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September 30th , 2013

There's still good in you. I can feel it.

Friday at work someone asked me for a Breaking Bad finale prediction. Noting that it was just going to be awesome and I didn't care to speculate, I nonetheless said that it was going to be akin to the end of the Star Wars saga. Either Walt was the Emperor and Jesse Pinkman's Darth Vader would sacrifice himself to destroy evil incarnate, or (more likely) Walt was Darth Vader and would sacrifice himself to save his Luke/Jesse offspring, redeeming himself in some part and (hopefully) destroying the Empire in the process.

Spoiler alert, in the end my analogy more or less held. Not because I'm a genius and story telling savant (I'm only one of those) but it was pretty obvious from a story telling standpoint where things had to go. Thankfully Vince Gilligan is both of the aforementioned and didn't try to get overly cutesy with anything, he just decided to hit it so far out of the park that everyone everywhere will be comparing all that comes after to that one home run. It's what people good at their jobs do.

Congress is not good at its job. Especially the GOP. In all likelihood, tomorrow the government will shut down. Why? That's simple. The petulant children on the right don't like that the black man gave poor people health care, so they're doing the one thing they can to protest - stop letting us pay our bills. That's what this is about - not new spending, not an increase in anything really - it's paying for things we already purchased. It's going to have disastrous effects on our fragile economy - that's not debatable. It's going to cost me personally when the market tanks, and I'm not that invested. And the only real reason is an idiotic level of hubris, twinged with a little old timey racism.

Last night there was a commercial during Breaking Bad touting Michigan's governor's accomplishments over the last four years. It was a tad hyperbolic and grandiose, but not un-fair. While I voted for the man, I wouldn't do so again because of the ways in which he's screwed education, but as I noted to my viewing party, he's not been horrible. He's been an old school Republican. You know, what it used to mean when I was in short pants. I found myself missing that Republican party. It served as a necessary counterweight to some of the Democrat's follies. We need that GOP back. There's still good in you assholes. I can feel it.

Posted 11:15am
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September 27th , 2013

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

- I just started reading David Sedaris' latest tome, and per usual, there's a fair bit of nostalgia for the good ol' days, where parents were able to be mean and indifferent to their children's happiness. I lap this stuff up, because in my humble opinion, overly coddled children is near the top of our societal level problems. It's also why I love this Louis CK bit. It also feeds my hatred of cellphones and YES, I know I'm guilty of both of the things I just noted loathing, but I'm aware of it and thus am aloud to hover above and look down on everyone else. Shut up. I am.

- For fans of JGL, Steve Merchant, Jimmy Fallon or comedy, I give you the epic lip sync battle.

- For those of you without attention spans to watch internet videos that go on for minutes at a time, here's Pulp Fiction and Star Wars in under 60 seconds. With stick people.

- For Beliebers and fans of the awkward, Between Two Ferns interviews Justin Bieber. It's the only five minutes I've not wanted to slap the kid since I knew he existed.

- Finally, I was on campus the other night visiting the observatory and looking through 100 year old telescopes with the BDGF and the littlest. As we walked back to the car, past the dormitories, we mingled amongst a vast sea of co-eds heading out for the night. All I could think of was "When did so many girls start majoring in Hooker?" This was followed by the thought "I am interminably old" and my descent to elderly curmudgeon will be swift and complete. So here's Paul McCartney on Jimmy Kimmel. You know, from back when music sounded like music, and not this electronic clap trap that kids listen to today.

Posted 11:07am
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September 26th , 2013

Thursdays are for politickin' - You petulant fucking child edition

I don't personally know anyone who doesn't find Ted Cruz a complete fucking embarrassment of an asshat, but let's assume they exist in tiny, tiny numbers. We can all agree however, that it takes a special kind of ignorant, petulant dickhole to go on for 21 hours on the floor of the Senate and get the moral of a beloved children's book completely wrong.

Here's the thing: that imperfect law of the land known disaffectionately on the right as "Obamacare" is coming, and all signs point to it being better for the public than initially thought. It's not what I want. It's not socialist, progressive or even terribly liberal, despite what Harvard educated senators who don't understand Dr. Suess may tell you. But it is an important first step. And at the end of the day, it may benefit you whether you like it or not. It's like science - it applies to you even if you stand in willfully ignorant obstinence to it.

In that vein, I guess what I should be saying is you're welcome. To those I know personally or tangentially who throw racial epithets at the President and rail against him for not helping small business, you're welcome. To the other half of the country who votes against their own interests because blah blah socialism blah blah freedom, you're welcome.

I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for a thank you, much less than an apology, but months from now when you're better off and you're reading your child Green Eggs and Ham, maybe a lightbulb will illuminate over your marble head and somewhere in the recesses of your soul you'll think to yourself "Maybe being a petulant fucking child isn't for me." Somewhere in the distance, you'll hear tbaggervance whisper "You're welcome."

Posted 10:51am
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September 25th , 2013

What's making Baby Jesus cry this week?

- You guys, I almost briefly considered dumping these posts altogether because Pope Francis is the shizzle for rizzle. Of course before that thought could even fully form in my brain, I read about how according to the hosts of the Christian radio show "The Sons of Liberty" all the murders are committed by teh gays, and I decided that my work is not done here. Sally forth!

- You know I've spent my fair share of time in some of the seedier underbellies that this great country has to offer, and I've never once run across the devil. You'd think I'd have a giant target on my back for that guy, but never once so much as a "I'll trade you a pack of cigarettes for your soul." Apparently, according the archbishop of Minnesota, Satan is busy with gay marriage, condoms and porn. I get that the devil likes porn, and maybe thinks it's funny that certain christians are a scared of gay weddings, but I'd bet my life that Satan rides bareback.

- Some Australian creationist claims that Bill Nye doesn't understand science because he doesn't believe the literal interpretation of the Bible. I saw we all go beat the hell out of that guy with a dictionary.

- Speaking of, Texas is once again letting creationist loons mess with their science textbooks. If anyone out there is a lawyer, I'm considering a child abuse case against anyone raising their children in Texas.

-Finally, that pesky science finds religion highly correlational with depression, because science is also for pointing out the obvious.

Posted 10:33am
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September 24th , 2013

Who put this relief map of the Tennessee valley on my face?

Try as I might to stave it off, I turned 38 yesterday. It's not a particularly significant number, outside of how alarmingly close to 40 it is. It did seem significant to me that it was half a lifetime ago when I was a freshman in college, which was also the last time I wasn't someone's dad. That's hard to wrap my head around.

At the end of the day it's arbitrary markers of the passage of time. I do honestly believe that. And I wouldn't go back to being 19 if you paid me. But for the first time (I think) I'm looking at photos from half a lifetime ago and wondering "When was that?" Not in a "I can't remember things" way, but in more of a "Was I ever so young?" vein.

More importantly, was my hair ever so red? I mean, posing for a daguerreotype wasn't the same thing as the fancy camera phones the kids carry today, but that looks hand tinted. It's amazing I didn't burst into flames everytime I went in the sun back then.

Posted 2:49pm
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September 20th , 2013

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

- Happy Friday everyone! I know that sometimes life is hard. That it's hard to find prescient examples of justice in the world. That it often feels like we are as a species in a state of rapid descent towards the basest of natures and are doomed to destroy ourselves. But there - on the hill - a beacon shone so bright that it illuminated humanity and convinced us collectively and wholly, that there is still a chance for our survival. I'm not a religious person, but my first thought at seeing this was there is a god. So shines a good dead in a weary world.

- When I was in college, I constantly pitched a show to anyone who would listen, that consisted of me sitting in my favorite chair watching TV. That was the show. Just me and a guest, watching a different television show as a television show. It was supposed to be absurdist and a commentary on the nascent reality TV genre. It will surprise no one now that I am some kind of all knowing oracle. If you could make my check out to CASH for tax purposes, I would appreciate it Bravo.

- I turn 38 very shortly, and that along with hap and circumstance has led me to find myself taking stock and contemplating what I've accomplished in my life. It doesn't help that someone two years my junior has already managed to traverse the solar system and enter interstellar space. Show off.

- I'm trying to keep up and foster my Shakespeare knowledge, because what's the point of knowledge acquisition if you don't maintain and cultivate it? To wit, I highly recommend this video on original pronunciation productions of Shakespeare's dialogue. I say there is no darkness but ignorance.

- Finally, I also just finished William Shakespeare's Star Wars, a book wherein someone took the time to translate the original space opera into iambic pentameter. It reminded me how good that original movie actually is. Why it is special and why it continues to resonate - so much so that the middling-at-best prequels still manage to make people virulently angry almost 15 years after the first one came out. I won't rehash the arguments here, because you either know them intimately or couldn't give a shit. But as someone who does, and concurrently as someone who is insanely sensitive, emotional and in an indefatigable search for hope, this made me happy. Hopeful. Pining for a blow 'em up movie two years before it hits screens may be a little childish and stupid, but if finding solace in something that has a chance to be beautiful and true is wrong, I don't want to be right. Even if it has Wookies.

