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June 29th, 2012

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

- Last night the BDGF and I went to Howell to play trivia, and perhaps because she was in tow, it seemed twice as readnecky as it normally does. Or maybe it was because of these two exchanges:

1. After we correctly answered questions about the Chrysler Building and named the five burroughs of NYC, another player came up to me and said "You must be from New York..."

2. I buzzed in in an attempt to answer "What was the little boys "shining" in the movie "The Shining?" I said "Clairvoyance" and the host looked at me with a blank stare. I went on to say something about communicating with your mind and eventually got a "Sorry, I'm looking for two words." When nobody else buzzed in the host said "I was looking for 'mental telepathy,'" I responded "What's the definition of clairvoyant?" to which he said "I don't know."

- It's a big week for you iPhone, as yesterday Google released apps for both Chrome and Google Drive, something I've long been waiting for and use a million times a day. I've said that the only thing my phone is missing is turn by turn navigation that'll re-route me (coming this fall!) but the next iPhone will also apparently have NFC technology, which is pretty cool.

- For my BDGF, two space related infographics: All 786 known planets and the tin cans in which we throw ourselves hurdling into space. The Space Shuttle was huge!

- Yesterday's SCOTUS decision on the ACA will provide fodder for pundits and bloggers for months to come, but if you'd like the definitive breakdown of the decision, here it is explained using gifs from the The O.C.

- Finally, I whine from time to time about how I never get to see movies anymore, because I love going to the movies almost as much as anything. But this summer, well I've gotten to see A Cabin in the Woods and Prometheus with friends, The Avengers with Siddhartha and the BDGF and I even saw Moonrise Kingdom. I may convince her to go see Safety Not Guaranteed since it's playing at the Michigan Theater, so bundle all of that with Top of the Park and the Chandler drive in and we are on pace for a fabulous summer movie season. That's a happy that's not so innocuous for me.

Posted 10:59am
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June 28th, 2012

Let's go out and get sick to celebrate.

So amazingly, we have Chief Justice Roberts to thank for affirming that the Affordable Care Act, including the individual mandate, is constitutional. It's less of a "Fuck Yeah!" moment than a <<WHEW.>> or "oh thank god" one, but a moment to at least raise a glass and say "Cheers." I'll have to read a bunch of analysis to parse what it means that they ruled on it as a tax rather than a reading of the commerce clause and blah blah legal blah, but despite the headline on cnn.com at 10:10 today that said "Mandate Struck Down" (nice work, CNN) it seems that this is a complete vindication for "Obamacare."

Now it was suggested that I "eat crow" if ACA was upheld - especially by Chief Justice Roberts, to which I said "I stand by my quote of "Fucking ball breaking conservative fucksticks."" I'm happy that ACA got upheld. Millions of people just had their lives literally saved and the idea that we take care of each other in this county is not dead. But let us be clear about just how fucksticky conservatives - and specifically Republicans - are these days.

This is the platform of the Texas GOP. If you don't want to read the whole thing - and I recommend you do - here's the five craziest things in it. And that list doesn't include this bit about the gays. So Texas wants to beat your children while NOT teaching them analytical thinking, and OKs bigotry towards homos. Unfortunately I know too many people who are on board with this, so let us plot a solution: let Texas secede from the Union. Give the rest of the country say 6 months to move there (along with the mass exodus of Houston and Dallas) and we can go our separate ways (Austin will of course remain part of the U.S. or exist as a Vatican City style autonomy within the new Texas Republic.) Honestly, with the shit the GOP is spewing these days, I don't see any other way.

- In light of today's ruling and the consternation it gave all of us, I advise you to read this story about SCOTUS and the election. Note the last sentence "If she dies and Romney wins, the Supreme Court will be the most conservative in history." and vote in November accordingly.

- On a happy, no vitriolic note, enjoy this Arrested Development fan art.

Posted 10:45am
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June 27th, 2012

I'm not even supposed to be here today

I spend an inordinate amount of time wondering why the fuck I do this. About why I built a place on the internet frontier and hung out a shingle out of some desire to share things with friends but didn't want to be one of those people who forwards emails to everyone he knows five times a day and unbeknownst to him elicits sighs, groans and eye rolls from his supposed constituents. Why did that turn into me sharing so much about my life and thoughts? Why does it have to be every goddamn day?

Whatever this started as an alternative to, and whatever it has morphed into, it has certainly become a love/hate relationship. There was certainly a sweet spot - a few years where it never felt like an obligation, there were always things to write about and I could write whatever the fuck I wanted about whomever I wanted and as far as I was concerned, there were no consequences; but none of those things are true anymore. Now people have expectations. Now people want to inform me of grammatical errors and present counter arguments to me trying to be off the cuff and pithy. None of that was ever supposed to happen.

Of course this is the internet, so I was being naive. Or at least have a low enough opinion of myself to have never contemplated anyone caring at all, much less enough to respond - either in person or online (75% of the responses are in person, for the record.) But here many of you are nonetheless. Friends, family members, strangers, and the largest group of you - people I know tangentially at this point but still bother to come here anyway. Don't get me wrong, I am flattered and sincerely hope you are entertained or informed or outraged - whichever emotive response you come here to receive. But remember, I'm not doing this for you.

I do this because I find myself endlessly amusing. I generally think I am a terrible writer, but much like the one solid swing in golf that makes an otherwise frustrating game seem worthwhile, a eloquently crass turn of phrase that rolls off the tongue and makes me smile makes me this blog's bitch. Even when I get corrected. Even through someone telling me how inappropriate something is. Especially when someone gets offended.

I've only ever had to take one paragraph on this blog in seven and a half years, and it still eats at me. Not as much as the stuff I have to sit on these days in deference to certain people in my life, but it will forever be that bloop single in the third of an otherwise perfect game. (Two sports metaphors in one post! Suck it everyone who says "you write about sports too much" when I do it twice in a month.) Maybe I should have written this anonymously. I try to keep people's names out of things, but everyone assumes everyone knows when I'm talking about them. I do feel bad for the BDGF from time to time. I think if she has one more person introduced to her and they say "So you're the BDGF?" she will kick me to the curb.

Ultimately this a dumping ground. My brain is whirling dervish and I need to get the devil out frequently. And I like the dairy aspect of it, as it's fun to go back and revisit a portion of your past, even if you cringe at the writing. So I don't mean to whine. I suppose I'm being a little Randall-esque saying "This job would be great if it wasn't for the fucking customers." Truth be told I'm embroiled in fisticuffs with a piss ant middle manager at work who wants to tell me how to do my job so he can be a good little toadie and go back to his higher ups and say "Look what I did!" How in-fucking-sufferable. Let me do my job. I know it's fun for you to interject, but I was here before you and I'll be here after you. My stars are indifferent to your astronomy. I'm Schrodinger's cat.

The blog's the same thing, which is why I'm writing this instead of 500 words about how I hate my job. I know not everyone likes a process story, but I'm a wonk. And I now feel better about the inept troglodyte trying to assert his will over mine, because while I've always known deep down that's not going to happen, writing down the words gives me the bravado and reassurance I need to get me through the day. It feeds my constant vigilance. It reminds me of my indefatigability. Ultimately that's why I'm here and will churn out this sludge as long as I have breath in my lungs. Or until I get fired for insubordination and have to take down the site while I look for a new job, because like Rick Santorum before me, I may have a bit of a google problem.

Posted 10:41am
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June 26th, 2012

Tuesdays are for politickin'.

- It's a clearinghouse of "Would you believe... ?"'s here today at tbaggervance.com. This is mostly because Willard lies so much that we can't keep up. You know, how he took credit for the auto bailout after writing an op-ed that we should let Detroit go bankrupt. Or how Obama has raised your taxes and doubled the deficit and passed the Affordable Care Act knowing it was going to cripple the economy. These are are not only demonstrably false, there's zero evidence to prove his claims and ample data to refute them. Yet the hits just keep on comin'. You know I'd vote for Willard tomorrow if someone could give me an honest policy or program of his that they think we'd be better off having*. Because as far as I can tell, he's running on "I'm not Obama", "Lower taxes for everyone while cutting nothing!" and "Hey guys! Small government!" At least one of those things is actually true and/or possible.

- Want to take a guess which president since the 1950s has the slowest annualized growth of federal spending? According to the liberal rag Forbes, it's that Kenyan socialist. Here's the Heritage Foundation's rebuttal to cut ljv off at the pass, but as you would expect, it makes about as much sense as one of his comment tirades.

- Want to know how W will continue to screw this country for decades? 500 blog points if you said SCOTUS. With the hotly anticipated decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act due Thursday, Bloomberg asked 21 constitutional law scholars what they thought should happen - 19 of 21 said SCOTUS should uphold the law. Unfortunately, only 8 of the same people think that's what will happen. With special knife twisting quotes like "The precedent makes this a very easy case." Fucking ball breaking conservative fucksticks.

- Speaking of conservatives ruining this country, (non-judicial variety) could it be that there was a lot of time, energy and let's say money spent to obfuscate the health care debate, causing the majority of Americans to vehemently oppose the ACA? Maybe, or maybe I'm indignant when people really don't believe or even want what's in the ACA. Or maybe the facts say I had it right the first time.

- Oh yeah, and like Ron Paul cashing a social security check, the people that hate it the most are the one's reaping the benefits. There should be a high school class called "voting against your self interests."

- Finally, just in case you needed a laugh, this weekend there will be a "summit" on Atlas Shrugged, featuring Grover Norquist, Allen West and John Stossel. As counter programming, I'm going to start a book club with Elmo, Kenneth from 30 Rock and Katy Lee Gifford where we talk about the philosophical impact of Roald Dahl. 6 to 5 and pick 'em as to which room is more erudite.

Posted 10:46am
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June 25th, 2012

Don't say anything mean about the girls and you - keep your shirt on

Having accidentally experienced burlesque before, it was my job Saturday night to try and prepare the BDGF of what we were going to experience. Not that I am any expert mind you, but I wanted to reassure her that burlesque was a far cry from going to see strippers. That not only were these not dead eyed single mothers with terrible boob jobs and low self-esteem, but this was a whole movement that was based in female empowerment, or so I've heard argued anyway. These weren't girls hoping to make it into Playboy - in fact most of them know that's not a possibility. I was basically trying to let her know that she wasn't going to contract anything from being at the show, and that I wasn't there to ogle women - I was there for Star Wars parody.

So when we walked in the theater (which was super-tiny black box that held less than 100 people) the guy told us that there was only two rules, "Don't say anything mean about the girls - and you keep your shirt on." The latter was obviously directed at me. I assume this was a standard joke and not something he picked up on in my character, as even when pretty drunk, I'm not prone to de-shirting. The former was a vindication of what I had been trying to impart about the women who we were about to see. And I will say this - the women on stage ran the gamut of shapes and sizes, but they were all hilarious. From C-3PO to Obi-wan, from Millennium Falcon pasties to Rebel Alliance logo panties, the girls were game and went for it. I laughed out loud several times, and so did the BDGF.

A Nude Hope: A Star Wars Burlesque probably tops Thank You For Being a Friend: A Golden Girls Musical as the most bizarre thing I've ever seen in a theater, although the latter had a lot more dildos. A lot. Of course I'm totally ready to go see the Golden Girls company's production of The Facts of Life: The Lost Episode and I don't know that I need to attend Indiana Jones and the Temple of Boobs. Apparently guys in drag beats chicks with pasties in my book. Huh.

Posted 10:12am
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June 22nd, 2012

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

- The BDGF has been at the beach house all week, which means I'm sure she's been subjected to a heavy dose of Fox News in a style I'm sure she would describe as Clockwork Orange-ian. I just hope she doesn't come back believing Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11, because scientifically, that's what happens.

- Moonrise Kingdom is finally playing in A2, so I will shortly get my much needed dose of Bill Murray. For those of you in rural parts of the world (and those who need as much Murray as they can get their hands on, i.e. all of you) here he is being inducted into the Minor League Hall of Fame. Adorable.

- You know how awful big government is and how new agencies and regulations just add to the bureaucracy and waste our tax dollars and live free or die and don't tread on me? Well fuck that in the ear. Republicans can go stick their dicks in the garbage disposal.

- This may come off as a little humble-bragy, but what the hell, so is the whole damn blog. Last night we went to a bar in the country to drink good beer and play trivia, as those are two of my favorite things. The trivia was amazing, as they had buzzers and everything and we won the first two games rather handily. So why, with such success and rollicking good times, am I still upset that we didn't win the third game? I am clearly an awful person incapable of happiness and will die alone and unsatisfied. At least they can't say I'm not self-aware.

- Finally, I know I started off this post bashing Fox News for their complicit role in obfuscating the truth and making this country dumber, and every time I hear world's biggest asshat Sean Hannity say "The U.S. is the greatest, best country God has ever given man on the face of the earth." I want to punch him square in the junk and move to Toronto. However, U.S.A! U.S.A! U.S.A! U.S.A!

Posted 11:06am
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June 21st, 2012

A Nude Hope

Last summer I was driving around with the BDGF when she started having one of her wanderlust episodes and demanded "Take me to do something interesting and different!" Luckily I always keep keep something in my back pocket for when this happens, because it routinely does. That night we ended up in Fashionable Ferndale to see a drag production of The Golden Girls: The Lost Episode. It started a love affair with the Ringwald Theater and Ferndale in general and is generally considered to be one of my better ideas (so much so that the BDGF usually takes credit for it, as she is wont to do.)

Late last winter when we were looking for something to occupy our time in Chicago, I came across A Nude Hope: A Star Wars Burlesque. Now while the BDGF loves Star Wars, live nude people is not her thing. Truth be told it's not mine either, but a Princess Leia strip tease? It has to be hilarious right? This has to be more about fun and frivolity than titillation. So I've mentioned it once or twice since, and she always says "Fine we'll go," to which the only appropriate response is, "It's no big deal, we don't have to." But as proof that the BDGF loves me and wants me to be happy, she got us tickets (as a Father's Day present!) for this Saturday. Because there is no try, only do or do not. And we do.

- Star Wars fan art, when stylized and minimalist, is generally awesome. Like this and this.

- Disappointed with how Sam Jackson was used in the Star Wars prequels, here's a little bit of satisfaction.

- Getting famous voice actors to do a table read of Star Wars sounds like a great idea, but even I couldn't get through this.

- I am jealous of this AT-AT loft bed, because it seems more within my budget than creating this Star Wars home theater.

- Quien es mas macho? Empire Strikes Back Telenovella, or rare unearthed Return of the Jedi footage?

- Finally, MC Escher, Legos and Star Wars. Almost as good as Star Wars, Burlesque and tbaggervance.

