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June 28th , 2013

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

- For the first time in neigh on a decade, there's new Pixies music! Ironically right after Kim announced she was quitting the band, but there you go. In related music quirk: tour Jack White's Third Man Records in Nashville. It's as cool as it looks, trust me.

- Lost in the week's gay rights victory(s) was Obama's climate change proposal and Wendy Davis' heroic filibuster. It was a pretty big week and we should all celebrate. I propose getting drunk and then going to start a fight with Rick Perry, because I'd love to take a baseball bat to that man's thick, thick skull.

- Siddhartha was on the University of Michigan campus this week for orientation purposes as he preps to officially matriculate this fall. Oh and in less than three weeks he'll be 18 years old. Being impossibly old doesn't necessarily make me happy in and around the present moment, but how well Sid turned out and how excited for him I am definitely does, so net positive.

- For those keeping up with the Stratford upon Chandler's Sundays with Shakespeare festival, this week we're showing (in conjunction with the Michigan Theater) Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing. The play is a quick read. It's quite funny. I highly recommend giving the actual text a go before you show up at the theater. You could always watch Buffy or The Avengers to prep as well. I for one will probably go out and buy this, just because.

- Finally, I'm taking next week off for a well deserved break. Enjoy your Independence Day. May I suggest making it a sexy one with the founding fathers? Oh, and while I read my Shakespeare and sit on the beach, I intend to get around to making these, because the effort looks totally worthwhile.

Posted 11:39am
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June 26th , 2013

Win some, lose some.

I wasn't very happy that yesterday SCOTUS decided that racism wasn't a problem in the South anymore. My only guess is that they wrote the opinion before the Paula Dean story broke and ran out of time to change their minds. But I figured that meant that maybe we'd get some justice today with some rulings that were totally gay. You can't lose 'em all, right?

We managed sweet victory at 10:05 this morning when DOMA was finally struck down. Thanks GOP for spending all that taxpayer money defending it in court, you assholes. The Prop 8 case was not quite as rousing a celebration, as they decided to dismiss it on standing (which ultimately means that gay Californians can marry, but as it applies to the rest of us, punt...) As far as managed expectations go, it's the ruling I expected. I of course still held out hope...

It's why people love sports. You can be up against the wall and still pull out a victory. Sometimes David manages to take down Goliath. And the sweet, sweet taste of victory is always worth both the fight and enduring the losses to get there. Today is a win for sure. But I still look forward to the next fight, because I want to win the big one and I want to run up the score when we do.

- As an addendum to the other day's musings on Ayn Rand, I highly recommend listening to the Dead Authors Podcast, where H.G. Wells interviews Ms. Rand. Enlightenment and hilarity will ensue.

Posted 10:53am
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June 24th , 2013

Defending the indefensible

I don't have a ton of time at the moment, but a quick treatise on why I currently, reluctantly consider myself a Democrat.

It's true that the Democrats as a rule aren't any better than any other party. I have almost as many problems with 'my' party as the next. And yup, politicians of all strife are more or less the same. It is also inarguable that party affiliation doesn't define even partially the sum total of anyone. Thus indignation serves no one and stereotypes are often useless when it comes to politics.

Except when you can throw all of the above out and it really is that simple. Libertarianism (and it's spiritual leader Ayn Rand) is a naive, utopian and ultimately nascent philosophy. It's why it's so popular with a certain set of 16-24 olds, and then so eschewed by anyone who's actually lived in the real world. Chris Kluwe explains is fairly eruditely in this takedown of Atlas Shrugged. If you know an adult who still holds this book dear, they are stupid. Think Paul Ryan. I really liked Dave Mathews for about 18 months in the 1990s, and I'm less embarrassed about that then I would be if I thought there was anything to learn from objectivism - other than what not to do.

Conservatism in its current incarnation is similarly small minded and without a trace of empathy. I was raised to be fiscally conservative and I still hold most of those principles dear, but since Nixon got in bed with religious conservatives and Reagan with Wall Street, these guiding philosophies have little to do with the GOP. Read this and try not to be disgusted. Forget the relative arguments of equality of opportunity versus outcome, this is boot on the throat, 100% pure Machiavellian philosophy.

So I'm a reluctant Democrat because I want nothing to do with either of those ideologies, either as they were or are being espoused. More so I don't want to be next to, near, or lumped in with them. The only troubling thing to me is how anyone would.

Posted 2:26pm
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June 21st , 2013

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

- Siddhartha heads to freshman orientation this week, meaning his becoming a Wolverine, an adult and moving out of the house is an avalanche building speed as it tumbles down a mountain. In the not news department, he'll be attending the most athletically and academically dominant college in the world. Hey, it's not me saying it, it's science.

- It's also a fairly responsible drinking state. I mean, we drink more and do it more responsibly than Ohio, not that that's saying much. I'm still not sure however, how we're not higher on this list. Although if you think Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada are craft beers, I've got news for you. We should be at the top strictly because we make Two-Hearted.

- That's no moon. It's a super moon.

- Bobby Jindal's definition of Liberalismis fucking awesome. I won't take the time to unpack it all, but I will tell you what he got right: the Second Amendment is outdated, government run health care is can be high quality and pornography is fine (some finer than others). I do believe those things and frankly, if you don't you're probably an asshole.

- Finally, Hi! I'm Troy McClure.

Posted 10:52am
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June 20th , 2013

Shakespeare Sundays

As previously noted on tbaggervance.com, this summer's project/film series is the works of William Shakespeare. The idea is to read a different Shakespeare play every week, then watch an adaptation of the play on Sunday nights at the Chandler Drive-In (also known as the side of the garage in our backyard.)

So I spent yesterday reading Much Ado About Nothing in anticipation of the new Joss Whedon adaptation, only to find out that it doesn't open at the Michigan until next Friday. Never fear though, I've reworked the schedule and Shakespeare Sundays will continue unabated. Feel free to read along and stop by on Sunday nights. I promise to keep the pre-show lectures down to 45 minutes.

Sunday, June 23 - Macbeth

It may seem weird to start out with a tragedy, but this one has witches! Plus I've moved heaven and earth to bring you the lost classic Scotland, PA (2002). Setting the tale of a man beset to ambition by his scheming wife in rural 1970's Pennsylvania, Shakespeare's shortest tragedy becomes quirkier and funnier than Bill probably originally intended. Also includes the greatest name of a tanning salon ever uttered on celluloid. Bonus: Christopher Walken.

Sunday, June 30 - Much Ado About Nothing

A special screening of Joss Whedon's latest film, shown in conjunction with the Michigan Theater. Starring Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion <<swoon>> and more of your favorites from the Whedonverse, this is a light comedy that even the reluctant among you should enjoy. Yes, it's in black and white and they still use the original text, but your smart enough to still get the jokes.

Sunday, July 7 - Richard III

I did a report on this play in high school, and I can tell you that outside of some memorable lines, it's kind of interminably boring. At least that's how I remembered it until I saw Al Pacino's 1996 documentary Looking for Richard. It's the perfect way to ingest this play without having to sit through it. Tons of bonus Shakespeare ruminations as well.

Sunday July 14 - The Taming of the Shrew

After the bleakness of King Richard, I bring you loose, lighthearted John Hughes-ian interpretation 10 Things I Hate About You (1999). Featuring The Joker as Petruchio and Robin as Lucentio, we will basically be interpreting the interpretation as a Batman prequel.

Sunday July 21 - Hamlet

By far my favorite Shakespeare play, we have a plethora of choices to show in conjunction with debating out loud to ourselves whether or not to commit suicide. The Mel Gibson oedipus version? The 8 hour Kenneth Brannagh version? The sequel starring Steve Coogan? I've decided to show one I have yet to watch, the 2010 BBC version, because it pits Dr. Who vs. Jean-Luc Picard, and we've all been waiting for that slugfest.

Sunday July 28 - A Midsummer Night's Dream

This is about midsummer in Ann Arbor, so what better time to show the Bard's most popular comedy? And you didn't think we getting through this with a Brannagh interpretation, did you? Come for his 1999 perfectly cast masterpiece and find out where your favorite beer got its name.

Sunday Aug. 4 - Henry V

As long as we're dealing with Brannagh, let's go with his 1989 version of this play I know almost nothing about, even though I'm fond of saying "Once more unto the breach, dear friends." I'm usually talking about drinking and not conquering France, but we may do both before the night's over.

Sunday Aug. 11 - The Tempest

OK, you made it through the middle gritty, and there should be a comedy here. But what if I told you we'd watch 1956's Forbidden Planet? That's right, Leslie Nielson and Robby the Robot. Tell me that's not a comedy...

Sunday Aug. 18 - The Merchant of Venice

Again, I chose this because I'm wholly unfamiliar with this play. Outside of 'Jews are bad' I mean. The 2004 Al Pacino adaptation is supposed to be good, so let's go with that.

Sunday Aug. 25 - Make up date

We can all assume that things won't go as planned, right? We'll leave the last Sunday of the summer open for when everything gets pushed back a week. Or we'll wrap things up with Shakespeare in Love and see how many new references we get now that we're all Shakespeare scholars.

