Monday, December 29, 2008

The Year That Was - media edition

Best Music

Yes, this is only a "top 9"...there just simply wasn't a tenth album I will claim as good. A weak year, musically.

  1. Two Cow GarageSpeaking in Cursive

    While I have been a big fan of this band for quite some time, this album is a monumental step forward, in terms of depth and quality. Just buy it already.

  2. The Hold SteadyStay Positive

    Take off one or two songs with gratuitous keyboards, and this thing really rocks. "Lord, I'm Discouraged" alone has enough lyric power to make you weep. Combine it with "Hey Sapphire," and whoooboy. Plus Craig Finn now sings!

  3. Ben FoldsWay To Normal

    Many have expressed disappointment with this album. They're nuts. "Kylie from Connecticut" alone (one of the most beautiful songs of the year?) should propel this into your top album lists. Good, rythmic virtuousity as well.

  4. The Pink SpidersSweat It Out

    While the production is poppier than I would like and there is (unfortunately) a power ballad (skip "Don't Wait For Me"), this is still a very good album. "Gimme Chemicals" and "Seventeen Candles" are catchy as all-hell.

  5. Magnolia SummerLines from the Frame

    Many have brought up the Jayhawks comparison. I'll just say that this is alternately lush, rocking, and lyrical. Go buy it.

  6. Jay BennettWhatever Happened I Apologize

    The best thing he's done since The Palace at 4am. This all-acoustic effort is sweet, complex, and fun. Plus, you can download it for free!

  7. The RaconteursConsolers of the Lonely

    A good second album of rock, although this sounds more like a band effort than their debut. Consolers more than makes up for the disappointment that was the last White Stripes disk.

  8. Paul Westerberg49:00

    Sloppy, sticky, catchy in parts, and (sadly) no longer available through official channels.

  9. Gaslight AnthemThe '59 Sound

    Nice bar rock with (if I'm not mistaken) a little Clash thrown in.

Top Songs

  1. “Brass Ring,” Two Cow Garage
  2. “Lord I'm Discouraged.” The Hold Steady
  3. “Glass City,” Two Cow Garage

Musical Disappointments

  • We will probably never see another album from Brent Best, Caitlin Cary.
  • You Am I forgot how to rock.
  • The Drive-By Truckers lost it.
  • Ryan Adams has gone all slick

Music I'm Looking Forward To

  • New Wilco, Grand Champeen, We Are The Fury, Jason Isbell

Someone I Discovered Much Too Late

  • Josh Ritter

Best Movies

  1. Wall-E

    Gorgeous. Hardly any dialog, but the emotion and meaning couldn't be any clearer. A scathing critique of consumerist culture, and a tear-jerking tale of love and hope at the same time.

  2. Vicky Christina Barcelona

    Woody Allen makes a fresh film. It's young, lively, and gorgeously shot. The only down side is that the supreme gorgeousness of everyone in it might make you question your own looks...if you were not as pretty and confident as I.

  3. Zach & Miri Make A Porno

    Kevin Smith knocks one out of the park. Both hilarous and touching, more so than it should ever be.

Cinematic Crap

  • Cloverfield

    This one wouldn't be so bad except for one thing: I hate everyone in
  • Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull

    Space aliens? Space aliens??? Is this really the best they could do?

Why in the Hell Haven't These Opened Here Yet?

  • Synecdoche, New York
  • The Wrestler
  • Zombie Strippers (okay, so I could probably rent this one...)

The Year in TV

  • The Shield ended perfectly
  • I got absolutely hooked on Burn Notice
  • Jeez, The Office is SOOOO much better post-strike

My Year in Technology

    Why buy newspapers when you can get Darkgate Comics Slurper
  • I know I'm late to this one, but I love my Wii
  • Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog was probably my favorite bit of entertainment all year.

