 4th , 2010

Danny isn't here, Mrs. Torrance

Our trivia team has been on quite a roll as of late. Two weeks ago a skeleton crew somehow managed to sneak in a top three finish. Then last week a tie for first! Last night, after six rounds of feeling like we didn't know anything, we somehow found ourselves in a tie for second place. Now at trivia, as in all areas of life, a tie merits a tiebreaker. This means that the host announces a category and one person from each team heads up to the front to answer one sudden death, lightening round question. Last night our tiebreaker was in 'Literature', and somehow by default I ended up representing our team. I've historically not had great luck in this endeavor, as I get thrown up their largely because no one else wants to bear the brunt of such an awesome responsibility. But I'm always equal to the task, so last night I sauntered up next to a bookish girl who looked to be about 110 pounds and lacking time outside of the library, and prayed for science fiction rather than Emily Bronte. I got my wish when he asked us "In what novel does the character Jack Torrance appear?" Jackpot. That totally makes up for a couple months back when I didn't know that Greenland was the world's largest island. R E D R U M.

- The Hold Steady, The New Pornographers and Josh Ritter all drop albums today. Watch Craig Finn and the boys rock Letterman late last week.

- If this were true, I'd be one giant ball of itch. That being said, it also makes complete sense. If I was a vampire I'd totally hang outside bars waiting for last call. Wait, maybe I am a vampire...

- New Studybots! And in otra 826 news - here's Downtowner Amy including me (and Sid!) in her annarbor.com article about the LSRS&R turning two, and my story is today's entry for 826.140.

Posted 11:13am
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May 3rd , 2010

Mass of humanity

Obama

My Saturday home football game routine is a tightly choreographed, well orchestrated piece of time tested, well researched precision based on years of experience and trial and error. It could also be described as "Missing kickoff to drink two extra beers and avoid the bum rush."

I'm always one of the last people out of the tailgate lot. It's a ghost town by the time I grab one last Oberon and start to make my trek to the game. I've plotted a course that allows me to avoid both crowds and lines to get in the stadium. I walk in, slowing down briefly to have my ticket scanned and then again to grab a diet coke to mix with the rum tucked in my pants, sit down and (lately) watch us suck. It doesn't even occur to me that I'm in a tightly confined space with 100,000+ other people until it's time to leave, at which point 90,000 of us all try to leave via 30 some exits that are 10 foot by 10 foot wide.

That sucks. Especially since I've been out of rum since the third quarter and am really looking forward to getting back to my cooler. Saturday I got to experience that dull panic over and over again. Sober. Most of the 90,000 people who showed up Saturday morning to watch Obama speak or their kid graduate or both showed up at the same time - 9am. The BDGF and I were already surly due to what time it was. Then we walked the few blocks from my apartment to the stadium and start to get herded into narrow lines like so much human cattle, making us surlier. I'll give them credit, once we found the shortest line and started to wait, it was only 20 minutes to get inside. But that's when things got ugly.

There were only 4 concession stands open for the 90,000 of us. And people not use to attending stadium style events have zero regard for their fellow human beings. People just shoving and making their own traffic lanes through a sea of people - like they were trying to get to the front of the mosh pit at a Korn show in 1996. The BDGF - who was already apprehensive about being at Michigan Stadium where strangers would be constantly accidentally rubbing up against her - nearly lost it amongst the rabble, so we went and found seats up in the corner where we could stretch out a bit and actually breathe. Sure we could only see the back of Obama's head, but we weren't pressed up against hillbilly flesh, so it was a small concession to make.

At the end of the day, it was all worth it. President Obama gave a brilliant speech about democracy and citizenship in our hyper-partisan age. You can watch it here. Truth be told, hearing him say "Go Blue" would have made it all worth it. Now if we can just manage to beat UConn in four months, that walk back to the tailgate afterwards will go from painful frustration to sublime transcendence.

- Later that night Obama did stand up at the White House Correspondance dinner. Not that it's saying much, but he was much better than Leno.

Posted 11:13am
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April 30th , 2010

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

- Tomorrow President Obama will give the commencement speech at my alma matter, The University of Michigan. The town is already atwitter with parents of graduates, secret service and the pain in the ass of street closures It's supposed to rain and the security will be outrageous. But I'll be there to hear him say thing like this: "Top-flight public universities like the University of Michigan are vital to ensuring that America continues to lead in the global economy for generations to come." Not sense Harrison Ford played a president that went to Michigan have I felt so patriotic.

- I stopped being into video games some time ago, and I've never been into playing games on the internet (minus Canabalt). But C. Jason and I exchange nerdy email links from time to time, and he forwarded me this a while back. I must say, it is beautiful and delightful. I played the whole thing.

- If you haven't been keeping up with the AV Club Undercover, what's wrong with you? Catch up! Starting with Maritime covering Depeche Mode. With keytar!

- Last night I fell asleep watching Mythbusters, so I didn't find out if it was true that gingers are less tolerant of pain than the rest of you people with average levels of melanin. But as long as we're talking stereotypes and how they relate to me, the Irish really are drunks. And four pints is binge drinking? How dare you.

- The last few weeks I've been doing battle with the exhaust fan in the BDGF's bathroom. It hasn't worked in a while - which is to say that it did work, but made so much noise that no one ever turned it on, leading to peeling paint and fogged up mirrors, So first I ascertained that the problem was the motor. Then there was getting the old fan blade off of the motor. Then there was fixing the chuck on the fan blade that I busted trying to get it off the old motor. It's been a process. As of right now, it's working - blowing steam out of the bathroom and into the outside world quietly and efficiently. What steams me up is that 1.) No hardware store sells any individual parts for this. You can't go into Lowes and buy a motor. You can't go into Home Depot and buy a fan blade. and 2.) Every one of the yahoos at these (and other local) stores tried to convince me to replace the whole thing. You know, put in a new motor mount, recut the entire housing out and add a modern one - it's only twice the labor or three times the price. I'll spare the rant (sort of) about the disposable nature of things in our culture, and just say that for now, I've got a solution that required me to purchase only exactly what was broken. If in the end I couldn't weld that fan blade together and I have to buy a new one, well I'm still ahead. I think...

Posted 11:02am
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April 29th , 2010

Now we are two!

It was almost exactly two years ago that Ayesha told me to stop talking about it and just do it when it came to volunteering at 826. I don't think I've ever properly thanked her for that, as it's been among the best pieces of advice I've ever received.

But all y'all must be sick and tired of hearing me extoll the virtues of 826. Needless to say, most of the great and wonderful things that have happened to me in the previous two trips around the sun have been direct descendants of my volunteership. One of them being the sense of pride, accomplishment and out and out fun that comes with putting together the store windows at the Liberty Street Robot Supply and Repair.

It's always an adventure, and I always finding myself looking at my watch saying "Well I thought we'd be out of here by 8, maybe 9." Then "well if not 9, then 10." And so on and so on until well after midnight. But the ends always justify the means. As presented by our second birthday window.

Thanks C. Jason, Natalie, Lieberstein and Siddhartha. You guys are my favorite things about 826*.

* with apologies to Amy, Dr. Dr., and all the kids who come there.

Posted 9:43pm
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April 28th , 2010

Talky Talky Talky...

When I was a teenager my older brother lived in the wilds of Minnesota, which was a 12 hour drive from rural Northwest Ohio. When it came time for Ma and Pa to pack up the rest of the family and visit him, my dad would wake everyone up at 4am and drive through the night listening to AM radio and smoking a pipe. During the summer, every night he'd sit on our back porch smoking a pipe, reading 4-5 newspapers and listening to Ernie Harwell call Tigers games. In 34 years I've never heard my dad turn the radio to a music station, much less put on a CD/Tape/Record/8-track.

Growing up this made absolutely no sense to me. AM radio made me want to jam a railroad tie into my inner ear canal. On car trips I'd put on my walkman and grab a cassette tape and fall asleep - hoping the batteries wouldn't run out*. But of course like many things that I eschewed growing up, something rubbed off on me, because while I spend a bunch of time listening to music, I also spend a tone of time listening to people talk. NPR is my default station in the car, and in the background at work, it's always podcasts.

If you've yet to use your iPod to enjoy the wondrous world of podcasts, either because you are unaware of their existence or worried about their nerdy social stigma, I encourage to take the plunge. Here's a quick list of what I subscribe to:

- NPR
Fresh Air, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, Science Friday, All Songs Considered and This American Life. This is basic time and place shifting much like your DVR allows you to watch Lost at a time other than 9pm on Tuesday. If you love Terry Gross but don't find yourself in your car every day at noon, this is for you.

- The AV Club
A.V. Talk smartly reviews movies and TV shows. The Hatecast dissects pop culture that makes you want to kill yourself (or at least move to a country that doesn't have MTV or TMZ).

- Adam Carolla
He currently produces a podcast where he interviews B-list celebrities, and you can find old episodes of Loveline, where he interviews B-list celebrities from the 90's and tells kids to stop dating the 17 year old who insists on anal. (Find it under In Ace We Trust).

- Filmspotting
New movies reviews, top five lists, nerdy film talk

- The Nerdist
Chris Hardwick (formerly of Singled Out!) talks nerdy things with the coolest nerdy people.

- Savage Love
Dan Savage gives overly frank sex advice that would make your mom's head explode.

- SModcast
Kevin Smith tells stories about him masturbating and pissing off celebrities

- Stuff You Should Know
A podcast that makes you smarter by teaching you shit you didn't even realize you were ignorant of.

- The Dinner Party Download
A weekly rundown of news, interviews, jokes and booze!

* For the youngins - a walkman was a portable music player, that coupled with cassette tapes containing music, allowed you to listen to tunes 'on-the-go'. The tapes and player were the size of 47 iPods glued together.

Posted 11:19am
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April 27th , 2010

Hot trash

With apologies up front to Ayesha and all of the other fine people who reside in the Phoenix area that I've met over the years, there's a lot of reasons to hate your goddamn state. First off, people weren't meant to live in the fucking desert. There's no water there. It's a drain on resources to have to ship everything you need to survive all the way out there to you, because you don't like the cold. That's another thing. No one is from Arizona. It's chock full of midwesterners who don't like to shovel. People without the intestinal fortitude to wear a coat for three months. And that brings us to the worst part about AZ - the heat. Take a large, metal dumpster outside a restaurant, and then set in the 115 degree sun all day, every day for 3 straight months. Before you know it, the whole goddamn state smells like hot trash.

Apparently Arizonans were worried that the rest of the country had also forgotten that the state is chock full of racists who once were the last state in the union to accept MLK Day as a holiday (and only ever did so because they wanted to host the Super Bowl.) By now you've heard of the super-racist law passed in Arizona that mandates law enforcement hunt down brown people. I understand that the demographics of your state - aging white people who've done well enough in life to retire to a place where they can golf year round - is going to engender some conservative political views. And I even kind of admire your "We don't give a fuck what you think." attitude that you seem to have with the rest of the country. But seriously? It's 2010. I know you'd like to gentrify the entire state, but you know who has the genes to actually live in 100 degree heat? Brown people. Congratulations AZ. Now no matter what the temperature, you're entire state smells of hot trash.

- Here's a link that was on Ayesha's blog about what legal immigration looks like. As always, one of the major problems in this debate is that people aren't informed.

- And of course Jon Stewart does a better job of dissecting this than I ever could.

- Oh yeah, new Studybots! (for those of you who think talking politics is impolite.)

Posted 10:56am
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April 26th , 2010

Do you just know?

When I was little I was constantly getting into arguments with adults. Even back then I was an arrogant prick who was always sure he was right. Perhaps I was slightly more reluctant to speak up, but not when I knew I was right. For someone to argue with me when I knew I had the answer infuriated me, especially when they eventually marginalized me for being under the age of 10. I don't blame them I suppose - I bet I was insufferable and besides, it can't be fun to be outsmarted by an 8 year old.

Ever since then, more than anything I've wanted to be right. About everything. I like to think that experience has taught me how to do that and come off as less of an arrogant prick, but as you all know - not always. Or even usually. (I'm not the best judge of that). In any event, I've tied a large part of my identity into being intelligent. Into being right. In my estimation its a lofty and worthy goal, assuming I understand that it's an impossible one and in the end, I can't know everything.

This weekend the BDGF and I were walking home in the rain and she looked at me and asked "Do you just know?" Of course my default answer to that is always going to be yes. I always just know. But then I thought about just what she was asking. It wasn't something I could analytically say yes or no to. While it's a question that is informed by experience and self-reflection about every relationship you've ever been in, at the end of the day it's a question that's subjective and without permanence and on some level, completely abstract.

But that doesn't stop me on similar matters. It doesn't stop be from knowing that I'm 100% right when I say that Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is the best album of the last 10 years. It doesn't stop me from knowing that Avatar is visually stunning and ultimately soulless - even though I haven't even seen it yet. Now I'll be willing to entertain arguments on the former and will gladly eat my words if I'm wrong when I see the latter. But I've listened to a lot of music and seen a lot of movies, and I'm pretty sure I'm right about both.

As for the BDGF's query, do I just know? I know how easy it is. I know the way she looks at me. I know I'm never bored and consistently challenged (in the best possible way.) I know I've got a best friend who excites me sexually. Yeah, I just know.

- Both The New Pronographers and Josh Ritter have their new albums online and streaming. You will love them both.

- Here's a sweet little featurette on Bell's Brewery. You will love it too.

Posted 11:53am
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April 23rd , 2010

One Thousand Four Hundred

I used to collect Pez dispensers. For a while it was Star Wars toys. I've always been somewhat of a hoarder and there's something in me that the quest of collecting fulfills. But I also hate clutter. So over the years I've shed almost all of the plastic crap that once littered my surroundings and kept it down to the essentials of books, DVDs and comics. These are consumables and generally look organized and adult as they are stored throughout my apartment. (OK, maybe not the comics, but those are in boxes in my room. For all you know those are important files. Just don't look too closely at the box labeled "Spider-Man.")

Then there's the music. Truth be told it's always been about the music. About a dozen years ago I discovered the wonderful world of mp3s and the trifecta of music, technology and collecting sent me right down the rabbit hole. Since then I've been obsessed with putting together the most kick ass music collection ever in existence. I've ripped CDs from the library. I've traded collections with local DJs and pseudo father in laws. I've scoured the internet and received cease and desist orders from both Metallica and Dr. Dre. I've spent hours upon hours making sure that every file conforms to my elaborate protocol, and that it is subsequently documented in my excel spreadsheet.

Yesterday I passed another milestone. Album number 1,400 was Josh Ritter's So Runs the World Away. I keep thinking that I'm going to level off and at some point the pace of this thing will slow. But recently I let someone browse my collection and they noted that I didn't have any BeeGees albums. Guess what? Now I do. The other day I heard "Never Tear Us Apart" by INXS and remembered making out with a girl in the 7th grade while that song played in the background. Once I realized that I didn't have that album, I immediately ran out and got it.

And perhaps the best part is that I can share all of it. Not like a book that you give to someone and wonder if you'll ever get back. Not like a DVD that you lend to a friend and then immediately want to watch the minute its gone but you can't because your friend doesn't get the concept of timely returns of borrowed objects. As many of you know, my obsession can be your reward. I just need to think of a term other than 'The Music Fairy", because I'm not rocking that one.

Posted 10:53am
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April 22nd , 2010

Welcome to Earf.

Let me start by saying that I hate hippies. Not for any special reason mind you. I've never been personally maligned by hippies, nor have they been a persistent menace in my existence. But this being Ann Arbor, hippies are always lurking in the smelly shadows. They're there being ineffectual and listening to the String Cheese Incident. I hate their music, their clothing, their pastimes and how they smell. Beads are stupid and granola tastes like dirt. If I see you dancing to the Grateful Dead, then I'm spending every ounce of energy and will power available to me to not walk over to you and repeatedly slap you in the face. The Dead sucks. Except for the drugs - but you know what? Those two things aren't mutually exclusive. Get high and listen to The Who, I guarantee you'll have a better time.

That being said, Happy Earth Day! It's hot fucking shit! You don't have to not bathe, grow a beard and wear hemp shorts with fringe on the bottom to be excited about the Earth and what you can do to help it. Do it because it saves you money. Do it because you hate the Muslims that sell us oil. Do it because you own a windmill factory. There's a million reasons, and none of them require participation in a drum circle nor have a pre-requisite of being vegan. So carpool to work, buy more locally grown food and for the love of Christ stop drinking bottled water. You can still give the finger to the next person you see over the age of 12 wearing tie-dye.

- Here's the HuffPo's list of 7 things you can do to make a difference. The most interesting and overlooked one: don't have a baby. Bill Maher made a relevant observation on his show last week: you shouldn't get tax credits for kids, you should be taxed more. It's these snot nosed punks that are costing us so much in entitlements. Anyway, I solemnly swear to knock it off with the procreating.

- The BDGF is big on locally grown foodstuffs, which forces me to be better about it. I'm glad, because it's something I know I should do but don't (like taking 15 minute showers in scalding hot water - but I'm not ready to give those up yet). One thing I have been big on for a while now - locally produced beer. Luckily for me, the best Belgian beer in the world is produced two blocks from my house and Michigan is the home to the greatest (and 19th largest) brewery known to man - Bells.

Posted 11:14am
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April 21st , 2010

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

- This chart is interesting and probably pretty accurate. Although were it not for school and work obligations, the last 20 years of my life would be 3am to 11am every day. It still is a lot of the time.

- I once knew a guy who was a virgin into his 30's. This is an even more remarkable factoid once you factor in that A.) He went to college and B.) Did not have a visible goiter nor humpback. It's too big of a phenomenon to go into here and now, but keep it in mind as you read these facts about virgins. Perhaps the most important piece of information for you youngsters - majoring in math and biology will not get you laid. But then you already knew that.

- Crazy shit 'celebrities' have said about Obama. Or "As if we needed another reason to completely dismiss Stephen Baldwin and Ben Stein."

- I got a great idea the other day for a bizarre social experiment that combines Back to the Future with The Boys from Brazil. What if, instead of playing out the normal time travel meme where you go back to kill off Hitler, you instead go back and impregnante Hitler's mom right before she conceived the Fuhrer? I'll admit it's a risky roll of the dice, but can you imagine the excitement when travelled back to the present and opened up a history book?

- Sometime late last year the BDGF called me over because she couldn't get into her garage. The garage door was down and unrepsonsive to the openers, and the only other way in was a window that had been painted shut sometime last century. A pry bar, hammer and 20 minutes later we were in and resetting the breaker that had tripped, causing the garage door to remain in the down position (btw, beautiful engineering gentlemen). Since then I've taken up myriad small projects around her house that have pestered her for a while now, and that I really can't stand to have sit there unattended to. Tonight I knock out a big one in my book - the bathroom fan. The old one made horrific noises when in use, so no one used it, leading to peeling ceiling paint. Yesterday my replacement motor came, allowing me to simply fix this problem for half the cash and a third of the time and energy that the fools at Lowes tried to convince me it needed. I love it when basic problem solving conquers all.

Posted 11:38am
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April 20th , 2010

Uncle T-bags shakes his finger at you, then puts his arm around your shoulder for a heart to heart

OK kiddos. Come sit on Uncle T-bags lap, because we need to have a talk. The internet is a magical place. And you can have lots of clean, safe fun there. There's porno and TV shows and pictures of midgets getting whacked in the junk. Good times. But the internet can also be scary. There's a lot of folks out there who say they want to do stuff that sounds good at first - like making your penis bigger or selling you cheap vicodin or even having sex with you IN PERSON. But you should know that these are bad people, who at the end of the day will leave you penniless with the same size penis that you had before they came into your life.

