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March 30th, 2012

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

- Our brief dalliance with summer seems to have tapered off, so may I suggest coaxing it back with the aural pleasures of Vacationer? 60% of the time it works every time.

- Speaking of, it's the return of one Ron Burgandy.

- Game of Thrones returns this Sunday, and since I never read the books nor really planned on falling down the rabbit hole on this one, I'll need this season one refresher. And if you're like me and haven't gotten around to last week's season premier of Mad Men, here's a summation of that entire series.

- I don't plan on ever exploring the world of The Hunger Games, mostly because I am an adult and cool. I did however read this list of racist Hunger Games fans, because racist teens who fail at reading comprehension are funny.

- Finally, there's a mini-vacation happening over the next 10 days as the children get their second spring break of the year. I'll probably manage a post or two in the middle of next week, hopefully largely comprised of pictures. If you get withdrawal from lack of tbaggervance in the meantime, I suggest you suck it up.

Posted 10:42am
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March 29th, 2012

What's making Baby Jesus cry this week?

- In this corner - representing love, tolerance, gay marriage and the starfleet federation: George Takei. In the other corner - representing bigotry, intolerance, Kirk Cameron and Baby Jesus - Stephen Baldwin. He never had a chance.

- I will forever maintain that moderate, sensible Christians and religious folks should be the most interested in what's making Baby J weep on a weekly basis - much more than us bemused Atheists. Why? Because the crazies beget atheism. It's science.

- Speaking of, this isn't exactly the 95 thesis, but it certainly is funnier.

- Tennessee, site of The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes some 87 years ago, is trying to put the genie back in the bottle by passing a law saying that teachers will not be reprimanded for pointing out the weaknesses of evolution. Tennessee: where lawmakers know more about science than the National Academy of Science and The National Association of Biology Teachers combined.

- The whole family is headed down to the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area next week and we thought it'd be hilarious and awesome to visit the Creation Museum. Then we saw admission prices, and decided that was a high price to pay for some bullshit. If I get a kickstarter going, you think I could get the trip funded?

- Finally, you can decry homosexuality, rail against evolution and plaster every courthouse in the country with the ten commandments, but you right wing christianist fucks stay the hell away from Star Wars. You've been warned.

Posted 11:02am
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March 28th, 2012

This Week in Indie Rock

- This was a blow to the BDGF, who never got to see the White Stripes in concert. I still maintain that even if he doesn't ever need the money, he'll want the attention at some point. Fingers crossed, for my sweetheart if nothing else. In more immediate and good news, rumors abound that Jack will be headlining this year's Lollapalooza, so I might have to actually attend this year after avoiding it all this time.

- More summer festival news: Ann Arbor has announced its lineup of the usual stodgy, expensive shows that old people go watch* while I sit on the grass, drinking Captain and Cokes while watching Top Gun. You're doing it wrong, by the way.

- Record Store Day 2012 is a mere three weeks away from this Saturday. Peep what will be showing up at your local independent retailer here.

- The AV Club's Undercover project moves on, with Memoryhouse covering the Police. It's nice and all, but to hear the better pseudo-cover of "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic," you want The Blow.

- Former tbaggervance roommate's Taproot are still kicking out the jams. They have a new 'concept' album called "The Episodes", out April 10. Huh.

- Finally, Jack and KG are back, more glorious than ever. Long live the D!

*Except for Al Green. Al Green is a badass.

Posted 10:00am
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March 27th, 2012

The Happiness Trope: Part One

Ed.Note: This is part of what we here at tbaggervance hope to be an ongoing serious in which we take a look at pop culture, philosophy and good old fashioned common sense for their pearls of wisdom as it pertains to happiness. These areas of expertise all at one point or another attempt to distill down the keys to abating sadness into a singular entity or idea, and we here at tbaggervance are putting on our critic's tuque to assess how close they got to any validity. Of course seeing ourselves as final arbiter on all matters of public import, you should pay attention.

Since this is the opening salvo in our first crack at an ongoing series in a while around here, we decided to start with a bang. Or at least, the idea that was the seed for this endeavor that has stuck with me the longest. It's going to take quick flourish of pop culture references to get there, so stay with me.

When I was in high school, I felt like I had nothing in common with my father. We had little to talk about other than him reprimanding me for whatever thing I had recently done that had pissed my mother off. In City Slickers, Billy Crystal talks with his friends about the importance of baseball in his life, because despite his strained relationship with his father, they could always talk about sport. Well my relationship with my old man wasn't strained, but there was a point in time where they only thing we really shared in common was the show Cheers. It was the one half hour a week my dad and I sat down together, and apart from the fact that it was one of the best television shows ever, I looked forward to watching it because my dad and I could laugh at the same thing for a finite period of time.

So the final episode of Cheers finds Sam Malone searching for the meaning of life, the key to happiness. In the penultimate scene he asks his best friend Norm for the answer, and Norm tells him "One thing." In Norm's case he's talking about the stool in the bar where he spends the majority of his life, and shortly after, Sam realizes for him it's the bar itself, and that the happiness he's been searching for has been surrounding him all along. As a writer's trick it's fairly trite; as a way to end the series I'll go ahead and say that it was note perfect.

That's why I love that ideal and why it's stuck with me for so long, but how does it hold up when scrutinized as a philosophy to organize your life around? Superficially it seems fairly obvious - love one thing, rely on it, and happiness will always be there for you. If you love your job and it means everything to you, well then that's your thing. If you pour your heart and soul into a hobby - be it juggling or going to the symphony - that thing can center you and make the world melt away. If you find that one thing is a person, well then that person can stem the unrelenting tide and bring you happiness when everything comes crashing down around you. I find the most credence in the last iteration of the ideal. Whether it's your spouse or children or best friend, the calming ideal of one overriding, unconditional love is both pretty powerful and for the lucky amongst us, tangible.

But of course it's been said by many smarter than I that nothing lasts forever. Nations crash and civilizations crumble. You wife cheats on you. Your kids become fuck ups. The Cubs don't win a world series in 100 years. Tangible things can let you down. Unless your one thing is a sled from your childhood that you can curl up against every night, your thing will falter (and as an aside, if your thing is Rosebud, your thing isn't really Rosebud. You are missing the point.) Plus, I've organized my life as such that I'm in love with many things. I love my wife and my kids and they center me and make me happy beyond belief. But I'd be ibid if I couldn't create. I'd die on the vine without writing and drawing and letting things spring forth from my mind hole. And I haven't even mentioned booze or music yet!

I'm all for singularity of focus. It can keep you happy for weeks on end. But the idea of coming back to one thing over and over again as the object of your affection - and that you only need to open your eyes to see it - is a cheap trick of writers and filmmakers. It's the equivalent of Oprah's "secret" - designed to make you find the happiness around you and thus relate to the story being told to you. That's not always a malevolent thing, sometimes it's just to tug at your heartstrings and assure you that characters you spent 11 years watching every Thursday night are going to be OK even though they will no longer be on your television. But I find it wanting as a trope to live your life by. If you can modify it to say "immerse yourself in something from time to time and revel in it, take solace that it's there, but don't be afraid to move on." then we are closer. When talking about individuals, well that's closer still. They can really do it, but you still are going to need a hobby, because no one is everything to someone else.

At the end of the day, we find the concept of "One thing" an intriguing one, with some obvious flaws that doesn't hold up all that well to serious scrutiny. As a Happiness Trope, from a scale of 0-10, 0 being Twilight and 10 being Star Wars, we give it a Chasing Amy, or a 6.5.

Posted 9:59am
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March 26th, 2012

Happy Oberon Day!

Ah Oberon! King of the fairies and harbinger of summer! Today we mark your triumphant return from necessary exile - one that ensures that we may properly appreciate your color, scent and taste, and only pair it with the appropriate warmth of a summer's day. Oberon you are a cherished member of our barbeques, baseball games and all outdoor activities wherein we worship the sun and plead with it never to leave. Welcome back old friend. You were missed, but when you're back, it's like we never missed a beat.

- Our summer buddy is also now available in 12 packs! On sale at Busch's right now for $15.77.

- We inadvertently missed the 49th anniversary of Please Please Me last Thursday. We correct that mistake by presenting you with the greatest rock and roll vocal of all time: John Lennon on "Twist and Shout".

Posted 10:17am
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March 23rd, 2012

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

- Back when I was in college, my roommate always used to note as we walked home from some party how different Ann Arbor and U of M was. This usually was because we were getting drunk and discussing Voltaire's influence on the Enlightenment or something of the sort. "Only in Ann Arbor.." he'd say. I thought of him when I read this.

- I had seen that many people I respected were in the throes of love with the BBC show Downton Abbey, but I wasn't expecting to fall down that rabbit hole. But then an afternoon at the in-laws turned into a Downton Abbey marathon and before I knew it I was clamoring for more. It's fitting that we just finished the last episode before another show I feel similarly about, Mad Men, returns this Sunday. In honor of both, here's a slideshow pairing the characters of Downton Abbey with their Md Men soul mates.

- Angry Birds. Words with Friends. Qrank. Most of the app games people have told me were amazing and would change my life were absolutely spot on. Add Draw Something to the list. If you're playing, please find tbaggervance and start a game. I'm quite good...

- Thanks to the unseasonably warm weather, this year's Chandler Drive In is in full swing. Last summer, I used our backyard movie theater to show Siddhartha all of the films of Quentin Tarantino. This summer: the movies of Alfred Hitchcock. Luckily for him we won't be able to get to them all.

- Finally, as I type this, there are 61 hours and 27 minutes until Oberon is released. I'll be like a kid trying to fall asleep on Xmas eve until then. Plus, I just found out that it will now be available in 12 packs, which is going to change my entire life. Cheers.

Posted 10:50am
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March 22nd, 2012

Redux.

I know we talked politics yesterday, but I don't have my thoughts organized on other things I want to talk to you about and truth be told, this shit has been building up in my cache and I want to dump it and move on. So what follows are links/articles/op-eds/ideas that have been and are going to be ignored (smart) or countered (dumb) by the GOP in the coming months. OK, it's a "No so bad with the Obama, eh?" post. I tried to stay away from blatantly liberal blogs and stick to national news organizations. For those who want an overly wordy counterpoint, I'm sure ljv will have something in the comments section as soon as he has a free period.

- From the NYTimes: The government bought up $225 billion in toxic mortgage backed securities a while back, in order to stabilize markets during the downturn. End cost to the taxpayers: $25 billion. Profit.

- From USAToday: 4 million seniors saved over $2 billion on prescription drugs last year, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Overall savings to the government are even more, as many of these medications allow for outpatient treatment or are preventative medicines.

- From The Hill: Fox News contributor points out that not only did 'The Stimulus' work, but to argue against it is to say that huge tax cuts don't work, and that might not be what those arguing against it want to say.

- Again from The Nation's Newspaper - we said the auto bailouts were wrong at the time. Turns out we were wrong. Let's go ahead and ALL admit that.

- From the Atlantic: Obama is more fiscally conservative than Reagan. I could debunk what the GOP thinks of Reagan from now until election day. What a farce.

So there you go. Next time someone tells you that all that spending the government is doing isn't working, you counter with math. And a few curse words, because the mouth breathers probably won't get the math.

Posted 11:50am
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March 21st, 2012

Wednesdays are for politickin'.

Let's make this quick. Mittens Romney won Illinois handily last night and bully for him. His position as the nominee is the same fait accompli that it was months ago. That doesn't mean that Santorum or Gingrich or Paul are going away, but the narrative may finally start to change. I for one knew that the end was neigh when Santorum declared war on porn. People give lip service to a lot of conservative bullshit because it sounds good and like what you're supposed to say, but you come for their booze or their porn and you're going to get a lot of "Beg your pardon?"s. It's America Rick. Love it or leave it.

With all of the hullabaloo out of the way, it's time for Willard to start talking to the American public at large - like a national candidate as opposed to the niche lackey that primaries require. That's why I laughed until my balls ached that he came out of the gate with this gem: "I don't see how anyone who is a young person could vote for a Democrat, I'm going to be honest with you."

Now Romney's no idiot. He's far closer to a spoiled Machiavelli who doesn't understand why people don't like him. Shrewd but obtuse. A bad actor, but one who can memorize his lines. The trouble starts, as it generally does in politics, when the truth comes out. But in addition to being of a party that wants to remove porn from the internet, let's look at some of the other things on the GOP agenda that young people are lining up to support:

- To run for office in South Carolina, they insist that you abstain from pre-marital sex. I'm sure that will be very popular.

- In Wisconsin, they want you to know that underage sex is a crime (you should watch the video in that link where the guy says that "Nobody knows more about sex than ME." and then pray for his homeschooled children).

- Their latest budget slashes funding of Pell grants for college, while lowering the top tax rate by 10%. Makes sense, most 20 year olds make $300,000 a year as opposed to attending school.

Funding for women's health. Gay marriage. Immigration. The Republican party is on the opposite side of young America on all of these issues. Yet Willard can't understand why if you're 22 you wouldn't vote Republican. Maybe I'm underestimating the amount of high school seniors who hate sex, don't want to go to college and are scared of women, gays and hispanics the same way you're average 57 year old hedge fund manager or third generation rural farmer are. I guess we'll find out on election day.

- If you haven't seen this, I swear it is worth your time: Will the real Mitt Romney please stand up?

Posted 10:53am
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March 20th, 2012

En garde, society!

Last night I was trying to make a left turn onto a one way into downton Ann Arbor and was forced to sit there while three people making a right turn waited to see if the d-bag standing on the corner was going to cross the street in front of them or not. While I place the majority of blame onto the bro standing there casually glancing at his phone, not knowing where he was going - as well as the third car who watched him do so and didn't just gun it, I find them all in violation of the social contract.