Posted 10:40am
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June 20th, 2012

Vacation

As previously noted, all of the girls are gone from my domicile and it's a week of pure unadulterated testosterone at our house. This of course changes little in terms of routine, outside of the types of movies I can watch and the level of discourse falling drastically; as I am only talking to myself, and since I always agree with what I have to say, the evening is one big circle jerk.

Oh, and things stay clean. As Sid heads to his mother's today, I have no one to pick up after for three whole days. To be home and have everything in its right place (or as near as I can get without becoming a hermit and living alone) with no one making demands is better than any vacation I can imagine. I don't even mind going to work!

I'd love to blame my parents for passing on to me both genetically and behaviorally whatever combination of OCD and anal retentiveness that made me clean the house the minute I got home and had the place to myself for a week. I mean, I can blame them - it's their fault, the both of them. They're also to blame for making me care about other people to the extent that I choose to live with kids who make all the messes that will probably eventually give me an aneurysm and kill me, but whom I also miss terribly when they're gone for more than a couple days. So thanks?

- Here's the two funniest videos currently circulating the internet: Jimmy Kimmel's Lie Detector test and Conan sends Jack McBreyer to Weinerville.

Posted 10:41am
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June 15th, 2012

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

- Summer starts now! I know we've talked about several things being "the start of summer" around here, but this is the ultimate one: no more school. This means little to my day to day routine, outside of leaving my BDGF in bed as I go to slog away the day instead of vice versa, but she and the childrens are excited. I do look forward to the BDGF not having to go to bed early, even if that occasionally spells trouble for me the next day.

- Speaking of, both the BDGF and the girls will be gone all next week. That means I'll be looking for movie suggestions as well as someone to use my extra ticket for the Nada Surf show at the Blind Pig next Friday. Also just stop by for a drink, as I will likely be sitting outside enjoying the peace and quiet.

- Speaking of, Sunday is Father's Day and if your looking for something to get a Dad who still has children in the house, stop shopping because they all want the same thing - peace and quiet. If it's a dad without children under foot, then they just want to be called or seen, whichever is feasible.

- Speaking of, whenever I talk to the Moeman, the topic of conversation eventually turns to Michigan, and then ultimately to Michigan football. Here's a story about a classy Ohio fan who offered a $2000 bounty to end the career of high school kid who has never so much as played a down for Michigan, just merely intends to someday. Luckily, Brady and Urban can apparently be in the same room and not immediately batten down the hatches. Although the power of BBQ may have something to do with that.

- Speaking of, I know there's a big difference between BBQ and grilling, but it is summer, and I encourage all of you to do all of your cooking, nay, live as much of your existence outside as possible for the next three months. It is good for the mind, body and soul. If you are having trouble, listen to this song and by the end of it you will likely find yourself with open sky above you. Cheers.

Posted 10:19am
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June 14th, 2012

This Week in Indie Rock

- Ted Leo loves Rush and will not apologize for it. This is why I love that man. Also, while I'm on the subject, when we saw Craig Finn a few weeks back in Chicago, he quoted Ted Leo on stage:

And when I say me
I mean my brain
And when I say give me the cure
I mean to kill the pain

And when I say kill the pain
I mean to get the devil out
And when I say devil
I mean the manifestation of doubt

It was like meeting Santa Clause and him offering me an Oberon. SANTA DRINKS OBERON!

- For documentary purposes, here's Jack White's ten weirdest merch items. He's got nothing on the Flaming Lips.

- Say what you want about The Eagles, but Joe Walsh is a bad muthafucka. Enjoy this audio interview he did with Chuck Klosterman.

- Wanna see a rock star with pendulous balls? RHCP drummer Chad Smith ended their show in Columbus last week by Singing "Hail to the Victors". I doff my cap to you sir, as I've been punched from behind and had beers thrown at me more times than I can count for far, far less in that town.

- Finally, this is a bit of a shoe horn for indie rock, but I dare you to debate the awesomeness of Neil Patrick Harris at the Tonys. Legen...

Posted 10:42am
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June 13th, 2012

What's making Baby Jesus cry this week?

- A nun talking about masturbation is something neither I nor the Catholic church apparently wants to hear, albeit for different reasons. They for some reason find it blasphemous and I just think it unsexy. Of course their 'for some reason' is the church's pro-suffering/anti-pleasure ideology, coupled with their goal of keeping women subservient. Maureen Dowd lays it all out, who is coincidentally much sexier than a 77 year old nun.

- A disgusting, frightening, shameful percentage of Americans think that God created the Earth and humans in their present forms in the last 10,000 years. Yes, almost half of the American population are dyed in the wool creationists. Worse still, only 15% believe in godless evolution. You 85% can thank the 15% - they are your doctors, engineers and scientists - you know, the ones who make it possible for the rest of you to be employed by learning and innovating, not to mention are responsible for the fact that you have indoor plumbing much less a computer in your pocket that can answer any question you can think of - just don't google carbon dating.

- I will admit that I haven't read all of "Battlefield Earth". L. Ron Hubbard wasn't a very good writer and his ideas are all recycled new age crap. I did see the movie, laying on my couch hungover one afternoon many years ago, and I can tell you it's the worst piece of shit to ever feature Forest Whitaker. So what does it say about someone who claims it is their favorite novel? What if that person read that book for the first time in their late 30s? What if that person was a member of a cult other than Scientology and running for President? And I thought I couldn't lose any more respect for Willard. I promise to sit out the vote in November if Obama starts praising Dianetics. Don't hold your breath.

- Finally, it saddens me deeply to report that my home state is trying to ram through an omnibus abortion bill, designed to severely limit women's access to health care and best practice medicine. The State Senate won't take it up for debate until September, at which point you may very well find me wearing pink and holding a sign outside of the Capitol building. Either that or figuring out the logistics of having Ann Arbor secede from the rest of this backwater.

Posted 10:47am
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June 12th, 2012

When they say tbaggervance, they mean the asshole.

It was a long weekend. It was a good weekend, filled with nuptials and food and booze, but it was long. By the time I got through my softball game last night, my brain was sort of mush. So when the large, older gentleman came up to me at the bar and started out with "I'm the guest from out of town..." I had no idea where he was going. Was this dude at my house? I didn't recognize him. "I'm the guest from out of town you called an asshole." I was processing, so I stalled for time "That sounds like something I would do." "I'm the guy who was coming the wrong way out of the parking lot who you mouthed asshole to." Now we are on the same page.

Turns out that two hours earlier I was on my way to softball and as I approached the parking lot, some idiot was sitting in the entrance lane trying to get out. As this is clearly marked (and I had a long weekend) I mouthed to myself "Asshole." I mean, I must have, because I'm told I did, but I don't remember it. Not that I'm begging off, I call someone an asshole to myself while driving literally every day. It doesn't register as significant because it is de rigueur. So when he finally explained "I'm the guy who was coming the wrong way out of the parking lot who you mouthed asshole to." I responded "Oh, then you deserved it." I thought he was playing with me, so I was playing back, and everyone got a good laugh out of it. But then it got weird. He then started to go off about how the situation didn't warrant an 'asshole' and hadn't I ever made a mistake and he's a 'guest' in our town and finally, that I better "check myself".

At this point I figured out that this 60 year old man was my friend's dad, who was in town for another wedding that weekend, and proceeded to sit five feet from me and drink for the next hour after telling me to "check myself". Good times. A bizarre end to a weekend where I spent an inordinate amount of time telling people that yes, I was ordained on the internet, for free. Yes, I am an atheist. No, they don't tell you what to say. Yes, I do live here, and all of you are killing my grass, so thanks.

Posted 10:46am
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June 7th, 2012

5 innocuous things that are making me happy in and around the present moment - Kat and Mysterious Al Edition.

- There's a wedding reception in my backyard this weekend. There will be entirely too many people in way too small a space and the foot traffic alone will put some serious strain on all my hard work this spring to make things green, pretty and not altogether unkempt. But that's the only downside. No hotel room to rent, no cab to call to get me home. Sure it may be Animal House when I wake up Sunday morning and my neighbors may hate me forever, but at least I can take the blame for the BDGF, who we all know would put it on me whether I deserved it or not.

- Along with the pleasures of an open bar, this weekend also marks the return of Gold level inner circle member Dr. Walker to Ann Arbor. She sent me the trailer for the new Quentin Tarantino movie last night, and I got even more excited to spend some time in her illustrious company this weekend. It also made me want to watch this, because Der Humpink is not a metaphor.

- Before there was a wedding, tradition dictated a bachelor party, which we used as an excuse to go down to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby. Not much can be said here about the events that transpired down in hill country, but I can tell you if you ever make it down, lie to your significant other about how much the weekend cost upon your return - which will not save you from admonishment for not picking the winner of the big race, but should save you some heartache nonetheless. Anyway, here's the bachelor in his derby hat. I wish I could tell you about the hot mess in the white dress sitting next to him, because wow.

- A full year and a half ago the BDGF and I threw Al and Kat an engagement party, which taxed my creativity to no end. This weekend asks less of my talents, but I did make this card to give to our neighbors, so that they know beforehand that their property values are about to take a massive hit:

- Finally, not only am I co-reception host by default with my beautiful BDGF, but I will also be performing the ceremony. I am now officially Ann Arbor's Atheist Officiant for hire®. Having been to dozens upon dozens of weddings and participated in a number approaching double digits, it is super hard to imagine getting through a ceremony without falling into religious tropes or making fun of them, but that is exactly my task come Saturday. I'd say place your bets on whether or not I can get through it without massively offending someone, but I don't think many people are going to take one side of that action.

Posted 11:01am
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June 6th, 2012

Wednesdays are for politickin'.

The BDGF's dad spent part of the weekend trying to convince me that I was 'conservative' because I was 'responsible'. The BDGF was irate because obviously in her father's eye, liberals can't be responsible. I just said thanks, because I rarely get called responsible, and I can pretend when he said 'conservative' he meant 'doesn't wear sweatpants in public.' This led to a discussion of which end of the political spectrum was more emotional, hysterical and took things personally. We had a calm, rational discussion about the way things get approached, but I'd like to say for the millionth time, yes, all politicians are terrible and both parties are for sale and people on both sides of the aisle need to get a grip and for once in their life govern like they have a conscience. But it should also be noted that ain't no motherfuckin' ball park neither.

Democrats like to run "Get out the vote" campaigns. They occasionally get criticized for inflating numbers, etc., but these are generally conflated and unfounded. In any case, it's the opposite of the Republican tactic - which is to disenfranchise voters that aren't in their target demographic. Hey, the right to vote is only the foundation of our Republic, but as an even casual observer will tell you, the GOP always wants to be the one to draw the line in the sand.

The only people that lie more than politicians are the media pundits who cover them, am I right?!? You can surely find half truths and obfuscations from every corner of the political world, but is it me or do the Republicans always seem to be the ones that will blatantly tell the biggest lies with a straight face while looking you in the eye? While we're at it, both sides run negative, mudslinging ads but the media goes down on Obama like a circus seal while giving Willard titty twisters and noogies? That's what we're told (especially by those on the right just trying to keep things fair and balanced) and out of fairness most of the time we have to admit that it must be true, but to cop Tarantino again, that don't make it necessarily fucking so.

Yes, everything is horrible and the Democrats are far from paragons of virtue. The whole system needs reforming from how we generate revenue to how we hold elections. But I am absolutely done with those advancing the arguments that things are equal. That it's all a bowl of Machiavellian soup feeding everyone equally. That MSNBC is as bad a Fox News, that Obama is just as bad as Romney. Fuck each and every one of you up your stupid asses. You are incapable of data assessment, analytical analysis and abstract thought. Take your persecution complex and sense of 1950s fairness and and shove them up your collective butthole. I'm done.

- This is how the world ends, not with a bang, but with a whimper. I had a lot of political discussions with my father-in-common-law over the weekend. I couldn't begin to even summarize either of our positions, but at some point I noted that I wouldn't vote for a Republican for national office any time soon because of what happened to the Supreme Court under W. I won't bore you with a diatribe about it since I know I've done it quite enough around here, but I was thinking about it as Scott Walker staved off a recall last night. Why? Here's why. See what I said about ballparks?

Posted 10:14am
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June 5th, 2012

This Week in Indie Rock.

- All of us here at tbaggervance.com are of the correct position that much like climate change deniers, people who are anything other than reverent towards The Beatles are contrarian douche bags. So you may take this list of anti-Beatles songs as a 'know your enemy' type thing (even though it includes some songs by Beatles).

- More evidence that Jack White is awash in his own weirdness - he makes Beck sound weird.

- What do you get when a mass market pop culture magazine makes a list of the 30 greatest music artists right now? If you said a ridiculous chart of untalented hacks and has beens topped by Adele, you win the big prize. THe only reason I don't set that list on fire and pee on the ashes is the appearance of The Black Keys and Jack White back to back in the top ten, who were clearly only put there to placate me.

- OK, I take back everything I've ever said about Jack White being weird, because I can't unsee this Black Keys video.

- This list of metal musician's high school yearbook photos is about exactly what you'd expect, complete with a plethora of bad mustaches.

- Finally, I don't want to get your hopes up, because this is in no way as brilliant as Dangermouse's mix of Jay Z's The Black Album and The Beatles' The White Album, but here's In My G4 Over Da Sea, which combines hip-hop with Neutral Milk Hotel. I'm off to listen to "99 Problems" with "Helter Skelter" behind it.

Posted 10:48am
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June 4th, 2012

Wormer... dead. Niedermeyer... dead. Dawson...

Getting to stay home from school as a kid afforded one two television opportunities that weren't normally available to your standard 10 year old. The first was obviously The Price is Right, which has been a constant 11am mainstay for what I assume is eternity (may it soldier ever forward). Now TPiR is the king for its ubiquity, longevity and perfect 11am start time. It was always a bummer when you were violently ill and slept through Bob Barker and his beauties, but a low grade fever will have you just climbing out of your slumber by 10:45am, perfect timing for putting in your lunch request before they came on down.

Second only to TPiR was Family Feud. FF was even more play-alongable than TPiR, and hosted by the only guy cooler and creepier than Bob Barker, Dick Dawson. Now until the advent of the Game Show Network, I knew Dick Dawson merely as the leisure suit wearing, lady smooching host of FF. But GSN introduced my generation to Match Game Dick, who was equally cool and aloof, as well as the best player of Match Game that the world had ever seen. He could also apparently down three martinis over a lunch break, which earns him a special place in my heart.

Of course he was also on Hogan's Heroes and Laugh In and parodied himself in The Running Man, but it's Match Game and FF Dawson that most of us will remember. It's quite a legacy in itself - one that Ron Burgandy himself would tip his hat to. Rest in Peace Richard, I'm sure you are running around up there somewhere looking for some <blank>.

