Saturday, December 30, 2006

another potential blog reader!

My friend Meredith has a blog called "I Want a Pony"...the link's to
the right. Well, she didn't get a pony, but she did get a healthy
daughter at 5:30 today. A hearty cheer and toast to Sydney
Katherine...welcome to the game.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

top ten albums...the penultimate entry

2. The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in America

It's always nice to find out that there is still someone putting out music who, rather than looking for polish and maximum sales ability, would rather put out a great, steaming slab of rawk...and that's why I've fallen in love with The Hold Steady.

(for those not in the know, rawk (as opposed to rock) is distinguished by its utter need for the edge, for the necessity of straddling the line between control and collapse...if you are talking about music where the thrill for the listener is determining not if but when the band will implode, you are verging on rawk territory)

The Hold Steady's music is, quite simply, fun. Every riff makes me want to sell all my posessions save my Telecaster, Les Paul, and Marshall; move to Detroit; and start a band. Every lyric makes me want to flee all responsibility and fall into a life of debauchery, excess, and decline...if, for no other reason, so I can get stories that are half as good as these. Every time I play this disk, I want to follow the band around like some ersatz contemporary version of a deadhead, but since these guys are so obviously a bar band (nay, a magnificent bar band), I'm not sure my liver would hold up.

At first, I had a little difficulty getting past the vocal delivery on this disk. The singer's voice reminds me in timbre of Bruce Springsteen, and that's not really a good thing. But there is an undeniable energy, and part of me will always love albums where all the songs are about getting drunk or high. And this album is clearly not subtle; "Chips Ahoy!," for instance, is about the singer hooking up with a girl who can pick winning race horses...and their response to a win? "He came in six lengths ahead, we spent the whole next week getting high." Again, from "Stuck Between Stations," about a dream girl: "she was a really cool kisser and she wasn't all that strict of a Christian." Again, from "Chill-Out Tent," about two people who meet after OD'ing at a concert: "they started kissing when the nurses took off their IVs; it was kind of sexy but it was kind of creepy."

As I said, good, simple, obscene rawk. Me and the spousal unit were listening to this on the way to a wedding, and I made a crack about how this band was awesome, but they would be dangerous if they ever outgrew the "party/stoner" schtick. Then the song "You can make him like you" came on, and I started really listening to the lyrics...and I came across this one:

You don't have to go to the right kind of schools
let your boyfriend come to the right kind of schools
you can wear his old sweatshirt
you can cover yourself like a bruise

...and that's where it hit me...The Hold Steady had been playing me all along. They have all this rock...excuse me, rawk...ability AND they can do deep, subtle lyrics? I thought, in the words of Agent K, that I had "a pretty good bead on things," but this one lyric is making me do a re-think. Once again, I need to reevaluate everything I think about music, art, and life.

But isn't that what great art is supposed to do?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

top ten albums...part cuatro

3. Drive-By Truckers - A Blessing and a Curse

Since Decoration Day, the Drive-By Truckers have been in my list of bands that could be the best rock band in America. Their last album, The Dirty South, featured crushing rockers by guitarist Mike Cooley and a selection of wide-ranging masterpieces from newer guitarist Jason Isabell. The contributions from Patterson Hood, the main singer, were, however, slightly uneven. For each epic rocker like "Lookout Mountain," there were weaker tracks which sounded forced, like "The Boys from Alabama." Overall, however, there were enough brilliant moments on the disk to still make it a top rock album. one had to wonder, however, if Patterson's talent was beginning to fade.

Then came A Blessing and a Curse...and if this album makes nothing else clear, it is obvious that Patterson Hood is hitting on all cylinders. "Aftermath USA" is just as raucous as ever, while "Goodbye" is as bittersweet as possible. Mike Cooley's songs have also hit a new level of depth, especially the shimmering "Space City." Isabell's songs don't stand out as much, but that might just be because everything else on here is so damn strong.

Overall, the album has the feel of The Replacements slammed together with The Faces. Less political than their previous work, but that might help them better get that mass audience that they so deserve. If you've never heard DBT, they've got a great catalog, and you should dive in immediately. Also, look for solo albums from both Isabell and Hood.

4. Raconteurs - Broken Soldier Boy

I've been a big White Stripes fan for a while, and I'm proud to say that I got into them before the bandwagon really started rolling (right after White Blood Cells, actually). When I found out that White Stripes singer Jack White was putting out a side project, I was filled with a little bit of trepidation. Could he collaborate, or would be be
a control freak? Could he find collaborators who could match up to him? Since he's pretty much the brains behind The White Stripes, what's the point? If the side project was in fact substantially different, would it tame White's rebellious, non-mainstream side (which, after all, is the point of his full-time band)?

Luckily, White found a brilliant collaborator in Brendan Benson, a polished indy pop-rock guru also out of Detroit, and the two of them work together very well. The result, when it works the best (such as in the Benson tune "Together," which has some brilliant, gorgeous Jack White background vocals; ditto with the bluesy "Level"), is a nuanced blend of raw power and experimental polish. This is rocky, loose blues rock with an experimental, non-cliched pop feel that doesn't really sound like anything else out there.

Now I have to really start a Brendan Benson obsession to balance out my White Stripes fandom.

Can I also say that The Raconteurs have the coolest band web site ever?

best line heard during Christmas visitation

from a relative: "For some reason, I've always had an affinity for all things Swedish...I guess that's why I like Abba."

Saturday, December 23, 2006

top ten albums...part III

5. Beatles - Love

Yes, a new Beatles release. These tracks have been remixed, messed with. This is actually the soundtrack to the new Vegas Cirque du Soleil show. So far, everything I've mentioned should work against this, and I should look upon this album as an abomination.

The album is, however, fantastic. There is extensive work on this, but it's done by Beatles producer George Martin, approved by the Harrison & Lennon estates and by McCartney and Starr. All added tracks are from original Beatles sessions. And boy, does this sound good...picture Beatles songwriting brilliance with the sonic adventureness of Wilco and Pink Floyd. The arrangement of "Eleanor Rigby" will make you weep.

If you've ever wondered how this band would hold up if they came out now, listen to this. If you're one of those that never really "got" this band, then buy this, as it will most likely make you reevaluate music in the last decade.

6. Incubus - Light Grenades

I am admittedly late to the Incubus bandwagon. When I heard the band name, I thought they must be another noise/rap metal band. I ran across "Megalomania" last year on Fuse, and I liked it, but it took me a while to hunt down the album A Crow Left of the Murder. When I did, I found several really great tracks and several more that did little for me. It was clear the band had potential, but the album was uneven.

I bought Light Grenades when it came out, mostly because one of the big chains had it for only $9.99. The cd remained in my car player for at least a week. I listened to it straight through several times, litened to "Dig" over and over, listened to "Anna Molly" over and over, listened to "Oil and Water" and then "Diamonds and Coal" over and over. This album is very solid, and it has strong songwriting throughout. The mix of heavy and soulful is about perfect.

A friend of mine tells me that while this album is good, Morning View is much better. I can't wait until I can get into that one.

Friday, December 22, 2006

top ten albums...part 2

7. My Chemical Romance - The Black Parade

My Chemical Romance, for me, was a bit of a revelation when I discovered them last year. With their name, I was expecting generic Cookie-Monster rap metal. Instead, I got intelligent lyrics, well-constructed songs, tight musicianship. This is modern metal with songwriting ability and a wicked sense of humor...after all, how else could you explain song titles like "It's Not A Fashion Statement, It's A Deathwish"?

With The Black Parade, the band must've been listening to either Broadway musicals or to Queen's Night at the Opera while on mushrooms. There's definitely increased theatrics here, but while they do take some getting used to, they don't come off as cheesy. The songs are still solid (highlights are the brutal "Dead!," "Teenagers," and "Mama," which, strangely enough, includes guest vocals from one Liza Minelli...seriously!). The only really weak periods are when they try to get overly commercial, which they do in the semi-cheddar "I Don't Love You"...but these are in the minority. I really hope they don't keep going for the commercial, because it's not their strong point, and they are getting a fan base with their regular stuff...and they do rock.

8. Loose Fur - Born Again in the USA

While the self-titled Loose Fur debut was a noisefest (which unfortunately killed some great songs, such as the Wilco outtake "Not for the Seasons," which became a very strange "Laminated Cat"), this one is much more coherent, much more controlled. And the benefit of this is that the songs, as a result, really stand out. The sound is still experimental, but rather than employing the "let's hit something" strategy of its predecessor, Born Again in the USA employs a Zappa-esque creativity with arrangements...albeit from a 3 piece.

