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June 25h , 2014

Wormer.. .dead. Niedermeyer... dead. Eli Wallach...

Last night I went and saw Edge of Tomorrow, the new Tom Cruise movie. I feel like I needed to add that Cruise quantifier, because the movie all but tanked at the box office (as of now it's grossed $75mil against a $175mil budget.) I walked out of the theater and all I could think was "This is why we can't have nice things."

Edge of Tomorrow wasn't really on my radar prior to its release, despite being directed by Doug Liman and written by Chris McQuarrie, because basically Tom Cruise. But then the reviews started to come in, and it seemed like I should check it out. It's a "duh" moment that we need to be reminded of constantly - we have to pay for the good shit because otherwise they won't make more of it. Summer blockbusters are bland pieces of claptrap designed to sell 'splosions to foreigners, and I want them to be more than that. Edge of Tomorrow is so much more. It's so smart and stylish and ultimately fun, that the fact that no one went to go see it is utterly depressing.

It's rare that things live up to their hype. I don't want to go see Tom Cruise fight a bunch of aliens again, until people I consider smart tell me I probably should, and then as it so often happens, smart people are right. I similarly didn't want to watch a Clint Eastwood western from the 1960s the first time I saw The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, but smart people said it was awesome, so I did, and they were right. Again.

Eli Wallach was the titular "Ugly" in that film, and that and his turn in The Magnificent Seven alone make him a national treasure. He was great in a million other roles as well, and now his fire has gone out of the universe. Now watching The Good, The Bad and the Ugly or The Magnificent Seven isn't going to spur Hollywood to make more westerns in Italy, but if you've never seen them, it will remind you that everybody loves certain things for a reason. Not because a test audience helped shaped something to ensure that it will play overseas, but because they are well crafted pieces of art, made with great care and designed to tell you something as well as entertain you. Things like that stand the test of time whether anyone involved gave their legacy a second thought. Kind of like Eli Wallach himself.

Posted 11:26am
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June 24h , 2014

Middle Aged Man

Recently the condenser line on our air conditioning unit got blocked and dumped a couple of gallons of water into our basement. Good times. If you've never had to deal with such a thing, consider yourself lucky. If you have a landlord or a pile of excess cash that makes such problems go away, god bless you. If you're relatively young and still deciding on what your "adult" life should look like, may I humbly suggest living in a condo and not having children?

I know more about electrical work, carpentry, plumbing, landscaping and household appliance maintenance than I ever dreamt possible, much less what would be commiserate with my level of interest. A lot of this is a me problem, as it is a well documented fact that I refuse to call someone to fix anything before giving it the ol' college try. I am ultimately too proud, stubborn and cheap to give my hard earned money to someone who ultimately learned to do something by trial and error themselves.

Perhaps this has all been inevitable. As a veritable know-it-all, I'm finally getting to the point where my skill set matches my hubris (which is a statement, I realize, that shows how far I still have to go. Shut up.) I guess while I absolutely don't enjoy replacing the water pump on a dishwasher, I like knowing how to do it. Even moreso, I like seeing that dishwasher running in the kitchen and having a smug sense of satisfaction over the fact that I did it myself.

Maybe my life could have played out differently and I would have been the type of person who just calls a guy when something breaks. I could have had a landscaper and plumber and other general handymen to make things look pretty and be functional. I think that would have meant spending a lot more of my free time working to make money to afford such things, and the rest of it unwinding from the toll that would take on my psyche. Or that could just be a justification that amounts to 'Rich people have problems too.' In my parlance, I somehow ended up "Middle Aged Man" when I wanted to be drinking buddy. I guess at least I know how escrow works.

Posted 1:30pm
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June 20th , 2014

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

- Let me be the last person to recommend the new OK Go video to you. Yes, it's worth it.

- It's a common complaint that there are no new ideas in Hollywood; they just trot out some old property with a built in audience, blandify it and then count the money as it rolls in. It's a common complaint because that does happen. A lot. But as a kid who grew up loving Marvel comics and Legos, I've gotten to see the things I adored as a kid take up a permanence in the pop culture zeitgeist that would heretofore have been unimaginable. I mean, my dad never got The Lincoln Log Movie (although I suppose he got say The Lone Ranger, so that's something.) Anyway, we also have the internet, so we get to see people take that Lego permeation and do things like this. And then there's this. It's good to be alive.

- I'm going to show you a picture now. You can thank my new corporate overlords for this embarrassment:

They say that people with symmetrical faces are the ones we find most attractive. I always knew I wasn't photogenic, but now I feel like I should take up residence under a bridge.

- To cleanse your palette, I'll now show you this:

My neighbor Melissa's parents both recently passed away, and her father was quite the artist. She was giving away some of his work and said she thought of me when she came across this one. It hangs in a place of honor above our jukebox.

- Finally, The Chandler Drive-In is in full swing. This summer we will be studying the films of Joel and Ethan Coen, as well as "B-movie Sundays" where we watch and laugh at the worst films imaginable. The Room, Birdemic, Plan 9 From Outer Space - these are just a few of craptastic movies that I will undoubtedly be watching by myself in the backyard this summer. You're tearing me apart, Lisa!

Posted 10:29am
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June 19th , 2014

Sitcom cliche avoidance strategies

I attended both my five and fifteen year class reunions. They were both nightmarish on certain levels for different reasons. I was president of my senior class, so there is a minimal level of responsibility in my brain to attend these things. Plus there are people there I don't mind catching up with, so there's that too.

Then I remember that nobody gives a shit that 20 years ago a bunch of 18 year olds elected me to a position of zero responsibility with no defined mandate. Plus, the internet exists, taking care of "catching up" without having to travel to NWOhio. The compelling reasons to go drink bad beer at the American Legion and listen to people say "Remember the time..." for four hours begin to dwindle quickly.