Posted 11:01am
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June 1st , 2012

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

- Ah Ann Arbor! Not only am I privileged enough to work at one of the best places to be employed in the country, but it is also one of the top 20 summer vacation destinations according to Frommers. All of this, by the way, exists within walking distance from my front door. OK that was snotty, but this is Ann Arbor! We're better than you!

- Let's wrap up graduation season with this speech by Neil Gaiman. I know it is in part because he's got an English accent, but everything I've ever heard Neil say sounds smart and ensconced in wisdom. As an aside, I'm finally going to try and read Sandman. Yes, finally.

- There's not much debate left to have (no matter what conservatives say) about the fact that the Earth is getting warmer, but how do go about convincing the children still crossing their arms and holding their breath over the refusal to see the truth? Turns out that all the science in the world is not going to persuade them, because they're just assholes. I'm paraphrasing, but that's basically what the article says.

- This is super dated and kitschy, but surely you can't pass up the opportunity to hear a young Bill Murray play The Human Torch? Bonus narration by Stan Lee!

- Finally, we head West tonight for weekend number one of three in the next month at the Beach House. These trips will include two Craig Finn shows, a Hold Steady Show, two Chicago street festivals and with a little luck and perhaps the implementation of a sad puppy face, a trip to 3 Floyds. Oh! And the beach and shopping and Shoreline and Damma and Dampa and an avalanche of wine. My life is so difficult sometimes...

Posted 10:51am
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May 31st , 2012

My hatred burns with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns.

I liked apartment living because of the minimal upkeep. If something went wrong, there was someone to call and I could wash my hands of the situation. Don't get me wrong, I love fixing things. As the BDGF says I'm a bit of a tinkerer. As such I do tend to fix things around the house, sometimes whether they need it or not. But if those things were to go away, I'm sure I'd find something else to tinker with. Perhaps it wouldn't be something that gets torn up after I spent hours grooming and nurturing it back to health, causing an embolism in my brain.

I didn't enjoy apartment living because of the lack of ownership. You couldn't really 'fix things up' too much because there was no return on your investment. Everything had to be portable, nothing installed. You'd take the time to paint the place and then get dinged on your security deposit for using too dark a color. The place is never really yours, you're supposed to leave it as you found it.

So while I lament some of the upkeep and the constant break/fix nature of a home, I take great pride in it. I love seeing an improvement. I enjoy staring at something I've made better and getting to enjoy it. After a few years in an apartment, things just get older and there's nothing you can do about it. When you get tired of something in a house, you can change it and it's yours. When you fix something yourself, it's on your schedule in the manner you see fit, not the half ass job of some handy man employed by your landlord who does just enough to keep you from bitching.

I've been working on our backyard for the last two months in preparation for a wedding reception that is to take place there in 9 days. I've been working on the thing for two years now, but there's been a real push to make things as nice as the lot, my knowhow and my budget will allow. I have been fairly pleased and proud with how things have progressed, so I am very protective of it. I've been praying that the littlest one forgets about her slip and slide at least until the wedding is over because of what it does to the lawn. Unfortunately another critter which I have even less control over encroached on my plans.

I came home today to find a giant hole in the back corner of my yard. Apparently the gopher I have seen lurking back there decided to build a driveway on my turf. I've got news for him, he fucked with the wrong marine. I slave for two years to get things up snuff and he comes in with less than 10 days to go and shits where I eat? I'm going Keyser Soze on him. I am superfly TNT, I'm the guns of the Navarone. He better make peace with whatever god he prays to soon, because I am about to rain hellfire down upon him and his family. Then I'm bringing in Carl Spackler to have sex with his dead corpse. Vengeance will be mine.

Posted 2:19pm
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May 30th , 2012

What's making Baby Jesus cry this week?

- Ladies and Gentlemen, presented for your viewing pleasure, the bout to end all bouts. It's NOM vs HOMO. Jesus vs GGG. Dogma vs Science, Hatred and Bigotry vs Love and Tolerance. In this corner, America's only sex advice columnist, weighing in at 170 fabulous pounds, Dan "It's on motherfucker" Savage. And in the other corner, from the National Organization for Marriage, weighing in with 8 homechooled children, Brian "Gay marriage is not a civil right" "Boom Boom" Brown. Now who wouldn't want to see the creator/spokesman for "It Gets Better" debate the Bible with the President of an organization who's sole purpose is to deny gay people their civil rights? Someone's bringing a knife to a gun fight...

- I'll go out on a limb and say that this kid didn't come to this conclusion of his own volition. We should all be afraid of the Christianists outbreeding those of us who are capable of abstract thought.

- Church going Americans are now a minority. Maybe there is a war on Christmas?

- How much do you want to bet that this guy never saw the movie Grizzly Man? To quote Vincent Vega, you play with fire you gonna get burned.

- Finally kudos to this pastor, who wrote a letter to his fellow black clergymen to support gay marriage. Money quote:

The question I believe we should pose to our congregations is, "Should all Americans have the same civil rights?" This is a radically different question than the one you raised with the ministers, "Does the church have the right to perform or not perform certain religious rites." There is difference between rights and rites. We should never misconstrue rights designed to protect diverse individuals in a pluralistic society versus religious rites designed by faith communities to communicate a theological or doctrinal perspective.

I'd like to invite that guy over to dinner, not for a debate but to merely say thanks.

Posted 1:13pm
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May 29th , 2012

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?

A week or two ago I made a half-hearted argument about my righteous indignation and moral high ground in regards to Mitten's 'bullying' problem. It was a quick, off the cuff thought - I couldn't in good conscience attempt to degrade an opponent's character in a manner that I felt was in any way specious. It was a response to something I read in which a conservative pundit cheered Obama for coming out in favor of same sex marriage, because the bigots are Republican and that would galvanize and motivate them to vote for an otherwise milquetoast Romney. I know the Machiavellis, Montgomery Burns and Karl Roves of the world may salivate and creepily rub their hands together over the thought, but I perhaps naively think that most people would at least like to hold themselves to a higher standard.

Now I will freely admit to being a name caller. I do it here because I'm trying to be entertaining and I'll do it in an argument with someone if they can't be swayed with facts, because if I'm fighting a lost cause at least being quick witted and visceral can provide me with a sense of accomplishment. But the most important thing in both these instances is that nothing is at stake. I'm not lying or sensationalizing in order to dupe, nor am I even doing those things in order to sell you something. It is merely for my own edification - if someone is ever even temporarily wounded by these barbs, well then they should get thicker skin, take a joke, and know better to than to step in the ring to begin with, because we both know my proclivities.

It's both my personal moral compass and joy in telling someone to eat a bag of dicks that would make me a terrible politician. Ironically it's Bible verse in the title that I kept thinking of when I read what Mittens said yesterday, and how his willingness to slough it off is the basis of his skillset. He "need(s) to get to 50.1%" and will stand next to charlatans, liars and thieves to get there. And he thinks that's OK. How is it that I'm always the one more closely adhering to Jesus' teachings while being told I'm going to hell for not believing in him? I look forward to someday watching Willard try and pass through the eye of a needle.

- Joe Biden is a punching bag and too often rightfully so, but in honor of yesterday being Memorial Day, if you have a minute I'd recommend watching this speech he gave to families of fallen veterans over the weekend. It's moving and honest and I'll think of it next time somebody calls him an idiot.

Posted 11:11am
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May 25th , 2012

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

- The BDGF is fairly obsessed with space and even more specifically, the 1950s and 60s 'space race' and the Apollo program. So for her (and the 12 year old me) here's a rare interview with Neil Armstrong.

- It's graduation season and of the many celebrity commencement speeches out there, I highly recommend (as always) that of Eugene Mirman.

- A warning for my buddy Stov - there's something other than Arby sauce in the 5 for 5 in Michigan. I rarely eat fast food outside of Chipotle - only during road trips when eating in the car saves time, but from now on I may have to remember to bring a snack.

- Lost in this year's "tbaggervance.com's Guide to Summer" was the Drive-in at Compuware Arena. The very first movie I can remember going to as a kid was at a drive-in, and while I do love daylight savings time, it is lamentable in its role in killing the ability to watch movies from the backseat of your car. Lucky for us, there's a great drive-in a mere 15 minutes from Ann Arbor, and I highly recommend it. I mean, sneaking booze into the movies was never so easy!

- Finally, in college my roommate was obsessed with the birthday paradox, which states that if you put 20 people in a room, there's something like a 50/50 chance that two of them will have the same birthday. Anytime he was in a room with 20 people, he'd get all of their birthdays to find out who matched. Unsurprisingly, he was a virgin the first half of his matriculation. I thought of him when I saw this chart, which will verify your suspicion that most people are born because their parents got drunk at a holiday party. Sorry if I made you think about your parents doing it. Here's a drawing of me with a beard as an apology:

Posted 11:30am
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May 24th , 2012

Competitive Edge.

I have an inherent need to be right. This often manifests itself as me being a dick, especially since if I can be right and someone else can be wrong, well then all the better. There's a tendency to poke and prod where it isn't warranted and to not let trivial things go. I am acutely aware of this. Sometimes I come off as a big sweetie who calls out complete bullshit or hypocrisy and is a paragon of virtue, but mostly people would call it a character flaw.

When I was in second grade, I was doing some cut and paste art project where our teacher specifically told us not to perform the task a certain way. I considered what she said, and decided that she was wrong, and that her verboten measures were actually a time saver. In the middle of doing what I was specifically told not to, said teacher leaned over my shoulder and asked me "Do you lie awake at night thinking of ways to frustrate me?" I was eight, so I can't say if I did or not, but I vividly remember my project being as good as anyone else's, thus I was right, and she was wrong.

In fifth grade, I was in a gifted and talented group that got together once or twice a week to practice "outside the box" thinking. We were once tasked with figuring out a way to cut a certain number of donuts into a certain number of pieces in so many cuts, and we were assured that there was only one way to do it. When I asked "What if we figure out an alternate way?" the instructor promised us donuts every class for the rest of the year. As you can guess, when I proved her wrong, I never saw another donut from that bitch again.

It's been pointed out to me time and time again that this specific character flaw makes me an asshole to play games with. The irony of the assertion is that when I play games, I insist on playing by the rules. That and paying attention are paramount to me, such that when people can't meet my expectations, I'm sure I am a total dick. I will take a second to note that I am not a sore loser nor rarely not gracious. I can be a dick to my buddies or my son, but we have that dynamic in play. Trash talking amongst dudes just happens - it's testosterone and millions of years of evolution. But I can usually tone that down when in mixed company or say, around in-laws.

I am also not a cheater. To cheat belies the point of the game. I love to win, so I find my competitive advantage in knowing the rules of the game and exploiting them. It's using the backward four card in Sorry right after you get out of home to skip going around the board. It's leading your one off suit in euchre so that your partner can lead it back and you can trump it. Did you know that there are a finite number of houses in Monopoly? It's why you never buy hotels - when the houses are gone, no one else can develop (it also helps to know that the red and orange properties around Free Parking are the statistically most landed on).

Unfortunately, pointing out these rules (in an often militant fashion) also makes you a dick. Siddhartha and I did it in a euchre tournament a few year back and annarbor.com compared us to the Cobra Kai. They missed the fact that I didn't call a renege in the championship match so the parents of the person running the tournament could win, but I'm over it*. So I can't win. Well that's not fair. I win a lot, and sometimes even magnanimously, but as far as I've come in being a congenial game player, anyone who plays a game with me and has to learn the rules as we go is going to end up thinking me a dick.

And that's OK. Usually I can let it go and when my head hits the pillow as I drift off to sleep I know that I'm right in my resolve and the collective 'they' have hippy parents who taught them that you play for fun and everybody deserves a treat after the game is over. These are the people that adore completely subjective games like Apples to Apples that are worse than an ice breaking exercise at summer camp. But I digress. For those of you who love an honest competition where people pay attention and know the rules and move things at a brisk pace, I promise to give you my best effort, shake your hand if you beat me and never whine at a stroke of bad luck. Everyone else, I'm working on it, but maybe feel free to exclude me from your reindeer games. I promise not to be offended, although I may stand in the corner and roll my eyes at the proceedings. Because at the end of the day, I'm right. I may be no fun and a dick in your estimation, but I'm not wrong, and that's more important than anything to me.

*I'm not.

Posted 9:56am
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May 23rd , 2012

This Week in Indie Rock - They're Baaaaaack Edition.

- JB and Rage Cage are back in an attempt to redeem themselves post Pick of Destiny. The original Tenacious D HBO shorts and the subsequent debut album that was based in large part on it stands behind only Spinal Tap in the pantheon of great rock comedy/parody acts. Is that sustainable? Judge for yourself: here they are on Letterman and with an appropriately inappropriate video.

- Cincinnati's own Afghan Whigs are back after a 13 year hiatus, which in mind ended shortly after they played the house band singing Barry White songs in the movie Beautiful Girls. Anyway, a baker's dozen years later they are back to do the reunion thing, which given that Greg Dulli has one of rock 'n' roll's greatest set of pipes, that's a welcome thing. Here they are on Fallon.

- Ben Folds Five is back after a similar absence to take the money of people in their late 30s who crave 90's nostalgia. Here's Ben talking about the project - you had me at "BFF Reunion" Ben.

- Wonder where Spoon has been? Well I don't have a concrete answer, other than to tell you there's a new Britt Daniel side project that will attempt to fill the void in your heart.

- The Walkmen never really went away, but I'd be remiss if I didn't let you know that you can stream their new album over at NPR. It's typically pretty great.

- The Beatles of course live forever in our hearts and in the constant laughter of children everywhere, but for those rich, eccentric collectors out there, here's an alternate Abbey Road cover that, warning, contains Paul wearing flip=flops, which you can't unsee.

- Finally, you may have heard that Jack White dissed the good folks over at Guinness, to which they responded in kind, prompting Jack to do an obviously ridiculous Jack White-ian thing. I'm exhausted, but it sounds like it's over, meaning we'll never know if this was just Jack being a huckster looking for free publicity or if he really perceived some imagined slight. As a fan, I know that I don't want the answer. Instead let's concentrate on the Flaming Lips actual attempt at a Guinness World Record in which they play 8 concerts in 8 cities in a single day. I'll take Wayne's weirdness any day of the week and twice on Sundays. Amen.

Posted 11:29am
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May 22nd , 2012

On Intelligence...

Ed. note: My biggest fear as a blogger is that I keep repeating myself. Not that I don't have anything else to say - that's a different fear that I'm ironically less worried about. However, doing this every day for seven plus years means that from time to time in a pinch, I will tend to write about the same things over and over again. While my mind is a veritable steel trap, I can't remember every turn of phrase I've imparted here. So there may be several posts that are nearly identical iterations on things I care about, and his may be one of those. So it goes...

