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December 18th , 2015

This Week in Indie Rock

- The Violent Femmes are releasing their first album in 15 years, We Can Do Anything. This is good because you like the Violent Femmes. This is exciting because I saw the Femmes two summers ago and they were amazing. This is questionable because the only good Violent Femmes album came out in 1983.

- I am cynical and wary of a headline like "Meet America's Most Exciting Punk Band" but I read about the Downtown Boys and I am in. If only bands came to Michigan anymore.

- This year's indie rock tunes to stuff your stockings: The Both's "You're a Gift" and this fabulous Postal Service Parody Gift Up.

- New tunes: Freddie Mercury from the grave, Spoon celebrates ten years of Gimme Fiction with unreleased demos, the amazing music from the excellent TV show Fargo gets an album, plus new Thao and the Get Down Stay Down, which for my money might be the best backing band name of all time.

- Finally, I thought I had squared with waiting until Saturday to see the new Star Wars, but I very much had a panic attack last night when I realized there were non-celebrities who had seen it while I was sitting around with my thumb up my butt. Thankfully I had Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron) channeling Bill Murray to soothe me. Seriously, I swooned.

Posted 9:22am
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December 14th , 2015

Because we're all checked out already

Christmas approacheth like a freight train and there's that Star Wars thing, so you're probably not going to get labeled "productive" by your supervisor anytime soon. No need to pretend - grab some headphones and treat yourself to the glorious world of internet video:

- Last Week Tonight is on hiatus, but John Oliver checks in with some holiday re-gifting tips.

- Will Ferrell returned to SNL to remind you that the current GOP field makes him look S-M-R-T.

- The Koch Bros. use the power of song to help you justify your anti-science views.

- Rockets!

- For the artsy fartsies - short films of famous people flying in slow motion.

- The year in film, montage style.

- And of course, Star Wars drops this weekend. In case you haven't exhausted every corner of the internet in search of content, here's the latest TV spots, in parody news there's an SNL commercial and an MST3K spot, and don't forget that Star Trek drops a new trailer that has attached it self to The Force Awakens, because we have reached nerd detente.

Posted 2:32pm
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December 11th , 2015

Your current GOP frontrunners*

The Hypocrite: Marco Rubio
Yesterday, despite the fact that he's one of two anti-immigrant candidates who is the child of immigrants, I still considered Rubio the favorite to win the nomination. Then it was revealed that while also being staunchly anti-Obamacare, he's a paying participant. Bold move, jackass.

The Anti-intellectual: Ted Cruz
There are people out there who will tell you that Ted Cruz is an intelligent policy wonk. I can only assume this opinion is based on private conversation they've had with him, because publicly, he's dumber than a box of hammers. Take this science denying interview he had with NPR, where he gets every single fact wrong.

The Gun Nut: Ben Carson
Ben Carson is so wrong on history that he thinks the pyramids were grain silos. He also thinks that the Holocaust would have been prevented with less restrictive gun laws. This man is a doctor.

The Racist Xenophobe: Donald Trump
Donald Trump wants to make sure you are scared of Mexicans and Muslims. His son wants you to know that these vile sentiments are "resonating with the people." And you're OK with that?

The truth is, every one of the above mentioned candidates shares these cute traits. Hypocritical anti-intellectuals who want you to be strapped because there are minorities out there. That's your leader? Good luck.

*or why, even if I don't believe in my heart that any of them can win, I still want to emigrate to Canada

Posted 9:12am
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December 10th , 2015

I stand on guard for thee

I long for a holiday where I can sit at home and do nothing. No offense to anyone, but I had one Thanksgiving about 7 years ago where I didn't have to leave my house and no one came over, and it was glorious. That was a vacation.

This scenario is probably never going to happen again for me. I'm still making my peace with it, but there are worse things. Plus, we have decided to do the next best thing this Xmas. With the girls out of town for a week over break (and Sid being 20 years old and like his old man, prefers to be left alone) the BDGF and I are heading back to Cananada for the holidays.

If you've run into either of us in the last five months, you know both of us are only short of being fluent in French from emigrating to Montreal. So sans child obligations, we decided to head north again. If the trip goes well, this threatens to become the new paradigm whenever we have a week with no one pulling us in a particular direction.

How will it go? Of course the cold is a concern for the BDGF. But staying across form a metro stop should mean that between cheap mass transit and Montreal's famous "underground city", we should be able to manage. Plus, rumor has it the entire city looks like this in December.

We'll manage.

Posted 4:43pm
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December 7th , 2015

Happy Birthday!

The old gray mare ain't what she used to be, but she still kicks nonetheless.

Eleven years ago I resurrected a nothing of a website I built in college and eventually it became the empire that lays before you. OK, somewhat derelict, crumbling empire, but that's what happens as things age, or so I am learning. We're still here though, as we have been every day for the last eleven years.

I know things are mostly innocuous or complainy these days, and a lot of features have become derelict. We all have to make peace with that. I choose to think of it as aging gracefully. If I can't do it IRL, at least I can be the one person on the internet with dignity.

I just remembered that it's an election year. I immediately retract the stuff about grace and dignity and replace it with indignation and profanity.

Posted 9:53am
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December 3rd , 2015

Happy Holidays

I spend most days, Monday through Friday, sitting at a desk for 8 hours actively waiting to die and imagining what would be on my tombstone if I believed in that sort of thing. (Current front runner is "I was always right. It never mattered.") I know I am not unique. I should be grateful that I am relatively well paid to do a job that I am so overqualified for that I could come to work drunk and high every day and I would still be the most effective person they have. It's easy work. Except when it isn't.

I don't suffer fools. I can only sit on my hands so long before I have to tell someone how colossally obtuse and shortsighted they are being. It's ultimately impossible for me to not say something when I see how milquetoast fuckups favor corporate platitudes over analytical thought and individualized solutions. The intervening period of me repeating my mantra of "Just don't care" until I finally explode makes me miserable.

So what do we do? We apply for new jobs that might value our skills and mindset. We imagine new careers that might make use of the experience and talents we have acquired over the years. We stare at the clock and await such a time when our children are no longer in college and we can get away with making less money doing literally anything other than attending the current shit show that we have perpetual front row tickets to. We dream about giving a flying fuck again and making things matter.

In the meantime, here's 45 minutes of Nick Offerman sitting in front of a fire drinking whiskey. Happy Holidays.

 

Posted 3:48pm
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November 17th, 2015

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

- You know what's really great when you're trying to watch a movie every day that you haven't seen before? 100 best lists. This time it's the 101 Funniest Screenplays Ever. It's a pretty good list, which unfortunately contained only 4 movies I haven't seen. Preston Sturges films, here I come.

- Walk into any department store and you'll be assaulted with the fact that Christmas is coming. Not soon, if you're a sane person, but coming nonetheless. I also know this because a.) there was a screening of Elf in my basement last week and b.) Robert Pollard put out a new holiday song. And we haven't even had time to be thankful yet.

- Since I was about 15 years old, it's been predicted by, well everyone, that I will be a crotchety old man far before my time. It is often argued that I am already there. So I guess in the prophecy fulfillment department, read this, imagine my aneurysm, and then sing it with me:

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

Now get off my lawn and stop listening to that hippity hop jibber jabber.

- Now we all know that there'll be an out gay president before an out atheist one here in 'Murica, which should make all of us sad. But when it's one of the world's biggest assholes with a two cent head who will pander to anyone telling you that you're unfit, well these are the criticisms that we should wear as a badge of honor. A right thinking person knows that the next President of these United States should stand in stark opposition of whatever Ted Cruz stands for, so thanks for the compliment, you milquetoast, effete, grandstanding asshat.

- Finally, the world is a scary place. You're an adult who responds to horrible events with sadness and empathy and a desire to help. You can give money to various organizations trying to put things back together. You can help by supporting the people you know and care about (and those you don't) who unduly suffer because of islamo/xenophobia. You can vote for people in power who don't react to these events by beating the drums of war or by pledging to take your personal freedoms away. Do all these things. Please. But also go about your life. Laugh. Love. Be kind to each other. The best revenge is a life well lived. To wit, here's some Belgian kids trying to make sense of the Beastie Boys. Cheers.

Posted 11:01am
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November 3rd , 2015

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

- This Week in Indie Rock: Stream the new Destroy This Place album, listen to autotuned Bill Nye and Neil Tyson, Courtney Barnett on ACL, Spoon dishes on their Gimme Fiction reissue and don't forget to spend NYE in Chicago watching the Promise Ring play Nothing Feels Good in full. Couldn't you just take me with you?

- Watch! A documentary on John Carpenter's The Thing, live action Metroid and finally scope the hidden edits in Birdman.