The good news is that you can protect yourself. Last week my email account got hacked. Not sure how yet, but me being an IT professional who deals with security issues daily, it's extra embarrassing. And as some of you already know, some emails got sent out to people in my address book. The emails took the following format:

From: Tyler Brubaker
To: Someone cool enough to be in my addressbook
Subject: maximlian schicker

http://www.clid.fr/home.php

--
tbaggervance.com

If you managed to click on the link. it sent you to some sort of porno/prescription drug website that wanted to steal your credit card number. But the question that begs to be answered is WHO IN THEIR RIGHT MIND CLICKS ON THAT LINK? I'll give you that yes, that looks like an email from yours truly and anything I would deem shareable is something you'd want to click on. But look closer. First off, there's the subject line. It not only makes no sense, but it isn't properly capitalized. OK, maybe its some weird reference that I was making that you just don't get. Lord knows there's plenty of those. But look at the URL I asked you to go to. .fr? Have you ever been to a website that ended in .fr in your life? Me neither - and I've been to the ends of the internet. But most importantly, what should SCREAM at you is that there's no context. I'm going to send you a link and not comment on it? Fat fucking chance. I (obviously) live to pontificate. And were I ever to send you a link to anything (and no offense, I probably won't. That's what tbaggervance.com is for) it would come with a minimum 250 word essay on why said link is important and worth your time.

So I'm not saying you can't have fun, just read the red flags. I got messages from a lot of people that said "Did you mean to send me that link for free Viagra?" No, no I didn't. But you're clearly the kind of person who runs around the internet willy nilly clicking on any link that would have you. And you were raised better than that. Be smart. Be safe. Wear your internet condom and sometimes, think before you click. And remember, unless you're in a pharmacy in Mexico, there's no such thing as cheap, easy vicodin.

Posted 10:37am
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April 19th , 2010

Are your anal beads dishwasher safe?

It was a domestic bliss sort of weekend. Well, after getting super drunk for Stov's birthday at karaoke Friday night anyway. It was soccer games, home improvement and further cementing my status as fake dad. The youngest is apparently nervous that my penchant for 'fixing' things will overstep its bounds, and she made me promise not to change anything major around her house without consulting her. I'm assuming she meant beyond inserting myself into their lives and being around all of the time, because that train has kind of sailed.

- Ready for me to make your Monday? NPR has the new Hold Steady album in it's entirety. It's so good that I don't even begrudge my BDGF for wanting to leave me for Craig Finn.

- After freezing my ass off at a soccer game Saturday morning, I didn't have the will to make it to Michigan's spring game. But for the record, nothing worthwhile is ever gleaned from a Spring scrimmage. It's a PR event and while I enjoy the excuse to drink and talk about the team, let's all remember that whatever happened Saturday has no bearing on anything for next fall and trying to read the tea leaves is best left to people with column inches to fill - because therein lies a spring game's only use.

- Last night I had another round of debate on who the greatest American rock band of all time is, and no internet was used to forward anyone's agenda (HT: Wex)

- I once got a week's worth of detentions for calling my 7th grade english teacher by his first name. He was a closeted homosexual and we were doing something with alliteration, so when he stood up and flapped his arms and asked us "Flamboyant...?" I said Ferrel (he was apparently looking for 'Flamingo'. Go figure.) It was totally worth it, as I'm sure these kids would agree.

- For the record, the headline above is apropos of nothing. It just came to me in the shower this morning and I couldn't stop laughing. Sometimes even I can't believe how juvenile my sense of humor can be.

Posted 11:02am
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April 16th , 2010

Your Indie Rock Weekend

- Ann Arbor's favorite sons (and erstwhile roommates of tbaggervance) Taproot are back in the studio and prepping an album for release next month.

- Tokyo Police Club are streaming the first single form their forthcoming LP Champ over at their website. I like it best when they ratchet up the speed, but it's all delectable.

- Josh Ritter! Daytrotter! Swoon...

- The entire new LCD Soundsystem is streaming. "Drunk Girls" is still my favorite.

- Conan... on tour... covering Radiohead? Yes.

- I usually tend to favor the movies over the music at Top of the Park, but whatever your proclivities, the full schedule has just been announced. Raiders on the fourth of July? Yes please.

- Finally, I almost successfully avoided this musical abortion by one Scott Stapp, but then buddy g.lane sent it to me and I got caught like a deer in the headlights. I couldn't put it better than g did: "That guy has one speed... 'Sure, I'll write ay a song...'" If you watched the clip, I'm sorry. Here's Ben Gibbard (looking cute as a button) and the boys doing John Fogarty's 'Centerfield' to cleanse the palette.

Posted 11:02am
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April 15th , 2010

What's making Baby Jesus cry this week?

Editors note: I thought about pulling a 'shit sandwich' here and just writing 'The Catholic Church', but there's so much more hypocrisy out there and I'd hate to deprive you of it.

- This chick wants Jesus to give her the superpower of control over the media (and let's be honest, if you watched that clip you were waiting for her to refer to the "Jew run media"). While this would make for the world's most boring comic book, she does have a ready made justice league, to be populated by the Becks, Limbaughs and Hannitys of the world.

- At brunch the other day some friends and I tried to name the Ten Commandments. We did a pretty good job, considering that after we looked them up we deemed that adultery and neighbor's wife coveting are the same thing, as are stealing and coveting your neighbor's house (really it's more like 8 commandments). Anyway, super atheist Christopher Hitchens revises the rabbinical ten things for a modern world, and does what you'd have to admit is a pretty good job.

- The Hutaree thing came and went without comment from us here at tbaggervance.com. And while it's water under the bridge at this point, can I just say why do these fucking militias always have to come from Michigan? It really throws a wrench in my righteous indignation.

- In some sort of small, weird, twisted way, there's part of me that still considers itself Catholic. It's not quite like being Jewish, but I was so drenched in dogma growing up, and the fact that I was baptized and confirmed and all that jazz means I'm still sort of in the club. Don't get me wrong, we don't want anything to do with each other, but I still know the secret handshake. It's kind of like matriculating at a a school but then going to graduate somewhere else - you're not still actively rooting for them, but it's nice to see them do well. Of course it also makes you cower in shame when they do something colossally stupid, like blaming child rape on the gays. I mean I'm glad you forgave the Beatles for saying they were more popular than Baby Jesus, but it didn't make us forget about the whole complicit in pedophilia thing.

Posted 10:52am
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April 14th , 2010

I got fucked by Larry Paige

For someone who loves gadgets as much as I do and - Christ on a bike - makes their living by understanding technology , I spend a lot of time lamenting it. I used to get calls say once a month where people would ask me something along the lines of "Who was that bad 90's band with Ted Nugent and the guy from Styx?" I'd say "Damn Yankees" and they'd hang up. Now any idiot with a smartphone can Wikipedia that. And worse - shazaam makes my encyclopedic knowledge of hits of the 80's obsolete at the bar. There's no sense of accomplishment nor satisfaction in getting the answer from a machine. Even when I struggle for an hour to remember the name of the former Bad Company singer who's now touring with Queen, I'd rather flounder for hours and come up with it on my own than have my pain erased by some jackass with a Blackberry who doesn't have the patience to think things out for 5 to 25 minutes.

Last night I had printed out directions via Google Maps for our trek to Cleveland. After 2 and half hours of driving, I started to expect to see the next turn of our journey according to what Larry Paige's supercomputer had calculated. But we kept driving. And driving. Twenty minutes later we get off the highway and it takes me all of 10 seconds to realize we're not anywhere near where we're supposed to be. Now this story would be awesome if I pulled out the giant atlas I keep under the driver's seat and plotted a course to our destination. But of course my head was about to explode and their was an iPhone in my pocket. Ironically, Google Maps gave us new directions that made complete sense to me, and took us back 15 miles down the road to the Hold Steady, where we walked in with just enough time to use the bathroom, grab a beer, and run into friend of the blog Erin, who I hadn't seen in many a moon. Good times.

So I know, wahhh. Everything worked out and I was saved by technology. Really I should be blaming myself for my blind allegiance to microchips and not completing by due diligence on researching the route. But again, that's the point - Larry Paige may be smarter than I am, but sometimes I'm better than his computers. I just need to remember a time when he wasn't there to rely on.

- By the way, the show was awesome and totally worth the drive. There's a pic in the marquee section, and here's how close we got:

Welcome to Ybor City.

- Here's a sappy montage narrated by Carl Sagan that will totally put you in your place in the order of the universe. Hey, nobody said sappy can't be effective.

- Lightbulbs of the future! I love that these look like they were designed by a comic book artist in the 1960s.

- Some shriveled old fascists in Ann Arbor are once again trying to take away every college student's inalienable right endowed to them by their creator - having a couch on your porch.

Posted 11:08am
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April 13th , 2010

It's good to see ya back in a bar band, baby. It's great to see you're still in the bars

A few years back I went to see the Police at the Palace of Auburn Hills. I went because it was the Police and a last chance to live out a lifelong dream. They were the one band that still theoretically exisited that I hadn't seen and needed to, so it was anywhere, any price. And while Stov got us great tickets and there wasn't an ounce of disappointment after the show, I left the arena thinking "That's the last time I go any place this big for anything other than a sporting event."

Of course it won't be long untill I break that vow - I'll make exceptions for outdoor venues* or someone will offer me tickets to Springsteen or McCartney and I won't be able to resist. But let's all be clear - that's not a show. No matter how charismatic the band nor how good the songs, there's no connection in a 20,000 seat arena. You're never gonna mistakenly think that Sting made eye contact with you from the 87th row, and Bono isn't going to walk right past you at the bar 10 minutes before the show because he has to use the bathroom and there are none back stage.

I can make arguments against $85 tickets, post show parking gridlock, and $9 beers - all those things suck. Because yes, tonight I'm going to drive three hours (and another three hours back) to see the best bar band in America. The tickets were less than $20. I'll park on the street and at worst I'll be able to get a PBR for $4 (and hey, it's Ohio - it may only be $3). Those are all advantages. But the real win is that at some point during the show I'm going to feel like Craig Finn is personally asking me to clap along. It'll feel less like I'm paying a bunch of money for the privilege to see someone perform, and more like I got invited to this kick ass party by The Hold Steady personally and they asked me to pitch in $20 for the keg.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't note that it was my BDGF who insisted that we make this trek on a Tuesday. I've always said that I belong with a girl who would drag me to see a band that I used to describe as Thin Lizzy fronted by a non-effeminite Fred Schneider, and is more accurately a lot like Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band in 1973. Baby it's great to see we're still in the bars.

* meaning I already have.

- Hey! I totally forgot to mention it yesterday - New Studybots!

Posted 10:50am
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April 12th , 2010

Till the one day when the lady met this fellow

It was never till someone heard him call me daddy that anyone ever thought Siddhartha was my kid. The combination of me being impossibly young and he being decidedly Asian made it hard for people to put the two together. When the two of us would hang out with Stov, people would think he was his. People in street would admonish me for trying to scare that baby! Relax woman, it's my kid.

Now I'm old and finally got around to dating a white girl, so occasionally the BDGF's girls get mistaken for being mine. Sometimes they refer to me as 'fake dad'. It's becoming readily apparent that Sid is gaining two pseudo-siblings. Over the weekend all three of them hung out quite a bit.

Of course all three of them being smart, caring and good looking children, they get along fabulously. Saturday night we made a make shift drive in on the side of BDGF's garage, replete with fire pit bonfire, smores and a viewing of Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Sunday was Festifools, which meant we had to help make a couple hundred robot costumes for 826. The elder kids made Mario and Luigi bots.

Of course them getting along means having to endure a multitude of theories and jokes about the older ones getting romantically involved. BDGF said the other day "I think they're just trying stuff out on each other for when they actually date people." I said "I think you're probably right, but are you sure you want to phrase it like that?" She did not.

So yeah, I finally have kids who look more like me, even though they're not mine. That coupled with my actual offspring who couldn't act more like me and I've got all my bases covered. Which is a good thing, because three is two more than I intended - even if I'm finally old enough to convincingly play the part.

Posted 12:21pm
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April 9th , 2010

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

- I didn't post yesterday, and for that I apologize. It was a shite day filled with too much work and running around. But it ended with me getting drunk in the basement of a comic book store, which is kind of like my Valhalla. If that's not forget your troubles, come on get happy - I don't know what is. Somewhere there is a kick-ass picture of Dr. Walker kicking my ass while I hold Captain America's shield. When it hits the ether I will post it here. Update: Promise kept.

Pow!

- Every once in a while you see something that reminds you of someone so much that you want to immediately share it with them and tell them "Look! Don't you just love it?" I saw this and it just screamed SIDDHARTHA to me. I can't wait to show it to him so that he can just love it.

- Attention Ann Arborites! This is one of my favorite events of the year and I'm telling you now so you can put it on your calendars (April 24th) and plan appropriately. Guys, it's super easy. You literally drive in and out. So this weekend, throw your old TVs and radios and computer junk in a pile and get ready to recycle! Because people who throw away CRTs of any sort should go to jail - not pay a fine - jail. I'm not even kidding.

- Again, this is mainly for A2ers: By now you know Obama is coming for Spring commencement, and here's the skinny on how you can get in to see the show. I'll be in line with the first of the faculty/staffers for tickets - but all of mine are spoken for.

- Following the throughline of Obama, nothing makes me giggle more than Sarah Palin being stupid. Here's the dumbest analogy you've ever heard, followed by a complete dismissal of her obtuse rhetoric by the commander in chief. She's got to be the world's most un-serious person and if you think she's anything other than a spokemodel, well then you're an idiot too. Of course then there's Fox News' coverage of this, which Jon Stewart reminds you, is complete bullshit.

Posted 11:55am
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April 7th , 2010

Shit or get off the pot

When I was super little and learning how to play cards, I'd duck underneath the table to put everything in order, because my hands were too small to do so above board without everyone seeing every card in my hand. This was absolutely necessary because my grandmother, who was teaching me how play, would have looked at my cards and used that knowledge to kick my butt.

For anyone who's ever played cards with me (or likely any game for that matter) and found me to be an unbearable prick, you can largely blame my grandmother. I doubt I was in elementary school before she started to tell me "Shit or get off the pot," when I took too long to take my turn. If she saw an opportunity to not only improve her situation but to screw over an opponent as well, she took it. There's debate in the family as to how much she employed methods of cheating on purpose versus how often she just had 'senior moments'. I obviously don't endorse cheating per se, but my grandmother taught me that if you're going to hold your cards so that she could see them, then she was going to look. And if you forgot what trump was, well then that's your own fault for not paying attention. She sure as shit wasn't going to bail you out by reminding you.

Those are some of earliest memories, and most of you know how much of an influence and impact all those hours of sitting at the kitchen table playing cards had on me. I can't thank her enough for that. I know she was proud to see I had instilled the same values in my kid. Unfortunately she passed away almost two years ago. I write about her now because yesterday I finally received my inheritance from her after months of legal wrangling. It wasn't life changing money, but significant 'ok, exhale' cash. It's the last concrete thing I'll ever get from her. And as grateful as I am for it, it pales in comparison to the thousands of hours of card discipline to which I was subjected. This year when Sid and I are playing in the euchre tournament and everyone thinks we're dicks for things like 'playing by the rules', I'll just smile at the knowledge that I was just raised better.

Posted 11:02am
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April 6th , 2010

Revisionist history

Change is good. On the whole I completely believe this to be true in almost everything outside of what beers I drink (and even then everyone knows that Oberon is made all the sweeter due to the fact that it disappears for five months a year.) From your girlfriend getting a drastic haircut to deciding to take the bus to work twice a week, change shakes things up. At its best it comes from self-evaluation and a desire to make your life better. Even at its worst, it provides you with feedback and data that make you a smarter, more informed person.

But that's change you can control. No matter how much someone tells you to 'see it as an opportunity,' if you lose your job in this market, that's bad. Yes, you can try and use that 'change' to your advantage, but your not at the wheel anymore. Some things, you can't change.

I don't want to get too into the debate about whether people can change. It's cynical to say they can't, unrealistic to think that a formed adult can fundamentally change who they are. At some point you are who you are. At one point in my life I considered myself a Republican, because growing up that's what my dad was, so I followed suit. Obviously I'm not anymore, but I still consider myself socially liberal and fiscally conservative - it's just that my priorities and understanding of the world have changed. It's fluctuation on a throughline.

Then there's the Eastern philosophical idea of the impermanent self, of which John McCain and Sean Hannity must be devotees. This week John McCain said - wait for it - "I never considered myself a maverick." This despite the fact that it was 'Maverick-y' vs. 'Hope and Change' a mere 18 months ago. Then Sean Hannity writes in his new book about how he's a "Reagan Conservative" - only to espouse myriad views that are in direct opposition of the former President's publicly stated policies. This going out to his gaggle of mindless automatons unchecked and taken as gospel fact.

Now it's debatable as to which of these acts is more despicable. Let's assume that both men are knowingly lying to your face, albeit probably in a cognitively dissonant manner in which they've not only justified it via the personal gain they're attempting to achieve, but also have twisted history in their heads to the point where they view these incongruities as plausible. Let's further assume that if confronted with these lies, that neither would offer any explanation that actually admits to change. And that's what gets me.

McCain's not saying "I was a maverick for conservatism" nor "I was a maverick because that's what I needed to be at the time, but I've always held to conservative principles." Hannity doesn't say "I agree with Reagan on these principles, and if he were here today, I think he'd agree with me given the circumstances." It's the ugly opposite of those plausible sentiments. Instead of admitting to change in themselves, they've changed history to meet their narrative. That's not shaking things up or making changes on self-evaluation, it's willful deceit for personal gain. To quote Sarah Palin, that's not change we can believe in.

Posted 11:02am
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April 5th , 2010

You done with that?

It was a bachelor weekend. The BDGF and Siddhartha were both out of town doing family stuff so my heathen butt was left to its own devices for three straight days. This naturally included lots of sports (including two fantasy baseball drafts) and an avalanche of Oberon. It was good times, although I'm really excited to see all those people I love who skipped town.

Saturday night I was drinking these:

Scorekeepers mini pitchers. It's four to five drinks in one convenient container. A great bargain at only eight bucks. Except when you're sitting at the bar and some asshole frat bus boy comes and takes the thing out from underneath your nose when there's almost 20% left. TWICE. I mean, I was already drunk and totally uncomfortable (if you're over 30 and at Scorkeepers after 10pm and you don't feel like a lecherous hump, then you probably belong on a sex offender list somehwere) but it's the principle of the thing. I was robbed of booze that I paid for. This is not OK. If this is Scorkeepers attempt at giving me the hint not to come back, point taken. You should have been dead to me years ago anyway. Now please BDGF and Siddhartha come back and let me resume my regularly scheduled alchohol consumption.

- New Studybots! I'm going to try and post these every Monday until I run out of ideas. It shouldn't be long.

Posted 11:47am
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April 2nd , 2010

Really Good Friday

Good Friday. Seems redundant. And of course ironic, as Baby J died today. But hey, the mercury is inching towards 80 today, Oberon is flowing and I have big plans to enjoy those two things in conjunction with each other really soon. Come on 4 o'clock...

