Monday, December 21, 2009

It's been three months

since I posted something on here.

I don't know why I stopped. It's not like I've been all that busy. Well, you know, three kids and a job and all but still.

I think I found that Twitter and Facebook were more responsive blogging platforms. See, I don't make any money off this blog, never have, and it's existed mostly as a way to share my thoughts and keep the writing in shape.

But look, I've never been one for keeping a journal. I write for an audience, I write to be heard. Dates back to my acting days where I needed to be in a show in order to feel validated, then it went to radio where I wasn't content to be a producer behind the scenes. Facebook and Twitter give me much more of that feeling, you get responses from people in real time.

I'm hesitant to give this site up. I mean, why give it up when it's free, right? But at the moment it's not a platform I'm gravitating toward.

Oh well, check back in a while, maybe I'll flood it with posts.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Conversation Between Kate (Age 6) and Some Kid (Age 3) at the playground

KATE: Ugh. I was born with something called dwarfism. And what it is-- (KID runs off, then returns)
KATE: I don't think you know anything about dwarfism.
KATE: Ugh! You don't know anything about anything!
KATE: Oh brother. Never mind.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Why I and we do what we and I do

I was recently watching an interview with Anil Dash. Anil, who I've also interviewed recently, is a sort of proto-blogger. He's been running something that's more or less a blog for over a decade now. He's also turbo smart. And he was talking about the term "blogger" and how to call someone a blogger is becoming increasingly meaningless. It would be like calling someone a clothes wearer or phone user: everyone's doing it. A few are doing it on sites like this one, but way more are using Facebook and Twitter, posting updates on what they're up to, what they think, links to things they found interesting. The platforms have become easier, the posts are shorter, but the guts of the operation are the same. We blog, we talk, we post, we update, we write.

A while back, I started tinkering around with Tumblr and created a version of this site there. The user interface is much better than's, you can post more things more rapidly. I'd go so far as to say it's better.

But lately I've sort of stopped doing anything with it. I still Twitter to anyone who wants to read me, I post more personal things to Facebook to anyone who fits a very liberal definition of "friend", but the Tumblr area has become fallow ground even though it's easier.

However, beyond being easier Tumblr is also much more interactive. It's easy to re-post things from other people's Tumblr blogs, the idea of followers is a much bigger deal than on Blogger, there's a ranking for "tumblarity", which is not a word but proposes to be a numerical rating of how popular you are.

I think it's too much. I wonder if I'm now so old-fashioned (I started this blog in 2003) that I want something that could be described as "classical" even though it's remarkably new technology. I want to post things and not really know how many people read it. I want to have comments enabled, provided people aren't jerks, but I don't need any chat function enabled. It sounds horribly arrogant but I really want it to be mostly about me and not about my place in the community of people acting like me.

It dates back to starting this blog in the first place. I started it after Rewind (NPR news/satire show I worked on) got canceled as a means of keeping my writing in shape. Since then I've done a bunch more radio and a bunch more writing but I kept it going as a place where I could just write what struck me as interesting that I wanted to share without the necessary editorial pressures of commercial viability, without worrying about the reception. This clunky old stupid platform, which you'd think Google of all people would have improved by now, is the best way to keep doing that and I don't think Tumblr is.

It's odd to realize that the archaic technology is preferable. Think I'll go buy a printed newspaper now. And an 8-track player.

Here's a monkey who takes care of a baby:


Monday, August 17, 2009


Someday soon physical Blockbuster stores will close and I'll be glad. Limited selection, high prices, deceptive policies,...uh...all that BLUE, hate 'em. But what I hate most is that every time I go in there (and I do) they ask me if I'd like to sign up for their rewards club. I don't, I tell them I don't, and then they keep pushing it. And I say NO more emphatically. And then when I come back, they ask again. I've established my lack of interest but they persist.

I guess what really bugs me is that I am already buying something there and then at the point of purchase they're interrupting the process to get me to buy something more. It would be like going to the grocery store and the checker pauses and holds up some laundry detergent and asks if you'd like to buy it. You say no but then the checker talks about how great the detergent is.

But you know what? It's beyond that. It's trying to get you to sign up for something where they will take your money regularly. Like a detergent club.

So I've become upset at them more than a few times and I get the "this customer is crazy" look from the blue golf shirt clerks. And screw you, don't look at me like that, your whole enterprise will be made unnecessary once Redbox gets its act together.

Well anyway, getting mad does no one any good. So yesterday after getting the pitch ONE MORE TIME, I tried a new approach. Five minutes after leaving the store, I called them.

BOB: Thank you for calling Blockbuster, this is Bob.
ME (doing a sort of Will Ferrell on painkillers voice, verrrrry sloooow): Do you have a movie...called...Firehaver?
BOB: Fire what?
ME: Haver. Haver. Haaaaaver. Firehaver.
BOB: Could you spell that?
ME: F-i-r-e.
BOB: The second part?
ME: Haver. H-a-v-e-r. Firehaver. Firehaver. About a man who has fire. It's a drama.
BOB: I'm not seeing anything by that name. Are you sure you--
ME: How about David Was Wrong? David Was Wrong. David. Was. Wrong.
BOB: Let me see.
ME: David Was Wrong. Three words. It's a drama. About David. Do you have it in stock and can I pick it up today?
BOB: I don't--
ME: David Was Wrong?
BOB: No, I'm sorry. Striking out here.
ME: Kneebone? Kneebone? It's another movie called Kneebone. It's a comedy. Kneeeeebone?
BOB: Kneebone...
ME: K-n-e-e-b-o-n-e. Kneeeeeeebone? Comedy?
BOB: Boy, I'm really sorry. I don't see anything called that.
ME: I guess I just wasted your time then. I guess I wasted your time.
BOB: Oh, that's --
ME: Kind of like when someone just wants to rent a movie and you try to sell them on your rewards club and they've already told you many times they don't want to join but you won't ring them up until you've tried to sell it to them?
BOB: Uh...what?


Monday, August 10, 2009

It's Not Called All Being Master of Space and Dimension Hero, Eddie.

You erased Michael Anthony from history like some out-of-favor Bolshevik? Sucks.

Instead you expect people to be okay with Wolfgang “Craft Services Table” Van Halen on a ride through history? Sucks.

Though I’m no fan of Sammy, I guess that whole era didn’t really happen? Sucks.

I’ve seen better character rendering in, well, I’m thinking, something in 1993…’s butt. Sucks.

The fact that this game isn’t called Eddie’s Delusion That He Is God And Control History And People’s Minds With His Strappy Guitar? SUCKS!

This game sucks.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Fantastic, unbearable, great

That's the life cycle of my experience listening to several of my favorite musicians. I'll find some music that I JUST LOVE SO MUCH that I can't stop listening to it. Entire album at least four times a week. Compulsive need.
Ben Folds Five - Whatever and Ever Amen
Decemberists - Picaresque
The Hold Steady - Stay Positive

There have been MANY others. But what happens is that I listen to them to the point of burn out. Then I can't listen any more. It's like I've used them up. I overdid it. I didn't take a sip of their wine or a glass or even a bottle, I was hospitalized with musical alcohol poisoning.

But then, THEN, sometimes months later or years later, I can re-discover the music and it's like an old friend. The love is deeper, fleshed out by memory.

You have any music like that? Or am I crazy?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

How I paid for my wedding in 1995

Your humble correspondent with glasses.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Today I received a Facebook friend request from "Marty Riemer Show"

which is not a person but rather a program on KMTT 103.7 FM in Seattle. I opted for "ignore" on this request. It wasn't because I don't know how one can be friends with a show. It was because when I used to hear the show, it behaved in a way I thought unfriendly. I think if an entity wants to be treated as a person within online social networks, it should expect the same treatment given to human beings. Here's what I wrote back to them:

I deeply respect and admire all you've done to promote comedy but I cannot accept you as a friend because you offend me. (feels weird to talk to a show as if it were a person, I understand the show and Marty are different entities).

I no longer live in Seattle but when I did I was a regular listener to the 5:20 Funny. But on more than one occasion, I would hear jokes using the word "midget". That's a word seen as offensive to many people, including most in the little people community. It has its roots in 19th century freak shows and the people who use it today tend to mean it in that same demeaning, dehumanizing way. It's not funny, it's cruel, just like any racist or homophobic joke would be.