Any definition of intelligence is specious to say the least. Take the way we throw the word genius around. We use it talk about people who are great analytic scientific thinkers like an Einstein as easily as we do great artists like Paul McCartney or Vincent Van Gogh. And that's just the apt examples. I'll bandy about genius to describe a Jeff Tweedy chord change, so I'm no better than anyone else (although while I would attempt to make a cogent argument about some of the ideas on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, I still might be overstepping my bounds.)

However lightly I think any semantic definition of genius has come to be inferred in the public lexicon, I think it is both over and under used. And that goes back to our definition. Any psychologist with an average IQ test will attempt to measure spacial reasoning and problem solving and number sense. Those are the most easily quantifiable aspects of intelligence. I don't know what Miles Davis' or Jackson Pollack's IQ was, but I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were geniuses. For that matter, an eight year old who can tell you what geologic period Australopithecus was from may not be an according to hoyle genius even by popular definition, but that kid has a certain level of innate intelligence. These are undervalued. When we look at even Tom Brady's performance in a Super Bowl (praised be his name) or the way DeNiro mugs for the camera in Goodfellas, genius may be a strong word.

Ultimately 'genius' is over used. But equating certain abilities and values with 'intelligence' is underestimated. Memory is a troublesome factor in itself. Cultural factors are so inherent that many people eschew it as a component in itself. Am I smart because I can tell you the cinematographer on the Godfather? Maybe maybe not, but if I can describe to you the differences of a movie shot by Gordon Willis compared to every other movie Copolla made without him, doesn't that say something about my observational skills? And isn't comparing and contrasting a vital component help define how 'smart' we deem someone? What about Tom Brady's ability to read a defense and call an audible at the line of scrimmage and then read three receiver routes in 4 seconds and THEN tell his brain to make a perfect strike for a first down? That's objectively smart.

Intelligence in art is even trickier. Yes, art is subjective, but it is not unquantifiable. Yet there's a method to it on some level. There's a reason that everyone studies Shakespeare and only assholes don't see merit in the Beatles. I realize that free market forces force rich douche bags and corporations to pay tens of millions for a Van Gogh that was worth mere sheckles in his lifetime, but would anyone argue there's not beauty in "Starry Night"? As an aside, that's why I'm so interested in the objectification of art. My BDGF may like to say Neil Young sucks, but it's not true. Lots of people may hate Neil Young, but he's objectively great. I mean, I never want to hear the Grateful Dead again, but I get why people like them - even beyond the cultural drug experience of going to see them.

At the end of the day (again to take a queue from my BDGF) I think we all have our own (semi) valid definition of intelligence, based in unequal parts of what we value and what we are good at. Personally, I'm not a 'genius' at anything. I have a very high IQ, but I'm also artistic on several levels and have a memory like an elephant. That's self aggrandizing, but what I mean to say is I don't hang my hat on any one of those things, I believe them all important. I bow at the alter of famous musicians who can sing and play an instrument in ways I cannot fathom. I worship painters whose hands can portray things in ways my brain would never consider. I humbly doff my cap to my son (and my BDGF) who can run circles around me mathematically. And I similarly look down upon so-called geniuses who can't change a tire on car or read a map or (god forbid) name all of the members of the Beatles.

I imagine it's about proclivities. Charlie Parker could care less about how to find the area underneath a curve and I imagine Stephen Hawking doesn't feel like less of a human being because he didn't write Slaughterhouse Five. I sleep at night not because I don't wish I haven't done any of those things - I actively lose sleep because I haven't. But I find solace in knowing that I have a hand in all of those areas of what I consider to components of intelligence. The breadth of my knowledge and skill set and abilities and proclivities is where I hang my hat. And in my arrogance, I take all comers when it comes to that. Hopefully you rage against the dying of the light at whatever you love or aspire to, because otherwise we're all failing in our collective duties.

Posted 2:06pm
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May 21st , 2012

tbaggervance.com's 2012 Guide to Summer

A few years ago we started to aggregate a list of all the free (or almost so) festivals and events within a driving distance of our home base here in Ann Arbor. Well austerity being what it is, 'Free' ain't what it used to be, but it's still out there, and there's always plenty of 'suggested donation' good times and who's going to complain about a mere $10 for a lawn seat to one of the great rockers of the 1980s? That's right nobody. With that in mind, here's your 2012 Guide to Summer:

Edward G. Money
May 25
Summer begins in earnest with the man who brought you such gems as "Take Me Home Tonight" "Shakin'" Two Tickets to Paradise" "Baby Hold on to Me" "Everybody Rock and Roll the Place" and many, many more (OK not that many).

Do-Division Street Fest
June 1-3
One of many Chicago neighborhood festivals, a five buck donation gets you a solo Craig Finn of the Hold Steady, so we'll be there.

Sonic Lunch
June 7 - Aug 30
A2's FREE downtown lunchtime concert series. I've actually never made it down to this, but every year there's a few bands I mean to check out, so it's worth perusing.

A2 Restaurant Week
June 10-15
This seems weirdly timed, but the BDGF points out that the last week of school means parents don't want to cook, which I get. Cross your fingers, one of these times we will actually get a a reservation at Logan.

Top of the Park
June 15 - July 8
The A2 staple. A $3 lightly suggested donation means you can bring in your own cooler that no one will ever question the contents of. I do love this town.

Taste of Randolph Street
June 15-17
Another Chicago neighborhood fest combing food, music and shopping. The artist lineup isn't completely announced, but look for Chicago fave Ezra Furman to be there.

Green Music Fest
June 23-24
Another Chicago neighborhood fest? Yes. But hey, Ravonettes, Dinosaur Jr., $5 donation? You could do worse...

Fourth of July
Duh
Here's a listing of all the fireworks displays in Michigan on and around our nation's birthday.

Common Ground Fest
July 9-15
Like aging artists that were popular 20 years ago in genres that only exist in parody anymore? Common Ground is for you. And Lansing, because of course it's in Lansing.

Elvis Fest
July 13-14
One day I will be forced to go this just so I can say I went. But I will kick that ball down the road as long as possible...

Pitchfork
July 13-15
...especially when it coincides with Chicago's best bargain basement indie rock festival. Check Saturday's lineup out - we'll be there.

Art Fair
July 18-21
Where the temps will soar into the high 90's and at least one storm will rip through Ann Arbor causing mass hysteria. Also a good week to leave town.

Beer Fest
July 27-28
The best thing to ever happen to Ypsilanti and my favorite non-Michigan football Saturday of the year.

Lolla
Aug 3-5
Not a great lineup this year, plus I am clearly going to be in Chicago a lot already seeing cheaper, less crowded acts.

Dream Cruise
Aug 18
FOR AVOIDANCE PURPOSES ONLY

Arts, Beats & Eats
Labor Day Weekend
Nobody knows what this lineup will entail, but don't forget to check back in August - last year they had George Clinton!

Posted 10:37am
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May 17th , 2012

Thursdays are for politickin' - Profiles in Courage Edition

- I don't know what makes Minnesota so perfectly liberal, but it tends to be a bastion of the progressive movement - the one guaranteed blue state not touching a coast nor containing Chicago. As such we salute Gov. Mark Dayton, he of the land of 10,000 lakes, for vetoing back to back "abortion" bills. That's the definition of backbone.

- The U.S. tax code is in-fucking-sane. It has been corrupted to tilt the wealth of this country into the pockets of those that already have it, and those people still spend the majority of their time shouting at the rain about the 'death tax' and paying a lower marginal rate than they have in 80 years. All this and almost all of the Republicans in Congress have sided with one of the world's truly great idiots - Grover Norquist - to pledge that any tax increases must be revenue neutral. Yes, even though it belies an eighth grader's understanding of economics. Almost all Republicans except Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE). Read his answer to the second question, he gets it.

- You may have heard that the Commonwealth of Virginia threw out the appointment of a very qualified judge because he is a gay. But you may not have heard they did it after being admonished by their conservative governor for using something other than merit to appoint any nominee. You know, like logic would dictate.

- Obama's failed energy policy has us on track to potentially be energy independent by 2020. For those who don't want to read the article - spoiler alert - it doesn't mention bombing Iran back to the stone age and picking fights with Russia, which as I understand it are the cornerstones of the Mittens Romney camp's foreign policy.

- I've always been enamored with David Letterman. As a kid, staying up to see him was about the most magical thing available to me during the mid to late 1980s. And I don't know if this is actual courage, but for a guy I admire, who's not known for being overly political, I love to hear him say "What more do we want this man to do for us, honest to god?" when talking about the president.

- Finally, the BDGF and I were talking last night about Mittens' days as a high school bully and how relevant it was to his modern day character and on what level should his opposition weave it into the narrative of who he is. The BDGF thinks it's not only completely fair but compelling to a large portion of the electorate who are parents and see bullying as a problem. I stupidly take the moral high ground, arguing that I'd rather be right and lose than wrong and win (I'd be a terrible politician). I not only don't think it's overly relevant, but smells of swiftboating to me. At the end of the day, I don't want to be like this person, who essentially is saying "Thanks for calling Obama the gay president, because a lot of my base are homophobes!" What a terrible, bigoted, who-do-you-sleep-at-night thing to say. Again, I'd be the worst politician ever because I would actively tell those people not to vote for me.

Posted 10:49am
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May 16th , 2012

What's making Baby Jesus cry this week? Porno Edition

Americans love their porno. They like super softcore love scenes that you can show on basic cable after 10pm, and they like at least a little bit of raunch too - the kind you search the internet for and immediately gets escalated beyond belief, to the point where you find yourself wondering "Who gets turned on by this shit?" But I assure you people do. Most of us may not stray into the avenues of true hard core, but everybody wants to see naked people, and from time to time we want them to touch each other.

Which is why I wonder why politicians like Mittens Romney and religion in general bother going after porn. Now were they to strictly concentrate on combating the exploitive parts of the industry, or to keep 10 year olds from seeing someone pee on someone else, well that's all well and good. But to posture like it shouldn't even exist? Well that's blaspheming my religion. Porn can be a healthy thing. Porn can be shared. Porn is love.

However, not according to the trailer for Harmless. Harmless, according to its producers is "the story about a husband and father and his battle with a box of porn that is found in the closet." Not just any story though, a horror story. Yes, add to the long lineage of Jason, Freddy, Chucky, Pinhead and the Tall Man, a box of porn. Now I've started to watch porn thinking it was one thing and it horrifyingly turned out to be another, but I don't think that's the conceit of this film. I do think it has the potential to be the funniest movie of all time, but like most potentially interesting things about religion, it will probably be profoundly boring.

- Libraries are banning the adult erotic novel "Fifty Shades of Grey" for being, well, erotic. I don't get word porn, but I imagine "Fifty Shades of Grey" to be some young guy touching an older lady for five minutes and then spending the rest of the day fixing things around the house.

- Priests embroiled in sex scandals are nothing new, but I enjoyed two things about this article: 1. The opening sentence "The Legion of Christ religious order, still reeling from revelations that its late founder was a pedophile," and 2. The subject of the article's job title is "American moral theologian". You'd think that if you're founder was a known pedophile, you'd disband and all get back together the following day and rename your group. And a "moral theologian" that fathers children out of wed lock? Now I obviously don't have a problem with that construct, but I don't run around telling people not to over imbibe either.

- Finally, an Arizona religious school forfeited the state championships because their opponent had a chick playing second base. I'm not sure what they were worried about, that every guy would get thrown out going to second as they stopped to stare at her freshman boobs? I've played softball for 15 years and I've never had to touch another dude during the process. My best guess is that being a Catholic school, they didn't want to take a chance at losing to a girl and thus tacitly admitting that women are equal to men in any way.

Posted 11:09am
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May 15th , 2012

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

- In a down economy with austerity measures crippling local governments, the free summer festival has kind of gone the way of the dodo. But not in our little utopian hippie hamlet, where we still argue about how many millions to spend on public art funding. That means the Ann Arbor Summer Festival is alive and kicking, and Top of the Park is in full effect. My personal austerity measures of course mean that I will still be sneaking in my own booze.

- I've been a stick driver since I purchased my first car in 1993 (a 1979 Toyota Celica for the price of $500). When I leased my last car, I was puzzled to see that the MPG listed for the manual transmission was less than the automatic. Turns out that the computers have bested the humans yet again. Now of course I'm so adroit behind the wheel that I just know I can still best the automatic's numbers, plus the stick is just more fun to drive and for that reason alone I never want to give it up. Of course electric cars don't have transmissions, so my days are numbered no matter what.

- Congratulations goes out to Connecticut, who joins 48 other states in the 19th century by allowing alcohol sales on Sunday. Unfortunately for yours truly, the last hold out is Indiana, home of the in-laws Beach House, which means that I will still have plan ahead on Saturday evenings. That or drive the 10 minutes back to Michigan if we run out on Sundays, which <<shudder>>. In related news, Michigan Stadium is trying to get a temporary liquor license for the New Years Day Red Wings game next year. I will use this fact to justify sneaking in booze to every home game next year. Just go with it.

- Which of these idiots said the dumber, more hateful thing? 1. Bill Donohue, president of "The Catholic League" who wants the law to discriminate against the gays OR 2. Bristol Palin, who challengesBarack Obama's leadership as a father. Congrats Catholics, you are the intellectual equivalent of a girl who gets knocked up in high school and thinks the leader of the free world is a bad parental example.

- Finally, it's well documented how I disdain interactions with other human beings. I've made my kid call and order the pizza since he was 6 or 7, because I don't want to talk to those people. I adore the self checkout line at the grocery, unless I'm buying alcohol, which means they have to come check my ID and the interaction becomes 1,000x worse. The more automated the world becomes, the happier I am. My biggest pet peeve is talking on the phone. Haven't we gotten past this as necessity by now? Talking on the phone is the worst and oh how I wish I never had to do it again. Good news for me: we're getting there. One more bit of evidence that society is slowly conforming to my idea of a utopian society...

Posted 11:40am
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May 14th , 2012

Happy (Belated) Mother's Day!

We don't post on the weekends 'round these parts, so we missed yesterday's annual guilt trip centered around mother appreciation. Don't get us wrong, when we say guilt trip we are totally on board - every one of us needs a little kick in the ass now and again when it comes to thanking and appreciating our moms. My mom has been gone a long time now, and not a day goes by where I don't stop and actively reflect on something she instilled in me or explicitly warned me about or even just outright did for me. That's how good moms are.