Half the songs are from Wilco singer Jeff Tweedy, and those are dandies. "Hey Chicken" rocks, while "The Ruling Class" (as played on Tweedy's last midwest solo tour) is a soothing, funny acoustic singalong opportunity waiting to happen...and then there's "Pretty Sparks," which has Tweedy turning in his most soulful singing performance yet. Jim O'Rourke's material can be a bit more introspective (see the moody, somber "Answers to your Questions"), but the man can rock and rollick, as in "An Ecumenical Matter," his lively take on the ten commandments.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

I suck less than I thought!

I am online at my house, where, instead of the spiffy high-speed campus connection I have at work, I instead have dial-up. It is pretty good dial-up...dirt cheap, from a cool local non-profit, and pretty fast for a phone line...but from my work computer, this is still dreadfully slow. So, when I'm online, I tend to be here for ages.

I'm in front of the computer now to do my standard daily web stuff and to work on syllabi (I have my boss coming to observe me teach in week 3, so I need to have everything really buttoned up), and I have the MP3s going. A little while ago, I was listening to My Chemical Romance, and I thought I might've heard some new sonic layers I've missed in the past. Then I realized I might want to check my cell phone, because the sound could've been my crappy little ringtone.

Long story short? I got my first interview of the job hunt year. I am, of course, tremendously excited that someone knows I exist and still wants to talk to me. Of course, it's only a phone interview, so I don't want to get my hopes up at this point, but it's a positive sign...and I went so long between positives in my early job search years, so this is nice.

Anyway, back to work. I have two courses to design, a book to review, and an article to write, and I have to get these done by the end of the sorry if I'm not more in-touch.

top ten albums...part one

Welcome to my top ten cds of the year. This is the first of five installments, and the rest should hit by New Year's. I am including links to the artists' web sites, and most of them have samples give them a listen!

9. Aimee Mann - One More Drifter in the Snow

Y'know, I just knew this was going to be a joke or something. When I found out that this was an honestly real release, I figured it would be the most depressign thing in the face of the world. Whenever I hear of artists releasing Christmas albums, I generally make the crack that either they've decided to become purile teeny-boppers, or their career must be over and they're desperate.

This is neither. Aimee Mann is, of course, insanely talented. Mann harkens back to the 50s for feel and inevitably leaves her own quirks...but in a melancholy, not depressive way. I really like this album, and I would've rated it higher...but it is, after all, a Christmas record, and how often are you actually gonna play it in June?

10. Golden Smog - Another Fine Day

Golden Smog is that weird breed...a supergroup of musicians that 90% of the population have never heard of. Out of all their releases, this one is the closest to a pastiche of each member's personalities...and as such, is less a band release, and not tremendously cohesive.

There are some very great things going on here. Ex-Jayhawk Gary Louris' "Listen Joe" and "Think About Yourself" are both gorgeous. Wilco singer Jeff Tweedy only has one track, but "Long Time Ago" (co-sung with Louris) is a doozy, emotional without being sappy. Soul Asylum's Dan Murphy pens some great rockers ("Corvette" and "Hurricane") that will get your heart pumping...but they don't really fit in with Louris' work.

There are a few clunkers. "You Make It Easy" goes on entirely too long, and "Beautiful Mind" is just annoying. This is still, however, better than most other albums released this year...and what would you expect from anything with Gary Louris?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

John McCain Wants To Regulate Blogs

from MetaFilter at

Senator John McCain (R. - AZ) has introduced legislation that would hold blogs responsible for all activity in their comments sections and user profiles. Provisions of the proposed bill include: (1) commercial websites and personal blogs "would be required to report illegal images or videos posted by their users or pay fines of up to $300,000," (2) bloggers with comment sections may face "even stiffer penalties" than ISPs, and (3) any social-networking site must take "effective measures" to remove any Web page that's "associated" with a sex offender. "Because 'social-networking site' isn't defined, it could encompass far more than just, Friendster and similar sites." The list could include any site that allows comments, authot and personal profiles. Kevin Bankston of the Electronic Frontier Foundation notes that this proposal may be based more "on fear or political considerations rather than on the facts." "McCain’s legislation could deal a serious blow to the blogosphere. Lacking resources to police their sites, many individual blogs may have to shut down open discussion."*

My take: I think it's interesting that McCain is justifying limiting freedom of speech in the name of "saving the children." This man is becoming more and more conservative by the day.

Monday, December 04, 2006

a going away gift from me...

I'm gonna avoid this blog and most of my e-mail for a week or so, because my students' writing portfolios are coming in today...which means grading hell will soon commence. As a going-away gift, a memento from my days writing poetry, previously published in the long-defunct Conspire:

an apple: 6 reflections

Wel bet is roten appul out of hoord
Than that it rotie al the remenaunt'
---G. Chauser

you say
"let us observe an apple"

I look closely at the apple
study its imperfect roundness
marvel at its almost luminescent yellow-green hue
contemplate its slowly advancing brown patches

I pronounce it a Golden Delicious

you say
"maybe its very greeness is a slap in the face

I always think of red apples
our apple is green, not red
our apple is not happy just being
fresh and juicy
crisp to the bite
an instrument of good health
our green apple is a rebel

but what's wrong with red?
what is wrong with being typical, expected, traditional?
does the apple see something we have missed?
what does he know?
he must be rebelling
only for rebellion's sake"

another might say
"maybe the brown patch is the key
maybe the apple has seen the error of empty rebellion
and is trying to become normal, red, typical
trying too late, perhaps
but still making the effort to change"

he might say
"maybe the apple knew
he was flawed from the start
full of rot, decay, disease
knew he was dying
but was having too much fun
being different
to change"

another might say this
I just say
"I only see a Golden Delicious"

I now take our apple and slice it open
look at the two halves
study the bruised flesh hiding just beneath the skin
marvel at the sweet, dripping juices
contemplate the seeds imersed in the fruit's heart

you pronounce it butchered

you say
"I think the decay inside the apple is your fault

maybe the apple is hurting
(the bruise, her wound)
because she will be manhandled, squeezed
as you check for freshness

maybe the apple is crying
(the juice, her tears)
because she can now only turn brown and rot
since you have dissected her

maybe the apple is despairing
(the seeds, her offspring)
because you will throw her children away
like debris

again you say
"now let us observe the apple"

I look closely at the apple
study its severed proportions
marvel at the dried, sticky juices
contemplate the torn out stem

yet I can only pronounce it a Golden Delicious

required reading...

An article on my favorite bar ever, Howards Club H.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


I had a headache yesterday, so I needed to kill time while the medicine took effect. I did this by falling in love with Bloglines, an online service which will deliver feeds from any blog to one webpage. If you're curious, you can now view my blog reading list. If you spend any real time online, this service rocks.

it's more important to look good than to feel good

An in-law is getting married. I was asked (through relatives...not directly, mind you) to be a groomsman. Okay, sure. But instead of renting a tux like at most weddings, I was told to wear a dark suit.

Now, those of you who know me realize that I'm not really a suit kind of guy, so it's not like I have one laying around...well, actually I do, but it's a thift store find, and while the jacket fits well, the pants are designed for someone with a 52" waist. Whomever owned this suit before me must've been one ugly freak of nature...I do not want to know what his build was like.

Anyway, other than that, no suit. This meant that instead of renting a tux for $80 or so, I had to instead go buy a $400 suit. I have spent less money buying a car. Yes, I now have a piece of clothing which cost a little under a week's salary, and I might wear it five times in my life...more if relatives start dropping like flies, but I'm not a freshman, and no one's going to give me a relative-killing exam or essay.

And it's not like I can wear the damn thing for work. I'm a 6'5" guy, a big guy, and I tend to intimidate my students anyway. If I came to work wearing a suit, it would either scare them or make them think I must be getting sued. No, if I want any hope of connecting with my students, I ihave/i to dress dressing down for teaching is a stategic move, a carefully thought-out pedagogical strategy (and it has nothing at all to do with my utter loathing of ties, honestly).

So I'm down to wearing the cursed suit for the occasional conference and (hopeful) eventual job interview. Since a suit is a big investment, however, I need to find more places to wear it...maybe on the occasional jaunt to a martini bar or while shopping for comics. Suggestions are, of course, welcome.

I took some friends with me on the suit purchasing run, because I wanted to make sure I didn't end up with a 70's suit with ruffles, and because I'm always horrifically indecisive. They were both excited at the prospect of critiquing my choices. They were also excited to be going to a Men's Wearhouse to see what types of men were currently on the market, and to find out how much a man currently runs.

What did I learn from the experience?

