May 30, 2009

Not without Kewps, baby

Tony and I have already posted about our similar living situations, as well as weird coincidences that kinda happened to us in our professional lives.

There's also this one that I didn't bring up before: reading a bit of the sports blog from Tony's paper, I found out that the teams from the 'boro regularly play a team from Rockbridge County School. Funny that a frequent opponent of the teams from the 'ville is Rock Bridge High School in Columbia.

Unfortunately, Rock Bridge is good at basketball but doesn't have as good of a nickname as its crosstown rival, Hickman: the Kewpies.

I was going to have a post about other funny nicknames and sporting things I've come across in Missouri, but it wasn't ready. You'll have to wait.

Until then, another strange similarity of the 'ville and the 'boro (kinda). Tony already talked about going "over the mountain" to go to work. Here's a view from my side of the world: the Ozarks on U.S. Highway 63. Unedited (no Photoshop on the laptop), probabaly a lot shittier, but I get a similar vibe. A preview of what Chase might see on his road trip, even:

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May 24, 2009

But they all live in the basement (update)

UPDATE 5/24/09

The call came over the police scanner: cat struck by car at 11th and P-----. That's my territory. I was out of the office and to the scene in a minute, but the teens gathered at the corner had not seen a cat.

Around another block and another street over, I hadn't found an endangered cat. Then I saw Dirt Cat. Unscathed. Or perhaps struck by a car and unfazed. Dirt Cat lives. Here is a few months ago:

= = =
Original post

Photo of Dirt Cat by Chase.

Whenever I see Dirt Cat he is walking cautiously in the wide open. And he never sees me until I'm approaching at a sprint.

He looks like a bobcat in the face, a mangy dog otherwise, but ultimately he's a stray cat and perhaps a little slow. He lives in the basement of our house with Basement Cat, Weiner Cat* and Real Cat (otherwise known as Dust Cat, because he's gray, but he's also the least stray-like, and hence, real).

The first time I saw Dirt Cat he was creeping along the neighbor's fence. I chased him for fun and he led me right to his home: our basement. The next time he was creeping into a pipe: I surprised him at the other end. I also chased him with Chase, leading to the first-ever photo seen above.

The best chase happened about a week ago, when I started chasing him around the house. He way ahead and I think he slowed down, expecting me to be coming back the other way around, so when I caught up from behind he was peeking around the corner and had to bust tail all over again.

Finally, I chased Dirt Cat yesterday afternoon. Having just finished a juggling session I turned to walk home from across the street when, sure enough, here comes Dirt Cat, padding onto the lawn but unaware of me. See him bookin' it at the end of the video below:

* Weiner Cat has short legs and a long body.

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May 21, 2009

More Weird Hallway Smells

Just something I had to get off my chest.
Today I left my apartment for work and, in the entrance to my building, was greeted by the smell of breakfast food and b.o. It was the smell of the Pink Panther, or the Palace, fried eggs and hashbrowns, with a little sausage blended into the aroma, and a thick undercurrent of man sweat.
And there was a complete, fully burned cigarette in the grass outside- a perfect, king-sized tube of ashes.

May 18, 2009

Precious items

These are the items we own that we love most, what are yours?


Large Fuzzy Dice
In pulling together my favorite driving lyrics, this hand-bound book, "Large Fuzzy Dice," also collects most of what I am. It is a book made by Katie and an ode to the road. It lends itself to my childish enthusiasm for owning and showing off odd possessions to those who visit my home (here, car). Its cover features my favorite color combination. It cleverly channels a symbol of testosterone into something palatable. And for about three years, it dangled in rebellion in Michigan, a state disallowing even of air fresheners.

Mondrian Bowl
This bowl is a reminder of my lamest gift efforts for Katie and of her dedication and skill. She glazed this bowl at Clay Monet, a little pre-made ceramic shop targeting a demographic of young girls but perfect for a teenage date. I used this bowl for countless bricks of Ramen noodles at Hillsdale, made sure it stayed safe during a summer at the Beat, then broke it in Minneapolis by catching it. (I dropped it first, then caught it with a substantial grip, snapping the chopsticks hole, shown here as though repaired, which it isn't.)