So thanks to my baby mama who's co-parented with me for almost seventeen years without ever so much as talking to lawyer - I can't stress enough as I get older how amazing and rare a feet that's been. Our kid is about to be accepted into some of the world's great institutions of higher learning, so we did something right. And thanks to my BDGF, who not only counsels and consoles my kid, but managed her children so well, that after two and a half years, neither one has ever yelled "You're not my father!" at me, nor so much as given me a cold shoulder.

Not only are all of these lovely children level headed, well adjusted (mostly) burgeoning adults, but they are also quite fetching. Observe:

Happy Mother's Day to each and every mom out there.

Posted 10:06am
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May 11th , 2012

This Week in Indie Rock

- Chuck Klosterman manages to pull off the rock journalist's equivalent of war time reporting: hitting a Creed and Nickleback show in the same night. The horror...

- Jack White is everywhere these days: The Colbert Report, Jools Holland (with Alabama Shakes!) and giving the AV Club interviews where he reminds his fans: I'm not like you. Which, unless you're vampire guitar genius, is probably accurate.

- Norah Jones has a new Dangermouse produced album, which she rocked on Letterman this week.

- The newly reformed Ben Folds Five has new music that will rock your face.

- There's a lot of retro genres gaining steam right now (see the aforementioned Alabama Shakes) and Nick Waterhouse is among my favorites.

- Stream the new Tenacious D, all over your face.

- Finally, Nada Surf covers New Order. Cheers.

Posted 10:26am
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May 10th , 2012

Contented Bliss

Last weekend I sat on the infield of Churchill Downs as a storm came down to bear on Louisville, Kentucky. Armed security guards started to make the rounds to evacuate everyone out of concerns for our safety. My friend Troy urged us to pack up and get out before some weather tragedy befell us all. I just looked at him and said "Eh, I've lived a good life."

Yesterday the President of the United States took a stand that embodied a several hundred year old trope - the idea that all men are created equal. He did so a day after one of those United States passed a law that ostensibly said "We really don't like gay people" and a mere three days after one of his subordinates said "What's the big deal?" Most importantly, he did so hours after I defended his prudence on the matter, noting that it was probably the best course of action. I've never been so happy to be so wrong.

Not that I am wrong necessarily. Time will tell and since we can't put the genie back in the bottle, we'll never really know. But none of that is neither here nor there right now because I'm so happy. Gay conservative blogopundit Andrew Sullivan, who earlier yesterday said that it didn't matter what the President did on the matter, admitted after the fact that "There's something about hearing the President affirm your humanity." I can't imagine how amazing that must feel but I get indefatigable about this issue because I believe everyone deserves that. I believe that we are equal and endowed with unalienable rights. I love this country and get emotional when the people that lead us stand up for the best of our ideals, rather than hide behind the worst of our fears.

But I digress. I wasn't going to do that, because that made me happy yesterday, but that wasn't all. In part to celebrate Siddhartha finishing his Advanced Placement exams for the year, I got to go to a comic book movie I've been waiting 30 years to see with both of my teenagers. I told Troy last Friday that I'd lived a good life to get a laugh as god knows what was about to come down on us, but man oh man if I wasn't 100% right. So right that shortly after I said it we went and sought shelter, because when it's this good, you just want more.

Posted 10:36am
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May 9th , 2012

Wednesdays are for politickin' - Eat a bag of dicks, North Carolina... Edition

Congratulations go out to the Tar Heel State, which is apparently gunning to be thrown in with the likes of Florida and Mississippi when it comes to ignorant, backwards bullshit. Yesterday the voters in the state decided to make gay marriage doubly illegal. What's the point? Apparently, North Carolinians are upset that gay partners can visit each other in times of medical emergency, or get domestic partner benefits from their employers. Of course, this was the last time NC amended their constitution in regards to marriage. You stay classy North Carolina. I'm sure history will smile on your stupid redneck faces.

- Let us no pivot to Willard Romney, who is inarguably anti-gay. Take these ads he helped pay for in California. Take his foreign policy spokesman - or don't, because he was forced out for being gay. He may have been a moderate on the issue when he was trying to get elected in Massachusetts, but he's clearly ready to acquiesce to homophobes in his party and his religion when we get down to brass tacks.

- As for Mr. Obama, many are decrying his 'evolving' stance on the issue and encouraging him to champion the cause. I for one think he's played this perfectly. Repealing DADT and deciding not to defend DOMA were honorable stances. I think for him to come out for gay marriage now, with the climate he's in and his opponents dead set on defeating whatever he's for, would do more harm to the movement than good. So I'm as inpatient as the next guy, but it's sort of a case of not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

- For good measure, he's a piece by Bruce Fucking Bartlett that explains economics 101 to the current crop of stupid Paul Ryan led economic ideas. Enjoy your ideology, assholes.

- Before we go, please to enjoy this informative article about Mitt Romney's time at Bain Capital, which is at least twice as horrible as you've likely already imagined. Thankfully, his electoral map isn't something to be optimistic about.

Posted 10:58am
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May 8th , 2012

The Happiness Trope: Recap and Wrap up

It's time to put a bow on this little feature, as I think by this point we've had our way with it and there's little left to explore. To recap, over the past two months we've looked at the following cultural pathways to happiness:

1. One thing
2. Work
3. Possibilities
4. God
5. The best of all possible worlds
6. "All You Need is Love"

I honestly believe that all of these have merit for particular people, and find all wanting when it comes to being an ultimate solution. For me personally, I immediately throw out God (for obv. reasons) and work (for reasons I discussed at the time). Now clearly that doesn't mean that God or Work are incapable of making you happy, but these things vary person to person. And that's kind of the point - no self-help, happiness trope is going to work for everyone, nor will a single idea make you happy all the time. We take a little from column A, some from column B in hopes of finding ourselves more happy than not.

I have several "one things" in my life. I can always crack an Oberon and put on "Rosalita" by Bruce Springsteen and be happy, because I love music and a cocktail. And I believe in the power of possibilities, because imagining where I'll be at in 5 years and working to make that happen makes me smile. I think optimism can be uplifting and that love is a powerful emotion and can make you transcendent. It all works. But there's one more thing.

I think that all of the above things are great and most of them necessary in part for a person to be happy, but I also think you need a partner that embodies these things as well. Going through life is an absolute slog by yourself. I think being a teenager sucks so much because you go through a period of feeling like you are utterly alone and that no one could possibly relate to what you are going through. When you realize that life is a shared experience, things get a little easier. I've been lucky in that having a kid at 19, I've always had someone by my side to look to and say "We're in this together, right?" It became more comforting when he could understand what I meant and actually respond, but it was really there even without that. And of course eventually I met the BDGF.

If we're talking about single entities, nothing has made me happier or changed my outlook more than her. She's many one things to me, whether we are going to a show or sitting outside and talking until way too late. She's opened up possibilities, from where we're going on vacation to where we'll live when we get old. Having her around assures me that everything is going to be all right, and well, the love part goes without saying.

It's perhaps a little sappy, but I am a lot sappy guy from time to time. Bottom line, I nor anyone else can tell you how to be happy. Anyone who says they can is trying to fleece you of something. I would suggest finding a hobby, keeping your options open, being a little optimistic and willing to love. Keep those things in your brain and find someone who agrees with you about them. And of course don't be an asshole, I can't stress that enough.

Posted 11:23am
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May 7th , 2012

I'll have another

After returning home having spent four days on a bachelor party excursion that amounted to the longest period the BDGF and I had been apart in over two years, thirty seconds of "I miss you" pleasantries quickly became "How did you not bet on a horse named I'll have another?" This quickly became "You spent how much?" but we all saw that part coming.

It does strike me as ironic in hindsight that during my first trip to the Kentucky Derby the winning horse's name was a reference to drinking and I wouldn't have a single bet on it. The short version as to why not is that after reading and hearing hundreds of predictions over two days of derby prep, I thought I was going to bet the big race smartly. Every other race over the course of two days I based my prediction on a number or a name or a feeling, but the one where it counted and I could have made out, I tried to go with cold hard science, or whatever the horse racing world's version of that term is. As much as we love it, we must remember that science is not infallible.

Striking out on a big, fat, slow eephus pitch taylor made to my swing aside, the Kentucky Derby as a bucket list event pretty much lives up to the hype. Lots of fancy people in suits and floppy hats, lots of hillbillies missing both the sleeves on their t-shirts and teeth in their mouth. As far spectacle and pomp and circumstance go, it has them in spades. It has plenty county fair-esque tropes and charms as well, so for every fancy lady on the arm of a guy in a seer sucker, there's a reminder that you are still in Kentucky.

Of course it being the one weekend a year for local businesses to take advantage of people who aren't forced to live in Kentucky, they all take the opportunity to jack their prices up 300%. So it's not cheap. As such I don't know that I need to go back, except perhaps to see it from the grandstands on the other side where the truly posh watch from. But I'm guessing I'd miss both the toothless hillbillies and the mere $11 mint juleps. Probably.

Posted 10:33am
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May 3th , 2012

Happy Star Wars Day!

OK so I'm a day early. But since I will be somewhere drinking copious amounts of alcohol and spending the children's college fund on getting long shots to place, I have to say "May the fourth be with you" on May 3rd. But the fourth will be with you. Always.

- It's been 13 years since The Phantom Menace came out, and nerds everywhere are still obsessed with fixing it. For my money, this guy ends the debate. I want to see that movie, because in hind sight it's both exactly what I wanted and everything the actual Phantom Menace is not.

- I can't decide if I'm more upset that these people thought of this and I didn't, or that they did such a poor job with the Millennium Falcon. That took you three months? I could have knocked something that wopperjod on a Saturday afternoon.

- Again, this is better executed and something I'd like to replicate, as Star Wars and vinyl are two of my favorite things.

- Darth Vader as a model of fatherhood.

- Finally, rare "behind the scenes" Star Wars photos are like Tupac albums - it's hard to believe how many new ones still exist. And while it's fun to see Carrie Fisher make out with every creature in the Star Wars universe, all of the photos pale in comparison to Freddy Mercury on Darth Vader's shoulders. Yes, it exists:

George was never my scene and I don't like Star Wars? Please.

Posted 10:42am
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May 2nd , 2012

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

- I've been slow to warm to web-based serial content. I'll watch anything for 5-10 minutes, but somehow something that requires say 5-10 minutes every Monday seems beyond the pale to me. I can get hypnotized by 2 minutes of Kate Upton dancing, sure, but I have yet to tune in on a weekly basis to any web-based show. That changes with this new interview show starring Paul F. Tompkins. You have fooled me twice sir.

- For my BDGF, who dreams with the voracity of a 10 year old in the 1960s of going into space: Space X is commercially launching rockets to service the ISS, and Reaction Engines are working on ingesting oxygen instead of bringing it with, which could quickly mean cheap(er) commercial space flight. I promise to do everything in my power to at least get that girl into low Earth orbit before all's said and done.

- Dan Savage recently pointed out the inherent hypocrisy in people using the Bible to gay bash and the right prototypically lost their shit. What's ironic of course is that the only majority that really has to be worried about being 'bashed' or 'declared war on' is women, and that's because the power structure lies in the church and old white men worried about the status quo - both of whom are scared to death of vaginas.

- The Promise Ring has announced a tiny tour this summer, spending one weekend a month going to the East or West coasts. I wonder what kind of guarantee I'd have to provide to get them to come to Michigan? Or I can sit back and wait for more dates...

- Finally, this weekend I'm off to the Bluegrass State to take in the fastest two minutes in sports as part of a friend's bachelor party. I've never been, but if you Google image search "Kentucky Derby Infield", well let's just say here's hoping we make it back intact. Cheers.

Posted 11:01am
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May 1st , 2012

The Happiness Trope: Part Six.

Ed.Note: Our look into the advice we encounter that is designed to distill happiness into an easily digestible phrase or idea continues unabated. Of course seeing ourselves as final arbiter on all matters of public import, you should pay attention. I really shoehorned this, so apologies for poor through lines, limp turn of phrase and general poor writing. We need to wrap this series up, as I clearly have run out of steam.


The idea that love is the be all, end all of human emotion and existence is everywhere. Pop culture is littered with the idea that love is not only the goal of why we are here, but a trump card that wins wars, ends poverty and lifts us up beyond this mortal coil towards transcendence. Jesus talked about it. Buddha too, in a sense. In some ways, it encapsulates a lot of our series up to this point. Like Jackie Wilson sang, love is lifting me higher and higher. I'm certainly susceptible to its wares. I've always told Siddhartha that what John and Paul said were true - "All You Need is Love." Because it feels right and we all want it inherently to be true. The question, of course, is it?

In a certain sense, yes. Much like our initial ideal of "One Thing", if you have love in your life, you're probably ok - at least when that's manifesting itself. When your love is around and prescient, there's a spring in your step. Probably even better than that. If you're a delusional evangelical (which yes, is redundant) then you feel like it permeates your day to day existence. But when your love is a tangible thing or idea, it's transient. It comes and it goes. Anyone who who has ever copped to loving anything will tell you, when your love is inaccessible, it's the worst pain imaginable. The sense of being let down or made unwhole is a palpable sense of loss that for my money, is worse than a three curl hop kick to the jimmy.

And the idea of love being the strongest of all emotions? Littered with holes. The dark side of the force still took Qui Gon's life and Luke's hand. I can't even bear to mention the copious amounts of lives lost on this planet to hate and fear. Perhaps ultimately extinguished by forces for good on the side of love, but at what cost? From heartbreak to genocide, love has a lot of ugly losses on its record.

All you need is love? I hate to contradict even Ringo, but that better not be the only club in your bag. All feelings and emotions are important and can provide comfort and happiness in moderation. They can be just as fulfilling and make you as happy as love does. These are perhaps more in the moment ideals and much more short term tropes than the concept of love, but to live on love alone is a fool's paradise. Plus it's a hippy catch phrase that belies reality. I'm overly sentimental at heart, so I believe in the triumphant power love, but I don't think it's all you need. I will still walk over broken glass to show someone up in a game of trivial pursuit or shout down a well meaning nun to prove my point of view is more valid. That's not love, but holy shit does it make me happy. "All You Need is Love," while nice and important and perhaps ultimately triumphant, is flawed in its claim of being ultimate and requires context and surrounding players to carry true weight. On a scale of Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones to The Empire Strikes Back, we find "All You Need is Love" to be "Return of the Jedi."

Posted 11:45am
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April 30th , 2012

What's making Baby Jesus cry this week?

- We feel morally obligated to cover every Kirk Cameron related story on the internet, so here's a bunch of other former child stars (who I am apparently too old to recognize) coming out against Kirk and his homophobia. Insert "Show me that smile again..." joke.

