Friday, April 20th, 2012

We’re Not Broke is a mess of a documentary. I can’t figure out which one of several stories the film’s makers are trying to tell: Multinational corporations don’t pay income taxes, or; multinational corporations are corrupting politics, or; grass-roots organizations are reigning in the corruption of government by multinational corporations.

I think that last one might have been what they were shooting for, the only trouble with that being, it didn’t happen. Occupy Wall Street hardly makes the news anymore as anything but a mob of homeless people, not that that isn’t important, but is it affecting the back-room machinations of multinational corporations? I have to doubt it, even after watching We’re Not Broke. And the flash-mob US Uncut remains largely unknown to mainstream America even while other flash mobs get a million YouTube hits for singing and dancing in food courts across the country. Make a documentary about why that might be and you’d have an interesting story.

We’re Not Broke had one or two good ideas, the best one starting from the idea in the title. Governments aren’t broke. They’re not businesses; they can’t go broke. They can spend more than they take in, and most of the time they do – I’d love to see a documentary that dissects how they get away with that.

Or, I’d love to watch a documentary spotlighting the political drama queens who planted, nurtured and brought to fruition the whole “We’re broke” meme of right-wing government, with special emphasis on where that meme came from and how it was supported by the mainstream media. We’re Not Broke started off going in that direction, but very soon devolved into a series of talking heads bantering about how dangerous these developments are.

Then it forked off in several different directions, illustrating corporate greed with dancing dollar signs and political corruption with a bass-heavy soundtrack. It was an emotional appeal, where I was hoping to find a well thought-out explanation supported by extensive research. If I wanted to watch an emotional appeal, I could turn on Fox News or MSNBC and get it any time, any day. That’s why I don’t watch television news, and that’s why I wouldn’t recommend a documentary like We’re Not Broke.

We’re Not Broke | 10:31 am CST
Category: entertainment, festivals, music, play, Wisc Film Fest
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Friday, March 30th, 2012

For your listening pleasure this Friday:

start | 6:00 am CST
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Thursday, March 15th, 2012

A pair of invaders from outer space accidentally blow each other’s heads off.

Just kidding. It’s the swing classic, “Sing Sing Sing,” performed on Tesla coils. I get a great big nerd boner from this, while My Darling B thinks it’s perhaps the most annoying thing she’s ever heard.

sing | 6:22 am CST
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Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

I didn’t like Jonathan Coulton the first time I saw him in concert at the Majestic in downtown Madison. There. I said it. It was my dark secret, but now it’s out in the open. Unleash your very worst flames in the comments, I deserve them all.

Paul & Storm opened for him and, after a frenetic hour of their wide-open comedy, Coulton shuffled to the front of the stage with the downcast expression of a teenager dragged to his great-aunt’s 93rd birthday party. He kept doing that between songs and I thought, Well, damn, if he doesn’t want to be here, why did he bother coming?

I didn’t like his fans much, either. They wouldn’t shut up. Every one of them knew every word to every song he played that night and sang along with the kind of reckless abandon you don’t normally find outside a karaoke bar.

By the end of the night, though, I was screaming “ALL I WANNA DO IS EAT YOUR BRAINS!” along with the rest of them, and the next morning My Darling B and I sat on the sofa for an hour or more playing “Skullcrusher Mountain” over and over so we could learn the words. “Code Monkey” too.

Since then, he’s been back to Madison twice, and we have more fun at each concert than we did at the last one, although if I had to rate them I’d have to say I enjoyed his appearance at the Barrymore Theater more than any of the others, partly because we had awesome seats just a dozen or so feet from the stage, but mostly because he played a set of songs that were tweeted to him by fans before the show that turned out to be oddly, coherently wistful and sweet, and he seemed to get really into them. And he ended the set by playing “Birdhouse of Your Soul” instead of “Sweet Caroline.”

I’ve been waiting patiently for new music from Coulton. It came out a little while ago, and I finally downloaded it last weekend, playing it over and over while I puttered away with my toys in the basement. And now I can’t get this song out of my head! DAMN YOU JONATHAN COULTON! (And you, too, John Roderick.) It’s the most wonderful earworm I’ve ever experienced, and Coulton’s new album is just packed with jewels like this!

Well played!

P.S. Just what does “even the suit has teeth” mean, anyway?

toothy | 10:07 pm CST
Category: entertainment, music, play, show | Tags: , ,
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Monday, February 27th, 2012

Just a guy with a ukelele.

Same guy, with a guitar this time. Other guy’s got a uke.

balloon | 6:10 am CST
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Sunday, February 26th, 2012

To give you an idea what’s been going on along the Lost Continent Railway, here’s an overhead shot of the layout. Compare with April 4, 2011.