I recently saw an autograph that Louie CK signed for a little kid that said simply: "Don't be an asshole." That's as succinct of a distillation as I could give to my own philosophy. We have a certain set of prescribed rules in this society. They largely stem from Biblical pretexts and the Hammurabic code, which means they are so overtly simplistic that people several millennia ago said "That seems about right." Most of these laws people obey without thinking about them. They are fairly absolute, black and white, and haven't truly been argued about for centuries. Sure we play in the gray areas, but that's the privilege of an advanced society.

However, being civilized in my little corner of the world means more than that. These are the things that I've cobbled together through my midwestern upbringing, my early indoctrination into Catholicism and the following 25 years of analytical analysis. And while "Don't be an asshole" is a nice turn-of-phrase distillation, we unfortunately have to get a tad more overt than that, because people don't seem to get it.

First off, I'll caveat it by saying that sometimes it's important to be an asshole. I'll loosely define this behavior as "Calling people on their shit" but it could more politely be stated as "Stand up for what you believe in." While in 'refined' society (not to be confused with society-at-large or civilized society) it may make you persona-non-grata to call out an elder for being racist, or your friend for saying that Obama is a Muslim, or your co-worker for leaving shit in the community fridge for months on end, in the code of tbaggervance that is exactly what you must do. To tolerate intolerance or injustice gives these things tacit permission, and thus you would be found guilty of hindering our advancement in the court of tbaggervance.

Now I have (and continue to, to a lesser degree) take this as a mandate to call people out on lesser shit - whether it be their love for The Da Vinci Code or Twilight, or their advocacy of a non-progressive tax code, or even their fondness for Coldplay. I feel it the duty of every man to advocate for their beliefs. Not to the point of proselytizing mind you, but if someone across from you says something akin to "The Beatles are overrated" you don't just sit there. You don't even just walk away. You set the record straight. You do so with facts and knowledge and passion if you can, and with the eviscerating barbs of profanity and condescension if you can't. If you are not well versed in this, please sign up for my class "Making people fell small while validating your pre-conceived notions" at the learning annex.

But these are not the real world problems most of us face. I get that most people don't lie awake at night because they heard someone say at the bar "Dianetics changed my life." But I have a distinct idea that many of us have our day to day existence marred by people driving the speed limit in the left hand lane, or by trying to get on an elevator before you get off of it, or by taking their sweet goddamn time checking out at the self-checkout lane in the grocery store.

As a society, we function at our best when we consider those around us. This can manifest itself by giving time or money to a cause you believe in, by not driving past a line of cars waiting to get into a construction zone when the highway goes down to one lane and merging at the last second, or by simply holding the door for whomever is behind you going to the same place. These are simple things that cost you little to nothing, but yet prove the best in us in that we have taken the time to admit that solipsism is no way to go through life.

When I saw that idiot standing on the street corner tonight, with both he and the cars around him wondering if he was going to cross the street, I noted to the BDGF that it's a good thing for the idiots of the world that I wouldn't last in prison, because otherwise I'd thin the herd every chance I get. Actually, I said it's a good thing for society, but in hindsight my wording was wrong - It would be a fantastic thing for society, just not the least among you. I imagine this is the same thought process H.G. Wells had when he wrote The Time Machine.

Posted 9:39am
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March 19th, 2012

This Week in Indie Rock.

- There's a plethora of Jack White media saturation out there, so in deference to the BDGF, let's go to the tape: here's a review of his SXSW performance (which included reworked White Stripes songs), here's a similar review of Jack's new endeavor that includes the line "White has often ceded the stage to great but less charismatic talents like Brendan Benson." so that's dumb, and speaking of Mr. Benson, here comes a Raconteurs' DVD. Oh, and this is the best song of his solo debut yet.

- Radiohead are finally playing Detroit! Well, Auburn Hills anyway. Here's hoping that these idiots come along for the ride.

- Jeff Tweady's kid is making music and it is not bad. Makes you feel old, eh?

- The A.V. Club is back with it's Undercover series, and it kicks off with the Tom Petty/Stevie Nicks classic "Stop Dragging my Heart Around". Baby you could never look me in the eye...

- The Shins are streaming their new LP on iTunes. I like the Shins, but I will never get excited by them, because when it comes to excitement and the Shins, never the twain shall meet.

- Craig Finn is making his own beer. I've watched him drink a million Coronas on stage over the years, so pardon me if I sit this one out. One week until Oberon returns!

- Finally, Ann Arbor's hottest low-fi duo, Death Wish Squirrel play Woodruffs this Thursday at 8pm sharp. Dig it. And try not to judge them for existing on MySpace. Yes, apparently still a thing.

Posted 10:29am
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March 16th, 2012

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

- Here's a new meme that I am totally on board with: Mitt Romney quotes as read by Lucille Bluth and Sterling Archer quotes as read by James Bond. Come on!

- Community returned last night, so in celebration, we give the hottest animated gifs of Allison Bree and Gillian Jacobs.

- Michigan plays in the opening round of the NCAA tournament tonight. Sadly, I will be with Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman watching Mythbusters Live. As far as sacrafices go, a pretty easy one. As a pre-game snack, please enjoy this analysis of why Ohio fans are douche bags. Nailed it.

- There's no way to tie these two things together, so I'll just note it gives me unadulterated joy that Dr. Horrible may be coming back and that Chuck Klosterman also enjoyed the late 80's Canadian teen melodrama Fifteen. That show was my church on Sunday mornings back in the day.

- Finally, tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day. My pride in my Irish heritage compells me to celebrate, but there's nothing worse than a Saturday St. Pats. It makes the amateur component explode exponentially. Anyway, enjoy this Guiness commercial which, of course, nails it. Erin Go Bragh.

Posted 3:14pm
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March 15th, 2012

This is how the world ends.

Ed. note: This is for my own edification. No one should decide to read it of their own volition, except in which case they find my profanity laden diatribes funny, but I even can't promise that right now.

Deep down in my heart of hearts I am eternally grateful. Back in 1998 I had been working at a research firm that served as my student employment. After graduation, I was stuck with a degree that was essentially useless in the real world, a desire to never sit in a classroom again, and a three year old who needed food, shelter and insurance. So when my employer at the time offered me a full time job (albeit one not in my field of study) I jumped at the opportunity. Despite going into college wanting to set the world on fire and have a career path drastically different from my old man's, I found myself taking a steady job to provide for a toddler. My dad always said the older you get the smarter your parents are, and the older I get, the more I agree with him.

Now this was not a dire scenario by any stretch of the imagination. My new salary afforded me the opportunity to pay my bills, let my son be insured, and most importantly, came with a flexibility so that I could be there for the little one when time called. I worked nine to five, five days a week - and if I needed to leave at 10am because someone threw up at school, no worries mate.

Plus it was a fairly challenging position. I knew computers because I was a nerd, but not having any formal training, there was a lot of learning as I went. And the tasks were diverse - I literally learned the ins and outs of every part of IT support. Show me a computer now and I can tell you within 30 seconds what's wrong with it. Turns out to be a valuable skill. You think doctors have a tough time at a party when the guests find out and he spends the evening being asked "Can you look at this blemish on my scrotum?" Try being in IT. Same thing except they don't have anything to show you. "How come all of the sudden my computer at home doesn't print?" Turns out "Probably because you're an idiot." isn't a valid response.

But as he too often is, the Moeman was right. For a dozen years I never had to miss a team practice. I got to coach baseball that met at 4pm on a Thursday. I picked Sid up from school on half days and had no trouble staying home when he was sick or even if his belly hurt. I wouldn't trade that for the world.

After a decade or so however, I started to think about longevity. I saw the end of the line wherein I didn't have 2pm emergencies or International nights or the need to be a taxi cab to tennis practice. I started to feel a sense of entitlement where one had previously not existed. I had done good work for a long time, and while I had grown accustomed to the cushy University life, I now also wanted compensated for my experience. I had earned it. It was time to make money, and I would very much like to do that with very little additional effort or finding a new job thank you.

Let us fast forward to a year ago. Things started to snowball when the guy for all intents and purposes 'above me' decided to leave. This was to be my big break. A chance to set an agenda for myself to become the IT overlord for an entire department, just I had envisioned for years. Everyone at work loved me, and I knew not only problems but the solutions to that which plagued us. Of course best laid plans...

Almost a year later, after having me do the job of the guy that left in addition to my previous responsibilities, and hiring an 'IT Manager' for the department without so much as informing that it was going to happen (much less giving me the opportunity to apply for the position) I find myself butting heads with a stereotypical middle management asshole who takes my ideas and spouts them to the higher ups as if they were his own while I sit at the office, now 11:12pm on a Wednesday night, doing the menial work of a temp. So much for being indispensable.

As I stopped home quickly to drink a beer in the sun before heading back to my cave for the evening, the BDGF reminded me "Oh, come on, it's not the end of the world..." To which I summarily responded "Yes it is." When she asked for one example how it was , I told her "When the idiots of the world stop listening to those smarter than they and quit respecting their ideas in deference to their own wrong-headedness, we are fucked as a society." That's as arrogant as it gets people. The BDGF laughed. I contend, as I sit here in my spite, that I am right.

Now my at work troubles don't amount to a hill of beans. Maybe I'm not as good as I think I am. Maybe I'm too young and still too acerbic a personality to rise to the vaunted level of middle management. But I know the reason I sit here right now pounding the keyboard as if it were my enemy only exists because people didn't listen to me. At the very least I'm right a little bit. And of course I still contend a lot. Maybe I'll never be rich and successful and get what I deserve for years of dedicated service. Sometimes I worry about that. But I always take solace in the Moeman paradigm. I'm sure he had to deal with worse than I have so far, and he seemed to be OK in his lot in life. At the end of the day, I could do worse. Although if any more of them end up with me printing posters at midnight on a Wednesday, the end of the day is going to come with me taking a shit in someone's office. At the very least...

Posted 10:36am
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March 13th, 2012

What's making Baby Jesus cry this week?

- I don't care too terribly much about pro football, certainly no single team owns my allegiance. I find it hard to root for pro athletes who are inherently flawed individuals who I may not agree with, thus putting me at odds with loving them on the field and loathing them off. Take Philip Rivers for example. Not only would I be jumping ship if I were any sort of a Chargers fan, I now look forward to rooting against them for as long as he's on the team.

- We've talked about Kirk Cameron's homophobia ad nauseam 'round these parts, and I normally wouldn't bother following it up just because his one time TV dad Alan Thicke rebuked him, but I also do not want to deny you this headline: Kirk Cameron's Growing Pains co-stars no longer showing him that smile. Nailed it.

- Ah Utah, home of Mormons and Karl Malone. Therefore you shouldn't be surprised that they've passed an abstinence only sex-ed bill. But what if I also told you that it prohibits even mentioning homosexuality and gives schools the choice to forgo sex-ed al altogether? Yeah, barely phases me either.

- Here's some stuff the Bible says 'tsk, tsk' to that you probably participated in. Sinner.

- If you're looking for an alternate moral code, you could do worse than Louis CK.

- Finally, we are all for conflating the Obama = Savior meme around here, especially when it's done in reverse.

Posted 11:36am
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March 12th, 2012

I declare this winter over!

The BDGF hates winter like I hate conservative hypocrites. She gruffs her way from November on every year. And come every January I remind her of the promise of St. Patrick's Day. The first year we were together St. Pats broke the back of winter. We were buried under a foot of snow at the beginning of March, but the powers of the Drunken Irish beat back the cold and on March 17th that year, we walked around in the sun without even coats to keep ourselves warm.

Every year she grouses, every year I remind her. At which point she usually tells me how tired of waiting she is, along with another string of expletives as she turns up the heat in the house. Well I am happy to report - as you obviously already know, that she didn't have to wait even until St. Patrick's Day this year. Yesterday I worked outside in SHORTS. The extended 10 day forecast doesn't have a temperature below 60 for a high. Whether it be climate change, global warming or just a weird point in nature's cycle, I hereby declare winter to be stone dead. Make forth glorious summer! Even if Oberon is still two weeks away...

- I imagine it's still pretty cold in Quebec come April, so we will plan our trip to these for sometime in August. Because Hoth proved that the force cannot keep you warm.

- There's some interesting math going on here. But it also includes a Star Wars reference, so worth checking out.

- Hey about that contraception being a liberal plot to force conservatives to subsidize promiscuity thing - is that pill easier to swallow if it saves us a billion dollars? Aw well, it was worth a shot...

Posted 11:48am
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March 9th, 2012

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

- There was quite a bit of good music on television this week, highlighted by Jack White on SNL and Elvis Costello and the Roots covering Bruce Springsteen on Fallon. Yowza.

- I found it interesting that of the top ten bars in Ann Arbor (ranked by total alcohol sales) I'd only be caught dead in one of them. I can't decide if this means I'm not doing enough at the bars I do frequent, or I'm single handedly keeping them afloat.

- I leave it to you as to which of these "Who said it?"s is funnier: Mitt Romney or Mr Burns? OR Rick Santorum or the Grand Ayatollah? Did I say funny? I think I meant disturbing.

-It's tourney time! Almost anyway. Michigan plays in the Big Ten Tournament this weekend before the Big Dance starts next Thursday. I will watch more basketball in the next ten days than I will the rest of the year. And on Monday I will fill out a bracket wherein I will spectacularly fail to predict the correct upsets, yet still carry around a sheet with my picks on it, and two pens so that I can mark the games I get right and those I inevitably get wrong. Wait, there's got to be an app for that, right?

- Finally, the BDGF returns today, trophy in hand for another State Championship for her little math nerds. We couldn't be prouder of her or more happy to have her back. xoxo my sweet.

Posted 10:44am
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March 8th, 2012

Further down the nerd hole...