  • When we got to the store, my two friends went to the pet store next door to look at kittens, and I had to call their cell phone to get them to come over and give their opinions. This is when I learned I am not cute enough to compete with kittens.
  • Men's Wearhouse provides surprisingly nice, personalized service. I guess I was expecting a Best Buy-esque anti-customer service, but they were very professional.
  • Apparently, not everyone can wear a three button suit jacket, and sadly enough, I am in that category. One friend speculated that it was becuase I was "too buff," but this is doubtful. It's a shame, because I had to move into a higher price range to get a good 2-button (which, admittedly, did fit better).
  • There is a genderized hierarchy inside the male garment industry. The person who helped me with my selection was a male. When they had to get my alterations marked, they pulled out a female. I guess real men can know fashion but cannot know how to sew.
  • Standing in the bay of multiple mirrors is weird. I never want to look at myself that clearly again. The only thing I could think of doing was the removable thumb magic trick...and that seemed inappropriate.
  • Apparently, one of my shoulders (my right) is lower than the other. After the shopping extravaganza, we all went to a bar, and a friend speculated that it was because of too many years hauling around bookbags.
  • Suits are much like cars in that there's a tremendous amount of unavoidable add-ons. Alterations cost extra. Cedar hanger? Extra. Garment bag? Extra. The one that really got me was the silicone treatment to keep the creases crisp...which is admittedly a good idea, but when the salesman told me about it, I was waiting for him to also try to sell me the undercarriage anti-rust treatment.
  • My wife and my two friends all told me that, in my new suit, I looked good. It's nice having the lust and adulation of those around you.

Maybe I'll have to adopt a whole "upper class" image to go with this suit thing...fine wines, a good car, a real hairstyle, opera, art films...

Monday, November 27, 2006

art photo sale

One of my favorite artists, the incomparable Katie West, is having a Christmas sale. I have two of Katie's prints in my office, three at home...and I will get more. Katie has a real eye for's great stuff.

If you like good photography, this is a great chance to own some prints from a good artist for very little money.

nighttime conversations

My darling, wonderful wife has a tendency, from time to time, to wake me up in the middle of the night to tell me something, even though she's fast asleep. I'm a fairly light sleeper, and it does usually take me a little while to get back to sleep from these interruptions...but I don't mind, because when she wakes me, it's usually fairly cute or funny.

The first time this happened, she called my name a few times in a panicy voice. When I asked her what the problem was, she said, "I changed the sheets!" before rolling over and going back to sleep. I, meanwhile, was fairly puzzled. I spent the next hour or so trying to figure out what was wrong with the sheets. Of course, the next morning, she remembered none of this.

Saturday night, I was fast asleep and dreaming that me and my buddy Davin were picking up writer Joss Whedon from the fast food place at which he worked, and, to pass the time, Davin was teaching me a new system for abbreviating dirty words. Lori then poked me in the back a few times, waking me from this (albeit nonsensical) slumber. Groggy, I asked her what was up, and she asked me, "Are you liquid?" She didn't wait for an answer, though. I hit the restroom, and by the time I got back, my wife was once again snoring like a wildebeast.

The cutest one, however, happened a while ago. She came close to me, hugged me, and let out a satisfied "hmmmm." Then she rubbed my bootie, let out an even more satisfied "hmmmmmmmmm" before rolling over and going back to sleep.

She didn't remember that one, either, but I'll never forget it. I look at it as proof that my animal magnetism is so severe, I can woo 'em even when unconscious.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

and they start...

I just got my first rejection from a Canadian university, so the job
market search is progressing much as expected...

In grading/end of semester hell. Updates coming, including on the
student who wanted to write about why we fight 6 pages.

Monday, November 13, 2006

you have a talent for causing things pain

I remember it as if it were last week...

I had a dentist appointment last week, and, even worse, it was my first time at this particular practice. I was happy with our last dentist, but, after hearing the rumors of malpractice, unnecessary work, virgin sacrifice, and general ineptitude, my wife insisted we change dentists. And who am I to disagree?

I got to the waiting room and suffered through the normal 378 page bundle of paperwork...although I'm still not completely sure why they need my power of attorney or the dna swab. From that point on, I just had to brave the 37.9 degree waiting room until the albino nurse with the raspy voice called my name. While waiting, I got into a minor scuffle with one other patron, the homeless man wrapped up intermittently in toilet paper who kept muttering under his breath, but other than that, the time passed as well as could be expected.

When the nurse called my name, I went to the back, stripped down to my socks, and tied on the pink leather apron as they requested. They took me to what they called "waiting room aleph cerebro" and had me gargle with mouthwash...I had my choice between spearmint or hero's bile flavors. Then, after the nurse removed the ice packs from the dentist's chair, I sat down, they stuck an IV of some luminescent green fluid into my arm, and the nurse told me that someone would be with me shortly.

The dental hygenist came in after an hour or so...she's one of those super perky types (as hygenists seem to be), and she seemed to know her stuff, but I could've really done without the random bouts of maniacal laughter. She tried to make small talk, but I've always found it difficult to respond when I have a few dozen tools lodged in my mouth. She then propositioned me, and after I told her that I was married, she instead tried to sell me some tooth-whitening product...she said that her bosses make her suggestively sell a variety of products. The hygenist then started the cleaning.

After she finished her scraping and chiseling, the dentist himself came in. Like most dentists, he looked like a cross between Don Knotts and Josef Mengele. After taking about five minutes to stroke my hair, he poked around my teeth for a while before saying the words that every person over 5'7" dreads: "We need to schedule you for a filling."

Even as I sit here in my office and try to find ways to avoid work, the very thought fills me with a slight panic. I start to go over my list of sins to try and figure out what I did to deserve this, but alas, I continue to draw a blank. How could this happen to me?

I've never had a cavity before. Even as a kid, my teeth were very strong, strong enough that my father would use them to loosen tight bolts whenever he worked on the 1976 Plymouth Scamp. And I never really took care of them, much to the chagrin of my siblings, both of whom had so many cavities that they were fitted with dentures in fourth grade...all this in spite of them brushing eleven times a day to my monthly brushings. Yes, I had always been blessed with wonderful teeth.

No longer. I finally have a cavity. And while I realize that most of my friends have had cavities, and that they seem to deal with the stigma and shame, I had always pictured a better life for myself.

I think of the things which, now that I have a cavity, I can no longer do. I will now never be chief justice of the Nebraska supreme court. I will never have my own Playboy column. I will never be allowed to shake hands with the President. I will never be the star of my own video game. And I will never be an astronaut.

This must be how the rest of you feel.

I have the filling scheduled for this Friday. I don't know what I'm going to do during this, my last week of freedom. I might write a play. I might smoke a cigar. I might try to break my own record for jars of honey eaten at one sitting.

I know I should try to enjoy myself, but it's hard, when everything reminds you of the fact that fillings are imminent. I hear the construction workers drilling outside my office, and I think of the drilling which I'll soon have to undergo. I see my department secretaries in their scrubs and masks, and I think of the hygenists. I see my students, and I think of the dentist, living only to inflict pain on others.

If you see me on the streets and I'm crying, please try to understand that I'm going through a rough time in my life.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

connections, or, hey man, I'm with the band...

I was driving into work today, listening to a cd of mp3s on random play. It started out with Black Sabbath, a band that's very important to me. If anyone ever asks me how I learned how to play guitar, I could just hand them a copy of's as good of an answer as any.

After I stopped to vote and get gas, The Daileys' "Toast the Town" came on (at least I think that's the title). The Daileys were friends of mine who played around Jacksonville. They never released anything, but as the singer was one of my best friends, I got a number of demos and live tracks...and I love them almost as much as Black Sabbath, although in a very different way. You see, with The Daileys, I experienced the band much differently. I got to hang out with them, ride to shows with them, drink with them, help them set up and tear down...and these are experiences I could never have with bands like Black Sabbath.

I've often thought about my move away from being a heavy metal guy. If anyone knew me in high school, they'd know I had the heavy metal hair (including a brief stint with the Bon Jovi perm), listened to metal pretty much exclusively, dressed in the metal uniform of jeans and concert shirt, and I even owned some spiked wristbands.

Since this time, I've broadened my tastes significantly. The first big non-metal band for me was Living Colour, who took metal and expanded the playing ground significantly with hip-hop and funk, among others. Then came my huge Frank Zappa phase, which taught me that boundaries are not at all necessary. The next big one was Son Volt, who taught me that country and rock could and should go hand in hand. The last big one was the now unfortunately defunct Slobberbone, who taught me that rock could be vital again, and it could be something with which I could still connect.

My move away from metal wasn't just a matter of being bored with the music. Metal is at times seemingly impervious to change (see this article on 80s metal acts on tour for a demonstration), but I still need the crash of guitars, so I often put up with the stagnation. The most important factor for me, though, is I quit being able to relate or even stand the "star/performer" aspect. Jeff Tweedy wrote that "every star that hides on the back of the bus is just waiting for his cover to be blown," and I started to suspect the same thing...and I think I increasingly needed a greater connection with the bands.

