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.