Half Ramikin
I wore a blue bandana, blue Lake Zurich High School gym shorts, and my World Beard & Mustache Championships shirt featuring Willy Chevalier. Shane wore her tie-dye crabshack shirt, a bandana, and athletic shorts.
We were the Frazzled Riders, biking the Northwest Chicago suburbs after summer work shifts at Noodles & Co., often traveling to landmarks like area high schools, other Noodles restaurants, or a mythic sledding hill.
We were completely sober in an era when that was all I ever was and all I ever thought I would be.
We also went swimming illegally at night in Lake Zurich. We invited other frazzled riders like our Mexican co-workers, who joined in, and once watched my good friend (not from Noodles) get scraped up messing around at the local skate park during one ride.
We made many jokes about work, stolen snickerdoodle cookies, and the silly things we took from the restaurant, like Sriracha sauce bottles, big plastic cups, and a ramikin.
Shane drew a picture of a frazzled rider in that ramikin, then we busted it in half.

Desk Team
These items tend to stay together in my car or at my desk (not arranged as in this picture). They are:
Shisa Lions, a good luck gift from Tomoko and Hide, two Japanese jugglers whom I carted around as special guests during a juggling festival. Most often kept in my car.
Glass dice from Venice: an alternative to a jewelry gift from the city Katie enjoyed so much during study abroad.
Princess ring: When I became really comfortable in the Minneapolis newsroom (and thought that displaying that comfort would assist in turning the internship into a job), I began wearing this ring. I took it from a birthday (or going away?) cupcake for a fellow intern. Didn't get the job.
Kickin' Shuttlecock: At juggling festivals we bought boomerrangs, jitterrings, paddle balls, and footbags. I also bought a kickin' shuttlecock, which acts like a footbag, but always turns over like a shuttlecock before landing. It is extremely easy to stall. I kept it for years in my video camera bag. Now I know it is not a silly time waster, but part of a Chinese tradition.


I need to preface:

Most of these items are fairly new. As in, they've been on the list for no more than three years. In my youth I had a box where I put my precious items: A stuffed rabbit my grandmother made me, panther pin (I was huge into panthers as a child), a clay pot I made in the sixth grade, etc.

Those items, along with the box they're in (a blue box with sports cars drawn on the side, and animal stickers stuck to the inside) are buried so far in all my stuff I didn't want to get it out. So there are more precious items. But the ones on this list are heavy hitters.


Unless I'm sleeping, I'm almost always wearing a t-shirt, and it's been that way since I can remember. Over the years I've amassed many shirts, and I can still wear the ones I wore in eighth grade.

I got this t-shirt as a birthday present from Tony, and it was a complete surprise.

Ever since my sophomore year, almost all the gifts I've given have been handmade (with the exception of Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, The Presidents of the United States of America (both special color LPs) and a movie). Likewise, my favorite gifts to receive are generally handmade. I needed an orange shirt, and this one provided not only the right color, but also a unique design. Check it, that blue juggling rectangle sits off-center at the bottom of the shirt. Awesome. Next to my National Public Radio t-shirt, this one is my favorite to wear, and I'm pretty choosy about when I wear it.


I bought this the year I interned in Toledo at the Toledo Free Press. During the summer I made frequent trips up to Detroit, including one trip in which I attended City Fest and got to see Spoon live...right up front.

That summer definitely ranks as one of my favorite summers yet, and as cheesy as it sounds, when I think about it Spoon is playing in my head.

Ever since then they've basically been my favorite band, and Kill the Moonlight was the first album of their's I listened to. When the needle of my record player hit music for the first time, it was Spoon. When I start my car trip to Arizona, the first artist played will be...Spoon!

The first time I laid eyes on this piece of art, I knew it was going to hang on my wall someday. The process the artist took to make it, tossing it off a ten-story parking garage, was totally cool to hear about -- but I feel connected to it because it looks like how I picture how I think. Different ideas scattered all over the place...sometimes sharp, sometimes blunt...sometimes nothing sits on the end of the wire at all. But it was originally there to make words. I know it's cheesy, but it's my inanimate muse.