Posted 1:24pm
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September 19th , 2013

Backhanded Thanks

When your workplace says "Thank you" by buying you lunch, what they're really saying is "Hey, remember all that extra work you did and the shit you had to put up with? How about you spend your one free hour a day with these assholes as a sign of our appreciation!?!" Next time, how about I give you $10, you kick me in the balls, and we both go about our business, because I'm still catching up on all my normal work that I neglected last week while doing that project you're so "appreciative" of.

The next person that says "team building" gets a detached retina.

Posted 4:17pm
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September 18th , 2013

Not for emetophobes

I felt terrible for Siddhartha when he got his housing assignment. When I was a freshman I was exiled to North Campus - a satellite area of the University only accessible by bus. It's where they stick engineers, artists and musicians. That part isn't so terrible, but being removed from the main campus by a 10 minute bus ride was. It turns you into an old person quickly - as in "It's too cold to go down to campus, let's stay in tonight." Sid is an engineer so his assignment up north was less terrible, but he still has to deal with that bus.

We called it the Vomit Comet. On Fridays and Saturdays, after heavily pre-drinking in our rooms, we'd head down to campus to whatever party was rumored to be letting freshman in. At some point in the journey, someone who had overdone it would predictably spew on themselves, or in the seat next to them, which were molded plastic and served as a nice bowl to hold the barf. The offender would get off at the next stop to spend the night in bed, and the warm regurgitit would shlosh back and forth in its container the rest of the way to campus. Good times.

Of course things have changed in the last 20 years. The buses are nicer now, and more eco-friendly. I'm told the seats are no longer molded plastic, although I'm not sure that helps or hurts the throw-up conundrum. One thing they apparently downgraded was the doors. Last week on his way to the game, Sid was on a bus to campus that was on going around a corner when the doors spontaneously opened, spilling three co-eds onto the street. When he was telling the story I said impossible, but apparently Sid doesn't exaggerate.

Sid was less chagrinned than I was we got assigned to North Campus. After all, that's where all the classes in his major are, and he's less concerned with going to campus ragers than I was at his age. He's a much more responsible human than I was at 18, and also a much more go with the flow soul. As long he doesn't stand near the doors of the vomit comet, he should be just fine.

Posted 11:59am
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September 17th , 2013

This Week in Indie Rock

- So let's get this out of the way, it being the elephant in the room: Fiona Apple covered Willy Wonka for Chipotle. Whew. I know I feel better.

- Other things to watch as they move: The Pixies play Fallon, and The Hold Steady return (sort of, just watch).

- Speaking of THS, why don't they open for the recently reunited Replacements on a tour of the midwest? Has there ever been a better fit on a double bill? It's like the anti-Guns 'n' Roses/Metallica bill from the mid-90s. Or the opposite of when Sammy Hagar and David Lee Roth went on the "snubbed by Van Halen" tour. I'm just sayin' I'd go see it. If you are unfamiliar with the 'Mats, here's a beginners guide to their work. Or you could just go listen to "I Will Dare" and if that doesn't do it for you, I can't help you.

- Finally, I don't suppose most people sit around and think about the evolution of their musical tastes outside of in conversation saying "I used to love that band, whatever happened to them?" I however, am a self-reflective music snob who while painting with broad strokes enjoys the minutia of nuance. I dive down rabbit holes as to how my musical tastes during different points of my life are influenced by my romantic relationships or parenting or significant concerts I saw or just who I find myself hanging around with. I find it a fascinating exercise, but that's the type of person I am. I thought a lot about the late 1990s when I heard this song from Cleveland's Signals Midwest. I was a bleary eyed parent in a difficult relationship trying to stay young and independent and thus clutched and grabbed at the post-emo, hardcore twinged, power pop of things like Cap'n Jazz and The Get Up Kids. I think I would have loved the Signals Midwest back then, and now I merely find them interesting and solid. The irony is that 15 years later, I'm more likely to go see a band like them in a tiny bar in Detroit some Saturday night. I may have finally figured out the staying young and independent part, at least until it turns to sad and desperate.

Posted 11:53am
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September 16th , 2013

From totally geek, to totally sheik (and vice versa).

So that sucked. Last week I was tasked with upgrading 400+ machines from Windows XP to Windows 7. Not all by myself of course, but it was a stressful, 60+ hour week. The blog was the first thing to go. So we missed a lot, and I can't begin to make up for the lost time, especially since I'm still doing that with my normal work activities.

Ten days is a lot of time though. In that period Michigan football went from knocking on the door of being in the national championship conversation, to will we win another game? College football is fickle like that. Whatever just happened is going to keep happening forever, ignoring part two of Newton's laws of motion (that being that outside forces exist.) We're all dumb and reactionary like that, even people like myself who have been paying attention for 30 years and know empirically that it's not true.

Politics is dishearteningly similar. Blinded by affiliation, the forest hides among the trees. Minds are made up and courses are set, new and pertinent information be damned. That's the opposite of leadership. That was at the top of the list as to why I hated our last president, and more importantly, it has everything to do with why I voted for our current president twice.

In the last ten days, we went from certain war with Syria to totally having an out. The knee jerk reaction of course is to be how the administration derped its way into it, but does that make it more or less admirable? Our pragmatic President hits nails on heads:

Had we rolled out something that was very smooth and disciplined and linear, they would have graded it well, even if it was a disastrous policy. We know that, because that’s exactly how they graded the Iraq war.

That's who I want leading me. That's who I want in charge. Last week during the Notre Dame game, this happened:

Brady Hoke desperately tries to call a timeout, and when he fails and we score a touchdown anyway, he shrugs his shoulders with a wry smile. I'm trying to figure out how after working my ass off for a week despite my employers certain disdain for me is going to lead me to come out the other side smelling like roses a la President Obama or Brady Hoke, but I'm struggling to find a throughline. My patience is waning.

Posted 10:20am
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September 6th , 2013

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

- We've been largely ignoring politics here at tbaggervance.com, at least directly, for awhile now. Mostly because, as it pertains to my proclivities, nothing's happening. Or at least nothing that I feel I have anything worth publicly bloviating about. I will however, come out strongly in favor of this, as it only seems fair.

- I don't know how you watch this and don't immediately want Patrick Stewart to be your new best friend.

- How are we decorating our dorm room? Ohio decorates their ER with the name Abercrombie and Fitch.

- Barely missing the other day's deadline for indie rock: Abbey Road's side 2 acapella, Neko plays Fallon, and The Pixies birth new music.

- Finally, it's Michigan/Notre Dame weekend. The last one in Ann Arbor maybe ever. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone who is making the trek to our little corner of the world to share in the high holiday, and am more than a little sad for those who won't be there. I hope to look over my shoulder in the fourth quarter and see you there in Return of the Jedi silhouette, and we can all sing "Hail to the Victors" together.

Posted 10:12am
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September 5th , 2013

They don't mean to but they do.

It should go without saying that I love my parents and they did right by me, beyond any measure that I can think of. Of course no one's perfect. Communication may have not been their strongest of points. Kindly it's a steely reserve, but in actuality it's a Brubaker trait to always be nervous and fretting about something that's not your actual problem. You need an outlet to bitch about something, but it's never what you're actually worried about. You never burden anyone with that.

My father had a nervous breakdown in his thirties. He turned the same age his father was when he died and basically decided not to get out of bed for awhile. My mother waited until no one was around to die. I can't prove that one, but she called everybody home because she knew it was time, and then waited until we all left to pass away. She didn't want to bother anyone by having to be there for the end. I can't prove it, but I know it.

I've been thinking a lot about those two things as of late, as I've been scatterbrained at best these last couple of months. Sid was moving out. Markie C was moving away. I've got work issues. It took a toll on my psyche and of course there was collateral damage. I internalized as much as I could, which isn't healthy in and of itself, plus keeping it all in is an impossibility - something is gonna bleed out, and when it does, you've lost the ability to control how and when.

So I've got some bad habits. Some flawed traits that need work. I hope that by identifying and owning up to them I can get around them or at least keep them in check. You are who you are, but we're still all capable of being the best versions of ourselves. Then you just hope that's good enough (and that's the version your kids see.)

This Be The Verse
by Phillip Larkin

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.

Posted 10:51am
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September 4th , 2013

This week in Indie Rock

- Legendary drunken bar band The Replacements reunited for the first time in 22 years recently, making you feel super old (unless you only know those two Paul Westerburg songs from the Singles soundtrack, in which case you may just feel nostalgic, making me feel older. What I'm getting at is I hate you and your young looking skin.) I would have loved to see the show, but downloading the mp3s is almost as good when it comes to the curiosity factor. I mean, of course Westerburg forgets the lyrics to "I Will Dare" even though there's 10 words in the whole song, but not because he's drunk or pissed at Tommy, which is the train wreck you want to see if you're gonna roam this planet telling people you saw the 'Mats once.

- Newly streaming tunes: an Ezra Furman single and an Army/Navy EP. Both are wonderful and should speed you through this humpday afternoon.