Posted 2:05pm
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June 19th , 2013

What's making Baby Jesus cry this week?

- I saw This is the End last night. Aside from being hilarious, it also lightly tackled some religious ideas, specifically around the rapture. While I'm unconcerned about whether or not I get into a place that doesn't exist, I am fascinated with the ideals of those who do see it as the end goal. Good on ya, Catholics.

- Friend of the Blog Stov sent me this study about science and religion and a la carte belief systems. Most shocking: 18% of people believe the sun revolves around the Earth. Seriously. (And again, way to go Catholics.)

- Where is Satan lurking? Apparently both in D & D and Yoga. The asshat in the latter can't spell the word commandment, and the former is worried about D&D related teen suicide, but apparently not those that come from gay bullying. Gross.

- Mr. Rogers was the best. And he was apparently a minister, which is doubly impressive since I had no idea.

- Finally, this dog's butt looks like Jesus. He works in mysterious ways...

Posted 11:51am
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June 17th , 2013

On a bicycle built for two...

I've become enamored as of late with the idea of running a movie theater. Whether it be a small black box place that serves great beer and shows tiny movies or a grand theater that I just get to curate, it sounds like my perfect 'retirement.' Anyone with ideas as to how to make this happen please contact me post haste.

My parents loved movies. They remember life pre-television, where movies were the only screen you got to stare at. My mother loved thrillers and musicals and my dad westerns and war dramas. I knew the canons of Hitchcock and John Wayne by the time I was 10, even though they had both been long dead.

When I was around that age, my dad decided to show me Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. I don't think he was a huge fan of the movie, but he knew I loved space and Star Wars so he gave me some exposition and we sat there and watched the film unfold in bold silence.

I've seen that movie at least a dozen times now, and I'm still not sure I can wholly tell you what it's about. No one could who was being completely honest with you, but that goes double for someone still in their first decade of life.

Again, I don't know what my dad's relationship with that movie was, but I can tell you my immediate takeaway was "He must think I'm a lot smarter than I am because this is waaaay over my head." Ironically it turned out to be an ego boosting shot of confidence. It gave me something to live up to.

I doubt it was consciously, deliberately so, and it was something I probably didn't need even at that age, but for the subsequent 30 years it helped define what my dad thought I was and thus who I wanted to try and be. Here I am almost 40, still trying to frame my life through cinema. However it turns out, thanks Moe.

- I got beautifully written cards from my child(ren) yesterday, but I also felt a little like this guy.

Posted 10:13am
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June 14th , 2013

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

- "You already have zero privacy - get over it." That's the chairman of Sun Microsystems in the late 1990s in regards to the internet ending personal freedoms. I don't want to be flippant about the government spying on people, but the right time to be indignant was when the Patriot Act was passed. I was livid then, but I have a hard time getting my ire up now. The internet isn't your bedroom, it's the town square. Everything you do there is seen by everyone and lives forever. That's something to remember always and why I have the above quote on the bulletin board in my office. Giant corporations who have zero interest in your best interest have been mining your data for well over a decade, and no one seems to give two shits as long as their aunt Myrtle can see pictures of their baby. Now the government is doing it and it's news? Ultimately my response to the 'scandal' is the same as it was weeks ago when the right was apoplectic about profiling of conservative groups. Wait, you've been advocating profiling for years, but now when it's happening to white people you're upset? Does your alarm going off in the morning cause you to shit your pants?

- Always worth noting is new Neko Case music, which is here! This also gets me super excited, since we'll be catching Fitz and the Tantrums next Thursday. That's my kind of dance party.

- Did you hear? Mike Huckabee can't believe that there's same sex couples on TV! Oh, and Marco Rubio thinks that your employer should be allowed to fire you for being gay! The GOP: party of inclusion. Since Sunday is Father's Day, I suggest sending them both one of these cards. Again, I don't want them to die in a fire, but I sure wouldn't mind it.

- Today is the last day for the AAPS, which means sometime about now the BDGF is officially off for the summer. That means tonight there'll be a screening of Dazed and Confused in our backyard, as tradition dictates. Last night we watched Sir Paul McCartney on Stephen Colbert, which was a helluva way to celebrate the second to last day of school. Other things to help my love kick off a care free summer: Here's NASA in the 1950s, and here's the Space X capsule on display. Who knows what ridiculous space adventure we will embark on before school resumes in the fall?

- Finally, the tbaggervance.com summer movie series starts tomorrow night. This summer will be Shakespeare Sundays (with an obvious exception for week one starting on a Saturday). "Shakespeare Shorts" kicks things off, including "15 minute Hamlet" and the "Atomic Shakespeare" episode of Moonlighting. After that, there'll be a different movie every Sunday night around 9ish. I'll be reading the plays leading up to the movie every week, and I'll be sure to post some sort of schedule for those that want to play along.With any luck I'll be blogging in iambic pentameter my the end of the summer.

Posted 1:32pm
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June 10th , 2013

Now what?

The other day the BDGF said that tbaggervance.com was turning into a 'dad blog'. I don't know what the exact definition of that is, but I found the idea reflexively reprehensible. Having fatherhood thrust upon me rather than choosing it, I've always wanted to simultaneously be the best dad I could, while not being associated with it whatsoever. I suppose there is irony in the fact that I'm apparently embracing it just as my legal obligations are about to run out.

So as regular readers already know, our house has been grad party central for the last couple of months. Saturday it finally came time to throw it all together. Time for a photodump:

So yay, we made it! Most importantly, Sid enjoyed himself and the BDGF and I made it through without coming to blows. After the mess had all been cleaned up and put away, I started to wrap my head around the idea of not having a major project to consider anymore - which lasted all of five minutes before the BDGF declared "I want all of this buckthron pulled out of the backyard." So rust never sleeps. Oh and legally mine or not, did I mention that we get to do all of this over again next year for the BDGF's oldest? I may be hitting my dad stride just in the nick of time after all.

Posted 11:04am
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June 5th , 2013

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

- My Siddhartha officially graduates tomorrow, which means I'm off the next couple of days to clean and prep for the party to end all parties this Saturday. (Here's Neil deGrasse Tyson giving Rice's commencement address last month to put you in the mood.) I'll be bleaching the grounds and running around A2 like a chicken with its head cut off picking up last minute supplies and intermittently crying for no discernable reason to those around me. Let's clean out the bin before I head off on my non-vacation...

- Speaking of intermittent weeping, Baby Jesus did his best to keep the crying Speaker in place. Also tear inducing: Ohio prez Gordo Gee claims "Can't trust those damn Catholics," then declines his commencement speakership at a Catholic high school (before retiring). Huh. Also: Dan Savage gives the best advice, period. Bonus: to combine Savage and Tyson: NASA says "It Gets Better."

- In Indie Rock, friend of the blog Markie C introduced me last year's terrific album by The Coup, just before Patton Oswalt creates this terrific video. Also: stream Ben Folds Five Live. Bonus: Jack White saves the Masonic, gets part of it named after him. Hometown boy makes good.

- In Star Wars porn: the world's largest Lego structure is this X-Wing. Also: The original trilogy as pulp novels. Bonus: of all the Star Wars bathing suits, the force is strongest with this one. Now let's blow this thing and go home.

- Finally, not lost in all the graduation craziness: Lieberstein(s) return(s) to A2 today! Nothing is worse than when your favorite people in the world pack up and move, but it does mean cause for great celebration when they return, albeit always for all too briefly. Welcome home Liebs.

Posted 10:22am
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June 4th , 2013

Signal vs. Noise.

The BDGF and I are going on four years together. That's long enough that I should be able to pick up on all of the body language, contextual cues and double entendres that she throws at me. At this point I should even be getting it right when she says yes but means no, although truly I'm still guessing at those.

I'm not throwing stones in an accusatory way when I say these things. We all do them and learning to pick up on your partner's eccentricities is one of the things that makes you a good partner. Right? Like when something breaks around the house, the BDGF notifies me that it needs fixing. When it needs fixing now, she says "The ________ is still broken, I'm going to call the repair guy," knowing that I will spiral into panic at the thought of paying someone to do something I might be capable of, and thus it gets fixed toot suite.

Sometimes I'm completely oblivious to her ulterior motives though. Like earlier this year, she bought her littlest some strawberry plants, which she noted necessitated me building window boxes on the side of the house to grow them. Of course what I didn't see coming was that once I proved my competence in building strawberry holders for the side of the house, I'd be building flower boxes for the front as well.

Of course I'm exaggerating. I don't think for a minute that the BDGF hatched a Machiavellian plot where she drew a through line from strawberries to window boxes on the front of the house, because at the end of the day she could have just asked for them knowing I would have said yes. But she also wants a zip line in the backyard, which I refuse to build or in any way be a part of. I think I need to inspect any father's day presents with a critical and skeptical eye. Otherwise, who knows what rabbit hole I may fall down.

Posted 10:30am
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June 3rd , 2013

Sunk costs.

Sometimes I wonder why I'm not better prepared for certain things. Or at least better warned. Is it because certain things I wouldn't believe even if you told me? Is it because sadistically people who have been through these things take pleasure in watching others suffer the same indignities? Or perhaps I'm living a solipsistic, idiosyncratic existence and my foibles are all my own.