- I've always kind of understood those that think Siddhartha got short shrift growing up, or that he was somehow a lesser member of society or merely that his parents didn't love him as much because they were never married and didn't live together. I mean don't get me wrong, those fucking narrow minded simpletons can eat a bag of dicks, but I get it. But I am just recently finding out that people think that not only about kids who were adopted, but their parents as well. Take always classy Bill Donahue of The Catholic League. My question is, if you're against adoption AND abortion, you're basically condoning life sentences to two kids and an unborn child for a misdemeanor offense. That seems cruel and unusual, even for Catholics.

- This is a four+ year old story, but small government GOP candidate Mittens Romney wants a mandatory porn filter on your computer. Mormons are the worst.

- Finally, for those of you who need to understand how something comes from nothing re: the origin of the universe without the touch of a supreme being, Dr. Lawrence Krauss has an explanation for you. For those not into Cosmology, theoretical physics and the idea of an infinite multiverse, feel free to just take away this nugget, where he paraphrases Steven Weinberg: "Science doesn't make it impossible to believe in God, it just makes it possible to not believe in God." Fair point that.

Posted 10:31am
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April 27th , 2012

Managed Expectations.

Ed. Note - You're going to get a lot of these in the next 18 months. It'll be the same thing written over and over again probably. During these troubled times, I'd like to remind you that this site is free and I owe you nothing.

I don't admit this lightly, so take it with the understanding of the necessary ipecac it took for me to write this: I was once an Ohio State fan. I was young, naive and had a child's understanding of the world - and most importantly had a brother 12 years older than me whom I worshiped and who loved the BUckeyes. As such, so did I. Until one day, my father, a devote Wolverine disciple, took me to visit Ann Arbor - a trip he thusly instituted on a semi-annual basis. He took me to Columbus as well, but I am in no way sugar coating anything to say he let me see both sides of the coin and choose for myself. I don't think it was ever in his head that I'd someday go to Michigan, and he certainly never advocated it, much less try and sway my fandom. I decided it of my own volition having had the pros and cons laid out in front of me.

I don't know when I decided that I was going to go to Michigan. I don't know when my allegiance changed. I know as a kid growing up in Ohio I was told that Michigan and Ohio were (ostensibly) the same school (obv. by Ohio fans). I know that having seen both campuses come junior high, that was clearly not the case in my head. This was exponentially exacerbated once I got to high school and started to look at colleges, and once it was pointed out to me that Michigan was the premier public institution of higher learning in the United Stated and Ohio was a glorified community college, well that coupled with knowing that I was indeed smart enough to attend such a fine University, my life became laser focused to make that a reality. Now maybe I went from wanting to emulate my brother to making my father happy. Maybe I liked being the underdog amongst all of my classmates who were Ohio slappys. All of it played a part, but at some point I knew I belonged at Michigan, and truer words were never spoken.

Quick jump cut to 20 years later and my own son is about to apply to institutions of higher learning. Now I can't cop to Moeman levels of equal time or even magnanimity, but I swear to each and every one of you on the eternal soul of Tom Brady that I have never once even suggested that my son go to Michigan. Do I wear my heart on my sleeve about my love for Michigan? Obviously. Is Siddhartha surrounded with the physical presence and lore of the Leaders and Best? Absolutely. But did I ever say "You need to to Michigan"? No. Did I ever threaten to pull funding if he choose another college? Of course not. OK, I told him in no way would I ever give a dime to MSU, Notre Dame or Ohio, but that's just fiscal responsibility. I'm not paying more money for him to go to a lesser school when he has the academic ability to go to the best. That's just asinine.

Long story short, without too much prompting, my son is on track to be a freshman at Michigan in a scant 16 months. While I know that I carry sway and influence, I do believe that this is his decision. He's wondered about engineering at different schools and wistfully dreamed of MIT, and of course I will be immeasurably proud of him no matter where he goes, assuming he works hard and graduates with a degree. But as we've worried about the rigors of acceptance at the Ivy League, and fretted about the inability to dual apply to Michigan in both engineering and LS&A, he's said to me "I want to make sure I get into Michigan, because as long as that happens, I can never be disappointed."*

So I stand on the cusp of getting everything I ever wanted but was always too scared to advocate for. Alright, so I moved to him Ann Arbor, inundated him with the virtues of the University while spending 12 years saying how Columbus is a pit where people who could barely graduate from high school go to get drunk for two years while their parents pay for them to get laid and flunk out. Sue me. If he ends up at some other school to pursue engineering or another course of study I'll be fine with it. I'll never get a good night's sleep again and eternally wonder why I didn't make stronger case in a veil of perpetual tears, but as long he gets an education and a degree I will be fine with it. Really.

*This is me taking poetic license with his words, but trust me it's what he meant. The kid's a science nerd, verbal eloquence is not his strong suit, so I've prettied things up for him. I'm his father, it's my right.

Posted 10:18am
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April 26th , 2012

Thursdays are for politickin'.

- We eulogized Santorum months ago, but now that he's officially gone (and Newt too) let's look back on his wreck of a campaign, HuffPo style and Onion style.

- Now that we have our political pugilists for 2012, it's time to actually assess the race. No one has been doing that better the last week than Charles Blow, who is killing it. Killing it!

- The BDGF and I were bandying about what 2016 is going to look like, and who each party's candidate will be. I expressed my dream of a gay marriage loving, pot legalization atheist, but I know I'll go 0-3. That doesn't mean I can't get behind states like Colorado who are fighting the good fight.

- In things that are over already and don't matter, here's how batshit the Nuge is, and here's a listing of 2012 celebrity endorsements. When I view those, I try and forget that Bruce Willis is a Republican, because when that thought crosses my cranium, I die just a little bit inside.

- How dumb is the Republican budget and mindset right now? Catholics are coming out in droves to tell Paul Ryan to eat a dick and liberal rags like The Economist are calling them stupid to their stupid faces. Seems like the only people who believe what they're shoveling are themselves. Quite a feedback loop they've got going.

- Speaking of dumb, as England double dips into another recession due to austerity measures, here's an explanation of where these things have gone historically. Note how much worse things could have been, and how obtuse cuts would be at the moment.

- Finally, whatever your political leanings or ideology, whether you drive a truck with a gun rack or a hybrid with a vegan bumper sticker, from uneducated factory worker to college professor, we all can agree that a malleable robot subject to the whims of pollsters deserves a beat down from a President cool enough to slow jam the news. I said good day sir.

Posted 10:35am
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April 24th , 2012

The Happiness Trope: Part Five.

Ed.Note: Our look into the advice we encounter that is designed to distill happiness into an easily digestible phrase or idea continues unabated. Of course seeing ourselves as final arbiter on all matters of public import, you should pay attention. It probably would have been more informative to discuss solely Voltaire's views on happiness this week, but I can't do that eruditely after 3 drinks at 11pm on a Monday night. If only I was writing this in 1995...

My favorite philosopher has always been Voltaire. I could rip off five hundred words why in my sleep, but for the purposes of this essay let's just say that I read Candide when I was 15 and it changed my world. Or rather even than changed it, justified it. As a kid I was a cynic. I like to think I've grown into a pragmatist, and the BDGF often insists that I'm an optimist, but I assure her and those of you who have known me long enough can attest, this was not always the case. My high school English teacher's dedication to me my senior year referred to me as 'crabby'. I've been sullied with surly, a burgeoning curmudgeon, anti-everything and every other pejorative you can imagine (asshole being most common among them). I trace this back to being a very smart and precocious kid in a town where being too smart for your own good was rarely celebrated, but rather reminded the adults around me of their own shortcomings (or those of their own children, but that's complicating things). In any respect, I was a kid who considered himself the smartest person in the room from a very young age, and when that's in your head and people won't listen to you merely (from your perspective) because they have years on you, you become a raging cynic. When I read Voltaire's treatise on the idea that this is the best of all possible worlds, to say it hit home is an understatement.

To this day I don't get blind optimism. When the BDGF saddles me with a variant of that adjective, I tend to take it as a belief in myself. I tend to think things are going to be OK for me because I know I will do whatever it takes to make that my reality. It gets more muddled when we delve into politics and education and the like - I think people on the whole are stupid (pessimist) but that history indicates that we move forward and things will get better (optimist or pragmatist, depending on your argument). What I dread and find laughable is what Dr. Pangloss from Candide would profess, that this is the "Best of all possible worlds". I laugh every time I hear Sean Hannity ape it, noting "The U.S. is the greatest, best country God has ever given man on the face of the earth." Even taking the God out of it, it's utter hogwash. Because that's what blind optimism is - faith in something that isn't true despite every tangible piece of evidence you can get your hands on. We can go back to last week's discussion about a higher power for talking points, but you should just read Candide, because it's the ultimate treatise on why we call bullshit on this.

If you take this as merely another manifestation of last week's trope, let's take a different tact, with a cue from Hannity. People are prone to view the world through rose colored glasses and think things were better 20 years ago - when invariably life was simpler and more cohesive and just better. But nothing could be further from the truth. Society marches forward and despite a few twists and turns, we are always better off now than we were just a few years ago. Ask any minority. Look at the standard of living on this planet as a whole. For anyone that says this is the best of all possible worlds, I say tell that to anyone from a decade ago.

I'm a man without faith, but one who almost covets it. I believe it is comforting, soothing, and something to cling to in times of trouble and despair. But I ultimately think it's hollow and why I am devoid of it. I have probably said I don't have faith in anything but myself, but even that's not true. I believe in myself because of historical context and data about my skill set. I know should everything go to shit, I'll still be alright, but the rest of you are probably fucked. That's not a belief in this as the best of all possible worlds. I believe were are in a constant struggle to cut our problems by half, and any junior high math student will tell you that never gets you to the best possible iteration of anything, it just gets you closer. For this reason, we find the idea that this is the best of all possible worlds, on a scale of Full House to Cheers, to be a solid Family Matters.

Posted 9:35am
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April 23th , 2012

Daddy I do not want to be Fred Flintstone.

It's tough as a father to know which of your own parent's peccadilloes to pass on. On one level, I like myself and think I turned out ok, which would indicate that I should ape what my parents did in order to replicate their perceived success. On the other hand, I did not have a great relationship with my parents for many years and that's something I'd like to avoid. Plus, as much as a mean old man I like to pretend to be, I'm still a big softie most of the time. Who wants to make their kid do all of the things that they loathed when they were growing up?

As such I have never dragged my kid to church. OK that's more for my benefit. What I do regret to this point in my sons's development is that at 16, he has no idea what real work is. I've had a job since I was at least twelve. This started as mowing several lawns around the neighborhood that I would ride my bike to, escalating up to doing maintenance and landscaping work. I planted trees. I built a pole barn. I busted concrete with a sledgehammer - all for the king's ransom of $4.25 an hour. I was relating this sum to the fake daughter the other day and I had both break her heart that no, that's not a lot of money and worse still, I wasn't allowed to go blow it at the mall on build-a-bears.

Yesterday I need to pick up a couple hundred rocks to build borders for the flower beds around the house, so I enlisted Siddhartha to help. After a mere hour of picking up rocks and lugging them around, he declared that he now knew what he did not want to do when he grew up - work in quarry. He then went inside to take a nap while I installed the new boulders for the next two hours.

Now I will say to his credit (and thus by communicative property mine) he didn't whine and complain through the process. I take solace in this because when I think of how soft the youth of today are collectively, I imagine a constant stream of what hurts diatribes and pleas for are we done yet? Thankfully, this is not my kid. He was however completely wiped after two hours. I think of breaking up concrete with a sledgehammer for eight hours in 90 degree heat at his age and I bristle that I'm not living up to my parent's legacy.

I think it's important to know what it feels like to do an "honest days work" because it can both motivate you to never do it again, and people can't throw it your face for your cushy desk job if you've been there. I never wanted my kid to go into the massive debt hole that I did to get an education, but perhaps I have not been vigilant enough in ensuring that he understands what a work ethic actually is. Luckily there is time left. Not lucky for Sid of course, but at least he'll be making more than $4.25 an hour.

- Today is the tenth anniversary of both Wilco's seminal Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and The Promise Ring's swan song Wood/Water. 2002 must have been way awesomer than I remember.

Posted 2:04pm
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April 20th , 2012

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

- Tonight! The red carpet premier of The Five Year Engagement at The Michigan Theater to benefit 826 Michigan. That is a trifecta of awesome and you should totally go. I'll be there.

- I'm not a big "day drinker" outside of vacations and football season, but when done right, I do admit that there isn't a more beautiful thing to behold and be enveloped in. Don't believe me? It's endorsed by the New York Motherfuckin' Times! Drink up!

- How great is Ann Arbor? Top 15 Main Streets in America great to be sure. And now, if you're under 21 and drink too much, you can go to the emergency room without fear of getting a MIP. When's the last time something useful passed the Senate unanimously?

- Paul F. Tompkins is bar none my favorite comedian at the moment. He has a new special premiering on Comedy Central tomorrow night. If you are home on a Saturday night, watching it might make you feel less sad about that fact.

- Finally, as we talked about earlier this week, there is a lot of home improvement going on as of late and the more I toil, the harder it will ever be to leave the place, even with the lure of the downtown loft utopian dream. Of course we need to work on the walkscore of our neighborhood, which is abysmal. Perhaps if we open a bar in the backyard...

Posted 11:00am
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April 19th , 2012

The Internet: Now with video.

- The Avengers is fast approaching, merging one of my favorite things from my childhood (comic book superheroes) and one of my favorite adult storytellers (Joss Whedon). It also has Scarlet Johansson's boobs, which should please people of all ages.

- From the mind of director Edgar Wright comes Brandon Generator, which is, well, Edgar Wright is better seen than described.

- Parks and Recreation returns tonight, so let us celebrate with some Ron Swanson woodworking.

- My progeny Siddhartha would like to suggest these Epic Rap Battles of History which look like what I imagine old people shake their heads at when they imagine kids on the youtube.

- You can't watch this yet, but the elusive season 4 of Arrested Development is coming, in one big chunk to Netflix. Come on!

- Finally, I try not to be judgmental of other parents, because I know what the job entails and as John Lennon used to say, whatever gets you through the night... But that doesn't mean I don't judge, and I say if you take an embarrassing situation and then wildly exacerbate it by going on the evening news to tell the world about it, well I hope you're saving money for orthodontia, university and years of psychotherapy, because tonight's top story: Girl Poops Pants. I keep watching it, it keeps making me laugh. I didn't even notice the girl's last name is Skidmore until the third time through. Skidmore! Priceless.

Posted 10:42am
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April 18th , 2012

This Week in Indie Rock

- I can't imagine a worse idea than the children of the Beatles coming together to form The Beatles 2, yet that appears to be the goal. Who would have thought it was Ringo's kid who'd be the reasonable one.