- Newly announced albums: Paul McCartney, Sleigh Bells, a Death Cab re-release and if you parse twitter correctly, Sleeper Agent. You can also find hints about the next Hold Steady record there, but now we're really getting ahead of ourselves.

- Music related videos: Neko Case makes borscht and Patton Oswalt starts a heavy metal tuba band. Most importantly though: Simon Pegg and Nick Frost perform the definitive cover of "Get Lucky". I haven't heard the original, but that's flawless.

- Finally, here's The Hold Steady's Craig Finn talking about his love of the Minnesota Twins. I probably don't have to point out that Craig loves the Twins in part because they are underdogs, and that I and so many others love him and his band in part for the very same reason. Long live those who do more with less, and in their own way and under their own terms. At the end of the day, they've already won before the game is played.

Posted 10:18am
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August 30th , 2013

Exodus

So I wrote this Wednesday night before moving Sid into his dorm room. I'm posting it now. For the record, he lives on a floor with 3 other guys and 16 girls. He has his own shared bathroom. I kind of hate him right now.

This might be weird, inappropriate and awful; probably the first, maybe the second but hopefully not the third. I'm writing it anyway because it's kind of overwhelming in my brain right now. In any case, you've been warned.

I don't remember crying when my mom died. I bawled when we had our heart to heart shortly before she passed, but not after she was actually gone. I could chalk it up to being strong or just putting on a good face, but truthfully I was flooded with such a mix of emotions that waxed and waned with such speed and ferocity that I don't think the tears ever found time to take root. Or for the dam to break or some other, better metaphor.

Of course my state was mostly infinite sadness. I lost my mother much too soon so that part doesn't necessitate explanation. I was also happy, because as anyone who has seen a loved one waste away from cancer will tell you, you're glad their suffering is over. But you're also (or I was anyway) glad that your suffering is over, and that's the tip of a tricky iceberg.

I also felt a huge sense of guilt - for not being a better son at the top of the list. There was nervousness over having to deal with mourners, anxiety over being an atheist at my mother's Catholic funeral and pride for all of the people who came to pay their respects (perhaps a little anger towards anyone who didn't.) There was also elation that I didn't have to tell my mother that Sid's mother and I were separating.

Coincidentally, the last and only other time I was awash in such conflicting and competing emotions was when Sid's mother told me she was pregnant. Fear, anxiety, nerves, sadness, guilt, happiness - all there seven years earlier in a different concoction. There was no not telling my mother that time, and not coincidentally, I thought about her reaction a lot as we laid her to rest. It was weird to concentrate on the former as I was going through the latter, but I suppose I was connecting times of such intense emotion. I've been doing it again as I send Sid off to college.

Today he's moving into the dorms. No more partner to go see superhero movies with. No one to enlist in helping me with some lame project or other. No one to play games with who understands the way games are supposed to be played - to the death and with severe disdain for your opponent (whom you love.) No one to help me balance the avalanche of estrogen in my house. He won't be at the dinner table, he won't be downstairs when I want to talk to him. He's gone, outside of holidays and special occasions, probably for good.

Not that he did so after turning on his heel and throwing his middle finger in the air. He's going to Michigan, which I can't explain to you in any cogent manner how amazing is to me. It's literally all I've wanted for him (and me) his entire life. And while I have guilt about my shortcomings in raising him and anxiety that he'll do well and excitement for all the fun he's going to have (as well as metric tons of other emotional responses) it's not like I can't see him almost anytime I want. Still though...

The calming factor of it all this time is the throughline. I think of my mother's reaction, were she able to provide it, knowing what he's accomplished. I think of how happy she'd be knowing that he did well, and thus I failed to screw it up. In that sense, it's a music up, couples kiss happy ending. Which, me being who I am, means I will cry like a baby when it happens. They'll just be tears of joy. Mostly.

Posted 11:57am
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August 28th , 2013

What's making Baby Jesus cry this week?

- Lesbians are coming to steal your seed and enslave you. Am I the only one finds the coincidence that people who want to live in an idealized 1950s version of America also want that decade's weird horror movies to return hilarious?

- Here's a creationist who wants evolution taught in religion class. I laughed out loud when he said "Now, that may belong in a comparative religions class, where you can teach all sorts of varieties of nonsense," because he called religion nonsense (OK, all religion that isn't his) but I can't put it any better than the Fark headline: Creationist wants evolution taught as religion not biology, two fields which he misunderstands completely.

- Pat Robertson says teh gays spread AIDS by pricking people with special rings. Wait until he finds out about semen charged lesbians.

- Finally, well reasoned and educated people have no problem understanding morality sans religion, to the point that I personally find the idea that we need religion to be moral offensive. And there's tons of annecdotal and correlational evidence to prove that point. But now! Proof that science triggers moral behavior. Viva la science!

Posted 11:57am
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August 27th , 2013

It's great to be a Michigan Wolverine

You'll forgive me, but as my son sits on the precipice of leaving me forever and Michigan prepping its return to the gridiron, I'm a little preoccupied with my alma matter. I of course think it's the greatest institution of higher learning in existence, as well as having the greatest, most tradition rich athletic department anywhere. But that's me. What does science say?

- The HuffPo ranked the "Best and Most Collaborative U.S. Colleges" and spoiler alert, it's great to be a Michigan Wolverine.

- Which is the greatest Big Ten town for football fans? It's getting embarassing already.

- Speaking of football, what are we looking forward to this season?

- Finally, for those of you who think this is all nonsense (e.g. all of you) here's Dante's Inferno in Lego and two awesome gifs from NASA:

Posted 11:46am
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August 26th , 2013

Summer of Shakespeare: What did we learn?

Last night we finished our Summer of Shakespeare with Henry V. It turned out to be a prescient choice (even though it got bumped on the schedule due to our trip to Cananada to see Othello and thus was more a case of hap and circumstance rather than choice, but I digress) as the historical nature of the play, coupled with the fact that some it is in French, humbled me into realizing I don't know shit about Shakespeare yet.

I asked the BDGF what she learned over our Summer of Shakespeare as the credits rolled last night and she said "That Richard Branagh is an actor and a director?" I'm not sure what level of a joke answer that was, but in that vein, I'd say that if you take a copy of the complete annotated Shakespeare out into the wild, at least one person will ask you if you are reading the dictionary. Every. Time.

There are certain things I'll freely admit that I don't know shit about. Jazz. Opera. Russian literature. Partical physics. When I do cop to that though, I usually caveat it by saying "I mean, I know more than 90% of the population, but that still accounts for jack shit." I don't know that I'm on that level when it comes to Shakespeare even after this summer. I'd like to be there, but I'm reluctant to throw out such a paltry proclamation.

I certainly can now summarize plots, name characters and talk about the themes of what I've read. Since the impetus was to be better at Shakespeare trivia questions, I've more than served my purpose. But what did I actually learn? I think the most import thing was a reaffirmation of my existing belief at how important the Bard is. Or even more broadly, how important the classics are. Or even more importantly, how essential lifelong learning is: how dumb and undereducated I am, and how I want to keep rectifying that, knowing full well I'll never eradicate that condition. Fortunately I still find that more exhilarating than exhausting.

Posted 11:59am
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August 23rd , 2013

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

- We are less than a week away from the 2103 college football season! That of course means the much anticipated return of We are So Good at Football. Stov and I are back to tipsily inform you about who's hot and who's not on the gridiron. This weeks preseason ep is a little rambly, but we promise to be back in midseason form for our week one preview next week.

- Normally when I see links that make ridiculous claims about changing your life, I'm put off by the hyperbole (go figure, I know.) While I wont cop to having my life changed, this shortcut for reopening closed tabs in Chrome is quite tasty. It has the potential to save me seconds a week.

- For your listening pleasure: the new Neko Case album in its entirety, a new Cloud Nothings sketch from Dylan Baldi, and most importantly, listen to Dolly Parton's "Jolene" slowed way the fuck down. Interestingly, I recently discussed with the BDGF what the greatest song of all time was that had the fewest amount of words in its lyrics, and when I saw this link to "twentytwowords.com" I got stupid excited. Turns out there's more than 22 words in Jolene, so it was short lived.

- The World's End comes out today, and I say fie on you if you're not already in line. If you're reading this on your phone as you wait for previews to start, may I suggest this dance mashup featuring Edgar Wright's latest, along with sounds from Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.

- Finally, Siddhartha is less than a week away from leaving home and starting his dorm and college life. It hath made me more than a tad reflective, as you might imagine. There's a lot I want to say, but I'm struggling with what's appropriate to put down on the internet. I know that's weird coming from me, but as David St. Hubbins once said "too much fucking perspective." Anyway, one thing I am happy about is that just in time for his arrival, there's now condoms in the dorm vending machines. Viva la progress! Because I will not be a grandfather before 40.

Posted 9:34am
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August 22nd , 2013

What's making Baby Jesus cry this week?