Along with my parenting duties (and cleaning the hideousness that had festered underneath our basement stairs) so far I have watched: a documentary about Star Wars fans who feel like George Lucas mouth raped their childhood, Brubaker, a 1980 Robert Redford prison movie that features plenty of actual rape, and a "where are they now?" documentary about the world's best video gamers in 1982. Tonight I may read a bit of the Teddy Roosevelt biography while listening to Chris Bathgate on vinyl before settling down to watch a 1982 German film about a rubber baron who tried to build an opera house in the Peruvian jungle. Jealous? If someone wants to come over and play Star Wars/Lord of the Rings/Beatles Trivial Pursuit (yes, I own all three editions, why do you ask?) my night would be complete. I'll also start to feel a little bit like those guys from the video game documentary. Minus the living with my parents part. On to the nerd links!

- The new iPad is out and I finally really want one. We always bring a laptop with us when we travel, and I always get to be the one to lug it around. That's just the tip of the iceberg as to why I am ready to take the plunge. Here's a comparison between the iPad's latest specs and its top competitors.

- That 70's Show (and I supposeWin a Date with Tad Hamilton?)'s Topher Grace edited the three Star Wars prequels together into an action packed 90-minute movie, and it's apparently not too shabby. You'll never get to see it of course, so keep dreaming of another decent Star Wars movie.

- For Ann Arbor Star Wars fans, a lament - they are tearing down the building that used to house Sze Chuan West to build a Noodles and Co. This is not only lamentable because boo crappy chain restaurants, but if any of you ever had the pleasure of going to the old Sze Chuan, you know it was as close to actually being on Tatooine that you could find this side of Tunisia. My dream that someone would turn it into a replica of the Mos Eisley Cantina will soon be dead.

- Finally, venn diagrams, when done well, are a perfect cocktail of nerd awesome.

Posted 3:17pm
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March 7th, 2012

Bachelor Dad!

It's that time of year again when the BDGF goes away on business for a couple of days and I am left hold down the fort and fend for myself and the girls. This basically means that I have to get up an hour early to get them to school and be in charge of getting the littlest into bed at reasonable time (midnight?) The rest of my existence will ostensibly be the same.

Except for the fact that I have about 4 hours to kill after the littlest goes to bed every night all by my lonesome. And while I will miss my BDGF I am going to make the most of my alone time by going on a nerd binge. The BGDF and I agree on most things to a level that approaches disturbing, but I do have a few proclivities that she does not share. I once averaged watching a movie at LEAST every other day, now not so much. I absolutely adore slow, mellow, trenchant music - but not around the BDGF.

So for the next 48 hours I'm going to watch long, methodical movies that most people have never heard of (who's ready for Fitzcarraldo!) and listen to Chris Bathgate and Radiohead. And I'll get to enjoy it without a single eyeroll from my better half. Of course I'll be more than ready to have her back come Friday, because while I look forward to placating my inner nerd, I'd much rather sit around and discuss the entirety of the day's NYTimes with my BDGF (which is of course pretty nerdy in and of itself).

- Wormer.. .dead. Niedermeyer... dead. McQuarrie... Star Wars concept artist and populator of my adolescent dreams Ralph McQuarrie has passed away at the age of 82. Perhaps no other person outside of Lucas himself was responsible for how awesome Star Wars looked. I like to think he was lying in bed and then suddenly just disappeared, leaving nothing but a cloak in his wake.

- Neil Degrasse Tyson is perhaps the world's most badass astrophysicist. You've seen him on the Daily Show and Colbert. He has a kick ass podcast. You can generally ask him anything about science and he'll give you an answer that not only sounds irrefutable, but also eloquent. Here he is giving you the most astounding thing about the universe.

- Finally, the cherry on today's nerd Sunday: The Dr. Who/Sherlock musical mash up. I said good day sir.

Posted 09:54am
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March 6th, 2012

That to which we aspire.

I suppose I've had some adversity in my life. Not as much as someone born truly poor who had to worry about going to bed hungry growing up, more than someone who had the means to buy their way out of trouble and make it go away. And while most of the people who knew me as a teenager would have described me as pessimistic at best, at the very least I've grown to consider myself an extremely lucky individual. No more so in how I managed to become a father at 19 and literally, just survive. And while I've had a fortuitous nature in a lot of the aspects of that paradigm, in my mind what made that possible was the kind of kid I had. Nature versus nurture aside, I've been told that Sid and I do everything alike from enter a room the same way to similarly condescend to our enemies while playing a game of euchre. Had this not been the case, I would have struggled far more mightily than I did.

I'm fairly certain that his success is predicated on this. Sid is a smart kid. The veritable textbook case of what you'd think parents would want their child to be. Most importantly for me, he approaches things (mostly) like I did. This is paramount because as I'm fond of saying, I wouldn't have had the first clue what to do with a kid that struggled. Pardon my not-humble nature (and hyperbole) but I barely needed to open a book in high school to get straight A's nor in college to get a degree from one of the better institutions of higher learning in the country. This is not necessarily something to brag about nor aspire to, as it made me lazy and dismissive and (along with needing to pay for a toddler) stopped my educational career far before it may have otherwise progressed.

But years later, when I had a smart kid on my hands who needed challenging rather than help to stay afloat, I had the tools to deal with it. Because like every parent who has ever existed, I wanted more for my kid than that which I had for myself. It's the epitome of the American dream. I've done whatever (although admittedly certainly not everything - I'm still somewhat lazy) I could to foster a climate of educational importance in Sid's life. To push him, prod him and ensure that he's performing up to his potential, rather than skating by like his father years before him too often did.

Sid takes his ACT exam this week. I'm confident in his success, because I have no reason to expect otherwise. My fingers are crossed that he goes to the University of Michigan and revels in being a Wolverine like his old man. It's a dream that I never allowed myself to have until recently, but now it burns within me like so much the white hot intensity of a thousand suns. It is all consuming and all I want in life. I can say this knowing that A.) he will never read this, and B.) that - honestly - if he goes to a good school and works hard I'll be as proud of him as I would be were we to have matching diplomas. Honest. Mostly.

What I don't get is, who doesn't want that for their kid? I understand that not everyone is as lucky as I have been and that dream is not attainable for every single 16 year old in America, but some version of it is. In my estimation this goes back to the election of George W. Bush, but it assuredly stems back further if not having existed ad infinitum. It also seems to be somewhat uniquely American, but I'm willing to be wrong on that too and not defend it vehemently. However long it's existed and wherever it's most prevalent, there's a push back against intellectualism in this country, and it makes me want to vomit more profusely than Rick Santorum contemplating JFK's mere existence.

What makes "elitism" an ugly word? I mean, I know that it's a GOP meme meant to conjure up vapid, over-educated souls who have never done a hard day's work in their life and who think they know how to fix your problems despite never having experienced them, but what makes that OK when applied to education but not business 'elites' who are certainly as soft and more coddled than their University counterparts? The latter is celebrated while the former serves as a Limbaugh punchline (nevermind that those routinely throwing said barbs have master's level degrees and higher).

My little brother is a farmer. He's two years younger than I am. Never went to school, has problems with subject/verb agreement when speaking extemporaneously. He's read fewer books in his lifetime than I have in my 30s and can't begin to define string theory or the argument for preemptive war with Iran versus sanctions and diplomacy. Yet I don't doubt for a second that he's every bit as happy on a day to day basis as I am. I don't look down on my brother for one second because of the choices he's made or how he's decided to live his life. The truth is, despite eschewing college, he's engaged in bettering himself through apprenticeship programs and courses designed to teach him a trade until he's found a place for himself. He may not be done yet, but if that's the case, I'm sure he's not going to sit back and stop searching.

I'm also fairly certain that he doesn't think I'm a condescending asshole for getting a degree. I mean, I KNOW he thinks I'm a condescending asshole, but for the same reason that most people think I am - because it's true. At the end of the day, we both have the same values instilled in us by out parents: Work hard. Do right. Don't rest on your laurels. Find something that makes sense to you and then give back, because not everyone is as lucky as you are. Disparate paths, same result.

I want everyone to be educated because I think it's the highest ideal. I think that more often than not, those who can apply their brains to the abstract end up solving the concrete problems we face. That a knowledge of history and the basic building blocks of chemistry, physics, literature, mathematics and art allow us to stand on the shoulders of giants and solve problems we would have otherwise not ever been made aware of. Failing that, I want my kid to get a good job and not have to fret too much about living paycheck to paycheck so that he can worry a little less and take vacations a little more. I honestly believe that an education is the best way to do that. I really hope that Sid crushes my ACT score, even if that fact will hinder my sleep patterns for the better part of a month.

Posted 09:21am
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March 5th, 2012

What's making Baby Jesus cry this week?

- Rick Santorum is very concerned that President Obama wants to make over the you of America 'in his image' by sending them to college to be educated. Mr. Santorum has a great fear that attending college will make people less religious. I'm here to tell Rick that his fears are 100% correct. I'm fond of the argument that politics and religion are the two things that most people get indoctrinated into at a very young age and then never bother to explore for themselves. This is not to say that many people don't question their faith or political leanings and end up coming down exactly where they've always been told that they belong, but my question to Santorum and any other believer out there would be "What are you afraid of?" Isn't the unexamined life not worth living? Does your belief system and set of dogmas not pass the muster of scrutiny? By overtly stating that an education makes you less religious, you're the one pointing out flaws in your system - which by the way you think should inform and be arbiter of every piece of public discourse and policy. Christ on a bike what house of cards...

- As the contraception and "personhood" arguments heat up like we've time warped back to the 1950s, this hero proposes masturbation be a crime. Thankfully he was joking, but disgustingly it's like one foot behind the line in the sand they are trying to draw.

- Witness the most disturbing documentary trailer you've seen since "Jesus Camp": "Kidnapped for Christ" Because if you're rich, super-christian and your kid tells you they're gay, it's off to the re-education camps. Again: documentary.

- Wait, Kirk Cameron says homosexuality is detrimental to society. I take back the above post.

- What was that show where Alyssa Milano was a witch? I want to see her and whoever else was on that show take on these bitches: The Teen Exorcism Squad. Again, I'm not making this shit up.

- Finally, this little segment may have outlived its usefulness, as it would appear Miley Cyrus is an atheist. Game over, we won. Peace out.

Posted 10:44am
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March 2nd, 2012

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

- So the Oscars, as per usual, were pretty bland. We get it, you think you have to be milquetoast. But do you have to trot out a catskill comedian recycling jokes from Vaudeville and treading on his the same exact shtick he's done 8 times before? Christ on a bike. Wanna know how meh the Oscars were? Watch Seth Rogen's opening remarks from the American Spirit Awards (BTW, the movie 50/50 didn't get nominated for anything? It was way better than a lot of the dreck that got noms). Or the montage from the Jimmy Kimmel Show post-Oscars. Oye vey Billy Crystal, worse than we thought in the moment.

- I hate mentioning people like Rush Limbaugh because I feel like I'm contributing to the problem by merely repeating the vile things that come out of his mouth. But this, well... he said that if we mandate coverage for birth control, then women should have to tape themselves having sex and put it on the internet so he can watch. Ironically, it's dumber than this parody of the GOP's war on women's reproductive rights - which they tried to make so dumb as to be laughable. Congrats Rush and the whole GOP - that's tough to do.

- One of my favorite conversations (and one I've been having for 20 years) is about how all artists are thieves. Anyone who has ever created anything stands on the shoulders of giants, and I write that stealing a quote that I'm not attributing, thus completing the cycle. Anyway, rather than give you my version of the diatribe, I can't recommend enough that you watch these videos "Everything is a Remix". My buddy Rohrs emailed it to me, noting "I think we had this conversation many moons ago." We did, and let's go ahead and pretend we were that erudite.

- Wormer... dead. Niedermeyer... dead. Breitbart... Political asshat Andrew Breitbart died yesterday at the age of 43, and I have no problem saying about time. I know I should feel bad that he had friends and family and they are mourning, but I'd feel worse if he had lived and they had continued to suffer him, in an even more personal, up close way than the world had to. He was a horrible, vile human being that politically embodied the worst of humanity (minus things such as genocide). I can't say it any better than Matt Taibbi did: Andrew Breitbart: Death of a Douche.

- Finally, yesterday Bells Brewery announced that Oberon will be released March 26th (it's always the last Monday in March, but it's good to have things all official like). That means we are just a tad more than three weeks away from the official start of spring. Let's get the weather to cooperate now please and thank you. Cheers.

Posted 10:44am
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March 1st, 2012

This Week in Indie Rock

- This is ancient news at this point, but people were upset at Dave Grohl dissing electronic music on the Grammys, and which point he kind of clarified what he meant. He was right all along - music is about self-expression, and most of what you hear on the radio (I assume, anyway) is not that.

- Announced - Sleigh Bells go on tour and Pitchfork's Festival lineup 2012.

- I have no idea what bizarre internet show this is, but Ted Leo plays "Bottled in Cork" at the 17:45 mark.

- Jimmy Fallon + Eddie Vedder + Jeremy Lin = This.

- I remember the first time I heard Norah Jones. I thought "This is something" and promptly listened to the album 1 zillion times. Then six months later it became a huge adult contemporary thing I needed a shower. Since then she's made a number of awesome career zigs and zags, including acting in a Wong Kar Wai movie collaborating with Jack White and Dangermouse. Incidentally, Danger produces her new album, and I like the first track. If that means I am headed for Lite FM, so be it. I mean how dare you!

- My all time greatest indie rock underground crush The Promise Ring reunited again last Saturday night in Chicago. Due to travel schedules I had to miss the show, so here's hoping this turns into some sort of mini reunion tour, because imagine how much fun it would be to pretend it's 1997 again...

