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September 30th , 2015

Would you give a guy a foot massage?

You could call 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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