- This makes me equal parts sad and furious. I want to start a program to adopt little atheist kids stuck in these stupid fucking podunk places like Louisiana and bring them to a place where they can be properly educated and allowed to think freely. That would make me ecstatic.

- I'm kind of impressed with myself for still being on pace to make my 365 movies in 365 days goal. 59 days to go! If you still have a Halloween itch left unscratched, I highly recommend the koo koo banana pants 1977 Japanese movie House. I've seen 306 movies this year that I've never seen before, and it's by far the strangest, in a completely wonderful way.

- Finally, practice your voting skills for next year's national election by heading to the polls today. Here's your guide for the Ann Arbor area, and citizens of Ohio, do something right for once in your life.

Posted 11:38am
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October 16th , 2015

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

- This Week in Indie Rock: Craig Finn is making the rounds with his new solo album and The Promise Ring is teasing something, but Maritime drops a new LP today! Oh, and dear reader, check out this new anthem for Bernie Sanders from Brad Neely.

- Hey dickweeds, clean, renewal energy is as cheap as the stuff that's killing our planet. Of course, it'll be a while until the entrenched interests get out of the way, but we can now conceivably do this people. Clean energy will be the only answer your grandkids use, so keep your legacy in mind when making decisions about what kind of car you drive.

- If you're as obsessed with The Martian as my house is, you're probably well versed in the accuracy of the science involved. If you're as yet unawares, here's a helpful video to get you up to speed. Spoiler alert: science rocks.

- Sometimes I lament the fact that I have to go to the bar and play trivia by myself far too often, but this paradigm is buoyed by the fact that I often don't need you lightweights gumming up the works.

But still, come out and play with me. It's fun. We will win often.

- Finally, tomorrow! It's snobs vs slobs as Michigan takes on Sparty. Since this is the first game of any consequence for Michigan in 9 years, I'm having a titch of trouble concentrating today. I don't loathe Sparty nearly as much as Ohio or Notre Dame, but loathe them I do nonetheless, and they've got a beatdown coming. Or at least I hope so. I'm not ready for this all time high to fade away just yet...

Posted 10:20am
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October 12th , 2015

I'm ready to be heartbroken

Gambling in intrinsic to college sports. Not necessarily the placing money with shady bookmakers part, but the putting your faith and allegiance into something you have no control over and having that outcome effect your emotional state part. It's a dice roll every season, every week.

For me anyway. Ten days ago the BDGF was cautiously warning me from getting too excited about Michigan's prospects this year. I told her not to worry. You don't have to talk me down off the ledge, because I'm not even getting up there. You can imagine how long that sentiment lasted.

I cam home Saturday night after demolishing a top 15 team somewhere between giddy and euphoric. I was pole dancing on that ledge without regard for my physical or emotional safety. This is something I can't explain to the BDGF, who finds the whole thing silly, and it's that fact that made me realize how dumb (and impossible) it will always be to attempt to guard myself from the emotional swings of fandom.

I would argue that the emotional swings are the point. There's no sweet without the bitter and whatever ol' chestnut of a cliche you want to throw at it. Furthermore, I've earned this. I sat through seven years of ineptitude, and while disregarding the whole first world problem nature of this idea, it would be asinine not to try and let the new found success wash over me and enjoy it for everything it's worth.

So I'm ready to be heartbroken. I've been there before, I know what I'm doing. Argue that it's silly. That it's not worth it. Roll your eyes at its juvenile nature. But before you go, you should really step out on this ledge with me. The weather is perfect and the view is spectacular.

Posted 1:39pm
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September 30th , 2015

Would you give a guy a foot massage?

You could call Salon.com a liberal rag and most people wouldn't argue with you too much. I get it with articles like "The 7 Most Impressively Stupid Things Ben Carson Has Said" or even "Kissinger poisoned the Middle East." Not that I don't agree with the aforementioned, but they're not exactly giving equal time over there.

However, at the same time, reporting the truth as fact and calling it vile or ugly or irresponsible is still journalism, especially in 2015. Which is why Salon may be the liberal lamestream media, but compare these articles from just today, versus what passes for news on redstate, Drudge, Fox News or whatever you think is the functional equivalent:

- Indiana's GOP House Leader sends explicit video (of him cheating on his wife) to all of his friends, claims phone was stolen "in Canada". Of course, he co-sponsored the Indiana religious freedom law that you may remember.

- Former Governor, current colossal idiot Mike Huckabee tweets that Planned Parenthood isn't a healthcare provider. Which, you know, is as infuriating as it is inaccurate.

- Rush Limbaugh claims NASA finding water on Mars is a liberal conspiracy.

- Ben Carson is fine with the Confederate flag.

As we are so fond of saying 'round these parts, ain't no motherfucking ballpark neither. It's going to get a lot uglier in the next 13 months. I will probably get angry about it. But whatever shortcomings and pitfalls that the Democrats may have, there's a colossal fucking divide in the seriousness of these two factions. Sorry, I know you know this, I'm just sayin'...

Posted 3:37pm
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September 24th , 2015

This is 40

This is 10

This is 20

This is 30

This is 40

Let it never be said that I am unwilling to post embarassing pictures of myself on the internet.

There's too much to unpack about my birthday at the moment to do it justice. People from literally all over the country came to help me celebrate, which makes feel incredibly loved. And perhaps most inportantly, they all did it without facebook telling them it was my birthday. I have successfully scrubbed my birthday from social media, so the people that said hey yesterday meant all the more. Thanks to everyone who did all the amazing things yesterday and all week. You are the best.

Posted 11:59am
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September 18th , 2015

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

- By now you know that a teenager in Texas was arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school because he also happened to be brown and a muslim. (But don't worry, conservatives aren't bigoted xenophobes). As lamentable as this is, take solace in the fact that it's 2015, which means that stuff like this not only fails to get swept under the rug, but rather the kid gets his own hashtag and NASA, MIT and the White House all shower him with praise and opportunities. Always remember that humanity is great, the GOP is vile.

- For actual science fun, check out these cats who made a scale model of the solar system in the desert and then try and land a Falcon 9 rocket. No one said science was easy.

- This Week in Indie Rock: local favorites Destroy This Place drop a new scorcher, and The Promise Ring get fancy new reissues. You can also watch some Japanese teenagers cover some TPR classics amazingly well, because the internet.

- Your Friday watch list: This supercut creates a phone conversation over 57 films and this mini-doc shows how everyone steals from everybody. As Elvis Costello said, "every pop musician is a thief and a magpie."

- Finally, my thirties are finally all but over. I'll shake the last vestiges of my fourth decade on this planet off over the next few days and prepare to settle in to middle age. I suppose it could be worse. At the end of the day I don't feel that different. I have no plans to slow down. It's merely an arbitrary demarcation of time that societal norms dictate we use to celebrate and contemplate. At least these are things I will continue to tell myself as my insides fill with panic and uncertainty. I've been past my halfway point for a while now anyway, so it's all just keeping both feet on the brake from here on out. That and knowing when to take them off and let yourself careen down the hill, because it's all one big adventure - otherwise what's the point?

Posted 10:10am
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September 3rd , 2015

Harbaugh is my savior, I shall not want

When you're an atheist, the believers will always try to ascribe something to you as "your religion." Conservatives try and tell me that liberalism is my religion. Sometimes you might even hear me say that I "believe" in science or reason. Both are non-starters, because while I may have faith in a liberal mind set, I don't take any of it without evidence. And science is the opposite of "belief" in something sans evidence. It may be my dogma, but that's something else.

I suppose if cornered, the only thing I have that's semantically close to being a religious experience for me is Michigan football. I irrationally believe in the power of it. I am inexplicably drawn to it. It has the power to both calm and consume me. I look down upon those who have yet to see the light. I believe the rituals surrounding it have power and my participation in them matters. It's all very, very silly.

Michigan broadcasting legend Bob Ufer used to say "Michigan football is a religion and Saturday's the holy day of obligation." Saturday comes early this week, as Michigan kicks off their 2015 campaign tonight somewhere in the middle of Utah. Ultimately the idea of Michigan as religion falls apart for me because it fails far too many criteria. It's not a guide to morality and says nothing of an afterlife. And while we all should have a healthy fear of Jim Harbaugh, I do not conduct my day to day affairs under his watchful eye.

Michigan is, however, family. I say "we" when talking about the University and the football team because it is something I am a part of. I am part of 500,000 alumni. I am part of a group of people who gather in a parking lot 8 times a year to celebrate and commiserate together. I'd do just about anything for any of them and would forgive them almost anything. I've entrusted them with my children. That may not be religion per se, but it is something even more powerful in my estimation. That's what I believe, anyway.

Posted 12:14pm
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September 2nd , 2015

Free at last

The only people who should have college roommates are people in college.