Later led to me drawing this picture onto a bag I made with my friend.

After I started juggling, Tony gave me these. I don't know their history, I wish I did.

Since I got them, they've become a representation of where my juggling is rooted, and really why I've kept it up. They were passed to me right about the time I started seeing myself as a skeptical optimist...

Every time I juggle with them I almost always think of Dr. Reist's line, "Watch out for life!"

I love typography. A few summers ago I drove four hours, from Toledo to Chicago, to watch Helvetica a documentary film by Gary Hustwit. It probably ranks as one of the nerdiest things I've done. Even still, it was definitely one of the high points of the affair I'm having with typography.

After I'd seen a screening of the film, I waited eagerly for it to be released on DVD. The movie was mailed to me along with two pins, this "I Love Helvetica" pin, and another one that says, "I Hate Helvetica."

Now I don't, love Helvetica. It definitely has its own set of pros and cons...but for the most part I definitely respect it. So I chose to keep this pin and give the other to another typographic-nerd friend.

My sleeping bag, green shoes, camera, Louisville Slugger youth baseball bat


I have many. I'm sure whoever participates in this post will have a similar story. Editing sucks.

But the most valuable are as follows, roughly left to right in the photograph. Cue Wes Anderson soundtrack.


VHS copy of "Mad Max." Bold yellow letters on the cover declare: "The film that started it all." Nestled in and glared out is my paperback copy of Ernest Hemingway's "In Our Time." I've since compiled a near-complete collection of his works in the same Scribner's Classics publication, but "In Our Time" was the first. It includes my favorite story of his, and my favorite short story of all time: "A Very Short Story," a story which ends with one of the best sentences ever penned in the English language... in my opinion. Then of course there's my hardcover copy of the collected works of Poe. I would try to read from this book by candle or fire light in highschool, which seldom paid off, but I was sentimental and impressively full of myself.

And speaking of which, in front of that is my copy of George Washington's "101 Rules of Civility." This is valuable to both Vanessa and I. Freshman year I received a phone call from this pretty girl that Tony introduced me to at the Woody Hermann Jazz Concert, inviting me to hang out in her dorm room with some friends. Not knowing what I was getting into, and wanting to make an impression, I brought along my little red book, George Washington's "101 Rules of Civility," just in case there was some down time and I could show everyone what cool things I was reading. As you can imagine, Vanessa failed miserably to be impressed, and spent the next three years pulling my head from my ass.

In back is an album which has remained vital to Vanessa since highschool: Cat Power's "Moon Pix." Check out the cover online some time, her and Cat Power are were almost twins... before Cat Power got close-to-death thin, went through rehab, got lame, and did a photoshoot for Chanel. And next to that is a photograph of Vanessa which she took of herself on her grandparent's mountain in Kentucky.
Below this is a teddy bear. No comment. And along those lines, there are many dirty Polaroids of Vanessa and I, which I have not included, but which still hold great value to the two of us.

Moving on, framed is a little sketch I did of Vanessa's eye, from memory. I did it in Caspar's U.S. Constitution class, and colored it that night. "She's got Bette Davis eyes..." whatever that means. And a jar, which is a Vanessa pick, containing flowers that I picked for her at Bawbeese Lake and a collection of tiny origami swans which I folded for her in class. And staring them down is Goldasaurus Rex, a recent addition to my valuable items. Thank you Tony for the far out origami paper. And on the other side of the jar, in front of "101 Rules of Civility," is a buffalo head nickel, used in American currency before World War II, on which the date has been completely worn away. I carry it in my pocket always.