- What with Pope Francis coming out and saying that the gays are no worse than the Jews (I'm paraphrasing), The Onion takes a look at the church's views on homosexuality throughout history.

- Included in this article summarizing the nuttiest right wing comments of the week: Pat Robertson says killing someone in a video game is the same as murder in real life (he may have just watched A Nightmare on Elm Street for the first time), Rick Santorum can't shower at the Y because liberals, Mike Huckabee reaches out to the Islamic community and Rep. Steve King says climate change is a religion, not science. He then predictably goes to show how he has no understanding of science, which of course.

- Here's a creationist telling you that dragons are real, because they were in the Bible. No, really, he said it. They do exist! And by they, I mean people that dumb.

- Here's some science that says religiosity is negatively correlated with intelligence. It's something I want to believe, but I don't trust the science yet. It's still my operating thesis though.

- The government is trying to give a tax break to a church, and the church is refusing. Probably because the "church" is a bunch of atheists saying "How do you not get this?"

- Finally, even Jesus is trying to cash in on the final episodes of Breaking Bad. If you want to make the case that Walter White is the devil, I'm listening.

Posted 10:58am
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August 21st , 2013

Wormer... dead. Niedermeyer... dead. Leonard...

I met Elmore Leonard once at a book signing. He was in his late seventies at the time, and even if you had no idea who the man was, you could tell he was the coolest guy in the room. When it came time to get my book signed, he asked me my name and said "That's a good name. I'll have to use that in my next book." Now even before I read his next several books and never saw my name anywhere, I assumed this was something he said to people because it was a cool thing to tell someone. Me being a smitten kitten ate it right up. But I was already a member of the cult of Dutch.

I started reading his novels in high school, and then during college, when Get Shorty, Jackie Brown and Out of Sight came out, I started to worship them. His Rules of Writing are spot on, even if I am woefully undertalented to abide by them. I tend to lean towards style over substance when I write, because it's all I'm capable of. Dutch was complete substance. He was spartan without being bland. You know how sometimes you eat something super spicy and it makes your eyes water but at the end of the day, it's just a bunch of hot sauce dumped in there to get a reaction? And then you have something that's not as over the top, but it has a complex heat. It hints at things and lets other flavors enhance the experience. You may not have the palate to accurately describe everything that's going on, but it's there and you can't help but enjoy it. That was an Elmore Leonard book to me. Everything else was knock off hot sauce.

It of course didn't hurt that he was from Detroit, about which he accurately noted "There are cities that get by on their good looks. Detroit has to work for a living." I was also weirdly proud that characters in his novels always seemed to be going to Ann Arbor to buy drugs. OK maybe that was just in Freaky Deaky, but I still loved it. You can (and should) read obits from HuffPo and Grantland. The NYTimes has a video homage to his films, annarbor.com has a local perspective and Salon tries to get to why he matters. Of course what you should really do is go read his books. They're guaranteed to make you feel cool.

Posted 10:10am
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August 20th , 2013

Should we or should we not follow the advice of the galactically stupid?

- Sometimes you take a step forward only to take a few back. The National Institute on Drug Abuse is still pushing the misnomer that marijuana is as or more harmful than alcohol. This is most lamentable since it's A.) False and B.) being propagated by people who are supposed to promote SCIENCE. It turns out that the Seattle Police Department are smarter and more benevolent.

- There are few things dumber than parents who refuse to vaccinate their children. Unfortunately, these dolts are on the rise here in Michigan. Pro tip: you can "philosophically" opposed to something, but that doesn't change the science. Thankfully I don't have small children whom I have to keep from playing with the poor unvaccinated bastard down the street. Those kids are in for a rough one, and that's before they get a very preventable disease.

- While I am certainly imperfect, people driving while texting drives me batshit crazy. You know you're basically drunk driving when you're doing it, right? Still unconvinced? Watch this documentary and realize what a horrible human being you've been.

- Someday you'll be as embarrassed that you thought climate change wasn't anthropogenic as you are about those gay jokes you made in junior high. Or you won't and you should die in a fire.

- Remember when we all thought that Ayn Rand was a solipsistic idiot? Also known as the good ol' days.

- Finally, I don't normally promote Twitter as a place to go and learn anything, but Patton Oswalt has elevated the platform to a new level. Shine on, you crazy diamond.

Posted 9:55am
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August 19th , 2013

Paralysis.

Friday the BDGF and I took the girls on a behind the scenes tour of Michigan stadium. It was set up by 826 Michigan, which is partly why the BDGF got suckered in and brought the girls along. I don't know if she considered that it would be the end of all of my cognitive functions not relating to Michigan football for several months, or if she did the math and figured, who gives a shit if that happens now or in ten days? Either way, inevitable.

I realize I probably write this post almost verbatim every year. I know that while it's slightly hyperbolic, it's not nearly as much so as I'd be comfortable admitting. We all are assured that while the tone of what I'm writing right now is glib, self deprecating and hopefully somewhat humorous, the subject I'm addressing is decidedly not. At least to me.

Yes, it's dumb and trivial and juvenile and makes no analytic sense. The funniest part to me is that I bet the BDGF finds it impossible that I once took this much more seriously than I currently do. Early in our relationship when we were talking about moving things forward, it was at the top of a short list of things I would kindly not like fucked with. I know it's ridiculous, but if we can just please leave it at that and let it be sacrosanct, we'll all be fine.

I sometimes feel guilt about how seriously I take all of it and the unintended consequences it has on her and the rest of the household. All of the Saturdays consumed by my obsession. The days leading up to and after where I am off in my own head thinking about it. I take the guilt I feel as a sign of maturation, as that emotion was unfathomable to me 20 years ago. I guess that's baby steps, but hey, we're 12 days out. Leave me alone.

Posted 11:50am
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August 16th , 2013

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

- I don't always use hot sauce, but when I do, I apparently have impeccable taste. The top 2 in this top ten have been staples in my kitchen for years now.

- What is happiness? My instinct this time of year would be to wax poetically about Michigan football, but Alfred Hitchcock kind of nails it in more universal terms.

- Remember how Orson Scott Card pulled a "Come on, guys!" over a potential boycott of the Enders Game movie because he's a giant homophobe? Well he went out and wrote a big racist fantasy about how Obama is going to stay in power forever, just in case you were thinking about making an argument that separates art from author. Pro tip: comparing someone to Hitler is never the trump card you think it is.

- I'm as guilty as they come when it comes to painting rural yokels as ignorant, gun toting, Jesus loving rubes. I paint with a big brush, use broad strokes and am sure to use several coats for complete coverage. So I'd be remiss in my sense of fairness not to post this segment from The Colbert Report. Well done sir. That guy at the end gives me hope for humanity.

- Finally, the summer of Shakespeare is winding down but already being talked about as one of the great ideas ever. I hope to someday soon find a way to port this still developing curriculum to the public somehow, as Ann Arbor is surely full of enough nerds who can get behind this idea. tbaggervance.com inner circle member Dr. Walker sent me this, which is a good reminder of how much the Bard infects our day to day language. Speaking of, this:

Enjoy the weekend, I'll be reading and watching The Merchant of Venice.

Posted 11:36am
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August 15th , 2013

This Week in Indie Rock.

- Closing out our post-Cananadian love fest, here's a guide for the uninitiated to our Northern neighbors greatest rock export: Rush.

- In Huckster Jack news, his ex-wife filed a restraining order, and he filed with the court in turn. So much Nashvillian drama.

- White guys covering white guys! Comedians lip sync Mumford & Sons, Ted Leo covers the Ramones. Neither is a surprise nor a stretch. Both are fabulous.

- Ranking Elvis Costello albums. I have an unnatural love for that Burt Bacharach collaboration.

- More new Neko Case. Also predictably great.

- Wanna watch Brain May deconstruct the multitrack from "Bohemian Rhapsody" for half an hour? The correct answer is "Yes and on a loop please, forever and ever."

- Finally, the other day I was listening to a conversation between Bill Simmons and Chuck Klosterman where they asked each other what TV show or character did they embarrassingly identify with, perhaps even to this day. I could easily say "The oversensitive boy on every teenage drama for the last 25 years," but honestly I immediately thought "Seth Cohen." Seth and I didn't have much in common, except for our nerdy love of pop culture, which just happened to be an almost perfect Venn diagram of two overlapping circles. Here's a great article about indie rock, The O.C. and how they co-existed and developed together. It does make me want to call in sick tomorrow and binge watch the first two seasons. Welcome to the O.C., bitch.

Posted 10:52am
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August 14th , 2013

The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.

"Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. " Along with "Don't be an asshole," it's the closest thing I have to a mantra. I say that knowing I trade in my share of righteous indignation as well as having been called an asshole by everyone I've ever known for more than five minutes, but these are goals to strive towards, not a maintenance reminder. Plus there's some sort of adage I'm supposed to remember when it comes to shortcomings. What was it again?