I don't remember my older brother's high school graduation. I remember my younger brother and I had new Snoopy outfits and we weren't to dirty them before people showed up (we were 6 and 4). I remember my graduation being 20ish people, a case of beer and some cake. There were probably some old pictures of me to elicit 'awws' and embarrassment, but to call it a 'production' would be right out. It was barely a BBQ that happened after I happened to graduate.

This Saturday we host a graduation party for Siddhartha that will rival at least a third of the weddings I've ever attended. We've been planning for several months. I've spent every weekend and evening drawing and shopping and landscaping to prepare. I've borrowed chairs, tablecloths and coolers from almost everyone I know. I'm taking two days off of work for 'finishing touches.' All because my kid completed something best described as 'compulsory'.

Now is this something everyone goes through? Is this rigmarole because of my proclivities or the BDGF's? Why did no one tell me that the bill for the graduation party is the giant balloon payment for 18 years of parenting? Or could I have avoided all of this with a half barrel of Oberon and who gives a shit attitude? As Mr. Owl so once wisely opined, the world may never know. I do know that I get to do it all over again next year; which means given what I know now, I get about a week off before I start planning for that.

Posted 11:53am
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May 31st, 2013

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

- As far as comic books go, I've always been exclusively a Marvel guy. For you non-true believers out there, there's two comic book companies out there: One has Batman and Superman and Wonderwoman and Aquaman, the other has Spider-Man, Iron Man, X-Men and the Avengers. I took the gritty realism and relatable problems of the latter band of misfits. That said, I'll still go see any comic book movie that looks like it's got a chance to be decent, so like all fanboys, I'm looking forward to the new Superman movie. The looming question of course, is how does someone who is invulnerable shave? Some of your favorite scientists and comic book nerds try and answer the paradox.

- Speaking of The Avengers, King of the Nerds Joss Whedon is this week's tbaggervance.com commencement speaker. His message: you are all going to die.

- I'm on the last 6 months of the lease for my current vehicle, so it will soon be time to shop around for my next car. I'd love to ditch the car completely, but there are a few factors keeping me from jumping on that (figurative) train, so I'm stuck in the rural American paradigm. The next best thing of course would be to go electric, but I don't know if I'm committed to solving all of those problems and outlaying all that extra cash. I am excited about Tesla's aggressive plans to roll out their "Supercharger Network" though. Maybe one one conventional combustion lease... Never bet against Elon Musk.

- I'm only three episodes in to the season 4 dump of Arrested Development, as I'm trying to be super patient and watch them with the BDGF. I will say this so far: I agree with some of the criticisms about how weirdly it was shot and it's not the same show it was, but it's still amazing and I look forward to seeing the gestalt of this giant jigsaw puzzle they're building. It'll just take a while. So I promise to stop talking about it now, and leave you with Quote-a-Bluth. Come on!

- Finally, while Siddhartha has finished his compulsory schooling, he's enjoying the senior privilege of finishing a month before the rest of the district. Thus the BDGF and the girls still have two weeks to go. That means a fortnight from now we'll be celebrating the completion of another year of the BDGF's service as a teacher by watching Dazed and Confused at the Chandler Drive-In. It's her favorite movie and watching it on the actual last day of school drives home the point that it's out for summer. It's too bad that this won't be ready for three months from now, because it sounds like it might be the perfect spiritual send off for Sid as leaves home. But let's not rush that just yet.

Posted 11:16am
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May 30th, 2013

No Fun.

I've been working since I was about 10. Back then it was two or three lawns every week in the summer, but it was enough to keep me in snow cones and comic books. Odd jobs here and there expanded until I was 16 and got my first full time job. It was manual labor. It paid $4 an hour. Sometimes we'd spend our days breaking up concrete with sledgehammers in 100 degree heat. Nothing made me want to get an education more, so I never had to do that shit again.

I used the money I made to pay for my own entertainment, my own transportation, and eventually my own education. I was simultaneously proud that I earned everything I had and jealous of everyone I knew who didn't have to work so hard or at all. I wanted to find a way to give Sid that sense of pride without the indignant jealousy. I'm not sure how good of a job I've done.

Sid's never had a job. Not a real/semi-permanent one anyway. I feel like I bear some responsibility for not insisting, but what do you do when a kid rarely asks for money? Still, it's the summer before he goes to college, and he's going to have to foot the bill for some things over the next four years, so for the last month or so I've been warning him. He knows that starting Monday, I turn off internet access at home so he can't sit around all day screwing around instead of earning his keep.

I should have insisted/threatened earlier, because I got this text last night, after 10 straight days of telling him to get a job 20 times a day:

In the words of Iggy and the Stooges, I got a job

Luckily for him he's getting paid to tutor kids in math instead of breaking up concrete with a sledgehammer. I'm pretty sure he doesn't need that object lesson.

Posted 10:53am
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May 29th, 2013

What's making Baby Jesus cry this week?

- I've been fairly excited about the new Pope. He at least seems to value some old school Jesus humility and eschew the pomp and circumstance of his predecessor. I mean, he's not going to come out tomorrow and say "We've fucked up, you should totally wear a condom," but you take what you can get. Like here's a good example: Recently, the Pope came out and said 'Atheists are people too!' which is neigh unthinkable under the last Holy See. Of course, it didn't take long for the hierarchy to come in and walk it all the way back, but you can't expect an institution that's been running for thousands of years to just start giving away what they've been so successfully selling.

- And of course for every Catholic good, there's a Catholic evil. Why anyone is still a Catholic in the face of all that child rape and the justification for it by those in charge completely galls me.

- Where do the Atheists live? Mostly China. What makes them annoying? Certainly not these things, because whoa. Except perhaps I think I look smarter than I am, but Jimmy Pardo recently referred to me as professor, so I think I even got that covered.

- Bad news for Jesus the pundit: this candidate he "endorsed" came in dead last. Bonus: to an openly gay man. Zing!

- Church can be sexual, albeit I assume unintentionally?

- Finally, people often talk about the comfort and pleasure they find in religion. If you can't find it there, maybe you find it in the laughter of a small child? Or we can all be adults about this and admit that those things pale in comparison to sex and drugs. Science!

Posted 11:22am
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May 24th, 2013

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

- It's Arrested Development weekend! And none too soon - after a fortnight of at times punishing heat, Memorial Day weekend promising to hover right below 70. Spend the 'inclement' weather with the Bluths. Also, you're gonna get some hop-ons.

- After three straight weeks of summer movie gold (Iron Man 3, The Great Gatsby and Star Trek Into Darkness) this weekend we're stuck with a completely warmed over movie about 'roid heads driving cars and thinking their cool and another Hangover that sounds like it will fail to atone for the sins of its predecessor they way Iron Man 3 did. Take solace, there's the previously noted Arrested Development drop and you could also take a break from the summer spectacle with Jesse and Celine.

- I've always postulated that once the Affordable Care Act gets implemented and people start to get used to what it provides, it will become an intractable part of our society that people will rely on and enjoy. I've been as disappointed in the Obama Administration as anyone as of late, and I was opining last night that we're sitting on a precipice of how history may ultimately judge his presidency. Will people lament that he couldn't untangle enough of W's eight years of horror while blindly continuing much of it, or will he leave a legacy of civil rights accomplishments and be seen as a steward of long hard fight to get the economy back on track? As someone who likes to see the country do well, I liked his speech yesterday and see this as wonderful news. Keep swinging kid (and stop the petty fucking around.)

- Twenty-ish years ago (it was more like '95) I used to play this great game on the personal computer that came on something called a CD-ROM. It was an irreverent trivia game show called You Don't Know Jack. It died sometime around 10 years ago, about the same time CD-ROMs did. It has tried to resurrect itself several times over the years on gaming consoles, the internet and once as an iPhone app. It's back again, more interactive than ever, and since there's a new game every day, I've become addicted and hope it stays awhile in this current iteration. Try it out on your phone or facebook or however the kids are ingesting their entertainment these days.

- Finally, it's all over but the pomp and circumstance for the only begotten son of yours truly. Sid's last day of high school was today, meaning we get to take a moment to reflect and congratulate the young man. Of course it's just high school, meaning he's gotten over a compulsory bar set intentionally low by society that entitles you to jack and squat. Good work kid, now get back to work. Here's the season's first viral commencement address, delivered by Stephen Colbert.

Posted 2:21pm
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May 23rd, 2013

This Week in Indie Rock

- For those of you who may harbor dreams of rock stardom, I know the guy running the rock geeks camp on page 5 of this PDF and I'll vouch for its coolness. However the flyer I saw listed ages 13-110, so pre-teens and those that remember the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand need not apply.

- Fans of the Paul-only vocal track of "Helter Skelter" that was made famous here at tbaggervance.com will also likely enjoy this drum-and-bass-only version of "Something". Those Liverpudlians may be on to something.

- Alternate track lovers rejoice! This early unreleased version of "Psycho Killer" is bad fucking ass.