Also, a turtle shell, which Vanessa and her best friend since childhood, Ashlyn (maid of honor), used to cast spells when pretending they were witches. And associated with such things is the Grange Hall Curse of Pittsford, MI, where Vanessa grew up. Grange Hall was the meeting place of the elders of the small farming community of Pittsford. It was run-down, weary, with strength only to raise its arched windows like the utmost knuckles of a spider's legs. It was a place of the dark maturity of knowledge, and the suffering that follows with it. If a young girl looked at this sacred building three times on a full moon, the earth would swallow her up. Such a place was, of course, kept locked. Which is the explanation behind the ribbon of skeleton keys hanging in front of my books in the photo. They were collected by both Vanessa and Ashlyn, and whenever a new one was found, the pair went immediately to Grange Hall, to see if the key would fit the lock. The door was opened to them, and the building now lines in ruin, a pile of wasted brick and naked air. And yet, Vanessa agrees, that the interior of the building disappeared with the building itself- its 21 grams- gone forever and made no less mysterious by the crumbling of the walls then it was by the immutable tiny space of the keyhole.

Moving on to picture two.


These are the most valuable items I possess. I keep them in a tiny, calculator-sized briefcase which Vanessa decorated (by collage) and gave to me. It contains: a letter she wrote me, my favorite photograph of her (taken by Karen) which I boldly asked her for long before we were dating, a "broken heart" with Vanessa's pet name "pigeon" written on it, the context of which I've totally forgotten, a pog with a note on the back, in pencil, reading "I'll wait for you by the bench," a mall booth black and white photo of us kissing (just like the movies), a picture from an animated film which Vanessa taped onto her school i.d., a pink "Paris" button which she often wore, a "pre-shrunk shirt" (long story), and a lock of her hair, when she dyed a piece of it blue.

But I saved the best for last:
"Sometimes I feel like a black crow wandering the borderline/ Just looking for a post to hold my toes/ And maybe its in these fields beyond/ Where lost mornings lie/ And where, in the end, the time goes."

These are lyrics. On notepaper. From sophmore year. Written by Evan Moran.


1. Gary and Len


Read the story of the brothers Gary and Len. I paid 75 cents for this framed photo at a second hand store in Allen, Michigan. When I got home and hung it up on the wall, I said, "this is the best thing I have ever bought."

2. Keyboard


This is the Casio keyboard in my bedroom. I would have posted a photo of my Hammond M3 organ, but it's already at my new house.

3. Pistol


Outside of my car, this is the most dangerous item in my home.

4. Bathrobe


Out of all the clothing I own, this is the only article I wear every single day without exception. Combine with #3 for Zissou-style fun.

5. Car

Photobucket Photobucket

This is my first car, a 1993 Bonneville, which I purchased in 2002. This photo from 2008 shows the car on its last legs, shortly before I sold it to Randy in Indiana. Then I got a Corolla.


"I'm not gonna get too sentimental/ Like those other sticker valentines..."

How bad is it that, of the three things that immediately came to mind when Chase asked this question, two are missing?

And how telling is it that so much of it is sports clothing/ memorabilia?

In all honesty, this was really hard to come up with, but I was able to manage a few essential precious things I love.


Let's start with my earliest piece from memory lane: this Notre Dame Fighting Irish knit cap. I've had this thing since I was 5 years old, as you can see here. My dad must have bought it for me at an Irish football game. He went there. It's kind of a big deal (at least, it was). So that's my shout-out to him.

Also, I can't find it; it's probabaly in one of the other four places around the country where my stuff is being stored.


Next up, is this lovely piece of apparel: my Red Wings scarf.

FACT: I didn't own a scarf (that I wore) until I bought said scarf last year. It was $5 at CVS. I bought it with Heidi. Which wouldn't be necessarily something to remember, except I keep cracking up when I remember the chance confrontation we had with her old middle school friend who got pregnant and smokes crack.


Another beaut: this mug, purchased at the Hillsdale Salvation Army Store. Goes along with this, also purchased there. Not sure why I love these items to much, but I flaunt them now. Also, I like drinking out of Drew Neitzel.

I think I bought the sweatshirt for a Christmas party because it was green and I could wear my red vest over it. It's a gift that keeps on giving, though: I practically didn't remove it during March Madness this year.


Also a mainstay: this Tigers hat. Something happened to my old one, but I was wearing it less and less anyway. The blue had faded to grey and the orange was barely a color. But this new one I like: my parents bought it for me when we went to a sweet baseball exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum.

T-shirts: I have about four t-shirts I treasure. One says "Norway" on it. I bought it ironically. Naturally, I can't find it (or a picture of it).