- Dr. Krugman explains the competing theories of financial reform. As per usual, he does a great job explaining things and I agree with him.

- Obama announced new fuel standards this week. This kid's on a roll. He might turn out to be the real deal yet.

- Outside of the weather, I'm most excited for Spring because of all the great indie rock on the docket. Here's Pitchfork's guide to the upcoming releases, which include albums from The Hold Steady, The New Pornographers, The National, Josh Ritter, Tokyo Police Club, Nada Surf, The Black Keys, Apples in Stereo and LCD Soundsystem. Christ on a bike that's an avalanche of good tunes.

- Finally, in honor of Baby J, How are we making the Bible come to life? I choose the one on the left.

Posted 10:49am
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April 1st , 2010

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

- Remember 'Climategate'? Finally! Proof that every single scientist who studies climate change is colluding to pull the wool over our eyes and force us to make unnecessary changes to our lives in a mass conspiracy that runs so deep that the NYT (according to one frequent blog commentor) won't even run the story! Yeah, about that.

- Speaking of, Obama recently announced opening up offshore drilling. Now, in principle I am not a fan of this. It ostensibly adds nothing to energy production. But what I am a fan of, is that this coupled with the nuclear announcement once again proves that Obama is smart and the GOP is stupid. Want proof? Here's the response to his announcement from an orange Republican fucktard. If you know that all your opposition is going to do is say no, why not provide every piece of evidence possible to say - "See? We'll try everything. We use their ideas when called for. We're not the ideologues. We put the American people first, they put their party above everything else." It may be overestimating the intelligence of the electorate, but otherwise it's sound (and most importantly, it ends up being a pretty good way to govern in the end.)

- I'm still head over heals with my iPhone and its crazy, life changing ways. My favorite new aspect: Words with Friends. Holy shit guys - Scrabble on your iPhone? Versus people you know? Totally awesome time suck. If you want a game, find me as tbaggerv (can you believe someone already had tbaggervance? The temerity (which is a good scrabble word)). P.S. i-Yacht Z is a good cheap Yahtzee clone if you're a Yahtzee enthusiast, which I am.

- As you probably know from all the TV ads and letters in your mailbox, it's census time. Did you also know that for the first time, you can be gay married on the census? That's right, the U.S. gov'mint is recognizing people who are gay and married. Or counting them anyway. Hey it's a start...

- In the next 48 hours or so I will draft both of my fantasy baseball teams for the upcoming year. This is about my 20th year of doing this, and it feels every bit as nerdy now as it did back then - minus the fact that back then you had to buy the USA Today twice a week to do stats by hand (which I did - all summer). And as fun as spending my summer tracking Wandy Rodriguez's ERA is, draft day is where the real magic is. You'll never see more ball busting packed into a shorter span of time than you will during a fantasy sports draft. And boy do I enjoy ball busting. That and Oberon, of which I will probably have about ten of tonight.

Posted 10:11am
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March 31st, 2010

This week in indie rock

Last night the BDGF and I were rocked by Spoon. Britt was in a bit of a mood to start the night, but they found their collective groove and ended up putting on a hell of a show. (Here's some photos for those of you who missed the event). Anyway, I am buoyed and need to spread the good word, thus another edition of TWIIR.

- There's more new Hold Steady hitting the 'net, and it's every bit as delicious as 'Hurricane J'. Craig Finn and the boys have eschewed Michigan on their most recent tour, so it looks like I'll have to head to Cleveland to see them. This is a giant pain in my asshole, but The Hold Steady is bar none my favorite live band at the moment and you don't miss an opportunity to see that spectacle.

- Attention Ann Arborites! Those of you who missed the special release day viewing of the new White Stripes documentary Under great White Northern Lights, there's a free screening on campus this Thursday. Don't miss a great opportunity to watch Jack and Meg rock your face - and hit on college age hipsters.

- This week on the AV Club Undercover: The Alkaline Trio do Archers of Loaf.

- A few years back I heard a singer/songwriter that struck a chord with me so deep that I fell hard and fast in love with him and immediately added him to the list of people who will have my undying devotion and that I will support in any way I can. Wanting to spread that joy and knowing the proclivities of my friends the Jesuses, I threw a copy of his CD on their coffee table and told them "Here's something to fall in love with." When they eventually listened to the disc, they quickly did. That's why I consider this live performance on NPR a belated birthday present to their daughter Ophelia Jane. I'm sure she'll fall in love with Josh Ritter too, and I can't wait to meet and fall in love with her.

- Finally, this isn't news nor indie rock, but Ricky Martin is gay. Officially. Just thought you'd like to erase the question mark on your "Are they or aren't they gay?" checklist.

Posted 1:26pm
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March 30th , 2010

Studybots!

A few weeks back I got an email announcing that 826 Michigan was producing a student newsletter and was looking for people to write articles, draw cartoons, do graphic design, etc. I immediately realized that I had never had my own comic strip, and frankly that didn't seem right, much less even possible. So I wrote back offering my amateur services and they were accepted.

Now what? Questions of format, tone and characters swirled through my head. I wanted simple, as to not overly complicate things and force myself to spend undo hours trying to produce it. It has to be for kids, so cutesy over edgy. And it's for 826, so robots and academia seem to be a given. It didn't take me long to settle on a three panel, 'Bazooka Joe' style strip called Studybots. I'm still learning lots o' lessons about layout and scanning. My tools are crappy and my method rushed, but that's me trying to lower your expectations and make excuses for the faults I see permeating the work. Below are the first two. I find the whole process amusing enough to keep doing it, so I'll link them to a page over there on the sidebar and let you know when there's new ones. Anyone with hackneyed robot jokes feel free to drop me a line, I could use the help. Oh! And 2,000 blog points to anyone who gets my obscure reference for the character names. Clearly I do a lot of things to amuse myself and no one else.

Posted 10:50am
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March 29th , 2010

You take the good, you take the bad...

I was 15 years old when Desmond Howard got tripped in the end zone on a two point conversion attempt, caught the ball anyway and won the game for us with no time left on the clock. We were ranked number one in the country and playing Michigan State, so this was a very big deal. It would have been a euphoric moment in my existence had the referee called the tripping penalty and/or signaled that Desmond caught the ball. As such he did neither and fucked us right in the ass - twice on one play.

I felt the same way last night when Michigan scored a game winning goal 4 minutes into overtime to head back to the Frozen Four for the 24th time. Hagelin darted behind the net and tried to shove it the puck in after curling around the back side. Miami's goalie was waiting, but the puck bounced out right onto Kevin Lynch's stick and he made it find the back of the net. Game over. Except on review the ref had blown his whistle a nanosecond before the puck found purchase, so the goal was disallowed. Nevermind that the whistle was unwarranted and due solely to the man who had blown it being out of position or visually impaired or both. Nevermind that earlier in the game in a similar situation the whistle was not blown, giving Miami the extra second it needed to punch the puck out from underneath Michigan's goalie to force overtime in the first place. Fuck.

Poker players will tell you that they remember the bad beats much more readily and viscerally than the big wins. I don't know if that's human nature or the nature of a poker player, but it's invariably true. And as a Michigan sports fan, I've got enough bad beats in my lifetime that make me wonder if I have masochistic tendencies, because I remember every one of those loses with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns, and the mere mention of them make my blood start to boil - both over having been in some way wronged and at the possibility of what could have been.

But none of losses compare to the wins. In that way, it's not like poker at all. Last night hurt my soul, but we won two national championships in hockey while I was in school, and that's what I think of when I think Michigan Hockey. Sure, I'll always remember that goal that was taken from me, but the sting of it was immediately mitigated last night. Because yes - I saw us lose a game (that I never would have expected us to even play in a month ago) but then 10 minutes later, I got my first taste of Oberon in five months.

It tasted like victory.

Posted 11:23am
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March 26th , 2010

Everybody cut, everybody cut...

Teenagers are incredibly stupid. They suffer from a herd mentality and have an invincibility complex that makes them engage in idiotically risky behavior. They have yet to develop an adequate sense of consequences for their actions, and their lack of foresight makes it neigh on impossible to get them to accurately assess a situation and have them come to the conclusion that "this is going to be embarrassing tomorrow," much less a year or five from now. Unfortunately for them, the only thing more delusional than their peer group is their parents.

Despite having once been teenagers themselves and the mountain of evidence that is well, every teen movie ever made, parents fail to realize that the surest way to get teenagers to do something is to tell them not to. Slightly less obvious (but still more so say than a kick in the junk) is that signing a promisary note saying you won't do something carries about as much weight to a teenager as a parent's fashion advice.

So now that you, enlightened reader of tbaggervance.com, have taken the above postulates to be science fact and factored them into both your moral framework and deductive reasoning skills, time for a pop quiz: Brighton High School decides to ban "freaking" (sexually suggestive dancing) from its school dances and force students to sign a pledge saying they won't participate in such behavior. Which of these outcomes is likeliest?

A. Students dutifully sign said pledge and everyone has a wholesome good time.
B. Students sign pledge, ignore it, and impregnate each other at prom
C. Ticket sales for the event drop from the previous years total of 1,350 to 67
D. The cool kids hold an alternative prom where they get drunk and abuse IV drugs

While B and D are both highly plausible, the true story is C. Now I've seen the way kids dance and I find it appalling (and not just because I can't stand the music.) But I would never sign that piece of paper and if my son came home with it, I'd tell him not to sign it either. It's laughable. Anyone who's ever seen Dazed and Confused or Footloose or The Breakfast Club could tell you that.

Of course the real anomaly in the story is this Keith Yaple kid. He wrote a letter to the principal complaining about his fellow student's behavior? Has this kid never seen a teen movie? He will be mercilessly beaten and never, ever get laid. This is a fate he richly deserves - even if it's how the Karl Roves of the world are born.

- As I type this, it is approaching 11am, which means that it is almost 61 hours until Oberon is released. I'm thinking of going to Ashleys for the midnight release, which means the next time I type at you I will have been imbued and buoyed by the nectar of the gods. I don't care what the thermometer says, summer is here.

Posted 10:57am
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March 25th , 2010

This week in indie rock

There's lots of new music floating around in the ether, and I'm trying to fix a broken rss feed (sorry guys) so here's what's playing out there on the web:

- New Hold Steady! The first single from Heaven is Whenever is up on Pitchfork. "Hurricane J" is every thing a Hold Steady song should be, which you either get or you don't, so I won't bother trying to convince you.

- New Black Keys! The garage rock duo has a song of the upcoming Brothers streaming on Myspace (yes, it still exists).

- New MGMT! Their entire new album Congratulations is streaming on their website.

- Phoenix is letting you download a free live EP.

- The second entry in the AV Club's Undercover project? Fruit Bats doing Hall and Oates' "One on One". Simply fucking amazing.

- Finally, siblings are going to spar. It's a natural consequence of being put in such close to proximity to another human being. When you have to fight for affection and resources with that person, there's going to friction - from deep seeded disdain to physical lashing out (I once picked up my sister, carried her out into the street and then ran back inside and locked her out of the house - just because she wouldn't let me watch what I wanted on TV. True story.) But at the end of the day we'll violently defend each other, because family is family and just because I can call my siblings names, doesn't mean you can. That's why it should warm the cockles of your heart to see Jack defend his big sister Meg. It doesn't hurt that he's 100% right (and I say that as a possible reverse-contrarian hipster.)

Posted 10:11am
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March 24th , 2010

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

- Five fucking days until Oberon! You may remember back in October I won a golden ticket tour of Bell's brewery. That death spiraled into 4 months of back and forth and unreturned phone calls that nearly broke my will to live. Then like a phoenix from the ashes the trip is back on and we have a date and everything. My contact at Bell's has been super apologetic and nice since we've mended fences, and has offered to buy me my first pint of Oberon of the year Sunday night at midnight. I'm not exactly sure how life gets any better than this.

- I got upset with my sister yesterday for saying on facebook that Obama was full of himself for passing health care. Then I completely derailed after seeing the ignorant, ill-informed follow up comments. I had to take deep breaths and remember that we have to fight ignorance with facts and not name calling. OK so I slipped some name calling in there, but here are the facts: Support the day after sits at 49%. WaPo has a personal calculator to see how this affects you and The Times has a great write up on how this affects small businesses. Let us now move on to some substantive discussions.

- I agree with this article about the assault on smoking. I've struggled with nicotine addiction my entire adult life, but no matter where I'm at with it personally, I'm unwavering in my belief that you should always to be able to smoke in your own home, outside, and at concerts. Because no matter what your health teacher told you in elementary school, smoking is bad ass. Dirty, smelly and cancerous - but still bad ass.

- I was HUGE Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan in high school. The more esoteric humor is the better in my mind, so MST3K is like the holy grail of what I find funny. Therefore you can imagine my nerdgasm when I saw this was coming to the Michigan Theater. Cambot... Gypsy.... Tom Servo... Crooooow! Can't wait.

- Finally, I think I've mentioned before how I first knew I was smitten with the BDGF when she led me into a photobooth at a party late last August. It was a pretty cute and significant moment in our relationship, so for her birthday last weekend I finally took the photos from that occassion, enlarged them and had them framed. I share them with you now becuase, hell, we're good looking.

Posted 10:55am
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March 23rd , 2010

Sometimes, the blog is just for me.

It's not lost on me that people come to tbaggervance.com for disparate reasons. Some only come for drunken stories about my personal life. Others to argue with me about politics. Most of you skip the posts about indie rock, even though there's a select few of you who'd stop coming altogether if I didn't talk about it. But whether you're a voyeur looking for a laugh or a pop culture/political junkie, I'm guessing there's almost none of you who care about this:

The final chapter of Scott Pilgrim has a release date! Could you almost die? And how awesome epic is the teaser poster for the film?

Yeah, epic. Again, outside of C. Jason, I'm guessing you neither know of nor care for Scott Pilgrim's blend of Japanese manga, video game culture and 2 minute rock and roll. Outside of Siddhartha (who doesn't read the blog - no worries) I don't know anyone who's generally excited about it. But hot damn I am. If you have any proclivities towards graphic novels or funny cartoon comic books and are between the ages of 12 and 40, I highly recommend you give SP a try. Or not. Sometimes it's OK to be excited by yourself in your own little solipsistic bubble.

- I'm not a violent person. Outside of beating on my little brother growing up, I don't think I've ever thrown a punch, and my fighting experience involves trying to break up bar scuffles that usually ended up with me being escorted out by a bouncer for my efforts. And all of that was years and years and years ago. But man can you imagine the satisfaction of winding up and slapping Karl Rove as hard as you can across his fat fucking face? Hot damn does he have it coming.

- Here's some handy recycling answers to questions you may or may not have thought about.

Posted 11:27am
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March 22nd , 2010

Let's start at the very beginning. That's a very good place to start.

It was almost like I didn't have a horse in the race. At least not a personal stake. I spent a total of about eight months of my life without health care - when I got kicked off my parent's plan after college until I got hired in earnest by the group I had already been working for. That was 12 years ago. Since then I've had great, high quality health care for my kid and myself. The benefits at the U are probably the number one reason to stay, so just because insurance isn't something I've never had to worry about in my life, that doesn't mean I don't understand the importance of it.

Is health care a fundamental right? I'm still not 100% sure at this point, but I believe it's unconscionable to not try and provide it to as many people as possible in a country as advanced as ours. I was reading The Economist this morning and they said something to the effect of 'The U.S. had the most screwed up health care system in the industrialized world prior to last night. It probably still is, but at least it's less so now.' I'll agree with the Brits on that. This bill isn't perfect, but it's a great place to start.

I kind of felt the same way over the weekend. The BDGF and I hung out quite a bit this weekend with our collective children in tow. I've certainly introduced Sid to girlfriends before, but putting him together with the BDGF's girls, well this is new territory. It's a situation that's far from perfect or ideal, but we have to start somewhere. Luckily, all three of them are absolutely wonderful human beings. From hanging out at Chicken Jesus for the 7 year old's birthday to going to the DIA for the BDGF's birthday Sunday, the kids got along fabulously and genuinely seemed to have fun as a collective. Even when learning about Marxism via Diego Rivera:

Maybe it's a muddled concept or a forced analogy, but when something's not easy or potentially messy, that doesn't mean you bail and decide not to undertake it at all. And once you decide something is worth while, you've got to start somewhere. Right now I feel like the government and I have a great start on things. I'm going to make sure I hold up my end - you guys make sure and do the same.

Posted 10:55am
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March 19th , 2010

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

- Brackets! We may have talked about this in previous years, but have St. Pat's and March Madness always been on top of each other like this? Seems like I remember a time when I wasn't taking off St. Pat's and then turning around and taking off days to watch hoops at the bar, but I'm getting old and I think I remember a time when commercial radio was good, and that certainly can't be true. That's why now I listen to NPR and watch games streaming on my desktop at work. I totally called that ND upset yesterday too. That was some sweet Schaudenfreude.

- Health care! The vote should come this weekend, and I am probably naively optimistic. This post from 538.com the other day succinctly sums up the two sides of the debate, and the problems with the current bill notwithstanding, if you're in the latter camp you're kind of a douche. Krugman makes his final case today in the Times.

- iPhone! It's been in my life less than 72 hours and I have no idea how I ever lived without it. OK, this is only a slight exaggeration, but man is thing super terrific awesome happy fun time. I mean, yes, my previous phone had zero internet and no keyboard (and you had to press right click twice to get a space when texting) so I am operating under the hyperbolic circumstance of going from living in a cardboard box to a deluxe apartment in the sky, but I am officially in love. See how Amy and I feel about it:

Good times.

- Spring! It's been 60 and sunny here all week and to quote the BDGF "I'm not going back." It will be tough when it snows next week. But for now, break out the grills, bicycles and the bocce and enjoy it while you can. Last night I ran up and down the block stabilizing the BDGF's youngest as she learns to ride a two wheeler. Anyone who has taught a kid to ride knows the pain of squat running next to a tiny bike trying to keep it from careening to one side or the other. I don't know if I'm older and wiser, or if it's dealing with a girl (and not my kid), but teaching Sid to ride almost killed me, and last night was kind of fun. That's assuming my back/arms/legs hold out.

- Birthdays! Finally, its a big birthday weekend here at tbaggervance.com. The BDGF and her youngest are both celebrating this weekend, as well as babymama's b-day festivities for her special day next week. Happy Birthday to all the lovely ladies.

Posted 11:59am
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March 18th , 2010

Catholic School Girls Rule

Tuesday I was sitting at a table inside Grizzly Peak waiting for the BDGF to show up when the bartender comes in from outside and tells me "There's a girl outside sitting at a table who looks like she's about 30 and she's dressed up like a schoolgirl." I laughed. "Maybe St. Patrick's Day came early," I said. Five minutes passed and the bartender repeated his astonishment to one of the waitresses and that's when it hit me. I txted the BDGF "You outside?" Sure enough. I hand my drink to the bartender, "My friend's actually waiting outside for me." "The schoolgirl?" "Yup, that's her."