- The lovely and angelic Neko Case is back in the studio, and NPR is there. Here's hoping the next album cover is half this good:

- Finally, here's 20 music documentaries deemed to have the goods by Pitchfork. Not mentioned is I am Trying to Break Your Heart, which is a must for fans of Wilco and it's happenstance insight into the modern music industry.

Posted 11:22am
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May 22nd, 2013

Today's Ultimate Dreg of Humanity...

I was listening to NPR this weekend as I was running between home improvement stores (I am apparently the penultimate 40 year old stereotype suburban dad now) and This American Life was talking about climate change. Specifically, the part I initially caught was about a former Republican congressman who lost his seat because he believes in anthropogenic climate change and what he's doing now to change the national dialogue - specifically among conservatives - on this paramount issue. This of course made me apoplectic, because like evolution and gravity, there's no debate amongst scientists on this issue . I mean I was seriously angry. These fucks need to all pack up and move to some religious fundamentalist country and stop impeding our progress. May I suggest Iran?

So after stewing about it for several days, I'm trying out a new semi-regular feature here at tbaggervance.com so that I don't marinate in my own bile over fucksticks who are anti-science, pro-hate, and other things that generally make us worse off as a collective species. Thus our inaugural member in Today's Ultimate Dreg of Humanity® is the Republican Nominee for Lt. Governor of Virginia, E.W. Jackson. He's a giant homophobe. I'm torn between wanting him to die in a fire and getting elected immediately to spur millions of progressives to action.

Since I am making you aware of something awful in an attempt to diffuse my own consternation over it, I feel the need to balance out the blog's chi. To that end, here's our inaugural Today's Hero of the Internet®: Reggie Watts and his cover of "Never Gonna Give You Up." Now sally forth and do nice things.

Posted 11:22am
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May 21st , 2013

Hindsight.

In high school my brother had a Beatles' haircut. This was the late '70s/early '80s, so I assume at the time it was a tad unusual. Legend has it he was mistaken for Paul McCartney once at an airport, but seeing as they're 25 years apart in age and my brother has never played the bass, I kind of doubt it. The goofy, dated coif was mentioned to me a lot when I was in high school, as I had a similarly goofy, dated terrible mess of hair on my head. What I never understood - even at the time - was how everyone said I would "regret" my haircut. How my brother could barely look at himself in those old pictures with his goofy 'do. Like there was some secret shame in making bad stylistic choices tied to an era in society. Like we all didn't or wouldn't have them someday.

From the time I entered high school up until about the time I left home, my mother and I fought. Not a day went by where we missed an opportunity to take shots at each other. It was a Hatfields and McCoys blood feud. One of us was always in the red - Superfly TNT, The Guns of the Navarone level batshit out of control apoplectic about the other. I was a 16 year old atheist who wanted to drink and smoke and participate in things my mother didn't know existed and would be embarrassed to read about. We were about as far apart as two people get. Luckily for our relationship, I moved out and quickly became a father, and we started to see more eye to eye. Our differences didn't go away, but our prioritization of them changed and there emerged an unspoken respect of one an another. I suppose that's how it's engineered to work.

I've never for one second regretted my goofy haircut. I can't erase the word "mullet" from my resume and that's OK by me. I'm not ashamed of the trench coat I wore all through high school or the fact that I used to wear rental bowling shoes outside of bowling alleys. They were choices that certainly look silly now, some would have said silly then, but it's who I was. I like those pictures and thoughts and remembering previous iterations of tbaggervance. I feel that way about almost everything, hoping to learn from the silly and stupid but understanding that it's part of the journey. The exception to that are those tumultuous years with my mother. Even knowing it was rite of passage stuff that happens to everyone, I feel bad for the way I treated her. She was mostly just trying to protect me and I should have handled that differently. It's certainly more regrettable than business up front, party in the rear.

Posted 11:03am
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May 17th , 2013

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

- Star Trek: Into Darkness opens this weekend. In honor of the return of Captain James T. Kirk, here's a comparison of some of pop culture's most famous interstellar spaceships and here's George Takei responding to "traditional" marriage fans. The TARDIS and George Takei have distinctly unfair advantages as they are unique and mythical forces you do not fuck with, and everything bends to their will.

- Still to come: the return of Arrested Development. Here's the official trailer and a list of the 10 best recurring gags. Come on!

- Ann Arbor's serial graffiti "artist" is now in custody. I personally hope he gets the chair. Stick to chalk kids.

- A healthy distrust of giant corporations is paramount to not getting fucked over by them. I mean, they're still gonna fuck you - no two ways about it. But with constant vigilance, you can at least see them coming and lube up first. Here's a list of who is and isn't likely to play just the tip with you. Twitter whispers sweet nothings in your ear, Verizon roofies you and leaves you walking crooked for a week.

- Finally, I'm prone to crying at movies and am otherwise easily manipulated emotionally by TV shows, sappy songs and even television commercials. Which is why I am unapologetically inspired by these inspirational posters. Get out there and whole ass something.

Posted 10:32am
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May 16th , 2013

Fight or Flight.

When I was 12 years old my family was on vacation in Chicago and as we were bustling around the city (desperately trying to get to Saturday evening mass!) a thief stuck his hand in my mom's purse and took out her pocketbook. I instinctively yelled a simple "Hey!" in his direction, which turned out to be enough for him to drop the wallet and turn on his heel.

I've told that story here before and I don't do it to brag, I was a dumb kid acting instinctively and had I thought about it, I would have probably done nothing. But something in my still meager 165lb frame always chooses fight over flight. Now I don't say that in physical way, I've thrown few punches in my life. But when it comes time to say something or not, I'm usually going to say something. If nothing else, it usually makes me feel better.

This subject merits a better post that's more thought out than what I'm going to give it, but in the time I have I want to document what happened yesterday. My sister went to facebook to rant about her healthcare costs, as she is wont to do. Now most of you know my facebook policy, so I don't even see this stuff, but the BDGF did and warned me that there was stupidity afoot and it was making her angry, so I checked it out. Leaving the insurance stuff aside, this blew my gasket:

Well I obviously couldn't hold my tongue, so I responded:

The whole story kind of hinges on what comes next, which has been unfortunately redacted. But my account of it goes like this: I was referred to as "Taylor", I was called "small minded", I was accused of turning women to lesbianism, and I was told if I came to see her, she'd kick my ass and make me wish she was never born. To which I said:

Now I almost ended up feeling sorry for this women who has clearly been beaten down by life, but then I kept remembering she's a horrible racist and while I don't wish her any specific ill, I am completely fine if she were to die in a fire.

I'm not overly politically correct. I can handle just about anything without a blush, embarrassment or even offense. But I do draw the line at hate speech. Politics aside, even the massively ignorant aren't supposed to be ignored when using racial epithets. There may be a fine line on when it's appropriate to speak up in these situations and I may often overstep it, but I think we're all better off when we tell these assholes where to stick that kind of shit. At least I'll continue to burn that bridge whenever I come across it, even when the better part of valor may be to run across and put it out of your mind.

Posted 1:20pm
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May 15th , 2013

This Week in Indie Rock.

Before we get to the nitty gritty of everything that's just released, coming out soon or streaming, let's give it up for the land of 10,000 lakes for being totally gay. Watch out bigots, homophobes and conservative assholes: we're coming for you...

- Now streaming on the interwebs: The soon to be released opus from sad crooners The National and out now album from local pop rocking songsmiths Destroy This Place. I enjoy people who can listen to these albums back to back and find stuff to love in each. You are eclectic and smart and have good taste.

- Wanna feel old? Weezer's Blue Album turned 19 last week. I am insulated from this since my son graduates high school in less than a month. I'm already stocking up on geritol and denture cleaner.

- For two of my favorite ladies, here's astronaut Chris Hadfield singing David Bowie IN SPACE.

- One of the reasons I'd be a terrible business owner is because I totally think denying someone entry to a show because they didn't know enough about the band a totally reasonable business practice. I'm the worst fucking snob.

- Finally, loyal readers know that uber-douche Dan Brown represents the complete opposite of everything tbaggervance.com holds dear. The hackiest of hacks, I challenge any of you with small children to write down a story they tell word for word and see if it's not more well written than The Da Vinci Code. He's got a seat at the head table of the rogue's gallery to tbaggervance's Justice League. Anyway, turns out he's as terrible musically as he is with the written word, as witnessed by this song he wrote and performed about phone sex, "976-LOVE". You're welcome.

Posted 10:59am
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May 13th , 2013

Promenade.

I can't imagine Sid and I having much different high school experiences. My entire school was about the size of his senior class. I was big fish/small pond with no opportunities and he has the opposite of that. I think we both agree that he got the better end of the deal. I was also out drinking most weekends while he's in his room wearing a headset on the internet. I'm not sure I'd trade places with him on that one, but he's probably better off for it.

We both ended up going to our senior proms with friends amongst a large group of people. I'm not sure what that says about us if anything, but when I finally got a call about 1:30 am Saturday night that said "I won't be home tonight," after I got over my initial parental gut reaction of being irrationally upset, I realized that maybe our experiences are more similar than I originally thought, separated by more time and setting than anything else. Then I realized that maybe being upset wasn't that irrational.

