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December 21st, 2010

Notafinger!

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

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

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

Posted 11:15am
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December 16h, 2010

This week in indie rock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 11:14am
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December 15h, 2010

Don't go changin' just to please me

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 10:57am
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December 13th, 2010

Brrrrr.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 10:53am
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December 10th, 2010

The Optimist

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 10:41am
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December 9th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 11:59am
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December 8th, 2010

Arrogance vs. Humility

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 10:37am
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December 7th, 2010

What's making Baby Jesus cry this week?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 10:47am
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December 6th, 2010

Now we are six!

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

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

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

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

Posted 10:40am
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December 3rd, 2010

Pardon my French, but you're an asshole.

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

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

Posted 10:58am
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December 2nd, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 10:53am
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December 1st, 2010

This Week in Indie Rock.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 2:08pm
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November 30th, 2010

Things we already knew to be true.

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

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

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

Posted 11:47pm
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November 29th, 2010

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

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

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

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

Posted 11:27am
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November 23rd, 2010

Thanks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 11:32am
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November 22nd, 2010

Our long national nightmare is finally over

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 11:05am
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November 19th , 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 11:00am
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November 18th , 2010

No dark sarcasm in the classroom

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

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

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

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

Posted 10:50am
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November 17th , 2010

What's making Baby Jesus cry this week?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 10:35am
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November 16th , 2010

Motivation

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 11:10am
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November 15th , 2010

The Engagening

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*The BDGF's

Posted 2:18pm
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November 12th , 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 11:34am
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November 11th , 2010

Out of the mouths of babes...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 10:33am
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November 10th , 2010

This Week in Indie Rock

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 11:47am
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November 9th , 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 10:53am
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November 8th , 2010

King of the Road

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

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

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

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

Posted 10:44am
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November 5th , 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

*dead to me

Posted 10:43am
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November 4th , 2010

My mathematical mind

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

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

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

Posted 10:34am
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November 3rd , 2010

Weeds

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

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

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

Posted 2:01pm
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November 2nd , 2010

V O T E !

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

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

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

Posted 2:37pm
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November 1st , 2010

Sanity and Civility.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- All of the sign photos are on Facebook.

Posted 11:12am
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October 28th , 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 10:39am
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October 27th , 2010

I am Saddam Hussein.

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

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

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

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

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

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

- More costume ideas as Halloween aproacheth.

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

Posted 10:38am
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October 26th , 2010

Limbo.

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

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

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

Posted 11:38am
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October 25th , 2010

Ways in which I am old, vol. 238.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 1:46pm
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October 22nd , 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 11:11am
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October 21st , 2010

Oh the righteous indignation is hot today.

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

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

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

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

Posted 1:06pm
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October 20th , 2010

What's making Baby Jesus cry this week?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 10:30am
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October 19th , 2010

I'm not as good as the interstates are.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 10:36am
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October 18th , 2010

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 10:52am
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October 15th , 2010

Football Fridays.

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 2:39pm
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October 14th , 2010

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

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

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

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

Chloe

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

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

O

Here's hoping all three come back real soon.

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

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

Here's hoping for really fucking on.

Posted 11:08am
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October 13th , 2010

Wednesdays are for politickin'

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

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

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

Posted 11:02am
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October 12th , 2010

Citizen Kane it ain't.

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 11:37am
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October 11th , 2010

From Great to Managed Expectations.

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 1:41pm
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October 8th , 2010

Stop teasing your little brother.

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

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

- Speaking of Little Brother, god bless Mike Hart.

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 10:20am
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October 6th , 2010

Goddamn you half Japanese girls...

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

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

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

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

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

- Latest Belle and Sebastian is streaming over at NPR.

Posted 10:45am
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October 5th , 2010

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 11:31am
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October 4th , 2010

You're not helping, Elyce

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 11:11am
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