November 7, 2015

Still wreaking havoc

Dr Reist Hillsdale College

Our spirit animal has struck again.

Dr. Reist's personal library has been gifted to Hillsdale, and has overrun ole Mossey Library in the process. I can hear him giggling.

The other good news, for a limited time, is that there's a narrow window to make a request to receive a book from the collection before it lands in a "free pile" (after the dutiful librarians pick through). It will be stamped with a proper bookplate: "From the library of John S. Reist."

If interested, there may still be time to email Mariel[dot]Johnson[at]gmail[dot]com with a note and your request.

Thanks to Collegian editor Macaela Bennett for the photo. She's working on a story about the situation.

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December 19, 2013

Winter Mix from a Year in Pop

Winter means things feel heavier. More layers of clothing, more blankets for your bed, the free-wheeling experiences of a summer collectively heaped upon the backs of its subsequent seasons.

So when I decided to follow in Jack’s footsteps and create a (short) winter mix, it was heaviness that was foremost on my mind. This isn’t to suggest that all of these songs tackle themes of any substantial weight, but they strike me as more sluggish and/or introspective than what you might find on one of my summertime mixes.

There are those winter days, though, that can get a person feeling quite light-footed. The first snow, the bluish hue of a cold and cloudy morning set against the splendor of indoor incandescent lighting. It’s a fleeting thing, but enough to instill seasonal appreciation.

Winter will always be warm in a way summer could never register.

The music I chose also represents how I approached music in 2013. It leans mostly into pop/rap music, with dollops from a regular diet of rock. Featuring music from my favorite albums of the year, it’s book-ended by Childish Gambino, who had one of the more interesting records of 2013, in my opinion.

Enjoy. And Merry Chrestmas.

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December 18, 2013

Songs for surviving 25 below temperatures: A 2013 Winter Mix

Yes, this has really happened to me.

I realize it's been, what, June, since this badboy has been updated? Yeah. June.

No matter.

In the past two weeks I have survived weather as low as 36-below (colder with windchill, natch) and I thought you might like to find out how I am surviving. (You didn't ask but I'm telling you anyway.) 

The answer is simple: With my winter mix.

That's right. I'm dragging out one of these again. And this time, instead of our old friend Grooveshark, I'm using Spotify because it's much easier for me.

Ignore the random ads that ruin the flow of my otherwise perfect mix.

So without further ado, here you are.

Please don't feel pity for me, I am keeping sane with metal, alt-country music (kinda) and hockey.


If anyone still actually reads this blog I would love to see your winter playlist. But if nobody else does and the SadBear is, indeed, dead, then you'll never see this anyway so why am I even continuing?

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June 24, 2013

Paul Bunyan: THE MOVIE

Hello there. Not too many updates on the good ol' SadBear lately, but I would like to offer you a glimpse into Minnesota culture at its finest. It's a film entitled Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan. Observe.

It's already aired on the SyFy (is that how they spell it now?) Network. Supposedly it will be on Netflix soon. I suggest you watch it in all of its horrible glory.

Unfortunately for us in the Northwoods, there was no Bemidji showing... yet. But apparently the producers are working on it, according to a story our intern wrote a week ago.

Fingers crossed!

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March 20, 2013

Bracket Madness

Given that it's March, and in continuation with our tradition of now three years, I have taken the last-second initiative and created a bracket at for the Sad Bear.

There is very little time left--you have to have your entries in by 12 ET tomorrow. So don't delay.

The bracket can be found here.

The password? sadbeardownzona

Of course.

March 19, 2013

New Top5 podcast

Drew has a new podcast and it launches with his favorite songs from films. Listen!

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January 25, 2013

Yo La Tengo by the minutes

In lieu of a write-up of last night's magnificent Yo La Tengo concert, I decided to create a basic overview of the YLT catalog, which I have been filling out and listening to last couple months. Generally I prefer to listen to and argue about music in the context of albums rather than individual tracks. YLT is not an exception to this rule. Still, having already had a brief back-and-forth over my, uh, controversial pick for best favorite YLT album on Facebook, I thought I would come at their career from a slightly different angle.

I have broken into six discrete categories based on song duration. Within each category, I have chosen a "Best" track and one that I "Would Most Like to See Performed"--henceforth "WMLtSP." Although I recognize the thin ice upon which I tread--my YLT discography remains incomplete--I do not apologize. Argue about my mistakes, ignorance, and perhaps regrettable proclivity for sappy love songs in the comments, please.

Although a fairly small pool, these tracks have a distinctive feel versus the 2-3 minute tracks. 

Best: "Return to Hot Chicken"*
WMLtSP: "Attack on Love"

*"Superstar-Watcher" close behind.

YLT are geniuses of the sub-three-minute pop song. Narrowing these down was brutal, so I have taken the liberty of adding an Honorable Mentions list--along with a couple of footnoted caveats.

Best: "One PM Again"*
WMLtSP: "Outsmartener"**
Honorable Mentions: "The River of Water," "Stockholm Syndrome," "A Worrying Thing"

*I might actually prefer "The Whole of the Law," but chose to disqualify it as a cover. And I haven't listened to "Well You Better" from the new album enough, but it could make some noise.
**The version on the Today is the Day EP. Note that they performed "Nothing to Hide" last night, and it was epic, so even thought I would love to see them perform it again live, I'd now prefer "Outsmartener." 