- Finally, Wormer.. dead. Niedermeyer... dead. Davey Jones... I certainly am not old enough to have been the Monkee's target demographic when they were hatched in a lab sometime in 1964, but I certainly saw most if not all of their TV episodes growing up, which I think speaks to the quality (if not necessarily enduring power) of what they were doing. Sometimes old guys in suits decide to copy something in the zeitgeist and despite their best efforts, fail to screw it up. I put the Monkees in that category. No they didn't play their instruments, but that makes this not a good song or more importantly, not super fun? No, no it doesn't. RIP Davey...

Posted 11:03am
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February 29th, 2012

Wednesdays are for politickin'...

- I'll admit that I thought about voting for Rick Santorum yesterday. Michigan has an open primary so I could have gone in, asked for a Republican ballot and cast my lot with vilest of the vile in hopes of obfuscating the GOP race. Ultimately, I didn't because I don't want to be that kind of person. Not because of the liberals yelling "If he gets elected I'm blaming you!" because that prospect is as likely me turning down a free drink. I like to think that I have a little higher set of ideals. Let them run whomever they think best represents their direction for the country and let's have an honest debate about it. None of this will happen mind you, but not because I'm fucking around and giggling with the kids at Daily Kos.

- So let us eulogize the man synonymous with anal sex liquids, mostly because I have a million links in my file I need to dump. Let us remember Santorum by remembering what he believed in:

- Global warming is a hoax.
- College is for snobs (and Obama mandates your attendance).
- You have no constitutional right to privacy.
- There's no such thing as a liberal Christian.
- JFK was a pussy.

Thanks for the good times Santorum. And thanks to every woman and non-Catholic who voted for him and prolonged his run in the spotlight - you took one for the team knowing that Santorum hates you and has no respect for your rights as an individual.

- You know how the biggest homophobes in the Republican party doth tend to protest too much? This does nothing to dispel that.

- And while I always knew that the Girl Scouts had a rampant pro-homosexual agenda, I had no clue they were also encouraging the sexualization of children as an arm of Panned Parenthood. The more you know...

- Finally, with a little luck, I give you the first female president of the United States. I'd vote for her.

Posted 11:41am
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February 28th, 2012

tbaggervance and the BDGF in: I'd run away with you baby... Part two: Viva Las Vegas

When the BDGF initially proffered the idea of including Vegas on our Southwestern United States vacation, I was excited. I love Vegas. Or I did. Back in the day Vegas was a wonderful, giant, gold plated turd. Sure at some point they tried to gentrify it and make a family friendly vacation destination, but it still had seediness at its core. You could still get rooms for $40 a night on the strip in what amounted to a motel. And these low rent dens of inequity would comp your stay if you agreed to play blackjack at five dollars a hand for eight hours at their tables (and they'd throw in a breakfast buffet on top of it). But I came in to that scenario as the waiters were clearing dessert, and that version of Vegas has faded into memory. The Disneyfication of the Strip is complete, and while it's still a giant, gold plated turd populated with shirtless hillbillies wearing yard long glasses of margaritas around their collective necks, seeing said spectacle is no longer possible on a budget. You can't find $5 blackjack anymore. The late night sirloin and baked potato deals for $1.99 are gone, replaced with meals fit for Applebees at twice the price. You not only don't get comped for charming the pit boss anymore, you are forbidden from making eye contact with the overweight goombas running the tables. People now bring four year olds to wander Las Vegas Boulevard, staring at business cards with naked women with stars covering their nipples and ogling at billboards featuring men in g-strings. I have a problem with this on several levels.

My trepidation didn't hit me initially. I knew that the BDGF has OCD levels of germaphobia, but that could be dealt with by wearing gloves. And I knew she wouldn't want to partake in whatever was left of my 'Dirty Vegas', where you could hope to win $100 in an hour on $5 blackjack and feel like you affected the pit's take for the day. It started to bother me when I remembered that my last two trips to Sin City ended up in my then girlfriend breaking up with me and getting mugged. My Vegas was gone. Since then I had had my heart broken and wallet stolen from me. Why was I going back here? When our itinerary went from one night to three, I started to panic.

Yet there I was Wednesday morning, checking out of our beautiful, eclectic hotel in Phoenix to head North to stay in a rundown Vegas casino where they charged $15 a night for WIRED internet access. The first night would be easy. We had tickets to see Penn & Teller at the Rio, so it was merely a matter of turning in the rental car, checking in, and going to the show. Nothing could possibly go wrong. And while I know this should be the point where I tell you a story of a horrific nature, outside of the piss poor pizza we ate out of necessity and convenience, everything went to plan. We checked in, the BDGF learned an important lesson about never stopping to talk to anyone offering you anything in Vegas, we saw the show and went back to the hotel to hang out much like we were back in Ann Arbor. The BDGF already started to express her reservations about how skeevy the city was, but I knew that was coming. Incidentally, having never been to a Vegas show before, I highly recommend Penn & Teller. Amazing magic, $50 a ticket, hilarious. Fuck $100+ for Cirque du Soleil.

The next day it was time to walk the strip and revel in all of its retarded opulence. We were resplendent in the juxtaposition of carefully recreated world treasures against the backdrop of fat Americans in their fanny packs pushing strollers. We ate pseudo French cuisine while watching tourists pay $5 to touch a guy's snake (not a euphemism). After enough sightseeing to require two showers, we took a cab to an out of the way, low rent casino to see an aging Beatles cover band that rocked our faces. We were complimented by several strangers for being able to sing every word to every song and just being utterly adorable, and both agreed that it was our favorite evening of our adventure. It's amazing at how John and Paul's words can make everything melt away, even when you are 10 years the youngest people in the room.

Friday we walked the strip again, with a detour to one of the few places my Vegas still exists: Ellis Island. Its a dump of a place with a square footage no larger than our house. But we drank their $2 beers and managed to roll them for $60 collectively at blackjack in the span of 30 minutes, thus the hero hands.

We then decided to find a spot to watch the spectacle unfold and play the ultimate Vegas game. It started as Girlfriend/Mistress/Wife but unfolded to include the following categories:

1st wife
2nd wife
Girlfriend
Mistress
Sugar daddy
King of Queens/ reverse King of Queens
Mistress turned 2nd wife
The Sarandon
Mrs. Robinson
Escort
Hillbilly Hookup
Stepladder
Lesbians or sisters?
The Beard (aka the Tom cruise)
Gaybies (Gay men with babies)
The Mailorder
The Mr. mom
The Manstress

It's a game you can play anywhere, but you will find no better content anywhere than in Vegas.

Friday night was to include a taste of the best Vegas had to offer, so at the suggestion of former Vegas resident, Sin City confidant and long time friend of tbaggervance RJ, we went to the Chandelier at the Cosmopolitan. It's the current reason Vegas has a reputation for being hip and cool and above the fray, and deservedly so. It didn't hurt that I had this on my arm:

That being said, its coolness still had a vibe of entitlement and Eurotrash to it. When you charge me $18 for two vodka sodas and act like I just kicked you in the junk when I tip you two bucks, you can politely go fuck yourself. Of course it was still amazing and being in Vegas for 48 hours, I was used to overpaying and being made to feel like it was my fault for it.

We made our way back to the hotel and checked out the following morning and made our way home. The BDGF had experienced Vegas and realized what she knew going in: that it was a dirty place she wanted no part of. I had a similar awakening in that my Vegas was truly all but dead. That of course was tempered by the notion that I got to experience it with my favorite person in the world, and what ever taboos I had about the place were similarly extinct. I no longer have a desire to visit Vegas the way I once did, but it's also not a harbinger of evil. I have better, more important ways to spend my time. The last day we were there, the BDGF and I posed in front of a chapel and posted it to facebook, hoping that people would extrapolate that we'd made a spur of the moment decision to making an honest man and woman of each other. No one bit, but that ended up being besides the point. It solidified for me something I'd known for some time now - I'd have said yes in a heartbeat. What more does anyone want out of a vacation?

Posted 9:38am
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February 27th, 2012

tbaggervance and the BDGF in: I'd run away with you baby... Part one: We said we'd never drive on vacation again

I don't think for a second that the BDGF and I are the only couple in the world who routinely look each other in the eye and agree out loud to never do something again, only to find ourselves in said situation the very next time the opportunity arises. I am extremely glad, however, that those things are never horrible habits like letting each other down, but rather silly things that tend to revolve around spoiling the children or driving on vacation.

I got my way once again this year in that we agreed to try and balance fun and warmth by traveling to a probably warm city rather than a definitely warm remote resort where we'd eat dinner next to Bob and Midge from Charlotsville for six straight nights. And just as to not bury the lead - the weather was nigh on perfect. After two years of rollercoaster-y at best temps, the BDGF got a week of mid to high 70's. Of course just for cohesion's sake, we also got 9 degrees and snow on the ground.

Our original plan was to spend a week in sunny Phoenix, Arizona. I'm a big fan of their light rail transportation and figured that in a place that size, we could find a way to kill a week. After looking around a bit, the BDGF wasn't so sure. So we added Las Vegas to the itinerary. After scheduling the girl's simultaneous trip and finding the cheapest flight we arrived in Las Vegas, bound for Phoenix via economy rental car, just before midnight on Sunday night.

Of course since we were going to be so close, we just had to see the Grand Canyon on the way. Now the first summer the BDGF and I were together we drove to both South Carolina and South Kadota because family made those trips necessary. Then last year we drove up and down the East coast with the children because the older ones will be gone soon and togetherness is paramount. After that trip we swore off traveling great distances by automobile. Yet here I was, traveling through the middle of the night, 3 hours out of the way to see the sunrise over a giant hole in a car with no cruise control (seriously Ford?) And when we got there it was 9 degrees fahrenheit outside.

But what, we were going to be a couple hours from the Grand Canyon and not see it? By the time we drove south a few more hours and lowered our elevation by several thousand feet, we were sitting poolside at our hotel, basking in the 75 degree sunshine. We spent the next two days drinking outside on patios, which would have been enough to make a successful vacation for either of us.

We also met up with my ex Ayesha, who gave the BDGF a fairly prototypical Ayesha experience. It was good to see her and whatever awkwardness that's inherent in those things melted fairly quickly - thanks in large part, as always, to alcohol. And of course as we try to do every vacation, we found pub trivia to play. Phoenix may not be an intellectual mecca nor world renowned for its erudite citizenry, but let that not take away from the fact that the two of us kicked that trivia night's ass.

We clearly could have stayed longer, as we quickly fell in love with our hotel and the weather. We spent the last night sitting on the roof, just drinking and talking as we are wont to do. Because while we may fall into the trap of looking each other in the eye, stating that we'll never do something again that we clearly will, after two and half years we still just like looking at each other.

Tomorrow: Bright light city gonna set my soul on fire!

Posted 11:41am
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February 17th, 2012

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

- You've seen Documentaries, Rockumentaries and Mockumentaries, but are you aware of Filmumentaries? Jamie Benning takes watching your favorite films to a new behind the scenes level, this time with my personal favorite movie of all time, Raiders of the Lost Ark. Dig it.

- More film fun! See how many times through it takes you to name all of these movies, A to Z. I watched it 3 times, I'm still missing two letters.

- Paul Krugman's op-ed in the Times today tries to tackle why people vote against their self interests. I think he misses an important reason that's tough to quantify but I think is nevertheless true: People vote Republican because they think someday they (or their children) will be rich enough to take advantage of their gamed system. I think this is largely unconscious and people who participate in this behavior often wouldn't quantify it in this way, but I think it's an actual thing. I mean, it can't all be wedge issues, the gays and lady parts aren't that scary.

- I've long been calling Romney 'inevitable'. And as much as I love the dog and pony show, I always want the opposition to run somewhat not totally batshit, because what if they win? I could always move to Toronto, but I don't think the BDGF would survive the cold. Anyway, I thought Romney was not so bad. Outside of the magic underwear thing, the guy is so malleable that he probably wouldn't be the worst President in the world. Now I'm starting to waver, because you won't believe the example of talking out of both sides of one's mouth I'm about to lay on you: Mittens was against the bailout of the auto industry. Big time. Said to let Detroit go bankrupt and kept saying it, this despite every reasonable person in the world saying that IN HINDSIGHT even, this was a rousing success. Then IN DETROIT he gets up, IN PUBLIC, and takes credit for GM being profitable. Who the fuck does this guy think he is?

- Finally, the blog will be an empty plain filled with nothing but tumbleweeds next week as I head to the great American Southwest for a much needed respite from the grind of the working week. We struggle with where to go every year, because the BDGF wants nothing more than to be able to wear dresses and be warm, and I'd rather stay home and go to work than spend a bunch of money to go to some resort and have forced interaction with Biff and Wendy from Pecoima. So we try and find somewhere South that has actual culture and a nightlife and things to do. Year one was Austin, which was fairly perfect outside of the one day that it snowed (for the first time in Austin in 30 years). Year two we hit LA, where we still had to wear coats outside and crank the heater to put the top down on the convertible. This year we'll be in PHX and Las Vegas, checking out the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam as we ferry between the two. Please please please let it be above 70 while we are there. I have no doubt that one of these years I will have to bite the bullet and end up somewhere in the Caribbean where nothing is open after 10pm, but if I can get a week of highs of 77, I might be able to kick that ball down the road a while longer.

Posted 10:37am
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February 16th, 2012

This Week in Indie Rock

- More Craig Finn... Playing NPR's Tiny Desk and Minnesota Public Radio.

- And so that the BDGF's other crush doesn't get jealous over qualms of equal time, Jack White has a new video and solo tour dates. I wonder if his tour bus is a hearse since he clearly spends daylight hours sleeping in a coffin.

- Sleigh Bells new album Reign of Terror is streaming over at the NYTimes. Well la di da...

- If I were to tell you that Bill Cosby covered "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and it was even awesomer than what you are imagining in your brain right now, would you listen? You better.