- He clearly had a good time, as he's dancing with his hands in the air in the background of one of these annarbor.com photos. I don't think I was at my senior prom long enough to get a picture taken long enough other than the one above, so he probably got in less trouble than I did? Let's go with it.

Posted 10:50am
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May 9th , 2013

Better call Saul.

My BDGF loves me. This I know because at night when we sit around having cocktails and I go off on a 20 minute tangential rant about filmmakers and let's say... the legacy or Sergio Leone and his influence on modern westerns, or how Lucas lost the influence of Joseph Campbell when writing the prequels - she not only patiently listens but she even describes it as 'cute'. She does this knowing very few of the reference points I'm using to make my argument, and caring about them even less. I know, it's not even been four years, give her time.

When I play the game of "If you could do anything for a job, what would it be?" I quickly move on from bartender (because I would hold too much disdain for the customers) to something to do with movies. I love them. I love watching them, attending them, talking about them. I know a lot of stuff about a lot of things, but movies are probably near the top of the list. I know if I worked at it I could fill in the gaps of my knowledge and be a veritable expert. I'd love to write about them, but I'll probably just end up as a volunteer usher at the Michigan when I retire.

I especially love old movies. Back when effects were practical and cameras had film in them. There's something much more visceral about it. Storytelling was aloud to move more slowly. Jokes allowed to be more subtle. Movies had a different feel to them. Almost a tooth. I don't know if I've always been destined to be a grizzled old curmudgeon (as many have often argued) but being nostalgic at 37 for an era that was nearly gone by the time I was 10 is certainly a lynchpin argument. If you're at all like me, please to enjoy this Google Doodle Movie celebrating the late, great Saul Bass. You know, from back when movies were aloud to have title sequences and the greats found ways to make them interesting. Which is, I know, the opposite of me blabbering on about them. Even if you are sweetly lying to me like my BDGF.

Posted 10:28am
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May 8th , 2013

The tbaggervance.com 2013 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 2013 Guide to Summer:

Edward G. Money
May 24
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, they lack a true headliner this year, unless JEFF the Brotherhood does it for ya.

Sonic Lunch
June 6 - Aug 29
A2's FREE downtown lunchtime concert series. Full lineup isn't announced until later this week, but Martha and the Vandellas kick things off on the 6th, so promising...

Chicago Ribfest
June 7-9
Pork and We Were Promised Jetpacks on Sunday! A great way to start the summer if I've ever heard one.

A2 Restaurant Week
June 9-14
Downtown A2 reminds you that they are relevant the week before everyone abandons it for Top of the Park. Get your reservations early.

Top of the Park
June 14 - July 7
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. Plus, this year's movie lineup is the best ever. I plan on seeing them all.

Taste of Randolph Street
June 14-16
Another Chicago neighborhood fest combing food, music and shopping. This year's lineup features The Divine Fits and The Joy Formidable, so there's some kind of naming theme there.

Green Music Fest
June 22-23
Another Chicago neighborhood fest? Yes. A Talking Heads tribute band and Manchester Orchestra announced so far, $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.

Toronto Urban Roots Festival
July 4-7
The fact The Hold Steady, Neko Case and Fitz and the Tantrums will all be here puts this festival on our map for the first time.

Common Ground Fest
July 8-14
Ben Folds Five, Barenaked Ladies, Credence Clearwater Revisited, Slash and Sevendust continue this Lansing festival's tradition of bringing back from the dead artists you remember from high school and have no feelings one way or another about. Plus Josh Ritter, The Avett Brothers and MGMT, so they are moving up in the world.

Elvis Fest
July 12-13
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...

Bunbury Music Fest
July 12-14
This Cinci festival has the likes of Tokyo Police Club, Cake and The National, unfortunately not on the same day.

Pitchfork
July 19-21
Chicago's hippest fest features Belle & Sebastian, The Breeders, and a bunch of other artists you're no longer cool enough to have heard of.

Art Fair
July 17-20
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 26-27
The best thing to ever happen to Ypsilanti and my favorite non-Michigan football Saturday of the year.

Lolla
Aug 2-4
I'd love to see the Cure in Grant Park, but tickets sold out faster than you can say heat stroke.

Dream Cruise
Aug 17
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. It's right down the street from the Vodka Bar, so worth the trip!

Posted 10:28am
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May 7th , 2013

What's making Baby Jesus cry this week?

- Here's a setup for a joke: What are Glen Beck's favorite kind of illegal immigrants? Then you realize the answer is white and evangelical and it's more sad than funny.

- Here's another one: When is global climate change not man made? When Jesus did it!

- When does a state representative in North Carolina come out AGAINST prayer before a government meeting? Why when the prayer is Islamic of course! Bonus: that's terrorism! Double bonus: it's about religious freedom! Zing!

- A high school principal in West Virginny threatened to call a high school senior's upcoming college and report her as having "bad character" if she didn't drop her protest of a speaker who'd come to preach abstinence and tell girls on birth control that their mothers hate them. Then she showed that limp dick asshole what balls really are.

- Mitt Romney is getting Mormons to breed a religious army. Literally.

- Here's an alternately depressing and not-surprising list of religious bands.

- George Takei shows you how to deal with homophobes.

- Here's a Creationist "science" test for fourth graders. I give Fs all around.

- WWJD? Apparently blame the victims of rape. I'd like to introduce that guy to this soldier.

- Finally, here's what happened when Josh Ritter accidentally showed up to play a gig at an anti-gay Christian college. I love that guy.

Posted 10:59am
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May 3rd , 2013

Happy (early) Star Wars Day!

I was once in Vegas on St. Patrick's Day that also happened to coincide with the first Saturday of the NCAA basketball tournament. That was a drunk degenerate's waking wet dream. Tomorrow happens to be both Star Wars Day and Comic Book Day. Celebrate in your mother's basement by taking a non-voluntary pledge of abstinence. This guy knows what I'm talking about...

- I'll call this Star Wars meets John Hughes.

- There's nohting to call this but Star Wars meets School House Rock.

- Here's every time Star Wars met 30 Rock.

- And you can stop waiting for Star Wars, Patton Oswalt and Russ Meyer to meet, because that happened (of a sort).

- When will we all meet at the theater for the next three Star Wars installments? Mystery solved.

- Finally, tomorrow's holiday may or may not be government approved, depending on your home world's affiliation.

Posted 10:26am
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May 2nd , 2013

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

- The NBA is totally gay! If you haven't read Jason Collins' actual piece on coming out, it is well worth your time. I don't ultimately know if there was only positive reaction to the news or if people just decided not to cover the negative hate speech, but I'm glad for it either way. I suppose the fact that this former NFLer lost work for trying to be a Christian and like gay people proves that it was out there, but it must have been minimal, so way to go America.

- The summer movie season is upon us with the release of Iron Man 3 this weekend. I'm excited for that, plus The Great Gatsby and Star Trek: Into Darkness the subsequent two weekends. You can read The AV Club's guide to those and the rest of your summer fare here and here (with part 3 to come.)

- I know college football is months away and most of you don't care, but it makes me giddy that former college football cheats (and two guys who basically ruined each other's careers in the eyes of everyone but the faithful) got together to play charity basketball recently. One of them is still popular enough in the Buckeye State to get a bobblehead night at a college he was never a head coach at in a sport he has no relationship to. So O-H? You guys are the best.

- We all know that the University of Michigan is super smart, but how about sexy? I don't know their methodology, but hey, science!

- Finally, I make no secret of the fact that while we may be friends on Facebook, I probably don't see your status updates. It only takes you posting one thing that I vociferously disagree with for me to block you from coming up in my newsfeed. I just don't have the time. Writing things on the internet is not the equivalent of the salon of a French philosophe, mostly because this is what people talk about. I'll stick to Twitter, which is a slightly less solipsistic form of social media. Slightly.

Posted 11:55am
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May 1st , 2013

That's great kid, don't get cocky.

I think I'm coming down with a case of sympathy senior-osis. I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel with Sid graduating in a month, but right now I'm picturing myself figuratively walking backwards out of school after the last bell rings, both middle fingers in the air, shouting a defiant "Fuck you guys, I'm outta here!"

I've been counting down to this for a long time, and I'm still giving my stock answer of "I'm almost done!" It's of course less true for me than it is for Sid or any senior. Not only will I continue to parent Sid for the rest of my days, I also have two girls at home, one of which is barely half way through the whole child rearing process. We've all got miles to go before we sleep.

Still, I've always viewed this as my Return of the Jedi moment. We get to neatly wrap up all the loose ends with a tight little bow, and the son redeems the sins of the father by not making the same mistakes. It's a nice little narrative. At the moment however, it feels very Empire Strikes Back-y. There's a million things to do and pay for in the next few months and this better be the behind-the-eight-ball part of the second act, because Christ on a bike if it gets worse, we're all fucked.