I would occasionally write to you when one of these jokes aired but rarely got a response. I know that not everyone is going to love every joke and I know that shock and offense are sometimes part of comedy. But you wouldn't air a racial slur meant in a cruel way so I don't think you should allow slurs that demean people born with an anomalous genetic condition.

I think if one of my real life friends repeatedly used the word "midget", they would cease to be my friend. My daughter was born with dwarfism and anyone who demeans her is no friend of mine.

Sorry, Marty Reimer Show.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Charlie and Griffey

Ages 6 and 37:

Ages 8 and 39:


Monday, July 20, 2009

Holy smokes, have I really been gone a month?

Guess so. Neck deep in new project at work that I hope can become public in the not too distant future. Meanwhile, I came across this thing at Kevin Kelly's website. He's one of those transcending-technology types and just unfairly smart. He's making a larger point about inevitable innovations vs. ones that you can control. So for instance adolescence is inevitable, pimples are not, phones are inevitable, iPhones are not. And he says:

Ordinary Roman carts were constructed to match the width of Imperial Roman war chariots because it was easier to follow the ruts in the road left by the war chariots. The chariots were sized to accommodate the width of two large war horses, which translates into our English measurement as a width of 4’ 8.5”. Roads throughout the vast Roman empire were built to this spec. When the legions of Rome marched into Britain, they constructed long distance imperial roads 4’ 8.5” wide. When the English started building tramways, they used the same width so the same horse carriages could be used. And when they started building railways with horseless carriages, naturally the rails were 4’ 8.5” wide. Imported laborers from the British Isles built the first railways in the Americas using the same tools and jigs they were used to. Fast forward to the US Space shuttle, which is built in parts around the country and assembled in Florida. Because the two large solid fuel rocket engines on the side of the launch Shuttle were sent by railroad from Utah, and that line transversed a tunnel not much wider than the standard track, the rockets themselves could not be much wider than 4’ 8.5.” As one wag concluded: “So, a major Space Shuttle design feature of what is arguably the world’s most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of two horses’ arse.” More or less, this is how technology constrains itself over time.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I am inspired

by Anil Dash’s cancellation of the term FAIL:

Because it marks a lack of human empathy, and signifies an absence of intellectual curiosity, it is an unacceptable response to creative efforts in our culture. “Fail!” is the cry of someone who doesn’t create, doesn’t ship, doesn’t launch, who doesn’t make things. And because these people don’t make things, they don’t understand the context of those who do.

Years ago, I worked at a summer camp in the San Juan Islands. I actually met the wonderful person who would become my wife there. And a summer camp, at its best, is this amazing volcano of creativity: you have the energy of hundreds of young campers, counselors who are still young themselves, you have music, you have nature, you have recreation and physical activity, you DON'T have electronic media. It's perfect, really. But there was this one person who, whenever something truly creatively odd would be presented (be it a song or a skit or just a joke) would make a yucky face and say, "Random!" She even made a song for people to sing with the lyrics, "Random, random, that was so random." A song is a creative act, sure, but she just borrowed an existing camp melody and put in her cynical patronizing words.

And, like, go to hell, you know? It's not random, it's a creative act inspired by the environment we're all sharing and that's a beautiful thing that sets us apart from the goddamn insects. I bet she uses FAIL all the time.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Vince Young

He’s a quarterback for the Tennessee Titans of the NFL. Last season, after losing his starting job, getting booed, and getting injured, he left his house without his phone but with a pistol, this after mentioning suicide several times over the course of the day. An APB was sent out and he was finally tracked down.

I haven’t heard much on the story since then but recently saw a short interview with Young on ESPN. In the interview, an excerpt of a longer version to air later this summer, Young says that he wasn’t considering suicide, that he just needed to clear his head and that he went to his uncle’s house.

You can’t know someone’s mind from watching a few minutes of tape but, how to phrase this, something seems wrong here. It’s just my gut but I don’t think he’s telling the truth. Young has every reason in the world to say that he had no thoughts of hurting himself, millions of dollars of reasons, in fact. As a star athlete for most of his life, he’s also existed in a world where toughness and exhibited strength are highly valued and mental illness is treated very differently from a torn ACL.

The topic of NFL players and suicide didn’t start with Young. Star receiver Terrell Owens attempted suicide in 2006 but he too claimed it was all a big misunderstanding. I hope someone in the NFL offices is taking mental health seriously although I doubt they are. After Owens denied that he attempted suicide, his publicist, demonstrating a real deft understanding of mental health, had this to say: “Terrell has 25 million reasons,” she said, “why he should be alive.” Or at least make people think he wants to be.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Unauthorized Trader Joe's commercial made by a guy who just really likes Trader Joe's

I watch this when I'm sad to become happier. Or when I'm kind of happy and want to get happier still.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Strange thing

Whenever I commit to blogging more here, I usually do the opposite. So I wonder if I'm about to start blogging more here because I plan to do less. I'm currently involved in a project that has a heavy blogging element but not in a real obvious public way. It's temporary but for the moment it's sucking up a lot of the bloggy brain cells. So I THINK I will be easing back on this for the next 3-4 weeks. Until then you can find me on Twitter and sometimes on the Tumblr blog.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Conversation with Charlie (age 8) About Literature

HIM: Dad, is To Kill A Mockingbird a real book?
ME: Yes.
HIM: Do they really kill a mockingbird?
ME: No.
HIM: Does anyone get killed?
ME: Yes.
HIM: Why do they call it that?
ME: It's an analogy.
HIM: Does someone at least turn into a mockingbird?


It's easier

Tumblr, I mean. Way easier to blog. If I have something I want to post, I can do it right away. And unlike Blogger, I choose whether I'm posting a photo, text, link, audio, video, or discussion and it then delivers me a template to speed that along. The fact that it all takes about 1/3 the amount of time a posting requires here makes a huge difference to my posting without, I HOPE, a drop off in relevance and quality.

Not sure where I go from here but I encourage you to read me over there as well.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

At the coffee shop this morning

(I remove my headphones and place my order, BARISTA pours coffee, hands it to me, rings me up.)

BARISTA: What are you listening to?

ME: Oh. This American Life.

BARISTA: I don’t know what that is.

ME: It’s a public radio show.

BARISTA: Oh, like MPR? I love MPR.

ME: So do I. I actually work there.

BARISTA: I don’t sleep very much, I just can’t fall asleep easily, so listen to the BBC a lot late at night. It’s fantastic.

ME: It certainly is. I love the BBC.

BARISTA: Well, I’ll let you get to work. Thank you for all you do. Thanks for making all that wonderful radio.

ME: You’re welcome. Thanks for listening to it.

(and I leave with more of a spring in my step than coffee could ever provide.)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Fooling around with Tumblr

It really does seem like an easier blogging platform than Blogger. So I set up a version of this blog over there to try it out. I've been looking for somewhere to store interesting things I come across: stories, pictures, videos. So I'm going to try to make the Tumblr page less about writing and more just, kinda, stuff I brought home from the store. We'll see how it goes. I'll keep doing stuff here too.

Anyway: check it out if you like.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Bands that have songs named after bands

Wilco is live streaming their new album
- FOR FREE! TEMPORARILY! - and the first song is called "Wilco". After asserting on Twitter that the only band I knew of that had a song named after themselves was Talk Talk with "Talk Talk" off the album Talk Talk, I come to find out it's way more common than I thought:

* 45 Grave's "45 Grave"
* A's "A" (from album A vs Monkey Kong)
* Anthrax's "Anthrax" (from album Fistful of Metal)
* Armor For Sleep's "Armor For Sleep" (from album Dream to Make Believe)
* At the Gates's "At the Gates" (from album Garden of Grief)
* Avantasia's "Avantasia" (from album "The Metal Opera")
* Babyshambles's "Babyshambles"
* Bad Acid Trip's "Bad Acid Trip"
* Beastie Boys' "Beastie Boys"
* Belle & Sebastian's "Belle & Sebastian" (from the EP Dog On Wheels, and re-released as part of the album Push Barman to Open Old Wounds)
* Blue Öyster Cult's "Blue Öyster Cult" (from album Imaginos)
* Born Blind's "Born Blind" (from album One for All)
* bob hund's "bob hund" (from album Omslag: Martin Kann)
* Brand Nubian's "Brand Nubian"
* Brian Wilson's "Brian Wilson" (from the album Live at the Roxy Theatre, a cover of the song by Barenaked Ladies)
* Built to Spill's "Built to Spill" (from album Ultimate Alternative Wavers)
* Captain Jack's "Captain Jack" (from album The Mission)
* Chicago's "Chicago" ( from album Night and Day: Big Band)
* Children of Bodom's "Children of Bodom" (from album Hatebreeder)
* Choking Victim's "Choking Victim"
* Julian Cope's "Julian H. Cope" (from jehovahkill)
* Daddy DJ's "Daddy DJ"
* Dali's Car's "Dali's Car"
* Delta 5's "Delta 5"
* Descendents's "Descendents" (from album I Don't Want To Grow Up)
* Die Ärzte's "Die Ärzte" (not released, just live)
* D.O.A.'s "D.O.A." (from album Hardcore '81)
* Doop's "Doop"
* Dr. Octagon's "Dr. Octagon"
* Dschinghis Khan's "Dschinghis Khan"
* Enkindel's "Enkindel" (from album "Some Assembly Required"; the band lather changed their name to The Enkindels)
* Exodus's "Exodus" (from the album "Bonded by Blood")
* Fishbone's "Fishbone (Is Red Hot)"
* Fleetwood Mac's "Fleetwood Mac" (from the album The Original Fleetwood Mac)
* Flying Machine's "Flying Machine"
* Fuck...I'm Dead's "Fuck...I'm Dead"
* Goon Squad's "Goon Squad"
* Gotcha!'s "Gotcha!"
* Gouryella's "Gouryella"
* Green Day's "Green Day" (the song title preceded the band name, and was written while the band was still known as Sweet Children)
o Also had a song called "Sweet Children" when they were known as Sweet Children
* G-Unit's "G-Unit" (from album Beg For Mercy)
* H-Bomb's "H-Bomb" (from mini-lp Coup de Metal)
* Hammerfall's "Hammerfall" (from album Glory to the Brave)
* Hard Skin's "Hard Skin" (from album Hard Nuts And Hard Cunts)
* Imperial Teen's "Imperial Teen" (from album Seasick)
* In Extremo's "In Extremo" (from album Verehrt und Angespien)
* In Flames' "In Flames" (from album Lunar Strain)
* JFA's "Jodie Foster's Army" (from album Blatant Localism)
* Jilted John's "Jilted John" (from album True Love Stories)
* LFO "LFO" (from album Frequencies
* The Living End's "The Living End" (from album Hellbound)
* Louis XIV's "Louis XIV" (from album The Best Little Secrets Are Kept)
* Love City Groove's "Love City Groove" (the United Kingdom entry in the 1995 Eurovision Song Contest)
* Mad Caddies's "Mad Caddies"
* Madness's "Madness" (a Prince Buster cover)
* Manowar's "Manowar"
* Masta Killa's "Masta Killa" (from album No Said Date)
* Miljoonasade's "Miljoonasade" (from album Pesuhuoneesta keittiöön)
* Miss Black America' "Miss Black America" (from the album God Bless Miss Black America)
* Mr. Big's "Mr. Big" (a Free cover)
* Mr Blobby's "Mr Blobby"
* Mull Historical Society's "Mull Historical Society" (from album Loss)
* Night Ranger's "Night Ranger" (from album Dawn Patrol)
* Nightwish's "Nightwish" (from their untitled first demo)
* Nichya's (?????) "Nichya"
* Paradise Lost's "Paradise Lost" (from the album Lost Paradise)
* Peach's "Peach" (from the album Giving Birth to a Stone)
* Pet Shop Boys' "Pet Shop Boys" (b-side to the 1984 release of "West End girls")
* Pink Grease's "Pink G.R.Ease"
* Polygon Window's "Polygon Window" (from the album (Surfing on Sine Waves))
* Railroad Earth's "Railroad Earth" (from the album Elko)
* Rammstein's "Rammstein" (from album Herzeleid)
* Reagan Youth's "Reagan Youth" (from album Volume 1)
* Renegade Soundwave's "Renegade Soundwave"
* Samhain's "Samhain" (from album Initium)
* Siddharta's "Siddharta" (from album ID)
* Sigur Rós's "Sigur Rós" (from album Von)
* Skyclad's "Skyclad" (from album The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth)
* Slipknot's "Slipknot" (from album Mate.Feed.Kill.Repeat)
* Smog's "Smog" from the album Sewn to the Sky
* Snoop Dogg's "Snoop Dogg"
* Snot's "Snot" (from album Get Some)
* Spacehog's "Spacehog" from the album Resident Alien
* Steelheart's "Steelheart" from the album Tangled in Reins
* Stratovarius' "Stratovarius" from the album Fourth Dimension
* Sworn Enemy's "Sworn Enemy" from the album As Real As It Gets
* Talk Talk's "Talk Talk" (from album The Party's Over)
o note: The song "Talk Talk" also appears on a five-song EP that's called Talk Talk, and the band itself was named after the song (written by the Hollis brothers).
* Talulah Gosh's "Talulah Gosh"
* They Might Be Giants' "They Might Be Giants" (from album Flood)
* Tricky Disco "Tricky Disco"
* Unun's "Unun" from the album Æ (album)
* Van Dyke Parks' "Van Dyke Parks" (from album Song Cycle)
* Voivod's "Voivod" (from album War and Pain)
* Warp 11's "Warp 11" (from album Red Alert)
* White Town's "White Town" (from album Women in Technology)
* X's "X" (from album Blue Blood)
* Zonata's "Zonata" (from album Tunes of Steel)

AND this list even left off Bad Company by Bad Company, Iron Maiden by Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath by Black Sabbath, and Kajagoogoo's Kajagoogoo (because if you have the word "Kajagoogoo" available to you, you need to use it all the time.)

Right, LIMAHL?

Kajagoogoo, John!


Monday, May 11, 2009


"If you tell me x, I WILL FIGHT YOU WITH MY FISTS!"

What does x equal?

For me:
x = Jay Leno is better than David Letterman
x = anything in pirate vernacular
x = there hasn't been any good music made since (fill in any year or era)
x = you are guaranteed to lose any fight involving fists


Friday, May 08, 2009

Family on the radio

I'm doing a story for The Splendid Table about kids and cooking. We had Charlie and Kate prepare a family meal, sweet and sour chicken plus rice and for some reason dumplings, which they then refused to eat.

JOHN: But this was your idea!
CHARLIE: Ugh! Well, when I always see it in restaurants it doesn’t look like something from a squid’s body part.
JOHN: Well, you want a dumpling?
CHARLIE: Ooh yeah!
KATE: Can I try one?
JOHN: It’s white and bland.
KATE: Actually I don’t want it.
JOHN: Yes you do! Eat the dumplings or you’re out of the family.
CHARLIE: You’re kidding.
KATE: Are you kidding?
JOHN: I’m half kidding. And you know it might be terrible.
KATE: It is! I just not like it. Mom, you can have it.
JILL: No thanks.
JOHN: I’ll eat it.
KATE: Ooh, thanks
JOHN: Charlie, are you okay?
CHARLIE: I don’t want to try the dumplings.
JOHN: Did you try the dumplings?
JOHN: The dumpling is pretty bad, actually.
JILL: They’re horrible. Give ‘em to the baby. I bet the baby will eat them.


Monday, May 04, 2009

A Conversation with Charlie (age 8) About Music and Entomology

HIM: Our yard is full of bugs of prey.
ME: That would be a good name for a band. Bugs of Prey.
HIM: Or Insects of Prey. Arachnids of Prey.
ME: Beetles of Prey. Or just The Beatles.
HIM: That's already a band.
ME: Right. So you can't use that name.
HIM: Well, maybe. They broke up a long time ago.
ME: So you think the name is available. You could just come along and claim it.
HIM: Yeah, I'm pretty sure.


This is one continuous shot

Nyle "Let The Beat Build" from Nyle on Vimeo.

And it kind of made me cry with joy.


Scenes from the coffee shop


ME: Hi, could I get a small coffee?
BARISTA 1: That'll be $1.75.
ME: I thought it was only a dollar on Mondays.
BARISTA 1: That's if you get a medium.
ME: (sigh) Okay, I'll get a medium.
BARISTA 1: Okay, that'll be one dollar.
ME: You're trying to break my mind, aren't you?


If you answer the trivia question, you get ten cents off. Today's question was, "What New York University was taken over by students from April 23 to April 30, 1968?" The answer is Columbia.