- Want a Super Bowl halftime show that will rock your face? Vote for Weird Al.

- Finally, last night's Love Hangover was a rousing success. Here's a picture to prove it happened:

If and when video gets posted, it will be appeneded here. That's of course assuming that it's not a total train wreck of embarassment. Cross your fingers...

Update 12:57pm

Videos are up! Two of Us and Punk Rock Girl.

Posted 11:08am
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February 15th, 2012

What's making Baby Jesus cry this week? Crazy Catholic edition

I wouldn't say that growing up Catholic made me an Atheist - that was probably inevitable. I do think that you could make a cogent argument that it hastened the process. How they can teach you the rampant hypocrisy and corruption that has existed in the institution of the Church throughout its history and NOT expect you to say 'Fuck all this' is beyond me.

So while I love railing against all religious hypocrisy, there's a special place in my heart when it comes to the Catholic church. There's an extra gear of ire to get into. The past couple of weeks, the Catholics have been firing on all cylinders, and my dander is up people. Let's go to the tape.

- If you're institutionally raping young boys for decades, you'd think the least you owed them and society at large is an apology. Well Cardinal Egan would like you to know that if he did apologize, he shouldn't have and he takes it back. The power of Christ compels him!

- We talked last week about religious morality being arbitrary at the end of the day, and that's never more true when looking at politicians. Just so happens that the two biggest d-bags vying for the GOP nomination are both Catholic. Here's ten specific ways Gingrich and Santorum are picking and choosing to be pious. Enjoy the buffet.

- Here's Maureen Dowd on the rise of exorcisms in the the Catholic church. 'Nuff said.

- Finally, the Catholics are going to the mattresses over the birth control mandate upcoming as health care reform is implemented. Now I have a problem with religious institutions being tax exempt, and you know, I believe the science when it empirically tells me the societal advantages of giving women access to birth control, but I'm not Jesus, and apparently he differs with me. And I imagine that he doesn't care that most Catholics agree with me and the Obama administration. Here's Gail Collins laying out the argument, including an anecdote about women using birth control being no better than common street whores. Stay classy, Catholics.

Posted 11:51am
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February 14th, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day.

It's a super busy week here at tbaggervance.com. Today is Valentine's, tomorrow is the Love Hangover, and on Friday, we head off for a week's vacation. So we are feeling a little overwhelmed. But not so much that we can't wish you, dear readers, a Happy Valentine's Day.

I'm always for telling the people you love that you love them. It's something that you pretty much can't do too much. OK you can, but that's probably the least of your problems if that's becoming an issue. But I digress. Tell your kids you love them, because otherwise you're just a mean old man. Here's my Valentine's card to them:

My nerdiness knows no bounds.

Of course tell your partner you love them too. They put up with you and all of your awfulness. You don't deserve them and they should not only know that you appreciate them for who they are, but for the fact that they tolerate you, because you know you're a piece of work. I love my BDGF and I'm pretty sure she knows it. I used to blanche at the word partner because it seemed sterile and an overly PC way to play the pronoun game, but the BDGF has made me rethink it. Mostly because with her it makes sense - she's my partner in the very best sense of the word. We do everything together, hand in hand, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Oh, and I made her a card too, but she hasn't seen it yet, so you'll have to wait until tomorrow to see it. Happy Valentine's one and all.

Posted 10:19am
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February 13th, 2012

You will be found out.

In my penchant for being a cranky old man that longs for the day when I can yell at children to get off my lawn, I love warning the children that they will never get away with anything. I tell them that they are in the unenviable position of having young parents who have already tried everything that they could possibly conceive of, and thus are hyper aware of the ins and outs of getting away with it. My parents were old and slow and tired and I still managed to get caught being colossally dumb during my teenage years, because teenagers are inherently dumb and overconfident. Eventually, with persistence, you can out fox your elders through sheer force of will, breaking them down over time. However, without a generation gap to distance you from what your parents imagine your possibilities and resources are, this becomes more difficult.

This of course depends somewhat on your definition of "getting away with it". A lot of the time, all you want is the experience, consequences be damned. I participated in a lot of foolish behavior knowing damn well that I'd be caught eventually, but not until the so called damage was done. This is much more possible than getting off scott free, even for those with hyper vigilant parents who have a working understanding of technology. It's a sucker punch to a much more powerful adversary - you got your shot in, and now you are going to pay for it.

This is a willing trade for someone in my situation growing up. Of course the upside of having young parents is that the rule of asking forgiveness rather than permission does not generally apply. Understanding the paradigm the way we do, we're willing to concede a level of stupidity if we feel we can cover it with an overarching umbrella of safety. It's the choice between calling your parents to come get you when you've been drinking vs. driving anyway and hoping you get home with no one being the wiser. These are the choices we want to avoid ever being made. Because make no mistake about it, you will be found out, one way or another.

- Take these assholes. Regular readers know tbaggervance.com's feelings towards sweatpants, and we make no exception for those made to look like you're some sort of hipster douche bag executive. Wearing sweatpants outside of the house makes you look like a homeless person. End of story.

- Take this asshole. What chance does a women hating, war mongering homophobe have of winning an election when this is his stance on freedom:

This whole idea of personal autonomy, well I don't think most conservatives hold that point of view. Some do. They have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do, government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulations low, that we shouldn't get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn't get involved in cultural issues. You know, people should do whatever they want. Well, that is not how traditional conservatives view the world and I think most conservatives understand that individuals can’t go it alone. That there is no such society that I am aware of, where we’ve had radical individualism and that it succeeds as a culture.

That's Rick Santorum noting that the government has every right to peek into your bedroom. Screw individual freedom. Welcome to the new GOP.

Posted 1:47pm
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February 10th, 2012

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

- In celebration of Prop 8 suffering another Death Blow, here's the best anti- Prop 8 posters. In honor of Washington getting a step closer to marriage equality, here's Howard Stern defending gay people. Seriously.

- In honor of two of my favorite TV shows: here's two Archer soundboards and some free advice from Ron Swanson.

- Thankfully, I have a fake 8 year old daughter who loves Star Wars so I don't have to hem and haw about whether or not to see Star Wars: Episode One: The Phantom Menace in 3D this weekend. Of course we're going - she's never seen ANY Star Wars movie in a theater! How EXCITING! Sadly, she'll never get to see the original trilogy in its original glory, but sadder still is that George Lucas is still trying to justify his "Greedo shot first" retconning of one of the greatest heroes in the history of cinema. Now he's saying it was always this way. He's clearly a not well individual.

- When the original Spider-man came out way back in 2002, I thought it was pretty perfect. So I also thought it was also pretty dumb to reboot the franchise a mere 10 years later. Then I saw the new trailer and a day later I'm still trying to hide my nerd boner. This looks totally like the Spider-man ethos I grew up with. And plus, at the end of the day, it's more comic book movies, why would I ever be against that?

- Finally, this is next Wednesday:

My son has recently decided to become a full fledged teenager, which means everything sucks and everyone is stupid and thus he will not be performing with me this year. In his stead, I got the BDGF and Markie C to join me and help focus attention away from my crappy guitar playing (plus Chermack Chermack on bass to completely spackle over my shoddy musicianship). We go on at 7, so get there early.

Posted 10:30am
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February 9th, 2012

This week in Indie Rock - You should never meet your heroes edition.

This is Craig Finn:

He's normally the frontman for the band The Hold Steady. He's not famous. He's 40 and kind of schlubby. But I love him. And so does the BDGF.

Last night we went and saw him perform his new solo album at a tiny hipster bar in Detroit. With barely over a 100 people in the place, we were able to get right up front and as anyone who had an HDTV in the early days before they figured out how to put the makeup on right will tell you, there's such a thing as too much clarity.

Craig spits when he sings. Not on purpose, but he's forceful into the mic and often times that's accompanied by large plumes of saliva. The BDGF cringed with every speck of spittle. He also got completely hammered half way through the show. He kept looking at the crowd like Nicholson in The Shining. He completely stopped playing his guitar. Don't get me wrong, Mr. Finn is a professional and the set sounded great, but it was perhaps a tad too intimate.

After the performance the BDGF rushed over to get an autograph, and he took her hand, called her sweet, and led her to the back of the club where he set up to greet the fans, giving her a guitar pick as they walked back. The fantasy of making out with Craig may have died in his spit soaked microphone screen, but I think the small interaction went a long way to putting the bloom back on the rose.

- Things to watch:

- Nada Surf on Fallon
- Wilco on ACL
- The Black Keys new video for "Gold on the Ceiling"

- Finally, the BDGF's secondary crush may be a spit talker and her main one may be slowly turning into Lestat, but we will always celebrate both of their musical endeavors. Here's a list of the 13 best Jack White collaborations and listen to his new song, "Machine Gun Silhouette".

Posted 11:08am
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February 8th, 2012

You've got to let love rule.

Yesterday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decided legally what we all know to be true in our hearts:

Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.

I've read a lot of analysis that argues that wording in the decision is very narrow and not only makes the decision apply specifically to California, but gives the Supreme Court enough cover to deny even hearing the case. But we here at tbaggervance.com are not here to be the Debbie Downers of the internet. Victory is ours. Let us rejoice.

This blog deals a lot with what it considers to be hypocrisy. Particularly when it comes with a religious bent. There's a lot of inconsistencies in the Bible, and that's putting it extremely benevolently. I think it's somewhat possible analytically to resolve the paradoxes that exist between the old and new testament, but how then do you not consider any evidence of the intervening 2,000 years? At the end of the day you are arbitrarily picking and choosing your morality, and/or listening to authority figures that have a very status quo agenda.

I suppose that's fine for your personal existence. I'm no fan of a nanny state and your business isn't mine much less the government's. But we're talking about giving someone second class citizen status for who they inherently are. How does that not make you angry? If it doesn't, who are you to say, in a plural society, that you are the best arbiter of doling out inalienable rights? Remember, the basis of your morality is inconsistent, paradoxical and ultimately flawed.

I know we are on the right side of history and the fight has already been won, but I still get upset about it. I hate that I live in a country where this isn't rote and de rigueur and a no-brainer. It is frustrating to exist in a world where analytical thought, the scientific method and cogent analysis don't rule the day. And I said I wasn't going to be Debbie Downer.

But hey! We won! Bill O'Reilly is apoplectic, and that's always a good sign. And yes, ljv, Ted Olsen has a huge hand in this. To quote a famous boxer, "If I can change, and you can change, we all can change." Remember, he beat Ivan Drago.

Posted 1:27am
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February 7th, 2012

Tuesdays are for politickin' - You're doing it wrong edition

- We live in amazing times. Not only does the internet take time wasting to a whole new level that would be unimaginable to even our younger selves, but it can effect actual change in the world. All of that and I haven't even mentioned the porn! But I digress. From regime change in the Middle East to stopping SOPA and PIPA in their tracks, the internet provides information dissemination and a rallying cry to action in a way never before possible. The best, most recent example of this is Planned Parenthood vs. The Komen Foundation. The internet's righteous indignation over Komen's overtly political decision not only immediately replaced the pulled funds of the Foundation with small, grassroots donations, but eventually got the foundation to reverse its decision. That's a beautiful thing. Guess what side of the 'debate' Mittens Romney came down on? To be fair, that was his position yesterday. Give it time.

- Yes, it's going to be a day dedicated to GOP stupidity. In several caucuses/popularity contests today, guess who is poised to surge? After he toured a sweater vest factory! And no, that's not even from the Onion.

- Speaking of ineffectual, more evidence that sex education (or lack thereof) is not getting the job done in red states. Apparently adhering to the 'ostrich method' works just as well around horny teenagers as it does in the wild.

- If you weren't watching the Super Bowl in Michigan last Sunday, you might have missed Republican Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra's racist, xenophobic campaign ad. There's nothing like a bit of actual racism to make me feel bad about all the times I make fun of my son for being an asian stereotype.

- Finally, no matter where you watched the game, chances are you saw the Clint Eastwood "It's Halftime in America" ad for Chrysler. And if you're scene was anything like ours, you were chanting "USA! USA!" after it. Clint's not only an American icon, all-time bad ass and renaissance man, he's also an authority figure. He's going to tell you the truth, and then no matter how bad it is, remind you to do the right thing and be a man about it. Or more importantly in the parlance of the commercial, be an American about it. It's powerful stuff. Especially around Detroit, a very proud city that yearns to be great again. Of course several Republicans want to demonize this as an Obama campaign ad (despite the facts) precisely because it's so effective. The problem being, it doesn't fit their narrative. It should, it's a typically Republican sentiment, but it lacks that notable derision that they can't live without. Well I've got some advice for Karl Rove and anyone else in the GOP who wants to whine about corporations 'using our tax dollars to buy corporate advertising" that shills for the president: shut up and be a man about it. Be an American.

Posted 10:40am
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February 6th , 2012

What's making Baby Jesus cry this week?

- I eschewed Parks and Recreation for the longest time because I thought it was dumb. I tried to watch it a couple of times because the entirety of the internet assured be it was awesome, but every time I tried I found myself colossally bored. So I decided to give it one more serious college try and internet, I owe you an apology. You were right, I was wrong. Specifically, I love Ron Swanson. I have unknowingly been modeling my work persona on him for over a decade. Please enjoy Nick Offerman and his wife Megan Mullaly performing a country song about a Paleontologist falling for a Creationist. You had me at meat tornado.

- Three of my favorite people live in the black mining hills of South Kadota, so I put them in charge of policing this potential stupidity so that is doesn't spiral out of control. I encourage academic study of the Bible, as you can't really understand History or Art without it, but let's be honest, this is a stupid loophole.

- Speaking of stupid state governments, Pennsylvania unanimously declared 2012 The Year of the Bible. I'm not sure how the approximately 50 Chinese people in Pennsylvania feel about this, because if you ask them, I'm pretty sure it's the year of the dragon. I'm also pretty sure every founding father would call this a violation of the Constitution.