Of course something inside me still feels like I should go. Even as the con list dwarfs the pro, there's a pull there. Maybe it's a connection to the past or where I came from, or that I like these people more than I am sometimes willing to admit to myself. So as I contemplate duty and nostalgia vs. listening to people drone on about their kids and Jesus, I'd like to profusely thank the steering committee for scheduling our 20 year reunion this year on September 6, the exact same time I will be in South Bend watching the last Michigan/Notre Dame game. My official press release states "Tyler Brubaker regretfully will not be able to make this year's reunion due to prior commitments. He will greatly miss the opportunity to commune with old friends and catch up with where everyone is and what they are doing. Looking forward to 2019!"

Posted 3:54pm
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June 18th , 2014

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

- I honestly don't know what it takes in this country anymore for us to collectively decide to stop listening to those who should have no credibility whatsoever. Pundits and politicians who have been so incredibly wrong about so many things seem to face little or no reprisal for their stupidity. I mean, what kind of world do we live in when Dick Cheney has the hubris and the titanium clad balls to pen an op-ed that says "Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many." I mean, I suppose he should have our sympathy? Clearly 9/11 broke his brain? I'm just kidding, Dick Cheney deserves nothing outside of being tried for war crimes and then burning for eternity in the lowest concentric circle of Dante's inferno.

- Speaking of not getting it, the head of the FCC is supremely butt hurt that people are blaming him for trying to destroy net neutrality after he worked so hard to destroy net neutrality. Maybe he should have seen that coming?

- Thankfully, appropriate analogies still exist in this world and there are people at the ready to deploy them. Like when our president compares climate change deniers to people who would have told JFK that the moon was made of cheese. Science eventually wins out. We have to remind ourselves of that from time to time.

Posted 10:42am
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June 13th , 2014

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

- There are only 78 days until Michigan Football! I just put the 2014 schedule into my calendar which made me utterly depressed. Thanks to Dave Brandon, we open with a complete embarrassment of a game, and go the entire season without a home game that anyone will care about. Awesome. Couple that with a flurry of conflicts between home games and my concert going schedule, and I'm looking less forward to this season than any one since the RichRod era. Hopefully that means we'll have a great year, because that's how sports work sometimes.

- I suppose not many people consider what label an artist is associated with, unless they are giant snobs like myself (I own more than one t-shirt devoted to record labels, which makes me some kind of uber dork.) Back in the 90's, midwest emo/punk/indie rock label Jade Tree was a personal favorite of mine, if for no other reason than The Promise Ring was attached. Now you can stream all of those 90's punk classics online via Bandcamp. Let's all grab a case of Natural Light and party like it's 1997. We can act irresponsible and save our Analphabetapolothologys for the morning.

- Everyone knows and loves The Price is Right. It's what you watched as a kid when you were home sick from school and what you watch now to keep up on the latest mobility scooter technology and diabeetus mail order drug offers. Ever wonder what TPiR looks like behind the scenes? Watch this hour long video for a peek at how the magic is made. When you're done, you are that much closer to a Wilfred Brimely mustache.

- I stopped playing video games five or six years ago. Partly because they got complicated, partly because I wanted to spend time on other things, mostly because I'm an adult. There was a time however when it was something Sid and I actively shared. Finding those things is hard, so the ones we played together will always hold a special place in my heart. Especially Ratchet and Clank, because it was right down the center of what we both loved about gaming AND it spoke to our collective sense of humor. So yes, I am excited about an animated movie based on a video game. Mostly because Sid used to call me Captain Quark.

- Finally, Ann Arbor public schools finally finish the 2013-14 school year today. That means summer is here in earnest, starting with tomorrow's crawfish broil at Dark Horse! Apologies to my employer for showing up even later than normal the next 10 weeks. And apologies to my liver, because obviously.

Posted 1:29pm
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June 11th , 2014

This Week in Indie Rock

- New Spoon!

- New Jeff Tweedy!

- New New Pornographers! Holy shit I want it to be August right now.

- Weezer may be a dad-rock shell of their former selves, but that burned-out husk can still catch a frisbee without missing a beat.

- Rush albums ranked, from best to worst. I know there is a Rush backlash because they're not "cool" or whatever, but I for one love Rush, and I challenge all of you to look me in the eye and tell me that Moving Pictures is not fan-fucking-tastic.

- From Platinum Circle Level friend o' the blog© MJ, here's a list of what it costs to get your favorite band to come play in your backyard. Just a warning though, it's going to make you hate the free market. I mean, Foster the People charges more than the Flaming Lips? What the fuck is wrong with you people?

- Finally, I give Jack White a hard time for being a huckster because a.) he's my BDGF's other boyfriend and b.) he deserves it. But watch him on Fallon and try not to fall for him. That kids, is rock and roll.

Posted 10:08am
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June 10th , 2014

Your filmatic comfort zone

Last weekend I volunteered at Cinetopia, Ann Arbor's own international film festival. I mostly stood around smiling and pointing people in the right direction, like a nerdy spokesmodel. I got to meet some actors and directors (no one actually "famous") but more importantly, I got to be around the hustle and bustle of a festival atmosphere, which is like being around a bunch of kindergartners who've just mainlined a dozen pixie sticks, who then decide to debate the virtues of Gordon Willis versus Vilmos Zsigmond. These are my people.

With grad party prep, I didn't get to see as many movies as I would have liked. Amazingly, this was my first "film festival", and I was more excited to just be in the atmosphere than I was to see any of the films. But what I realized in a very "duh" moment, is that film festivals are just like music festivals. The fun isn't just seeing something that you knew you would probably like, but in getting out of your comfort zone and trying something new. Or even just taking a chance on something you otherwise might not go out of your way to take in. It's kind of the point.