The slightly more filled out radio-play category.

Best: "Sugarcube"*
WMLtSP: "Watch Out for Me Ronnie"**

*"By the Time it Gets Dark" incredibly close behind.
**They performed "Sugarcube" last night, epically, as well as "Black Flowers."  I liked but was somewhat skeptical of the latter until last night's mesmerizing version (Ira bum-ba-bum-ing in place of horns, James singing "You can dip your brain in joy..."). Additionally, they performed "Little Honda" with a brain-melting, ten-minute wall of sound inserted in the middle--which my father, who attended and loved the show, referred to as "Mars invades" (refer to the >8 WMLtSP footnote below).

This one is even harder to parse than 2-3--my three favorite YLT tracks fall into this category--hence the return of the Honorable Mentions.

Best: "From a Motel 6"*
WMLtSP: "Drug Test"**
Honorable Mentions: "Sudden Organ,"*** "Magnet," "Pablo and Andrea," "All Your Secrets," "You Can Have it All," "I'll Be Around"

*So this is also the song I WMLtSP--it's probably my all-time favorite YLT track--but I decided to make room for others.
**They performed "Our Way to Fall"--my second-favorite YLT track--and although I did not cry as promised in a recent Facebook status, I was definitively in touch with, you know, my emotions and things. Also, their "Mr. Tough" performance was pure, old-fashioned-dance-party fun.
***My third-favorite YLT track.

Once you push a song past five minutes, you are beyond the standard radio-play pop song. These distinctive creatures are often fuzzy, distorted, even sinister tracks. I love them.

Best: "Flying Lesson (Hot Chicken #1)"*
WMLtSP: "I Heard You Looking"**

*This is also the song I WMLtSP, but, again, made some room.
**"I Was the Fool Beside You For Too Long" close behind. They performed "Ohm" twice last night--once as their stripped-down, acoustic opener. In that context it was, frankly, a bit of a letdown. They brought it out again later, and Ira turned it into a shredding guitar showcase--not a letdown. They also transformed "Before We Run" from a contemplative, horn-driven, sentimental piece into an anthemic rager centered on Ira's blistering guitar work. The last, say, 7 minutes of the song may have been the best moment ("moment") last night. I genuinely think they could have gone on for 20 more minutes, and I would have remained in transfixed awe. And if I were a better person, I would have followed through on my other recent promise. A better me would have grabbed the shoulder of that nice, dignified gentlemen beside me and slugged him square in his amiable face.

The consciousness-altering, simmering mess--another YLT specialty.

Best:"The Story of Yo La Tango"*
Would Most Like to See Performed: "Blue Line Swinger"**

*"Pass the Hatchet I Think I'm Goodkind"is a close second--meaning that the bookends to I Am Not Afraid... own this category. I also have to give "More Stars Than There Are in Heaven" a nod as likely the most overlooked. There's also a remix of "Autumn Sweater" by one Kevin Shields floating around out there that is pretty great.
**Songs that they transform into marathons in concert but that are shorter on the albums don't count. I've already noted the three tracks they did that with--spectacularly--last night ("Ohm," "Little Honda," and "Before We Run").

January 19, 2013

52 McGs: The best obituaries of Robert McG. Thomas Jr.

In writing the obituary of a weather expert, he wrote that there was "no well-established meteorological career path to follow." The same might be said about writing obituaries.

But if there is a path to follow, it may be the one taken by Robert McG. Thomas Jr.: equal parts police beat, society news, and sports reporter and, perhaps most importantly a veteran rewrite man.

His best obits make up, "52 McGs.," the first book I've finished reading in 2013.

This week, like every other week, I've had obituaries on my mind, which set the backdrop for a climactic Saturday morning plowing through the back half of this collection. I'd been thinking about the Margalit Fox obituary for Dear Abby, and also the scrips and scraps I've turned up in my newspaper, including one man whose obit included his nickname: "Possum."

But the craft of Thomas's writing, and his deadpan delivery, may have no match. Obviously, I recommend the book, and here are a few favorite passages:

Mary Bancroft, spy
If Mary Bancroft had not existed, a hack novelist would surely have invented her, or tried.
 Anton Rosenberg, a hipster ideal
... the Greenwich Village hipster ideal of 1950's cool to such a laid-back degree and with such determined detachment that he never amounted to much of anything...
 Toots Barger, queen of the game duckpins
... leading to have duckpins named the Maryland state sport. The campaign failed, perhaps because legislators felt duckpins was just too odd to be the state sport, especially when Maryland already had an official sport: jousting.
Marshall Berger, linguist
A specialist in dialect geography, or dialectology, as it is known in linguistics, he was a dialectologist's dialectologist, a man with such a keen ear for the subtle variations of speech patterns that after listening for a few moments he could often tell a speaker's ethnic background, the neighborhood where he had grown up and his level of education.
Minnesota Fats, pool hustler
He certainly looked like a Minnesota Fats, or at least some Fats. At 5 feet and 10 inches, Mr. Wanderone had weighed as much as 300 pounds. ... Curiously, after he became Minnesota Fats, his new persona led to an actual job, something he had studiously avoided.
Wikipedia: Robert McG. Thomas Jr.

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January 4, 2013

Poop Splash Epiphany

 This is why science is good.  This video just changed my life.