- You can now stream Jack White's solo debut Blunderbuss over at iTunes. If you needed reminding of why you love Mr. White, there's also (another) White Stripes live DVD on the way. #huckster

- I'm no fan of Madonna if if she did attend Michigan for the blink of an eye. So I fart in the general direction of her album sinking faster than the Titanic on the Billboard charts. Her music is terrible.

- The Lollapalooza lineup is out, although not in any order yet. If all the stuff I want to see happens on the same day, I'll be excited about going for an afternoon. Otherwise, I'll be happy to take the BDGF to see Jack White.

- Here's Chuck Klosterman interviewing Sammy Hagar. If you're not going to read Sammy's biography, you should at least listen to this interview. I'll never figure out if I'm more surprised at how rich and famous Sammy actually is, or how rich and famous Sammy thinks he is.

- The Black Keys were apparently on some cooking show? Because people do that now? This is what happens when you don't have cable and watch less than an hour of TV a day - out of the loop.

- Here's a hybrid band of Cursive and Cymbals Eat Guitars doing the early 90's classic "Hey Jealousy". I was in a lot of bands that played that song back in high school and we will pretend we were as sloppy awesome as this cover is.

- Finally, we are headed back to the Michigan Theater this Saturday to see the Fab Faux perform Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in its entirety. I apologize in advance to the people sitting behind for all of the dancing and singing at the top of our lungs that the wife and I are bound to do.

Posted 10:36am
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April 17th , 2012

The Happiness Trope: Part Four

Ed.Note: Our look into the advice we encounter that is designed to distill happiness into an easily digestible phrase or idea continues unabated. Of course seeing ourselves as final arbiter on all matters of public import, you should pay attention. I'd like to note that today's entry may piss people off, so you've been warned and stuff. Then again, it shouldn't be surprising.

I like to think I was born an atheist, but it's not according to hoyle true. Or rather more to the point, my sainted mother did her best to undo what nature had instilled in me. Judy Conners Brubaker was a super Catholic. A true believer. She made sure we never missed a mass or Sunday school. As I got older, she was the "principal" at CCD - which for you non-Catholics is Sunday school for older kids who don't go to a Catholic school - a fate we were only saved due to the fact that the Catholic school where we grew up was tiny and universally renowned as crappy when it came to educational standards. At some point she tried to institute after dinner Bible readings, which lasted exactly one night due to me heckling her the entire time. I am no longer proud of this, but it did happen.

When I was but a wee lad I had a pastor friend of my parents explain to me that there were a group of scholars who hypothesized that during the time of "Jesus", the learned people of the era got tired of waiting around for their Lord's only begotten son to show up, so they created one (I'd later learn that this is largely the plot to Monty Python's Life of Brian). Well this little nugget of wisdom was enough for me to take all of my doubts about what I considered to be a Santa Clausian level nonsense and run with the theme. Shortly after I privately held myself to be an agnostic (in deference to said sainted mother) and not long after that I took the plunge into full fledged atheism. Baby Jesus has been crying ever since.

In the intervening 20 years or so, I've become fairly fascinated with religion, the idea of spirituality and the general belief in a higher power. Stemming from the "know your enemy" philosophy, I've at least cursorily studied all of the world's major religions and found one, pervasive, over-arching theme - religion is designed to comfort. Or in the parlance of this series, make you happy. Religion has inarguably sprung up over the history of civilization as an attempt to explain that which our tiny human brains could not. Greeks, Romans, Chinese, Native Americans, Mayans, Incans, Mormons and Scientologists - it's all the same - help me explain the things I can' wrap my brain around and alleviate the pressure. Most of the time this manifests itself as making us less fearful of death, and as such, provides us a path vis a vis our daily earthly behavior to either avoid death, or at least make it more palatable. Of course my previous use of the word inarguably assumes you don't believe that anyone who has walked this rock has ever had a conversation, much less heard the voice of a supreme being. If that's your tip, put down the laptop and go light a candle.

But even if such drivel is your proclivity, or if you eschew the hocus pocus of it all and find comfort in the inexorable social conventions of what religion has become in the 21st century - a sense of community and charity and stability for your children - well let us take a gander at how that lives up as a happiness trope. First off, while I know they exist from watching the news and reading about Congress, I personally don't know anyone who believes in an inerrant Bible or any other holy book. Even more so for the tenants of any particular denomination. Religion has become a la carte these days. Most Catholics use birth control. Muslims don't interpret the violent parts of the Koran to mean death to America. To my knowledge, most Jews question every word of their holy book and that is encouraged. But yet they still cling to the notion of one, omnipresent superbeing, and many of them think he has a daily interest in what happens down here.

Perhaps that's my biggest beef with the believers. Besides all of the provable science that points to the ridiculousness of it all, there's an avalanche of circumstantial proof that says God either doesn't exist, or doesn't care. Or if he is up there watching, he's a colossal dick. I can't prove God doesn't exist, but outside of the rote manifestations of "I feel him in my daily life" what do you want to point to that he does? But I'm getting off track here. OK, so you believe in some higher power. This gives you guidance and purpose. If you're an alcoholic, it let's you surrender the uncontrollable to something bigger than yourself. If your uneducated or uncurious enough to ever ponder the origins of our existence, then it explains things to you in a way that's easily understandable. I suppose that may be OK, as long as you shut out anyone trying to give you concrete proof of God. These people are charlatans and trying to sell you bullshit science textbooks in Tennessee.

What I mean to say is I get why every civilization since the beginning of time has created some form of God. It's to fill in the gaps and give us piece of mind. It makes the world less scary. In the days before public education, it allowed the most learned of us to tell the rabble not to eat the pork that's been sitting in the desert sun for a week. These are all important things that advanced society. Without all of it, we still might be living in a world where might makes right, and I'd be fucked - repeatedly by giant men with clubs. But it's an idea that's outlived its purpose. Or has it? Not all of us can ponder string theory or extrapolate the idea of the big bang over billions of years to where I can play Draw Something on my phone. And I know I'm belittling, but I suppose that's nice for you. If you're not going to search for the best, most plausible, possible scenario, I can imagine this working for you and giving you solace. Just know that you're settling and keep it to yourself. On a 1990's scale of Creed to Pearl Jam, we rate "God" as Stone Temple Pilots.

Posted 11:01am
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April 16th , 2012

The Great American Pastime

1. I am not a golfer. While I am not terribly athletic nor coordinated, these are not the major impediments to my taking up the sport. I like being outdoors enough and when necessary, have the patience of a saint. Plus I'm hypercompetitve and under the right circumstances there's drinking involved, so you could make a cogent argument that golf is something I should give the ol' college try if nothing else. And I sort of have. I cobbled together a bag and my dad's old clubs and various other accoutrements so that I could play in a scramble or two a year, usually centered around someone's bachelor party. But even with these caveats and casual forays into a good walk spoiled, I never really delved into the links for one reason and one reason only: the cost. Golf seems like an insanely stupid hobby or habit. While I piecemealed together the necessary gear to play 36 holes a year out of shear will and duct tape, to be serious about it requires an outlay of several hundred if not thousand dollars. And that's before you get into weekly greens fees to actually go out and use the asininely expensive equipment. I can't keep my left arm straight, but that's not why I don't golf.

2. My late twenties and early thirties were spent mostly wondering how and when I was going to own a house. I've led a fairly unconventional life, but everyone around me who was sticking to the script spent an inordinate amount of time telling me how obtuse I was by renting. And I always shook my head and tacitly agreed with them. I was throwing money down the drain. I was confining my child to a cramped space and not giving him a yard of his own to play in. I was giving money to someone on finite terms instead of building equity. I was wasting time renting when I would eventually buy and kick myself for all of those years where I could have been paying down principle instead of making slumlords rich. Hindsight proved me right in that I would have bought during a boom and would now surely be under water in a shitty mortgage. But I could never pull the trigger because it wasn't financially viable in my midwestern conservative mind set. I had no down payment. I had no money to pay a mortgage and taxes and sewer and all of the other fun bills that a landlords builds into your rent. I was too concerned with making childcare payments on a tight budget to put money away for closing fees. I felt it was the right thing to do at the time, and while I can now look back and be glad it never came to fruition, I still would have gladly done so if the opportunity presented itself.

3. My dad worked "in the yard" a lot as a kid. He was always planting this or trimming that - mowing the lawn or watering everything else. I, as most kids I assume, just figured that's what dad's do. Later in life, I assumed that dads partook in this ritual because it provided them a certain serenity. Dad's working in the yard, being a necessary thing, don't get bothered. He can't play your game or run you here or there because there's yard work to be done. It's a get out of jail free card. He puts on his headphones and runs some piece of equipment that makes no sense to you. You try and get his attention and he takes one headphone off and says "Huh?" and then to whatever your query, responds "Just let me finish this..." and you hopefully never mention it again. That's the best case scenario anyway.

I am 36 years old and still not a homeowner. But I feel like one. The BDGF owns the house we live in and could give me the boot tomorrow and I would be utterly homeless without a stake in anything. But that doesn't mean that over the course of the last year and a half we haven't built a home on this plot of land. That home existed long before I showed up, but I had to somehow figure out a way to integrate myself into it and make it ours (in my mind anyway). That started long before I ever changed my address my trying to fix anything and everything I could that needed love and attention. Leaky faucets. Door handles. Bathroom fans. If I could figure out how to address the situation, I wanted to make it better. Once I became a full fledged member of the domicile, I wanted to redouble my efforts. Not so much to put my stamp on things, but to make it the best possible iteration of what the place could be for the people who lived there. For lack of a better turn of phrase, I wanted to earn my keep.

Every spring this means copious amounts of yard work. I emulate my father and weed and trim and build things up so that they are ostensibly better than they were the year before. It has the ancillary benefits of providing me some uninterrupted alone time, but that's not why I do it. I make multiple trips to the hardware store every weekend, spending money on ground cover and mulch and paving stones that would easily pay for my greens fees, but in the process I get to create a landscape that I can be proud of (and hopefully get compliments on) that the rest of the residents of our little home can also enjoy. My pastime/hobby is now going to Lowe's so I can give the wife and kids a sanctuary they can fully enjoy and of which I can be proud. The BDGF and I are prone to fantasize about living in a loft downtown where we can walk to restaurants and bars and live the ultimate urban lifestyle, and I still love that ideal. But the the more work I put into this place, the harder it will be to give it up. Whether or not my name is on the mortgage I have a stake in this place. It's our home, and I am damn proud of how far it's come. The big caveat there of course is how far it still has to go in my head. But I am genuinely excited by that process and look forward to it. I love the idea of the grandkids playing in the same tree house that the littlest does now. Of course if I have to build bunk beds for them in our tiny downtown loft so they can spend Xmas with us, you won't hear me complain about that either.

Posted 9:50am
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April 13th , 2012

What's making Baby Jesus cry this week?

- If you're going to stand up in front of a bunch of kids and tell them that those of you with single parents, who are adopted or may have two mommies aren't as good as kids with traditional, normal families, you should probably stick to elementary students, because high schoolers know bigotry when they see it and will fight back. I'd love to shake the hands of every one of those kids.

- What did Jesus think about homosexuality? He probably didn't. What you think about the gays however, may be a bit more telling. In other words, methinks thou doth protest too much.

- In Arizona, who is trying hard to jockey positions and overtake Florida as America's craziest state, they've defined life as beginning before conception, so you know, you could be pregnant right now even if you haven't had sex in a month. Texas says don't forget about us, we fire people for getting pregnant while unmarried. Now go back and read that in your announcer voice while "America The Beautiful" plays in the background. You'll shed tears of pride.

- That Tennessee bill that says "We could give two shits about science" is now law. Congratulations Tennessee. You win.

- I've heard news of moles at Fox News, which must explain this post where they admit that Thomas Jefferson wasn't down with Jesus' divinity. A rare misstep off message - you guys are slipping.

- Finally, as a kid I watched movies like War Games and dreamed of all the cool shit I was going to one day do with my huge nerd brain and vast knowledge of computers. Cut to 25 years later, I can make computers do a million more incredible things than anyone ever dreamed of in 1987, but I'm still impressed with a case of simple password hacking. I really hope somewhere Matthew Broderick is leaning his back, feet up, hands behind head. Life moves pretty fast...

Posted 10:19am
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April 12th , 2012

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

- I dream a lot about college. Never me in the mid-90s as it happened variety, but always me at 36 going back to school in some scenario. Being in the dorms, living with 8 guys in a house again - but all as my aging self. It's always interesting but never some glamorized, glorious return in which I wake up finding myself longing for the carefree days of my twenties. Truth be told, my twenties weren't that care free as I was a father at 19. Which explains why I'm probably dreaming about this stuff so much lately: my kid is taking the ACT, studying for AP classes and toot suite, applying to college. Sweet Baby Jesus...

- Sid has stated for some time now that his intent is to go to the University of Michigan, likely in an attempt to watch his father die from happiness. But lately he's been hinting around at MIT, which, if he can get, I would only be slightly less proud. You'll of course not be surprised that those two schools were of the three mentioned that were "doing it right" on the Colbert Report the other night. Hail to the Victors Valiant... and whatever they say at MIT.

- Paying for college will of course be a nightmare for me as I try to not make it so for him. I struggled to get through school financially as I was paying for it all myself. I made it, and in ten short more years it'll be all paid for. For both those reasons, I'm always interested in new ideas in making college affordable. Here's an interesting idea that instead of paying for school, give the U back 5% of your income for 20 years after graduation. But that's a big risk for someone with a liberal arts degree. How about we get Alumni to loan money to current undergrads? I promise to participate in that as soon as all three kids get their education paid for. Assuming I'm still upright and mobile when that happens.

- I never sweat Urban Meyer's hiring at Ohio, because we have Brady Hoke and Urban's an easy douche bag to hate, so status quo more than anything. But it's a fun little conundrum to try and decide "How did we not see this coming or should we just enjoy it?" reading about how Urban is not the super clean, stand up, forthright guy the media likes to slobber over. Again, status quo more than anything. Have fun being the current iteration of Florida when your savior bolts in 4 years.

- Finally, college is about expanding your horizons, trying new things and experimenting. While I would never advocate my child taking drugs (publicly), that doesn't mean that it isn't my responsibility to make sure that he would do so in a safe manner should the opportunity ever present itself. As such, here's 5 ways to avoid getting caught smoking marijuana. I'd add in Ann Arbor, just don't get caught doing it on U property, which makes it a state crime. Local law makes it a $20 fine.

Posted 11:04am
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April 11th , 2012

Wednesdays are for politickin'

- Gas prices are up, which means so is the talking head blustering. However, no matter how many times Sarah Palin screams "Drill Baby Drill!" I've always retorted "domestic oil production is going to have no long term - much less short term - effect on gasoline prices." Let's bring in science to break the tie. The truth is that Presidents and even Congress have less effect on gas prices than they do on the unemployment rate. For those of you worried that this means Fox News will no longer be able to blame Obama and 'Big government' on it taking an extra $40 a week to top off their SUVs, don't worry, they're on it.