That's a great reminder. Our horizons never expand by surrounding ourselves with what we already know. It's a difficult and often frustrating ethos to live by - lord knows that I can't bring myself to watch Fox News - but stepping a few feet from whatever your center is is how we find the new things we love. I know that's a cheesy idea, but in my heart I'm a sap. Loving things and being excited about them - what else really is there?

- Nerd film graphics! Minimalist move posters and a celebration of Ghostbusters.

- Everyone relax, Neil deGrasse Tyson doesn't hate movies.

Posted 11:10am
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June 5th , 2014

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

- We've got another graduate at 1712 Chandler. The BDGF's eldest is off to be a Wolverine and as we are fond of saying, it only cost us $100,000 to get rid of her. Seriously, couldn't be prouder of her. I'm looking forward to her getting her M.D. with all expediency, so I never have to visit a doctor's office again.

- On a serious Jack White note, here's some erudite analysis of Huckster Jack's Meg problem. You can't go home again, it turns out.

- Last Week Tonight with John Oliver has been killing it in their first month. No moreso than when their advocacy crashed the FCC's comment site on net neutrality. I encourage you to go there and leave a comment. Here's mine:

The internet and its integration into our daily lives has grown organically for precisely one reason: its egalitarian nature. One person's ideas are as equally accessible as the next. We are not beholden to one person's version of the truth over another because the playing field is level. This ideal is unfortunately hard to find anywhere else in society anymore, which is precisely why the internet is so powerful and it is so important to keep it "neutral". Please, do not bow to the pressure of giant conglomerates trying to filch a few more shekels from the people that depend on this service. Access to the internet is slower and more expensive in this country than so many other places. Let's not make the situation worse by letting the gatekeepers prioritize their agenda over that of the common man with something to say.

- For your listening pleasure: a new Dr. Dog album that is quite pleasant and the history of video game music, in heavy metal.

- Finally, Cinetopia* is this weekend! I'm volunteering in various capacities around the festival, which means I will likely be rubbing elbows with John Sayles and Spike Lee all weekend, both of whom are in town talkin' movies. Given the graduation festivities that are simultaneously taking place, I don't know what I'll actually get to see, but fingers crossed I'll get a peek at Obvious Child, To Be Takei, OJ: The Musical, or Jingle Bell Rocks. That's assuming I'm not partying in the back of a limo with Spike.

*Thanks to Sid, anytime I hear the word Cinetopia, I want to put on my serious voice and say "A new Utopia in Cinema".

Posted 10:18am
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June 3rd , 2014

Happy Robocop Day!

Today, the near future, Robocop finally comes to Detroit. Is this the Motor City's acknowledgement that they have finally become the dystopian future that Reagan's America prognosticated? Assuredly. Could it also be that the citizens of Motown acknowledge not only that fact but that they can be the savior they deserve, using Alex Murphy as the symbol of their counter-insurgency? We can hope. Dead or alive, you're coming with us, Detroit.

- Listen to Jack White's Lazaretto right now! It drops next Tuesday.

- If there was even a shred of doubt that Neko Case is the literal best, here's her new song "These Aren't the Droids". Neko, you never fail to make me swoon.

Posted 1:34pm
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June 2nd , 2014

Wormer... dead. Niedermeyer... dead. Ann B. Davis...

The Brady Bunch. Full House. Saved by the Bell. These shows on the surface are inexplicably popular given their terribleness. On the surface, it seems that they've perhaps persevered by sheer brut force. The powers that be inundated us with these programs to the point that they've become ubiquitous. No matter your age, you have a passing familiarity with these shows and their characters. If you happened to be between 8 and 18 when you could scroll through your television stations and without fail happen to catch an episode, your passing familiarity becomes an intimate knowledge. Mike Brady, DJ Tanner and Zack Morris are part of the fabric of our lives.

Ann B. Davis was America's maid. She was comfort food. She was a cultural touchstone and icon. She was also a Wolverine. Ann has gone to that great meat locker in the sky, but her time on this Earth left us all with a warm feeling in the cockles of our collective heart. Here's hoping all of the flags on campus today are flying at half mast, because we just lost one of the greats.

Posted 10:41am
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May 30th , 2014

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

-There's a great line in this Edgar Wright appreciation video that says most comedies these days aren't "movie" comedies, they're lightly edited improv. Not that there's anything wrong with that, as long as people like Edgar Wright exist.

- It's common knowledge at this point that Carl Sagan was a closet stoner, but it's now 2014. Weed is legal in places and coming soon to a state near you. So once we reach stoner ubiquity, will we get a new version of Neil deGrasse Tyson's Cosmos?

- Quick hit TWiIR: Jeff Tweedy preps a solo offshoot, The Both play TV themes, Parquet Courts stream their latest opus, 90s soundtracks ranked and the greatest vocal ranges.

- Elon Musk is pretty cool. He made a fortune with Paypal, and then parlayed that into a sexy electric car company and the even sexier SpaceX. Yesterday he revealed his new 7 man, can land on terra firma without parachutes space capsule. More importantly however, is that I just realized how much he looks like TV's Hannibal Lecter. Scary.

- Finally, it is my intention this weekend to fill a major hole (heh) in my cinematic repertoire. How have I never seen Battle Beyond the Stars? I always knew (or at least assumed) that Roger Corman made a Star Wars rip off, but one with George Peppard and Robert Vaughn? That's based on Seven Samurai/The Magnificent Seven? Shame on me for not having this on a loop in my basement. I can't imagine being disappointed in its terribleness.

Posted 10:41am
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May 28th , 2014

The tbaggervance.com 2014 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. Things aren't as free as they were five years ago, but there's still lots of fun to be had out of doors in the summertime. With that in mind, here's your 2014 Guide to Summer:

Edward G. Money
May 23
Missed it again. Eddie will always be the starter pistol to the summer, even if I only got to go that one, beautiful time.