CUSTOMER: Hmm, I don't know the answer.
BARISTA 2: Think about the name of a South American country where lots of cocaine and coffee comes from.
BARISTA 2: No, it's a university in New York City.
CUSTOMER: I'm drawing a blank.
ME: It's in upper Manhattan.
BARISTA 2: It's in kind of a rough neighborhood?
BARISTA 2: But it's a good school. A really good school.
ME: It's an Ivy League school.
ME: It's Columbia.
CUSTOMER: No, I just can't figure it out.
BARISTA 2: He just told you the answer.
CUSTOMER: Hmmmmm....


Thursday, April 30, 2009

Because I've not yet achieved "detached antisocial genius" status...

I've created a Facebook fan page. I was just getting a lot of requests from people I didn't know and while most of them seemed like really great people it felt like...ah, gah, screw it. It's part of the self-promotional thing that goes with what I do and that I can't seem to embrace. So anyway, if you're so inclined, here.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Evil Overlord Tips

20. Despite its proven stress-relieving effect, I will not indulge in maniacal laughter. When so occupied, it's too easy to miss unexpected developments that a more attentive individual could adjust to accordingly.

81. If I am fighting with the hero atop a moving platform, have disarmed him, and am about to finish him off and he glances behind me and drops flat, I too will drop flat instead of quizzically turning around to find out what he saw.

Read the rest. (h/t kottke)


Real Life Pac-Man


Monday, April 27, 2009

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I'm rappin', I'm rappin', I'm rappity rappin'

I will never forgive Scott Simpson for embedding this in my skull. And if you are foolish enough to play this clip, you will never forgive me either.



Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Robyn Hitchcock

was in our building yesterday. He's a genius, that's all. Here's the interview:

Listen for his brief Dylan impression at 15:15 or so. He also talks about being offered a gig to produce a record for a then-unknown band named The Replacements a long time ago. He turned it down because at the time he was drinking quite a bit and he wasn't sure such a thing would go over well with The Replacements.

Best of all, the interview is conducted by Mary Lucia, whom I don't think Robyn realizes is the younger sister of Paul Westerberg.

I Just Report This Stuff

Man adapts office chair so it send Twitter updates about occupant's flatulence.


Monday, April 20, 2009

I'm not much of a gamer

But I'm very intrigued by Stalin vs. Martians. It's an upcoming game where a 200-foot Stalin commands his army against a gang of Martians. 200-foot Stalin? 200-foot Stalin.

The music is all Chinese pop music, "as our tests showed that combination of mandapop/cantopop and Stalin game makes brains explode instantly. And that’s exactly what we want to achieve with our project," say the game creators who admit to being drunk when they thought this up.

Here's more information.

Here's a dancing Stalin:


Note to self: Avoid Chicago on Thursday AT ALL COSTS

It's Talk Like Shakespeare Day

Billy the Bard will turn 445 on Thursday, and in honor of the occasion Mayor Daley has announced that Thursday will be "Talk Like Shakespeare Day," designed to encourage Chicagoans "to bring the spoken words of Shakespeare into their daily lives."


Bernie und Ert

(h/t to DMZ at USS Mariner)

I would like to not know any more about this.


Only on Twitter

Friday, April 17, 2009

You know what you could play there? Baseball.

I mean, if that's your enthusiasm.

Al Capone's house in Chicago is for sale. Sure, it's overpriced but you gotta remember you're paying for a history of ruthless murder. And that ain't cheap. Also, Geraldo Rivera hangs out on the lawn most afternoons, muttering to his non-existent camera crew.

And check out this mugshot of Capone. What are you smiling for, smiley?

(thanks to my old co-worker Diane Tuman at Zillow for pointing this out)


Thursday, April 16, 2009


Last year, I spoke at my old college, some 18 years after graduating. I was talking to the students a little bit and I wondered what the fraternity houses were like after all this time. "They're probably exactly the same," said one of the students, "except they smell like Axe Body Spray."


What passes for humor in my house

CHARLIE (AGE 8): A porcupine will eat any kind of poop in the world.
KATE (AGE 6): No it won't. Not any kind.
CHARLIE: Except for Hades' poop. But that's not in this world.
CHARLIE: A porcupine will eat the poop of any animal! It's true!
ME: You guys, we're having dinner so could--
KATE: Grrrr.


Disturbing Strokes

(Found on Boing Boing)

The opening montage to Diff'rent Strokes set to creepier music. The whole tone changes dramatically.

Here's what I don't get, having watched this. Did the original show purport that this was how the adoption kicked off? That Mr. Drummond, presumably having done the appropriate paperwork and all, picked Arnold and Willis up at the playground? Where they were happily playing basketball?

Although with this music, one infers that there was never any paperwork at all. There was just....something I don't even want to think about.


No more, no less, that's a magic number

Not 3. 20. As in the age of De La Soul's "Three Feet High and Rising" album.

Holy crap. No. Are you kidding? 20 years old that album? 20 years ago that awesome Steely Dan sample? Trugoy the Dove? Interminable skits? Take your acid wash jeans bellbottom designed by your mama off? Please?

That record was living very large indeed during my junior year of college and we played the hell out of it at every moment of every day. Musical rotation was:

Talking Heads - Stop Making Sense
R.E.M. - Green
De La Soul - Three Feet High and Rising

Here's a pretty great history of how that record and group came together.


Help Wanted

Wolfman. Current Wolfman retiring after 15 years.
During the daily steam train rides aboard the White Mountain Central Railroad, it's the Wolfman's job to scare the beejeebees out of the passengers, whom he believes are trying to jump his precious Unobtainium claim. He bursts out of the woods driving an ancient automobile, sets off firecrackers and yells at passengers to go home.

On the return journey, passengers have learned that to send the Wolfman back into the woods, they have to shout back "Scram you old goat!"


Wednesday, April 15, 2009


I went to Kate's kindergarten poetry reading yesterday. I don't mind hitting a scene like that once in a while as long as Kate doesn't make a habit of it. I'm not dragging myself to something like that when she's 24 and complains about how I never paid attention to here. I'm sure I would find something more interesting to do than see THAT.

Most of the kids had written poems about dogs and cats. Kate wrote a short one about shopping for art (it rhymes with "cart"). But my favorite was her classmate who had his grandparents in the audience and who wrote a poem that I'll try to recall from memory:

My Grandpa Eats Nothing But Butter

My Grandpa eats nothing but butter
Ten sticks a day at least
He never plays with his children
He just sits there eating butter.

Said grandpa just smiled, kind of confused while everyone laughed because dang that was a funny poem.


Don't Make Me Hate You, Caribou Coffee

O, I am vexed. And I've written about this before.

Here's the deal: Caribou Coffee (the big local chain) has a deal going in the morning where if you buy a large 16oz coffee and a muffin, the muffin is only a buck. This means that a large coffee and a muffin ends up being cheaper than either a small 12oz coffee and a muffin or a medium 16oz and a muffin. Now, I don't want that much coffee. I don't want to be tempted to drink that much coffee because I would be a mess. But I want the savings.

So I ask to get 12 ounces of coffee but to be charged as if I had bought a large (namely, less money). After all, this nets the store 8 ounces of coffee that they can then sell to someone else. But aside from the occasional willing barista, most employees simply fail to grasp what I am asking or why I want it to happen. "But this way you get more!" they say.

Today, I asked if I could at least get the large coffee poured into a MEDIUM cup, so I could at least get tempted by 4 fewer ounces. "Well, how about I pour that much coffee into a LARGE cup?" the woman asked, blinking.

"I'm trying to help all of us here," I promised. Give me less coffee, charge me the lower rate, you get to keep more coffee and I get the amount I want.

Unless: "Are you just trying to get me more hooked on coffee? Is that what this is all about?" I asked. She said yeah, she thinks it is. Finally she consented to the medium cup and went and poured it and "made a mistake" and poured a large. So if I'm a mess all day, the blood of my nerves is on their hands.

"Why don't you just pay the extra money, accept it as screwy, and get on with your life?" asks my boss. But I guess I'm just not like that.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Mark Fidrych

The former Detroit Tigers pitcher died yesterday. He was a phenom in 1976, rookie of the year, started the All-Star Game, had a 2.34 ERA and 19 wins. All this while not starting a game until mid-May and then only because another pitcher had the flu. There's a lot of coverage of Fidrych, how we talked to the ball between pitches, fixed the dirt on the mound with his hands, requested various balls be removed from the game because "they had hits in them". But my favorite story I read was when he was asked in 1998 who he would want to have dinner with out of anyone in the world. He said former teammate Mickey Stanley. Why? "Because he's never been to my house."