I love our children and by all accounts they are some of the most genial twenty somethings available. However, being a proto-adult is messy and at some point, I'm too old for a front row seat. I still want to see the show, but I want to do it from my couch, where I can pause it and go do something else for a while. I want to be able to control the volume and fast forward past some of the parts that just aren't for me. I'm too old for the mosh pit, and sometimes even getting dressed to go out sounds like more of a chore than I'm up for.

Which is why hooray! The bigs went back to college. Siddhartha finally has his own apartment and in all likelihood will never move back in. The BDGF's eldest is back in the dorms, but I've already got my check book at the ready for her to get a sublet next summer. Let's be honest, we are in a very fortunate position in that both of our children go to school a few miles from our house. We can insist that they come see us when we decide that we miss them because we've forgotten how terrible they can be. This is why I have no qualms about being giddy about them getting the fuck out.

The children get to be practice adults, which you can't do when you live with your parents. Don't get me wrong - they are far from being actual functional adults, if for no other reason than we still pay for everything. Make no mistake - we are paying you to go away. Just don't be surprised when we occasionally bribe you with food, laundry facilities and cash to come back once in a while. But don't overstay your welcome. Being an adult means knowing when it's time to leave.

Posted 9:35am
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August 26th , 2015

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

- Sometimes I lay in bed at night and as I drift off into a well deserved slumber, I wonder what the various members of the New Pornographers are up to. Is AC Newman in a bunker somewhere creating a new power pop masterpiece? Is Neko staring off into the distance and dreaming of a 40-ish midwesterner who she hasn't met yet but just knows would be everything she ever wanted if they would ever accidentally bump into each other? I know for a fact that Kathryn Calder and Dan Bejar are making lush, gorgeous solo albums that border on the divine. I assume I'm right about AC and Neko too.

- Once again, our little liberal bubble here in Southeast Michigan is the most educated city in America. It doesn't hurt that our building boom continues, surpassing the GDP of 18 countries. It's no wonder everyone thinks we're smug assholes (which we are).

- The UK has come out with a study claiming that e-cigarettes are around 95% less harmful than lighting tobacco on fire and inhaling it into your lungs. But yes, let's ban them in public spaces. I have co-workers who wear cologne that's more harmful.

- In science good/science bad news, you can sign up here and have your name sent to Mars. MARS! Which will be the only thing left of you after this thing gains sentience and takes over the goddamn planet. I mean, there's no bigger fan of Elon Musk than yours truly, but we all can see him standing over some mechanical abomination muttering "What have I done?" right before humanity ceases to exist. Right?

- Finally, Born to Run just turned 40, beating me to the punch by almost a month. I swear I'm going to try not to spend the next month whining about my impending doom and how much I hate every living second of it. Or about how if I had friends that really cared about me and wanted to do something nice for my birthday, they would shut the fuck up and not mention it at all. I mean, as the day approaches of course I want to go be by myself, abandon social media for a week and come back to civilization when it's all over, but I know people will be waiting when I get back, because everyone is dicks. So I'm going to do what I'd normally be doing this time of year, and spend all of my energy on Michigan football. If you want to talk about anything else, don't expect pleasantries from my old, grizzled ass. Eight days until kickoff!

Posted 10:22am
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August 12th , 2015

Make Math Studio!

It is my distinct pleasure to announce the creation of Make Math Studio:

The BDGF is starting her own math lab to bring her legendary instructional prowess to the masses. Tell your friends, sign up your children, like it on facebook. I'm planning on this taking off so that I can be a stay-at-home husband, so your proselytizing on our behalf is appreciated.

Posted 9:56am
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August 11th , 2015

How to be an adult

Last Xmas I got the BDGF's eldest a set of gift certificates so she could take all of her friends out for a nice meal and then attend the cinema, because that's what adults do. I decided she could use a set of instructions on how to comport oneself in adult situations, so this is perhaps part one of an ongoing series. Feel free to use them for the burgeoning adult in your household.

Posted 3:38pm
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August 7th , 2015

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

- Our recent 10 hour car ride to Montreal flew by thanks to a copy of Andy Weir's The Martian on audiobook. I highly recommend it for anyone contemplating an arduous road trip. Of course it's being made into a film with Matt Damon, so if you are book averse or smart enough to avoid 10 hour car rides, watch the viral videos they're making to get excited about the premise.

- Actual science! Here's your personal astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson explaining the universe in 8 minutes - slightly superior to the opening credits of The Big Bang Theory, all apologies to Canadians Barenaked Ladies.

- Devoted Star Wars fans are aware of the myriad changes that the original trilogy has undergone over the years - even long before Lucas bastardized his legacy with the "Special Editions" a while back. Now you can watch all the futzing with a masterpiece in convenient internet form. Prepare to continually ask yourself "Why?"

- Science Fiction and action movies are often only as good as the weapon our intrepid hero uses to dispatch the baddies. To wit, enjoy this Illustrated Guide to Iconic Fictional Weapons. Conspicuously absent: Ash's chainsaw and Ming the Merciless' power ring. Slightly less subjective is this list of the fastest vehicles in sci-fi, because if we were just ranking cool factor, the Falcon wins in a walk.

- Finally, you're cool, so you're probably already hip to the greatness that is William Shatner's 2004 album Has Been (produced by Ben Folds). The album's signature tune is a cover of Pulp's "Common People" and while it took over 10 years, someone finally made a video for the song using old Star Trek clips. It's the greatest thing you'll see all day, so enjoy and have a spiffy weekend.

Posted 10:10am
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August 4th , 2015

Tuesdays are for politickin'

It's primary day here in Ann Arbor, so go out and vote, dummy.

- The senate barely kept funding in place for Planned Parenthood, and of course it took Elizabeth Warren to explain to everyone exactly what is going on. Just like she took this Financial Exec to task recently on his shady practices. Man I wish she were running for the big job.

- In not fair fight news, Rachel Maddow explains the Constitution to Rick Santorum. I can't remember laughing harder at a transcription that was not intended to make you laugh. GOP!

- And for a trifecta of women telling everyone what's up, Amy Schumer is taking on gun-control. Anyone with half the brain of any of these women will fight with them instead of against them.

- Finally, in I'm moving to Canada news, the AP U.S. History curriculum is being re-written to emphasize "American Exceptionalism", aka "we liberated America from the Indians." Now I'm not suggesting we drop everything and have Howard Zinn teach every U.S. history class, but you should have a giant fucking problem with impressionable kids who are someday going to run this country being told white washed lies in order to cover up the fact that we fuck up a lot. I had great history teachers in high school that didn't gloss over shit, and everyone who took those classes is better for it. But hey, let's go back to thinking that Reagan was a great president. I'm going to go learn about Pierre Trudeau.

Posted 3:52pm
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July 29th , 2015

This Week in Indie Rock

- The Walkmen are back! Well, two of them anyway. And if you are an East Coaster, they'll hand deliver their new LP. Mine will be delivered by some dude in brown shorts.

- Craig Finn released another new song from his upcoming solo LP and more importantly perhaps, played Replacements tunes the other night with Ted Leo and Titus Andronicus. I once saw Craig make a Ted Leo reference on stage and almost passed out, so one can only imagine the level of swoonage from yours truly had I been in attendance.

- Speaking of coverage, Brandon Flowers did The White Stripes at MoPop.

- Speaking of upcoming albums, Maritime and Josh Ritter both have LPs due this fall. I suddenly find myself paying for a lot of albums that I won't get to hear for months. Welcome to the record industry, 2015.

- Ben Folds is also dropping songs from a forthcoming release. I still enjoy his work, but our interests kind of split ways 10-12 years ago.

- Led Zeppelin is wrapping up their re-releases, and you can hear an early version of "In the Evening" as part of it. I only wish I heard better things about some of those remasters. My collection is dying for suped up version of Physical Graffiti and Houses of the Holy.

- Finally, since most of the above at least verges on aging dad-rock, here's some power-pop goodness, doled out 2 minutes at a time by Sleepy.

Posted 2:37pm
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July 27th , 2015

Je voudrais Montreal

Part One: America, meh

Sean Hannity's profession is to scare old people with his verbal diarrhea about liberals. That's a given. I've always cringed every time I heard him mutter "America is the single greatest nation that God ever gave man on this earth." Blech. Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel and I'm guessing Sean has never traveled farther than two blocks from his Manhattan apartment. He sure as shit hasn't been to Montreal, because otherwise even his smarmy lying ass would have a hard time uttering that completely already bullshit phrase.

Canada is clean and polite and crime free. It's like Canadians are all Disneyland employees being monitored at all times. They also have universal health care, so get in line 'Murica. We ain't such hot shit. Celebrities are constantly getting in 'trouble' for saying that if so and so gets elected, they're leaving the country. Well I'll tell you right this second, if Donald Trump or Ted Cruz or literally any of the other half wits that the GOP is trotting out to be our next President somehow gets elected, I will make every effort to emigrate to Montreal. For reals.