Do-Division Street Fest
May 30 - June 1
Chicago keeps hope alive with their menagerie of food an music street festivals. Do-Division is a little light on music I care for again this year, but you could do worse than J. Mascis, J.D. McPherson and Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin.

Sonic Lunch
June 5 - Aug 28
A2's FREE downtown lunchtime concert series. Much like Mr. Money, this is always something I mean to attend but rarely do. I'm the worst.

Chicago Ribfest
June 6-8
Come for the pork, stay for Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr..

A2 Restaurant Week
June 22-27
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 13 - July 6
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 Cake! The band, not the stuff that makes you fat.

Taste of Randolph Street
June 13-15
Another Chicago neighborhood fest? Yes. Kaiser Chiefs! Cayucas! Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!! Best free music lineup of the year.

Green Music Fest
June 21-22
I've never had the pleasure of attending this, but who doesn't like Guided by Voices?

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 4-6
This lineup is insane for the second year in a row. Neutral Milk Hotel, Jeff Tweedy, The Violent Femmes, Jenny Lewis, Gogl Bordello and more. Take off, eh.

Common Ground Fest
July 8-13
With The Hold Steady and Dr. Dog on the bill, I may finally suck it up and head to Lansing for this one.

Elvis Fest
July 11-12
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 11-13
The Flaming Lips, Young the Giant, Cage the Elephant, and Veruca Salt. Cincinnati can't fight the seether.

Pig & Whiskey
July 18-20th
No info on this year's festivities yet, but it's been a staple for the BDGF and I the last few years. I mean, Pig & Whiskey, right?

Pitchfork
July 18-20
Chicago's hippest fest features Beck, Perfect Pussy, and a bunch of other artists you're no longer cool enough to have heard of.

Forecastle
July 18-20
Kentucky takes on Pitchfork with a lineup of Jack White, Outkast, Spoon and The Replacements. That might do it.

Art Fair
July 16-19
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.

Wicker Park Fest
July 26-27
Nick Waterhouse plus a band called Dr. Manhattan. I'm listening...

Beer Fest
July 25-26
The best thing to ever happen to Ypsilanti and my favorite non-Michigan football Saturday of the year. If I get to go, which I don't anymore. Damn I'm old.

Lolla
Aug 1-3
Eminem, Outkast and the Arctic Monkeys. Meh.

Dream Cruise
Aug 16
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!

Riot Fest
Sept 12-15
A great summer capper, with bands playing full albums: Weezer does the Blue Album, The Get Up Kids doing Something to Write Home About, Slayer doing Reign in Blood and more. Don't let summer die!

Posted 10:28am
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May 23rd , 2014

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

- Stop the press! Hamilton Leithauser's highly anticipated solo debut (and pre-qualified album of the summer) Black Hours is streaming over at NPR. Yes, a 45 of "Alexandra" is in the juke box and yes, its grooves are quickly being worn down to nubs.

- 2014's best commencement speech so far goes to It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's Charlie Day.

- Thrillist is back with the 33 Best Cocktail Bars and the 33 Best College Bars in America. I've been to several bars on both lists, with probably equal probability of knocking out more from each.

- I remember someone specifically asking me with bated breath whether or not I was going to rush out and get an iPad when they were first announced back in 2010. I answered with a "Meh, I have a smartphone and a laptop, seems like a hugely unnecessary luxury." My inquisitor responded with a "Phew," as she viewed the item as some sort of gimmick to fleece people of their money. Now that my corporate overlords have furnished me with one, I take back the "Meh." It's still an unnecessary luxury as far as I'm concerned and I would probably never purchase one for personal use, but it is pretty awesome. This concludes today's opinion on four year old technology.

- Finally, spring building season also included creating a 1/100th scale model of a Saturn V rocket:

I don't know, I just did.

Posted 11:50am
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May 22nd , 2014

Volunteers of America!

Kurt Vonnegut claimed to have figured out the problem between men and women. He said that when couples fight, what they are really saying to their partner is "You are not enough people." That's why, in lieu of going back to a time when giant extended families all lived together, he advocated for having loads of friends and joining organizations and being a part of the community. I tend to agree, seeing as I met my BDGF and many of my bestest friends through volunteering at 826. When people ask me how to meet people, I inevitably tell them to join some organization or other of like minded people. It'll make your life better.

Unfortunately, I am getting a little long in the tooth for 826. It's an organization I still give time and money to, but the social functions trend toward twenty somethings. I decided it was time to expand my volunteering palette in hopes of finding more like minded individuals that were a little closer to my age. I may have overshot a bit with choosing the Michigan Theater, as my fellow volunteers last night at my first gig were all in their sixties. But the people there actually getting paid were in their twenties, so I split the difference. Question mark?

The good news is I also chose the Michigan because I just love the place. I love being there. Last night, I stood at the door for two hours tearing tickets as anticipating patrons entered the old movie palace. It was exciting to be around. It may not be making people's lives better the way 826 does, but it's still a community. One of like minded people who want to celebrate the same things. It's one I'm eager to be a part of. Given the average age of the volunteers, it's one I can hopefully be a part of for a long time.

Posted 2:45pm
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May 19th , 2014

Jukebox Hero

When I moved in with the BDGF and her brood, the littlest was a mere 7 years old and her toys and other various sundries littered our living room. I kind of understood, but not really. To me, living rooms are spaces where everyone should feel comfortable, and at the end of every day, everyone should take their garbage and put it back in their private space. The BDGF wanted to make the littlest as comfortable as possible, and thus let her stack her toys where we hung out the most. When I would express my displeasure, she'd note "She's not going to be little forever."