- President Obama is on the road touting support for the Buffet Rule that taxes the wealthy at a rate closer to what you or I pay. If you're conservative, this is typical class warfare that won't move the meter on our deficit. If you're more rational, it's a first step towards raising revenue and a show of good faith that they will make an effort to make things something akin to fair. Everyone knows that it won't fix anything, but as a salvo I like it. now let's see some support for re-enacting Glass-Steagal and getting this report to find purchase.

- As scientists begin to study the phenomenon of conservatives, they have come up with the jaw-dropping findings that low-effort thinking leads to conservative mindsets and that Conservatives trust in science is at an all time low. I am shocked - shocked! - to find gambling in this establishment.

- Finally, yes, there is a magazine out there called The Conservative Teen and yes, it is exactly as amazing as you were hoping it would be. What's the old adage? Show me a conservative teen and I'll show you a closeted homosexual? Or was it brainwashed religious zealot? I apologize for mixing my metaphors.

Posted 10:54am
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April 10th , 2012

The Happiness Trope: Part Three

Ed.Note: Our look into the advice we encounter that is designed to distill happiness into an easily digestible phrase or idea continues unabated. Of course seeing ourselves as final arbiter on all matters of public import, you should pay attention. I'd like to note that my writing has been pretty crappy as of late, especially in this series. That's on me. I'd say you deserve better, but that's probably not true.

In poker, they tell you to never put yourself in a position where you don't have any outs. Most of the people I know that are unhappy in their marriages are completely stuck due to the fact that leaving would leave them penniless or their children in a precarious position or face family/societal disapproval or all three. In a relative sense, my being 'poor' in the past has generally led to less happiness because I was limited financially in certain things that I wanted to do. So when I recently read John U. Bacon's book Three and Out about Rich Rodriquez, this sentence struck a chord: "A case could be made that all happiness is feeling like you have possibilities." To which I said "A ha! Happiness trope!"

Now for the anecdotal reasons stated above and basic common sense, this would seem superficially to be a no-brainer truism. A lack of options resigns you to whatever fate is in front of you and that is generally, no matter what the instance, depressing as hell. If you've ever found yourself hungry in small town America after 10pm on a weeknight, you know this to be true. If at some point in your life you've been in a soul crushing job in which the money was too good to leave, you say of course. And if by some chance you know what it's like to have a child when you're still a teenager and the birth and your involvement in said child's life is a fait accompli, you shout Amen.

Yet my problem with this particular trope is not its superficial logic, but that there's so many instances in everyone's life where lack of possibility in no way leads to being unhappy. If my only option for dinner is pizza, no matter how crappy, I'm probably ok with it. If every radio station is playing The Beatles, I'm ecstatic. I love that my kid is who he is and I can't change it, and I wouldn't trade all the anonymous sex in the world for being with my wife. But perhaps the ultimate argument against this particular trope is that ignorance is bliss.

Now not knowing leading to happiness is something for which I would never advocate. Quite the opposite. But if you've never had the divine experience of falling in love with someone who completes your existence, you may well settle for someone you can tolerate and hence never know the difference. That's probably a bad example because pop culture has inundated us with the idea of romantic love since the time of Shakespeare, but I think you know what I'm getting at. The majority of people aren't aware of most of the things that bring me the most sublime happiness, and if they did, it wouldn't affect their state of mind in the least. The people that love country music aren't comforted any more by the existence of Spoon than I am by that of Conway Twitty.

To further the point, knowing about possibilities can have quite a depressive effect in its own right. If you smoke cigarettes for ten years and quit for all the right reasons, you still want a cigarette. I suppose the option or possibility of you tasting tobacco again is still in play, but that possibility leads to more depression than joy. Same goes for when you get your heart broken. Or you have a heart attack and have to cut your red meat intake. Or marry a shrew who insists that you never watch college football again. Once you know these possibilities exist and are denied them, it's the worst thing in the world.

Options are great. Even when you sit on the couch with your partner and discuss where to eat and neither of you can decide, it's better than if you were resigned to go to White Castle because it's the only place that's open. At the same time, if you love White Castle, your lot in life is not so bad, no matter how sorry I feel for you. As a happiness trope, we find 'possibilities' to be an interesting social barometer on a case by case basis, but one that carries no weight when measuring actual happiness. On a scale of Ratt to Van Halen, we rate it Poison.

Posted 3:04pm
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April 9th , 2012

Holiday Road.

I always operate from a position that teenager's opinions have no merit. I do my best to caveat and make exception for this when it comes to my own brilliant, erudite, self-aware children, but at the end of the day, their input on matters of import matters not. My own progeny can best me on a number of levels when it comes to scholarly matters (largely because my memory of non-euclidean geometry and calculating the area under a curve have been lost to the ether) but while his opinion on the films of Martin Scorcese may be interesting and his thoughts on how to handle my retirement fund may be adorable, they are largely for entertainment purposes only.

When I usually talk about this it comes out as "Teenagers are incapable of being cool." I'll admit to you now that this is not resolute but still as a maxim useful. My point is this: teenagers, smart and wonderful and in certain aspects our betters, are still reactionary beings whose existence is completely tied to pop culture and the society within they revolve. They lack experience and wisdom. It's a necessary point of evolution, and when they eventually reach escape velocity they become whole adult human beings that drive us forward collectively and ultimately, take care of us when we decide we've had enough and deserve some rest. This is a Panglossian best of all possible worlds scenario, but my kids are that good, so I choose to believe it.

But as such, teenagers understand very little of what it means to be an adult. They don't understand adult responsibilities, adult relationships and they sure as shit don't get adult priorities. Again, necessary and lamentable, but nevertheless true. I think about this a lot when I realize adult trueisms. Because extrapolated, the younger you are, the dumber you are. As I often talk about it, the older I get, the smarter my parents are. Perhaps that's why we turn into them, but that's neither here nor there right now.

Recently I was listening to a podcast and the host was talking about how he had recently heard the Talking Heads' "Once in a Lifetime" for the first time since he was a kid and, as a man in his late thirties, it took on a whole new meaning for him. Now I loved that song when it came out, but I was eight. I liked the big shoulder pads and the arm gestures from the video. I had no idea what the sentiment of the song was. I've heard that song a lot since, as the Talking Heads are amazing and totally worth your time, but the combination of hearing that podcast and being on vacation for (ostensibly) a week with my family made me see it a whole new light once again.

I won't go over the central conceit of the song because you're smart and art is interpretive and if you don't get it as I type the rest of this, you likely never will. We decided on a 'light' family vacation this year - five states in a week. We visited museums and restaurants and water parks and did everything a good Griswold would do. I've been a parent for a long ass time, but this is still new territory for me, and all I could think of the entire time was David Byrne. Not so much the "Same as it ever was" part nor the "My god, what have I done?" sentiment, but surely the the sense of "How did I get here?" and truly that this cannot be my beautiful wife.

I realize that for many Talking Heads' connoisseurs I may be muddling the central conceit of the song, and to those I say go back a few paragraphs where I talk about art being subjective. My point is that I imagine most of us wake up at some point in our lives and wonder "How did I get here?" John Lennon said "Life's what happens to you when you're busy making other plans" and it's kind of the same thing. Someday you'll turn around and be halfway through life and no amount of introspection will give you the answer of how you ended up exactly where you are.

I'm as introspective as they come and I've thought about it a lot, but as I drove a minivan around the great american mid-west for a week I had no answer to "How did I get here?" More than anything I want to know so I can tell my aforementioned naive teenagers how I did it so unconventionally and yet ended up so lucky. Because I want to believe it wasn't luck. Not all luck anyway. The only things I come up with the more I think about it amount to platitudes. So I give them this: Do what you think is right. Think about what your parents would want you to do. Think about what your partner would want you to do. Consider (briefly) what your kids would want you to do then largely ignore it. Weigh all of it and then make a decision. Quickly. When you fuck up, say so publicly and atone and then don't do it again. It's a bit wordier than "To thine own self be true" but it's also better philosophically. Shakespeare was a terrible father.

Posted 10:57am
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April 5th , 2012

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

- The BDGF and I are just finishing the first season of The West Wing. It's her first time through the series, and my fourth or fifth. I'm happy to report that it holds up really well, even if you yearn a tad for them to take on more topical issues. Wait! What's this? A new political show from WW creator Aaron Sorkin?!? Looks like the perfect format for Sorkin's pragmatic liberalism, or if your me, awesome political porn.

- Well for all your futurists and science fiction prognosticators out there - pencil's down. Google has brought you the future, and after watching this I had to sit down, as I was feeling a little flush. I really hope I never find out that Larry Paige is turning old people into Soylent Green.

- As we ramp for the "Summer of Hitchcock" at the Chandler Drive In, peep this time lapse montage of Rear Window. You kind of have to know the movie to realize how cool this is, so feel free to wait until we screen it before clicking.

- As long as we are watching internet video, I'd be remiss if I didn't draw your attention to these car ride sing-a-longs: actual musicians doing Hall & Oates "I Can't Go for That" and colossally drunk guy doing "Bohemian Rhapsody" in the back of a cop car. Trust, watch both until the end. They are worth your time.

- Finally, tomorrow we pack up the family truckster Griswold style and head south for a long weekend. I'm fighting a cold tooth and nail at the moment, so if things take a turn for the worse and my virus addled body is too busy repairing itself to put energy into things like patience, pray for my children. Even if I wake up tomorrow feeling chipper, you can still expect me at some point to slam on the brakes and turn around and say "I think you're all fucked in the head," just because.

Posted 11:22am
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April 4th , 2012

The Happiness Trope: Part Two.

Ed.Note: This is part two of our look into the advice we encounter that is designed to distill happiness into an easily digestible phrase or idea. Of course seeing ourselves as final arbiter on all matters of public import, you should pay attention. Oh, and this one references my dad a lot too, but that's coincidence. For reals.

As a teenager, I was furious with my father. Not in a constant brooding, parents just don't understand way, but in this very specific point of contention: I had been around long enough and had enough literary savvy to know that the Moeman was a well respected writer. Family lore had further informed me over the years there had been interest from bigger papers in larger towns for my father's services. But he had never entertained these offers on the auspices that he wanted to raise his children in the quaint, small town environment where he grew up.

I can't say with any voracity as to how much of the above is true - probably most, and in any case I took it as gospel truth as a teenager and nothing more fueled my pubescent rage than that paradigm. In my mind I could have been spared a backwater existence AND moved up the socioeconomic ladder in the process. As such, prior to adulthood my only goals in life were to make obscene amounts of money and live somewhere that didn't shut completely down at 10pm on a Wednesday. Dream big, I always say.

Then shortly before my 20th birthday I became a father and was forced to reassess my priorities. I have never lost my desire to have entertainment and cuisine options past the time when streetlights come on, but the dreams of fists full of cash took a back seat to stability, flexability and benefits.

My first full time, post-collegiate job came just as Sid was about to be without insurance. The position also largely made me my own boss, had ample sick and vacation time, and as I would soon learn most importantly, let me jump out in the middle of the day to take care of a sick kid or even chaperone a field trip.

So my priorities drastically realigned. I saw my father's choices for what they were and forgave his sins. My kid would grow up in a liberal enclave as opposed to a hillbilly backwater, but otherwise I viewed the decision as making the same sacrifices my father before me had. Apples and trees.

The adage goes that if you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life. I find this particular trope to be complete and utter bullshit.

Now I honestly believe my father likes what he does, and I know I do. My job is diverse and challenging and allows me to constantly learn new things. And it to the previously mentioned benefits, and it's damn near the perfect scenario for someone in my encumbered situation. But let's not pretend for one hot minute that it's not work.

I've always viewed my dad's profession is the perfect iteration of this proposition. Sport's journalists, after and to a point, don't get to enjoy sports anymore. You have to be objective and dispassionate about that which you cover, and after spending 9 to 5 plus dissecting it, do you really want to sit down and watch more sports to unwind? Can you still love it with the same abandon that you did at 22? I'm arguing no. My dad still watches sports and gives a damn when it comes to Michigan, but I don't think it's the same.

This is the reason I am not an artist, musician or writer. That and I suppose lack of talent, but what I wanted desperately to avoid, despite my proclivities in these areas, was to ever not look forward to doing them. I have a penchant for technology. I've had zero training but it just makes sense to me. This makes me good at my job, but it wouldn't be in the top ten things I would use to describe the sum of my being to a stranger. It is work. I get paid to do it so that I can go home and do whatever it is at the moment that strikes my fancy.

I know there are many people out there whose lives revolve around the office. Their self worth is defined by a march up the corporate ladder. And as such I would never assume that I am any more or less happy than they are. Their personality type differs from mine. But I think people with varied interests that would rather work 40 hours a week and go home to spend time with loved ones and hobbies and enjoy a drink on the back porch. Our vacations are spent in the continental U.S. as opposed to Europe and our cars are litter older, but I think we are the majority and are lives being more diverse are likely better spent.

At the end of the day, the idea of work making you happy should be relegated to jaded loners and Alpha types whose need for more will never be satiated. For the rest of us, keep your loves as hobbies, get a job that allows you to leave your work at the office and perhaps even allows your peccadilloes to become useful to that which earns your keep. That's more of a win/win in my book.

In summation, we find doing what you love as a road to happiness a very specific trope for the highly motivated and laser focused, and leaves the rest of us perplexed. On a scale of Ladyhawk to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, we rate it Excaliber.

Posted 2:46pm
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April 3rd , 2012

Gay Watch.

I noticed this little piece of disgusting hypocrisy pop up last week and didn't want to let it slip by without comment. The National Organization for Marriage* recently was compelled to release some internal documents, which eluded to pitting the blacks and the gays against each other, but this was my favorite part, paraphrased thusly:

To me the most striking detail was that NOM had budgeted $120,000 for a project to locate children of gay households willing to denounce their parents on camera.

Whenever I hear NOM described as “pro-family” from now on, I will think of that fact.

Focus on the Family. National Organization for Marriage. These groups should all have asterisks or a parenthetical (ironic) listed after them so that people know there's no truth in advertising. Please all lay down and die now.

- In Rick Santorum news, he's afraid of mixing boys and the color pink, and when he offers to pray for Dan Savage, Dan offers to gay for him.

- Finally, where is your state when it comes to civil rights? Here's a map showing each state's current laws on marriage equality. You can also peep pending legislation, so you know where to get boots on the ground.

*At least their narrow definition of marriage.

Posted 1:22pm
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