I'd like to think I'm not overly concerned with staying young but my actions probably tell a different story. Yesterday I expected to fight through crowds all day, throwing elbows to get within shouting distance of the bar and then frantically trying to get the bartender's attention in hopes of procuring a drink. This was exacerbated by the fact that the first stop of the day was going to be Conor Oneills to see the BDGF's eldest dance a jig (again). But the reality was we walked right in. The bar was wide open and the bartender was asking me what I'd like to drink before I decided what I wanted. I guess most people aren't at the bar at 11 am on a Wednesday, even on St. Patrick's Day.

But I was, still trying to live my life like I did 10 years ago. St. Pat's means bar hopping. Luckily I know enough people in some state of arrested development that my travels throughout the day meant meeting different groups of people and sharing a pint or two to celebrate our somewhat muddled Irish heritage. The throughline I guess was me. People coming in and out of responsibilities to meet me at the bar, where I spent my day.

I suppose the difference is that 10 years ago I would have drank until I couldn't see straight, and probably wouldn't have made it to five o'clock much less all night. Now things are a little mellower and the subject of Irish carbombs didn't even come up until almost 8pm. It felt more like my taking the day off was just a head start, allowing me to leisurely drink my way through St. Pat's instead of guzzling green beer like it won't be on special for a month after as they try to sell off their leftovers. Most probably wouldn't find much maturity in that, but I'd argue for it - at least on a relative basis.

Back to Tuesday. The reason for meeting the BDGF for lunch was that it was finally time for her to get officially divorced. We'd been joking for months that once she was no longer married, I'd lose interest, the spark would be gone and we'd have to break up. Perhaps we'd begun to believe that meme a little too much, because two hours after the judge made it legit, we we're in the ATT store putting her on my wireless account (and getting iPhones!) and making a tacit agreement to be tied together for the next two years. I don't know if there's any real maturity there either, but it feels like it. It's grown up and has some sort of weight of responsibility. I say that in the best possible way, because I love my BDGF and don't want her going anywhere. It's not everyday that you find a woman who people think is 10 years younger than she is and dresses like a schoolgirl. You hold on to that - it'll keep you young.

- Pictures from yesterday are up on facebook. Enjoy.

Posted 11:48am
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March 16th , 2010

Dereliction of duty

Holy shit I am so sorry guys. Things have been so busy 'round these parts that I've almost completely ignored one of our most sacred traditions. People, we are less than a fortnight (FORTNIGHT!) away from the release of Oberon (OBERON!). It really hit home over the weekend when I started to notice some of the lesser bars in the area had let their supply of Two Hearted run out and failed to stock back up, since Oberon is imminent. While this is a sad fact that left me drinking non-Bells beer on more than one occasion in the last 4 days, that sadness quickly dissipates when I think about the sweet, sweet nectar that will soon pass my lips. You guys, Oberon release is March 29th. Prepare thy palates.

- Good times - Texas removes Jefferson as an important revolutionary thinker. This should offend everyone who's ever had a high school level history class. It should offend you as an American. It should offend everyone except for fans of Chuck Norris - who defends removing Jefferson from educational standards - by citing Thomas Jefferson. I fucking hate you guys so much I can't even stand it.

- The FCC, who spent 8 years under W being overly concerned that someone might hear a naughty word or see a part of the body covered by a bathing suit, just announced its plan for national broadband. While I would never live in a place that didn't have boradband in 2010, this is positive news (and largely deficit neutral. Hooray!)

- The AV Club Undercover debuts today with a doozy - Ted Leo and the Pharmacists covering "Everybody Wants to Rule the World". Watch and swoon.

- Finally, tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day. Here's a handy primer of what's going on where in and around Ann Arbor. I of course have taken the day off, as I am a giant orange headed Irishman (and notorious boozehound). So come out and have a pint with me - we can put our arms around each other and sing "Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral".

Posted 10:41am
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March 15th , 2010

Things overheard over the weekend.

- Friday night the Downtowners taught a workshop at 826 Michigan where we helped a group of 6-8 year olds write a bedtime story. Everybody showed up in their pajamas and we talked about what makes a good bedtime story, then created a protagonist and collectively wrote a story. I always judge 826 workshop success by how many hugs I get from the kids near the end of the night. Friday I got two, both of whom gave me the requisite "You're really weird, but that's why I like you," refrain. But that was nothing compared to what Dr. Walker got. About 10 minutes into the evening's proceedings, a 6 year old, somewhat manic kid with a thick British accent looked right at the good Doctor and said "Can I go to sleep with you?" You've got to admire the kid's moxie.

- Saturday was "St. Practice Day". I haven't decided if this is kind of a cool excuse to drink during the day on a Saturday, or a superfluous piece of bullshit designed by beer company conglomerates to squeeze a few extra dollars out of the amateur drinkers. In any event, the BDGF's oldest is an accomplished Irish dancer, so we were forced (FORCED!) to spend both Saturday and Sunday at the bar. BDGF's youngest was still playing the game where she shoots me and I die, or "sleep" - as I get to reanimate when she says "Tyler wake up." At some point after being shot for the 75th time, the BDGF noted how much time I was spending with my head down on the table (playing dead) and said "People are going to think you have necrophelia! Wait, what's the one where you sleep a lot?" Yeah, not necrophelia sweetheart.

- Also Saturday, the youngest and I were kneeling down front watching the Irish dancing and she asked me "Tyler, how do you get thin?" I momentarily panicked about appropriate body image issues and whatnot, but then remembered she's 6 and just told her well, you know, don't eat too much and eat healthy foods and move around a lot and exercise. She seemed satisfied with that and said "Oh, well THAT girl certainly isn't doing that." I'll leave the response to that to her mother.

- Finally, I always try and assume that everyone around me has a a similar level of intelligence and awareness that I do*. In my mind it's sort of an attempt to reign in my condescension. If I'm explaining every reference I make, I feel it comes off douche-y. Now I may have mis-calibrated and I know it can sometimes come off as asshole-ish when I do have to explain myself and it ends up sounding like "You don't know about THAT?" Anyway, Sunday we stopped by Heathers and I was telling her about the documentary about Maynard Keenan's winery that was playing in Detroit on Friday. Heather was trying to look up show times and having trouble, so I told her:

"Just type in Merkin vineyards, that's the name of his winery."
"Huh?"
"Merkin, like the pubic wig."
"Like the what?"
"M-E-R-K-I-N, it's a wig for your pubic hair."

Apparently, not everyone has heard of a merkin. Go figure.

* almost anyway.

Posted 10:31am
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March 12th , 2010

Ways in which I am old, vol. 317

Last night the BDGF's almost 7 year old shot me. Over and over and over again. And each time I had to die. Dramatically. Over and over and over again. This usually involved me flailing and falling to her hard wood floors as violently as I could manage without causing major bodily harm. Which I thought I had managed to do. Then I woke up this morning. Christ on a bike I'm sore. There's a muscle a few inches below my right shoulder blade that I didn't even know existed that is screaming at me "You're 34 idiot!"

I'm at (or getting to) the point in my life where it's not that I can't get it done anymore, it's just that the consequences are greater. I hear people reference this line of thinking when it comes to drinking all the time. "I can't drink like I used to, I'm a wreck the next day." While that hasn't happened to me yet, the chickens have come home to roost in my pulled/strained/sore muscles. I mean this isn't a pity party. I beat on my body last night and I'm sore this morning in a way I probably wouldn't have been 10 years ago. This is not a major revelation despite what the muscles in my chest are telling me. Let's have the take home point be that I can do 40 prat falls and still get out of bed the next day. Tonight I'm teaching a workshop at 826 to a bunch of 6-8 year olds. Let's hope they don't want to see me fall over for 90 straight minutes.

- A mini-indie rock weekend update: Ted Leo is at the Crofoot tonight. I won't be there, so here he is on Fallon. Here's the AV club's awesome new feature I'm sure we'll be talking about for weeks to come. Pitchfork in 10's and 0's. And next Tuesday I'm apparently hosting a viewing party for the new White Stripes live DVD. You are casually invited.

- Finally, frequent blog commentator ljv sent me a link to this article this morning noting "Yep, let's ram it through." First off, let's stop referring to something that the majority wants as 'ramming' or 'jamming it down our throats' or whatever other oral sex metaphor that conservatives use to frighten the sexually repressed. Second, my response to ljv was that the article he sent me was filled with more lies than a conversation between me and my mother at 2am on a Friday in 1993. Thankfully, Dr. Krugman easily helps straighten things out for the haters. Pass the damn bill people.

Posted 11:05am
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March 10th , 2010

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

- I've been sort of personally evaluating where I'm at with Obama now that we've been living with each other for over a year. Things aren't perfect, but it'd be naive to expect to get everything I want. I feel like I'm on the cusp of being really happy, but I'm not quite there yet. This is pretty good evidence that if you voted for the man, there's reason for hope. And Sullivan lays out a best case scenario for the Dems going forward. Dems - don't lose your shit.

- Two videos popped up on the internet this week that hit me right in the core of my nerdiness. First, watch every Hitchcock cameo, then, watch a Star Wars flash mob. I hate to admit that had this been in A2, I would have thought about attending. Oh! And I assume you've already seen/loved this. Der Humpink is not a metaphor...

- I love Google. They're just really good at what they do. While people lament that they have to suffer a world in which Microsoft is all but mandatory, Google is becoming just as pervasive and I say hooray. I'm about to delve into the world of smartphones and I'll be honest, if I wasn't so invested in iTunes at this point, I'd be looking into something that runs Google's mobile OS. Because I rely on the Goog for mail and calendaring and RSS and contacts and on and on. I mean Apple is similarly beloved and the iPhone probably still has an edge due to Apple's nature of being a hardware company, but software wise, I'm a Google guy and probably will be going forward for some time. Anyway, here's a cool graphic that gives you Google by the numbers.

- I got a call from the BDGF the other day requesting help with a leaky faucet. To be fair, she merely noted that a faucet was leaking, hinted at calling a plumber and I said "How dare you?" I don't have any plumbing experience per say, but I love to fix stuff. I don't generally lament the fact that I live in an apartment (at least not in the way some of my friends yell at me "Dude, you need to buy a house.") other than the fact that I don't get to do home improvement projects. So when something needs fixed at the BDGF's, I get excited. Truth be told I'm way more in a hurry to get to work on the list of things she wants tweaked or upgraded than she is. As for the faucet, it got fixed pretty quickly, but I hear tell it's leaking again, so it might be time to purchase some new parts. More good times - I just wish she lived closer to Downtown.

- This weekend the Downtowners head to Cleveland for a getaway weekend. Mimosas will be drank, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will be visited, Cleveland will be rocked. I have no idea what other trouble we'll end up in, but I look forward to finding out.

Posted 11:05am
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March 9th , 2010

What's making Baby Jesus cry this week?

- Having just returned from Texas, I'm happy to say that I found it to be a liberal, accepting atmosphere. That being said, I strongly believe that the difference between Austin and the rest of the state dwarfs that of say, Ann Arbor and the U.P. Take, por ejemplo, this long and scary article from the Times about the frighteningly powerful Texas schoolboard. Of course Baby J has tears in his eyes because the main dickhead - the one who'd have you believe Jefferson wanted prayer in schools - just lost his seat. I'd say 'Comeuppance!' but that would require something along the lines of forcible sodomy.

- Speaking of Texas, here's some good ol' boys who only hate one thing more than people who celebrate Earth Day - and that's fags. What a friend we have in Baby Jesus indeed!

- To be honest, I'm not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, what's the harm? Sometimes we're overly sensitive. On the other though, if I had to stare at "All Men Are Created Equal, They Are Endowed By Their CREATOR," everyday, I'd likely do nothing but seethe with anger. It's those all caps that would poke at me non stop.

- If the most anti-intellectual, rapture-awaiting channel on TV is ABC Family for continuing to give airtime to Pat Robertson and the 700 Club, than the ying to its yang is - Comedy Central? Viva la Stewart!

- My friends the Jesuses moved to South Kadota a few years back, and despite the moniker, they're smart, science loving people (the good kind of friends o' Jesus). Which is why they were so upset about this. Remember guys, Ann Arbor will never use Astrology to explain global warming. Cross my heart, hope to die from increased levels of CO2.

- I remember something from my religious upbringing about Jesus loving the little children. Apparently not so much if the child has two mommies.

- Remember all the hullabaloo when Sarah Palin wrote notes on her hand? Yeah, I know, whoopty do. We shouldn't be surprised that someone with a two cent head needs to tie a string around her finger to remember what her core values are. However, did you also know that Jesus' dad did the same thing?!? Apparently the girls in my junior high (who wrote everything on their hands) were the most pious people I've ever met.

Posted 10:40am
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March 8th , 2010

I nub noo, I nub noo! No autographs, pease pease.

That was a weekend. One of these days I'll get to lay around on Saturday and Sunday without a care in the world. It will be rainy and I will feel zero guilt about being the laziest man on the planet. Unfortunately this is scheduled for sometime in late 2012. Until then, I'll be busy drinking and cavorting and generally having the time of my life.

- Over the years I've become quite adroit at avoiding the paparazzi. I know some people say you can't let them alter your life and you should just go about your business like they're not there. I, on the other hand, find that if you're smart about things, you can avoid the flashes and questions about your love life as you exit restaurants. Of course sometimes the press is unavoidable and in these situations I find it's best just to briefly pose and move on. This conveys respect for the photographer 'just doing his job' and usually allows both of you to move on and enjoy your evening. That's what happened at The Blowout, where the BDGF and I got snapped by the Freep (#44 of 67). Such is the life of being this young, good looking and fabulous.

- There was lots of good stuff on the television this weekend, and if you're like me and have a life, you probably missed it. Thankfully, someone thought to invent the internet so we all can catch up on what we missed! First, Vampire Weekend and Zack Galafinakis visited SNL. Then Jimmy Kimmel got kicked out of Club Handsome. Finally, Iron Man 2 gets another trailer. Good times.

- I was reading the Current this weekend and it casually noted that Ann Arbor to Detroit commuter rail was set to begin service by the end of the year. As a lover of the public transit, this is a super cool development. But why hadn't this already been on my radar? Luckily there was a website, but unfortunately it's so convoluted that it left me feeling like I knew less for having visited it. Redemption was found here, which kind of confirms and lays out where we're at. I can't wait for the day when I can take the train to a Tigers game.

- Finally, I spent Sunday watching 200 girls (and 6 dudes) do this for about three hours. As a parent I've sat through numerous sporting events, concerts and all day science competitions, but none of that quite prepared me for three hours of Irish dance. As any mom or dad will tell you, it's great to watch your kid perform, but that usually comes with the price of watching a bunch of other kids do the same thing who of course are no where near as interesting or talented as yours. It was almost two hours of one Irish dance bleeding into the next before the BDGF's eldest even got on stage. Of course when she did she was graceful, elegant and beautiful, but I don't know if I'll be recovered in time to hear more Irish folk music on St. Patrick's Day.

Posted 11:05am
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March 5th , 2010

Your indie rock weekend

For reasons passing understanding, I've completely missed the last three Hamtramck Blowouts. Some years I had to stay home with the kid. Others I was poor. And sometimes it was just hard to find a willing partner (This guy knows what I'm talking about.) Anyway, it's just about the saddest factoid in my otherwise brilliant existence. Thankfully, all of that changed as of yesterday. Last night love lifted the Blowout and I up where we belong. I was back baby! Smalls! Paychecks! Dudes who couldn't play their instruments! Guys with beards! All the old Blowout staples were there including some new trends (The good one: guys playing an entire song with a lit cigarette in their mouth (cool). The bad one: instrumentals (lame)). Seriously, if you have any love in your heart for live music, this is a spectacle not to be missed. My favorite new band from the evening: Macramé Tiger. Go see them live, but cover your drink during the confetti cannon (trust me.)

- The indie rock gods are smiling down upon me, as it appears that every band I love is putting out new albums in 2010. Spoon and VW already rocked my face, and The Hold Steady, New Pornographers and Nada Surf we've already talked about. The latest: The National. I can't WAIT for summer.

- I know I just saw them, but Maritime is playing in Grand Rapids on May 22 - further proof that God loves me and wants me to be happy.

- Speaking of tours, The Flaming Lips are going to trot around Dark Side of the Moon this summer.

- How much of a douche has Billy Corgan become?* Try this quote on for size: "Do I belong in the conversation about the best artists in the world? My answer is yes, I do," We all still love Gish Billy, we really do, but get over yourself. I think dating Jessica Simpson may become an official celebrity cry for help.

* entirely possible he was always this much of a douche and it's just as of late people are willing to give him column inches so that we can laugh at him, who's to say?

Posted 10:34am
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March 4th , 2010

SWEEP!

I've already written about 5,000 words this week, so I'm a little spent. Here's some quick hits from around the internet that will technically, in the loosest sense of the word, count as a post:

- Some candid, scarcely seen Star Wars photos.

- The Daily Shows best comic book moments. Damn Jon Stewart was young.

- By now you've probably seen OK Go's Rube Goldberg video. But if not, it lives up to the hype.

- If you were at the Brendan Benson show with me last Thursday, here's a nice trip down memory lane.

- I've never been to Russia. It sounds cold. Unlike a planet conceived by George Lucas, there surely must be more than one climate in a place so large, but if there is, it doesn't get much publicity. As such I've never had much desire to go, vodka fetish notwithstanding. However, during a bout of drinking Saturday night, John, Stov, Al and I concluded that with a few practice sessions, we could surely rise to the top of the sport of curling and displace whatever yokels are in line to head to the 2014 games in the former Soviet Union. I mean, we're already really good at bar shuffleboard, how much different can it be? Look for stories four years from now about four local boys make good, and it all started here.

Posted 10:34am
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March 3rd , 2010

How can I help?

- Perhaps you've heard that Google plans to wire some medium size U.S. city with gigabit fibre optic ethernet. Perhaps there's two or three words in that previous sentence you don't understand. In short, Google is going to bring superfast internet to some lucky bastards. Ann Arbor is throwing its hat into the ring. The U is on board, Comcast is not. Obviously YOU - Ann Arborite - are in favor of this. Who wouldn't want the internet at 10x the current speed? Who wouldn't want ANYONE other than Comcast as their ISP? Good news! You can help. Google wants to give this to people who are excited about it, so go to www.a2fiber.com and join the facebook group and write a letter to Google. Or do nothing and stick with overpriced shitty Comcast internet, up to you.

- A few years back The University of Mississippi finally ditched their pseudo-racist mascot, bringing them into the 20th century only a 100 years or so after everyone else. Well they're finally getting around to replacing him and guess who's the leader in the clubhouse? That's right, Admiral Ackbar. Join up on facebook, go to www.notatrap.org. Or do nothing and continue to hate on Ole' Miss just because Eli went there (which we'll admit is somewhat valid, but not nearly as cool as having a Mon Calamari as your mascot).

- Despite what comes out of Republican lawmakers mouths and despite the actions of almost EVERYONE in Congress, deregulation has screwed us all harder than a navy officer on shore leave after six months at sea. Of course thanks to the deep pockets of the financial industry and the spinelessness of our politicians, trying to get anything in place to protect the American people, much less something with actual teeth, is going to be next to impossible. What can you do? First watch this video and remember how good Dana Carvey is at doing Bush 41. Then follow the instructions at the end and contact your Congressmen. Or do nothing and watch your credit card rate spike to 35% the next time you post a payment a day late.