A good number of the bands I now listen to and go to see are those to whom I can relate. They may have day jobs. They're probably going to be loading in their own equipment. They'll be riding in a van, not a bus. You probably can approach them at the show and talk to them over a beer.

Case in point: a while back, I got an e-mail from The Drams' mailing list asking for volunteers to work merchandise for some shows on their tour with the Drive-By Truckers...and since they were playing Detroit, and since both bands are among my current favorites, I volunteered. They chose me, so on October 20th, me and a good friend made the trip.

I was told to find "Keith," who would help me get the merchandise set up...when I made it over to the table, I found out it was the bass player for the band. He was a little "rock and roll" but still a very nice guy. After their set, he came over, looked at the merchandise sales figures, and hugged me. Jess, their guitar player, came over, introduced himself, and snagged a cd for his parents. Tony (the drummer) and Chad (the keyboard player) both came over, introduced themselves, shook my hand, and thanked me for helping them out...and at the end of the night, I talked to Brent (the singer/guitar player) for a few minutes. I felt a little like a VIP, but it was cool just being able to help. I think The Drams are one of the best bands out there, and I just want them to keep playing and putting out albums...and I'll do whatever I can to help.

I was thinking about this, because I am also a very big Drive-By Truckers fan, and I was also excited to see them play. I've seen DBT play twice before in Detroit, but it was at a smaller club...this time, they were in a theater. And by watching them, it was clear that they've made some kind of hurdle, because all I kept thinking was "they sure aren't a club band anymore." Maybe it was that they had stage props and professional lighting, or maybe they'd just gotten better, but they seemed made for playing big rooms. They projected themselves well, and the set was rollicking, explosive, and, as any good rock show should be, just a little transcendent.

I did not, however, have the opportunity to meet them. They now have a full road crew, up to their own merchandise guy. They have a bus, not a van. They are, in short, professionals...and they never came out from backstage. The thing is, I love that band, and their performance was amazing. And they've worked very hard and deserve every bit of success that's in their grasp.

I don't, however, have the same connection with them that I had with The Drams. I'm a fan of DBT, but I'm rooting for The Drams...and in some small way, I feel like I'm a part of them. I truly want The Drams to be huge, but I know that if they ever do achieve fame, it will take them further away from me.

Maybe this conundrum is just another sign (like I need another...) that I'm getting old. I love my art as much as ever, but since I no longer fit into a mass of fans (back in high school, I hung around a whole lot of metal kids), I look for those connections with the artists themselves. Maybe I'm just more political and would rather give my money to a cool group of guys like Grand Champeen who actually need my money than to Foo Fighters, who could buy and sell me many times over...but maybe helping out the little guys is just another way for me to connect.

Music, like art, is often about connections...and although the show made me fear that I might be losing another band to the big time, I did, after all, get to go see the show with a good friend, and we did share some new experiences, and maybe we became a bit better friends because of it. And I guess I can let my favorite bands become bigger and maybe more distant if I can then share my love for this music with friends, thus helping strengthen that connection...after all, it's the connections that are really important.

science request?

Can anyone tell me why toilet paper seems to staunch blood flow in shaving cuts? Why don't we use it in first aid kits?

I pull my shirt off and pray...

Today is election day in the US. For all of our sakes, get out there and vote.

The number to keep handy is 1-866-OUR-VOTE, which goes to The National Campaign for Fair Elections. Please keep an eye out for any irregularities in the election proceedings. Anything out of the ordinary, call them.

You want news on the election? Check out BBC News's site...they're generally fairly unbiased on such matters.

Monday, November 06, 2006

curses to ye, traffic gods...

So I'm cruising up to work, and I see the roadsigns..."I-75 down to one lane; seek alternate route." So, smug in the knowledge that I know multiple ways to go, I jet over to I-475. Soon, however, that slows down to a bumper-to-bumper crawl, and I have to take still another route to campus. No problem, I go Airport Highway to Reynolds...which I soon find out is also under construction and down to one lane each way. I then realize that even if I would've made it to Secor, that's been under construction for a year or so and subject to random closings.

There was no avoiding it...traffic was inevitable, unavoidable, unstoppable,'s just another curse of living in a different city than the one you work.

Now, for my Southern readers, you have just learned another negative to living in the frozen northland. Not only do we have to put up with snowy roads in the winter, we also have to put up with construction crews who, as soon as the snow thaws, tear into our roadways with an orgasmic frenzy, scraping asphault, installing a plethora of traffic cones, drilling, cutting, pouring asphault. They do this with a manic intensity, driven either by the need to keep ahead of the ravages of winter or by the desire to make us commuters wait as long as possible.

All this is further reason for the hovercraft industry to get off their arses and go into consumer sales...

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

the funniest line I've heard today

taken from an article on Ice-T's new rap album"

"The old Ice-T was like, 'I will kill everybody,' but the new Ice-T is kinda like, 'by the way, I'm not gonna kill you guys"

Actually, the whole article's pretty hilarious.

a holiday link

In honor of the second best holiday of the year (the best is still Groundhog's can you not love a day that Freudian?), I present a link to a Wikipedia peice on the best horror icon of all time, Count Floyd.

Okay, everyone, on three, let's have a "woooooooo!"

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

relative-killing time

Now is officially the start of the period of the semester when I am responsible for people's relatives dying. In the last day or so, I've had five grandparents, two friends, and three cousins die. If I would've known I had such power, I might've conducted my classes differently, been less strict on the relative-killing deadlines.

Monday, October 23, 2006

conversation as an event

Somewhere around the time I was 24, me and my father started to go out together and watch Monday Night Football at a sports bar. At the time, I was just getting back into football after a long exile, and it seemed as good as a place as any to continue this return to a sport which I used to love (and have come to love again).

We moved from bar to bar, year after year. We drank plenty of beer, ate plenty of wings. We watched a lot of football...and yes, it was good.

The football, however, was secondary. What ended up happening more than anything else was that I got to know my father as a person. Before the football nights, he had been just "Dad"...someone I loved, for sure, but not someone I really knew. This was really no one's fault...he was in the military for ages, and he did work a lot, but I was a moody, uncommunicative kid (how much has changed...(?)) who really didn't bond with too many people, and that sure didn't help. I got my mother because I spent a lot of time with her, but my father remained a little bit of a mystery.

Monday Night Football changed all that. We got to just talk. I found out that at work, when I was pizza manager guy, I operated just like he did, disciplined just like he did. I got to hear stories of his youth and compare them with my own. I heard Vietnam stories...clearly not all of them, but probably more than anyone else in my family has heard. I discovered that I liked him as a person, not just a father. We became friends.

When I moved up here to Ohio, one of the hardest things was watching that first Monday Night Football game by myself...

I never found anyone else to watch football with on a normal basis. My first roomate, the year before he moved in, used to come over on occasion, but when he moved in, he was never around, especially, it seemed, on Monday nights. A friend of mine used to live downstairs, but he'd only come up once a month. When we were dating, my wife would watch with me, and we would talk...and this was one of the places where I really got to know her and fall in "true love" with her...but she really doesn't enjoy football as a sport, and now that we live together and have other times to talk, she usually goes elsewhere. So football is, unfortunately, sadly, a solitary activity for me.

I've tried to find other activities to fill the void. One of the things I decided when I came up here and started studying Popular Culture was (sensibly, I think) that I needed to experience more Popular Culture. One of the things I did to this end was start watching the various Star Treks.

But I also started watching wrestling, at first as a "I need to figure out what the hell is going on here" activity...but then I found some fellow grad students who watched, so I would hang out with them. When they moved away, I found another student, one from my department, and I started going to the bars to watch the pay-per-view events with him. Eventually, I started going to his house to watch the weekly broadcasts, and I've been doing this at least since 2002.

Last night, me and a few of the regular wrestling watchers went to a TNA Wrestling event up in Detroit. While the show was, itself, very entertaining, a few things happened that made me really reflect on the nature of viewing, conversation, and friendship.

One of my friends, the one at whom's we watch wrestling, is moving away. He moves out this weekend. Although there have been rumors, I found this out for sure last night. I found out because another one of my friends asked him. And, after hearing this, I wonder if I would've known if someone would've asked.

I had loved watching wrestling with my first, just because I love my friends. I did grow to love the entertainment, but it has always been secondary for me. We were doing more than watching a stupid televised version of a fictional athletic competition...we were building community.

Or so I used to think.

After my friend's revelation, I started to wonder about the state of friendship altogether. Is it even possible to have friendships centered around one activity? Does that just lead to situational friendships? How well would I relate to many of them outside of the situation of wrestling viewing? And is the fact that I rarely can get them to do things other than wrestling a sign that they have these kind of thoughts as well?