This ideal is especially important to remember when it comes to politics, where there is no perfect. Count me among the literally everyone who voted for Obama and has been disappointed by him. But anyone who claims to have been duped, swindled or baited and switched is either woefully naive, complaining just to complain, or both. I voted for a pragmatist who was going to try and do a few big things and otherwise generally govern within the system, but do so from a position of reason and analytic thought. Otherwise known as the opposite of the previous eight years.

In my estimation, that's what we've got more or less. Take Eric Holder. I don't have a lot of love for the guy. He's screwed the pooch more than once in his tenure. But the other day he came out and said "Too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no truly good law enforcement reason." As the NYTimes pointed out, it's a statement so "duh" that even in Washington, no one came out to rail against it. I'm sure at some point someone will, when we get into the implications of racism and classism, but this is one thing to not aspire to be #1 at.

Here was my immediate reaction when this initiative was announced: this would have never happened under a Republican president. It's a no brainer. It's math. It's the humane and just thing, but the machinations of the GOP wouldn't allow it. That made me sad, except for the fact that it's happening, and I got over my melancholy. Is this pronouncement a day late and a dollar short? Absolutely. But it's happening, just like health care reform and gays in the military and dozens of other things that aren't perfect but steps in the right direction. The future has already won, that's important to remember too, but we should still take time to appreciate the steps people take to move that agenda forward more quickly, as imperfect as they may be.

Posted 10:36am
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August 13th , 2013

Crusade.


Cananada gets it.

I have no problem with a carbon tax. I love that Congress dictates what lightbulbs we can buy. I'd vote to increase gas taxes to pay for infrastructure and I long for the day when we ban plastic bags. I assume we all think that people who drive Hummers might as well have the word "douche" tattooed on their foreheads, but that's not the way to move an environmental agenda forward.

It's the classic catching flies with honey argument. Environmentally and otherwise, I try and convince people to modify their behavior based on a reward system - usually saving them time or money. Americans however, are convenience addicts. I mean I get it - if you have a full time job and a couple of kids (which is almost everyone I know at this point) every second in a day can be precious. You're already trying to think ahead and anticipate over 1,000 things before lunch, where you get hydration probably isn't near the top of your list, but it should be.

Bottled water is pretty much the worst thing ever. To me, the most mind boggling thing about that link is that it doesn't include the fact that bottled water didn't even exist 20 years ago. OK it existed, but not with the ubiquity it does now. It's merely a product of marketing and convenience. That alone should shame you from using it, but that's clearly not working.

The BDGF and I have argued about this many a time. There's constantly bottled water in our house and I feel like I'm always 10 seconds away from an epileptic fit. I can't understand why she can't put tap water in one of the 75 refillable water bottles littering our kitchen before she leaves the house. She'd call me a hypocrite for drinking 20oz bottles of Diet Coke, so I tried to get a little quid pro quo by purchasing a refillable tumbler to put my Diet Coke in, thus lessening my environmental impact. She still bought a case of bottled water for the littlest's birthday party. It almost gave me an aneurysm.

I hope I don't come across as trying to sound holier than thou. I just think this is an issue easily solved by a modicum of foresight. I have half a dozen canvass bags in my car for when I go shopping. Sometimes they run out or I forget to take them into a store and I am forced to use a plastic bag. It makes me feel guilty. I'm not saying bottled water shouldn't necessarily exist (although I'd pretty much vote for that) but I want people to feel guilty when they are forced to use it. I mean not drinking bottled water saves you money AND gives you an opportunity to accessorize with a cool refillable bottle that you can carry around while shooting death stares at people chugging Desani. We can all get behind that, right?

Posted 10:44am
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August 12th , 2013

We are North American.

Outside of a little Bob and Doug Mackenzie buffoonery and being 10-15 years behind the times culturally, most Canadian stereotypes are positive. They are polite. Their cities are clean, poverty and crime are low. They have kick ass universal health care and awesome European style socialism. I don't get poutine, but I'm still a fan of Cananada.

During our last night in our neighbor to the North, the BDGF and I tried to figure out what one thing we would export back to the States if we could. Obviously the health care and the politesse, but there's also things like the dollar coin, the fact that they nixed the penny, the metric system and their super secure credit card system (seriously, it makes us look like Uganda.) Canadians are as pragmatic as they are polite.

Now that we've given just praise, here's what Cananada is terrible at: booze and food. The domestic swill favored by the brothers Mackenzie aside, Canadian beer is a joke. The only explanation is that hops don't grow north of 54° 40'. But even the mixed drinks sucked. Your staples were watered down and there wasn't an inspired cocktail to be found anywhere in a city of 2 million people. That's poor form, hosers. And in four days, we had one dish between us that qualified as actually tasty. I'm no foodie, but I also don't generally finish a meal and think "I can't believe they had the balls to charge me for that."

Of course all of it was expensive too, because they have to pay for all that healthcare somehow, and their VAT figures heavily into it. Of course bleeding heart that I am, I don't mind paying that, even as an outsider on vacation. But at one point, the BDGF wondered aloud "I wonder if I'd be willing to trade terrible booze and bad food for universal health care and people being nice to each other." The answer ultimately is of course, because you'd have to, but I hate how much they made me consider it. Perhaps we can trade some of our brewers for some of their lawmakers so that everyone wins. Because if you can't get a decent IPA and get your ACL repaired for free, well you're just not truly civilized.

Posted 11:00am
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August 6th , 2013

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

- I'm always happy to pass along a top ten that Ann Arbor shows up in, like this one where it ranks second among college towns. I'm also happy to report that we are not on this list of the best cities for hippies. I'm still lobbying the city council to ban the String Cheese Incident from ever entering the city limits again.

- I love a good ol' fashioned boycott. For personal reasons, there are several establishments in Ann Arbor that I have vowed to never patronize again, and I am proud to hold firm in my righteous indignation. National boycotts make me feel good too, even though I get a little sad when I pass a Chick-fil-a and know I am not allowed to eat their delicious (and admittedly bigoted) chicken. But now the confusing question of "How do I keep my money from going to the Koch brothers?" has been made easier, as there's an app for that.

- Sid just got back from Lollapalooza, where he somehow managed to miss the last of the last Postal Service show, but turned me on San Cisco, so a net positive for me? That's how I'm taking it. He now officially has a roommate (that's into Pokemon!) and is mere days from moving out of my house, probably forever. I don't think he's even considering the fact that he's leaving me defenseless in a house full of woman. What an asshole.

- Despite my reasonable and analytically erudite objections, we now have a zipline in our backyard. It has a launch tower and everything. You'll have to come over to see it in all its splendid glory; assuming I'm not in jail for negligence once someone permanently maims themselves on the thing. But, whatever baby wants, so...

- Finally, the BDGF and I are off to the great white north today for one last hurrah before the girls return from their summer hiatus in the great American northwest. We'll be hitting Stratford, CA for a little Shakespeare before bumming around Toronto for a couple days. I unfortunately just found out that Edgar Wright's latest opus The World's End is premiering there tomorrow, so if anyone has a line on getting us passes, it'd save me a lot time in planning on how we're going to meet, hang out, and become best friends with him. Otherwise, stayed tuned for details on what will surely soon be classified as an "international incident."

Posted 10:29am
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August 5th , 2013

Words, words, words.

If we think words are things and have no feelings in words...
...then we say things to each other that mean nothing.
But if we felt what we said, we'd say less and mean more.

Those are the words of a homeless man in New York City, captured in the documentary Looking For Richard. I've been thinking of them a lot this summer, as they in a sense quantify and define why I love Shakespeare and decided to undertake this little summer project in the first place. I thought of them specifically today as I read this interesting article about Shakespeare and nothingness.

There's myriad reasons Shakespeare persists to this day - from the mere timing of his existence to the quality of his words. I think why he continues to be the epitome of a wordsmith however, is because he managed to distill the gamut of human emotion in his works: the jealousy of Othello, the guilt of Macbeth, the ambition of Richard III, the lust of Romeo and Juliet, and the point of it all melancholy of Hamlet.

I love words. I love when they are cleverly arranged to make you realize something about yourself or the word in a surprising or interesting way. I love it when those words make me laugh just as much as when they make me cry. I think it's all important and key to understanding each other. When we contemplate the importance of words and the weight that they can carry, perhaps we will choose them more carefully. If we feel them, perhaps we'll take a closer look at their meaning.

Posted 10:26am
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August 2nd , 2013

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

- So apparently the BDGF and I were on TV last week. Channel 4 did a story on 826 Michigan and we shot some B roll stuff. We got cut out of the actual piece (we were apparently in the teasers on the commercials all day) but still worth watching!

- Speaking of: The rest of your Friday watch list: Prepare for the return of Breaking Bad (with bonus top 10 BB MacGyver moments), drunk Ron Weasly wishes Harry Potter happy birthday, a compelling mini-doc call Bankrupt by Beanie Babies, and most importantly, RDJ performs "Driven to Tears" with Sting. /swoon.