- There was good news in marriage equality this week, as the Supreme Court denied a request to put a moratorium on same-sex marriage in the District. And to be fair, it was Chief Justice Roberts who denied the request without even convening the full court, proving he may not be Cheney-level evil (although we're still operating under the assumption that this is part of a larger plot to pull the rug out from under us at some later date.) Anyway, there's not a whole lot for you to do here other than stay informed, but you can get all of the implications etc here.

Posted 10:34am
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March 2nd, 2010

Southern accents.

Editors note: all links to bars/restaurants go to my Yelp reviews, of which you can see a full list here. As for larger versions of the pictures, they live on facebook.

Living in Ann Arbor is an experience that tends to fold in on itself. People move here because of certain proclivities. They're generally liberal, intellectual types who enjoy the arts and good food. You take an individual with such peccadilloes and surround them with 100,000 other like minded souls, and liberalism and intellectualism beget liberalism and intellectualism. It's like a snake eating its own tale. After a while, you can forget that you live in an isolated bubble and that the rest of the world isn't largely populated with Atheists and the overly educated and people who eat dinner after 7.

I'll readily admit that I forget from time to time, but when I start to plan to leave our little utopian hamlet I become acutely aware that the rest of the world is not Ann Arbor. However, there are a handful of places smattered throughout this great land of ours that while I've never been, I just know in my heart of hearts that they are my kind of place. Portland, Athens, Seattle - I intend to get to all of these places eventually, but before I step foot on their streets I'm already in love. Their lore is already seared in my brain and while my expectations are high, I couldn't fathom being disappointed.

At the top of this list of cities is Austin, TX. While the rest of the state scares the ever living shit out of me, Austin is my kind of town. I've known it for some time and long before the BDGF said "You know where I haven't been back to in 15 years..." South by Southwest, Austin City Limits, Stubbs BBQ - hell it's the Live Music Capitol of the World. If that doesn't scream "tbaggervance, come on down!" I don't know what does.

So yeah, foregone conclusion couldn't be more apt. And let me tell you dear readers, there's no better feeling in the world than having colossally preposterous expectations and then have them exceeded. That was my exact experience in Austin. Here's how it went:

Sunday:
Drinks on a Plane, walkabout, and popcorn for dinner
steps taken/miles walked: 25,080/13.2 mi

To tell you about Sunday, we first have to back up to the day before. Saturday the BDGF and I made trip number one to DTW to drop her girls off. They were headed to Oregon to see their father, which was what made this trip possible in the first place. We made it through security with relative ease and got her girls safely loaded on their flight and then had to wait for them to be airborne before we could leave. While we calmed the BDGF's nerves in the airport bar, we had an unpleasant revelation. We had unwittingly booked our flight for 9am on Sunday, 3 hours before the state of Michigan allows the sale of alcohol. Ouch.

As one would imagine, I like to have a couple of cocktails before flying. While I have no fear of crashing to a fiery death, I find the entire experience of air travel to be quite unpleasant. And nothing mitigates such circumstances more than alcohol. Alas I was going to be forced to get on a plane stone cold sober for the first time in, well, ever. So we crossed our fingers that once we were in the air that international law would go into effect and we'd get drink service the minute the plane leveled out. Karma worked in our favor and we were soon satiated.

Upon arrival the sky was blue and stretched farther and wider than imaginable. After stepping outside to 70 degree temps, I felt a lot like Matthew Wilder. We got to the hotel before being able to check in, so the front desk watched our bags and directed us two blocks south for what turned out to be pretty crappy Tex/Mex. But hey, first Shiner Bock in Texas and we weren't wearing coats! It would've taken baseball bats to get the smiles off of our faces.

We finally got to check in and our hotel was stinkin' adorable. Concrete floors, heated patio and less than a mile from the heart of downtown made it ideally suited for us. The BDGF didn't even have to bring her own sheets! (although in hindsight, this was probably done solely so I would think her less crazy, and I wholly expect to be resheeting hotel beds in the future.)

Once checked in it was time to explore. We basically meandered around downtown, checking out the lay of the land. Eventually my dear friend and Austiner Kelley got in touch and it was time for happy hour. We had tickets to see a Beatles cover band play with a full orchestra later that evening, but that still left plenty of time for drinks with Kelley. It was the BDGF's goal to drink only beers made in Texas while we were down South, and there was no better place to start our week than The Ginger Man. They had at least 40 beers on tap and a whole section of the menu dedicated to Texas brews. We sampled many, and fell in love with the 512 IPA.

We were having so much fun that we inadvertently forgot to eat dinner. Before we knew it showtime was upon us and we were off to the Paramount. Crunched for time, we decided that theater popcorn would have to satiate us. This may or may not have contributed to us both dancing in our seats and singing along to every song as loud as we could. It definitely had an impact on the BDGF asking me on the way home "Will you still love me if I can't walk in a straight line?"

Monday
Bevo, Class of '87, and trivia at the Irish Pub

steps taken/miles walked: 14,222/8 mi

Monday came and we had no agenda. We decided to hop on a bus and ride up to the University of Texas campus - maybe have some lunch, a drink and check out a museum or two. So we hoped on the 1L with all of the other schizophrenics and made our way to Bevo country. Unfortunately, all UT museums are closed on Mondays (a fact we probably could have looked up prior to getting on the bus but didn't.) So we meandered around campus and ended up at Rubys for our first BBQ of the trip. All I can say is holy shit. While I generally scoff at such notions, you haven't had brisket until you've had it in Texas.

We slowly made our way back south, stopping at pretty meh record store and a totally awesome English Pub along the way. The Dog and Duck was my first encounter with what I found to be a transcendent Austin experience: the Austin juke box. Unlike most bars here in Michigan that have gone the way of the internet jukebox, allowing you access to every song imaginable, Austin is old school cool. Just a few well chosen discs that give the place ambiance and an atmosphere all its own. I don't want to give people access to Bon Jovi when I'm in an English Pub - they should make me choose between Elvis Costello and the Clash and if I don't like it I can bugger off. Oh yeah, and the BDGF 'beat' me in darts. Without going into it, I call shenanigans.

The BDGF had been in touch with an old high school friend, so it was three for Tex/Mex at Vulvas. I don't know what the female vagina has to do with salsa, but there we were nonetheless. I got to hear all about who Tommy married and what Beth was up to. But on the other side of dinner was trivia, so I bided my time. It turns out that the local Irish pub has trivia on Monday nights just like Connors in A2. Given the symmetry, we were obliged to attend. Unfortunately we showed up a little late, but grabbed a sheet to play along anyway. Before you know it we had been amalgamated into a team playing right next to us, serving up answers like we were there every week. At the end of the night we ended up tied for second with another team - a tie to be broken by chugging a beer. I was immediately tapped to stand up and defend our team's honor, but somehow a dark horse stepped up in my stead and, wouldn't you know it, totally bitched out. He bought us a beer in apology, but for the record, I would have owned that other dude.

Tuesday
Snow day!, Pub Crawl, and Topaz
steps taken/miles walked: 9,040/4.9 MI

Against all odds, after two days of temps in the 60's and 70's, Tuesday's forecast was for snow. Like good Michiganders, we stocked up on booze should the pending storm confine us to our room for any period of time. And while 'snow' is putting it politely and even though the temp never got below 31, we decided to play it safe and stay inside most of the day. I frightened the BDGF with my passion for The Price is Right and we rented movies from the front desk. Decorum prohibits further details.

Eventually hunger (and the fact that Michigan was playing basketball on TV) got the best of us and we decided to rejoin society. In searching for a bar in an old house in a residential neighborhood, we came across Iron Works BBQ. We decided to fill our bellies and get out of the cold here, but it turns out we should have kept walking. Compared to all of the other BBQ we had during our stay, this was seriously weak. But hey, we had drinking to do. When we couldn't find the bar in the converted house, we stopped in here to again, warm up and get a drink. They just happened to have the wine made by Tool front man Maynard James Keenan, so we bought a bottle to save for a special occasion. They also happened to have directions to the bar we couldn't find, so after a drink we headed off.

After watching Michigan get its ass handed to them (again) Kelley was finally ready to join us. Turns out the snow and the fact that it was Tuesday kept most people away from the nightlife, but we still enjoyed ourselves at Mugshots (where we were the only customers) and Side Bar (where people were watching Lost. Seriously?)

But the big event of the night was waiting back by our hotel. One Austin's many famous music clubs, The Continental Club, was literally a stone's throw from our room. We felt obligated to check it out and besides, we wanted an authentic Austin music experience. It just so happened that my friend Heather's favorite musician Topaz was playing there that very night. We were pretty silly drunk by the time we showed up, but there was assuredly dancing and I think Topaz remembered Heather. That or he was being polite to our drunk asses.

Wednesday
Museum day, Stubbs, and 'In and Out of Love'
steps taken/miles walked: 27,146/15.1 MI

Wednesday we decided to return to the UT campus to mill around all of the museums we were denied access to on Monday. But first things first: lunch. Kelley had casually mentioned Torchy's Tacos the previous night, and I almost dismissed her as batty. We had passed it on our previous trip, and its strip mall location and cartoon logo made the snob in me chuckle at who would eat at such a place. It was across the street from Taco Bell! If that's their competition, than I'm sure there's plenty of authentic tex/mex out there I'd rather try. Thankfully I trusted Kel, because hands down, they were the best tacos I've ever had. No foolin', like boner-inducing good. I long for them even as I type this...

After our mutual tacogasm, it was off to the museums. First was the natural history one, where we saw dinosaurs and flying squirrels.

This was the BDGF indulging me again, and I thank her for it. We also learned that not all of Texas is bible thumpin' cretins like their former governor, as the whole third floor was about evolution. Apologies to the museum if I just inadvertently outed you and someone comes to shut you down tomorrow.

Next was LBJ's presidential library, followed by a movie exhibit at the Ransom Center and some art at the Blanton. The latter two didn't allow photography, but we saw cool stuff like Travis Bickel's coat and lots of pre-Renaissance representations of Jesus. Here's some photos of us traveling through history and in a 7/8ths scale of the Oval Office.

We had some drinks at the hotel before going to dinner at the legendary Stubbs BBQ. As we walked up to its front door we heard a thumping bass and roaring crowd coming from the general area of the restaurant, but couldn't figure out from exactly where even after we sat down to eat. Then the BDGF took 20 minutes to go to the bathroom and when she returned, explained why. She led me downstairs to where Stubb's giant outdoor amphitheater (and the ladies restrooms) were. I really wanted to see a show here, but judging from the music and crowd playing that night, I think it was best saved for a return trip.

After dinner it was time for our marquee show of the week - Michigan's own Brendan Benson. The BDGF is in love with Jack White, so this was a great proxy. The club was your typical sparsely decorated warehouse in a sketchy neighborhood, which suited me just fine. It also was Brendan's last show of the tour, so the band was super tight and screwed around during the encore with some Tom Petty and Superdrag covers. Faces, rocked.

Thursday
Southern Comfort, sunshine, and America's Senior Black Corespondent

steps taken/miles walked: 16, 136/9.5 MI

Thursday was souvenir day, but not before the BDGF satisfied her craving for a childhood favorite - chicken fried steak. She'd been going on and on about it and was resolute that we quelch this desire toot suite. Luckily a famous southern comfort food restaurant was 3 blocks from our hotel. But it turns out that sometimes childhood experiences are best left dormant lest they be tarnished. The BDGF took about two bites before she wondered aloud "What was I thinking?" At least the Dr. Pepper hadn't changed. Afterwards we lounged in the sun for a bit to soak it up as we were approaching our last 24 hours in the South. We forgot our suits, but the water would have been well warm enough. Good ol' Texas...

After picking up some cowgirl boots and hat for Chloe and some T-shirts for me and Sid, we were on the prowl for some 512 IPA to bring back as thanks to those that took care of our Ann Arbor responsibilities while we were away. Our concierge assured us that the flagship Whole Foods downtown would carry it - he used to work there! So after a 2.5 mile hike, we found the biggest WF you ever saw. Guess what they didn't have? The guy stocking the beer shelves notified us that 512 doesn't bottle their beer - at all. So we left with some alternates and caught a cab to meet Kelley before our show at the comedy club. (Next time I travel with a growler.)

We headed north to Trudy's - home of the stuffed avocado (which apparently is to die for) and Mexican martinis - drinks so strong there is a two per customer limit. After gorging it was off to see The Daily Show's Larry Wilmore. We walked in to the sparsely populated club and there he was! The BDGF got a quick pic and we gushed over how much we enjoyed him and where had seen him before (BDGF at the actual TDS and me on his book tour at U of M). We watched the show, Larry killed, and then afterwards, there he was again, so Kelley got a pic. (Yes, his jacket is from the Super Bowl 8 years ago.)

Friday
The shuttle, the snow, and the capper

steps taken/miles walked: 7907/ 4.1 MI

Friday we had little time to take anything in. We woke up and had some mimosas as eye openers and packed up our things. The BDGF's high school friend benevolently offered to take us to the airport, saving us some hassle and making me really glad I paid for her dinner the previous night.

It's important to note here that we'd been hearing about a BBQ place called The Salt Lick all week. The catch was that the only one in Austin was inside the airport past security. The idea of airport food made us skeptical, but we had time to kill and empty gullets. As we were ordering lunch, I suggested we grab some sauce to take back with us; the BDGF said let's see if we like it first. The minute we finished eating, she went and bought four bottles. 'nuff said.

When we arrived back in Michigan we finally saw all of the snow we had been hearing so much about. After digging out the car we were off to dinner at the Motor City Casino. The BDGF's good friend is a high roller there, so we had a comped five star meal and the BDGF got an hour long massage to release all of the tension that returning to the cold and snow obviously gave her. We finally got back to A2 around midnight and promptly collapsed.

And that was that. The BDGF got to return home after too long of an absence and I got to finally live out some of my long held Austin dreams. Thanks Kelley, Tamitha, the collective bartenders of Austin and Jason and Al back home for looking after things while we enjoyed the food, the booze and the music.

People keep asking me what my favorite part was. I could easily say that it was just being around all of the clubs I'd spent years hearing about and imagining. But intrinsically, it was just getting to go away with my BDGF and come back more enamored with her than when I left. I always knew I'd love Austin, but getting to experience it with her was off the charts. I can't wait to do it again, be it Austin, Seattle or anywhere in between.

Posted 10:21am
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March 1st , 2010

Since you been gone...

Christ on a bike what a week! Well that was certainly one of the greatest vacations ever. Not that there was any doubt in my mind, but the BDGF is the best kind of travel companion - spontaneous, a fantastic good time, and willing to occasionally indulge me. Add in my friend Kelley's travel guide recommendations and her excellent proclivity for accompanying us to happy hour, and a better vacation has never been had. The full report will be up in a day or two, but for now you can see the facebook photo album and read my Yelp reviews. But it turns out that while I was enjoying the sun and all of Austin's amenities, the world kept turning around. Here's some things that occurred in our absence:

- The Hold Steady announced a new album! And it's coming in May! You should prep for the release by coming with us April 13th to see them in Cleveland. Not your thing? How about this new Nada Surf song and tour, or the announcement of new New Pornographers? That's what I thought.

- I was recently interviewed by my old newspaper, The Michigan Daily, in anticipation of 826 Michigan's upcoming Mustache-A-Thon. (Don't worry, I'm neither growing nor asking you for money this year.) However, it's a great cause, great article, and if you are so inclined, you should donate once the ball gets rolling.

- Due to poor scheduling, upon return from Austin I attended the Michigan Brewer's Guild Winter Beerfest. Obviously I wouldn't miss this for the world, but to be honest, I would've liked to spend Saturday recovering with the BDGF. As it were, I was forced to stand outside for six hours drinking the finest craft brews our great state has to offer. As per usual, we pregamed by drinking bad beer in the parking lot then heading in for more IPAs, stouts, and hefes you can shake a stick at. Despite the fact that my shoes had holes in them and my feet were wet all day, I enjoyed myself in the usual fashion. Afterwards (allowing for dinner and a generous nap) we hit downtown Grand Rapids and went to a bar where I enjoyed some traditional spirits and lots and lots of David Bowie. End the night with several "Barkley Boxes" from Taco Bell, and you've got yourself another year of Beerfest. Good times.

Posted 10:17am
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February 19th , 2010

The stars at night, are big and bright...

It's been a while since I've had a proper vacation. OK, that's not exactly fair. I've been to Arizona quite a bit the last couple of years. And while the initial drive out there was amazing and I always had fun in the desert, returning to the same place year after year doesn't exactly satiate one's wanderlust.

So when it became clear that the BDGF had a week off with no kids, the only question was where should we go. After bandying about several places that have warmer climates than southeast Michigan, we came to a quick consensus. The BDGF went to school in College Station and despite her drawl after two drinks, hasn't been back in fifteen years. I've been dying to go to Austin ever since I saw my first episode of Austin City Limits in 1989. Sun, music and mexican food? Sign us up.

So we'll be spending next week being outside as much as possible and drinking a lot of Shiner Bock. We also have tickets to see a Beatles tribute band play with a full orchestra, Brendan Benson and Larry Wilmore (BDGF's dad really wants us to check out the basement of the Alamo too, but we may struggle to fit that in). I've spent years hearing about places like Stubbs and Emos, so finally getting around to visiting them is a big deal for a music nerd like me. Super friend of the blog Kelley S. has promised to show us around a bit - or at least come drinking with us - so we're in good hands.

Needless to say the blog will be mostly dormant next week. I suggest we use this time apart to work on ourselves and really contemplate what it is we want. That and me avoiding getting my picture taken wearing a cowboy hat.

Posted 11:36am
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February 18th , 2010

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

- It's tax time! I finally got around to doing my taxes yesterday and guess who paid the federal government only $4 more than he needed to last year? This guy! True, it's always nice if you can pull a big return from the IRS, but that windfall comes with the knowledge that you basically gave the government an interest free loan over the course of the previous year. So yeah, nailed it within 4 bucks. Nice.

- Despite what your Bible may have told you about small but mighty kids with slingshots taking on giants, experience tells most of us, to quote Sean Connery, "You don't bring a knife to a gun fight." Enter Glenn Beck, the cry baby with a two cent head. First there's the errant folly of him making fun of Bill Nye on matters of science. But hey, Bill Nye isn't going to fire back at Beck. Who will? Enter Rachel Maddow. It was hubris to go after Nye, but sheer stupidity to call out Maddow. I mean, no, his viewers will never know about any of this, as they are unthinking drones, but still, somewhere his credibility is drooping.

- I love teachers. I don't think you can overstate their importance nor would I ever begrudge their compensation. But I hate teachers unions. They protect the worst of their lot and generally behave in ways that isn't in the best interest of students. The teachers at my high school went on strike my senior year and they generally behaved like spoiled assholes, so maybe I'm overly sensitive on this issue. In my mind, much like firefighters and policemen you are public servants, and striking isn't an option. That's why this superintendent is the latest King Shit of Fuck Mountain©. Nothing like calling a collective bluff.

- Clearing out the indie rock folder before I head to Austin: New Ted Leo, Cap'n Jazz reunited and it feels so good*, and the Vatican (THE VATICAN!) releases their list of best rock albums and I don't hate it. Go figure.