None of these thoughts diminished how much I like this guy. I guess that what I hope for when I enter one of these hang-out situations is that the friendships I develop can expand beyond the actual event, that they can spread, that we can do other things, and that the event will quickly become secondary to everyone. But I don't seem to be able to get these situational friends to do anything else, for the most part. Is this, I wonder, due to the way that other people view their activities and the situational friends associated with them? Or is the fault somewhere within me?

Even though I've always been a quiet, shy kind of guy in many ways, I've also always had a thirst for friends, and I want more close friends. Right now, however, there's probably only three people in town with whom I can hang out regardless of the situation or event and just talk, hold a good conversation, and have that be the center of whatever we're doing, not the event or place where we're meeting...and I love these people dearly...but one of them has a family, and another one is busily dissertating, so that can limit contact. I wish I could pull them all to a quiet bar just to talk on a regular basis...and it's a shame that our schedules often limit this. I enjoy these people, but most of all, I need them at some deep level.

And I do have plenty of friends who live outside of Bowling Green, people whom I love and feel tremendously close to, but the distances can work against us there. I try to maintain contact, but I always get caught up in my work, and I never can do enough to be as close to these people as I would like. I've done an okay job with some, not so good with others, and others still have fallen off the face of the earth for me...much to my sadness. I try, but I never seem to have the time to put into overcoming the distances.

So, last night, I was thinking these thoughts when I got home. I should've been elated from the very good wrestling show and the fine conversation that did result, but instead, frankly, I was feeling a bit morose.

I got ready for bed and brushed my teeth. I tried to quietly crawl into bed, but my wife moved...I thought I had woken her up, but she assured me that she just went to bed herself. I told her I had a good night.

Then, my wife, my lover, my friend, held me...and that made everything go away, made everything disappear, save my wife's touch.

Sometimes, if you're lucky, you don't need an event or a reason...and you don't even need the conversation...

Thursday, October 19, 2006

where are the top tens?

For those of you who remember, I currently do a spot on a friend of mine's weekly radio program "Off The Record," now on every Friday from 10 to noon, which you can listen to in real time here. My normal segment is a top ten, and I have, in the past, posted several of them here.

I would like to do so again. However, I am on the job market, and one of the things that's been in the news (at least in the academic circles) is the use of candidate's personal blogs as a tool in job searches.

This is where the top tens might be a problem. My main goal in writing these lists is to make my friends laugh. As such, I consider them comedy first and foremost, so issues such as taste or correctness are not really in my mind. Yes, they can tow the line of crudeness, but that's the type of humor the show strives for, so that's how I've been writing them.

However, I realize that they might give potential employers the wrong impression. So, it is with great regret, that I have decided to pull them from my blog. I'm very proud of them, so I don't want to do this, but they might work against me in the job they gotta go.

I am still going to do the lists. You can still hear them on "Off The Record," every Friday from 10 to noon, which you can listen to in real time here. As far as I understand, they will be podcasted. And who knows? A link to a blog dedicated to these top tens might appear on the right of this never know...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I look like who?

For those of you who have been following the "who does Mike remind you of?" saga, the one's I've heard lately are John Denver, Tim Robbins, Alan Shore (from Boston Legal), and so forth. Well, on my MySpace page, I just heard another one...Father Mulcahy from M.A.S.H. While my wife, a M.A.S.H. fan, will no likely be pleased, I'm kinda disturbed by the notion...

the way things go/miscellaneous notes

Remember when my throat went all throbby-throbby a few weeks ago? Well, just as I was starting to shake my bronchitis, my wonderful wife got a cold. She then gave me her cold. I then gave her my bronchitis. This is all sadly typical. For about three weeks, we were living in what I like to call "The House of Mucus and Phlem."

New photos up on my MySpace page. I now also have a Facebook site, if anyone wants to be my friend.

This Friday, I return to the weekly radio program Off The Record"...we will be on-air from 10 to 2, and you can listen along here.

job stuff on the web

If anyone's curious, I have recently revised my web page for potential employers. I've got some pdfs of some articles up there, if you ever wanted to see my scholarship. I am also taking advice, if anyone has any.

take that, Freud

Last night, I had a dream that my spousal unit and I were having a new house built, and our kitchen designer was Harry S. Truman. For some reason, he had died his hair orange.

I'm just not finding this one in my copy of The Interpretation of Dreams...

Thursday, October 05, 2006


I was looking through old student reviews, and one anonymous comment stood of my students from a section of Scientific and Technical Report Writing thought my course was unconstitutional...I wish I could include the quote, because it's fascinating in a car-wreck way, but I'm assuming this would not be very ethically sound to do so...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

random thought while driving to school

Do you remember when trucking companies used to be called trucking companies? I never thought I would see the day when a big rig would be part of a "logistics corporation" kinda spoils the whole "Convoy" song/phenomenon.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

research-minded again

Long time readers of this blog have noted my struggles trying to balance earning enough money to support myself with actually living up to my identity as a scholar and actually doing research/writing. When I was a lowly doctoral candidate, there was a lag between finishing my coursework and passing my exams which made my dissertation the first real bit of research I did in months. Then I started (sob) adjuncting and working part-time (at the zoo, no less) for two years, which, apart from a presentation or two and a review essay, was a scholarship-free zone...I just didn't have time or energy to do serious writing. And it took me a full year to get used to the heavy grading load of a 5/4 composition teaching schedule, where it seems you always have papers. But I love my students...

On this front, however, I think I have made a break-through. I have been working on a book review-turned-full essay with a friend of mine...I have high hopes for this exposé of ethnography. I just been accepted to the 2007 Northeast Modern Language Association conference (and my panel chair seems wildly optimistic about my paper). In my pursuit to figure out exactly how network theory and cultural studies can usefully intersect, I spent the majority of this weekend reading several scholarly books (in my football time, of course). And while watching Monday Night Football, I got an idea for another essay which requires my immediate attention.

This is good, because in my darkest hours of grading over the past year, I have felt like my prime identity role was of paper grader...I now feel like I did when I started doctoral school. I have the buzz.

Watch out, academic world.

throat all throbby-throbby

Last Tuesday, while at school, I noticed that I was starting to feel all drunk/stoned...but just the unpleasant aspects. As I had been "living clean" for a few days, this came as a bit of a surprise to me. Then I realized it must be some kind of cold in the early stages. Needless to say, this put a bit of a damper on "Speak Like A Pirate" day.

Later that night, I started to cough. I kept coughing. Coughing, in my body's opinion, then took precedence over things I would rather be doing, such as sleeping. I kept coughing...and it was, most disappointingly, non-productive coughing. Finally, Sunday night, as I tried to watch football and ignore my throbbing, glowing throat, I decided that perhaps, yes, I did in fact need to go to the doctor.

Got up early Monday, got an appointment for 10:45 am and thanked the heavens that I actually finally have health insurance. Finally saw the doctor at 11:50. After examining me, he told me that I had acute bronchitus. This was a relief, because at first, I thought he was coming on to me ("I have a cute what???").

Now on drugs...antibiotics that "run through me" and give me stomach cramps, and a cough syrup which is clearly codeine...which, if I were ever really going to be a druggie, might be my drug of choice...

While I am thankful that the healing may finally begin, special thanks needs to be extended towards my spousal unit for not kicking me out of bed during a 4am coughing fit.

I become non-contagious on Wednesday. Watch out, world.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

My Name is Earl dvd


Avast, me beauties. This fine morn, the My Name is Earl season one dvd set was released into the wild blue yonder. Shortly after the crack o' dawn, I smartly sailed over to Best Buy to pick up me booty...the Instant Karma edition, narry clad in a flannel shirt cover. Me bilge-drinking bretheren of the coast and I will splice the mainbrace with the finest grog when we get a chance to watch. Godspeed, me hearties!

(translation, for those losers not participating in National Speak Like a Pirate day: Hi. Today, they released the My Name is Earl season one dvd set. This morning, I got the Instant Karma edition, clad in a flannel shirt cover. I can't wait until I can get together with my friends to drink and watch it. Thanks!)

Monday, September 18, 2006

dumb and dumber

This weekend, the fine (?) folks at Girls Gone Wild were in Bowling Green. I gave my lovely wife permission to go wild if she so decided, but she declined.

Also, tomorrow is Talk Like a Pirate day. Celebrate. I'm gonna have to come up with a good post to do in pirate-ese.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

celebrate good times!

I just finished the last of my first grading bout! Wooohooo! Party!!!

(now, if I didn't have more coming next week...damn this life as a comp Lecturer)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


I'm in grading papers. I have a sign on the door which says "Please knock...I'm in, just working." One of my more insane colleagues just knocked on the door. She didn't want anything, but she said she felt she had to follow instructions...

because I'm such an expert...