-Another is my legendary Hives t-shirt. We all know the story behind it and me in college.


-Third, these two identical St. Mary's Prep SADD (Students Against Drunk Driving) t-shirts. One is long-sleeved and is often worn under t-shirts. The other is short-sleeved, has gross pitstains and holes in both pits. It's very wrinkled. Both were worn in high school to virtually every sporting event I attended, and both (specifically the short-sleeved one) I think I wore to track practice every day. Yeah, it's gross. But both (along with a track t-shirt I own) fool people into thinking I was athletic in high school.


-The final one is my favorite. It belonged to my dad: "Don't Worry, Be Groovy." No explaination necessary.

As for non-wearables: a burned copy of Pavement's Brighten the Corners. The problem? I can't find it. It's a burned copy. I might have even given it to someone. But the story goes: My friend Geoff in high school was an indie nerd. I was not yet, until one day when I was hanging out with him, he showed me this website called "Pitchfork Media." We looked on it a little, I think he was showing me the top albums of the 1990s. The aforementioned album was on there. I asked if he'd heard it. He simply turned on his CD player and it was already in there. We listened. I loved it. I asked him to burn it for me but he just gave me his burned copy.

I must have worn that thing out. I now own it on vinyl and on the new deluxe-editon CD, so it's not like I "need" the burned copy he gave me. But it did do something important: it was, for better or for worse, my first "indie" experience. As a point of reference, I was listening to Green Day and Nirvana before (still awesome, for the record, but not Pavement), so this was a big step.


Finally, and inexplicably: the one book that I've carried around with me wherever I move has been the edition of the Major Works of John Milton that we used in Dr. Belt's ENG 401 class junior year. It's marked up, I think I left it in the car for a while and then in the rain once, and it has wear and tear on the cover and a bunch of scribbles in the margins. I open it up every once and a while to read some of the sonnets, and, if I'm feeling adventurous, a little bit of the Satan parts in Paradise Lost. No idea why this is the one book that I wrote in the most during college, or why it's one of the few things I actually read during college that I still occasionally re-read to this day (sorry, Chaucer, can't do it). Maybe it has something to do with Dr. Belt and the fact that she introduced me to so much of what I think about literature. Either way, it's ironic considering how much I hate all the ilk that Milton wrought.

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May 16, 2009

Kerouac + baseball

No post usurpation intended, but !!!!!
"Among other things, Mr. Gewirtz has learned that Kerouac played an early version of the baseball game in his backyard in Lowell, Mass., hitting a marble with a nail, or possibly a toothpick, and noting where it landed."
From a wild story about Kerouac in the New York Times.

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May 15, 2009

Starting a new map

People seem to say goodbye in one of three ways. If they meet a person with whom they have almost no connection, they might wave only. If they meet an acquaintance, they'll shake hands. But if they say goodbye to someone meaningful, they generally hug.

Of the three, I like the hand shake least.

The longest (and best) goodbye I ever received from a friend was in the form of a hug. It lasted maybe 37 seconds (though I wasn't counting at the time), and it meant a lot.

I'm finished now with my four years of undergraduate work. My family came to graduation. A friend drove up from the south. I said my fair share of goodbyes...and I gave one distinguishable hug to a friend I've grown up with for the past 10 years.

Now I have a lot of time on my hands. I couldn't be more pleased.

Here's what I'm up to:

- Listening to a lot of Daniel Johnston. So much that everything I notice has lyrics (Tony mentioned this in his last post).
- The Meat Puppets new album, Sewn Together.
- My brother learning guitar rifts (Modest Mouse, Cake, "Thunderstruck," etc.)
- The new Yeah Yeah Yeahs album, still.
- Google Reader.
- Reading Palm Sunday by Kurt Vonnegut.
- Picking up Roberto Bolano's 2666 soon, a Silliman suggestion.
- Mapping my move to Arizona
- Finishing a playlist for the drive west...another flung-together list.
- Going to juggling club in Louisville.
- Getting MLB audio.
- Unpacking and re-packing to figure out what I really want to keep.

So on May 31 I'll start my drive to the Southwest United States. Here is the basic map of the journey.