Part two: bon jour!

Everything in Quebec is in French. Exclusively. The rest of Cananada goes through great pains to print things in English AND French, but not Quebec. It's French or nothing. Most restaurants will have an English menu and everyone knows at least enough English to get by, but make no mistake that you're going to need at least a little French to get on in Quebecois.

I speak zero French, but a week in Montreal was a crash course that I had a great time with. I still can't speak a lick outside of please, thank you, hello and goodbye, but I can breeze through a credit card reader to pay for a meal without an interpreter. And of course I assumed that even though everyone is still Canadian, the Frenchiness of it all would make everyone at least a little dickish, but they are right: love wins. Or politeness does anyway, because as stated above, everyone in Canada is a big ol' sweetheart.

Part three: Know your Canadians!

One day during our trip we decided to ask people to name famous Canadians. There are many. Michael J. Fox. Alex Trebeck. Wayne Gretzky. Mike Meyers. We were very unscientific and inconsistent in both how we asked this question and how we tallied results, but I'm pretty sure the most named Canadian was Celine Dion, followed by Justin Bieber. So not that great, eh? Maybe they can get Rush to revoke their citizenship with the power of rock.

Celine Dion aside, I can't wait to go back to Montreal. And 100% would consider moving there. Go ahead America, call my bluff.

Posted 4:37pm
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July 14th , 2015

Civil discourse and disobedience

I've written my share of strongly worded letters. I've probably written your share too, as I don't think enough people write strongly worded letters and I have a penchant for it. I'm not always great at keeping a civil tongue (especially when I was younger) but in the old days (before rampant anonymous internet message boards) you'd call someone on their shit, and a lot of times, they'd get back to you. So I may have used my fair share of colorful dialogue, but at least there was a back and forth and a respect and understanding. At least more than you'll find on facebook.

But there's little point in writing about how the internet poisons our collective conversation. It of course emboldens it as much as it degrades it. Truthfully, the above words are just half-hearted filler to justify showing you what Tom Petty and Eugene Mirman did recently. Please use these examples of civil discourse and disobedience to guide you in fighting the good fight and becoming a more aware human being and member of the collective. It's really all there is.

Posted 2:29pm
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July 9th , 2015

Happy Birthday Moesy-Woesy

My dad would have been 77 today. I've been thinking about my old man a lot lately - all of the things he had to do and the tiny amount of resources with which he had to do them. It's reassuring because he made it work so I should be able to as well.

It also makes me sad because I wish he wouldn't have had to work so hard. It makes me feel guilty for the bitching and moaning that I do (even though my propensity to be gruff and silent and mutter to myself is something else I learned from him). Then it makes me cry because my dad believed in me.

He would never use those words. But he said he didn't have to worry about me, which is akin to the same thing for someone who grew up in the 50s. With all apologies to everyone in my life whose opinions I cherish, his was the one that mattered most.

So when I'm pissed off or depressed and I don't know what to do, I think about my dad and what he would have done. And then I remember that he would have thought that I could handle things, so I must be able to. Thanks for that MoeMan. And Happy Birthday.

Posted 4:15pm
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July 8th , 2015

Music Word Ladder

The other night the BDGF and I played a game where one person picked a song from my vast iTunes library and then the other person had to pick the next song in the queue based on the previous song. The idea was to get inspired by the lyrics or melody or guitar line or what have you of what was playing and then see where that takes us. We called in Music Word Ladder, probably because we were tipsy and concentrating on what to play next rather than coming up with a clever name for the game. Anyway, for the curious and posterity, here's our trip down the rabbit hole*:

T Koop Waltz for Koop
BDGF Ben Folds Kalamazoo
T King Tuff Black Moon Spell
BDGF Metric Black Sheep
T Digable Planets Rebirth of Slick
BDGF Flight of the Conchords The Rhymenocerous
T Ben Folds Bitches Ain't Shit
BDGF The Hold Steady Stevie Nix
T The Who The Seeker
BDGF Led Zeppelin Gallows Pole
T The Jayhawks Ten Little Kids
BDGF Jack White Just One Drink
T Stevie Ray Vaughn Pride and Joy
BDGF Tom Petty The Waiting
T Elvis Costello Veronica
BDGF The Beatles We Can Work it Out
T Ted Leo Tell Balgeary Balgury is Dead

I especially liked going from "Stevie Nix" to "The Seeker". I tried to make a spotify playlist to make this easier to listen to in order, but I only got to song #4 before spotify let me down. Music streaming is nice for you kids and all, but it never fails to meet my expectations.

*Did you know that Lewis Carrol invented Word Ladders? That's TWO Lewis Carrol references in ONE paragraph!

Posted 10:46am
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July 1st , 2015

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

- Everything is totally gay now and it is awesome! That's not innocuous but the fact that I had no ignorant hate speech come through on any of my social media outlets (outside of people posting it to mock it) kind of is. Seriously though, just thinking about it still makes me giddy. Turns out Churchill was right: "You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else."

- This Week in Indie Rock: Stream the new record from Cloud Nothings/Wavves, Belle and Sebastian on Seth Meyers, and more from Courtney Barnett.

- At the movies: James Bond drinks!: The Infographic, Great movie posters. We've also reached the halfway point in our 365 movies in 365 days experiment, and we are still ahead of schedule. Movie #192 was Peter Jackson's Meet the Feebles. It's hard to believe that I hadn't seen a movie about puppets so vulgar that they make the ones from Avenue Q look like teetotalers, and even harder to believe I hated it. I suppose if you are going to watch 365 movies you've never seen before, they can't all be winners.

- Thrillist's quest to turn everything into a list ranks every state in America. You'd think I wrote it based solely on the placement of Michigan and Ohio.

- Finally, you know how the moment you pay off your car someone inevitably rear ends you, or you run over a pot hole and need a new axle? I was two paychecks from being out of debt for the first time in my life, and then my son smashed out the rear window of the van. Then it rained so hard that we had to have a plumber come snake our drain. The real kicker though was that we have to replace our roof. Getting almost out of debt only to have the door slammed in your face is neither innocuous nor happy, but being able to stick your foot in before it closes and knowing that it's no big deal and everything is going to be just fine is. Still though...

 

Posted 4:27pm
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June 19th , 2015

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

- I've been reading a pretty great biography of Elon Musk and I'm becoming more and more convinced that our grandkids will utter his name in the same breath as Edison, Ford, Gates and Jobs*. He's a real life Tony Stark, or Walt Disney with the engineering bonafides to make it happen. My money says he'll be the one to take us to Mars rather than NASA (and will do so at half the price). I don't say that lightly, because as we all know, I loves me some NASA.

*He of course could still end up being an R. Buckminster Fuller or (ironically) Tesla, but those guys are cooler than the above anyway.

- Of course outside of Musk's SpaceX concerns, he also founded Tesla and Solar City. Just thinking about it makes me feel incredibly stupid for driving a car with an internal combustion engine. Not of course as stupid as if I lived in Arizona, but you have to be a pretty solipsistic asshole to live in the desert. As an aside, I highly recommend subscribing to 538's significant digits newsletter. Consistently fascinating.

- This Week in Indie Rock: New Craig Finn and old (unreleased) Tom Petty. You can also watch Courtney Barnett on Fallon. You seriously should, because I can't say it any better than they do in the link: she's one of the best things we've got going on right now.

- If you've got nothing to do Saturday night, I'm gonna guess the bananapants crazy Lifetime movie staring Kristin Wiig and Will Ferrel is going to be, well bananapants. Watch it as a double feature with your VHS copy of Mother May I Sleep with Danger?

- Finally, the BDGF is off to Chicago for work starting tomorrow. Along side copious amounts of yard work while she's away, the Chandler Drive-In will be showing Andrei Tarkovsky's 1972, 3-hour Russian sci-fi classic Solaris and Fritz Lang's 1927 German masterpiece Metropolis (the two and a half hour restored director's cut).* It's gonna be awesome! I'm otherwise drinking in the backyard, so stop on by.

*Space is limited, so please RSVP if you want to attend.

Posted 2:39pm
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June 12th , 2015

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

- There's some great love letters circulating the internet that are about some of the music I love most in this world. Here is the erstwhile Ron Swanson extolling the virtues of Jeff Tweedy and Wilco, which is a treat beyond measure. Here you can read a group calling themselves The Emo Council ranking The Promise Ring's entire catalog. They are too hard on Very Emergency, but otherwise it really made me nostalgic for being young and teeming with emotion.