I have come to some conclusions about the rap genre. As I see it, there are three possible directions. The first, actually attempt to say something worthwhile, is guided by the example of Public Enemy. As this is not tremendously popular with the prepubescent suburban audiences, most new artists don't seem to follow it.

Instead, a lot of rap artists attempt to "tell it like it is" in the "hood." This was at least notable when it was news, but by this point in time, is there anyone who really doesn't know what it's like in the hood? Is there anything new to be said?

Instead of following that model, I suggest more aspiring rappers follow the "let's see how many obscenities and shocking things I can throw into a song" model of rapping. But please, do it honestly. Follow the example of 2 Live Crew and actually do the dirty limericks and nursery's certainly more pure.

Not that I'm a major rap fan anyway...I've never really seen the abandonment of vocal melody to be a step forward (which is also why I don't really dig Cookie Monster Metal)...but if you're gonna be inane, go all the way with it, damnit.

Who knows? You might end up with a career as long-lasting as Luther Cambell and with as much integrity as Snoop Dogg (whose web site, strangely enough, doesn't mention his line of porn videos).

Monday, September 11, 2006

two websites of notice

Rate Your Students, which is "a public forum where faculty and students can work out the tricky dynamic of the modern classroom. Students can tell us why they won't take the iPod out during a lecture, and professors can tell us why their clothes are so frumpy."

Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which you just have to see.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

pressure buildup and release

For the last few weeks, I've mostly been focusing on my classes. There's a lot to do...fix the plethora of stupid errors that seem to endlessly creep up in my web material, battle with the bookstore, battle with technology (or lack thereof), answer e-mail questions from people who obviously haven't read the syllabus (or anything else, for that matter), deal with the droves of dropped I haven't given a lot of attention to the myriad of other things that have come up (including, as some of you particularly know, answering e-mails...soon, I promise).

One of the biggest things that has been simmering away is the Great Academic Job Search 2006-2007. I've been thumbing through the postings and such, but I haven't actually sent anything out yet. The teaching work has been one big reason, but perhaps the most important excuse for this procrastination was that I was waiting for a response from a university press who expressed interest in working with me.

Flashback: In 2003, I was finishing up my dissertation. I was lucky enough to get into the American Studies Association. For those of you unfamiliar with this group, they hold what is undeniably the Mac Daddy of all culture studies-oriented academic conferences. I was fortunate in that the panel which accepted me was chaired by uber-scholar Janice Radway and also included Lawrence Levine, also a heavyweight in the field.

It was quite a rush to get regular e-mails from two people who are very influential in my field. The conference itself was magnificent...there was always an interesting panel to go see, and those of you who've gone to lesser conferences know how unique that is. The panel I was on went swimmingly...and no one laughed at me. There was plenty of stuff which covered professional development. Most important for me, however, I recieved a letter from a major university press (who shall remain nameless) who was interested in meeting me...and if this worked, it would be an academic coup.

I pulled out my vita. I polished off the best chapter of my still-in-committee dissertation. I wore a nice tie. And the meeting itself went swimmingly...the assistant editor of the press seemed genuinely excited about my work and the possibility of it fitting in their press. A few weeks later, I was asked for a copy of the full dissertation and a book revision plan.

It took me a little while to get the revision plan to them because my funding had run out, and I was adjuncting at several disciplines with which I had no experience....but I eventually got it done and mailed off.

Now, I've never written a book before, so I naturally assumed that the revision plan would cover how I planned to revise the manuscript...and that the press would read both of them. When I finally heard from the press, they were confused about the proposal...and it was very clear, from talking to the editor in chief, that no one had actually read the manuscript. Admittedly, since I wrote the proposal as a companion piece to the dissertation, reading it without reading my big chunk o' work would be a bit I told them I would take another swack at it, now that I (supposedly) knew what they wanted.

The next draft went through several iterations, and it did take a while...I adjuncted for another year before landing my current job, and it took a long time to cope with the heavy grading load that accompanies a 5/4 load in composition (in which I've had very little formal training, so I was behind from the git-go). But when I finished, I was very pleased with the results. It showed a tremendous growth in my thinking. It spelled out my research questions in explicit detail. It was solid and had real potential to make an impact. So, last April, I sent the thing to the press.

Now, as I knew I would be getting back on the job market, I really wanted to hear positive things from the press. My heavy teaching load since the dissertation had kind of put a crimp on the amount of research I could do, and as a result, I haven't published as much as I should. A book contract, however, would be pure gold. It would show that I had some research potential, and it would show that I could put out stuff. Pretty much, it would have, if not guaranteed me a job, then at least really bumped me up in most school's "potential hiree" stack.

So I waited. And then I waited some more. The press's 12 week deadline passed. I waited. After 4 months, I sent a polite inquisitive e-mail. And then I waited. I sent another e-mail. And then I waited some more. I sent another e-mail, cc'd to the press's editor in chief.

Today I got the reply. They do not want to work with me. The story, as the e-mail tells it, is that they couldn't figure out what my research focus was. When I read this, I immediately resisted the urge to grab a whiskey sour (it was, after all, 10:30 this morning) and opened my file of the revision plan I sent them...and in the third paragraph, starting on the first page, was the paragraph that explicitly spelled out my agenda.

If they just didn't like my work and thought I sucked as a scholar, that would be bearable. If they didn't think I fit into their press, that would be understandable. But it was clear to me that they only browsed my proposal and never put real thought into my project. I am going to take great delight in deleting these people from my e-mail address book.

I guess it's a fact of life for me as an academic, but I think I have to start assuming that no one I will encounter will be professional. In my 3+ years on the job market, I've seen some unbelievably rude and amature behavior, and my first university press experience just backs it up. I would be happy if people would just take their job seriously and realize it had severe implications in the lives of others.

I know that if any of my ex-students are reading this, they might giggle...I have, after all, taught while wearing Hawaiian shirts...but that's just mode of dress. In my actions, both in the classroom and in other academic settings, I've always made it a point to take whatever I was doing very seriously. I wish others would do the same. I'm hoping to find out differently, and I really want a future employer and a university press (anyone have any leads on either?) to prove me wrong.

So, granted, I'm feeling a little pressure now. Without a book contract, my application packet might look research-light. Is it worth while to bother with the job market? Do I try to rush out some stuff and neglect the teaching? Do I stare at the wall and listen to Motorhead entirely too loudly?

Thank goodness the Black Swamp Arts Festival is back! Tomorrow, we go see The Reverend Horton Heat. The spousal unit and I are volunteering Saturday afternoon, and then we're back up for several bands I don't really care about...but friends will be there, and the beer tent will be open, so it's all good.

Don't you wish you were in BG?

just noticed something possibly insightful...

This week, it occurred to me that, when I teach, I tend to put my hands in my pants pockets...and this is something I never used to do before. Anyone have any clues as to what the significance might be?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Yayhoos in Wapakoneta

Ever since the mighty Slobberbone broke up, I've been searching for my next favorite rock band. Some of the members of Slobberbone formed The Drams, and while I love the album and the show I caught in Minneapolis, it's not the same...they're not doing pure, unadultuerated rock anymore. The race has kind of been a toss-up between the Drive-By Truckers, Grand Champeen, and Two Cow Garage. I never expected The Yayhoos to be in the running, but after seeing them this Saturday, I'm having to put them into consideration.

When I found out that The Yayhoos were playing in Wapakoneta, I made immediate plans to go see them...mostly because I like the bar so much. Rhythm and Brews in Wapak is perhaps my favorite venue to see a rock show ever. The bar itself, first off, is a classic. It is a great roadhouse...but clean, neat, and orderly. They have a good menu and serve a very nice pizza. They have a friendly staff. They have a trough made out of galvanized steel, a pvc pipe, and a screwdriver in the men's room. My wife says the bar reminds her of a clean Urban Cowboy, but without the bull or Stetsons.

Wapak also boasts the best rock crowds I've seen. The audience for the show in Minneapolis had (for the most part) only mildly polite applause, and the crowd all looked bored. The shows I've seen in Detroit mostly consisted of people incessantly discussing their weekend plans and only playing scant attention to the bands. Cleveland crowds, while very appreciative, are a little too "hipster" for my taste. Ann Arbor crowds boast too many college students trying to be hippies, and that can get really annoying.

Wapak, on the other hand, is mostly 50-something farmers and factory workers. But they really love their bands and know all the material by heart. They are loud. They are appreciative. They are boisterous. And they make going to see a band really fun.