Kind of slammed today but I do want you to enjoy the firefighters and show jumpers sketch from the British sketch comedy show Big Train:

And also, man, I always get accused of hating on my home town of Federal Way, Washington. And fairly, I might add. But sometimes certain stories come up and, well, you just don't even need to show me where they took place. I already know:

2 Federal Way students accused of sickening teacher


Monday, April 13, 2009

I'm Over You

We know who we're on to, we know who we have no quarrel with. But those both exist in the realm of absolutes: I never loved those which I was on to; I always loved those with whom I had no quarrel (imperfect grammar, sorry public radio listeners).

Lately, I've been thinking about a different category. I'm Over You. As in you've worn off. The power you once had over me as ebbed. There was love or fondness but it has gone away. The magic is gone. It used to be love but it's over now. I freely admit our infatuation but somehow things went aclunk. Happens.

So for me:

- I'm over you, The Strokes. We had good times but I got older and I don't understand you anymore.
- Not sure it will last, but I don't feel the same about you lately, Orange Juice. Uh...sorry?
- I still have tremendous respect for you, The Decemberists, but I think you wore off a little. Sing, sing, panoply, martinet, supplicant, consumptive, etc. I'll listen still but it's not like it was.
- My Name Is Earl? I'm afraid your name is Over You. Loved the show, caught it every week, but haven't in quite some time. Is it still on?
- Hats: I'm over you.
- General Interest Magazines? It's not you, it's me. We go way back and everything.
- And you, Crosby, Stills, & Nash. Sorry. I respect you but just, God, no more, don't sing anymore to me.
- I'm over you, Starbucks, and that really surprises me because we were once so close. I always defended your coffee but maybe the Schultz/Sonics thing finally got to me. And laying off my friends.

Where once was love and fondness, what/who are you now over? Do share.


Unusual pizza

This was the box the pizza came in Friday night. I am intrigued by two things here. One, the slogan. I'm assuming it's in quotes because it's meant to be the thoughts of the customer and that the printing on the box is meant to echo the feelings of said consumer upon receiving the pizza. "Do I really deserve this pizza?" the customer wonders, "Am I worthy of such a pie? Oh, yes I am. It says so on the box."

The second part that intrigues me is toward the bottom there: "Bake for several minutes until it's visually the way you like it." So this is an aesthetic thing? A visual thing? How was your pizza? It looked great. Hmm. Good pizza, though.


Friday, April 10, 2009

But WHY is Minnesota funny?

A few months ago, I said in this space that in the now 13 months I've lived in Minnesota I've been unable to get over how inherently comic the state is:

I still can't get past the idea of Minnesota being funny, somehow. Like the entire state seems inherently whimsical. It's just a funny state. That perception on my part has made it harder to feel like this is home.

And that's hampered my ability to settle in here somewhat. Not a lot but some. I feel like to some extent I'm living in, perhaps not a cartoon, but a romantic comedy with an absurdist streak. I'm living in So I Married an Axe Murderer (you know, from Mike Myers "funny" period). We all know that me trying to make sense of Minnesota is a big part of this blog. Things are just more comic here. I feel like I should work in a wacky ad agency and Matthew Perry should be there too along with, I don't know, Betty White.

A couple weeks ago I got an email asking to elaborate on that and I've found it difficult. But I'll try. Here's why Minnesota is a comic place to me:

1. The enthusiasm. Minnesotans get excited about things. Plays at the Guthrie, cold, heat, Juicy Lucys, hockey, it doesn't matter. Even music! Minnesotans don't take a cool, detached view of liking something. If they (we?) like it, then they LOVE it. Enthusiasm is funnier than detachment.

2. The cold. It gets so damn cold in the winter here that absurdity enters into it. There's no reason why we as a species should live here and go through that cold yet millions of us do anyway. We dress thickly, we plug in cars, we scamper into buildings, we live here all winter. That is hilarious.

3. The accents. I mean, geez, come on dere.

4. The phonetics of the name. Mi-nuh-SOE-tuh. It's funny. Much funnier than Maryland. Or Kansas. And when you provide a chance for that round Minnesota Oh sound right in the middle? It's like comic opera just giving your address.

5. Sports futility. Now, I grew up rooting for the Vikings until I was 8 years old because the Seahawks didn't yet exist. It was explained to me that we were Norwegians and this team is from a sort of "American Norway" and named after a sort of Norwegian pirate. So Chuck Foreman is Norwegian?

Yeah, let's go with that. Anyway, the Vikings, God love 'em, went to the Super Bowl often back then and lost every time. They haven't been back. Meanwhile the Twins, dear hearts though they are, are stuck with a low payroll and though they sometimes overachieve I can't see them going too far (at least until the new stadium opens). The Timberwolves have a funny name and, man, I don't know when things get turned around. Then there's a team called the Minnesota Wild, which is an inherently comic name too. All in all, scrappy and admirable teams that just aren't all that good. In Seattle, it was similar but often those teams were expected to do well and then they failed, which is not as funny.

6. People have a pretty great sense of humor here. They can make a joke, they can take a joke. They regularly fail to register sarcasm, which makes for some awkward social situations, but generally they don't take stuff too seriously and they have fun. So it's funny and fun too.

If you're Minnesotan, or geez even if you're not, why do you (or do you?) think Minnesota is funny?


Less gratitude please, thank you, sorry.

Me getting coffee, typically:

ME: Hi, can I get a 12 ounce dark roast, no room, please? Thanks.
BARISTA: Sure. For here or to go?
ME: For here, please.
BARISTA: Okay, there you go. $1.62
ME: Ah, man, sorry. No cash, I gotta use my card. Sorry.
BARISTA: No problem. You need a receipt?
ME: No thanks.
BARISTA: You're all set. Have a good day.
ME: Thank you!

So let's count: 2 pleases, 3 thanks, 2 sorrys.

There's politeness and then there's just abject self-debasement in the service of coffee poured in to a paper cup. I wonder if they sell dignity at the coffee shop because apparently I'm fresh out.


Marvin Webster

I remain interested in obituaries

Wouldn’t you like to be called The Human Eraser? That’s the kind of nickname you can really only get in a couple of places: comic books – could be a bad guy or a good guy, really – or in professional sports.

Marvin Webster was found dead in his hotel room in Tulsa, Oklahoma last Friday. He was 56. And throughout his career as a professional basketball player, he was known as The Human Eraser. Webster was seven foot one and while he could shoot the ball okay, he made his reputation and his nickname for the highly specialized art of blocking shots. Knowing where the ball was, knowing how the opponent was going to shoot it, and knowing where to be to whack it away. Whack. Erased. In basketball, players who can do everything well have a clear shot at success. If you can score, pass, defend, if you can be Michael Jordan or LeBron James, your path is clear and you might be a household name. But there’s another whole class of player, guys like Marvin Webster, who do well for themselves by honing one skill until they’re at an elite level doing it.

Webster was a star college player at Morgan State University in his hometown of Baltimore. He averaged 21 points a game, 22 rebounds a game but what really raised eyebrows was his average of 8 blocked shots per contest. It was his ticket to the big leagues. He played two seasons with the Denver Nuggets before being traded to the Seattle SuperSonics where in 1978 he came into his own. The Human Eraser shined against NBA stars like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar because he could do this one thing: he could block shots better than almost anyone else. Seattle made it all the way to the finals. "I remember the locker room after the final game,” he told Sports Illustrated, “how the champagne was on ice, guys with tears in their eyes. I loved being on that team. I had no idea I'd be gone so shortly.”

Unable to work out a new contract in Seattle, he signed with the New York Knicks. The pressure was on as the big new star in the country’s biggest media market, this was when Marvin Webster would go from being respected to being a superstar himself. He was on the cover of Sports Illustrated under the headline “Can Marvin Webster Turn the Knicks Around?” They wanted him to go from being this guy who could mostly do one thing great- block shots- in Seattle to being a guy who could save the New York Knicks.

He couldn’t. His knees got bad, the hepatitis he developed in college got worse, he missed a lot of games, he was booed. Already a somewhat shy and retiring figure, Webster faded into the background. He played out his contract in New York, leaving unceremoniously after the 1984 season. A stint in basketball’s minor leagues followed, a handful of games as a reserve on the Milwaukee Bucks, and he retired in 1987. Taught physical education at the Y, sold big and tall men’s suits, got into real estate, was always popular in pickup games.