DAY 1: Leave home. Arrive at Jack's apartment. Chill. Sleep.
DAY 2: Leave Jack's apartment. Drive. Arrive in Amarillo.
DAY 3: Chill in Amarillo with my friend, Brad.
DAY 4: Leave Amarillo for Phoenix. Drive. Drive. Drive. Arrive.

Three days later I start working.

The best thing I hear about Arizona, are the wild pigs that run around willy nilly in the streets. I bet someone could make a cool song about them.

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May 14, 2009

Discovering Daniel Johnston (updated)

Is everyone listening to Daniel Johnston without me?

Last night I watched The Devil and Daniel Johnston, a 2006 documentary on this extraordinary singer/songwriter. It taught me a lot about songs I already love, because so many artists have covered Johnston and so many others want to sing like him.

Johnston, who is still making music, writes musically sparse narrative ditties about silly things and love. He reminds me a lot of the Beach Boys, Mountain Goats, Bright Eyes, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, and early Of Montreal. I know Wilco and Tom Waits and Yo La Tengo have recovered covers and tributes. I recommend "I Had Lost My Mind," as an introduction, unless of course you are already listening to him and never clued me in.

When I think of the artists who have most formed my ear, and the timing of when I discovered each of them, I'm able to piece together pleasant narratives and an acceptable interval between discoveries. I have few ... regrets -- was not often blindsided.

Then I watched this Daniel Johnston doc and was sort of angry and definitely filled with a pleasant wonderment about everything yet to be learned.

I ordered two Johnston tapes, as that was his preferred dubbing medium, and one compilation CD. I've been using YouTube playlists on 'play all' mode in the meantime.

And I'm thinking a lot about the old 'toy' organ that a friend gave me and which I have upstairs, because I'm pretty sure it's the same kind Johnston used.

Johnston's music has so consumed me that I spent the day singing about everything: my abandoned baked potato, my moat and my boat, and my grass (the tallest in town).

He is also triggering connections to music including:

* "If You Can't Give Me Everything," Reigning Sound
* "I Felt Like Smashing ...," cover by Of Montreal
* "Sympathy For the Devil," The Rolling Stones
* "Cheating On You," Franz Ferdinand
* Bright Eyes

Lyric samples:
Tuna Ketchup
I saw her in the street
She was with her family
She didn't say anything
She just stopped and stared
And I like her

In the summer I worked with her
In an oil refinery
She wore a yellow suit in the rain
And I like her

I drew her some pictures
I made her po-oh-sters
I let her walk all over me
And insult me too
Cause I like her

She has red hair
And blue eye-ey-ey-eyes
I was looking for love
But all I got was a bite
And I like her
And I like her
And I like her

Well I made some mistakes but
I ain't learned a lesson
that I don't wanna hear about responsibilities
I got less important things to do

An Idiot's End
She looks at me like a gun cocked
And I'm afraid to turn my back
For fear of being loved
She leans forward for me to see

The lights of her majesty
She's tempting me with a razor blade
But time is money at a penny arcade
And there's monkeys in the shadows

And virgins afraid of being laid
The court jester holds up a light bulb and says
"All that is made is made to decay"
To know her is to love her
And I love her, but I don't know her

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May 12, 2009

I must above all things love myself...

Not to usurp any posts (seems like a lot from Tony and I this past week), but something I need some input on. Are these not the most glorious facial hairs you've ever seen?:

If I didn't know any better I'd think these beards were fake. But they're real, and they're spectacular. Glorious.

Oh, and that guitar sound is pretty cool too.

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May 11, 2009

Found it!

After about four unanswered calls to the local radio station and two hours of frustration Saturday morning, I finally put the band name with the song. "Permanent Scar," by a band named O + S, has been in my head for at least a week and you can hear it above. Their Myspace.

I've also been enjoying YouTube playlists lately. They can be used like a mix CD, so I've been working on a personal one of songs I've been listening to lately: take a listen.

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May 9, 2009

Took a drive

Bought a jug of juice, drove toward West Virginia. Stirred a turkey into flight. Saw a cow lick its back hoof. Glimpsed a turtle walking along the highway, south of Chillicothe, Ohio.