- Watch! Weird Al sings in Jack White's record booth, Matt Damon stranded in space (again), the late great Christopher Lee knows him some swordfights and if you are a fan of things like Sharknado, you can cram that weak tea up your butt because Kung Fury shows you the meaning of the term banana pants crazy town.

- If I asked you to riff on the premise that "Republicans get paid for working like this, Democrats get paid for working like this..." you're comedy would probably be vindicated by this list. Unless you're Ted Cruz, who thinks that JFK would be a Republican today. You would also probably get bigger laughs just repeating things that Ted Cruz says, because that guy is a complete joke.

- I've long struggled as the parent of gamer with some of the inherent anti-social aspects of your kid sitting in his room playing video games 24-7. Which is why I owe a big thanks (again) to science for proving that online gaming makes you more sociable. Yes, it also says it might give you Alzheimer's, but you take the good with the bad. I'm just happy knowing that when he does leave the basement, he knows how to talk to people IRL.

- Finally, I wrote a big 1,000 word piece about how I've been going to therapy for the last 2 months and how helpful it's been. Then I realized that the back half of that sentence pretty much says it all. Talking to someone who's neither judging you nor merely waiting for you to stop talking so that they can tell you happened to them today is awesome and worth every penny my insurance is paying. I doubt I'll still feel it necessary two months from now, but it's been a really great process for me and I recommend it to everyone. That and alcohol, which works differently but is just as effective in a pinch.

Posted 10:54am
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June 2nd , 2015

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

- The silly season that is American politics approaching a national election is in full derp mode. Nevermind that we are 16+ months out - corporations have money to spend to ensure that they stay rich and we stay happy with the scraps, so let's do this. We've covered that Bernie Sanders is not your average old cook, and you've surely seen that Americans are now as self-identified as liberal as they are conservative. But did you know that's only because we're letting in too many filthy foreigners and not coercing them into Christianity?!? It's true, according to the most vile people on the planet anyway.* It's going to be an agonizing year and a half.

*and they don't even mention the Santorum, but who given this we can infer he agrees.

- David Letterman said goodbye last week. I loved his show from a time that most of the stuff probably went right over my head - when staying up to see the first 20 minutes felt like an adult victory. Plus my dad's writing ended up on his old NBC show a couple of times and I was famously voted most likely to succeed him in my high school yearbook, so I'll be expecting an apology call from Stephen Colbert any day now. I thought this Eddie Vedder performance from the last week was pretty rad. If that makes you feel old, here's new music from Destroyer, Dave Monks and Total Babes.

- I feel like I want to say something positive about Caitlyn Jenner and how great it is that societally we've gotten to a point where people who otherwise would have suffered their entire lives and lived in fear can know be comfortable as themselves*. And for anyone who wants to say something about the PC police or is not on board, this pretty much sums it up:

*p.s. we have a long way to go.

- My softball season starts tonight. I started playing about 15 years ago because a.) I figured we'd spend an hour playing the game and a couple hours drinking and b.) nobody in Ann Arbor knew that I was unathletic, so maybe I could trick them and simultaneously prove something to myself. The good news is it worked! I became part of an often pretty good team and after every game we hung out and had good times. Unfortunately I'm now old. On the positive side, I don't have to prove anything to anyone anymore. On the negative side, I now play in fear of injury. I could still wrap my psyche around that if the drinking was the same as it ever was, but we are still sponsored by a college bar. That means we are supposed to go there to drink after games, and I now have two kids in college. Being almost twice the age of everyone in a watering hole coupled with the idea of running into someone who only knows me as the dad of someone who is supposed to be drinking with 22 year olds makes me feel skeevy. At the end of the day, I look at the calendar and see that I have softball tonight and think boo, I'd rather be going to play trivia. My retirement may be imminent.

- Finally, Siddhartha started his first real big boy job this morning. Despite the fact that it is for a Japanese laser company and you can probably count in months the time when he will make more money than I do, when I dropped him off at work (because we carpool!) it still felt like the first day of school to dear old dad. Of course imaging him as a little kid and pondering where those years went is very balanced with the feeling of "about time," so don't cry for me Argentina. Even if this is what I saw when he stepped out of my car this morning:

Posted 11:42am
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May 27th, 2015

Non-interventionism.

So I'm sorry about yesterday. It was perhaps a tad untoward. I don't suffer fools lightly, which is often a good thing when it comes to trying to make the world a better place, but can be detrimental to one's mental well being. Yesterday was an attempt to square my personal emotional state.

Then I remembered the facebook. Facebook got to be a horrible place for me a while back, because every time I checked my timeline I was inundated with hate and ignorance and just the brutality of man's inhumanity to man. I wanted to walk away and be done with it, but I simultaneously didn't want to miss out on what was going on in the lives of people I enjoyed.

The thing is, you are totally in control of what Facebook shows you. You can pick and choose whose myopic ramblings you see. So I started muting everyone. All the religious claptrap, the anti-Obama hate speech, the posts from people I haven't seen in 20 years and their kids whom I will never meet - gone. Facebook became a nice little corner of the internet for me and about two dozen friends.

Thankfully I remembered all of this shortly after yesterday's blog post, and more importantly, realized that it applies to life on the whole. I mean, not completely, but too often more than we realize. Not only do I never have to respond to LJV when he sends me something about how stupid liberals are ruining everything, I don't have to read it. Thanks to technology, I never have to know he even sent it. With a few clicks, I expunged the hatred from my life. Voila!

We can't truly live in a bubble where things we don't like or dissenting viewpoints never enter our purview. That's bad. We need back and forth and opposition and to be pushed and to push back. What we don't need is the comments section of political news stories. We don't need Fox News or reason.com or people that seemingly exist merely to poke our personal beehives. We shouldn't suffer fools lightly, but we also don't have to invite them into our lives.

Posted 4:40pm
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May 26th, 2015

The internet is for trolls.

I was gonna post something today. Honest. But instead I spent those ten minutes arguing with long time blog agitant LJV.

LJV sent me an email today with the headline "Hasn't even called a play yet..." Some of you may have guessed that this is in reference to UM football coach Jim Harbaugh and the flack that occurred over his support of the movie American Sniper being shown on campus. If you haven't heard of the faux scandal, good for you, it's a nothing story. If you've ever been on a college campus before, you know that students are outraged about everything. It's part of the job description for being young and educated. LJV seems to think that Jim Harbaugh is going to be crushed by the liberal bubble of Ann Arbor.

I normally don't care about such trivial things, but a few weeks ago when this story happened, LJV sent me another email about an incident involving vandalism, with the line "I've always felt that liberals are the most intolerant people on earth." Finally realizing that he was going to continue to bait me until I gave him the "liberal outrage" that he so clearly craved, I sent him this:

Fine. Here you go.

Here's the Daily's coverage. Compare and contrast to your galactically incompetent "journalists" at reason

I'm glad you know Harbaugh's mind so well.  Your right, he probably had no idea what climate he was walking into when he took the job, despite his tenures here and at Stanford. I'd say you're a myopic, pliant idiot who clings to a philosophy most intelligent people dabble with for five minutes in college before learning how the world really works, but I know you're like a 98 pound weekly under the boards who cries "foul" every time somebody hip checks him, so...

The real problem Larry is that I find much of your logic and lines of thought jingoistic, xenophobic and misogynistic. Like your little line about this story earlier that said liberals were intolerant because some college kids committed vandalism.  Where are your emails about the Duggars, who spend thousands of dollars and all of their time fighting against equal rights for the LGBT community, while they let their son off the hook for molesting their own daughters? Because Jesus? But hey, we have to protect women and children.  To paraphrase, if kids got raped at Denny's one tenth of the amount they did in church, we'd burn every single fucking one of them to the ground and salt the earth behind us. 

I don't know why I'd cancel my season tickets. I have no problem that Harbaugh likes American Sniper (even though it's not a very good movie). And I like that he met with people that have a problem with his tweet. I don't care that they kept out journalists, because reason.com would have attempted to drum up outrage no matter what was said behind those closed doors. Here's how reason.com covers the Duggars

That was just the first link I clicked after a search. There may be more thoughtful pieces on the site, but as far as I'm concerned, you all can take a flying fuck and get off my dick, because I don't have the time nor the inclination to explain how obtuse you all are. The adults will be in the next room trying to make the tiniest bit of progress with your collective albatross around our necks holding us back. 

I won't post any more of his musings on the subject, as to not promote ignorance and hate speech. I'm sure you all are savvy enough to find him* if you want his side, or just go read any libertarian publication on the internet. Stop reading if vomit is induced.

*I'd start looking under bridges in Henry County, Ohio.