- For the last few weeks the BDGF's eldest daughter has been anxiously awaiting to find out if she got into Ann Arbor's premier public hippy high school, Community. It's one of those places that gives you unicorns jumping over rainbows when you do well and sad pandas when you do poorly instead of grades. Attendance is more 'encouraged' than 'required' and you can walk downtown for lunch for two hours as long as you express yourself while you do it. It's exactly the kind of non-structured environment that would have led to me spending most of the day in high school standing outside smoking cigarettes and reading the newspaper**. But I'm sure it will serve her much better, as she finally heard yesterday that she was one of the lucky applicants to get her number drawn! Congrats to her and her mother, couldn't be happier for you two.

* Lieberstein, we should so go to this.
** This is basically what I was doing anyway by senior year.

Posted 10:30am
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February 17th , 2010

Atheist Bible Stories

Hopefully by now you've seen the Drunk History series on Funny or Die. It may be my favorite thing on the internet and certainly is worth your time. It was Downtowner Jason who first turned me on to the series, and after I watched them for the first time, we lamented how few there were and that given that were made several years ago, we'd probably seen the last of this brilliant premise.

Which of course meant that we immediately pondered the idea of making our own. We know a few entertaining drunks that love to pontificate, so it'd be easy enough. But alas we never really gathered the necessary momentum to make it happen. But then I got an even better idea. A couple Sundays ago I was enjoying a lazy afternoon with my BDGF who was, point of fact, raised in an atheistic household. But of course being intelligent and well read, she's now without knowledge of biblical events. It turns out though, if you haven't had these stories drilled into your head as a child, sometimes the facts run together. Like did you know that Cain and Abel were Noah's sons? Or that Mary Magedelene was at the Last Supper?* If you didn't, you should talk to the BDGF.

She knows the basic facts, but they're fused together with pop culture misnomers and stories tend to get amalgamated together. If you have a working knowledge of these stories and find them silly already, you should really hear the BDGF tell them. But after considering putting these on tape, I decided that it might be too niche a market. The pious might think we're just poking fun of them. The apious might not have enough background to find the inaccuracies hilarious. So again, this probably won't go anywhere other than to endlessly entertain me, which is still pretty awesome.

But wait! Redemption lives! Funny or Die has a new tv show premiering on HBO this Friday at midnight. Guess what one of the segments is?!? Drunk History is back bitches! I can now go back to being lazy about creative endeavors and just basking in the glory of other's efforts. Hooray!

*She swears to have no knowledge of The Da Vinci Code and I for one, believe her.

Posted 10:30am
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February 16th , 2010

Drift apart in the night never know why and not know how

Every parent struggles from time to time with the choices their children make. And not even the "Please don't get in a car with someone who's been drinking" kind of choices either. We all occasionally want our kids to be little clones of ourselves. Yes, we all outwardly say and hopefully promote them figuring out who they are on their own (with our subtle guidance), but sometimes even not so secretly we want them to love the things we love. I wanted Sid to be a baseball player and instead he loves tennis. I'd rather he spent time drawing or creating instead on logging 5 hours a day playing online video games. Sure what I got is all kinds of awesome, it's just sometimes I wish he'd go to more Michigan football games with me.

But all of that is moot. None of it matters in the least because what I wanted more than anything is for Siddhartha to feel at least some of what I feel when it comes to music. It's well documented that I did whatever it took to foster a love of the RIGHT kind of music in my son, and now it appears that somewhere in the process a little of the performance bug wore off on him. Last night this happened:

Of course I couldn't be prouder. When it comes to apples and trees, this is the one that mattered more than anything to me, and apparently when he fell off the branch he rolled right back next to the trunk. Congratulations Sid - here's to a long career of this kind of fun and foolishness. I have no problem being upstaged by you each and every time.

- This also happened:

It's probably best there's no video of Jason and I's 14 minute rendition of Weezer's Pinkerton. It was meant to be a drunk and sloppy sing-a-long, and that's exactly what it was. Those are the kind of things that are best lived in the moment, and video would make it seem even less than what it was. I think the people in attendance had fun though, even if they were still talking about Sid.

Posted 1:00pm
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February 15th , 2010

Ordained

I've been a groomsman more times than I can count. Twice I've been asked to be a best man. It's always an extreme honor. To me it's someone saying to you "This is one of the most important days of my life and I want you standing next to me." So I take it seriously. I don't force strippers on the groom at bachelor parties. I don't tell overly embarrassing stories during toasts. It's my job to help give them whatever they've built up in their mind for the day to be. I figure it's the least I can do when someone provides me with a four hour open bar.

As you may remember, recently two of my bestest friends and favorite people decided to get hitched. We're still all reeling from the excitement. But now that the adrenaline of the proposal is beginning to ramp down a bit, it's time for Ann Arbor's favorite newly engaged couple to get about the business of planning an actual wedding. While Jason and Amy are planning a small family-and-bridal-party-only wedding, the date is in August so things have to get moving. Thus begs the question, will I once again get the nod to stand up and be a witness to their wedded bliss? While I love Jason and Amy, truth be told I haven't known them that long. It's only in the last year that we've become close friends. So in my mind, I would be honored to be asked, but understood if I wasn't. Since I am dating Jason's sister, I was already in for the wedding via the + 1.

Last Thursday Dr. Walker stopped by my office to chat and informed me that Downtowner Amy had asked her to be a bridesmaid. Well of course! Now I've gone from kind of sort of wondering to kind of sort of expecting. It would be a little slap in the face to be the only Downtowner not standing up there. On Thursday nights Jason and Amy and I all head over to the BDGF's house, so I was expecting something; just not what actually happened.

Previous to Jason and Amy popping the question to me, Jason had to reassure with my BDGF that a.) we'll still be together come August and b.) if we're not, we can be adults and hold it together and not ruin their wedding. She gave him a thumbs up on both, so the stage was set. Turns out that I won't once again be donning the responsibilities of groomsmen. I've instead been asked to be the officiant at their ceremony. Without going into the irony of my getting somehow ordained to make this official, I couldn't be more honored. It's obviously a completely new experience for me. I know how to me a groomsmen and even best man, but master of ceremonies? How do I navigate this one? Will I sing a song? Tell jokes? Give praise and glory to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?

Truth is I have no idea what to do. I'm trusting that they picked me for a reason and that they have an idea of what they want and will provide me with some direction. I mean, they know what they've gotten themselves into. Ironically, my biggest fear at the moment is falling back on religious dogma that I've endured all these years. Hopefully I can make it special and give them exactly what they want. That and stay sober long enough to make it through the vows. It's the least I can do.

Posted 1:45pm
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February 12th , 2010

Cuomo is for Closers

Perhaps this is premature, as it was an idea born in several bottles of wine and hubris. Honestly I have no idea if and how we can pull it off, but it's consuming my brain right now and it would be the coup de grace of my musical career were it to come to fruition, so it has to be attempted and thus talked about.

Last night I was hanging out with Downtowners Amy and Jason and somehow we started singing Weezer's "El Scorcho". After the joyous rendition, Downtowner Amy said "You guys should have played THAT for the Love Hangover." We agreed. Then we proceeded to sing several other songs (read: all of them) from Weezer's sublime and seminal album Pinkerton and we noted "We should have just played the whole damn thing!"

Well despite Jason and I's half ass guitar playing skills and DESPITE the fact that it is a mere 3 days away, you can guess what we decided. Jason and I will be closing The Love Hangover by playing Weezer's Pinkerton, in medley, sing-a-long fashion. This is of course contingent on us figuring out how to do that in 72 hours (half of which I will be in Chicago for), but really, once the idea was proffered, we had little choice but to make an attempt. 'Cause I can't even look in your eyes, without shakin', and I ain't fakin' - I'll bring home the turkey if you bring home the bacon.

Posted 10:29am
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February 11th , 2010

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

- Two days from now I'll be headed to Chicago to see one of my favorite musicians of all time - Davey von Bohlen and his band Maritime. That's Davey and I back in 2006 when we became BFFs. We haven't had a chance to see each other or talk or email since then, so I'm sure he is as excited to see me as I am to see him.

- Four days from now it's the premier performance of Tyler Brubaker and The Too Big to Fails at The Love Hangover (a benefit for 826 Michigan and HuRAI). Our drummer fell through, but we still should be able to provide some solid face rocking. Plus you don't want to miss my 14 year old's debut as a rock star. I couldn't be prouder, as it wasn't until I was 16 that I started drinking in bars.

- Ten days from now I will be on a plane headed for Austin, Texas. I'm excited for the music, the food, and an opportunity to make the town move up this list a spot or two by my mere presence.

- Forty Seven days from now: Oberon returns. 'nuff said.

- One hundred thirteen days from now my little brother is getting married. This seems like a long way away, but that's only because I'm not the one getting married. I'm excited for a lot reasons, mostly because I'm happy for Taggart. But it also doesn't exactly suck that he decided to get married in Hilton Head, South Carolina. There's nothing quite like a mandatory vacation, even if it means I have to dance in hog trough.

Posted 1:01pm
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February 10th , 2010

This Week in Indie Rock

- We here at tbaggervance.com are still dealing with the sad fact that Franz Nicolay has left The Hold Steady. But we are buoyed by the fact Craig and the remaining Steadiers have announced a spring tour. Cleveland anyone?

- Speaking of announcements, Bonaroo has announced their lineup for 2010. With so many bands, there's bound to be tons o' goodness, but any lineup that starts with "Dave Matthews Band" is a snoozefest. As an aside, last night on College Jeopardy, they asked a question that basically amounted to "What band had an album called Under the Table and Dreaming?" and NO ONE knew the answer. I felt old but strangely optimistic about the future of our country.

- And yes, I've buried the lead, because fuck Bonaroo, screw SXSW and punch Lollapalooza right in the junk - The Blowout is back! The world's greatest music festival's lineup has just been announced. Prepare to have your faces rocked, Hamtramck style.

- Remember the Strokes? They were pretty awesome and Is This It? would definitely make it into my top ten list of the last decade. Anyway, they are back in the studio attempting to once again save the soul of rock and roll.

- New music floating around in the ether: VW cover Rancid, plus new tunes from Josh Ritter and The Thermals. Enjoy.

- Finally, The White Stripes were a tad miffed that the Air Force used one of their songs as a recruiting tool, but I think we all would agree to get on board with this.

Posted 1:01pm
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February 9th , 2010

It's like being broken up with via txt message

While I literally haven't been there in months and know that I am far too old a human being to be hanging out at such places, this still felt like a stab in the back. I wanted one more night! After the thousands of hours and dollars I've spent in the place, I felt like they owed me that. One more chance to have some drunk boo butt to ask me to take her to Jimmy Johns. One more opportunity to see someone pull something off the wall and beat someone with it. One more game of flip cup, one last time to hear "Don't Stop Believin'". But alas, Mitch's Place unceremoniously shuttered its doors last night. And I had to read about it in The Daily! You couldn't have called? You couldn't have twittered that "Tonight is our last hurrah!" You couldn't have given me one last time of drinking copious amounts of alcohol all night, then as I ask the bartender what I owe him, have him shrug and go "Five bucks?" Then again maybe that's why you're closing.

- In defense of Republicans, here's an actual Fox analyst - backed up by his interviewer - defending the repeal of DADT. It might be the only sane thing I've ever seen on FNC. Because let's be honest, this is what we have come to expect.

- Part two: Meghan McCain goes on The View and takes up half my talking points from yesterday. If only I had a vagina and a father who ran for president, I could do the same thing.

- OK enough of that: let's go back to laughing at tea partiers.

Posted 10:47am
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February 8th , 2010

Mondays are for politickin'

- I've always kind of loved Al Franken. His brand of humor is custom built for snarky, over educated people such as myself. While that might not be universal, hatred of Comcast pretty much is. We all can agree that their customer service is awful and they force product you don't want down your throat and make you pay out the ass for it. So even if you don't especially care for Senator Franken, you should still be able to enjoy him reaming Comcast and NBC. Come for the video, stay for all the reasons Comcast buying NBC sucks for you - not that that fact is just inherently reprehensible.

- Who's the biggest douche bag in America this week? In a walk it's gotta be Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama. I'm sorry to say this because I know it not to be blanketly true, but Republicans are assholes. Please America, don't fall for a stupidly obstructionist agenda. Putting Republicans in power so they can throw around tax cuts isn't going to fix things. Until they give you a concrete idea about anything, you best just ignore them.

- Runner up goes to former Rep. Tom Tancredo, who basically gave a speech that said non-white people and the illiterate shouldn't be allowed to vote. You stay classy Republicans.

- Then there's America's empty headed sweetheart Sarah Palin. Nate Silver provides a nice summary of her bone headed assuredness, but how do trust a woman who calls for her "enemy's" head for saying something, and then kisses her friend's ass for saying the same thing? And honestly, she mounts any serious campaign in 2012 and you should all be ashamed of yourselves. I honestly can't allow myself to believe that it's a possibility and if it does happen, I swear I am leaving. I refuse to live in a country where "Professor-in-chief" is a put-down.

Posted 12:22am
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February 5th , 2010

Vox Populi

The irony is, this blog is basically an opinion column where I rant about lots of things of which I have a cursory knowledge. I try not to throw anyone under the bus that doesn't have it coming and when I make mistakes I try to apologize for them. But it goes without saying that I espouse a lot of opinions on this site and no one is going to agree with all of them. Still, I'm not the ass hat that Drew Sharp is.

Let's back up, I pulled a little bit of a Tarantino there and started in the middle. I care about newspapers. As I'm fond of saying, it's kind of the family business. Moeman has been doing it for over 50 years, I did it in college and I read several papers every day. So when I see newspapers, or more specifically 'journalists' being stupid or irresponsible, I call them on it. Once Angelique Chengalis of the Detroit News sent me a message through Doug Karsh to call her because I said she was an idiot on the internet (I did, it didn't go well for her). Another time I sent David Hackenberg of the Toledo Blade an angry email calling him a lazy hack. He emailed me back noting that he's known my dad for 50 years. Whoops.

In any case it never ceases to amaze me that these people actually read my incredulous rants much less take the time to respond. I must have forgotten that people pay attention when I sent an angry letter to the Detroit Free Press yesterday. I stopped reading the Freep a while ago. I think Mitch Albom is an dolt (largely due to something stupid he said about Star Wars 12 years ago, but that's neither here nor there) but he doesn't make me want to not read his newspaper. Drew Sharp is another story. Drew hates Michigan and does it in stupid, uninteresting ways. A ways back I decided that I'd had enough and decided to never read his newspaper again as long as he ways employed there. Life's too short to get enraged by the galactically stupid.

Life went on unabated. Then yesterday I saw this post on mgoblog and it came to me "Hey! I never told the Freep that I stopped reading their paper because of that fucktard Sharp. I should do that!" So I did:

From: tbaggervance
To: The Detroit Free Press
Subject: Drew Sharp

It's been so long now that I can't remember what pushed me over the edge, but after hearing about Drew Sharp's latest moronic piece of pseudo-journalism, I decided this only works if I tell you about it: I do not and will not read your paper as long as it employs Drew Sharp.

I'm 34, educated and read several newspapers and news sources daily. In fact, my father has been a sports writer for over 50 years, so I'm far from ignorant on the subject. The fact is that Drew Sharp is the worst kind of writer. Not that he's a bad writer - he is but that's forgivable. It's that he'll drag anyone through the mud for attention. It demeans the term journalism and it demeans your newspaper. I realize columnists who get attention are important - especially in this climate. But at what expense? Certainly by any measure Drew Sharp is far too high a price to suffer. And in at least one case, he's costing you a reader.

Appropriately indignant for taking 45 seconds to write something on the internet. Fifteen minutes later I got this back:

From: Gene Myers
To: tbaggervance
Subject: Re: Drew Sharp

TYLER: I hope we have not lost a reader. With a father as a sports writer, you know we need all the readers we can get in these difficult times.

You certainly do not need to like or agree or read what Drew has written.

My only points: His job is to offer his opinions, and I think in today's column he certainly did. He said with all the issues facings U-M right now, why would Coach Rodriguez take a chance on a player with this background? Yes, the player does not have convictions in the adult court system, and but why should Michigan - a school that has long prided itself on NOT taking problem recruits - take should a risk? The kid should be allowed to play college, but that doesn't mean Michigan has to accept him (and whatever baggage) to its team.

Thanks for listening. Hope you keep reading.
Sincerely,
Gene Myers
Sports Editor
Detroit Free Press

I thought that was well thought out and nice. Very un-Drew Sharp like. So I wrote back:

From: tbaggervance
To: The Detroit Free Press
Subject: RE: Re: Drew Sharp

When you proffer it that way, it's a somewhat reasonable question to ask. However, I'll point you to a write up on mgoblog:
http://mgoblog.com/content/demar-dorsey-and-drew-sharp
and ask is this the kind of journalist you want working for you?

It's one thing to analytically question a decision, but this was just another excuse for Mr. Sharp to Michigan bash (and also an innocent kid). Listen, I don't expect anything to come of this, but I did want you to know that I refuse to read your paper in any format solely because I can't stand the idea of contributing in any way to giving a journalistic cretin like Drew Sharp a forum to spray his ignorant ramblings.
Thanks for your time.
-T

I don't know if any of that was remotely interesting, but I guess the point of the story is that if you speak up, people listen. Well newspaper people do anyway. At least if you call them idiot, hack or stupid. I guess when your industry is in the middle of its death knell, you've got time to respond.

Posted 11:28am
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February 4th , 2010

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

- To me there's no bigger no brainer way to stimulate our ailing economy than to tax and regulate marijuana. The evangelicals and beer companies will likely prevent this from happening nationally, but California may just be able to pull it off.

- My super hippy, super green friends the Jesuses had a post on their private blog the other day about the waste of junk mail. Since I can't just send you there, I'll point you to the following three sites that can help you to reduce the amount of useless shit in your snail mail: DirectMail.com, OptOutPrescreen.com, and YellowpagesGoesGreen.org.

- John McCain is so afraid of gay people that I'm starting to think he doth protest too much. Colbert explains it better than I could. I mean seriously, that guy was almost our President. What a dottering idiot. I mean not Saxby Chambliss dumb, but close. "Alcohol use, adultery, fraternization, and body art."? How can the gays commit adultery if they can't get married?

- If you find yourself with 6 hours to kill, I highly recommend the documentary "The Staircase". I powered through it the other day when I was home sick, and I was completely engrossed in it. Watch it and then let's talk about whether or not he actually killed his wife.

- Perhaps not so innocuously making me happy: finally purchased plane tickets to head to Austin at the end of the month, Feb. 21-26. I'm looking forward to the weather and avoiding my BDGF getting a picture of me in a cowboy hat. I don't know how I'll fare in Texas. I'm told that Austin is a lot like Ann Arbor - a liberal enclave in a state that's not so much. That's a good thing, as the idea of Texas as a whole scares the shit out of me. I once visited my brother in Arkansas and he reminded me, a Neil Young fan, that "Southern man don't need him around anyhow." I'm not exactly sure what he was trying to tell me, but it served as warning. The BDGF hates Neil Young, so I'm sure she can use that to remind me to shut my mouth when I'm down there - because I'm not wearing boots and a giant belt buckle to blend in.

Posted 12:22am
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February 3rd , 2010

Tyler Brubaker and The Too Big to Fails

Perhaps you were reading the Ann Arbor Observer recently and saw this:

You probably thought "tbaggervance has opened his mouth again and is going to embarrass himself in public." You'd be right.