- There are still heroes in the world - the asshat State senator form Tennessee who authored the 'Don't Say Gay" bill and spouts fallacies about HIV was recently denied service at a local restaurant because, well he's an idiot and a bigot. Kudos ma'am.

- I'm not exactly sure who Baby J would feel about erotic Bible fan fiction, but I can guess.

- Finally, in typical 'turn the other cheek', 'whatever you do to the least of my people', 'Christian compassion' fashion, the girl who had a prayer banner removed from her school is getting death threats. Stay classy zealots, Baby Jesus is watching...

Posted 10:50am
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February 3rd, 2012

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

- Welcome to another Drum Fill Friday! Fear for the future of humanity by watching how colossally stupid American teenagers are! Or if you are like me, write down every question in the video and then take them home to ask your own teenagers to answer them to restore your faith. Please please please restore my faith...

- Two things on the horizon: The Oscars are February 26th and The Hamtramck Blowout starts Feb. 29th. Ann Arborites can enter Quality 16's annual Oscar contest here, and those with rock and roll in their hearts can peep the Blowout's lineup here.

- I expect Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan to end up fairly high on most lists ranking intellectual prowess and general secular awesomeness, but being in the 19 most fun-loving colleges was pleasantly surprising. I was similarly impressed with my home state in these charts of "Is Your State on the Right Side of History?" until I got all the way down to gay marriage. Come on Michigan, we're better than that.

- Mitt Romney may be breathing a little easier after winning Florida and his pending status of 'inevitable' may finally start getting etched in stone. Too bad for him that this is happening at the same time the other 'inevitable' is coming to fruition - the economy is gaining momentum. They're really gonna run against his record? Listen, I'm no sycophant, there's issues out there to exploit, but what's your case? Foreign policy? Bin Laden's dead and we're ending wars and changing regimes without losing soldiers. The economy? The stimulus and bailouts worked and things are turning around. I guess you can try and outflank him on social issues, hoping that progressives think he hasn't done enough, because otherwise his policies are with the majority. I watched Romney's victory speech Tuesday, and I got news for him, you can't lie in a debate with the President the way you can to Floridian septuagenarians. I'm starting to prepare myself to enjoy this...

- Finally, the Superbowl is Sunday. I for one welcome the opportunity for Captain Dreamboat to win his fourth Superbowl and forever shut the door on who is the greatest quarterback of all time. Of course for those of you who give two shits about the game, don't forget that there's still copious amounts of bad food to eat, booze to guzzle and commercials to watch. Like this Ferris Bueller update and Avengers preview. Hopefully things get more interesting than that.

Posted 10:46am
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February 2nd, 2012

Thursdays are for politickin'

- First off, it's Groundhog Day, which is political, since whether or not Puxatawny Phil sees his shadow is decided by a small Pennsylvanian aristocracy. They decided he did, so six more weeks of winter, which who cares: it's going to be 47 tomorrow. But I digress, because we buried the lead about GH Day: it takes place at Gobblers Knob. True story. Now get out there and try and make that stick as someone's nickname.

- For those nostalgic for elections of yore, I give you the trailer for HBO's Game Change. Looks nostalgically awesome! Remember hating Palin?

- Washington moves forward on gay marriage. Hooray! I haven't been so proud of you guys since grunge.

- Fox should know better than to screw with a frog and a pig. They don't have the wit, much less the intellectual firepower.

- In the bucklingest of buckling moves, the Komen Foundation is backing out of Planned Parenthood. To tell these people to go fuck themselves, please donate to Planned Parenthood.

- Finally, Florida did something right for once and sounded the death knell for America's least favorite bridge troll, Newt Gingrich. So, let us begin the vetting process of one Willard Mittens Romney. What do we like? He was the Republican governor of a hugely liberal state, where he seemed to bend to the will of the people and compromise, including passing a universal health care law NEARLY IDENTICAL to that of President Obama. Of course that's not how he's running for president, so let's talk about the things we don't care for:

1. He's mormon. Like really, really, mormon. Which means we can assume he hates gays and women and wears magic underwear.
2. He's rich. Disgustingly, ill-gotten rich. In fact, if you took the wealth of every President from Nixon to Obama and DOUBLED it, Romney would still have more cash.
3. That's mildly palatable for most people, except he thinks that corporations are people, that $300,000 is not that much money, makes $10,000 bets on a whim and oh, he's "not concerned about the very poor."
4. When asked to defend that statement, he said it's not that he doesn't care, it's that he's not going to do anything for them.
5. He once pulled a Griswold and strapped his dog to the roof of his car for a 12 hour trip.

The guy's a piece of shit. Of course he's probably the least of all evils in the GOP field. Were he to be elected, history shows he could be swayed to the side of public opinion more often than not. (Now all we have to worry about is public opinion.) However, I keep seeing this meme show up, and when I first heard it proffered by the BDGF a month ago, I immediately knew it to be true: Willard is John Kerry. Enjoy Republicans!

Posted 10:33am
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February 1st , 2012

Wormer... dead. Niedermeyer... dead. Cornelius...

I'm pretty sure Soul Train was my first foray into Black culture. For all I know Don Cornelius was the first black person I ever saw. Growing up in the late '70s and early '80s in very rural Ohio with no cable TV, my exposure to what was going on in the world was limited at best. Not that I cared that much, all I really wanted was the four hours of respite offered to me by Saturday morning cartoons.

Do they even exist anymore? Saturday morning cartoons were literally the center of my existence for the first ten years of my life. Before Nickelodeon and Disney, it was the only block of programming designed for my demographic. It seems strangely sad to me that they might not even exist anymore, much less be something that kids look forward to for six days a week. But I digress.

After Saturday morning cartoons were over, I would desperately scan the 6 channels we got looking for anything that would occupy my brain for just a tad longer. This usually ended up being some old Vincent Price movie on the Saturday Afternoon Double Creature Feature, but not before a brief pause up the dial to see what was going down on Soul Train.

I do remember, even at the time, unworldly as I was, thinking that it seemed dated. Like it wasn't just another part of the world featuring people who I had nothing in common with, but from a different age. A bygone era of disco, bell bottoms and people being smooth yet funky. Like a black Saturday Night Fever. Clearly this a confused remembrance tied up in nostalgia crossed wires. Chances are I saw my sister's copy of the SNF soundtrack, saw that people on Soul Train wore similar clothes and equated the two. Who knows.

In any event, Don Cornelius passed away yesterday. I always paused on Soul Train because I wanted to hear Don's voice, even for a second. It blew my mind that anyone sounded like that in real life. I couldn't wrap my brain around the music and the clothes made it seem like every Saturday was Halloween, but I knew that Don Cornelius was cool. Thanks for that, even if I'd be nothing but disappointed several years later when I started meeting actual black people and found out they weren't all so silver tongued and smooth.

Posted 10:34am
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January 30th , 2012

For my BDGF, who loves another.

This is Jack White:

Early on in the BDGF and I's relationship we divulged our celebrity sexceptions and Jack was at the top of her list.* I for one was thrilled. Not only do I love Jack's music, not only is he a guitar god and from the city of Detroit, but he looks like a ghoul. No one would be surprised to find out he sleeps in a coffin and suffers from a vitamin D deficiency. I'm sure he's been mistaken for Johnny Depp's derelict cousin more than once. He can play guitar and sing and I get that those abilities are inherently sexy, but I imagine a guy who looks like that trying to pick up my BDGF and laugh.

The BDGF never got to see in concert the reason she fell for Jack in the first place, The White Stripes, and I wish I could find a DeLorean or TARDIS to make that happen for her. I imagine that some day Jack the Huckster will need either the money or attention that a White Stripes reunion could afford him, and when that happens we'll be there at every show within a day's driving radius. Until then I offer her this:

Jack White Announces Solo Album

The new single is on his website, the album out April 24th. Enjoy my sweet. I'll be there to catch you as you swoon at every show. If you make it back stage, you're on your own.

*for the record, she also gets Craig Finn (who goes to church!), I get Neko Case and Tom Brady. The BDGF may be far better looking than I and much more likely to charm the pants off her crushes, but pasty white guys and people who get out of bed on Sunday mornings to go to church I don't sweat.

Posted 2:24pm
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January 27th , 2012

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

- Side by side comparisons are often illuminating. Take the tax returns of Obama, Romney and Gingrich. Takeaway - Newt is a stingy douche. But I suppose we all knew that. You can also look at the tax rates in America going all the way back to Eisenhower. If the GOP wants to go back to the good ol' days, then they should at least, for consistency's sake, have to go back to the tax rates in place at the time too.

- There's new songs from The Boss and Brendan Benson online. The former is surprisingly good, the latter surprisingly meh (if you can be surprising and meh at the same time).

- The BDGF brought up this Stephen Colbert interview with Maurice Sendak three times over the last couple of days, so I finally had to watch it. Hear Maurice say "Newt Gingrich is an idiot of great reknown." It's worth your time.

- More video? Here's 50 years of Doctor Who in 10 minutes, 10 misconceptions debunked and How Return of the Jedi should have ended. 10.

- Finally, for Dr. Walker, Liebs, the Sumersquales and my BDGF (who actually found this) - Mythbusters Photo Hunt. Another round of Vodka Sodas please...

Posted 10:55am
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January 26th , 2012

What's making Baby Jesus cry this week?

- I read about this girl who got a prayer banner removed from her school under the auspices of separation of church and state and had my typical two point reaction: 1. Good for her and atheism 2. I bet she was insufferable about it and probably should have left well enough alone. THEN I read the reaction of the guy who originally wrote the prayer:

I am upset, disappointed, and not to say, outraged. It's a shame that some judge with an appointment out of a Cracker Jack box can make a ruling like that.

She also had to leave school due to threats. So I apologize Jessica for ever assuming you were insufferable. Your are 100% bad ass awesome.

- I know we already eulogized Santorum, but since this isn't a political context but rather a religious one - just know that his advisers think that it is against God's will that I woman be president. It will always be the 1950s somewhere..

- I'm told that this is real and not a parody. It's a fairly tongue in cheek thing either way, but note the following:

1. It's the girl who's all horned up and the guy, in violation of the immutable laws of the universe, who says no.
2. They're clearly getting married the week after high school graduation, so good luck with those odds. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU GET MARRIED JUST SO YOU CAN HAVE SEX.
3. They clearly elude to fucking stuffed animals in lieu of sex.

- Tennessee is once again going the ostrich route on homosexuality, bringing back their "Don't say gay" bill to prevent school children from learning that the gays exist. I'm pretty sure this is why Will and Grace is no longer on the air.

- Here's a bit of refreshing honesty - a bunch of religious leaders don't want gay marriage to be legal because then we could call them what they are - bigots. Where do we get off?

- I love this girl too. When a local printer refused to print her non-offensive, tolerance boosting t-shirt, she not only found someone else to do it, but made sure that all of the other clubs in her school that normally do business with the printer knew about it. Where's your messiah now, eh?

- Not only do these Minnesota parents want "pray away the gay" therapy to be taught in their schools, they also want HIV/AIDS to be called "Gay-related Immune Deficiency", which is about as forward thinking as calling black people 'colored' as a sign of respect.

- Finally, here's a video that shows the relative size of our universe. I post here because wow is it impressive and when you see it like this, it's a little easier to wrap your brain around.

Posted 11:47am
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January 25th , 2012

Political unrest and rebellion.

Tyrants must be opposed. 'Tis true that a small band of rebels cannot only come together and take movement to groundswell and effect change, it's the only thing that ever has. Of course I'm talking about Star Wars. The SOTU was nice. I loved the tone and most of the ideas. But I don't fee like getting into at the moment. LJV's recent posts in comments section have left me frustrated. Clearly there's a class of citizens out there willing to vote for Newt Gingrich of all people. These people are obtuse, pig headed, obstinate and wholly unaware, either through ignorance or the blinders of the media they consume, as to both what has happened in this country under the current administration and what's at stake going forward. So instead, Star Wars!

- I'm not sure what level of fandom it takes to sit through Star Wars Uncut - a version of the original film completely sweded by fans on the internet 15 seconds at a time - but whatever it is, I'm clearly just over the bar. Well, I only half paid attention, so maybe I hit the bar but it stayed on its post.

- This week in Star Wars fan art - Minimalist movie posters and Lando Calrissian on a 40. Don't let the smooth taste fool ya.

- This week in Star Wars fan video - Darth Draper and dogs do the Star Wars theme? I'm not quite sure what the latter is, but it supposedly means Star Wars Super Bowl commercials, of which I am in favor.

- Here's a real life exchange between what I imagine in my head is Ned Flanders and the Comic Book Guy. Or say a really PG version of a scene from Clerks.

- Here's a reasonable parsing of why Star Wars and Star Trek are better than each other. I mean it's fair attempt, because Lightsabers, Darth Vader and the Millennium Falcon win anything in a walk.

- Finally, George Lucas claims to be retiring from big budget filmmaking, in no small part due to the fact that people on the internet are mean. To which I say, WE DID IT YOU GUYS! You see, a small group of rebels CAN affect change in this world. Remember that the next time someone tells you it can't be done and you soldier on. May the Force be with You.

Posted 10:25am
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January 24th , 2012

5 innocuous things that are making me happy in and around the present moment - Happy Anniversary Edition!

Five years. Don't they go by in a blink. That's 770 things that have made me smile over half a decade. The blog getting older and reaching milestones has the exact same effect as my kids doing it - I feel old and tired. I mean, write 100 words about a thousand different things that make you happy. It'd probably take just over 6 years. I didn't intend on doing it, but sometime a year and a half from now, I'll have done it. I'll be contacting Stan Lee for my no prize. Let's get crackin'...