In my spare time this weekend, between washing clothes and tending to a plumbing emergency, I laid twenty-four feet of track; made templates to build four of the switches in the middle of the layout; made an adjustment to the road bed that ran a little too close to the track below it, preventing dome cars from passing beneath; tried and failed to figure out why I can’t seem to cut track joiners with my Dremel tool without shattering the cutoff wheel, spraying my face with bits of grit and initiating a cloudburst of cussing; conntected temporary electrical jumpers to the longest stretch of track to run a choo-choo train back and forth just for the hell of it; searched high and low for a piece of crossover track that I know I bought a month or two ago, but never did find it; and soldered, soldered, soldered but never once burned my fingers! It’s one for the record books!

All weekend long I’ve had this song stuck in my head:

I’ve been working on the raillll-road all the live-long day.
I’ve been working on the railroad just to pass the time away.
Can’t you hear the whistle blowing? Rise up so early in the morn.
Can’t you hear the captain shouting, “Dinah, blow your horn!”

Dinah, won’t you blow, Dinah, won’t you blow,
Dinah, won’t you blow your hor-roar-roarn!
Dinah, won’t you blow, Dinah, won’t you blow,
Dinah, won’t you blow your horn!

Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah.
Someone’s in the kitchen, I know-woe-woe-woe.
Someone’s in the kitchen with Die-nah!
Strummin’ on the old banjo.

Come, sing it:
Fee fie fiddle dee eye oh
Fee fie fiddle dee eye oh oh oh oh
Fee fie fiddle dee eye oh
Strummin’ on the old banjo.

I love that song. It’s one of the first songs I can remember my mother singing to me (that, and “Mississippi Mud”) when I was just a pup. I suppose it could be her fault that I’m a train nerd.

dinah | 4:26 pm CST
Category: entertainment, hobby, LoCo Rwy, music
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This made me smile:

When he’s not jazzing up the Mario Brothers theme, or recording tunes as Pomplamoose with Nataly Dawn, Jack Conte writes a lot of his own music, an eclectic mix of jazz, pop and I don’t know what else. Very hard to describe, but a lot of fun to listen to. And his not-inconsiderable skills at assembling videos make him a lot of fun to watch, too.

jack | 12:02 pm CST
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Friday, February 3rd, 2012

While tinkering away at something in my basement lair last week, I was listening to swing music on Pandora when I heard the familiar melody of Istanbul not Constantinople, not as I knew it, a pop music celebration on fiddle and accordion by They Might Be Giants, but a swinging saxophone arrangement by Ken MacIntosh.

The first thought that went through my head was, Huh! Sounds like Michael Buble’s going to cover another tune! And then I stole a glance at the computer monitor and realized it wasn’t a recent release, but an arrangement much older than the one recorded by TMBG.

So I googled Istanbul not Constantinople and what the hell! It was written in the 1950s! My world, she is rocked! For more than ten years I’ve been thinking The Two Johns wrote that song! I’ll never be able to listen to them sing it again without wanting to foxtrot to the MacIntosh arrangement.

And then, there’s this from Craig Ferguson. Try to get that out of your head.

istanbul | 10:22 pm CST
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Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

While I was driving around all weekend I listened to more pop music on the radio that I usually do in a whole month. A whole lot more. So much that I exceeded all my quotas and won’t have to listen to pop music again for at least a year, thank goodness. I think I might have sprained my eardrums.

Flipping between stations, I heard the same song three times on a single afternoon. It turned out to be “Faster” by Matt Nathanson, but I didn’t know that the first time because I caught the end of it and was only half listening. All that really sunk into my brain was the chorus, backed up by a guitar riff so jazzy that I couldn’t help but slap the edge of the steering wheel with my fingers as I sang along:

You own me, you own me
You rattle my bones
You turn me over and over
‘Till I can’t control myself
Make me a liar, one big disaster
You make my heart beat faster

A little further down the road I punched up a different station and caught the song from the very beginning. The guitar riff gave it away. I cranked up the volume to see if I could catch the words and it turned out I could, but it also turned out I didn’t really want to:

You’re so delicious
You’re so soft, sweet on the tip of my tongue
You taste like sunlight and strawberry bubble gum

Oh. My. We have a poet here who knows what the sun tastes like. Talk about the best way to put the brakes on an otherwise decent lyric, this one will be included in the how-to: Start off with a terrific hook, like “You’re so delicious,” then set the hook by adding pure sex, like “you’re so soft, sweet on the tip of my tongue.” Finally, yank on the line as hard as you can and totally lose it by making a comparison that absolutely nobody can experience. If you’re going to drag the sun into a song about sex, there’s heat, there’s sweat, there’s nuclear fire erupting volcanically into the sky, but unless you’ve got a tongue ninety-three million miles long and you slather it with ten million SPF sun block, there’s no taste.

But he wasn’t satisfied with that. He had to go all Rod McKuen on us and compare her to strawberry bubble gum, too. How does anybody over the age of eight think a girl would like being compared to a gob of overly-sweet, spit-soaked glop that ends up a black smudge on the sidewalk? Yuck.