For years I engaged in a crusade to purge our communal living space of tiny pieces of plastic crap against a tide of desire to keep the littlest little for as long as possible. Eventually I hit upon an idea - I told the BDGF that I would buy her a jukebox once the toys were permanently ostracized from the living room. I figured I could leverage her love of vinyl against wanting to keep the littlest in elementary school into the 2020s. Maybe it was the older daughter heading off to college, or the fact that the littlest will be taller than her mother by the end of the summer, but as it often does, rock and roll saved my soul.

Now instead of mountains of un-played board games and playmobile houses that stretched out like a sprawling subdivision, we have a 1965 Wurlitzer Jukebox. Did it come with copies of "Black Betty" and "ABC"? Of course it did. Did we immediately fill a third of it with Jack White 45s that we've been accumulating for five years? Naturally. Did we run out to the local record store and purchase a copy of the theme to The Greatest American Hero? Perhaps. Did all of that lead to a near constant dance party in our living room for two straight days? You're god damn right it did.

And of course the littlest loves it too. It's rare that everyone wins, so when it happens, we should celebrate. Who wants to come to a dance party?

Posted 3:04pm
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May 16th , 2014

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

- Huckster Jack news! The BDGF's "unholy alliance" appeared on Conan this week, instantly pressing a vinyl record on the program. The undead king of garage rock also got a shout out from a cruise liner, which I imagine also conjures mixed feeling in the brain of my beloved. And so I don't get a letter about being comprehensive from Third Man, here's another track from Jack's latest Opus. It's a boot stomper.

- More music news: Carrie Browenstein interviews Hamilton Leithauser, featuring more choice snippets from this summer's most anticipated album. For those of you without taste, here's a female electronic dance music group from the Netherlands, performing a song while fighting off orgasms. I can't tell if I like the song outside of the execution, but I feel like I do. Question mark?

- Where grammar nerds and action film fans meet. Also, to keep a thread, here's the 20 greatest acting performances by musicians (featuring Huckster Jack!)

- Social media update: I sometimes dabble in twitter and instagram, but even I know that you only need so much tbaggervance in your life, so in an attempt to keep this little corner of the internet as the be-all end-all repository, here are some things you may have missed: Sign this petition to voice your objection to the latest net neutrality hub bub, and I got expensive new toys. I, for one, now tolerate our new corporate overlords. Don't get comfortable.

- Finally, I am loving the new AVClub film offshoot The Dissolve. Especially the podcast. But it begs the question: should I go see the new Godzilla? It's getting great reviews, and despite not really being on my radar before today, who doesn't want to go see the best action movie since Jaws? I kind of want to see it to call bullshit at this point, because Jaws isn't even the greatest action movie since Jaws.

Posted 11:58am
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May 14th , 2014

Not with a bang, but with a whimper

I owe all of you an apology. I've been blogging less, concentrating on other endeavors and subsequently not necessarily been on top of things. This set of circumstances has caused me to completely ignore the Ypsi Pooper story, and that is nothing less than dereliction of duty.

Now someone pooping in public in Ypsilanti may not seem like a story worthy of national media attention, to be honest that's just a Tuesday in Ypsi, but the mystery pooper's serial defecation caught on and inspired songs, hashtags, and even a parody twitter account. That's craptastic.

Unfortunately the manhunt has come to an anticlimactic conclusion. No more shit puns, no more folk songs, no more free publicity for Ann Arbor's notorious neighbor. You'll be missed Ypsi Pooper, we hardly knew ye. Crap.

Posted 10:43am
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May 13th , 2014

What's making Baby Jesus cry this week?

- I don't know that it matters one measly iota what Shakespeare's religious beliefs were, but it is an interesting discussion point. At the end of the day, the play's the thing, right?

- Having traveled through probably over half of the United States via automobile in the past 10 years, I'm no stranger to crazy religious billboards. They do make the miles fly by.

- Congratulations Baby J: The Bible is America's favorite book. Although let's be honest, it's a little like a high school senior telling everyone what their major is going to be: they'll spout whatever seems acceptable to end the conversation.

- Finally, it has been an utter delight to watch the far right lose their holy shit over each episode of Cosmos. It was similarly a breath of fresh air to see John Oliver and Bill Nye even the playing field on climate change. Seriously, just thinking about the ice sheet in Antarctica makes me feel literally ill. It makes me want to throw my hands up when I read people like Thomas Edison call us stupid from decades beyond the grave:

We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using Nature's inexhaustible sources of energy — sun, wind and tide. ... I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.

Seriously guys. Let's get our shit together. I'm pretty sure someone said something once about being good stewards of the Earth.

Posted 11:53am
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May 7th , 2014

This Week in Indie Rock.

- Jack White is cranking up the hucksterism to 11 for his latest solo album, and it starts with some unimaginable bells and whistles for the vinyl release. I guess some of it is cool (question mark?) but not being able to put the thing on my turntable and just press play is tres annoying Jack.

- The latest Black Keys opus is streaming online. I'm frightened from what I've heard so far, so if someone would check it out and reassure me it isn't a departure along the lines of the last Strokes album, I'd appreciate it.

- Tonight! Indie rock stalwarts (and performers that are older than I am) Ted Leo and Aimee Mann play the Blind Pig tonight as The Both. For those of you not fortunate enough to attend, here they are on Fallon. I hope I'm that cool when I'm their age.

- Finally, speaking of late night talk show performances, here's Hamilton Leithauser on Conan doing the impossibly awesome "Alexandra". Seriously, I want to curl up inside this song and and just bask in its glory. It makes me sway and swoon.

Posted 10:20am
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May 6th , 2014

Beeeeee Gooooooooooooooood...