The ultimate truth of it all is that this is Sid's A New Hope moment. He's shedding the shackles of being under his parent's roofs and going off on the grand adventure. Sure there's crotchety old hermits and friend's with delusions of grandeur to help him along his way, but he's still on his own for the first time in his life. As the parent over the next few months, I keep coming back to "This is not for you to enjoy, it's for you to survive." I can get through the bullshit of the next eight weeks, if for no other reason than I have to. Besides, they're making three new Star Wars movies, there's a shit ton of story left no matter how you look at it.

Posted 11:40am
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April 26th, 2013

No accounting for taste

John Hodgman has a podcast called Judge John Hodgman where he appropriately doles out justice to people who bring him their disputes. One of the precedents he has set that runs throughout his podcast is that you can't make someone like something. Generally these are relationship-y problems wherein one person is upset that the other doesn't like a movie or a band or doing some particular activity. As none of us are boring clones of one another, this is a meme that is bound to rear its head in every relationship, romantic or otherwise.

In the Nerdist podcast, former Singled Out host Chris Hardwick talks a lot about what it means to be a nerd. At the end of the day, being a nerd in today's society is merely loving something deeply, passionately and unapologetically. You can be a nerd for Star Wars or comic books, but being really into fantasy baseball or the movie Die Hard is just as nerdy. Nerdity, he argues, is about your level of interest and immersion, regardless of subject matter. Yes, people who tend to know the plot of every episode of Doctor Who or can tell you the starting lineup of the 1984 Tigers tend to look like your typical Gilbert and Lewis, but that's neither here nor there.

Together I think these two philosophies form a pretty good foundation as to how your tastes should inform your life. You should love what you love and not let anyone shame or ridicule how or to what depths you find enjoyment in it. Finding someone to share those things with is one of life's great joys, but you can't force it. Finding someone who shares your love of Mr. Belvedere can be magical, and you shouldn't let the fact that the same person could care less about Full House sully that beauty. If you can find a way to balance those, you've got yourself a winner. I'm pretty sure there's a middle east peace template somewhere in there, but I'll leave it to you guys to find it, because I'm not that into it.

- I definitely wear my heart on my sleeve when it comes to Arrested Development. Here's some new posters and even a new video clip. Enjoy.

- And for my BDGF, who loves Jack White more than I love almost anything, here's Detroit's favorite son demo-ing his new in store vinyl studio.

Posted 11:02am
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April 25th, 2013

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

- I don't know where the above image came from (I snaked it from mgoblog.com) but it's a nice distillation of how awesome we are (although what's the deal with the kid in a Cubs shirt? That clearly wasn't vetted.). ¡Viva utopia!

- Of course everything in Tree Town is not perfect. The students are a tad up in arms over the student section at football games going general admission. I mean, I get why seniors might be miffed, but the thing is a third empty all the time and if you want to incentivize getting there early, I can think of worse ideas. I may finally be old enough to start feeling guilty about never being in my seat for kickoff, but my seat is guaranteed, so who gives a shit? ¡Viva la Blue!

- I've taken to watching a couple of back episodes of Arrested Development every time I go to the gym in anticipation of the show's return, a strategy I highly recommend. You can also get excited with these new images. I'm excited to see how Buster is doing over at Army. ¡Viva la Bluths!

- In the "I'm not gay, but I make no case for it..." department, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Chaning Tatum are purportedly in talks for a Guys & Dolls remake. Eeeeeek! ¡Viva la Chemistry! (Si, chemistry...)

- Finally, the littlest state in our union has passed a gay marriage bill. ¡Viva la difference!

Posted 10:49am
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April 23rd, 2013

Tuesday's are for politickin'

Ed. note: I'm having trouble using my words as of late. Don't know what it is, but there you have it. Lot's of things I'd like to say, but unsure as of how to say them. Like last week my dear dear friends The Jesuses were in town, but I can't come up with how to write about it. So you're just going to get links to stuff you probably already know. And this picture of AJ on a pony.

- Prepare thyself, we've got a plethora of Republicans saying atrocious things today. Starting with the head of the Michigan GOP Dave Agema comparing homosexuals to alcoholics, offering to help them "get out it," and by it meaning their "filthy lifestyle." Keep reaching out, kiddos.

- Georgia governor Nathan Deal refuses to comment on a local prom because "This is a leftist front group for the state Democratic party and we're not going to lend a hand to their silly publicity stunt." What's so special about this prom? They're trying to integrate it. Reeeeaaaaching ouuuuuuuttttttt...

- Senator Lindsey Graham wants the Boston bombing suspects to be tried as enemy combatants, because, you know, terrorism. The Obama administration fortunately respects the rule of law a little but more than that, and charged the suspect in civilian court. Lindsey must miss the days when he could go home and masturbate to the thought of us torturing foreigners for no reason.

- And to not be hypocritical and reach out myself, kudos to Chris Christie and Adolphus Busch IV for standing up to the NRA. It won't make me like Jersey or Budweiser any more, but you both are all right in my book today.

Posted 10:58am
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April 19th, 2013

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

- Star Wars Day is still over two weeks away, but I would be remiss if I sat on these two links for that long: First, Patton Oswalt (improvising on the set of Parks and Rec) goes off an 8 minute epic rant wherein he sketches out an epic Episode VII. Prepare for Robot Chewbacca. Then, the first rule of Harrison Ford is you don't talk to Harrison Ford about Star Wars. It'd be funnier if it didn't ring so true.

- To prepare for the return of Arrested Development, brush up on how to be more like Lucille Bluth. You could do worse when it comes to role models.

- Guess who the NRA is giving huge amounts of money to? Would you believe 42 of the 45 Senators who blocked the gun control bill? I know, me neither...

- I woke up this morning and checked Twitter (as I do most mornings) to try and start my brain. It quickly became a completely surreal experience as I digested last night's Boston nightmare 144 characters at a time. After confirming that my favorite Bostonians were all OK, I started to read the "proper" news coverage and quickly realized that it was superfluous. Even with Twitter's false starts, retractions and bad information, I got a complete and ultimately accurate picture. Had I been awake while all of this was going down, I also would have gotten it speed of light quicker than had I been watching a gun shy CNN. That's kinda cool.

- Finally, the other night I saw a billboard outside of Detroit that had the old english D, a heart and the Sox's B. I argued with someone last night whether or not this was a show of solidarity that prioritized the important things over the trivial, or somehow vice versa cheapened the sentiment and was completely superfluous, because of course we stand with Boston. I'm a sentimental fool, so I love the reminder. I mean, can we really argue that playing "Sweet Caroline" at a Yankee's game isn't meaningful? Stay strong Boston.

Posted 10:50am
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April 18th, 2013

Fuck off

In the wake of 20 elementary school children being gunned down by a madman, your U.S. Senate voted more en masse to deregulate firearms than to regulate them. Let that sink in. Twenty children are dead. The Senate takes up a measure that over 90% of Americans agree with. They can only get 54 votes. The next day they take up a measure to expand conceal carry permits and they get 57 votes. Here's the 46 senators who voted against a modest expansion of background checks. If they represent you, call them and ask them how they sleep at night. Write them and ask whom they think they are protecting. At the very least, promise to never vote for them ever again; encourage people you know to do the same.

I'm anti-gun. Probably mostly because I don't have an inferior penis. I don't begrudge anyone owning a shotgun or a rifle. It's not my thing but I've fired them before - they're fun, I get it. I even realize that we can't get rid of handguns, although analytically I can't fathom why. What I don't get is why anyone thinks they have a right to own weapons designed to kill multiple human beings in a short amount of time. Why anyone thinks that they shouldn't have to wait a week to take delivery of any firearm. These rights aren't guaranteed anywhere. Save me any slippery slope arguments. Your tiny manhood and the need to convince the world that it's actually 18 inches of swinging death is all that this is about.

The world fails to make sense in time like these. Who on earth would stand with Wayne LaPierre over Gabby Giffords? It all reeks of cowardice, hypocrisy and lack of conviction. With gerrymandered districts and an abounding ignorance in this country, I don't hold out much hope that we can throw the bums out, but I'll keep talking about it, doing what I can to hold a candle up to these fucksticks. Because when we can't pass a bill that holds 90% public support in the wake of a tragedy, what hope do we have of anything?

Posted 2:31pm
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April 17th, 2013

This Week in Indie Rock

- Stereogum has been having a field day as of late ranking different bands discographies. Here's one for Spoon and one for Death Cab. If your The National, you only get your ten best songs ranked. Speaking of Britt, he has more side projects.

- Ever wonder what vinyl look like really close up? Just like Beggar's Canyon back home. And speaking of, the BDGF and I are going to have to get back to Nashville, because huckster Jack has just installed a booth where you can record your own vinyl album at Third Man.

- Visitors of Westeros may have noticed that The Hold Steady closed out last Sunday's Game of Thrones with the song "The Bear and the Maiden Fair" They also got ranked in Rolling Stone's 100 greatest debut albums of all time. That's going to be one expensive record when I finally find a copy...

- The AV Club has revived their Undercover series. I highly recommend Frightened Rabbit covering Cheap Trick.

- I used to routinely go see many a band that featured legendary Ann Arbor saxophonist Colin Stetson. I liked that music a lot more than what he does now with the Arcade Fire and Bon Iver, but it's still nice to see a local boy make good.