- We are four weeks and one day from football season being back! I am slowly resisting the inevitability of going straight down the rabbit hole, wherein I will watch old game film and spent an inordinate amount of time scouring the internet for any hint of information on my beloved Wolverines. But here's a story even the BDGF would appreciate: an Ohio boy got cancer and named his tumor 'Michigan' as motivation to beat the thing. Even Brady Hoke was glad Michigan lost that one. So much so, he invited him and his family to the Big House for The Game this year. Hail to the victors valiant and all that.

- I'm generally excited about two TV developments as of late. One is Google's new Chromecast, a $35 dongle that let's you stream your phone or tablet's video to a television. I certainly don't need it at home, but for $35, imagine being able to stream Netflix to the TV in your hotel room or at your in-laws? Speaking of, the Netflix original series are some of the best programming out there. Obvs. Arrested Development, but I also loved House of Cards and am currently binging on Orange is the New Black, which may be my favorite of the bunch so far.

- Finally, yesterday I was interviewed by my former college at the University of Michigan as part of an initiative to connect with alumni and get feedback on some of their programs. It was a fun little hour where I got to talk about myself and Michigan, which are literally my two favorite things. Near the end of the interview, my fresh faced interrogator asked me what I was most passionate about in life. I gave a wordy, inelegant answer where I talked about information, ideas and the exchanging of those things. How my favorite things in the world was sitting down at the end of the day with my BDGF and a cocktail and talking about whatever came into our purview and then seeing where the discussion takes us. She turned me on to this interview Stephen Colbert conducted with Atul Gawande and more importantly, this article he wrote in the New Yorker about slow ideas. It is very worth your time.

Posted 10:52am
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August 1st , 2013

Gentrification.

Detroit is bankrupt. This is lamentable. The city is far too large to remain tenable in its current incarnation and whatever husk is left after they pay all of the bloated pensions, it'll never return to its 1950s peak. But that's OK.

I don't know when Detroit hit rock bottom, but it wasn't in the last two weeks. I remember Detroit in the 1990s. It was way scarier. Driving around during the day time felt a lot like I had just picked up Fawn Liebowitz on our way to see Otis Day and the Knights. Those parts still exist, don't get me wrong, but the amount of the city you can take your kids without having your head on a swivel has grown exponentially.

A few Saturdays ago we started a Detroit metro adventure in Midtown. It's always been one of the nicer parts of Detroit proper - Wayne Sate is there, as well as the museums and artsy fartsy stuff. But it's still Detroit, and still poor. We were at S'Mittenfest, hearing kids in their 20s rapping about how they don't have enough to eat. It was certainly much lower on the socioeconomic ladder than where I currently sit. It was young people, starting out in life, still figuring it out.

After we headed north to Bloomfield Hills to catch a movie at the Maple Theater. The theater itself is perhaps the nicest I've ever been in. It had plush leather seats that were almost wide enough for two people to sit in, and you could order a glass of beer and take it to your seat (and I don't mean just like in no paper cup.) We pulled into the parking lot in my 2010 Honda Fit and we were twice over the shittiest car in the lot (the row we parked in went Porsche, Lexus, Lexus, Mercedes, some Italian thing I've never heard of that costs more than our house.) The average age was easily twice from where we had just came and while I imagine we "passed", not many people who were just drinking PBR at 2pm on a Saturday at The Magic Stick would have.

We ended the day in fashionable Ferndale, which is a lot like being in Ann Arbor. Everyone is between 25 and 50, they dress nice and drink expensive booze while sitting around and talking about 401ks and kids and Downton Abbey. That or they're young and gay and worried about 'drama', and in ten years they'll be talking about the next decade's Downton Abbey equivalent. Either way you can walk down a not-well-lit side street after midnight without fear of reprisal. It was the most comfortable I felt all day.

I don't want everything to merge towards a Ferndale median, or even a Midtown one. I like neighborhood disparity and am weirdly proud of my ability to somewhat blend in up and down the ladder. But I'm for a vibrant Detroit. I'm for consolidating what's best about the city and trying to concentrate it in order to save it. I want more people from Ferndale and Bloomfield Hills and Ann Arbor to come downtown and spend their money because of the experience that's available there. These are vague, not well born out thoughts - and it's that kind of lack of direction that probably helped bring the city to the brink of ruin. But I hope someone figures things out, because I for one love Detroit, and want it to thrive.

Posted 10:56am
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July 31st , 2013

A custom honored more in the breech than the observance

Remember the Papa Johns guy? He's kinda douche-y, a little rape-y looking. You can tell he uses 'dude' and 'bro' a lot. He's the friend of a friend who you find out is gonna be at a party and thus decide to stay home rather than suffer him. You can tell most of that by the mere cut of his jib, but then he came out in the wake of the ACA and publicly wept at the fact that he might have to charge as much as 50 cents more per pie in order to provide his workers health care. When they say Papa John, they mean da asshole.

As of late, Wal-Mart is having it out with Washington D.C. The district recently passed a law that ostensibly said if Wal-Mart comes to town, then they have to pay people 50% more than the current minimum wage. The Economist lays out the fight fairly. How much can these businesses afford to pay people and still keep prices competitive and low? And moreover, is it right or fair for the government to pick winner and losers, and to ask big business to carry a disproportionate burden?

Well you can probably guess my position on these matters, and now science has started to weigh in. Fast food workers in major cities are walking off the job in protest of their non-living wages. Of course we all assume that an outrageous demand like DOUBLING their salaries would make their business model untenable - because no one is going to pay the same price for a Big Mac as they would to sit down at a nice restaurant and have a proper meal with things like flavor and nutrition. So can we calculate what it would cost acquiesce to these outrageous demands?

We can. A student at the University of Kansas calculated what it would cost McDonalds to double the salary of everyone in their organization and the results are as staggering as you might expect. The price of a certain dignity is a whopping 68 cents per Big Mac and 17 cents for every item on the dollar menu. And that's with doubling the outrageous pay of the CEO and keeping profit levels the same.

I'm at a loss for words, and not a very proud member of our species at the moment.

What a piece of work is a man! How noble in
reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving
how express and admirable! In action how like an Angel!
in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the
world! The paragon of animals! And yet to me, what is
this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me; no

Posted 10:20am
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July 30th , 2013

This Week in Indie Rock

- Details have emerged on new music from tbaggervance.com favorites The New Pornographers and The Blow. Get thee post haste to their back catalogs if you are hereto unfamiliar.

- Speaking of New Pornographers, Neko Case plays the latest live music sensation on the internet, Dressing Room Sessions. Ezra Furman plays live music staple The AV Club Undercover, doing Wilco on the Navy Pier, as it was meant to be.

- Now streaming: New CYHSY, Childish Gambino and The Roots and Elvis Costello. That's right, together at last.

- Somehow, there are still Beatles' photographs to unearth. They are the Tupac of still images. I'm fine with that.

- Finally, I'll probably never forgive myself for skipping the Postal Service reunion tour when it came to Detroit, but here's a cool short documentary to placate my sense of failure, for it hangs o'er me like the great weight of a thousand Gibbards.

Posted 1:31pm
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July 29th , 2013

What's making Baby Jesus cry this week?

What with vacations and several weeks of limited blogging, some of this stuff will likely seem ancient - especially in an internet time frame. Sorry for that, I still want to mention it so you're stuck for today. -Ed.

- Pat Robertson suggests a 'vomit' button for Facebook. So... how often do you think someone Pat's age goes on Facebook? And whom is he friends with that is posting pics of gay couples kissing? As with most things Pat, it goes from improbable to making no sense at all faster than you can say "Methinks he doth protest too much."

- I'm all for a good ol' fashioned boycott for even illogical reasons, but deciding to ban together and not go see Ender's Game because it was written by a hateful bigot is something we should all get behind (pun intended). ESPECIALLY given his outrage and call for tolerance. Fuck that guy in the asshole.

- California's teen birth rate is plummeting, probably thanks to comprehensive sex education. If this makes no sense to you or your reaction is "Yeah but...", please don't have children, don't work with children and preferably go jump off a bridge. From, Analytical Thought.

- Priests are becoming atheists, because (wait for it) they're starting to read the Bible. Money quote: "Hardly anyone reads the Bible. If they did, the whole thing would be in trouble." Finally, we have the clergy on our side.

- The gays in Ohio (as they always have, for the record) have the law on their side. Also of note, Ohio has the gays.

- It's worse in Louisiana, where they're still arresting people on anti-sodomy laws. Bonus: "Whether the law is valid is something for the courts to determine." I'm pretty sure that's been settled you guys.

- In our weekly hat tip to when religion gets things right, here's a reminder as we come upon the anniversary of the Scopes/Monkey trial, not every theologian (even back then) was anti-science.

- Finally, another nod of respect to tbaggervance.com's favorite Bishop of Rome: Catholicism's latest Pope drives around in a late model Ford*, tells people not to build statues of him and says "Who am I to judge, it's OK to be Takei." We're going to ignore that the church is "selling" "indulgences" again, because the fact that it's Twitter (and Twitter is free) is fairly funny. Pray on, Pontiff...

* Ad idea for Ford: From God's mouth to you behind the wheel. Or something like that.