Monday, December 22, 2008

taking the chill off with a lovely beverage

I call this one "The Sub-Zero":

  • take a mixer and fill with ice
  • add

    • 1 measure dark rum
    • 1 measure tequila
    • 1 measure vodka
    • 1/2 measure triple sec
    • 1/2 measure strawberry liqueur
    • 2 TBSP sugar syrup
    • 2 measures grapefruit juice
    • 3 measures cranberrry juice
    • light squeeze of lemon

  • shake vigorously
  • pour into glass 2/3 full
  • top off with seltzer/soda water
  • garnish with lemon wedge
  • sip and try to forget your heating bill

frozen dreams

My favorite band right now is Two Cow Garage. I first met them when they got up and jammed with Slobberbone after one of their Wapakoneta OH shows. While Slobberbone was brilliant (two separate sets, each about 1 1/2 hours, with a 30 minute encore), Two Cow was an unexpected pleasure, unknown, unannounced, raw, energetic. They even did most of their own songs (save a jam/duet/whatever on "Give Back The Key To My Heart" with the 'bone), and each of their originals had a spark, an energy that I really needed to hear in rock at the time.

They were obviously talented, and I was taken with the guys. I wanted to tell all my friends about them. This being the era of the internet, I talked an awful lot online with friends from all over. Word spread. When their first album Please Turn The Gas Back On came out (awesome, raw rock, with some raw country thrown in for good measure, they had established an online fanbase.

As much as I liked album one, it was The Wall Against Our Back that really grabbed me. As well as pure rock your face off tracks like "My Concern" and "Make It Out Alive," the guys in the band started to really think about their situation, the career of an indy, small rock and roll group. They started to explore the class and status structure of rock and roll. Do you hold on to some vague desire for authenticity, or "sign on the dotted line" and become corporate? Do you remain who you are, in the face of overwhelming odds?

This continued with III, perhaps more explicitly. As someone who was struggling with my own job dilemmas (trying very hard to find a tenure-track professor gig, wanting to move into a job where I felt like a scholar and academic rather than just a mechanic, blindly teaching courses outside of my training, specialty, and interests, making entirely too little money and working entirely too much), I could relate. In fact, I needed to have this music. Realizing that other people in other fields were having the same issues as I made me feel a little less alone, a little more hopeful.

It's not much of a stretch to say that The Wall Against Our Back got me through my years of adjuncting, and III helped me adjust to teaching in a field pretty foreign to me. Their latest album, Speaking in Cursive (click on the link, buy it for $5, it's unbridled awesomeness) shows amazing musical and lyrical growth, but part of the reason I'm so taken with it is the theme of "what happens if we never become rock superstars? Is what we have enough?" which pretty much mirrors how I've been thinking of my own career. It's always nice to know you're not alone.

What made my love for this band even better is the personal connection I forged with the guys in the band. One of the first times I saw them, Shane, bass player and singer extraordinaire, came over to thank me for talking them up online. Every time thereafter, we talked a bit more, got to know each other a bit more. And while I don't know him nearly as well as I would like, I do think of him as my friend. I've also gotten to know guitarist/singer Micah, and this personal connection brings a new dimension to their music. I'm not just a fan. I feel I have to fight for these guys, push them wherever and whenever I can.

And, of course, see them perform whenever I can as well. After completely missing their last BG show (even though I was at the bar three days before, I saw no flyers or ads to tell me they were playing), I was pumped to find out that Shane and Micah were scheduled to play an acoustic show at Toledo's Frankie's Innercity. So I gathered up some friends and went, but it was just fated to be one of those nights.

The first issue was the bitter cold. In order to celebrate the first official day of winter, the weather plunged down to a lovely -2...not including the wind gusts of up to 35 mph. My car fought me, but it did eventually start. Of course, it took a good ten minutes to come up to temperature, and my foggy breath was steaming up the windows.

Of course, the drive necessitated going down many roads which have been studiously avoided by any plow or salt trucks, so it's always fun to know that at any minute, you can lose control, slide across intersections, and get run over by a similarly out-of-control semi. But in spite of the mortal peril, we made it.