Opening the show was some very wirey, 15 year old-looking singer/songwriter wannabe named Wil Cope. His songs were all good, but he was just very one dimensional...everything had the same tempo, same picking pattern, and it all sounded very forlorn. He was okay, but I was amazed at how badly he marketed himself. He only said his name one time, and he only alluded to the fact that he had cds available for sale...maybe he doesn't need the money, but he struck me as someone who was trying too hard to be an "artiste."

The Yayhoos brought it like nothing I've seen in a while. They were loud. Every member was great, had wonderful stage presence. And they played and played...we got two hour-plus sets and two encores. Some highlights:

  • cover songs. We got (of course) "Dancing Queen," but we also got an impromtu jam leading into "Love Train" and Roscoe singing "You Were Always On My Mind."
  • virtuoso musicianship. Roscoe Ambel started doing great slide guitar with a Sam Adams bottle. However, the surprise of the night, musicianship-wise, was Keith Christopher. Why didn't anyone tell me he was such a monster? He took bass solos...and they rocked AND fit into the songs. When he took over Dan Baird's guitar for "For Crying Out Loud," he just ripped through a blazing solo that made the rest of the band just sorta blink.
  • dancing girls for "Dancing Queen"...from the audience (no, the band didn't bring their own)
  • tons of material from both albums.

Before playing "Baby, I Love You," Roscoe told of their last time through. That time, when they were doing their 4pm soundcheck, a man and woman came in who were apparently celebrating their anniversary...but during the 15 minute break they had between split shifts at different factories. Apparently, the couple requested a slow song, the band played "Baby, I Love You," and the couple slow-danced...and that dance apparently bordered on conjugal visit territory.

Halfway through the second set, some sick bastard puked in the men's room trough, clogged up the drain, and it flooded out the bathroom floor...not being able to use the rest room for about 30 minutes put a little bit of a damper on the set, especially since I'd been drinking a number of High Lifes, but the brave (yet disgusted) bar staff managed to get it cleaned up before anything dangerous happened.

Although there were only about seventy people in the crowd, the yelling and stomping pulled the band out for two encores, including a rousing "I Love You, Period"...which was apparently the last song they'll play together on this tour...I guess Steve Earle must be calling Roscoe or something.

It's too cliched to say I felt "rocked-out," but it was one of the best rock shows I've ever seen. The Yayhoos were ultimately much better than I would've guessed. They are tremendously fun, they were very talented, and they worked together beautifully. I don't think they're my favorite rock band (the albums aren't as consistent as was the band live), but I would go see these guys again in a heartbeat.

It was raining for the 1 1/2 hour drive home, and it hasn't stopped since, but that's just not depressing me...I still have a slightly manic grin, even though the ringing in the ears has died down...a little.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

the semester is here

I'm at the end of the first week of Fall semester. It's been quite an adjustment, especially coming from the hedonistic no schedule days of summer.

First off? I now know what day of the week it is...without thinking! While those who've been doing the standard 9 to 5 might not find this extraordinary, those of us lucky enough to get the full summer off realize that, when you remove someone from all deadlines, time becomes very fluid. In the summer, I never had a clue what day it was...or for that matter, what week or month it was.

I am also getting used to being an authority figure again. I've got to exercise my booming "teacher" voice. I've had to keep people's attention for over two hours. I've had to funnel cacaphonous conversation back toward whatever point I was trying to make. I've had to do the hardass "if you don't like working, drop the class" bit (which I am good at, although I am nowhere near my old History prof. Dr. Prousis in this regard).

I'm doing two comp ones and two comp one with workshops. All the students seem pretty good...they're not afraid to talk, which is always a plus. I'd much rather put up with students who can't shut up or are prone to open rebellion than deal with a silent group. So their conversational prowess bodes well.

I actually get my hands on technology in the classroom. After three years of teaching in tech-free dives, I have two classes in computer-mediated classrooms and one class in a brand-new refinished building (which comes with an instructor computer and projector). I am using powerpoint for the first time ever. I already have a pile of grading sitting in my inbox.

The most important thing, however, is that I am back to discipline. Ever summer, I have grandiose visions of doing tons of writing, but it always falls through...I need a schedule, and having to be in the office x number of hours a week tends to focus me a little bit...that, plus being away from the TiVo. So, now I am sure I will do some writing. I'm already doing conference prep. I also have plans to return e-mails to the 6 or 7 people to whom I owe. Plus, I have papers coming in next expect more posts to this blog, as I seem to use it as a grading break.

Post #200, by the way...thanks for reading.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

final on the road for Minnesota trip

Excuse me if I bust out my last observations all together.

The return to the twin cities, from the great northern wilderness, was fairly uneventful...but being back in civilization after so much peace was weird. Personally, I found myself disturbed by how disturbed I was...being a city boy myself.

Friday night was The Drams. For those of you not familiar, when my favorite band of all time, Slobberbone, broke up, one member became a Florida high school teacher...the rest of the band formed The Drams. It's a little less jagged, a bit more melodic, and still very good.

They played the 400 Bar in Minneapolis, and I took my ex-roomie. A good show, by any standards. They started out with a Band cover, played most of the album, threw in one token Slobberbone song. Met with singer Brent Best afterwards, and he's as nice of a guy as ever....we talked about Wapakoneta.

I met some Twin Cities members of the Postcard from Hell contingent (including Lauren, with her "Ryan Adams is no Brent Best" t-shirt), but only at the end of the night...and despite making plans to meet some of them the next night, were never able to hook up again.

Went to the Mall of America, hoping to at least get some good photos. For those of you unfamiliar, the Mall of America is this gargantuan four story shopping mall built on the site of the old Metropolital Stadium, where the Vikings used to play (outdoors, in Minnesota winters, no less). It's so big, it holds its own amusement park (complete with two roller coasters), aquarium, and museum (currently NASCAR).

You think that with a mall that has 4.2 million square feet of space and over 520 stores, there would be something notable and weird to see. Wrong. Instead of having interesting, unique shops, it has five Starbucks, three Gaps, ten pretzel stands, four Carribou Coffees...and a whole bunch more generic crap. The only really photo-worthy element was the very cool Lego store, which currently has a dinosaur garden...and they're all made out of legos, as is the Boba Fett. Oh well.

After eating meals around the state of Minnesota, I have discovered that putting lettuce, tomato, and mayo on a hamburger makes it a California burger...never heard of that one before.

While driving somewhere, we passed a homeless guy begging in front of a "Condos for sale" sign.

We were, for some reason, inside a Target store. The cashier told me that my Hawaiian shirt reminded her of the first time she ever went scuba diving.

We spent one day walking around downtown. I got a photo of the Mary Tyler Moore statue for my strangely obsessed wife, then we headed down to this downtown British pub which had an authentic bowling green on its roof. I drank cider, my ex-roomie had a Bass, and we ate the appetizer platter. About the Scotch egg, my ex-roomie said "I don't think I've ever eaten anything that tastes as fried." We then saw the architecturally beautiful new library building and took some photos of the Grainbelt Bottle Cap sign.

We ended up my visit with a voyage to Porky's, this fifties-esque drive-in in St. Paul. Marvelous shakes, onion rings, home-made fries, and a divine pork tenderloin sandwich. Their sign is very cool, and I was really hoping they'd have some t-shirts with their logo.

Compared to the flight out, the flight back home was very dull. I did find out that the airlines now even charge for their meager packets of trail mix...I still remember flying and getting my choice of breakfasts. The Detroit airport was dull. There was little conversation in the bar, and the only guy who sat near me had a Hooters t-shirt, a copy of FHM, and a NASCAR hat...not someone with whom I was dying to converse. The only thing interesting he did was convince the bartender to give him a to-go cup for his beer.

It was a long (3 1/2 hour) layover, and to amuse myself, I walked the lengths of every concourse. The plane was further delayed becuase, 15 minutes before scheduled takeoff, they decided that the plane was too hot and they needed to run the AC for a while.

And of course, I arrived in Toledo and got to see my beautiful wife. I was away for over ten days, and the longer we were seperated, the more melancholy I got...I don't think I could've survived much more time apart.

Coming soon, the photo-essay!

delays again

School starts next week, so my fun week has been spent putting together a new reading schedule (I was on the book committee and still agreed to a new text...what was I thinking?), updating the syllabi for the move to portfolio grading, updating the WebCT stuff, finding a string of vastly stupid errors in my own work, and attending more updates when I return to sanity.

Pray for Mojo.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

on the road post 6--the north country

August 1-2. The day after the move, me and my ex-roomie made our way up to his hometown in northern Minnesota. He's from the area around several small towns/villiages, all of which basically rose up as mining towns. Unfortunately, there have been mine closures, so the towns are in a period of decay. Some mines still operate, and there are also attempts to bring tourism to the area.