Posted 1:31pm
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July 24th , 2013

Aging gracefully

I've started to tell people I'm 40. People over 30 (or probably even 21) aren't supposed to lie about their age in such a manner, but I figure (or hope anyway) that this will take some of the sting out of the actual event. Plus I've got a kid in college, I'm old. Ultimately, what would be the point of not being truthful about my seniority?

I suppose I'm lucky in the sense that I still have all my hair and weigh what I did when I was 25. I of course look older, but again, not having the outward signs takes the sting out of it. And as long as I kinda sorta still look in the mirror and see 25, it's easy to say "age is just a number" and not fret about being 40. Or egads, even older.

Because when my time comes, I have no qualms about snuffing out the light. Now I don't mean this in a superficial or vain way. If my hair starts to fall out I don't need to be put on suicide watch. But when my body starts to fail and I can't get around or when the inevitable bout of cancer comes calling, there will be no extreme measures to prolong a miserable existence.

I often refer to this as my "ice flow exit strategy." In the Inuit tradition, when I get too old to be useful, just put me on an ice flow and let me drift off into the sunset. Luckily the BDGF and I are on the same page when it comes to this (minus the actual iceflow) and we have a handshake, tacit agreement to take care of the other when the time comes. By that we don't mean spending a year sitting shiva in a hospital room.

The subject came up last weekend, and I drew a flowchart to assist us in the decision making process when the time comes. I recreated it in powerpoint to make it pretty, and now you too can use it to help plan your golden years. You're welcome.

Posted 10:23am
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July 23rd , 2013

On Stephen Malkmus, Chris Martin (and Dave Matthews)

In the final edition of my high school newspaper prior to graduating, I was referred to by my English teacher as "crabby". It was one of those pieces where the teachers all gave their fond farewells to the class of '94 and what they would remember about the individuals therein. My reputation as a pessimist, crank, curmudgeon and hater was already indelible at 18 and would follow me for at least the next 15 years or so, if it doesn't continue to inform many people's driving thrust of who I am to this day. I suppose my vitriol was even worse than the general teenage malaise of "everything is stupid", because I was singled out for it, and continue to be by certain sectors of the populace to this day. I am effectively Mikey from the Life cereal commercials.

Given that my obsession with music has been a constant over that entire time frame, my hatred of certain sectors of the art form have always been at the forefront of how I treat and talk about it. When modern country broke in the early nineties, I hated all of it: the entirety of the genre that ever existed. This lasted until the alt-country boom during college and my subsequent crush on a girl who loved Uncle Tupelo. Now I love Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson and early Wilco and can even admit that Garth Brooks is a hell of a performer and better than average song writer. Begrudgingly, but still...

I had the inverse relationship with Dave Matthews. I loved DMB for for most of my University matriculation. I had a fuck you attitude towards all of his fans who would sit around and argue about who heard him first and was thus the purest of "Under the Table and Dreaming" heart. Dave was for everyone to enjoy. Then at some point, around the time Jerry Garcia died and they became the heir apparent to that ethos, I started to hate Dave Matthews. It became stupid hippy clap trap that I intuited during an epiphany was adored by a bunch of people I loathed. I disavowed the half a dozen times I saw him in concert and was filled with self hatred every time I heard "Ants Marching" and still kinda dug it.

The hatred in my heart that burns with the intensity of a thousand suns has never abated for two specific artists however: Stephen Malkmus and Chris Martin. They are the twin faces of evil for me when it comes to their respective bands, Pavement and Coldplay. They represent the opposite ends of the two things I hate about what people pretend to like about certain kinds of music: that of the snob who likes something because they're supposed to, and that of the musical proletariat who likes something completely milquetoast and think it's important.

When I wrote for the Michigan Daily in college, there was none higher on the mountaintop than Pavement. They were the lo-fi lords of "real music". Their songs were supposedly sparse but brilliant. Like the Sex Pistols before them, they couldn't play their instruments (although I've always suspected that this was rouse on the part of Pavement, but that's neither here nor there for this piece) but it didn't matter because they were brilliant in their spartaness and foremost, they were "important". I heard Pavement. I didn't get it. I came up with a grand conspiracy theory where everyone gushed over Pavement because they were supposed to, rather than because the music had any merit or was enjoyable. Someone in Greenwich Village (probably that asshole Robert Christgau) decided to like them as a joke, and it somehow got out of hand, and now Stephen Malkmus was indie rock royalty, even though he sucked. It was a groupthink, sheeple effect gone cosmically awry with the express intent to enrage me. It was really the only logical explanation.

Years later, my animus turned to Coldplay. I call this one the "Da Vinci Code Effect": Take the spark of a half good idea and surround it with the most bland elements imaginable with the express intent of marketing it to the largest audience possible. Once that bland pile of mash potatoes hits the tipping point, the audience starts to imbue it with an importance that doesn't exist. People start to see something that isn't there due to a conflagration of not knowing what actual quality sounds/looks/feels like and a refusal to admit to the world that they like something utterly shitty unironically. Next thing you know they're winning Grammys (not that that's been synonymous with artistic merit in my lifetime).

As an "adult" (in so far as that label applies to me) I've tried to mellow my vitriol. I can admit that the Phish has some good ideas. I understand that my hatred for Coldplay and Pavement exists more for what they represent than what is actually contained in their music. I no longer make asinine statements like "I like all music except for country" or "I can't stand hip hop". I try to be open and find merit in things that I hate and not chastise everyone I meet who has more than one Jimmy Buffet record. The ultimate concern is does music make you happy? Does it relax you, excite you, make you feel something... anything? If it does, then who am I to say you're wrong? I'll still always hate Chris Martin and Stephen Malkmus, because the funeral pyre that burns in my soul can't be extinguished. Part of me will always be that angry young man, but I no longer want those two gentlemen to die in a fire while being beaten about the genitalia. Now I mostly turn to self loathing when I work Doors' references into my writing. Sigh.

Posted 10:28am
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July 19th , 2013

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

- Today's PSA: AT&T is selling your data, and of course you're automatically opted in. It's presumably just anonymous statistics for now, but those interested in an ounce of prevention can click here.

- There's lots of good news coming out of 826 Michigan: 1.) We're expanding into Detroit! 2.) We've got a tutoring home in Ypsi! 3.) S'Mittenfest is TOMORROW. The BDGF and I will be working the merch/schmooze table 3-6, so come by for great local music all day at the Stick.

- Stop the press! The girls (and my nieces) made the world famous Beacher of Long Beach Indiana. You can see them (and the award winning float designed in part by yours truly) half way down the page on the right. (It's the page landscaped instead of portrait.) I'm not sure why such a world renowned publication has such a jank website, but perhaps they realize the future of publishing is still in the broadsheet. The internet's a fad.

- Speaking of, I had a genuine moment of seriously missing the girls last night when I saw a facebook post where the littlest noted "I'm really glad the moon isn't the Death Star." The BDGF had prepped a care package to send to them and asked me to draw something on it, so I came up with the following. I like the idea better than the execution, but top of the head and all that.

- Finally, last night I tried to figure out (with the BDGF's help) how far back in history I'd have to go to blow people's minds with my working knowledge of technology. For instance, I couldn't go back to the 50's and create a computer, because I couldn't do it from scratch. I could go back to prehistoric times and create fire, or change the world in middle ages by coming up with moveable type before Gutenberg, but I should be able to get closer than that. The problem of course is that technology has become so complicated, we rely on it without understanding it. I don't have an answer yet, but even with all of our technological advances, it's important to remember we're still stupid.

Posted 11:33am
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July 18th , 2013

What is and what should never be

The BDGF is constantly rolling her eyes in frustration at me because I am hesitant to make substitutions when ordering in a restaurant. The only time I will send anything back is if they bring me the wrong beverage, because I suppose we have to draw the line somewhere and that's mine. I recently ordered prescription sunglasses that I can't wear because the lenses were incorrectly ground and rather than go back and complain and get them fixed I ate the $40, because that seemed like a reasonable price not to have to go in and argue with some clerk.

I'm not sure why that's my modus operandi. I'm certainly not afraid of confrontation. I don't fear some abstract retribution for complaining about something that clearly was someone else's fault. Part of it is that I don't want to put anyone out and I never want to seem like a whiney, entitled asshole. I imagine that there's a bit of me that's been beaten down and is so used to taking it on the chin that it often seems like par for the course. I hope that part of it is that I was such an angry young man for so long, I am trying to atone for the sins of my former self.

I know I think people as a whole are whiney little dicks. Everything has to happen now and the exact way they envision it, otherwise all holy hell breaks loose. Nothing disgusts me more than when adults act like petulant teenagers. Today I was at a CVS waiting to check out when a guy comes in and asks to speak to the manager. He shows the manager a pair of shoes in a plastic bag and says that he was there yesterday, and walking out to the parking lot his plastic CVS bag broke, whatever was in it shattered and ruined his brand new pair of shoes. He wanted to know what the manager was going to do about it.