There was the third issue, related to my inability to find a designated driver. It's always hard to see good rock and roll without beer, but hey, I love these guys, so I was willing. Of course, the bar had to rub my sobriety in my face by having the $1.50 special on PBR, Blatz, and Black was the trio of destruction, and I could not partake.

Unfortuntately, after an hour or so, we got the announcement: Micah and Shane were stranded outside of Cleveland in a blizzard. So, since I couldn't even drink my oblivion away, I instead had to settle for introducting my mad Romanian friend to White Castle hamburgers.

The guys at Freankies told me that Shane and Micah are planning to try to reschedule for next weekend, though. Hopefully I'll have a designated driver then...or at least, maybe it won't be so damn cold.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

a day in my life

In an effort to satisfy those who are bored with my Twitter feed reposts (hopefully it's better than nothing, but who knows?), I realize that I need to provide some original TheMikeDuBose content...after all, you are the ones who pay big money for subscription fees to this site, who send me mountains of fan mail (the photos are particularly appreciated), who give up their jobs and family to follow me on tour, I realize that you deserve something just for you.

Unfortunately, though, my life was (up until yesterday) pretty much filled with grading, conferences, and similarly exciting stuff. And what did I do to actually celebrate was read a book. Trust me, describing myself sitting on the couch under a blankie turning a page does not make exciting, edge of your seat prose. In fact, I've done absolutely nothing that warrants extended writing.

But, in an effort to satisfy my throng of fans, I realize I have to provide something. So please forgive the randomness and look for whatever jewels that might come. After all, even a disjointed TheMikeDuBose is better than none at all. We present you, the reading public, moments in my day:

  • Last night, I had another Little Caesars Pizza dream. I worked there 9.5 years (throughout school and such), and on average, I still have one of these dreams every week or so. In these dreams, I'm always the avenging savior assistant manager, sent over to bring law and order to a store on the edge of destruction. This was pretty much the role I played in real life, so the subject matter doesn't surprise me that much. However, what does it say about me that, even in my dreams, that the most heroic role my mind can imagine is to save a pizza franchise? Superheroes, after all, don't usually work for minimum wage, and pizza workers don't usually get the girl. Oh well.
  • Even though we're renters, we had to spend a few hours doing home improvement. We live in a very small (some would say cute or petite) little bungalow in town, which has as its main advantage washer and drier hookups and no undergrads living either above or below us. Unfortunately, though, if this place is insulated at all, it's with one or two 37 year old copies of The Toledo Blade, which, as you might imagine, doesn't cut down on the wind very much. Our windows are even leakier...sometimes I'm surprised that sparrows and other small birds don't just fly through the gaps. So yesterday, after the spousal unit and I dined on White Castle stuffing for lunch, we went out and applied window insulation's basically double-sided tape and humongous sheets of plastic wrap. Of course, whenever we've had to do this, the BG wind picks up and gives us hell. But now, our place leaks much less. It's a pain, though, and I often wish we could just tent the house with a giant ziplock bag.
  • I am used to my car being against me. I am also used to computers trying to sabotage me by randomly freezing or erasing data. General paranoia has made me immune to most shocks when things go horrifically wrong. However, now my own body is trying to kill me. I have a problem where I get hot really easily. This means that when it hits 75 degrees, I start to sweat. My doctor, after hearing my tale of woe, told me that I have "Heat Intolerance" (neat name, at least), and he gave me a prescription for a super-strength antiperspirant, which is basically a super-concentrated solution of the over-the-counter active ingredient, and it glues up your armpits for a few days. Well, I put on my Thursday night dosage before bed, but when I woke up, my armpits were red, tender, and burning. My body has randomly developed an allergy to the only active ingredient in mass-market antiperspirant. I'm sure friends and family will be thrilled to hear this.

So there you have it, folks. My post-Fall semester has so far been taken up with an armpit allergy, saran wrap windows, and pizza dreams. Exciting stuff, huh? Rest assured that over the break, as I'll be occupied with syllabi planning, writing, and teaching myself video game theory, that there will be more wacky adventures. Bet you can't wait.