- Finally, you can stream the new Phoenix album over at iTunes. My only problem with the band, as catchy and danceable as they are, is that isn't like one of those songs enough? Who needs an entire album? Feels like I'm stuck in a bad 70's discotheque.

Posted 10:35am
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April 16th, 2013

Crisis/Opportunity.

A friend and former resident of Boston once told me "You have to live in Boston before you die. That town was made for you." Having been there a few times, I see his point. I love Boston. I could totally live there. Several people I cherish are there right now, and thankfully they are all safe and sound after yesterday's events.

I don't have anything profound to say about what happened yesterday. My heart aches for the city's citizens, the victims, and people like this who use tragedy to grow fear and hatred. Then there's this, which is opportunistic in the best way:

Boston. Fucking horrible. 

I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, "Well, I've had it with humanity."

But I was wrong. I don't know what's going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths. 

But here's what I DO know. If it's one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. (Thanks FAKE Gallery founder and owner Paul Kozlowski for pointing this out to me). This is a giant planet and we're lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they're pointed towards darkness. 

But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We'd have eaten ourselves alive long ago. 

So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, "The good outnumber you, and we always will."

That's Patton Oswalt, reminding us that good will always prevail, because evil is dumb. Or something like that.

They say the best revenge is living well. That may sound a little relationship-y and inconsequential to apply here, but I think it's a serious thing to hang your hat on right about now. Sad and angry are understandable, appropriate responses to tragedy. A better one is to go out and help someone. Give money. Give time. Give blood. Make the world better in a way completely unrelated to what happened in Boston yesterday. These things in numbers are far more powerful than a coward's bomb stuffed in a trashcan.

Posted 1:50pm
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April 15th, 2013

Taking time to get it right.

My finger ached all weekend. The flesh colored flap of skin that remained after I cooked my finger is now gone, revealing a raw, red ring of blood and muscle and basal epidermis. Sorry for being graphic, but I promise not to actually show it to you. Anyway, I hastily did something and hurt myself, despite knowing the consequences had I actually stopped to consider them. These are the mistakes we make when we are cranky, in a hurry, or young.

My junior year of high school I decided I was going to Michigan. I wasn't going to be told no, much less be swayed or persuaded that it wasn't the most responsible decision. It was practically my birthright as I saw it; an entitlement I had earned through my intellect and long suffering in a desolate place without culture. Nevermind my mother's constant droning on about how it was the most expensive state school in the country and that they had no money to give me. Oh, and I was an out of state student.

I don't regret my decision to go to Michigan for one second, despite having to pay for it by myself and continuing to have to do so while son attends the same institution 20 years later. My experience while matriculating however was marred by constant financial worries. Where would money for books and rent and food and booze come from? And what about the fact that that list is in the opposite order of how I prioritized them? It was precarious, but I made it and will always be proud of that, whether or not it was smart to undertake the endeavor in the first place.

However wrongheadedly proud I may be, I wanted the opposite for Siddhartha. I knew I was never going to be able to write a check, slap him on the back and say "There ya go son, go buy an education." but I wanted to be in a position to say "As long as you do the work, you never have to worry about money while you're trying to learn." That's why I sweated his financial aid letter almost as much as his acceptance one.

Saturday my much more mechanically inclined friend Mysterious Al came over to look at the van that had briefly attempted to turn my pinky into a corn dog. After confirming that the problem was likely what I had previously thought, Al took the important step of fixing the damn thing - in a cautious, orderly, well reasoned manner. Two hours later the van was up and running and no one was hurt.

This morning I got Sid's financial aid package for his freshman year. Without getting into specifics, it's very doable. He won't graduate debt free, but with a little sacrificing on my part, he should also be able to go out for pizza with his friends without maxing out a credit card, and without working 25 hours a week. It may not be much, and I'm not one to advocate living vicariously through your children, but I still have a tiny feeling of finally getting the damn thing right. It's the next best thing to actually going back.

Posted 2:40pm
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April 12th, 2013

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

- It's Yuri's night! I don't know if we're finally far enough away from the cold war (clearly not according to Mittens Romney), the BDGF's space obsession has awakened me to it or the public is finally starting to realize that we need to trick kids into thinking science is cool*, but I've never heard of this before and now it seems to be everywhere. There's a party at the Necto for chrissake. Take a look at some of the cool stuff NASA is working on and listen to Neil deGrasse Tyson explain how we got so far and fell so fast. Never stop dreaming.

- The return of Arrested Development is rapidly approaching. Here are the official teaser posters and unofficial vintage album covers to celebrate. If you're not down with AD, here's some regular old movie poster tropes for you to peruse.

- The ability to donate to charity online or via cell phone has certainly been a boon to the convenience of helping people out. All of you of course know this after helping out our Trivia for Cheaters team (thanks again). Of course Ann Arbor, in its generosity, ranks fifth in the nation in online giving. You're welcome, poor and indigent.

- Booze and politics often come together as ingesting one leads people to spewing the other. There are other times, however, where politics and booze's relationship is purely professional. Like who isn't behind congress giving craft beer a tax break? Also, I understand the need for regulating how many and where bars go, but we all also agree that more bars is better, right?

- Finally, here are 18 of the best Ron Swanson quotes. Not included: last night, when asked if there was a history of mental illness in his family, he responded "I had an uncle who did yoga."

*kidding, science is the coolest, natch.

Posted 10:53am
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April 11th, 2013

Well, I suppose you were due...

1. For the first 25 years or so of my life, I didn't feel particularly klutzy. Uncoordinated? Sure. Unathletic? Obviously. But not accident prone. I didn't have any scars with great stories; I'd never broken a bone. Walking around with something bandaged was not de rigueur. At some point though, that obviously changed. I started to fall down. I tried to do things that were above my level of coordination and characteristically failed. I just became klutzy. Shattered ankles. Broken ribs. Missing tips of fingers. Multiple massive forehead injuries. Not all of them were even alcohol induced.

2. I'm relatively handy. I'll take a crack at fixing anything and over the years I've developed a fairly large repository of knowledge on subjects such as plumbing, electrical work and general carpentry. One thing I freely admit knowing nothing about is automobiles. I can drive a stick, change a tire, wiper blades, battery and oil, and that's about it. If it's not a blown fuse, I'm out. Outside of owning jumper cables and knowing red/red and black/black (which I've done dozens of times) I have no special automotive knowledge.

3. The BDGF's van is dying. I attribute this directly to her purchasing a shiny red convertible - the van was left for a younger, sexier model and now is struggling to find the will to live. Last night I get a call that the van won't start. I'm told the symptoms and in my limited knowledge, it's not a battery problem, but could I jump it when I get home? Why not. It's one thing I know how to do. So upon arriving home and popping the hood, I see a fair amount of corrosion on the positive battery terminal. I've seen this before! Best to clean it off before I jump the sucker. What happened next I can't quite explain, despite understanding how batteries work and having performed this procedure several times before. Somehow when removing the terminal from the battery, I caught my pinky ring on something and the current started to flow, rapidly cooking my littlest finger.

I should have taken a picture shortly after, because it looked exactly like a flesh colored wedding band was growing around my finger as the electricity superheated my ring and thus the flesh directly underneath it. But the pressure was too great and now it's just withered, tender skin. As the BDGF said, I was due. I just wish I could have fixed the van in the process.

Posted 10:49am
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April 10th, 2013

Behold his unadulterated hubris...

So Monday night sucked. OK that's not fair at all. Monday night was awesome until the end, which sucked. That sucked and the officiating sucked, which are the two things you don't want to lament in the aftermath of a championship game. But the game was sweet. Especially our li'l Spike Albrecht, whom we extolled the virtues of here in this very space in Monday's lead up. He went out and scored 17 points Monday night, knocking down threes with ice in his veins. Postgame, he used his new found fame to hit on the hottest chick in the universe:

See? Spike ain't scared. Trey Burke may be bolting for the NBA, but the future of Michigan basketball is in the hands of the fearless. Can't wait until next year.

- What's your dream school? Michigan manages to make both parents and seniors top ten lists, dropping one spot for parents merely because Catholics want their kids to go to Notre Dame.

Posted 11:00am
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April 8th, 2013

What did I just say?!?

During an important game earlier this season, Michigan deployed diminutive 5'11" freshman guard Spike Albrecht to spell all-world best-player-in-the-country Trey Burke and my buddy commented "Spike ain't scared."

Spike isn't famous, probably even on Michigan's campus. He wasn't recruited by many major programs. He's never going to play in the NBA. He came to Michigan to eek out whatever playing time he could against guys who were endowed by their creator with more speed, agility and height than he was.

Guys like that are hustle guys. They play for the love of the game. They beat you with smarts and guts because that's all they have to throw at you. They play with a confidence that belies their ability. They certainly don't play scared.

So every time Coach John Belien deploys the undersized freshman, I note "Spike ain't scared," reminding him, convincing myself. Saturday night against Syracuse when he hit the court, I yelled to the room (after noting "Spike ain't scared") "He's gonna hit a three before he leaves the court. Watch."