I saw steep valleys; a big boat on a trailer. Opened my window in Van Wert just as the town dump came into sight. Found Ohio farms smellier than Virginia's.

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May 8, 2009

Days of Graduation

Looks like I'm one of the few stragglers who can't make it for graduation. Which sort of makes me feel even more isolated out here in Mizzou-rah. Hell, Tim even flew out. From Washington. That's some commitment to see a tall bastard graduate (his words there).

Anyhow, since I couldn't physically be there I tried hard to rack my brains about an appropriate musical tribute to my soon-to-be fellow alumni. It's harder than it looks. My options were that Vitamin C song or this Drive-By Truckers song.

Obviously neither really fits the mood.

Instead I think I have another song that I'd like to send out to all of those future Hillsdale College grads out there.

(Like this: "You speak of helpless voids/ Discovering where strangers stay/ Here we are at the end of all things/ And its not so bad")

Alright! Watch out for life:

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May 6, 2009

Strange ad

This appeared alongside one of my news stories.

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May 4, 2009

Hockey, chocolate milk, SI

This post is long (unintentionally, but long nonetheless), so buckle up:

The new Art Brut album has three major things going for it:
1) The title.
2) The lyrics.
3) Frank Black's production.

About the latter: it almost sounds like a Pixies record.

Not that Art Brut sound anything like Black Francis' old band, but he handled the production as if he were producing the Pixies. Guitars, bass, vocals sound squeaky clean and distinct in the mix. Maybe the only thing that sounds un-Pixie-ish (how's that for a word) are the drums, which are sloppy and sort of muddled. But that might be intentional, because the rest of the album sparkles.

Take this song from an older album and compare to this song, "Alcoholics Unanimous." That bass bounces in and out clearly as if Kim Deal herself were plucking it. On another song on the album I noticed lead guitar lines that reminded me of something like Joey Santiago's solos on "Vamos" or "Bone Machine."

That's not to say the Bruts are musical virtuosos. Far from it, but that's not really the point. They're a fractured, shambolic garage band at their core. Something like a nerdier British Hold Steady or Replacements (to whom they dedicate a song on this album).

"Alcoholics" kicks off the album, and I was hooked right away. I don't know if it was the music or the lyrics, but they both just work (especially the backing parts: "I've been making mistakes/ Lots of mistakes!/ I'm hiding it well/ Not very well!/ But I don't feel great/ Last night we tried to warn him!").

The second song, my favorite, is called "DC Comics and Chocolate Milkshake." It's an ode to youth. Or arrested development. Or something: "DC comics and chocolate milkshake/ Some things will always be great/ DC comics and chocolate milkshake/ Even though I'm 28/ DC comics and chocolate milkshake/ I guess I'm just developing late/ DC comics and chocolate milkshake/ I never got over that amazing taste."

I always hear the phrase "deceptively simple" bandied about regarding bands like this. But I think it's a BS term that doesn't really mean what people think it does (does it actually mean that it's difficult even though it looks simple, or vice-versa?). So I won't use that to describe them. I think a better term here would be "willfully simple" or even "coyfully simple" (if "coyfully" is even a word).

I remember seeing part of their set at Pitchfork a few years ago and walking away unimpressed. Seemed like bullshit to me, with bandleader Eddie Argos prancing around up there like a jackass and not singing, but kind of talking, over punk music. But I was also dehydrated and on the other side of the park. I'm glad I didn't write them off.

Argos seems to revel in sounding, on the surface, like a jerk who can't sing or can't write more than a few chords, but there's obviously something deeper there.


That little review was longer than I expected, so to my other point quickly. I recently purchased the David Halberstam-edited Best American Sportswriting of the Century. It's got some solid pieces, including a nice W.C. Heinz piece on Red Grange that I loved.

But so far, the one that intrigued me most was this one called "The Making of the Goon" by Johnette Howard (it's the second piece posted there, I couldn't find a legitimate copy). It's the only hockey piece in there (I think) and it is what it says it is, so I won't explain it any more.

