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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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This page is written and maintained by Tyler Brubaker. All content is spewed forth from the author's brain, unless otherwise credited. He views his opinion as much more valid than yours, but welcomes all thoughts and comments.