Not 10 seconds later I awoke the neighborhood screaming "What did I just say?!?" as Spike hit the first of two threes he'd drill, ice in his veins and not a trace of fear in his heart on the biggest stage in college basketball.

I love this team because they're Michigan. I love that we have the best player in the country. I love Hardaway and the trio of freshman that've stepped up and carried this team on their backs when people seemed to stand around and say "Who's gonna do this?" But guys who do more with less make my heart soar, and goddamnit I love Spike. May we all be celebrating around midnight tonight.

- The Daily reminds you again: DON'T PANIC. Let's hope they're right one more time.

Posted 10:55am
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April 5th, 2013

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

- Wormer... dead. Niedermeyer... dead. Ebert... Roger Ebert had a profound impact on my life (and not just because he wrote Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, which if you haven't seen, what's wrong with you?) I watched his movie review show from the time when it was called Sneak Previews and only appeared on PBS late Sunday nights. Roger brought the world of cinema into my home every week, and talked about it with the reverence and importance that I thought it deserved. He did more to elevate film discussion and the way we think about the medium than, well probably anyone. And here's the thing I admire most about the man: while being a consummate showman and publicity hound, he never once dumbed down his message or sacrificed the integrity of his dialogue. Nobody does that anymore, which is a terrible shame. Thanks Roger. You were a class act, and even when we disagreed, I respected your argument.

- Want to spend your afternoon reading about Roger?

- Famous people write and tweet obits.
- His ten best films of all time.
- His favorite films by year.
- The Best of Ebert on TV.
- 20 great movie pans.
- The Trib pays tribute.
- So does the AVClub.
- 13 great quotes from the man.

- Who doesn't hate Ticketmaster/Live Nation? 33% of what it costs me to attend a show goes directly to filling their coffers. How is that even legal? Live Nation is the eviler of two evils, as their site rarely works. I haven't been able to purchase tickets through their site the last few times I've tried because I get weird error messages. So today I emailed them this:

Everytime I try and buy tickets on your site, I get a forbidden, You don't have permission to access /checkout/order on this server. Your fees are outrageous and I'd give anything to never have to use your horrible service ever again, but congratulations on your monopoly, I'm stuck with your incompetence. Please kill yourself.

I hate you ticketbastard.

- In a move surprising no one, Conservative/Libertarian Think Tank The Mercatus Center names North Dakota as the most free state in the Union. Also not surprising, libertarians unconcerned with the rights of women and minorities, exclusively care about tax bourdon. You're terrible human beings.

- Finally, Michigan plays Syracuse Saturday night for the right to play in the national championship game. I will be pacing in my backyard, trying very hard not have some sort of aneurysm or other physical malady. Although if you believe the kids over at the Michigan Daily, everything's gonna be alright.

Posted 11:45am
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April 4th, 2013

Humblebrag?

I know nothing about jazz, opera or classical music in general. I'm not well read. I have a cursory understanding of physics and chemistry. On the other hand, I know more about those subjects than 75-90% of the population (depending on which one you're talking about.) I think this says more about the public at large than me in particular. I'm smart enough to recognize Coltrane, Wagner or Beethoven by ear. I've read most of Shakespeare and can at least summarize the plots of the classics. I can even try and explain string theory, but I'm also smart enough to know that I barely scratch the surface of these things, and that I'm ultimately a dummy.

I say this partly because I am inherently self-deprecating for an arrogant asshole, and partly as defense mechanism. No one wants to be the guy who acts like he knows Chicago because he once went to Wrigley Field. That guys a dick and will eventually get called on his shit by someone who actually knows what they're talking about, leaving the dick to walk away, head hung low Charlie Brown style with the sad piano music playing in the background. No one wants to be Charlie Brown. He's the Charlie Browniest.

Stuff I do claim to know quite a bit about is another story. That I will go out on a limb on, counting on the fact that my superior knowledge will get me through. I'm comfortable discussing the cinematography of Gordon Willis, and will bring it up both because I think it's interesting and to make it seem like I'm really smart. At one point I'm sure that I thought that women would find this attractive, but I'm pretty sure that never panned out. I should have hung out at the Michigan Theater more.

Of course there's always someone who knows more than you, and you will eventually be summarily dismissed by them in a condescending manner. It will make you feel small and angry and leave you justifying why that guy's an asshole who really doesn't understand the subject in the way that you do. Or at least that's how I roll.

Last night I went to music trivia with my buddy Markie C. I know a lot about music, but I've known Markie C for 20 years and have no issues admitting that he knows more than I do on the subject. That also means that combined, I assume we should be a lock to win any music trivia contest. Through four of five rounds last night, we were the cream of the crop. Almost anyway. There was a lot of obscure 1960's questions that I was lost on. Markie C fared better than I, but we were still down 7 points going into the last round. That round was classical interpretations of recent music - which is basically how quickly can you recognize a melody, hook or rhythm of a song and reference that across your musical database. That's my wheel house. We went from down 7 to up 5 and won the night. I realize that we got lucky with the way the categories fell and perhaps - perhaps - there were teams there with more musical knowledge than us. I'm going to try and concentrate on that rather than the fact that we won, because otherwise I'll soon be making an ass of myself trying to explain Schrodinger's cat to a bunch of physics grad students.

Posted 11:07am
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April 3rd , 2013

What's making Baby Jesus cry this week? - Good luck with that Edition

- Mississippi (surprise) is gearing up to defend a law that allows for prayer in schools. Ugh. I don't even have the energy. You clearly don't get it Mississippi. Perhaps it is because you are woefully uneducated. Good luck with subverting the Constitution.

- Not to be outdone, North Carolina is gonna go ahead and establish a state religion. I'm assuming because they are in stupid-off with Mississippi and want to see who can get laughed out of district court quicker. Good luck Mississippi, NC is going full retard.

- Jerry Fallwell Jr. is looking to create tens of thousands of Kirk Camerons. Good luck with that Jerry, because you have just forced us to create hundreds of thousands of Sylvester Stabones.

- Indiana, in its infinite wisdom, is passing legislation to limit access to abortion services under the guise of "protecting women's health." I'd advise talking to Texas first, Indiana. The long term effects of your crusade might not be what you think they are. Good luck with that.

- Pat Robertson explains why there's no miracles in America: education. Religion needs you to stay dumb and pliant. Good luck with that, religion.

- Finally, I thought Maureen Dowd's column on gay marriage today was well done. I'd wish gay marriage proponents luck, but we don't need it. How about a hang in there?

Posted 10:34am
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April 2nd , 2013

TV Junkie

I don't have cable. I hate saying that - not because I wish I had cable, but because I believe to be impossible to say without sounding smug, satisfied and superior when you do. It's like those assholes who interject "I don't own a TV" before someone can finish the question "Do you watch..." I own a big ass TV and I watch it regularly. I just think cable is for suckers. I've found alternate delivery systems for the shows I love and go to the bar to watch sports. Smug or not, it's better than paying $100+ a month for crappy reality TV and movies cut up with commercials.

Last weekend marked the return of both Doctor Who and Game of Thrones (as well as the season finale of The Walking Dead) and Mad Men returns next week. 75% of those shows are specifically produced for nerds! But I digress. The BDGF gives me grief regularly for watching too much TV. I regularly go on and on about the quality of current television programming, coupled with how when I watch TV I'm usually also writing or drawing or cataloging or something to occupy other parts of my brain, because that's how I work. She usually stops listening half way through that speech because she was just saying I watch a lot of TV, and I doth protest too much.

Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu - not to mention the Ann Arbor District Library, which has just about every movie and TV show ever on DVD: who needs cable? In fact, regular broadcast TV comes through the coax in my house in glorious high definition whether I pay for it or not. So what's my point? I don't know Babs, but I do know this: there's a lot of great television these days and it's relatively cheap. And Breaking Bad isn't even back until the summer.

Posted 10:40am
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April 1st , 2013

Contemplation

The fact that it was Easter Sunday was probably ultimately serendipitous. I certainly didn't wake up that morning feeling any different. There was no pull or desire to attend mass, much less get up and get dressed before noon. But something inside began to stir as Michigan went up 13-0 against Florida. Let's call it a moment of clarity.

There's probably a certain level of ridiculousness to claim a sporting even moved you to have a religious experience. Over the years of devout atheism, people of various ilks have ascribed myriad things as "my religion." The government. Environmentalism. Science. Yes, Michigan football. But none of those things remotely approach any definition of religion. Especially in the sense that every religious person has tried to describe it to me.

I've had many a conversation over the years debating the existence of God. And while at the end of the day we all know we can't empirically prove that He exists or not, adherents will always describe that feeling. The presence of God in their life. That extra thing that guides them, that comforts them, that is unexplained but undoubtedly exists. That's how they know there's a God.

I've never had that. Certainly not without illicit substances. Not before yesterday I should say. I don't know what any of it means. I feel like my eyes have been opened and my heart is full in a way I've never known before. I don't know if it's God, but for the first time I'm listening, and I'm hoping and praying someone answers.

Posted 11:05am
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This page is written and maintained by Tyler Brubaker. All content is spewed forth from the author's brain, unless otherwise credited. He views his opinion as much more valid than yours, but welcomes all thoughts and comments.