On the way up, we decided to check out one of the Indian casinos, so we pulled into Grand Casino Hinkley. There really wasn't too much unusual about the casino...lots of noise, flashing lights, and gambling elderly. The casino (at least the slots) operated entirely on real had to get change to play the machines. When I went to the slot room at the Windsor Raceway, they forced everyone into using tokens...which seems like the smarter route, if your goal is to maximize income. If you're using tokens, you are are apt to disassociate it from real money...and thus spend more.

We weren't really there to gamble...we each did lose about $10 on video poker and slots, but the real thrill was the sociological angle. When I commented to my ex-roomie that I was surprised that there were no actual Indians (no idea if the Ojibwe prefer this or "Native American") working there, he told me that they had probably taken in so much money that they didn't have to work there anymore...which makes sense, seeing the hurry everyone was in to give away their cash. He also claims to have heard white patrons making the unintentionally ironic comment "next thing you know, we'll be working for them" while handing over more money.

The whole Indian casino thing is something I feel a little uneasy with, at any rate. Casinos are specifically designed to strip you from your wallet...and gambling has always seemed like a particularly amoral way to make your living. One could argue that the Ojibwes are just treating the Whites the same way they were treated, but this still smacks of vengeance (even if economic), and this still makes me really wonder if this is the right way for the tribes to go about supporting themselves...but the alternative is the crushing poverty most suffered through before, so it's a hard question.

So we left the moral ambiguities at the casino, stopped at the local Hinkley MN landmark bakery (can't remember the name) for some of their famous 3" thick caramel rolls, and headed north. After passing a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed gas station (fallen into disrepair, unfortunately) and a stop at an IGA for some sausages to grill and a bottle shop (what some Minnesotans call their liquor stores) for some Hamms and Schmidt beer (the latter was called "Animal Beer" because the cans had pictures of fish, deer, or other game on them) to drink, we then went to my ex-roomie's parents's cabin.

When we got to the cabin, we met my ex-roomie's mom, who immediately (1) offered us use of her fishing pole and tackle, and (2) gave us a big hunk of smoked salmon...two things that I could never see my own mother doing. We cooked our sausage and drank beer. We also got to meet my ex-roomie's cousins, who were both fun guys. Some of my favorite quotes from our conversations:

  • "I'd tell you stories, but I'm 16, and I'm not supposed to have stories yet."
  • "I don't know what made me think of this...probably the concept of drunk people."
  • "This guy was so big, light bent around him."

The next day, we went to the Soudan Underground Mine State Park, which is an ex-US Steel mine that the state has turned into a tourist attraction. It was open for over 80 years and was incredibly safe...for that kind of place. The tour took you down over 2,000 feet, to the mine's 27th level. Afterward, we hit this area which used to be an open-pit mine. You normally think of such things as environmental eyesores. This, however, was quite nice. The areas where they dumped the rubble had taken on trees, the pits had filled with water, and the whole thing looked like a mini-Grand Canyon...entirely artificial.

We did a few other touristy things, including visiting the World's Largest Hockey Stick and the currently closed US Hockey Hall of Fame, both of which are (for some reason) in Eveleth, MN. We then went back to the cabin, where my ex-roomie's parents joined us for a dinner of various grilled deer sausages and pickles before taking a boat ride around the lake. The next day, before leaving, my ex-roomie took me on a tour of some of his old haunts and then showed me his family's hunting shack, which he said was his favorite place on earth.

The whole northern voyage was incredibly calming, and it was a fun, welcome break from the Twin Cities...I can't wait to go back.

on the road post 5

(note: halfway through this trip, I lost my internet connection after my former roomie, with whom I was staying, moved to another the remainder of these posts are from my notes)

July 31...Moving day hell. Of course, it got up to 103, there was no wind, and we had to move relatively swiftly. Rather than a full list of trials, some higlights include:

  • lots of Gatorade and such consumed. We had a gallon jug of the premix, two 32 ouncers, a fifteen pack of 20 ouncers, all on top of tons of water. I still felt dehydrated and zoney. We had to work in short bursts before collapsing in rest.
  • A nice neighborhood to move into. When we were unloading stuff in the backyard, I found a used syringe. Wee. Later, my ex-roomie told me that him and his now current roomie were in the neighborhood a few weeks before and saw one gentleman puling what looked like an Uzi on another gentleman. Hopefully my ex-roomie and his new roomie survive long enough to benefit from the lower rent.
  • a Hello Kitty toilet seat...wonder how long that one will take to get replaced.
  • Of course, utter, sheer exhaustion. My ex-roomie's new roomie offered me a beer, but I was too drained to take advantage ("I've become everything that I hate!"). Thankfully, me and my ex-roomie had a trip to the north country planned for the next day, and that promised to be good recoup time.

Monday, July 31, 2006

on the road post 4

Helping my ex-roomie move tomorrow (in projected 104 degree weather...wee) and then we're gonna run to the northern part of the state to cool off...his parents have a cabin.

Forgot to mention that when we were at the Global Market place, the Asian food store had Poki Sticks in a flavor labelled "Man."

Saturday, July 29, 2006

on the road post 3

My ex-roomie has a laptop, and he's sponging off his upstair neighbor's WiFi signal...whenever he needs a connection, he has to hold his laptop up towards the ceiling. It looks like he's offering it to the great internet gods in the sky.

Vietnamese food is the best cuisine in the world. Last night, we went to a local Vietnamese restaurant, and that meal will go down in my top dinners ever list.

Later, we went out drinking at the local VFW hall. Apparently, the Minneapolis branch is open to the public. It is full of hipsters. They sing bad Karyoke. I wonder what the few VFW members who brave the young person onslaught think.

While we were drinking, my ex-roomie pointed out one of the vets who works there. "That's Henry," he said. "Henry has a special ritual. He cuts off all his hair when one of his friends dies." I've thought about this a whole lot since, and I wish I could describe exactly how the thought of this makes me feel...I don't know if I'll ever have the necessary adjective for this one.

Friday, July 28, 2006

on the road post two

My ex-roomie (with whom I'm staying) has one of those claw-foot tubss, so, in order to shower, he's had to rig up a wraparound shower curtain. It does close in on you...and when I left my shower, I felt like I had just been chemically decontaminated.

For lunch, we went to this indoor ethnic marketplace called the Midtown Global Market. It was really cool, lots of weird food booths.

We ate some $1.50 goat tostadas from this Mexican place...they were huge and tasty. The Mexican booth had the most awe-inspiring stacks of pork rind sheets...I will eventually post photos.

There was also a Mexican seafood place (Marlin Flautas), a Carribean Soul Food place, a Mexican breakfast place, and tons of others...all staffed by a selection of gorgeous exotic beauties. Very cool for lunch.

on the road post one

The Detroit airport is one of my favorite...when you arrive on a puddle-jumper, you arrive on an outpost terminal. To get to the main terminal, you have to go under one of the runways. There, they have a psychadelic light show, thunder sounds, and Japanime-esque's what I imagine Tokyo must be like, down to the high-speed train in the main terminal.

I ate at the airport. Note to the restaurant...Mexican food should have some taste other than spackle.

After some junk food (Crazy Bread!) to wash the no-taste of the Mexican food out of my mouth, I hit an airport of my favorite classes of places. I ordered a bloody mary (an airport tradition) and met my neighbors. The guy to my left was having a plate of french fries for desert "because I had sushi for dinner and needed some starch." As he was reaching for the ketchup, he told me that, as a liberal, he generally only uses Heinz. We then speculated on how much money an airport strip club would make and why we never see them. He also speculated that passengers should have a drink or two before going they are properly lubricated to deal with terrorists if they encounter any. These are the types of conversations you can only have at airport bars.

Why is CNN so omnipresent in airports? At the Toledo airport bar, there were two televisions, one tuned to CNN and one tuned to something else. When I sat in front of it, I found out that it was on second day coverage of some minor golf tournament...that had been rain-delayed. Scintillating television, I can tell you. The bartender (a 40-something blonde, minorly leatherish, lived and tanned too hard and it showed in her skin...and every airport in the world has one just like her) sighed, let out an "Oh, man," and tuned the television to...CNN. Thank the heavens for alcohol.

The airport had the PA warning and announcements in several languages, but the English ones were the only ones done by a male...all Asian languages were announced by females. Either this means something, or the three hour layover was starting to take effect.

We boarded the plane and sat on the runway for an hour while waiting for thunderstorms to pass. This brings to mind: how can airplane seats be so unsuited for sitting? Their concaveness really hurt my back.

As the flight attendant passed beverages out to the window passengers beside me, I could feel some effervescence rain down on my was very surreal.

From a certain distance and altitude, the nighttime city lights of a metropolis look like crashing waves of molten lava.

I know this post is minorly random, but you'll just have to wait for closure...if I get any, you'll hear it here first.