Posted 2:06pm
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May 13th, 2015

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

- Science* says that people generally stop listening to new music at 33. That intuitively sounds about right. Unfortunately, as far as I'm concerned. I find myself increasingly frustrated by both the depictions and actualities of getting older as I rage against the dying of the light. When I saw While We're Young, all I could think was "Well that's ridiculous. People in their forties aren't like that," which quickly morphed into "Well at least I'm not like that." For some reason I see stilted 40 somethings in pop culture as an affront to my particular age rather than validation that I'm still plugged into the world rather than standing by and watching it pass me by. That probably stems from my deep seeded fear that someday soon my clothes or haircut or behavior will shortly be ludicrous for someone in their forties. Is this a real thing? Am I just scared of being 40? Certainly the phenomenon exists, but whether or not I need to be worried about it or not is ultimately not for me to say, which is probably the scary part.

- For anyone under 33, here's some new Ezra Furman, Warm Soda and Someone Still Love You Boris Yeltsin. For everyone else of a certain age, here's Jack Black and Jimmy Fallon covering "More Than Words." Lord to be >33 forever.

- I've voted for Republicans, Democrats and Independents before, for every level of political office. Most of that was in a simpler time when I was still figuring things out and we all lived in a different world - well, different political climate anyway. 18 months from now I will almost certainly cast my vote for a female candidate for president for the first time, which will feel right and good. But someday, I'd like to vote for an actual progressive for the highest office in the land. I guess I did that once when I voted for Nader, but I cast that ballot knowing full well he wouldn't so much carry a single state, much less mine. It'd be nice to do it for someone who actually had a shot. As much as I'm ready, willing and able to vote for Hillary, I'd really like to throw my support behind someone like Bernie Sanders. Apparently trying to stay and feel young brings with it a bit of naive optimism.

- The 365 movies in 365 days project is in full swing and I am officially ahead of schedule for the first time (thanks to this website for making the math easy.) I am currently devouring submarine movies and the recommendations from lovely blog readers who have been kind enough to pass along suggestions. By far the worst thing I've seen so far is Gentlemen Broncos, which thankfully was my own fault for watching and not something someone offered up as a worthwhile endeavor. The BDGF is out of town this weekend, so weather permitting, I hope to be able to devour something out of doors Saturday night. Anyone with a good drive-in style summer movie that I haven't seen yet, I'm waiting anxiously to hear it.

- Finally, I'm trying to concentrate on doing some actual writing here. I suppose that's funny to say in a post that doesn't contain a whole lot of actual writing, but nevertheless it is true. I feel like it's been something missing in my life. If not exactly missing, then I was reminded by my last post how happy it makes me to turn a couple of disjointed thoughts or events into a 400 word essay that purports to say something. It may not be art or even any good, but for whatever reason, this is the only pseudo-artistic endeavor I've ever been able to do consistently without beating myself up about its shortcomings (this is probably mostly because of the restrictions I place on how I do this. If I allowed myself aggressive editing instead of relying on stream of consciousness, it'd be another chore I grow to resent.) Anyway, trying to look at the world , ponder it and make sense of it is something I want to get back to. Just apparently only 100 words at a time today.

*And when we say science we mean "science".

Posted 4:11pm
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May 5th, 2015

Herding Cats.

Cats are nature's most solipsistic animals. They do what they want, when they want. I'm amazed that they can be trained to defecate in the same place over and over again, but I guess thanks evolution for that? In any case, I'm not telling you anything you don't know, cats are indifferent to your wants and needs. I'd say they're all dicks if I wasn't ultimately jealous of how intractable they are in their cat-ness.

The BDGF's Littlest has the indefatigableness of youth. Despite my insistence that you can't train a cat to do much of anything, she was determined to apply her horsewomanship skills to our little Amelie. She was convinced that she could get a cat to jump over obstacles just like she does with the ponies. She wasn't wrong.

 

But neither was I. After a long day of "training" Amelie, she finally had enough and took off. She took refuge under the neighbor's porch and refused to come out for a few hours. After making her point she eventually came out because her stomach is ultimately the boss, but even the Littlest realized that maybe trying to bend a cat to your will is a fool's errand.

The older kids have just finished another year of college, which means we are back to five people in our household. And while there's still only two people paying the bills, there's technically two more adults around now. Of course they're also still technically teenagers, so they have a cat-like level of solipsism as well. The BDGF put it most succinctly: we love our children and love having them around, but we didn't really enjoy having college roommates when we were in college, yet here we are doing it all over again 20+ years later.

For me, it helps to think of it as herding cats. There's only so much you're going to get them to comply with. Be happy when they want to cuddle in your lap and find consolation in the fact that they do still need you, just remember that you can't really dictate how or when it happens. The rest of the time just be happy that they mostly remember to shit in a box.

Posted 10:25am
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April 24th, 2015

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

- For all you snooty art lovers out there, here's a quiz asking you to identify famous works based on small bits of the piece. I got 13 of 16 and if you can do better, then I doff my cap to you sir or madam.

- This week in late night musical performances: Matt & Kim prove that even if their new songs aren't my favorite, they're still the most fun live and Elvis Costello sweetly says goodbye to Letterman.

- I'm up to movie #104 in my 365 movies in 365 days challenge. A third of the way through, I'm starting to believe I can do it. I'm currently filling knowledge gaps and blind spots with the works of Terrence Malick and early Jack Nicholson films, but the real roadblock at this point feels like it'll be continuing to find things I'm interested in when I get to 200 or 250 - especially since my largest hole is in foreign films, and it requires a certain mindset to do subtitles. So anyone with ideas, please hit me up. Just remember that I've seen a lot of movies.

- Last night the BDGF and I were having a discussion about online correspondence etiquette and word usage and spelling and the like, you know, as people are wont to do. Neither of us are great spellers, and the BDGF admitted to often googling a word to check the spelling, and sometimes substituting one word for another out of convenience. I'm often doing the former, but am loathe to do the latter. I love words, and I will often google words to make sure they mean what I assume they do, much less to assure that I'm spelling them correctly. But once I have a word I want to use in my head, I'd rather spend 20 minutes finding the correct spelling and using than swap it out for something that ostensibly means the same thing. See if you can find the word I had to look up in the next paragraph!

- Finally, I got a check this week from my dad's estate. The money is nice, but the whole thing is... weird. I honestly can't think of a more appropriate word. Since it's the last bit of procedural foofaraw, I suppose it should be some sort of closure, but I doubt that ever comes when you're talking about a parent's death. All I can think to do is try and make something good out of the influx, because what else is there?

Posted 11:27am
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April 16th, 2015

The force will be with you. Always.

In 1998 I downloaded the first Star Wars Prequel trailer (on a 56k modem - it took awhile) and my roommate and I poured over the low-res video for hours, trying to ascertain what everything was and how cool it was going to be. Needless to say, we wrong about almost everything, including how great it was going to be.

Today this came out, and I'm honestly still a little light headed.

 

Truth be told, coming out of Episode I 16 years ago, I was still pretty pumped and excited. We had already purchased tickets to see it again 12 hours later, and even that second time I thought it was 'good'. But in hindsight, both fairly immediately and in the long view, what the entire trilogy was missing most (amongst many things) was Han Solo. Which is why seeing a gray and grizzled Harrison Ford here makes me swoon. Quite literally.

This movie could still blow harder than Jake Lloyd's delivery of "What a re midichlorians?" and like Harrison Ford, being a wiser, more grizzled version of myself, I suspect it will probably be fairly middling with a few great parts (hey, Darth Maul is still cool!) but holy fucking Jesus H. Christ on a bike, Han and Chewy? Punch it!

Posted 3:02pm
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April 7th, 2015

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

- Mid-week watch list: Billy Eichner takes to the streets again, this time with David Letterman, Van Halen is back performing on TV, this time Diamond David Lee Roth says "Fuck it" and doesn't even pretend to sing, Death Cab plays Tiny Desk, this time Ben Gibbard is turning into Michael Stipe, and The Muppets perform 90's hip-hop classics, this time Gonzo crushes "The Humpty Dance".

- Fill out your alphabetic bracket before the AV Club tells you the best 00's indie rock bands that start with every letter in the alphabet.

- Archer is over for another year, but you can watch this supercut of Archer literary references AND go down the nerd rabbit hole with this easter egg hunt from last season. Like Tommy Shaw, someone has too much time on their hands.

- On the face of it, this would be sadness for anyone trying to open a distillery in Ann Arbor with dreams of claiming firsties. On the other hand, if you have no money and decide to see it as an impetus to proceed with a scaled back, more idiosyncratic version of your dream, well then you can also see it as freeing. There's also comfort in owning annarbordistilling.com. Just sayin'.