Marvin Webster had one child, Marvin Jr., a promising player nicknamed – unimaginatively – Eraser Jr. A center like his dad. The son was getting ready to be the starting center for the Temple University basketball team when he died suddenly of a heart attack at age 19 in 1997. Webster had been out of the public eye since then and reports differ on where he was living and what he was doing. The Human Eraser had evidently been erased.

Marvin Webster had been living at the Ambassador, a 5 star hotel in Tulsa, for the past month. Cause of death was listed as pulmonary artery disease.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

The accidental awesomeness of Tyra

Check it out. Here's Tyra Banks interviewing Alaskan/accidentally famous person Levi Johnston:

On the handful of occasions I've seen Tyra Banks interview someone, I've been struck by how good at it she is, better than many journalism school graduates I've seen. I think it's because she makes it much less complicated than it needs to be. She doesn't try to develop a theme, she doesn't necessarily seek out an arc to the interview, she just listens to what the person says and then persists with the most obvious question that occurs to her. I'm not saying she's dumb, I don't think that simply because you're a model you're dumb, but she approaches it with utter guilelessness. A bad interviewer, like when most celebrities get handed talk shows, often seems uncomfortable with the practice of genuine conversation, like they're looking for the door half the time. Tyra just sits and listens.

The interviews never become transcendent, a higher truth is never arrived at, but the thing you've been wondering about regarding the guest is almost always answered. In the clip above, she clamps on to this idea of the state of the Johnston family in relation to the Palin family and she nails all the proper follow-up questions.

I twittered yesterday how Tyra was so bad she was kind of awesome. I think I was wrong about that, maybe she's just good.


Look, why can't you just enjoy the baseball game?

I'll tell you why: because going to the second game of the Seattle Mariners season, when they were playing the Twins at the Metrodome here in Minnesota, provoked an existential crisis.

Look, I hate baseball because I love baseball. I hate that I care about the games because I'm putting my happiness in the hands of strangers. Sometimes those are the strong confident hands of Ichiro Suzuki, other times they're the pudgy useless hands of Carlos Silva. I'm older now so I don't get too wrapped up in but still, a little. I guess it's better to feel angst than nothing but I'm not so sure. Where's Proust?

Also, with the Mariners this year, we have the return of Ken Griffey, Jr. For those who don't know, Griffey was the #1 overall draft pick in the 1987 baseball draft. He joined the big league club two years later and became the Mariners first real star. Young, exuberant, brilliant in center field, could hit the ball a mile, he emerged at the same time I really fell for the team (it was a college summer in Walla Walla with little else to do but get obsessed). As the nineties moved along, Griffey was the star of playoff teams, brooded a little with jealousy when Alex Rodriguez emerged, and emerged as one of the best players in the game. Then he had a sort of mid-career crisis and engineered a trade to Cincinnati where he grew up. Several years of injury and mediocrity followed and this off season he signed on for one more year with the Mariners. So he's back but he's fat and he's slow and he's old. But he's back! I took my kids to see the game so they could say they've seen Griffey play for the Mariners but there at the plate stood this guy who looked like he had eaten Ken Griffey, Jr. I thought it was a little gratuitous that every time he stepped up bat, the Jumbotron read "EVERYTHING DECAYS!" Okay, that didn't really happen but I imagined it really clearly.

Of course, seeing the opening of a season also means other players with whom you are now in an arranged marriage. I was never aware of the existence of Endy Chavez or Franklin Guttierez or Ronnie Cedeno before this week but now my family must cheer their efforts. And as we do, I wonder if 2029 will feature my kids cheering on the return of old fat depressing Endy Chavez whom they still completely love unconditionally.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


I have a sort of laptop Tivo at home. By that I mean I have Hulu. I tend to watch my fave shows a day or two late on the laptop. A few years back, I rented some DVDs of Entourage because I had heard good things. It was fun but I stopped watching after a while since it didn't seem to be going anywhere and I just didn't buy the idea of Vincent as a movie star. I was even surprised it was still on the air when I found out it won a freaking Peabody award. The, THEN, I learn today that President Obama is obsessed with the show and never misses an episode. PLANS HIS DAY around it.

But even more intriguing, I learn that Obama's favorite character on The Wire is the same as my favorite character: Omar. Not because Omar is a great guy, he's not, but he's one of the more fascinating characters ever to be on a television show. As tremendous as The Wire is, I always lean in a little closer when Omar is on the screen. Does the president eat Honey Nut Cheerios when he watches?


Now that's writing

I've become enamored of obituaries lately. A way of coping with my own mortality? Perhaps. Honestly, I don't know why people don't talk about death more. Like, why aren't we talking about it all the time? Specifically: angrily railing about how unfair it is that this THING this horrible THING is going to happen to all of us?! Why isn't it the lead story on every newscast: "UNFAIR INEVITABILITY PERSISTS". Yeah, I got issues.

Anyway, obituaries. I've grown especially fond of this really crazy PT Barnum obit from the New York Times in 1891. Here's some of it:
In arithmetic and every form of calculation he was particularly apt, and one of his earliest recollections, and one which he always mentioned with much pleasure, was that in his tenth year he was called out of bed by his teacher, who had wagered with an acquaintance that in less than five minutes he (the boy) could calculate the number of feet in a given load of wood. After obtaining the dimensions, half asleep as he was, Phineas, much to the delight of his teacher and the discomfiture of the doubting acquaintance, correctly figured out the result in less than two minutes.
Here's some more:
He was by turns a peddler and trader in a small way, a clerk in Brooklyn and New York, the keeper of a small porter house, the proprietor of a village store, and editor of a country newspaper, for writing alleged libels in which he was imprisoned only to be liberated with a grand flourish of trumpets and the congratulations of a crowd.
And more:
Later on he again undertook the management of the museum in New York, and upon its destruction by fire established "the new museum" further up Broadway. It was also burned, and he lost much money.

Anyway, it's long as anything but perhaps you'll enjoy reading it. Or the obit of Einstein.


Tuesday, April 07, 2009


We're big fans of in our house. The Cheat, Strong Bad, The Poopsmith, the intriguing new 4 Gregs concept. We love them all. I was telling Charlie about how the Chapman brothers who run the site make a living off t-shirt and other merch sales.

HIM: So they sell shirts and stuff?
ME: Yeah, like you can buy a Strong Bad one or a Homestar one. 4 Gregs. You like that one.
HIM: Yeah.
ME: But you probably don't feel like you NEED to have one RIGHT AWAY, right?
HIM: Right. I could wait til Christmas or whatever.
ME: But then what they do sometimes is they offer a shirt for a limited time. Like the 4 Gregs shirt won't be available for long and they tell you that. So that makes people want to buy it right away since it won't be there forever.
HIM: We need to buy that 4 Gregs shirt!



Last week, I was sick as anything. Had this weird bacterial bronchial infection, still have it but I'm on the Antibiotic Express to Healthytown now. But last week as I lie on the couch groaning in fevered madness, things got even worse. Jill and the kids decided to break out the leftover Girl Scout cookies only to discover that someone had been sneaking them for a while and there were few left aside from boxes of Dulce de Leches, which I am known to scorn. The cookies had been kept in a high up cabinet above the stove where kids can't reach.

KATE: Dad! Did you eat the cookies?!
ME: ...yes...
CHARLIE: Dad! How could you do that?! How could you eat the cookies?!

At this point I am nailed and running at about 3% health wise. So I offered up this:

ME: I am tall and they are delicious.
CHARLIE: Oh. Okay.

And I was off the hook for good. Sometimes you don't need an excuse, you just need a solid explanation.


Margaret's (age 11 months) Journal

April 6th, 2009

The standing project continues on apace. The experimentation was the next logical step after "pulling up on edge of couch or coffee table" frankly grew a bit tiresome. So the new angle is, once I am pulled up, to let go. I then stick my arms out to both sides and adopt an open-mouthed expression of shock, delight, and horror. Then I topple forward. Today, mid-topple, I moved my left foot forward a bit to stave off the inevitable collapse. My body thus tugged forward, I pulled my right foot along too. This is apparently a big deal. "She took steps!" everyone yelled. But understand this: I was merely collapsing in a slower way. I crawl, man. That's just what I do.

The talking is moving along as well. An area that I'm particularly interested in lately is the "ball". Have you seen these? They're like any kind of other object but if you push on them - oh my God- they move across the floor. It. Is. Hilarious. When I see one of these magic traveling objects, I worry that not everyone knows about them and so I tell my family, "ball." "Ball. Ball. Ball. Ball. BALL!" I say.