Considering how much of Halberstam's book is about boxing (a whole section devoted to Mohammad Ali), it's kind of disappointing but not surprising that the only hockey story they can muster is about a fighter and, oh, not about superstars like Steve Yzerman or Wayne Gretzky, or about what I think might be the most difficult in the sports world (goaltending).

And then today I stumbled across this similar piece on the Washington Capitals' Donald Brashear, from the Washington Post. It's in the similar vein of "humanizing the hockey enforcer." It's good, but again, I wonder: can anyone write a good piece about hockey that isn't about goons? Anyone?


Finally, I bought the Zach Greinke Sports Illustrated yesterday, just so I could read Joe Posnanski's feature on him (for anyone not in the "know," he's now my new favorite sportswriter...seriously, if I could subscribe to the Kansas City Star I would just to read him, but they don't go this far south).

It's the first time I've purchased one in a long time - maybe three, four years.

The quality of the magazine has gone down, as Tony noticed on this space before. They ran a 10+ page feature on surfer Kelley Slater. Which is fine, except but the cover story on Grienke was two pages. And there's lots of filler (like 20 pages of BS in the front) before the actual articles. They could have done away with all of that crap and made each article longer and more substantive.

Disappointing, for a former subscriber.

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May 3, 2009


Spoon is the most confusing most underwhelming most surprisingly awesome rock band around. I would not call them epic, aggressive, or pretty.

They just write catchy, perfect songs. Memorable and simple songs.
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Best Value: Spoon, free at City Fest, Detroit

Biggest surprise: Tapes 'n Tapes, Pitchfork 2006, Chicago
The Exit, The Empty Bottle, Chicago

Went beyond their recordings: Dungen, Magic Stick, Detroit
Andrew Bird, Rock the Garden, Minneapolis

Made me freak out: The Hives, Metro, Chicago
Wolf Parade, Magic Stick, Detroit
Of Montreal, 40 Watt Club, Athens

Felt important: Circulatory System, Athens Pop Fest

Most entertaining: The Hives, Metro, Chicago

Most perfect sound: Yo La Tengo, Michigan Theater, Ann Arbor

Best crowd/most deserving encore: Dungen, Magic Stick, Detroit

Most connected to crowd: P.U.S.A, Magic Stick, Detroit

Best pre-show venue music: EODM show, Magic Stick, Detroit

Best moments:
:: The Dungen show, which I find it hard to deny as the best concert I've ever seen, concluded with an unbelievably fuzzy blitzkrieg final number and a rather slow exit by the band. The crowd was furiously loud in hopes of an encore, and it came quickly. The band, who I found extremely genuine (they were hanging around before the show, friendly and eating Chinese take out), commented that they rarely play encores. I believe them. Then they blasted my face off again.

:: When Yo La Tengo played the Michigan Theater it was baseball playoff season, and before the first and second encores, Ira admitted he was sneaking looks at the Mets game backstage and apologized for the delay. Then they played "Can't Seem to Make You Mine," a Seeds cover.

:: When, during the first Hillsdale Battle of the Bands, Juny was playing the song about "he must be gay ... pink shirt" and during the rousing conclusion, his strumming and the reintroduction of the drums was slightly off and so believably human as it became sync again.

:: My Dad's good friend Bill caught a White Stripes drum stick amid a melee.

:: Jesse The Devil Hughes caught a bra, hung it on the mic stand.

:: More generally, in terms of energy and intrigue, I really enjoyed Spoon's frontman during "The Beast and Dragon, Adored," and the chorus portions of "Requiem for OMM 2," by Of montreal. I remember the Wolf Parade guitarist completely destroying a hanging chime.
Worst openers: Whirlwind Heat for White Stripes, Aragon, Chicago
Early Man for the Black Keys, St. Andrew's Hall, Detroit
Lamest crowd: Wolf Parade, First Avenue, Mpls
Worst doormen: The Blind Pig, Ann Arbor

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May 1, 2009

Bedside Regiments Music Video

Here it is:

Download the entire album free or buy a CD for $5 from the Ten and Six website.

Thanks to Carly and Kirsty for this video, and to everyone else for your support. 

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