- Finally, I'm off to Portlandia tomorrow for a week amongst the bearded hipsters and beer making hippies. More importantly, I'll be touring Bridge Town's numerous distilleries and spending some quality time with one of my favorite people in the world. As we've often noted, having your best friends scatter across the country is wholly lamentable, with the only benefit being that you now have vacation destinations with kick ass tour guides. I look forward to availing myself of that solace as I trek to the Pacific Northwest for the first time. Cheers.

Posted 9:17am
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March 30th, 2015

Gettin' Lucky in Kentucky...

This evening I am off to the land of the hill people to attend the American Distilling Institute's Spirits Conference and Expo. I'll be there to learn rather than "enjoy" myself, but anything interesting will be conveyed via @treetownspirits. The likelihood that I tweet anything super interesting is low, as my twitter game is not very strong to being with, and again, I'm there to learn. But as a personal favor, please follow @treetownspirits. You don't have to get alerts on your phone when I make dumb jokes, but we'd love the followers. Cheers.

Posted 2:04pm
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March 27th, 2015

So shines a good deed in a weary world...

As is happens every year, Oberon is on the shelves (and in my belly) yet snow is falling outside my window*. Sort of depressing? Sure. The trick is focusing on the fact that Oberon is available (It helps to drink one under a sun lamp.) You can also take solace in this:

Rick Santorum: "The Smart People Will Never Be On Our Side"

If we extrapolate this out, your 2016 Republican nominee will be the Great Gazoo, who will start every stump speech with "Hello Dum Dums." Because apparently, gilding willful ignorance did not die with the presidency of George W Bush. GOP! Thanks for coming clean**.

- Friday time wasters: Jack White gets the Led out with Robert Plant, new Death Cab album is streaming***.

* Just kidding. I am a put upon drone sitting in a windowless office who every day by 10am forgets what a blue sky and fresh air is.

** Insert Santorum joke here.

*** Not recommended for people still suffering from seasonal affective disorder.

Posted 11:58am
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March 20th, 2015

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

- 2015 movie project update: I've watched 69 movies this year so far (66 movies I haven't seen before - I originally planned on doing 365 "new" movies, but I'm already behind, and that seems ambitious now.) There are too many gems to begin to recount. I've seen a movie from every decade since the 1920s, which is a post in itself. I've watched movies from all over the world and from every conceivable genre. I suppose my one takeaway at the moment is that movie stars are movie stars for a reason. Wanna know why Bruce Lee or Katherine Hepburn are household names? Watch their movies. They are the famous elite for a reason. On a side note, looking at my list I realize how embarrassed I could be as a film snob in my tacit admission of some of the movies I hadn't seen before. Well I've seen Stuart Saves His Family now, so you can save your superior tone.

- Spoon on Kimmel! Watch Eddie Van Halen demo his new amp by playing a plethora of his famous riffs (He sounds a million years old, but still plays the guitar like he was ringing a bell). Also, this is probably going to be huge.

- I've got quite the heavy travel schedule over the next three weeks. I'll be in Portland, Kentucky and several points around the Mitten in the next little bit. I generally approach travel with apprehension and trepidation, mostly because I'm Moe and Judy's kid and the associated costs make my head spin. Since these trips will be in part business related and moreso since I'll get to see some of my favorite people in the world along the way, I'm going to focus on those aspects rather than my hemorrhaging bank account. I always try and have "It's only money" as my mantra, but getting myself to believe me is sometimes more difficult than you'd think.

- A friend of the blog asked me to submit an illustration for a book she is writing for her daughter. I think she's using it, but since I drew it, I assume I can still show it to you, even if I've lost claim to the copyright:

- Finally, Oberon. Sunday. Midnight. After the unforgiving winter, let your soul thaw with the delicious nectar that is synonymous with the warmth of summer.

Posted 10:14am
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March 17th, 2015

Erin Go Bragh

Fact: New Year's Eve and St. Patrick's Day are lousy with amateur drinkers who can't handle their alcohol. That doesn't mean I don't miss spending March 17th going from bar to bar watching the misanthropes and listening to bagpipes. Alas I suppose it's a consequence of getting old. I used to take the day off even if it meant going solo to the bars, waiting for people to get off work. Now people are too busy with family et al to even make it out after 5. Time eventually makes all of us her bitch.

- Your elderly St. Pat's Day alternative: listen to this amazing new album by Courtney Barnett. Best enjoyed with your favorite stout.

Posted 10:10am
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March 13th, 2015

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

- TWiIR notes: Spoon rocks a couplea acoustic jams, Record Store Day announces this year's releases and in appreciation of Freddie Mercury. I know it sounds like you're going to hear a vocal only track of the song, but since they failed to include one, here ya go.

- Midnight. One week from Sunday. Oberon returns. This Saturday. Tomorrow night. Chris Bathgate returns. The BDGF has no love for Mr. Bathgate because, in her parlance, it is whiny and sad. I love whiny and sad; in particular Mr. Bathgate's version thereof. Coincidentally, there's going to be 10 or so middle school girls spending the night at my house that very night. I feel like I will have earned the respite.

- "Never meet your heroes" is an adage for a reason. Everyone, even the famous, is just a person - fallible with foibles. Just because you enjoy someone's public persona or artistic output is no guarantee you'll like them as an individual. The adage is a precaution against disappointment, and in the 21st century, a warning to what celebrity does to one's psyche. Of course meeting one's hero who happens to be everything you expected - where the public matches the private - can be an experience that restores your faith in humanity. I imagine that's what meeting Bill Watterson would be. A recluse that "gets it". How refreshing.

- This:

- Finally, Last week the BDGF and the littlest were off on their annual sojourn to the State Academic Games tournament. As per usual, while they were away I was left to tackle projects around the house, not the least of which was a welcome home present:

Guess how many State championships they've won in a row? I couldn't be more proud.

Posted 10:25am
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March 10th, 2015

To Everything There is a Season

It's 44 degrees outside. It might not seem like much, but after a fairly brutal February it very much feels like the son of York has descended. That is certainly hyperbolic pretension, but does it seem less so when I remind you that Oberon is 12 days away! I'll give you a minute to compose yourself.

Of course there's baseball's opening day and the first time the temperature hits 60 degrees and for you sticklers out there, March 20th, but nothing makes winter its bitch quite like Oberon. He is, after all, king of the fairies*.

*you're a fairy.

Posted 3:45pm
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March 3rd, 2015

Whither Don Draper?

I have to log into an activity tracking site at work as part of an initiative for employees to get off their fat asses (thanks Obama). But hey, they pay me $100 to do so, so I dutifully log on once a week or so to input how much I've exercised. Every time I do so, I'm greeted with this:

Don Draper has really let himself go. I am increasingly less interested in the final season of Mad Men if Don starts wearing denim.

Posted 10:41am
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February 27th, 2015

And you want to be my latex salesman...

This week, President Obama vetoed the Keystone XL pipeline and the FCC approved net neutrality. On the other side of the aisle, Sen. James Inhofe brought a snowball to the floor of the Senate to 'prove' that climate change is a hoax. That is all.

Posted 9:39am
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February 24th, 2015

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

- You guys! Come quick! Children in Kentucky are playing Led Zeppelin on Xylophones! I SAID KENTUCKY KIDS ARE GETTING THE LED OUT! ON XYLOPHONES! I am so filled with so many emotions I may pass out.

- I finally fell down the youtube rabbit hole of Billy on the Street, and I'm still a little winded from all of the laughing. Start with the above, and then your desert is Billy, Big Bird and Michelle Obama. Hooray internet!

- We played a little game here a few months back naming the one word best picture winners. In celebration of Sunday's event, someone stole our idea and made a souped-up version of our game. Fucking internet.

- The Michigan Brewer's Guild Winter Beer Fest is Saturday, and after a much too long hiatus, I'll be returning to Grand Rapids to stand in a parking lot in 30 degree weather and drink beer all day like an idiot. I'm obviously excited. Over one hundred breweries will be pouring over 1,000 different beers. It's a wonderful time to be alive...

- Finally, our whirlwind tour of Texas was a rousing success, and the BDGF is already planning the rest of our vacations in perpetuity to places like Kansas and Southern Indiana so we can see every manned U.S. space vehicle (I'm not even kidding a little bit). My Texas vacation placation was dragging everyone to trivia at the Alamo Drafthouse where we took third place. Go Team Apollo 15! I took a screen shot of our internet fame in case it disappears:

I'll get one of these kids to become a trivia nerd and come play with me yet. The littlest is clearly my best bet. I've already turned her on to Parks and Rec. The series finale is tonight, but we still have this to look forward to:

Posted 3:33pm
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February 13th, 2015

Space-cation.

Best I can figure there are three impetuses to go vacation: go see somebody, go see something, escape the weather. All three are equally meritous given your situation. When the BDGF and I go on vacation in Februarys, we try and balance her predilection for sunshine with mine for nightlife. Not that we don't love both, but our minimum bars for each vary. So far, we've managed to stay away from anything north of Tennessee no matter how much I'd love to see it, and we've similarly avoided a generic, all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean, despite any guarantee of 80 degree weather.