On our kitchen table we have a whole bowl of orange ones. I've identified them as balls but then everyone comes back and they're all, "No that's an 'orange'!" And I'm all, naw, bullshit, THAT IS A BALL! And I say so!


Monday, April 06, 2009

All the leaves are brown

I'd always thought of "California Dreamin'" as kind of a happy song. I'm not sure why. It's not. The leaves are BROWN. The sky is GRAY. He gets down on his knees and begins to pray. He's not living in California. He's dreaming about it.

But I think I know why it seems happy now. Bud Shank. He was this influential jazz flutist and saxophonist who sat in on the recording of "California Dreamin'" and provided the little flute solo. It comes exactly halfway through the song. Starts out kind of melancholy and then builds and touches on the West Coast jazz vibe that Shank helped pioneer. But it never quite gets to the free and easy Hermosa Beach feeling, just hints at it, alludes to it, and then returns to earth.

Bud Shank died last week. He was 82.


Sunday, April 05, 2009

My Weekend

If I were to describe my life the last couple of days, it would sound like precisely what you would expect from the average Minnesota dad of three on the weekend: take Charlie and Kate to see Monsters vs. Aliens, drop Kate off at a birthday party, find a new bike for Charlie, build a snowman because yes we had enough snow to do so. I'm living the dream and the cliché. The one really unique thing I did this weekend, though, was take a walk down along the Mississippi near downtown St Paul for reasons that had nothing to do and everything to do with those other dad activities.

Two years ago Saturday, April 4th 2007, my big brother Rick died by suicide. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know I wrote about it then. If not, you can read about it here. I've wrote about the issue of depression, mental health, and suicide periodically since. But I've thought about Rick's loss every day, so many times during the course of every day. There's no getting over it, of course, there's just getting different.

Rick was six years older than me and was my hero when I was young. In adulthood, our relationship was much rockier and there were long periods without contact. We had reconnected and were rebuilding ourselves as family when he died.

Last year, on the anniversary of Rick's death, I wrote him a long letter about his life and my life and our life. I looked for answers and made theories and tried to establish a plan for going forward knowing there would be no contact or answers. I told him that my daughter was going to be born on May 1, 2008. I crumpled up the pages of the letter and threw them into the Mississippi. Maybe they'd eventually make it out to the ocean- and all oceans are connected - where his ashes were scattered.

That's the thing about death: the crushing truth that this person will never be in your life again, ever, is too much to comprehend so you keep talking. You write letters that you toss into the Mississippi, you go to their gravestone, you mumble at them, asking questions that they won't answer.

This year, I wrote no letter. I just meant to walk across the same bridge, maybe think a bit. But when I reached in my pocket on a chilly April St Paul night, I found three ticket stubs from when I took Charlie and Kate to see Monsters Vs. Aliens the night before. It was a movie they said they HAD to see. We had driven up to Roseville, a suburb just north of us, and were the first ones in the theater. Obviously, this meant a ten minute discussion of where to sit. Then it was out to the lobby to sit on motorcycle video games without putting money in. Some popcorn and we went back to catch the movie. As happens every time we go to the movies, Kate wanted to cuddle up with me throughout and Charlie talked too much and laughed very loudly. Afterward it was home for pajamas and bedtime. A routine and lovely evening. I don't take them for granted.

Rick never got them. He died in April and his daughter was born in July. She'll be two years old this summer.

I walked across that bridge Saturday night and at one point I stopped. I had my letter after all. I crumpled up each of those three tiny blue ticket stubs. I tossed in the first for Rick and a life that ended too soon. I tossed in the second for his daughter who will never know him. And I tossed in the third for all that might have been. Then I went home to my family.

I'll close here with the first words of what I wrote about all this on the blog in April 2007:

If you are fighting the disease of depression, or even if you think you might be and you aren't sure, go get some help. Talk to a doctor. Take it very seriously. Don't just assume it will go away. And if you know someone who is fighting this, encourage them to get help also. Do it today.


Friday, April 03, 2009

I went to the doctor and guess what he told me

No nothing about having fun. But plenty about Boston Legal.

We had wrapped up the medical end of our appointment and he brought up an episode of the popular dramacomesomething that he enjoyed where Denny and Alan are fishing in Alaska and meet some other lawyers. Then they go to see this court case and they decide to wear wigs because it's Canada. "Oh that's right, it was in Canada, I guess, not Alaska," said the doctor. And the doctor goes on and on, maybe for ten minutes, about this episode as I wait for how this relates to the whole "me being here" thing. But after a while, I realized I was just caught in a room with a, perhaps, somewhat lonely doctor who reeeeeally loves that Boston Legal show. Just a man who sincerely enjoys Spader and Shatner. Good actors those guys. Funny show.


What just happened?

A co-worker walked by me and said, "Hi Todd!" I said hi in return but I didn't call her by name because I didn't know her name.



Frank Black

Here's the lead singer of The Pixies in a 1989 Dutch television interview talking about his song writing process. Pay special attention to (or skip to) the part about 2:50 in when he describes how the lyrics are the last thing to come to a song, it's only after the sound and structure are well established. And it's true! He's describing his process for Doolittle, an album I love more than I can adequately relate for its crushing beauty.

Also, pay attention to the later parts of the interview - and I do hope you watch the whole thing - because he has such honest, intelligent humility. He just wants to make good enough records that people years later will slap him on the back and say hey, you made a good record. You made more than that, Black Francis.

(found via kottke)


Hello, Yeah, It's Been a While

Not much, how about you?

No seriously, England Dan and John Ford Coley aside, I haven't updated here in a while. Been sick as a dog that's really really sick. Busy with the three kids and blah blah blah. Whatever. Anyway, that's going to change.

See, I've been updating the Twitter with regularity. I've become comfortable in the 140 character format and the ease of posting compared to the comparatively laborious effort blog posting requires. But lately I've wondered what would happen if I leaned back on the more unrestricted form for a little while. So for today and the next two weeks of weekdays, I'll post every day, hopefully several times, and go easy on the Twitter. Perhaps material on the weekends as well, but certainly on the weekdays. So you can check the site at a regular weekday time and there will be fresh material. Great material? Well, come on.

Now about that headline up there. I found out this week that England Dan died last week. Wanting to know more about him, specifically the "England" part, I read up on him.

1. Dan Seals grew up in rural West Texas but was a huge fan of The Beatles in high school, to the point where he would adopt a fake English accent. So this rural Texas teenager navigating through school with a Liverpool accent.
2. His father was an amateur country singer so hopefully he cut Dan some slack on the whole music thing.
3. His older brother gave him the name England. And Dan kept it. Turn that tease around, England Dan.
4. That older brother's name was/is Jim. He went on to start the folk duo Seals & Crofts. THIS FAMILY WAS A FOLK DUO POWERHOUSE!
5. It doesn't end there! Seals & Crofts were also members of The Champs, the band that recorded the song "Tequila". They joined after "Tequila" had become a hit. Also joining the band later? Glen Campbell. WHAT THE HELL KIND OF BAND WAS THIS WITH SEALS & CROFTS AND GLEN CAMPBELL AND THAT CRAZY SAXOPHONE?
6. England Dan finally dropped the nickname when he went solo and became a country singer. Dan Seals did well, scoring 11 #1 songs on the country chart, including one with Marie Osmond that I listened to and man it was horrible.
7. At the time of his death, Dan had teamed up with his brother Jim to record some music as a duo.

England Dan!



When are we going to get a screenplay written by Stan Ridgway? I'd go see that movie.

The Office has been outstanding lately. There's this common wisdom that once the sexual tension in a show has been resolved, the show will die. But Jenna Fischer pointed out in a recent interview that the relationship had to evolve or it would be contrived. And now they've moved on. And Stringer Bell is on the show.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Ballad of Poops-a-Dollar Elephant

If you've been to Minnesota's own Mall of America, and I pray to God you haven't, you may have seen the first floor kiosk of My Pillow Pets. These are pillows with little heads and feet and tails of animals. They also feature a velcro strap that you can fasten to make them look more like stuffed animals. Anyway, Charlie has the lion and for Christmas he gave Kate the elephant.

Because it's soft but mostly because her brother gave it to her, Kate adores this pillow, must have it every night.