Sunday was Star Wars Day. Yesterday, Cinco de Mayo. Today dwarfs those annual celebrations with two ways (in A2 anyway) to actually do something worthwhile:

- It's Give Local Day, a call to support local non-profits and have your donations matched by well endowed foundations. tbaggervance.com's favorite local charity 826 Michigan gets their donations tripled today:

Tuesday, May 6 is Give Local Day, a very important day nationwide and especially in Southeast Michigan where the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation is matching gifts made to 50 nonprofits--including 826michigan--at 1:1 with the hope of generating $1 million in local donations in one grand 24-hour period. At 826michigan, we're fortunate that a second foundation has also pledged to match gifts up to $10,000. This means that when you contribute to 826michigan through givelocalannarborarea.org on May 6, your gift will effectively be tripled.

That's a lot of bang for one's buck. Stay home and watch Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 2 instead of the crappy one currently infecting your local multiplex, and give that money to someone who could actually do some good with it.

- It's also time to go to the polls, as the AAATA is holding a ballot initiative to raise funds for public transportation. We actually make pretty good use of our transport dollars, despite some smear campaigns claiming otherwise. There's probably a call to give more money to public transportation that I wouldn't answer, but I can't reasonably imagine such a scenario. It makes too much sense and hits too many of the things I care about: the environment, population density, social mobility and not being in a stupid fucking automobile. I'm voting yes.

Posted 10:21am
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May 5th , 2014

Are you my mother?

Today I am "guest blogging" over at a site called "Mom and Not Mom". It's a place where my dear friend Amy has conversations with people who aren't moms about parenthood and various other sundries. I got to be one of the few if not the first Y chromosomes to participate, for which I am humbly honored. Head on over to hear me ramble on about being an orphan and the proper etiquette for funerals and sympathizing with people who recently lost loved ones. I know, right?

- I hope everyone had a good Star Wars day yesterday. I watched Episodes IV and V while rebuilding my LEGO Millennium Falcon, because that's exactly how nerdy I am. Here's some more upcoming Star Wars news, as they are casting a new cantina band. Please save us from more Special Edition Max Rebo.

Posted 10:33am
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May 2nd , 2014

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

- I've had an age inappropriate crush on Emma Stone since Superbad. This isn't helping. At least she was born in the 80s. Question mark?

- I've always maintained that the "midwest" of the United States is all of the states with original Big Ten teams, and the south is every state that made up the Confederacy. Nate Silver's 538.com takes other people's temperature on the matter.

- I'm obv. all for sex education because science. But watching these, well let's just say that I am more sympathetic to people's objections.

- In larger budget movie news, may I humbly suggest you make a bookmark of the website The Dissolve, as well as adding Filmspotting to your podcast regimen. If you're going to keep up with the conversation at the bar when I open my place, you're going to want to be on top of this shit.

- Finally, the second worst thing about smartphones (after making everything more impersonal) is that no one ever calls or texts me for the answers to atria questions or to settle a pop cultural dispute anymore. That's why exchanges like this make me immeasurably happy:

Posted 11:59am
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May 1st , 2014

The prodigal son returns.

Last night I moved Siddhartha out of his dorm room and back home. It's a distance of less than two physical miles, but he might as well have been coming back from the other side of the world.

OK, that's overly dramatic. Sid's college experience so far has been drastically different from my own, and all signs point to it continuing to be so. All of which is very good, since I was and continue to be not much of a role model. He's back a little wiser, a little more educated, but more or less the same.

That's what I find comforting and why it feels like he's back from so far away. He's home now to get my jokes and placate me by participating in them. He's there to help me brainstorm racist T-shirts that I can make him wear to Koreatown to embarrass him*. He's just around, which feels right and good. Until of course he moves to the other side of the world for four months, but nothing truly great lasts forever. Still getting used to that...

* Last night's winner: "Me Love Koreatown Long Time."

Posted 9:59am
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April 29th, 2014

Be not afraid/Be very, very afraid.

Fear is a healthy thing. It provides excitement and necessary restraint. The key is knowing when to be afraid, or rather, when to be afraid and push on anyway. Or something like that.

- Months of Star Wars rumors just got serious. Despite my recent state of mind I remain an optimist about the things I love, and will always choose to be excited about Star Wars and Michigan Football and new Wilco albums. Otherwise, what's the point? I'll never understand why the internet lives almost completely under a bridge, other than maybe people need to get out more and find attention in being positive outside instead of trolling online. It's mostly OK if you stay away from comment sections , but I digress. In the still rumored department, Harrison Ford supposedly has a huge role in the next film, and if that doesn't buoy your spirits, you are dead inside.

- In the post-Jaws world we all live in, I understand the fear of sharks, but we need to be honest about what creatures we should really fear. Although the list could easily be titled "Why not to live in the undeveloped parts of the world." It's why I like to do my traveling to metropolitan areas.

- When Paul Ryan and other boot-strapy assholes start to pontificate about their world view, know that this is their bible. Note both that they're usually the ones crying "class warfare!" and that their version of the world is ugly, disgusting and ultimately untenable. Also, Ayn Rand was on Social Security and Medicare when she died, so fuck you.

- Finally, Sarah Palin may equate waterboarding with baptism, but there are many, if not an overwhelming majority of, Christians who get it (HT MJ). Start looking over your shoulder guys, it's not just huge bleeding heart liberal atheists coming for you, it's pretty much everybody.

Posted 2:49pm
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April 25th, 2014

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

- I'm not sure how I ended up subscribed to something called Thrillest, but it's actually been quite useful. Take for instances these articles: 11 things you didn't know about Faygo, 7 ways to spot fake BBQ, Detroit's best beer bars and a Detroit Tigers drinking guide. I get a Detroit-centric version, but I think they are other places if you have the misfortune to be located somewhere else.

- Movie news! I am over the moon about going to see this documentary tonight about an unmade version of Dune from the 1970s (I mean RIGHT!?!). Also, if you can't make it to a super cool theater showing a documentary about crazy Chileans trying to make movies with Salvador Dali and Orson Wells, watch this new Joss Whedon penned movie from the comfort of your basement.