- I am in love with Ann Arbor. I've felt it since I first stepped foot on campus. And I just found out that 2/3rds of its residents aren't religiously affiliated! The hits just keep on coming. Like President Obama making his second trip here on Friday. He'll be speaking about making college affordable, so I'm going to suggest the Wondertwins listen up, as that's a subject very, very important to them all too quickly.

- While A2 routinely makes any list of the best college towns, I find it hilarious that I've been to almost a third of the towns listed as the absolute worst places to go to school. Yes, Albion, Ada and South Bend are collective pits and I pity anyone who had to matriculate there. But come on, no love for West Lafayette? The only fun thing to do there is pack up and leave.

- Wormer... dead. Niedermeyer... dead. Paterno... Well as usual, The Onion pretty much sums it up.

- Following up on yesterday's harangue of "Newt Gingrich is an ass faced weasel whose hypocrisy knows no bounds", Gingrich, while an admitted pot smoker, once tried to make bringing 2 ounces of pot into America an offense punishable by death. It shouldn't surprise, this man's personal philosophy is, and I quote: ‘It doesn’t matter what I do. People need to hear what I have to say’. No foolin'. Oh,and this:

- Finally, Oscar noms are out this morning. Big up yourself to the Academy for nominating Melissa McCarthy for her role in Bridesmaids and Bret McKenzie for "Man or Muppet". Shame for not giving Albert Brooks his own big ups for Drive. I've got some movies to see between now and February 26th.

Posted 10:29am
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January 23rd , 2012

You cannot be serious.

Newt Gingrich crushed in South Carolina over the weekend. A fact that I laughed off on Saturday. I mean, it's South Carolina. To not laugh off anything they do is practically a tacit affirmation of racism. There have been three primaries/caucausi and we now have three separate winners. All according to the GOP's obvious self-destructive plan. But then I saw this and I had two thoughts: The first was Mitt Romney as Jon Lovitz as Michael Dukakis looking into the camera and going "I can't believe I'm losing to this guy!" and the second was an image of myself drunk and cowering in the fetal position as John Roberts swears in President Newt.

Don't get me wrong, I still maintain that without an economic collapse or some other unforeseen catastrophe, Obama is Parker Lewis*. I said it 18 months ago and I still believe it to be just as true today if not more so. I mean we're talking about a fat headed hypocrite blowhard who's about as likeable as the powertripping weasel who used to manage the Subway you worked at in high school. This is a guy who tried a sitting President in the media for getting a BJ and then cries foul for the media's intrusion into his personal life. A man who decries big government while raking in 'consulting' cash from Fannie Mae. The first Speaker of the House to be disciplined for ethics violations. The kind of a man who asks his wife for an open marriage six months AFTER he checks the box marked yes.

Now I love this country and while most of the time I think we are collectively about as smart as box of hammers, I don't think that even an indifferent America elects this fuckstick to be President, much less one that's starting to climb back out of the muck and mire. But then I remember one chilling fact that sends fear shooting down my spine and reminds me that are we capable of unspeakable evils: George W. Bush was elected to the highest office in this country. Twice. And when my liberal voice screams back "He was never elected the first time!" I know that the fact remains that he was still President for 8 years. Sometimes I wonder how I sleep at night.

* he can't lose. I hate footnoting that, but I have to be reminded from time to time that my remembrances of obscure pop culture are not universal.

Posted 11:05am
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January 20th , 2012

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

- It's Drum Fill Friday! Take this super easy quiz to celebrate and see if it doesn't make you want to listen to "Hot For Teacher".

- Many years ago, Class 'A' asshole Jack Valenti created the MPAA and steered them into decision after decision that was not only managerially stupid, but had negative impact on the filmgoing public. We can't go into all of them, let's just say that A.) He created the movie rating system wherein some housewife in Burbank decides how much boob a 13 year old can see and B.) He's so scared of technology he once compared the VCR to the Boston Strangler. True story. Unfortunately Hollywood has money, and since this guy used to lick LBJ's boots, they let him peddle their influence, no matter how backward and insular his understanding of the world was. He's dead now, so that's over. But he has a new champion in Chris Dodd, former blow hard senator and current head of the MPAA. Like his mentor Valenti, Dodd is showing an outstanding lack of understanding about technology. First he goes on record as calling Wednesday's blackout "irresponsible", and then threatens to take Hollywood's money away from the President if he doesn't support SOPA. Three words: delusions of grandeur.

- I'm fairly happy with the era I got to be a college student in. The music was good, illicit substances were readily available and the internet was so young that we could still run the naked mile at the end of the year. But I'm pretty sure there weren't people filming porn in their dorm rooms. I think I would have heard about it.

- I wasn't going to do this, but Monday was MLK day, and yes, there is still plenty of hatred and ignorance in America. If you see any of these people, plead with them not to procreate.

- Finally, while the GOP field (what remains of it) is so uninspiring I'd never vote for anyone but Obama later this year, I'd like to see him do a thing or two to get me excited about the prospect. I'm not holding out for him to make a declarative stance on gay marriage or anything, as Mr. Nuance just gradually evolves over time, hopefully in my direction. I am happy he nixed this awful pipeline idea, but of course they could reroute the thing and it could pass, so just putting the toe over the line of status quo. Natch.

Posted 11:57am
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January 19th , 2012

We Win!

OK, so the thing was on its deathbed to begin with, but yesterday's coordinated blackout seems to have worked. People are certainly more aware today than they were yesterday, and congressmen are dropping their support faster than if the thing was just endorsed by Hitler. Of course the issue isn't dead. The idea of copyright infringement didn't just go away, and the people with deep pockets who want this issue addressed will not take their ball and go home. So we'll continue to talk about it here at tbaggervance.com. We will stay vigilant. We will remain indefatigable. Because otherwise, James Burrows could shut us down tomorrow for using the above image.

- One of my biggest pet peeves is people wearing sweats in public. I got so disgusted walking through an airport years years back that I came up with this little diddy that continues to infect my brain to this day:

If you're gonna leave the house don't wear sweats [clap clap]
If you're gonna leave the house don't wear sweats [clap clap]
If you're gonna leave the house then have some self respect
If you're gonna leave the house don't wear sweats [clap clap]

Sing it to the tune of "If you're happy and you know it..." next time you're in a public place and people don't have the common decency to get dressed before walking out the front door. Call me old fashioned, but I prefer to live in a civilized society - one were people don't bring babies to bars or on airplanes, where people let you get off the elevator before forcing their way on, and one were people don't wear sweats, spandex or pajamas in public. That's why despite my disdain for the nanny state, I am 100% on board with this. Otherwise, before you know it we'll be living in some sort of Lord of the Flies dystopia.

- As long as were discussing politics, one last hurrah for Santorum, because A.) As a kid he was McLovin'. and B.) this headline: Revealed: Wife of pro-life presidential candidate Rick Santorum had love affair with abortion doctor 40 years her senior... who delivered her as baby. Damnit that's fucking awesome!

- Colbert almost makes Super PACs worthwhile.

- Finally, I leave you with this dead on quote from David Brook's op-ed earlier in the week:

I sometimes wonder if the Republican Party has become the receding roar of white America as it pines for a way of life that will never return.

Sometimes I actually want to get old so I can point and laugh at everyone I know who's currently on the wrong side of history and scream "I told you so!" It's a good thing I'll never get there, because I would be the world's most annoying old man.

Posted 10:31am
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January 18th , 2012

End piracy, not liberty.

We're black today as we stand behind our internet brethren like Google, Wikipedia and Reddit in opposition of SOPA and PIPA. For background info, here's Adam Savage's explanation of these bills and why they are worth spending time and energy opposing. We encourage you to sign Google's petition if for no other reason, it pisses off Rupert Murdoch. Cheers.

Posted 9:31am
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January 17th , 2012

This Week in Indie Rock.

- That "Eeeeeeeeeeee!" you heard was me listening to the new Craig Finn solo album, which is available to stream from NPR. For those of you who could give a shit, this will mostly cap our Craig Finn coverage until the new Hold Steady album comes out at the end of the year.

- And since you can't have one of the BDGF's boyfriends without the other, here's Jack White buying a dead elephant head on a show called American Pickers, which I assume is something old people watch between that show about the pawn shop and episodes of Bill O'Reilly.

- For those of you who ever worshiped at the alter of 90's pseudo-punk, prepare to shed a tear, as Lookout! Records finally shuttered its doors. THey got plenty of my money over the years publishing Ted Leo albums, so I bid you a fond adieu, regardless of how I feel about Operation Ivy.

- Speaking of Teddy, here he is being interviewed by ABC News of all people. I haven't seen Ted Leo live in ages (OK, solo last year in L.A., but I need a full show with the Pharmacists, damn it!) so him being interviewed by the big time media is a good sign.

- New single releases that bode well for some sweet new albums: Nada Surf's "Waiting for Something" and Ezra Furman's "Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde".

- Finally, Tom Brady (for the second time in two months) once again killed the Tim Tebow = Jesus meme last Sunday. You're welcome, humanity. That doesn't mean we can't say goodbye with Jimmy Fallon doing TeBowie.

Posted 10:51am
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January 16th , 2012

Doctor, doctor...

A key provision in the accord that the BDGF and I signed when realized we were going to try and make this work was that I promised to be around for a minimum of 30 years. Not in a limited, non-exclusive contract sort of way, but that I was going to live for at least that long. Getting to 65 may be a no-brianer for most of you out there not living in the third world, but it wasn't necessarily a guarantee on my part. With my offspring rapidly approaching adulthood I was quite content with my original plan to drink with reckless abandon and let the chips fall where they may. This is apparently not a desirable trait in a life mate.

Add in some ugly family history, my fair skin and myriad other things I participate in not associated with longevity, and it turns out that even a promise isn't enough assurance. In a move of caring placation, I am headed to the Doctor this afternoon to get checked out. I told the BDGF that if she made the appointment and told them exactly what she wanted done* I'd submit to being poked and prodded. Am I worried? Not really. I'm still relatively young. I'm not overweight and I feel great. I don't expect my liver to hold out so that I see triple digits, but I'm guessing we're not in permanent damage territory yet either.

Actually I expect to go in there and get told what I always get told: he'd like to see me drink less but won't make a compelling argument as to why. With perfect blood pressure, cholesterol barely above 200 and whatever enzymes they look at to make sure my liver is still functioning (and really, how could it not be?) I should be able to kick the ball down the road at least another ten years, right? I mean let's all hope so, because a promise is a promise, but that was one in which I assumed I was going to live forever when I made it.

- The good news? More evidence that pot isn't really bad for you after all. So I suppose that if I ever have to pull back on the reigns, there's my out.

- The bad news? Turns out red wine doesn't really have all of those redemptive qualities that got people so excited. I'm guessing it's still better for you than rum, so there's that.

- The ultimate reason to stick it out? Seniors out drink everyone. And I'm not talking about those about to graduate, I'm talking AARP card carryin', Price is Right watchin' septuagenarians. Ain't no party like a nursin' home party... until someone breaks a hip.

*sans prostate.

Posted 10:59am
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January 13th , 2012

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

- I love movie trailers. God help you if we are going to the movies and you make us late thus missing even one of the trailers before the actual film*. It's part of the filmgoing experience. And while watching trailers on the internet while you are alone in your office is not nearly the transcendent experience of sitting in a darkened theater ramming popcorn into your maw and slurping a spiked Diet Coke, it can still be emotionally satisfying. Take this trailer for the new Wes Anderson movie, which is exactly what I want my childhood to retroactively be like, and this trailer for the LCD Soundsystem documentary, which is want I want the rest of my life to be like all the time always.

- Speaking of movies, this is a super fun 1970s A to Z movie quiz. Don't scroll down too far, as the answers are below. N threw me at first and then I had a 'duh' moment.

- College football is over for another year so those of you who could give two shits can rejoice in the fact that I won't bring up again until August. Right after this, that is: How fucking awesome is it that after winning 10 games, including a bowl victory, all little brother wants to talk about is waaaaah waaaaah but Michigan? And that's why you'll always be Little Brother.

- These 25 best autocorrects made me laugh out loud, and super glad that texting and my parents never co-existed.

-Finally, Sunday night are the Golden Globes, bringing together three of my favorite things: movies, atheism and award shows. OK that's a stretch. I don't especially even care about award shows and the Golden Globes are only about atheism in the sense that Ricky Gervais is hosting. For the last three weeks I've made the declarative statement 'I am going to the movies this weekend.' to no one in particular, and I am currently batting 0-3. I said it again yesterday, and I guess what I am telling you is that Sunday night's Golden Globes are a decent substitute for going to the movies.

* Exception for kids movies, wherein all of the trailers will make me fear for the future of humanity

Posted 10:51am
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January 12th , 2012

What's making Baby Jesus cry this week?

- Some wacky pastor in Texas is planning on spending 24 hours in bed on top of a church to promote healthy sexual relationships within marriage. Which, you know, sounds like a mostly harmless misappropriation of an old John Lennon trope, until you realize that it's not surprisingly penis/vagina only, at which point fuck you.

- Here's a nice timeline of where Baby Jesus has and hasn't been spending his time. Tim Tebow must have a kickass fooseball table or something, because he hangs out with the dude a lot.

- Apparently Satan is giddy that American religious cult leaders like Joel Osteen aren't decrying Romney for being Mormon? I can't even begin to want to untangle that rubric.

- Yooooo Hooooooo! I live in the Sixth Gayest City in America! Who wants to go shopping for leather pants?

- I mention the gay thing because the Pope is back calling gay marriage a "threat to the future of humanity" in an obvious attempt to leech other religion's disciples by out-homophobing them. Sadly, it may work.