So last week, Kate loses one of her front teeth and so it's Tooth Fairy time, right? Except last time this happened, ol' TF was a day late, which was my fault. THIS time, my lovely wife who is more careful than me, decides to be proactive. She slips a dollar between the elephant's legs (elephant being in "stuffed animal" mode) and proceeds to read Kate her goodnight books. But then for some reason, Kate decides to reach up there. She finds the dollar, naturally.

"MOM! The elephant pooped a dollar for my lost tooth!"

Thus, a legend was born. Soon, the creature was named "Poops-a-Dollar Elephant" and a mythology began to grow. Like many parents, I kind of wonder about- mmm I'm going to be careful with my phrasing even here- the perpetuation of charming stories versus the desire to be honest with one's children. But here was a situation where we knew it was a pillow that somehow contained a dollar and STILL Kate wanted to talk about who Poops-a-Dollar Elephant really was. I think adults get hung up on this idea of real v. make-believe but to 6-year-olds that just doesn't much matter.

I talked to 6-year-old Kate about Poops-a-Dollar's back story:

ME: So who is Poops-a-Dollar? Does he compete with the Tooth Fairy?
HER: No, he's her helper.
ME: Well, how does that work?
HER: The Tooth Fairy flies into your room and then Poops-a-Dollar comes in too and she might leave you money or he might just poop it out and leave it under your pillow.
ME: But it's not elephant poop, it's cash money.
HER: Right.
ME: I think that's important to note.
HER: Right.
ME: Does he crash into things? Because I'm thinking she's all pretty and delicate with the wand and the tiara but he's this big old elephant that poops money all over the place.
HER: Not all over the place! Under your pillow!
ME: Okay, right, but still: elephant. I wouldn't be surprised to see some broken lamps here and there.
HER: Yeah!
ME: How is Poops-a-Dollar able to make that money come out? What do they feed him?
HER: Other money.
ME: So they just give him money and he just poops it out the other side?
HER: Yeah!
ME: It seems like an awful lot of trouble to go through. You take this money and run it through an elephant who, somehow, doesn't digest it and then he poops it out the other side. I mean, why not just skip the whole elephant thing entirely and just hand out the dollars in some way that doesn't involve an elephant's colon?

And it is. And you get to say the phrase Poops-a-Dollar Elephant.


Original version of Space Oddity, 1969

Would that NASA would employ the same clothing designer.

(found via the inescapably awesome Kung Fu Grippe blog of Mr. Merlin Mann)


Monday, March 23, 2009

Went to Chuck E. Cheese and wrote some Twitter stuff about it last night

# Went to Chuck E. Cheese. The heads of Showbiz Pizza characters displayed on pikes outside, a warning to other pizza/terror restaurateurs.about 15 hours ago from web

# Went to Chuck E. Cheese. Enormous leering animatronic vaudevillian vermin was MOST serene and comforting element in the place.about 15 hours ago from web

# Went to Chuck E. Cheese in wealthy suburb, reasoning it would less skanky and soul killing. Nobel Prize for Shrewdness not forthcoming.about 15 hours ago from web

# Went to Chuck E. Cheese. Tried to keep my mind occupied with joke making in order to stave off madness.about 15 hours ago from web

# Went to Chunky Cheeses. That's the street name for the state of Wisconsin.about 15 hours ago from web

# Went to Chuck E. Cheese's In Love, the new chain of Rickie Lee Jones family restaurants. I must say, the Tom Waits Tiltawhirl was awesome.about 15 hours ago from web

# Went to Chuck E. Cheese's. Or tried to. Accidentally ended up at Chuck E. Jesus. Totally different place. (insert alienating joke here).about 15 hours ago from web

# Went to Chuck E. Cheese. Was pleased to find that it was all earth tones and Dan Zanes music. Or so went my emergency comfort hallucination.about 15 hours ago from web

# Went to Chuck E. Cheese. I'd like to say I then came back but you never really come back from something like that.about 15 hours ago from web

# Went to Chuck E. Cheese. It was horrifying, sure, but I was comforted by the belief that the UN will eventually shut it down.about 15 hours ago from web

# Went to Chuck E. Cheese. Why didn't you stop me? Not cool, dude.about 15 hours ago from web



There's got to be a better word than that for consulting with people via Twitter. Regardless, I kicked an idea for a show out to my 1100 or so Twitter followers. I wanted to know what they would think of a show that was guided by a commitment AWAY FROM journalism, a show that was anything but the news. I figure the news is pretty well covered anyway and people might like to seek refuge from it. So what would that be?

Here are some responses:

A story on all those people I see in the coffee shops who look like writers and deep thinkers-What are they REALLY doing?

how about some travel pieces, ala Savvy Traveler. Could take many forms. Listeners/readers could contribute from worldwide locals.

Maybe it's because it's the kind of story I like to do, but I just want to hear stories about real people's lives, such as... you met your spouse, how you got your kids to sleep, how you hated your dad, how you got fired, how you started a new life.
not to mention, what it's like to work your job, what it's like to be in your school, what it's like to live in your house...
Some of my favorite moments on WA were the listener responses to queries about anecdotes or scary movies, etc. More of that.

For someone who's ostensibly a journalist, I have minimal regard for both news & truth. But, Ledes/segues will b tough on NO NEWS.


Trying to come up with something not news, not cars, not Radio Lab, not finance and politics, but still palatable to Minnesotans...

I'd like a show where people call in and complain about things & the recorded calls are played back w/o comment:The Bitching Hour.

Like Atlantic Monthly, NYT Mag topics minus headlines stuff. Books, film, culture. Skies the limit. Get ppl thinking critically!

i wanna tell the story of a dog i rescued from traffic. it was the most annoying dog ever and i regretted it... stories like that!

The problem with any non-news radio idea i have is it turns into This American Life.

all free range chicken songs, all the time.

(And then there's all this that came in one email from this guy Stewart) (!)

*Getting drunk and thinking it is a good idea to clean the chain on your bike. Then, when you try to put it back on, your chain turns into a Rubik's Cube and you spend 30 minutes putting it back on.
*Air. The band or the gas.
*Have goatees secretly become incredibly fashionable? Look around!
*People on Twitter who follow way less people than follow them. What is up with those people? Is that is good strategy?
*Interviews with authors of books who said that the stock market was going to keep going up! Up! UP!!! 2 or 3 years ago.
*What did you think about Bush when he stood on that rubble at the World Trade Center? What do you think about Obama? Does anything worry you when you compare the two thoughts?
*Are there less cardinals(birds) now?
*A primer on song bird songs that might be in your back yard and the mnemonic associated with them. EG: "Peter Peter Peter" for the tufted titmouse or "Miss Towhee" for the towhee. erm, I do not know how to spell towhee and it is not coming up in spell check and I am too lazy to check Google.
*What is the best way to use Pandora?
*How do you make radio really good for 10 seconds?
*With netbooks, are we moving back to the mainframe-client model?
*What is the story with Xeni?
*You know those word games where you get a word, change one letter at a time, and after you have changed all the words, you have a new word? Get a musician, David Byrne comes to mind, to do the same thing. Have him start with a chord, change one note at a time and come to a different chord.
*Is it okay if I think Ray Charles is just lame?
*Dictionary stands, who has them?
*The French Whispering Woman Singer genre.
*Self Promotion Time! What is that all about?
*Reusing an idea but making it look brand new.
*Are functional alcoholics just incredibly fucking smart?
*Talk about your DUI
*How do you approach taboo words vs the way your parents approached taboo words.
*Don't you just love that woman on NPR that reports on the Supreme Court?
*I bought IKEA and they did me wrong
*I think my last boyfriend / girlfriend ruined me for life.
*I have a radio in my TV
*Seriously Boomers, you might not be listening to this show, but our music is much better than yours.
*The French and the letter Z
*What is up with dudes and strip clubs?
*Do oldsters go gay when they get Alzheimer's?
*Do you think your earliest memory is a real memory?
*Examples of people declaring "X words!" and then saying a different amount of words. EG: "Three words: John Moe's Radio Show!"
*When to use a colon.
*When to use v or vs.
*Ask the dude from Goldfrapp, "What is up with the chick from Goldfrapp?" Don't get crass.
*Did you know that Daylight Savings Time is stupid?
*What is up with Chicks and Cosmo? Is that like the dudes strip club?
*Can you put the the word "actually" anywhere in a sentence?
*Are (American) knickers coming back?
*Can we just call knickers clam diggers?
*Does Alzheimer's have an apostrophe?
*Is Frank Zappa dead?
*Is there a worse album than 'Thing Fish'?