- What fictional pop culture figure would you like to go drinking with? Assuming you don't say Han Solo or Indiana Jones (because that's like saying The Beatles are your favorite band, too obvious) it's a pretty good list. I'll propose Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man - but the super drunk Iron Man from the comic books. Because if you're gonna do it, let's do it right.

- There a significant chance (as evidenced by most of this post) that this blog is about to come much more movie-centric as I dive down the rabbit hole of deciding how to make a living loving movies. I don't know if I'll start doing awesome stuff like this Kill Bill timeline, but I will certainly tell you about it. I am of course making...

- Finally, I made an off hand joke earlier about making Star Wars themed furniture. Turning that into a business is (I hope) obv. a joke, but actually producing it has been a reality for some time. It started with the R2-DStool I made for 826 years ago, and now I'm making low to the ground drink tables for our backyard movie theater (which has gone by the Chandler Drive-In since inception, but is apparently undergoing rebranding as some people don't care for the name.) Here you can see an early stage prototype of one of them, which is in a holding pattern until I buy a jigsaw. Punch it Chewy.

Posted 12:06pm
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April 24th, 2014

Darkness, imprisoning me.

So, an apology. Browsing my twitter feed this morning as I tweeted "Why don't they just get it over with and kill me?" and subsequently looking over the contents of the ol' bloggy blog, I realized that I've been a little emo lately. If we're being honest, lately extends back a tad farther than even I'm comfortable with.

If we are being brutally honest, it goes all the way back. I've long been fond of saying "Brubaker's aren't happy unless they have something to bitch about" and while I fancy myself insulated from that proclivity, I'm decidedly not immune.

I still believe that I have a valid complaint. My 9 to 5 has become soul sucking and so far beneath my capabilities that I might as well be digging a ditch. It's infected my being and causes me to seethe about every single aspect of my life that I have to "endure".

That's no way to live. I know that. If I want to fancy myself anything I can't sit around and be a mope. I'll always be angry - I can only mitigate that and direct it appropriately - but I don't have to be a whiney, milquetoast-y teenager about everything. So I'm sorry. Let's go back to being a happy-go-lucky drunk who's indignant about the right things.

We now resume your regularly scheduled programming, already in progress.

Posted 10:30am
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April 23rd, 2014

This Week in Indie Rock.

- Prepare thyself for an avalanche of Jack White hucksterism as he gets ready to drop his new album. First he cameos on the MTV awards with his buddy Conan, then he went out and released the "World's Fastest Record" for record store day. You can hear the studio version of that track here, and its B-side here. And if you want some extra juice, here's Jack as Elvis in Walk Hard, which I had forgotten about. Nice turn, sir.

- Speaking of Huckster Jack, we visited his storefront as we strolled through Nashville on vacation recently, and we just missed Weezer performing in the very "Make Your Own Record Both" where the BDGF's littlest recorded a song mere hours earlier. Had it been 1993, we probably would have hung out and waited to meet Rivers, but I'm still a little shell shocked from "Beverly Hills".

- Ted Leo and Aimee Mann's collaboration The Both is out in stores as I type, and you get a taste here with their tiny desk concert.

- Brooklyn Vegan declares this your new favorite band, and I'd say watch at least the first 90 seconds, and then giggle and shake your head at how funny the turn of the century was.

- Jimmy Fallon as Tom Petty, with actual Stevie Nicks.

- Tonight we schlep all the way to Pontiac to see The Hold Steady, one of the few bands we would actually drive to that part of the world on a Wednesday to see. Here are they are with tourmates Deer Tick covering each other's songs. Lord to be seventeen forever...

Posted 10:25am
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April 17th, 2014

My daddy said reading pamphlets never made anybody give up anything.

Today I spent two hours being forced to play a board game that was supposed to teach me... ah hell I don't know, pick your corporate buzzword: bottlenecks, streamlining, workflow, synergy, dynamic integration. One of those things middle management forces upon you because you are an idiot and need to be inspired so you can see the big picture. Or some other equally bullshitty rhetoric.

Now look, I know I'm not special in the sense that everyone everywhere has to endure this. Equally, this shit is easy. Can you follow directions and repeat back the things they said to you at the beginning at the end? Hooray, you are their new favorite. It should be a small price to pay to be gainfully employed. Hell, if you like the people you work with these things could ostensibly be goof around time followed by free pizza. In that scenario, I for one welcome our new corporate bullshit overlords.

Here's my thing though: I'm 38 and I know everything they are going to say. I'm too fucking old and infinitely too smart to be condescended to about things like the benefits of "cross-training." I was the king of my own little corner of the world for too long. When problems occur while I'm at "training" because no one else knows what the fuck is going on, I want to laugh it off, but it really just fuels my anger and hatred and urge to say "See you fucking obtuse hierarchical idiots? This is what happens when we do it your way."

That gets me in trouble and the next thing you know I have to sit down and talk about my feelings. So I decide to keep my head down, shut up, and do what I'm told until the next problem arises, which I have to get indignant about and fix again, running my mouth in the process because being right all of the time is utterly exhausting. Ugh. I guess what I'm saying is that I might not be a team player.

Posted 2:46pm
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April 16th, 2014

Holiday Road

We never really went on vacation growing up. Especially if you maintain that vacation requires leaving the state - which if you live in Ohio, it absolutely does. The times we did travel revolved around taking everyone to see my older brother, who spent many years in Minnesota and Arkansas. Ten hours in the car with anyone - much less your family - can be a real measure of your patience and fortitude. My dad mitigated it by making everyone get up at 3am to get an early start, knowing that everyone would immediately go to sleep for 6 hours, allowing him to drive and listen to AM radio in peace for a while.