The tipping point on destination choice usually ends up being NASA. We've been to Space Camp in Alabama, Cape Canaveral in Florida, the Neil Armstrong museum in Ohio, and the Air and Space Museum in D.C. The next obvious choice was Mission Control in Houston, where we will be headed next week. It'll be warm and there will be plenty to see and do - a sure fire antidote to freezing Michigan weather that makes one never want to leave the house.

We'll have the littlest in tow, so less concerts and breweries than our typical itinerary. Then again it's Texas, which seems to care less about bringing children into bars than your typical state, so you never know. In any event, vacation is good. The weather will be good. Most importantly, I'm not on a cruise ship or at a resort with limited entertainment options and forced interactions with Marge and Jerry from Wisconsin. I know I'll probably have to bite the bullet on that one someday. Here's hoping they get moon vacations up and running soon, because I'd rather start saving for that.

Posted 11:59am
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February 10th, 2015

This Week in Indie Rock.

- Listen and/or watch: Belle and Sebastian on Conan, new Matt & Kim video, Jack White on Fallon, Hamilton Leithauser live, Ben Folds new album teaser, new Death Cab and here's how alike Smith and Petty are.

- Watch how Bowie ch-ch-ch-ch-changes.

- Here's the purported best song about every state. I've long held the belief that every song about Ohio is about how terrible it is to be there. The Pretenders, The White Stripes, Elvis Costello - the consensus is in.

- Finally, here's a great analysis about how a great album can lead to a ton of terrible knock-offs. Bottom line: you are underrating Van Halen.

Posted 11:59am
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February 4th, 2015

Broken, beaten down, can't even get around.

The rumors of my demise are apparently spot-on.Last Wednesday our truncated family (sans college kids) went to beautiful downtown Detroit to see an evening with Neil deGrasse Tyson at the Opera House. You know, just a night listening to a lecture from America's most prominent astrophysicist, like you do. We were all super excited and I can honestly say we all left better informed and excited to go get out there and science.

Except for the fact that the Detroit Opera House's seats were designed by the Marquis de Sade.I'm not a large man. I'm 5'10" and 165 pounds, which is spot-on average height and 30lbs (30!) under the average weight of the American male. I don't say this to brag, just to note that if a night at the Opera House almost killed me, I don't know how they have anything there outside of fifth grade field trips.

Dr. Tyson spoke for two and half hours, which meant that I was shoved like rendered pork into a sausage casing into the miniscule Opera House seats for 150 minutes. I couldn't move my legs more than 2 inches in any direction for that entire time. I lost feeling below the knee about halfway through. It was unpleasant, but I was concentrating on the science, so I made it. Until the next morning that is.

I awoke the next morning stiff (non-sexually). As I went about my day, limping around work, things went from bad to worse. The next two (TWO!) nights I couldn't comfortably lay down in any position for more than about 10 minutes. I was covered in icy hot, heating pads and pumped full of ibuprofen. I was pretty sure I was going to lose the leg.

Of course I was fine by Saturday night. I still don't know if I pinched a nerve, pulled something, popped something or if I am just incredibly old and decrepit. I know that going forward, I have to treat my body like a five year old child, in that it has an inability to sit still for more than five minutes. Or it certainly can't be immobilized for two and a half hours. While I lament my inevitable decay, I do plan to use this condition to get me out of any event that I don't want to go to. If you can't use your age to get you out of doing the things you don't want to do, what's the point of getting old?

Posted 10:35am
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January 29th, 2015

Radio Silence.

I am not dead. Yet. The ol' bloggy blog has taken a seat in the way, way back in deference to other considerations as of late. To whatever loyal readers I have left, my sincere apologies. It's not like we all didn't see this coming. Like a relationship where people just grow apart, it's a tad lamentable but ultimately understandable. I promise we can still be friends. Look! We're hanging out right now!Sitting in the front seat of my discretionary time vehicle at the moment is something, should it ever come to fruition, I think you're going to really enjoy. It's a long shot and a ways away, but that hasn't prevented it from eating up the time I used to spend bloviating here. I can tell you that the BDGF and I own the following:

annarbordistilling.com
annarbordistillery.com
@a2distilling
c2h6odistilling.com
c2h6odistillery.com
@c2h6odistilling

For various legal reasons, the second set of addresses are probably going to be the important ones, but much more on that much later. Also, before you go clicking, there's nothing there. At any address. We have no content at the moment.

So that's where I've been instead of here. It's exciting and harrowing. I can't wait to tell you more as things become tangible. And I really look forward to enlisting you all to help us get the word out about our little misadventure. Cheers.

Posted 11:52am
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January 13th, 2015

You take the good, you take the bad...

I am predictably and I would argue understandably upset this morning. I mean, Ted Cruz is now holding NASA's purse strings and the man who thinks climate change is a good thing (that doesn't exist) is in charge of the EPA*. Oh, and let's just watch how your new congressional overlords roll back Dodd-Frank and the Volcker rule, because deregulating millionaires means we all win! Should we, or should we not, follow the advice of the galactically stupid?

As we rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic, please to enjoy the new Belle & Sebastian and Sleater Kinney records, as well as Spoon's performance on ACL. Because in these trying times as our resolve is tested as it has never been before, we could all use a reminder that there is still beauty in the world. Or just take all of the drugs and dance around to the new Matt and Kim song. You always have an out.

*functional equivalent thereof

Posted 1:22pm
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January 9th, 2015

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

- Politics, politics, politics: America! Welcome your 2015 congress! Still enamored with a failed and debunked economic theory, while pissing all over the last bit of non-partisanship in D.C. (Oh, and Islamic terrorism is just like interracial dating!*). Take solace in the fact that they might protect your internet? Oh wait, that's not Congress, they are busy trying to add billions to the deficit just to sink Obamacare again .Congratulations, dickholes. Thanks for the economic recovery?
* Yes, this is not a member of Congress, but let us not pretend that Fox News isn't just the PR wing of the GOP.

- TWiIR notes: Watch Spoon play ACL and debut a new song in Houston. Jack White gets in on the ground floor (2015 edition) of virtual reality and put some easter eggs in people's furniture back in the day. And not to ruin your weekend if you haven't already heard, but the Magic Stick passed away this week. Or at least it will shortly be dead to me. We had good run kiddo. You will be missed.

- NASA makes some great travel posters and shows what it looks like on re-entry of an Orion spacecraft. I mean, you can literally do a Google News search for NASA any day of the week and be amazed. Good on ya NASA.

- A new trivia app for your mobile device enters the zeitgeist about once a year before eventually succumbing to the fickleness of the public's attention span. They also get a little easier every time out for some reason. Qrank was better than QuizUp was better than Trivia Crack, but I'm still currently in love with the latest trivia sensation. I probably won't be in month (the questions are often eye rolling) but for now, hit me up! It kills time!

- Finally, as a huge nerd I love cataloging things. I have spreadsheets of my album and movie and comic book collections. When I read that Steven Soderbergh posted a list of everything he watched in 2014, and that Doug Benson was trying to watch 365 movies in 2015, I decided to do the same in real time. So now you can travel a little further down the creepy internet voyeurism rabbit hole and keep up with everything I'm watching in 2015! Will I watch 365 movies in a year? The suspense is terrible! I hope it'll last...

Posted 11:42am
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January 5th, 2015

Happy Harbaugh New Year!

The old adage says that no poker player remembers any of the great victories of their career, but every last one of them remembers every bad beat. Or something along those lines anyway. It's a little sad but ultimately very true. In our day to day we do a lot more bitching and moaning than celebrating. Maybe there's infinitely more to complain about. Perhaps bitchery is more contagious than a feel-good-mutual-appreciation society. I know a profanity laced tirade is fun and cathartic, and a touchy feely monologue feels self-congratulatory and gauche. Some of these may be my issues and not applicable to society as a whole. When I'm being sincere, it's tough to say.Whether it's just me or not, I still think we could all heed Kurt Vonnegut's advice more often:

Please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, 'If this isn't nice, I don't know what is.'

You're probably back at work today. You're tired and irritable and inundated with shit that went wrong or piled up while you were out. Whatever your warm memories of the holidays may be, they're probably rapidly cooling in the blustery January air.

But hey, it's a new year. As arbitrary as that may be, it doesn't mean you can't use it as an impetus to remember to take a breath more often and mutter 'If this isn't nice...' Jim Harbaugh is in Ann Arbor! If that isn't a slap in the face reminding you that good things happen and should be enjoyed, I don't know what is.

Posted 3:51pm
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