- When the BDGF's littlest wanted to join Brownies, we had to do some quick Google searching to make sure that they weren't in league with the Boy Scouts on the whole gay=evil thing. We read enough to give it a green light, but this little girl had the opposite reaction, specifically to transgender girl scouts. I get being scared of penises, but how does it affect your ability to get a merit badge for making a house out of popsicle sticks?

- Finally, I think people find religion comforting both in times of need and for the fact that trying to understand the science behind the history of the planet is neigh on impossible given it's six billion year existence. Like, if the history of the Earth is a 24 hour clock, humans show up at 11:58pm. It's much easier to just imagine God sculpting us out of clay, isn't it?

Posted 3:48pm
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January 11th , 2012

Wednesdays are for politickin'

- So the primary season kicked off in earnest yesterday, and this Onion headline pretty much says it all. You're all-but-certain nominee and frontrunner for the last two years manages less than 40%. Meh. Feel free to stay on the couch, it's probably going to play out like this barring all of the crazies dropping out and rallying behind Huntsman, in which case we get to play a game of "Who seems less Mormon-y?"

- After engaging in one of the dumbest tirades against education I've ever heard and then tying Newt Gingrich in New Hampshire with a limp 9.4% of the vote, let us take a moment to eulogize Rick Santorum's presidential bid. I'll be honest, it got more traction than I ever thought possible. I choose to see this as a reflection of Romney being a huge skeev rather than a barometer for the mood of the country, but that's just me. Let us send out the man synonymous with frothy ass juice with a slideshow of the one sartorial choice made only by cheating college football coaches who look like child molesters and homophobic Catholics who fear both Iran's theocracy AND Obama's secular government: the sweatervest.

- I know I just spent two paragraphs making jokes about our feckless primaries, but I implore you to watch this video explaining the process. Even if you're sure you have it all laid out, just as a refresher. Better yet, show it to your children. Lord knows my teenagers need to see it.

- Good news in gay! New Jersey is fast tracking a bill to legalize gay marriage (that will be likely vetoed by Senior Largess himself) and Washington State's push towards equality gets an endorsement from a Republican Senator. His name is Steve Litzow and he notes

I am a traditional Republican. When you think about gay marriage, it’s the right thing to do and it’s very consistent with the tenets of being a Republican — such as individual freedom and personal responsibility.

He is awesome and I would love to buy him a drink for having the courage to not only stand for his convictions but do so in such a cogent fashion.

- SOPA is not dead yet people. There are rumors that major opponents of the bill are coordinating a blackout on their sites to raise awareness of the bill. Think people would notice if Google and Facebook went down for a few hours? Reddit has already sacked up. Meanwhile, if one of your representatives is on this list of supporters, give them a call and tell them to get their shit together.

- Finally, I'd like to leave you with two quotes from my favorite President:

The essence of any struggle for healthy liberty has always been, and must always be, to take from some one man or class of men the right to enjoy power, or wealth, or position, or immunity, which has not been earned by service to his or their fellows. That is what you fought for in the Civil War, and that is what we strive for now... We grudge no man a fortune in civil life if it is honorably obtained and well used. It is not even enough that it should have been gained without doing damage to the community. We should permit it to be gained only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community.

This, I know, implies a policy of a far more active governmental interference with social and economic conditions in this country than we have yet had, but I think we have got to face the fact that such an increase in governmental control is now necessary.

That's noted socialist and Republican president Teddy Roosevelt. Call him weak. I dare you.

Too much cannot be said against the men of wealth who sacrifice everything to getting wealth. There is not in the world a more ignoble character than the mere money-getting American, insensible to every duty, regardless of every principle, bent only on amassing a fortune, and putting his fortune only to the basest uses —whether these uses be to speculate in stocks and wreck railroads himself, or to allow his son to lead a life of foolish and expensive idleness and gross debauchery, or to purchase some scoundrel of high social position, foreign or native, for his daughter. Such a man is only the more dangerous if he occasionally does some deed like founding a college or endowing a church, which makes those good people who are also foolish forget his real iniquity. These men are equally careless of the working men, whom they oppress, and of the State, whose existence they imperil. There are not very many of them, but there is a very great number of men who approach more or less closely to the type, and, just in so far as they do so approach, they are curses to the country.

I wonder if TR would still think that there are not very many of these men. They seem to be everywhere if you ask me.

Posted 11:59am
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January 10th , 2012

This Week in Indie Rock

- Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn is rapidly approaching the release date of his solo debut Clear Heart Full Eyes, out 1/24 on Vagrant. You can hear the new track "New Friend Jesus" here, or for the BDGF, here's him performing "Jackson" over at the AV Club's One Track Mind again.

- Wilco's new album is great and you should go back and listen to it again, because you've clearly forgotten that. While you're at it, you can watch Jeff Tweedy do the weather, and then watch Wilco AND Nick Lowe AND Mavis Staples cover the band. It's as awesome as it sounds.

- If you need another reason to love the Black Keys, here's them dissing Nickelback, who should clearly be made to suck it.

- Jack White's latest team up: Tom Jones.

- Remember when they used advertise albums on TV? Man, we are old. But even I was surprised they did it for Nirvana.

- Album covers minus the dead guys.

- Finally, there was a time in my life (from about 1985-1988) where Van Halen meant everything to me. Eventually I transitioned to Led Zeppelin and then finally to grunge, where the seed of the music snob that types before you today was planted. But my first obsession was Van Halen. Hearing those songs takes me back to being 10 years old and wanting to do nothing but sit in my room and listen to Eddie play guitar as loud as my stereo from Sears would allow. That being said, I have zero desire to pay $50 to sit a mile away in some giant corporate stadium and watch them go through the motions because they are broke. Now the NYTimes gave a glowing review of their industry preview show, and Chuck K predictable calls the VH reunion incredibly, insanely, undeniably awesome, and if I saw them in a tiny club for free I'm sure I'd feel exactly the same. But watch their new video for their new song and tell me you feel compelled to participate in this.

Posted 11:50am
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January 9th , 2012

Apples and anal retentive trees.

I didn't grow up in a house like Cameron Frye, but a certain sense of order and expectation of cleanliness was imbued in all of the Brubaker children. My mother was in a constant state of stemming the tide of sticky, haphazard children, admonishing those who didn't pick up after themselves and spending most Sunday mornings cleaning the house top to bottom. My father would contemplatively try to remain above the fray, silently repeating his mantra of "they're only children" to himself over and over until he'd snap and take all of the shoes left here and there around the house and place them on the front porch under a sign that read "Shoes for sale". True story.

I like to say that I got the least of the anal retentive gene/indoctrination of all of my siblings, but to the outside world that's like discussing which Kardashian is the least whore-ish. Moot point. I need order. I crave cleanliness. Watching someone carelessly leave a mess about - even with the caveat of noting "I'll clean it up later" - is akin to walking into my home and taking off The Beatles to put on Coldplay while making out with my sister. I don't know how people get through the day knowing that there's piles of months old magazines laying about in their living rooms, or sleep at night with a sink full of dishes, but apparently to some people these are not sins much less an affront to all that is good and decent in the world.

And while we were raised to be neat, we were also raised relatively poor. That's of course hyperbolic in that we weren't poor at all, but my mother could stretch a nickel farther than any two people I know. We rarely got extravagances like going out to dinner, so the idea of having a cleaning lady would have been right up there with putting the family on a plane to go on vacation out of state. These are pipe dreams of the rich and famous. So when I moved in with the BDGF and found out that she had a woman come and clean the house for an hour every other week, I was caught in a paradox.

On the one hand, I get to walk in the front door of our home once every fortnight and everything smells of bleach and is in its rightful place. If I could do this with a drink in my hand it would the most peaceful, stress free moment of my existence. Of course this service costs money, which means paying someone to do something that I could easily do myself. That's a no-no. My initial attempts to alleviate this cognitive dissonance involved me traipsing around the house pointing out all of the deficiencies in our cleaning lady's technique. I then tried to offer for the BDGF to pay me half what she pays her to do the same job. Lucky for me the BDGF is benevolent and laughs off my specific level of OCD. Instead we (I) have arrived at a compromise where I furiously arrange the house the night prior to the cleaning lady's arrival to ensure we get our maximum value during her hour. In short, I clean before the cleaning lady comes. And yet I still maintain my anal retentiveness pales in comparison to the rest of my clan's. Believe it.

Posted 11:59am
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January 6th , 2012

What's making Baby Jesus cry this week?

- My family has a general, non-spoken agreement to not talk about politics or religion, mostly (at least in my mind) because I go down the rabbit hole into condescending prick far too quickly. Well there was a moment of unintentional panic when my baby brother mentioned that somebody said that the founding fathers weren't religious and I started to explain what it means to be a Deist. The BDGF shot me a look like I was willfully violating the prime directive and first rule of fight club in one simultaneous shot, so it go dropped. In my family, the mere stating of facts can be too much. So for Bertrum C. Bertrum, here's the truth from a third party. God Bless America.

- After Hitch passed away a few weeks back, #GodisNotGreat started trending on twitter. Here's some of the best "turn the other cheek" reactions you'd expect from the followers of Baby Jesus.

- I don't generally get upset by nativity scenes. I usually can find one anachronistic thing about them to make fun of and laugh at. This guy, not so much. Love the TJ quote though.

- Alas, Michelle "Crazy Eyes" Bachmann's presidential run hit an iceberg in Iowa this week. This means that will be deprived of out first First Husband and his agenda of Homophobia. Methinks thou dost... awww you know what, that fruit is so low hanging it's on the ground.

- Pro-tip: If you're some random Christian Fundamentalist on twitter, you probably don't want to get in a war of words with Ricky Gervais. Just sayin'...

- Finally, I have to admit that I almost abandoned my atheism, belief in Darwinism and evolution, and certitude that the earth is approximately 4.5 billion years old when I read this. Luckily I didn't panic and remembered by elementary school lessons about the water cycle and the fact that all the water that's ever been on the Earth is still here and that amount basically never changes. Whew! That was close...

Posted 11:09am
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January 5th , 2012

Thursdays are for politickin'

Oh Iowa. Your caucus system is woefully outdated and its placement at the head of our political process is specious at best. The thought of the millions of dollars being thrown around your state trying to influence a bunch of elderly rubes and the subsequent influence that process can have frankly sickens me.

Take your 2012 imbroglio. You've taken time out to give momentary credence to Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and now Rick Santorum. Rick Santorum! The one non-Mormon I was sure would never get his day in the sun. Rick Santorum! I mean Google it! Rick Santorum! A man so sexually pent up and confused he doesn't believe in non-reproductive sex within the confines of marriage. He thinks birth control should be illegal! Do you guys hate Mormons that much?

Look, I know at the end of the day you picked the inevitable nominee by a whole 8 votes. And I suppose you still get a pass for the momentum you gave Obama in 2008. But you either need to get a special system for your evangelicals where they can vote for the Pope of "we're scared of the places our bathing suits cover", or lay down your sword. Now the country will go back to forgetting you exist for four years. I said good day sir.

- This is all a moot point I suppose, as I've been saying for over a year now that the GOP doesn't have anyone to run that can beat Obama short of the economy turning into an absolute tire fire, and that doesn't appear to be happening. Healthcare reform has numerous positive aspects and he's sacked up and appointed a head to Consumer Protection Bureau during the recess. John McCain can yell all he wants about leading from behind while the President shrugs his shoulders and says "Libya bin Laden". Even with the Republicans resigning themselves to the sanest candidate of the bunch, this is going to be fun.

- Finally, Senator Bernie Sanders is proposing a constitutional amendment to overturn the back assward Citizens United decision. I implore you to sign the petition. The Montana State Supreme Court can't do this all by themselves.

Posted 11:01am
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January 3rd , 2012

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

Editors note: The holidays were grand. Too grandiose to do justice here in any sort of summary post. Was there merriment? Of course. Was there seldom seen friends? Thankfully. Was there vomit? Copious amounts. But we are now living in 2012. The past is prologue! Except for this stuff...

- Mittenfest! You've probably been reading tbaggervance.com long enough to know about this annual music festival that supports 826 Michigan. It was another banner year for my enjoyment, but more importantly, this year's festivities raised over $20,000 for our student programs. I only wish I could of gone and drank MORE Captain and Diets, but that would have been impossible.

- Hopefully you are already aware of the government's latest attempt to ruin the internet, this time in the form of the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA. If you need to know why this (and the Protect IP Act) are truly terrible, internet-ruining pieces of legislation, Adam Savage of Mythbusters sums it up quite succinctly. If you need to know which multinational conglomerates are propping up this horrible bill (and who's got your back) your boycott list is readily available.

- Our Christmas morning was very vinyl-centric, with the BDGF and I trading celebrity crush records (her getting wax by Craig Finn and Jack White, and I receiving the lovely visage of Neko Case). Since I am overly generous (and also nurse my own Craig Finn crush) here he is promoting his new record AND talking about and performing a new song on the AV Club's One Track Mind.

- Tonight, 2011 is finally wrapped as Michigan takes on Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. I am nervous and excited and kind of can't believe that I agreed to come into work today. Bowl games are often seen as launching pads for the following season, so not only will people be watching tonight to put a bow on a fairly glorious 2011, but to see how much however undeserved hype will be placed on this team prior to next fall's version taking the field. Here's a write up on defensive God Greg Mattison in the NYTimes. My prediction for the game: M 35 VT 24. Go Blue.

- Finally, we moved! Hopefully you didn't notice, but if you bookmarked our old URL, you'll need to point your browsers to tbaggervance.com for now and ever more. Again, since this is now costing me money you may see an ad or two. For those of you behind government or corporate firewalls, you can now enjoy the site from your computers rather than your phones. And yes, I know the comments are down at the moment, but if you find any other maladies, please let me know so that I may tend to them. Otherwise, enjoy our new diggs, which are exactly the same as our old ones. xoxo...

Posted 10:55am
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