I've tried this trick with my family to no avail. Everytime I say "We don't need a hotel room, I'll just drive through the night and everyone can sleep!" I get looked at like I'm the devil. I know they know how to fall asleep in a moving vehicle, so I don't get what their problem is. As I have long suspected, I'm guessing it's because they all hate me and enjoy my suffering.

This year the BDGF decided we all needed to attend Space Camp. This was of course inevitable and moreover predictable in its timing, as this was the last chance to force the eldest to attend before heading off to college. So a six day trip: 24 hours and 1,500 miles in the car to sleep on a bunk bed with a paper thin mattress, go boot shopping in Nashville, do some quick spelunking and then horseback riding. Call me Griswold.

The things is, everyone had a blast. I learned the dad mantra of "It's not about me" a long time ago, and once you wrap your head around that ideal, traipsing around the country becomes bearable*. You even get to do fun things that old curmudgeons like me would never otherwise partake in. All of the pictures are of Astronaut training and not of riding in the car for an eternity, so let's pray my rapidly approaching senility will only remember the good times, and not sleeping in a teepee.

*with copious amounts of alcohol

Posted 1:12pm
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April 14th, 2014

Wanted

To whom it may concern,

I am a 38 year old IT professional looking for a career change. For the past 15 years I've served as a Systems Administrator for The University of Michigan. Due to institutional changes, I no longer feel that my specific skill set is wanted nor needed at my current post.

Ideally I'd like to start along a new path. If 25 or so of you own small businesses and could employ me in an IT related capacity for even an hour a week at my current rate that'd be great too, but I'm a little spent when it comes to teaching people how to change their default printer. I mean I'm great at it - I can fix anything, but I think I have more in me to give.

My strengths are ultimately in problem solving, which means I could probably be of various uses in myriad fields. I also maintain an above average wit, can think quickly and have an expertise in doling out an avalanche of snark at a moments notice. If you can find a way to monetize this, I'm your man.

Some day I dream of owning and operating a movie theater/bar, where people could come to drink great craft beer and watch old movies. If what you want to pay me to do could incorporate that end goal, all the better.

But those are utopian ideals. Honestly, if you can pay me remotely what I make now to make widgets, I'll jump at the chance. If you leave me alone to do my job, I'll scrub toilets - and I will clean them with uncanny aplomb. Would you be interested in buying my Star Wars themed furniture on Etsy? How about hiring me to promote your company on twitter with my trademark brand of sarcasm, profanity and condescension? The point is I really just want to do something else somewhere else. Please help.

I look forward to hearing from you,
tbaggervance

Posted 2:56pm
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April 3rd, 2014

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

- New Jack White - even an instrumental - will always lead off a list of the innocuously happy. New Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! will always be an addendum to that.

- Watch! Wolverine: The Musical, the Flaming Lips sell out and a lightsaber documentary! Seriously, Star Wars and The Beatles - two things that I need a two second taste of before I just want to fall down a rabbit hole into their canon for an entire day.

- In Michigan news, Obama wuz here, The Michigan Daily adroitly sums up the basketball season (it was fun!) and most importantly for my adult children, yous about to get paid, bro.

- I was in Chicago about 10 years ago and I got dragged to a "club" where the giant 6'4" 250 pound bouncer told me as I walked in "I'm gonna let you in, but next time wear better shoes." My friend who dragged me there figuratively literally dragged me inside before I told that bloated meat sack to fuck off and I ended up getting the ever living shit beat out of me. Several years later I was nattily clad in a swanky Vegas bar, and when I gave the bartender $20 for two watered down vodka sodas, he looked at me like I had just had a conjugal visit with his sister because I "only" tipped $2 on $18 worth of drinks. I wanted to tell him to fuck off for charging $9 for a well vodka and soda. I don't do well in these types of places. They are not my scene. That's why you could audibly hear my eyes rolling at this sign I found in a bar in Ferndale a couple weeks back. I guess I like knowing my place in the world.

- Finally, in six hours I'll be driving ten hours* with the ladies of Chandler to Alabama for Space Camp. That means the blog goes quiet and your tbaggervance fix gets relegated to twitter and instagram. Wish us luck. If you never hear from me again, it's because NASA has identified my untapped potential and I'm probably in some advanced astronaut training program. See you from space, bitches.

*with a stopover in Bowling Green, KY, because how can you not?!?

Posted 10:55am
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April 1st, 2014

It's all a lot of simple tricks and nonsense

I understand what it means to be a tortured artist. At least I think I do. Does it mean you hate everything you create and nothing's ever good enough? If so, then I'm a tortured artist. Maybe I'm just depressed or suffer from low self esteem. They might all be the same thing.

I've had a complicated relationship with being creative my entire life. On some level it's all I want to do always and forever. Unfortunately when I do it, I inevitably hate the results. It never turns out like my intentions. I can't decide if I have any discernable talent whatsoever or I'm just compelled to do it and when I throw it out into the world people say quasi-nice things to placate me.

I've tried music, art, writing and a million different dalliances into one thing or another that combines those things and dabbles in others. I usually enjoy the process, I rarely enjoy the results. I don't know what that says about me or what I produce, but it's leaving me feeling a little hollow at the moment.

Perhaps it's just that I've been somewhat rudderless for the past year. Maybe I just want something to come slap me on the face and say "THIS you idiot." Probably I'm just a whiny emo brat who needs to constantly feel sorry for himself. I know that it all feels like a lot of simple tricks and nonsense and ultimately inconsequential.

I'm sure this'll pass. Historically the feeling abates, or at least gets covered up with faux arrogance and bravado. The real fear is that at some point you can't cover up the feeling of being exposed with a fake swagger, because then I'm really fucked.

Posted 11:46am
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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.