Yes, it's another 826 benefit! The Love Hangover is an annual concert featuring local musicians singing both pro and con love songs. About a month ago I was walking through a room somewhere and Downtowner Amy (826's Program Director) said "Are you going to play the Love Hangover this year?" I said "Sure" and here we are.

I originally thought I'd just pick an easy song or two and get up with my acoustic guitar and be done with it. But that would be too easy. A couple weeks ago the BDGF and I were hanging out with Sid and somehow we ended up with the guitar out and playing some songs for her. That's when I got the idea "Wouldn't it be fun if I could get Siddhartha to sing a song with me?" After getting permission from the Elbow Room and clearing it with Sid, we were now a duo.

Then I started to think about the songs I wanted to do and said to myself "Those would be a lot cooler with some funky base lines behind them." So I asked friend and former bandmate Dr. Steve to accompany me and he graciously and immediately said yes. Well now we had ourselves a sort-of band. If that was going to be the case, why not get another guitar player and drummer? I'm still working on that, but I'm all about turning this "Get up with your acoustic guitar and play a couple songs" gambit on its head and making it as unwieldy as possible, so wish me luck.

Oh, and I'd be remiss without noting our name is courtesy of long time friend and band name connoisseur Markie C. Tyler Brubaker and The Too Big to Fails. With a name like that, how could we possibly?

- Speaking of, last night 826 Michigan released it's 2nd annual Ominbus. AnnArbor.com has video. I'm working at the Robot Store tonight, you should come buy a copy.

Posted 11:02am
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February 2nd , 2010

Hey! It's him! That's the guy I voted for!

Sometime around the turn of the decade I was going back and forth with frequent blog commentator ljv about the Obama presidency and where we were at a year into the experiment. I'm not naive enough to have expected the rainbows and unicorns that conservative talking heads like to bandy about. However I'm also not made of stone. I wouldn't call myself a battered wife yet, but it did start to feel a little like I was having an affair with someone who kept promising to leave her husband, and I was falling for it despite all my friends screaming at me for letting me get walked all over.

Of course we're still in a better spot than we were for 8 years of W. I sleep better at night having someone smarter than me steering the ship, not someone who hands the wheel to his retarded friends who've never sailed before so he can go into his quarters and await the rapture. And I also realize the enormity of the situation he's in. Everything's broken including the government, which is supposed to be the mechanism to pull us out of the muck and the mire. So I can forgive missteps and I can be patient on things that aren't quite fixed yet. As I told ljv, I'm a tad despondent, but we could be sitting here a year from now with unemployment on the decline, the economy on the rise, some sort of health care reform and DADT repealed. I imagine I'd be pretty happy with that.

Of course I counter-argued myself by noting that none of that could happen, and I'd be forced to contemplate the fact that maybe a smart, rational, nuanced person can't lead in this day and age. Sobering. But I saw the SOTU and I was a little buoyed. Then I saw this and a flash came over me. It was campaign Obama! The guy I voted for! Most importantly, he sounded like a guy who might actually lead. That's been the stunning failure so far in mind. Time to grab the reigns and tell those fuckers to get behind you. I know the discretionary spending freeze is mostly show, but DADT is on the way out and I think he's resolute enough on health care to get something done. I'll hold on the hope that he can create change, because for the time being, he's all we've got. Besides, as I'm sure ljv would readily remind me, it's on me too, because that's the guy I voted for.

Posted 3:20pm
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January 29th , 2010

Wormer... dead. Niedermeyer... dead. Salinger...

When Kurt Vonnegut died I was appropriately sad. He still had a voice and things to say and he exercised it with a rare eloquence. To see something like that extinguished is cause for sorrow. I have a tough time being similarly morose over the death of J.D. Salinger. Don't get me wrong, I have copies of The Catcher in the Rye and Nine Stories and Franny and Zooey that are sufficiently tattered from me reading them year after year - sometimes doing so out of habit rather than need. Salinger had a voice that resonated but he stopped exercising his right to use it almost 50 years ago. That is to say he stopped doing so publicly. Rumors abound that there are piles of manuscripts at his place in New Hampshire going unread. There is something admirable about eschewing the limelight in our celebrity schlock culture, but right now my overwhelming thought is "Maybe we'll finally get to see some of what's been running through the man's head for half a century." I'm not holding my breath mind you, but at least there's hope. In a world full of phonies, that's rare.

- Read takes from the man himself, The NYT, The Onion, McSweeney's and a piece from 1999 in Salon that I somehow remember reading all those years ago and loving.

- In the wake of a do-nothing Senate, this map has taken the internet by storm. I like to say I'm from Detroit for sake of argument from time to time when traveling the country, so this would help that.

- For Dr. Walker: A to Z Bowie in photos.

- Coming as no surprise to yours truly, Michigan beer rules!

- Statshot: What are we sending to Haiti?

- Finally, start your weekend off with a bang: more Slave Leia bikini shots. May the force be with you.

Posted 10:31am
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January 28th , 2010

Presenting the former Reverend Dimmsdale

About a year ago I was out on the town with fellow former Naptowners the Baughmans and the StovRiggs and we were in the middle of a lengthy pub crawl that featured the usual blather of drunk talk. At some point we were talking about my love life and being the only non-married person around the question came up: Could you ever date someone that was married? As always, I tried to be as sincere and honest as possible.

While I won't purport to remember exactly what I said, it was something along the lines of the following: While I would never knowingly or soberly sleep with someone who is married, under the right circumstances, I'm not saying it couldn't happen (I would feel appropriately guilty.) However, I would never have a relationship with someone unless they are legally separated or in the process of getting a divorce. In short, I wouldn't want to be a homewrecker, but if the home is already sufficiently wrecked, I'm not going to sweat putting asunder God's covenant nor feel it necessary to wait for the ink to be dry on a divorce decree. That's between two other people and as long as I'm not a contributing factor, I'm not going to split hairs on the timing of things.

Little did I know that half a year later I'd find myself in such a scenario. When I met the BDGF she was still technically/legally married. But her 'husband' had moved to Oregon and divorce papers were filed. My moral compass says that's married in name only. So when the BDGF led me into that photobooth late last August, kissed me and told me "I think I'll keep you Tylah", my concerns were more of what her brother was going to say, not vengeful husbands.

Since then outside of some good Scarlet Letter jokes it hasn't been an issue. For me anyway. The BDGF has had to deal with the fact that she wasn't technically divorced and <GASP!> was happy. This leads to a lot of bitter emails and txt messages from your ex wherein you get called myriad names and wild accusations are bandied about like Jesse Ventura conspiracy theories. Maybe if I was forced to read about all the good times my ex was having while I was sitting on my hump being a miserable human being I'd call him a conceited narcissist and wife stealing drunk and wonder just how long all of this had been going on. Then again no one's forcing anyone to read anything. And I'm not delusional, so that was kind of a pointless exercise. Let's move on.

Anyway all these good times are coming to an end. The BDGF and her ex now have a signed, legally binding agreement and it's finally a done deal. I've joked for months now that once the divorce is final and the scandal is gone, the relationship would be over. The thrill would be lost, what's the point? But then I fell madly in love with my BDGF and now I don't think I can let her go. I guess we'll just have to find new ways to spice up the relationship. Ex-husbands and the rest of the world can read all about it right here at tbaggervance.com.

Posted 12:13pm
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January 27th , 2010

What's making Baby Jesus Cry this week?

- Remember the super creepy Glenn Beck/Sarah Palin 'interview' where he all but masturbated right in front of her? <<shudder>> Well he opened with a quote from Thomas Jefferson and then went on to talk about how Jesus founded America. Guess what that full

quote was about? Shock, the emperor has no clothes.

- Wonder why Martha Coakley got her ass handed to her in Massachusetts? How about offering up gems like "Devout Catholics 'Probably shouldn't work in the emergency room" Even Baby J face palms at a quote like that. At least there's not a lot of Catholics in Boston...

- More evidence of liberal stupidity: Danny Glover blames the earthquake in Haiti on global warming. Baby J deems this only slightly less offensive than Pat Robertson opining on the subject.

- I want to sympathize with this guy because who gives a shit if you have a Bible on your desk, but he clearly shouldn't have been teaching science, much less at a public school. If my science teacher got up in class and told me "science is wrong" I'd slap him in the mouth.

- Texas is throwing its ten gallon hat back in the ring in the race for craziest school board in America. This time it's banning a children's author because he has the same name as a guy who wrote a book on Marxism. Oh! They also did this. You stay classy, Texas. To paraphrase Dr. Henry Jones, maybe you should try reading books instead of banning them.

- Baby Jesus loves his baby back baby back baby back.

- DANGER! Christwire wants you to know that 'Muslim entertainer' and 'Islamic advocate' Aziz Ansari is a danger to America. Baby J says he doesn't see what all the fuss is about over Parks and Recreation. (and that maybe thinly veiled racial slurs in his name aren't the best idea.)

Posted 10:22am
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January 26th , 2010

You're so vain, you probably think this blog is about you

conceited - con.ceit.ed [kuhn-see-tid]
adjective 1. having an excessively favorable opinion of one's abilities, appearance, etc.

narcissism - nar.cis.sism [nahr-suh-siz-em]
noun 1. inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity.

Last night I got a call from a friend who had just broken up with the guy she was dating. She was distraught because the guy worked in web development and threatened to continue to read her very private blog and there was nothing she could do about it. She wanted to know if this was in fact true and what could she do about it. I gave her the requisite spiel about privacy on the internet (there is none) but that if someone wants to be a huge douche and 'spy' on something not meant for public consumption, my advice would be to turn a blind eye to it. Because A.) Fuck that person and B.) They can't stay interested for too long.

Of course that's easier said than done. Most people don't have the open door, warts and all policy we do here at tbaggervance.com. This of course means it's super easy for my exes or, say, exes of current girlfriends to catch up on what's going on in my little corner of the world. Now I've said it a 1,000 times if I've said it once - I'm amazed anyone reads this stuff, much less the almost 40,000 (40,000!*) page requests we had in December. (Thanks team!)

Maybe all that traffic has gone to my head, because recently** I was referred to (through an intermediary) as a conceited narcissist. Now this person, whom I've never met, is shall we say automatically inclined to dislike me due to extenuating circumstances. But if I didn't know me, was predisposed to not like me, and went by the dictionary definition of the terms, I'd suppose I was a conceited narcissist.

I mean, it's all a question of degree. What's 'excessively favorable'? I think we should all have favorable opinions of ourselves, otherwise we're depressed in a manner that's worse than seasonal affective disorder. So what if we get over the top with it once in a while? And what's 'inordinate'? It was Socrates that said 'An unexamined life is not worth living.' So what if we do it in a way that's a tad 'look at me' and a lot hyperbolic? We just do it like that because it's more interesting that way.

So I can handle the barbs. It would be folly to think there's not negativity on the internet and that some of it wouldn't be directed at me. Frankly in this case, I think he could have done better. I mean, everyone leaves a trail on the internet you know, and this person had 284 page requests in December alone. You'd think such a humble voyeur would have more of a scathing criticism. Then again, maybe that's just me looking for attention again. Awe shucks, will I ever learn?

* this does not mean 40,000 people visited the blog nor even that it was visited 40,000 times (it's complicated), but it's a big impressive number and probably a personal best, so thanks guys.

** yesterday.

Posted 10:22am
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January 25th , 2010

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

Three years ago we here at tbaggervance.com had a few things that we were excited about. Not big things, but stuff that made us smile enough that we deemed them share-worthy. Not sure how to group them all together, our loquacious editor in chief came up with the wordiest, most awkward title that he could think of that was still grammatically correct, and 5 innocuous things... was born. We've now posted 435 things over the last 3 years that made us smile, giggle or just generally happy. That's a lot of innocuity. We hope you've enjoyed a few of them yourself. In celebration of making it through our terrible twos, we present to you five innocuous pictures from the weekend:

I finally granted the BDGF's wish and got her a scarlet letter.

Sid and I did a little impromptu performing Friday night.

This is my greatest discovery of the last year: drunk brunch.

Sid feigns embarrassment, but we know he loves the Downtowners.

Dr. Walker is an object lesson for how bad the Julie parts are of the movie Julie and Julia.

It was a weekend of awesome. And now for posterity (and tradition), here's our five favorite innocuous things from the last year:

July 23rd:
We list movies numerically

August 11th:
Unicorn Lovers Club

October 14th:
The slow, inevitable decline (that has yet to come, fwiw)

November 12th:
A kid stands up for the gays

December 11th: Thank you for being a friend

That's it. Surely there's more to come though, so we'll keep being happy and keep telling you about it, because we were taught to share.

Posted 11:28am
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January 22nd , 2010

Your Indie Rock Weekend (and I'm back to being indefatigable)

First things first: I took a shot at Olbermann yesterday and so did Jon Stewart last night. That puts me in good company I suppose, but I feel guilty because this is dead on unless something is done. People love to tell liberals to shut up about W because he's no longer the President, but I said it when he was appointed and will continue to say it everytime he bends America over: John Roberts is going to continue to fuck this country for a long, long time. Congrats, all you fuck holes who voted a retarded cowboy who thinks you're going to hell into office.

- Ted Leo is publishing all kinds of cool stuff via Twitter (including covers of Sade and Concrete Blonde!) in advance of his forthcoming opus The Brutalist Bricks.

- Death Cab ramp up their whiny teenager cred by covering "Don't You Forget About Me."

- Just when 2010's album release slate couldn't get any better, New New Pornographers. Hooray!

- In sad news, The Hold Steady are now down one super sweet ass mustache.

- I don't know about the voracity of this chart, but it's fun nevertheless for huge Beatles nerds such as myself.

- Finally, regular readers of the blogy blog know the constant vigilance I employed in order to get my son appropriately indoctrinated in the ways of indie rock. I did such a good job that he's been to more Lollapaloozas than I have. The BDGF's girls, however, were not barraged with the Spoons, Radioheads and Vampire Weekends of the world. I'm not judging or placing blame mind you; maybe I got lucky. Maybe it's easier with boys. I'm just saying that now I know all the words and dance moves to something called "Hoedown Throwdown." (Yes, there's video, no you won't ever see it). I worked so hard to avoid this nightmare scenario, and here I am embroiled in it. My powers are strong, but I don't think my immersion therapy techniques are going to turn around a 14 year old girl. I might have a shot at the younger one though. Does anyone want to help me choreograph some dance moves to "Written in Reverse"?

Posted 10:48am
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January 21st , 2010

He'll kill ya ta death, Rock

It's been a disheartening couple of days politically and I find all of it exhausting. Brown wins Massachusetts, SCOTUS rolls back corporate campaign spending limits, health care seems dead, and Olbermann went full Glenn Beck, and Krugman is giving up. Add all of that to the fact that I've had a shite morning and I don't feel like writing. At some point you get beat up enough you finally listen to your coach in the corner telling you to stay down.

Before I go, two reminders that not everything is bleak and not all republicans are all bad all of the time. One: Scott Brown seems douche-y yes, but he's more liberal than you might think. Two:

That's Cindy McCain posing for gay marriage. I sometimes spend too much time decrying the differences. Today I feel the need to celebrate our commonalities. That or give up.

Posted 12:50pm
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January 20th , 2010

How dare you?

I once dated a girl in an off again/on again sort of way that, as you would imagine, was completely self-destructive, counterproductive and an awful way to have a relationship. Especially when that person tries to send you messages by making out with bartenders and sleeping in the same bed with other guys (even though they just talked all night - like that was the dude's motivation.) Sure she says she was doing it to make you jealous so you would realize what you were missing, but it really just ends in you going out and doing the same thing. By the time the break up takes for good, you're just that much more bitter for all the transgressions.

I know it's a specious analogy, but that's how I felt watching Conan last night. Liberstein sent me a txt that said something like "Quentin and Spoon on Coco! Yay!" All I could think was "How dare you?!?" Yes, that is my favorite band and favorite director on the same episode, but do you really think that's going to make all of this easier? Because it's not. I guess the more apt analogy would be when someone breaks up with you and then tries to have sex with you one more time. Come to think of it, that same girl did that to me too. More than once actually. I guess I won't be shocked if tonight's guests are Tom Brady and Death Cab.

- Speaking of how dare you?, I don't know who I am more pissed at this morning, the DNC or the voters of Massachusetts. The best and worst thing about allying oneself with the Democratic party is the nuance. Yes, you get to hold two conflicting thoughts in your head at the same time, but that means that getting all these idiosyncratic personalities on the same page at the same time is neigh on impossible. So how dare you Massachusetts? I know you HAVE health care reform, but you really put us in a bind. But I think more importantly, how dare you Democrats? Where is your leadership? Where is your cohesion? Someone step up and everyone else get behind that person and let's do some stuff that has teeth. If you're paying attention, you know that time is probably running out to make that happen.

Posted 10:22am
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January 19th , 2010

Enter the boozehound

We here at tbaggervance.com love ourselves some booze. To paraphrase Homer Simpson, "Booze, the cause of and solution to all of life's problems." It makes food taste better, the air smell sweeter and music more danceable. We not so secretly hold to the theory that we do everything better after a couple of pints. Whether it's tossing darts or expounding on our geopolitical theories, everything's better with booze.

Our public relations staff is hard at work at raising our Q rating and generally getting the word out about tbaggervance.com. That means new efficient ways of accessing content here on the site (like our RSS feed!) and steering the citizens of the internet to our front door.

That's why we were all tickled pink when we heard about an exciting development recently via Downtowner Amy. Ann Arbor's favorite new fiancé emailed to inform us that if you google "Ann Arbor Happy Hour," the second (SECOND!)suggestion just happens to be our proprietor and publisher's Yelp list of A2's Best Happy Hours.

As you can imagine our headquarters are a-buzz with the news. Our interns are hard at work attempting to turn this coup into something big, even if their motivation likely lies in the hopes that they'll someday get paid (hey - they're interns, they should be happy with the warm case of Natty Light we toss into their shared cubicle at the first of every month.)

Anyway, we're off to find G. Gordon Liddy's phone number so we can Watergate those bastards over at a2happyhour.com. It's either that or a drinking contest, and the latter honestly seems less fair.

- The tbaggervance.com staff had their annual Golden Globes party Sunday (featuring leg wrasslin'!) so it was a slow start to the week yesterday. Thankfully we got to sleep in a bit as we had scheduled a field trip to see Gwen Ifill speak in honor of MLK Day. Mmmmm, PBS political correspondents...

- I've always claimed more Irish heritage than I probably have a right to, but this makes me wonder if I am actually Scottish.

- Here's an interesting article about being green with your drinking. Although the crux of it you already know - drink Bells. Only 70 days until the return of Oberon!

Posted 10:41am
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January 18th , 2010

Lies, deceit, engagement.

It was only a month ago that the Downtowners duped me for weeks by changing the license plate holder on my car. I was talking to Downtowner Amy about it and she was telling me how hard it was not to tell me, and how much she couldn't wait for me to discover the rouse so that we could all be in on the joke. "Just wait," I told her. "Someday soon we'll all conspire to keep you in the dark for weeks and the shoe will be on the other foot." "I can't wait!" she said. Downtowner Amy, welcome to your turn.

Downtowner Amy and Downtowner Jason (finally) got engaged on Saturday. I was proud to be part of a large team who worked tirelessly, lied through their teeth, and generally schemed and scammed to make this happen in an awesome, surprising, generally just "Awwwwwwwww" way.