I'll note with disappointment right now that I didn't stick around to see what happened, even though I wanted to. It is nevertheless amazing to me that this guy thought he was entitled to compensation because his bag broke. Who has that mind set? I've been at dinner before when a waiter accidentally spills something on someone, and in that scenario, you expect the manager to come over and offer some compensation in some way. And that's the way it's always worked - some free food and an offer to pay your dry cleaning bill. If you are unhappy with the compensation, just don't go to that restaurant again, don't haggle over it. I can't imagine what would even make this CVS fucker happy in that scenario. I know that if I stuck around to find out that the CVS manager offered to buy that guy new shoes, I'd never shop there again, because I refuse to tacitly condone something that's contributing to the problem.

Posted 1:41pm
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July 17th , 2013

This Week in Indie Rock.

- I don't generally have a "summer jam". I've never stopped listening to new music, but I also haven't listened to the radio in 20 years or watched MTV for almost that long (there was still some music on the channel when I last watched it, so that should give you some indication.)Thus whatever "song of the summer" the kids are listening to usually escapes me. This list compiled by an indie rock site that I actually enjoy lists 6 songs and I could give a shit about all of them outside of Vampire Weekend. This list going back ten years further proves my point, as outside of Beyonce, I couldn't tell you what one of those songs sounds like, and I'll bet you a dollar they'd all sounds similarly awful to me, to the point that I would refuse to even try and tell them apart. I guess at the end of the day, despite my attempts to try and stay relevant musically, I'm quickly becoming an old man - surely to most teenagers who were born after Pearl Jam was no longer relevant. The good news is I never aspired to be "cool" in their eyes. They are awful nascent human beings and I give zero weight to their tastes and opinions. Give me a song like this, which is aptly described as a "honeyed, melancholy midtempo sigh." If I am doomed, as the author states, to "pretend it will always be 1974," that's OK with me.

- Speaking of Pearl Jam, they're prepping a new album. I recently learned that there's a whole group of people who still worship Eddie Vedder, which I suppose is slightly better and more interesting than say Phishheads.

- Also here's a new Ben Folds Five video, just because.

- Finally, if you really want to feel old and get upset, here's EW's Top 100 Albums of All Time. The only real question is what will the compilers of this list be more embarrassed about in 10 years: Kanye at #8 or Adele at #17, both ahead of Abbey Road, Highway 61 Revisited and Innervisions. That's not even justifiable on a subjective level.

Posted 1:42pm
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July 16th , 2013

Legacy.

I'm an atheist and a man of science, so I don't contemplate mortality much. We're bags of water and electricity and like all machines at some point we stop working. End of story. I've made my peace with it. It'd be nice to go out on my own terms, but you generally don't get much choice in the matter, so I hope I get lucky. But I'm not even gonna spend an inordinate amount of time crossing my fingers.

At the same time, I'm no different than anyone else in that I'd like my time spent around here while things do still work to mean something. The fact that I'll soon be 40 and I have no idea exactly what I want it to mean is beginning to be troubling. I've spent the last 15 years at the same job that's an utter dead end. My hobbies have no hope of providing me any income and I haven't amassed enough knowledge to be a Jeopardy champion, much less a renowned expert on anything.

I'm told, and I suppose I realize, that the good news is that I'm not even forty, so there's still a decade or two to turn things around. I could write a book. I could quit my job and find something that makes me happy. I could start something that sustains itself long after I'm gone. Statistically I'm well over halfway finished, but given how useless we all are for the first 20 years and the last 15 or so, I'm technically still somewhere in the prime of it.

Of course none of that could happen too. I could easily grind out another 15 years behind this desk, drifting between this and that until I hit semi-retirement and take my rightful place as a curmudgeon who hates those damn neighborhood hoodlums. Luckily should that most likely scenario play itself out I still have something to hang my hat on.

Siddhartha turns 18 today. He's a smart, concerned, empathetic man with great taste in music. No matter what I do for the rest of my life, I've already done the best, most important thing I'm ever going to do. I can't thank him enough for that. Plus, when my apathy leads to me never doing anything else, I can blame him for why I just coasted.

Posted 10:44am
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July 12th , 2013

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

- Sleep well citizen, there are still people in Washington doing things on your behalf instead of the special interests that line their pockets. Elizabeth Warren is trying to re-enact Glass-Steagall and Al Franken (et al) is trying to overturn Citizens United. These are two things I've been railing about for the last few years, so I'm 100% behind both these heroes.

- Movie time! The summer blockbusters so far have been middling to decent, but I can highly recommend two smaller movies that I've caught so far: Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing and the coming of age comedy The Kings of Summer. You'll remember both long after you've forgotten the McGuffin-y plot of something like Man of Steel. I've also recently caught two rockumentaries about bands that almost but didn't make it: Big Star's Nothing Can Hurt Me and The Replacements Color Me Obsessed. I highly recommend both films and of course both bands.

- Happy belated birthday to the MoeMan who turned 75 on Tuesday, and happy early birthday to my only begotten son Siddhartha, who turns 18 next Tuesday. More on that later, because obviously time is really marching on relentlessly at the moment.

- Sundays with Shakespeare update! This Sunday is still The Taming of the Shrew via 10 Things I Hate About You, but we're swapping Hamlet and A Midsummer Night's Dream the next two weeks, as they're doing the Dream at Bells in Kalamazoo next weekend, and how could we pass up seeing King Oberon in Bell's beer garden? We've also booked tickets to see Othello at the Stratford Festival outside of Toronto in early August, proving we are taking this Shakespeare to it's logical conclusion. By which I mean the BDGF and I will likely take our own lives at the end of the summer in a tragedy of bad timing and misunderstanding.

- Finally, I assume that most of us would have eventually come up with this idea were we to have access to Billy Dee Williams, Jason Schwartzman and Patton Oswalt, but well done @nerdist nonetheless: here's Cantina Karaoke.

Posted 10:59am
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July 10th , 2013

Turn, turn, turn.

It's almost cliche at this point to point out that I'm of the last generation to not have technology be ubiquitous in their lives. I mean, we haven't reached the singularity yet, but my formative years were spent in a pre-digital world. Rotary dial phones. No cable TV. Our Wikipedia was books.

Contrast that with my son's experience. He's never known life without cell phones and the internet. When he's my age he can regale his kids with tales of an age when the TVs weren't flat (a concept he'll barely remember.) My family got its first computer in 1992. It didn't have a hard drive.

It's hard for me to imagine how much nerdier I may have grown up if I could have had access to computers and the internet. I spent countless hours copying tapes and albums I got from the library. I had the VCR programmed every night of the week to record something that was happening in the middle of the night. It's hard to imagine instantly having access to everything.

Including human interaction. I stopped reading comic books and started playing sports because of girls. Had I been able to even message board, much less 4chan or chatroullette, I might have gone down a technological rabbit hole rather than square peg into round hole my unathletic proclivities. It certainly would have been a better fit.

Of course there are downsides. I'm certainly a much more well rounded person. When you are forced to work with limited resources, you often get more interesting results. Last night I asked Sid if he had any plans for the evening and he said "Do you mean in real life or online?" Gross. I'm going to make an excellent old man, telling kids how things were better back in my day. Although at this rate, there'll be no kids to yell at to get off of my lawn.

Posted 10:46am
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July 8th , 2013

Time off for good behavior.

I hate the word 'staycation'. It sounds like something Oprah made up. It's what your elderly aunt does so she can work on her rose garden. It belies what a vacation is supposed to be: a chance to get away. At least I used to think so. I continue to hate the verbiage, but I love the ideal.

I just had a week off 'vacation' that was in no way an according to Hoyle vacation. It had your typical vacation trope of leaving the state for a beautiful locale and spending time on the beach, but it lacked the essential essence of what a vacation is, and that's getting away.

I'm a person who has trouble relaxing. If there's a to-do list, I have trouble sitting still and letting it fester. I check my email on vacation, and my job's not that important. Relaxing becomes impossible when I have to be in best behavior. mode. This includes but is not limited to any time spent around the children and extended family.

So a 'vacation' at my in-laws with the children in tow where my brother's family also shows up is a nightmare. When we have to wake up at 8:30 am to go to a Fourth of July parade, it officially become worse than going to work. It was the end of day four before I got to sit down and try and read a book - the only thing I wanted to do while I was there.

Don't get me wrong - I love each and every one of these people. The beach house is amazing - only a monster can sit on a deck watching the sun set over Lake Michigan and not get enjoyment out of it. However, after a week of vacation, I finally got relaxed sometime around 10pm last night when I finally sat down and turned on our Sundays with Shakespeare feature.

The good news is that before returning to Michigan we dropped the girls off at the airport so they could fly west to spend a month with their father. Couple that with the fact that Siddhartha is a week from turning 18, and we are essentially childless for the next month. That means in about three and half weeks after I put a significant dent in my to-do list, I can relax for a day or two before the girls come home and we start the whole back to school/send your kid to college rigmarole, at which point I can relax again sometime around 2017.

Posted 10:31am
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