The planning started months ago, but the weekend went something like this: It started with a very gay shopping trip on Friday. Jason and I had to purchase fabric, frames and other girlie stuff that few heterosexual males know anything about. It was a struggle. At one point, after wandering Joann Fabric looking for some "sparkly bullshit", Jason finally stopped to ask a clerk. She asked him "Do you know where are feather boas are? I was walking up and from five feet behind him I raised my hand and said "Oh yeah, I do." And even though I only knew that information because I had just seen said boas (I SWEAR) I realized just how gay that must have sounded. Good times.

But we eventually had everything we (thought we) needed. We went back to work and then to happy hour and then it was time to descend on the Liberty Street Robot Supply and Repair to execute phase one. We began to tear down our award winning holiday window and started to create this:

Robot proposal! Jason photoshoped pictures of Amybot and JJ Gearbot into scenes from their life. Then we added fabric and flowers and the actual bots, JJ down on his knee asking for Amybot's robot hand in marriage. It only took the two of us, the BDGF and Liberstein until 3:30am to finish. We were a tad exhausted, but proud of what we had accomplished.

We grabbed a quick 4 hours sleep and then it was time for phase two. Jason got Dr. Walker to invite them to brunch, giving them an impetus to head downtown. While all that was going down, we were quickly preparing the BDGF's house for a post-proposal surprise party. My big contribution to that (other than $50 worth of champagne) was these:

The BDGF wanted Jason and Amy as robots, so I drew half a dozen of these to hang around the house. You can see the rest (along with a few other pics) on Facebook. Anyway, Amy said yes, and then they came over to celebrate with 30 or 40 of their closest friends. We drank, we laughed, we relayed all of the stories of all the lies we've all had to tell leading up to that morning. And then we crashed in utter exhaustion.

So congrats Amy and Jason; two of my favorite people in the entire world who are as perfect a fit for each other as you're ever likely to come across. It was an incredible thing of which to be a small part. The bar of duping has now been set impossibly high.

- Read all about these lovely people and their lovely ways on AnnArbor.com

Posted 2:11pm
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January 15th , 2010

Sometimes I park in handicap spaces, while handicap people make handicap faces

Someone recently described me as "sure he can be a huge asshole, but he's also a super nice guy." I like to think that's stunningly accurate since that's how I see myself - the asshole with a heart of gold. But you know, don't take my word for it; form your own opinion. I only note it because I spent some time this morning reading about what a huge asshole I am.

A few weeks ago I got a call from Ayesha. I don't want to disclose the specifics of what was a very personal conversation, but for lack of a better term, let's say we buried the hatchet. After we broke up this summer, we pretty much pulled a cease and desist on each other's lives. Facebook defriending, twitter blocking, website denial. Well, on her end anyway - we all know tbaggervance.com is and always will be an open society.

So that was it. Minus one awkward phone call early in September, it was a solid four months or so of least favored nation status. Which, let's be honest, was appropriate and necessary. Ayesha and I's relationship was as intense as it was roller coastery, so letting all of that pent up whatever drain away was likely the right thing to do.

But Ayesha will always be one of my favorite people, so I was thrilled when she called (even more so that it wasn't to yell at me.) Since then, we've slowly began to reconnect as friends. Facebook refriending, twitter unblocking, emailing - you know, all the ways you're friends with someone from 2,000 miles away.

Speaking of, Ayesha recently had to recuperate from some minor surgery, so she txted me to ask where her 'Get Well Media' was. Since I'm a super nice guy, I quickly shipped her out some new tunes and season four of Dexter. It finally made it to the desert yesterday, so last night she sent me a txt thanking me. We txted back and forth a little bit and at one point she mentioned her blog, so I noted that she should unlock that last door and let me read it again. Boy was she reticent. I got a message asking "You won't hold anything against me?" I told her I was a big boy and that I could handle it. It's a good thing I was being honest.

Turns out Ayesha was pretty upset with me. Can't say I blame her, but some of it - some of it was hard to read. She was sad and pissed and I was the cause of it - you can imagine what it said. But that was then. She's happy now and has a new lefty Atheist BF, and we all know how I feel about the BDGF. We'll just keep her away from Ayesha's blog - don't want any spoilers about what an asshole I'm really capable of being.

Posted 12:02pm
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January 14th , 2010

It's douche bag week!

Ted Olson, Jay Leno - apparently it's douche bag week here at tbaggervance.com. Let's wrap this up and put a big bow on the week in douche:

- Pat Robertson is a racist, homophobic douche bag, well known for doing and saying douche-y things. This week he claimed Haiti was cursed because of a pact they made with the devil. I shit you not.

- Limbaugh may have completely lost it. Obama is using Haiti to get in good with the dark skinned people? He shouldn't have responded so quickly? Question: How big of a douche bag does one have to be to use tens of thousands of people dying as an opportunity to take political potshots at one's enemy? Answer: See Rush Limbaugh.

- O'Reilly is a douche bag on a bully pulpit. He shouts down anyone who disagrees with him and his arguments are... specious to say the least. Like this week when he declared that American's weren't thrilled with Obama's response to terrorism. He then cited a poll showing people... approved? 57% of them anyway. To 29% disapproved? Douche. THEN someone mentions the poll later, and he says "I don't believe that for a second." Look at the balls on this douche bag!

- This really belongs in a "What's making Baby Jesus Cry this Week?" post, but let's just point at the entire state of Alabama and cry "Douche!" I fear for us as a nation, I really do.

- Surprise! Lieberman is a douche. Of the highest order.

- The brain power in this room could power a lightbulb for 10 seconds. Listen to Beck read his diary entry about his crush on Palin RIGHT TO HER FACE. It's more awkward than walking in on your parents having sex. What a couple of douche bags.

- Finally, just to show you that all in the world is not douche-y, cellphone donations raise over $2 million for Haiti (txt "Haiti" to the number 90999) and Google stands up to censorship in China. Take hope where you can get it folks.

Posted 10:43am
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January 13th , 2010

So shines a good deed in a weary world.

I was a huge Letterman fan growing up. My favorite thing about Friday nights was trying to stave off sleep and stay up long enough to see the top ten list. The lateness of the show was appealing in itself. Who stays up to watch TV at 12:30? College students and drunks. I desperately wanted to be both. Dave was allowed to take chances, be edgy. He could fill 20 minutes of show time by throwing things off of the roof of a building. That's good times.

Then when I was in high school Carson left The Tonight Show and the champions of bland in charge of NBC gave their flagship late night program to Johnny Milquetoast, aka Jay Leno. His bits were hackneyed. His interviewing style was to get out of the way so the actor sitting next to him could succinctly tell you exactly what he was plugging. While every TV critic would agree with the above at the time, middling is safe and that's where they went.

By the time I was a drunk and a college student, Conan held the esoteric 12:30 slot at NBC. But it turns out that 12 year old me was wrong, and I was generally actually doing things at 12:30 during that time and I didn't spend a lot of time watching Late Night. Of course over time I got to see bits like the Masturbating Bear and Pimp Bot, staring contests and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog and discerned that Conan was a worth successor to Dave.

As you've probably heard, NBC is at it again. After their colossal fuck up of putting Leno on at 10pm, their solution is to (again) piss on everyone who has any taste whatsoever, and stick their collective johnson right up Conan's poop shoot. Thankfully, Conan is 100% class and cares about things bigger than bottom lines. One can only hope that even those millions of folks who like middling, bland late night entertainment will have had enough this time and watch Letterman at 11:30. In the meantime, watching Conan has never been more fun.

- Jimmy Kimmel joins Team Conan. Them's brass balls people.

Posted 10:57am
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January 12th , 2010

It is unconstitutional.

I've always considered Ted Olson to be a first class douche. If for no other reason than he was the lead attorney in Bush v. Gore, and thus stole an election for a retarded cowboy and - albeit unknowingly - fucked over the entire country for eight goddamn years. I mean, sure he worked for the American Spectator and was involved in the Paula Jones case because he had a huge hard on for Bill Clinton - of course those are valid reasons to hate the guy with a white hot intensity of a thousand suns as well. But that first thing is enough for me to not want to even cross the street to pee in his mouth. Just sayin'.

But a few months back he and his opponent in Bush v. Gore together brought a suit in California challenging the validity of Proposition 8. Now I will admit that my first thought was 'too soon,' as this case, with these two heavyweights behind it, is clearly designed to end up in front of SCOTUS, and a defeat there would just set the whole movement back, and this whole process is disheartening enough already. AND it could easily be argued that a douche like Olson is doing this for no other reason than the publicity of the thing, knowing that the case is just another feather in his douchey ass-cap.

Then again, what if it's not a stunt? What if we win? So what if we lose? The ultimate establishment of gay marriage rests on all of the old indoctrinated fuck holes laying down and dying. The hearts and minds of people under 30 are made up, so it's all a matter of time. But this could be a slingshot that speeds things up and more importantly, gives a huge chunk of American citizens their constitutionally mandated civil rights. Regardless of motivation, it'd go a long way to redeeming Ted Olson. If we win, I dare say I'd even cross the street to shake his hand. After peeing in his mouth.

- You can read Mr. Olson's opening statement here. I recommend it. It's impassioned but legally so, which is probably the right tact.

- Wrapping up the week in Spoon and VW: Spoon's Transference is streaming at NPR, Vampire Weekend play MTV's Unplugged. Yeah, I didn't know they still had that either.

Posted 10:41am
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January 11th , 2010

Happy Binary Palindrome Day!

- Today is 011110. Find comfort in that.

- As you may have noticed or guessed, instead of using blogger or some other easy cookie cutter site that manages your blog for you, we here at tbaggervance.com do everything the old fashioned way - by hand. It started out as a way to be quirky and maintain control of what we do around here. As we've grown, it's turned into a giant pain in the ass.

But as we fear change, we're probably not going to move anything anytime soon. The biggest disadvantage for our dear readers is the firewall issue. Back in 1995 when I first published anything at this address, I called it something like "T's XXX Sex Farm." Despite having no XXX sexual content on my site, my address ended up on some banned site lists, and if you try and get to tbaggervance.com from a library or from work where they frown upon you surfing porn, you probably can't. Sorry. Someday we'll fix that. But what do we offer you instead? RSS support! It's right over there under my blurry mug. Now your RSS reader will tell you when I have a new post, so you can stop checking the site 500 times a day. I'll keep the email list going too, but fair warning, it may get phased out, because RSS is really where it's at.

- What else happened this weekend? Half-engagements, door repair, mimosas and bacon, and perhaps most importantly*, the internet heard my cry and the new Spoon album hit the ether. Between it and the new Vampire Weekend, it's like xmas came late.

* not really, all of the aforementioned are way more important.

Posted 10:43am
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January 8th , 2010

Your Indie Rock Weekend

- Vampire Weekend's sophomore effort hits record shelves next Tuesday, but if you know what you're doing it's out there in the ether already, as well as streaming on Myspace. Contra obviously isn't the blissful gem that their eponymous debut was, but it's still a welcome addition to the VW canon. Peep them playing the album's brightest standout, "Cousins" on Letterman the other night.

- Spoon's next album Transference isn't quite floating around the internet yet (despite it's Jan. 19th release date. COME ON!) But you can read all about how super terrific awesome they are in the New York fuckin' Times.

- As if 2010 weren't rad enough, Radiohead is in the studio!

- Hey! Did you hear? Sound (YAAAAWWWWWWWN). Excuse me. Soundgard (YAAAAAAAAAAAWWWWWWWWWWWNNNNNNN). Pardon. Soundgarden is reuniting. Zzzzzzzzz.

- Speaking of no longer relevant 90's rockers who desperately still wish they were, Billy Corgan calls his egomaniacal reign over his once popular band that drove everyone of them away screaming a mistake. No Shit. Talking about it will get you in the news Billy, but it doesn't mean that if James, Jimmy and Darcy were still around, you'd be King Shit. Oh, and speaking of crazy mistakes that won't make you relevant or popular, stop sticking your penis in Jessica Simpson. Yup, you read that correctly.

- Tours! Lot's of cool bands are going on tour over the next few months, including Nada Surf, Vampire Weekend, Wilco and Ted Leo. I thought I hit the jackpot when I noticed that Nada Surf and Vampire Weekend were playing on back to back nights in Toronto. Road trip! Unfortunately its on a Monday and Tuesday. Lame. Ah well, VW at the Riviera in Chicago it is then. And I really hope the BDGF is up for Maritime at the Beat Kitchen the day before Valentines. She's been dating me for a while, she at least won't be surprised.

Posted 10:49am
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January 7th , 2010

What's making Baby Jesus cry this week?

- Hey! My ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend is a gigantic atheist and even has a blog about it. Check out the The New Atheist to see what's making the Baby J cry every day. Ironically, me linking to the ex's new beau shows a maturity that the Christ Child would really admire.

- If you think this is bad, imagine what the actual Jesus had to go through. I got pretty good growing up and masturbating without noise, mess and with as little movement as possible, but I didn't have the pressure of my Sainted Virgin Mother in the next room, or my dad being able to see everything I do where ever I am at all times. Then again, Teen Jesus was probably just coming into his superpowers, so I imagine he'd try some of them out on his penis. I know I would.

- This is an actual headline on MTV: Billy Corgan Wonders Why Rock Music Doesn't Talk About God. Asks the man who once compared the world to a vampire. He must not remember the AC/DC classic "Let There Be Rock". Maybe now that Billy has alienated all of his former Pumpkins he can grab the lads from Stryper and fill the God-Rock hole that the breakup of Creed left in the universe.

- I think I actually heard an audible "FUCK!" come out of heaven as this was published. I know it's hard for you kids who've been marinating in dogma your whole life to wrap your heads around it, but evolution by natural selection is science fact. If you threw away your indoctrination and thought/studied it at all, we could end the debate and move on to something that's actually not settled, like which Spoon album is the best (I say Kill the Moonlight).

Posted 2:06pm
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January 6th , 2010

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

- For the last 9 years I've run a little pool where my friends and I pick the outcome of all of the college bowl games. Just a little trifle to make all that football watching a tad more interesting. This year, not only did I get super out prognosticated by my BDGF, but this is an exchange between the winner of the pool and his GF:

So yeah - I got beat by my GF by her picking teams based on people she knew from the state the college was in, and we all got beat by a guy who didn't know what sport he was betting on. Congrats Samf.

- Due to a dearth of choices, the family business(es) for the Brubakers are education and the Newspaper biz. Out of respect for my parents I've tried to dabble in both over the years. They kind of intersect when I volunteer for 826, so here's our founder Dave Eggers talking about newspapers. The circle is now complete.

- About two and a half years ago, I drove Ayesha across the country to her new home in the desert. As keeping a laptop charged and running on the road is cumbersome, I needed a low tech solution to take notes as we flew down the highway, so I could report all of our adventures back to you, dear readers. Anyway, enter the Moleskine. It's been a part of my life ever since. The BDGF just bought me my fourth one to start filling, so exciting times. Here's a whole new line of content specific Moleskines for you (meaning me) to nerd out on.

- Want some stuff to get excited about on the television? NPH sings on HIMYM and here's an 8 minute recap of what's happened so far on Lost. They kissed. Sad.

- So over the break was the fourth annual Mittenfest, where a bunch of musicians and other smart creative people put on a four day concert to benefit 826 Michigan. I still managed to get Mittenfisted, even though I only got to go to 2 of the 4 nights. But I digress, the thing to take away from all of this is that we raised $12,000! Boike recently said to me "So, it sounds a lot like 826 is an excuse for you and your friends to get drunk at fundraisers and if it benefits kids, well then that's cool too." You say that like it's a bad thing...

Posted 11:41am
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January 5th , 2010

Chuck's Dinner Party or The Perils of Injun Incest

Most people are far more embarrassed and have far less tolerance for their family's eccentricities and peccadilloes than the outside world deem appropriate. The truth is that we've seen the act and been barraged with their foibles so many countless times that we assume that others are just as tired of the antics as we are.

Of course more often than not the exact opposite is true. What we find hackneyed and annoying can be entertaining to fresh ears. It's easy to forget that everyone hasn't heard your dad's story about the tollbooth 1,000 times and maybe - just maybe - if you don't know it word for word, it's more entertaining than you give it credit for.

I got to spend a little time with the BDGF's parents over the holiday. I've spent maybe 20 hours now in the same room as her dad Chuck, and it's an educated guess and not hyperbole to say he's spent about 16 of those hours directly engaged in conversation with me.

Chuck is a profoundly curious guy. I've been inundated with questions about technology. From the history of machine language to relational databases to how to fix his laptop - you name it, we've covered it. He also loves music. We gotten in depth on how the personalities of the Beatles are reflected in their songwriting, and how the physical structure of individual instruments define the players understanding of music as a whole. Good times.

But the real twinkle in Chuck's eye comes when these two loves intersect. I first endeared myself by showing him how to record all the songs he loves on youtube and convert them into mp3s. You'd think I'd invented the internet.

And then there's Chuck's existing mp3 collection. Several years back he paid a DJ $20 to copy the 20,000 mp3s he had on his hard drive. Chuck is very proud of his collection. He beams about it. He exports his song lists into databases so he can sort them and print them out. He was ecstatic that I loved mp3s too, and even more so that I only had about 18,000 in my collection.

He wanted to know what I had and how many of each. Do I have Loren Green's "Ringo"? What do you mean I've never heard "Son Don't Go Near the Indians"? How is it even possible that I don't have the original cast recording of Oklahoma!? In his great benevolence Chuck insisted that I copy all of his mp3s to round out my collection. I was honored.

I like Chuck. He's curious and inquisitive and seems generally interested in what I have to say. Yes, things can go a little long. Yes, they get tangential. Of course it can be difficult to get a word in from time to time and no, I'm not overly interested in the accordion or how politics is like a screw factory. But hey, it's still all fresh and new and I haven't heard all the theories and stories even once yet, much less ad naseum for my entire life. Besides, I'm wicked smitten with his daughter. That's worth smiling through some old youtube clips of Lawrence Welk, right?

Posted 11:41am
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January 4th , 2010

Pure class

There's an old adage about how you spend New Years Eve is going to be how you spend the rest of the year. It's pretty much bullshit, as it would mean 90% of us would spend our year in a drunken stupor (yes, I'm calling bullshit knowing full well that in my specific case, it is gospel truth). However, if we generalize our NYE's outings to be predictors of where we're headed or even some sort of evaluation of where we're at, then clearly I am rolling.

These two things happened at the Elbow Room on New Years Eve. They both illustrate the class of the evening:

- During a rolling blackout, SOMEONE walked into the tiny, crowded bathroom and noticing it was full said "Hey, you guys aren't going to make me pee my pants, are ya?" and proceeded to pee in the sink.

- During the champagne toast at midnight, SOMEONE downed their glass like a shot, and then flippantly tossed the glass across the room, nailing someone in the head with it.

Despite what you are probably thinking, only one of the above incidents was perpetrated by yours truly.

So yeah, good times. The whole break was fairly amazing. It's been argued that the BDGF and I are on an extended honeymoon due to the fact that we both have kids, hence we aren't spending every night together (absence and fondness and whatnot). Through hap and circumstance and a little careful planning, we've had the opposite of that over the break, in that we spent most of the last fortnight together. I'm happy to report that after the immersion it still feels pretty much like a honeymoon. Welcome 2010. I can't wait to see what's next.

Posted 11:55am
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