Almost forgot: The third time I heard it was when he sang it during a visit to a radio studio. It sounded even clunkier in the live acoustic version.

I liked this song a lot more before I listened to the words.

faster | 9:56 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, music, play, radio, yet another rant
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Sunday, July 17th, 2011

Tuning through radio stations in search of something I could stand to listen to, I came across an oldies station that was playing the kind of dance hall music that reminds me of the ending to The Shining when the camera gets closer and closer to the wall of photographs until it finally zooms in on the one where Jack Torrance is standing in the foreground of a crowd at the Fourth of July Ball. Oh, hell, is it too late for a spoiler alert? Sorry.

I stopped to listen even though I didn’t recognize the song, although that wasn’t unusual as the orchestra was right in the middle of the bridge, which doesn’t usually sound like the rest of the melody. When the bridge was over a singer jumped in with the chorus, the first line of which sounded so much like “Whiskey will make it so” that my hand bolted out to grab the volume knob and give it a twist. The rest of the chorus was about hope and love, beautiful blue skies, yadda yadda yadda, until he finally repeated the first line: “Wishing will make it so.”

Well, dammit. I was kind of pulling for whiskey.

whiskey | 11:51 am CST
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Saturday, June 25th, 2011

I got a sudden jones to hear I Want You Back by the Jackson Five and went to YouTube to find a video, because while listening to the Jackson Five is always a treat, watching them while they’re singing raises the enjoyment level by an order of magnitude.

A quick search of YouTube turned up plenty of pretty low-quality videos that were still lots of fun, but what was almost more enjoyable was finding all the other performers who’ve covered this fun song. The one I had the most fun watching over and over was UK artist KT Tunstall performing live in front of a crowd at Jools Holland’s Hootenanny in 2005.

She begins, after an introduction, by laying down a beat for a digital gadget that records her first slapping the face of her guitar a couple times, then overlaying that with a quick brush of the strings, then a clap and snap of her fingers. With the beat backing her on a loop she rips into the melody, whanging on her guitar like she’s playing for her life. Her voice is rich and smoky, and in this particular recording reminds me an awful lot of Bonnie Raitt. Watching this video, I had to keep reminding myself that she was making all that music all by herself. It’s an amazing performance.

I don’t know KT Tunstall’s work except for Suddenly I See, a song I ran across by chance on Pandora, and meant to follow up on but never did. Her name must have stuck in the depths of my brain cell, though, and when I saw it in the search for I Want You Back I couldn’t help but click on it. Glad I did.

I Want You Back | 6:18 pm CST
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Sunday, June 19th, 2011

Did I mention we went dancing last night? We did. Friday was the night of the annual hangar dance at the airport. Our favorite local swing band, Ladies Must Swing, finagles an empty hangar away from whoever runs the airport, sets up some tables and plays music by Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Count Basie and the like from seven until ten so we can get out there and use our mad dancing skills. Well, not just us, but everybody who shows up. And a lot of people show up. It’s quite a party.

Last year they had the hangar dance at the end of July, but this year they had it a lot earlier in the year because the B-17 that shows up for the show, nicknamed Aluminum Overcast, wouldn’t be passing through town at the usual time, which was pretty lucky for all of us. Last year it when the dance started it was still about ninety degrees out and the sun was shining right into the hangar, turning it into a dutch oven. Then, as evening came, every mosquito in Dane County caught a whiff of all those sweaty bodies and descended on us, leaving the party an hour and a half later with about a hundred gallons of fresh human blood. We should have all come down with West Nile Virus after that, but maybe the heat killed it off, because it never got cool that night. We drank lots of water and beer that night and tried to never stop dancing so the mosquitoes wouldn’t catch up with us.

Last night was much better, as far as the heat and the mosquitoes go. Not nearly so hot, and no bugs at all that I could tell. And the party was just as much fun, with lots of good music and the best dance partner I could find! (That ought to score me a few brownie points, eh?) We didn’t dance every single one of the dances this time around because, first of all, no mosquitoes, and second of all, My Darling B was pooped out from working in her garden all day long. She tried to keep up, but we took several breaks during the first half so she could drink plenty of water, and in the second half of the show she was yawning and rubbing her eyes like a little kid ready for bed. Even so, she managed to stick it out to the very end so we could dance the last dance.

hangar dance | 8:37 pm CST
Category: beer, daily drivel, dance, entertainment, food & drink, music, My Darling B, O'Folks, play | Tags:
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Thursday, May 19th, 2011

It was really pleasant waking up this morning, knowing that I didn’t have to get out of bed right away to jump in the shower and start getting ready for work, then getting out of bed anyway and doing whatever the hell I wanted. I made this ordinary weekend into a hyperextended super-weekend by taking off from work today and tomorrow, using the prorated vacation time I earned but couldn’t touch until I finished my probationary period at the office. Bliss!

And I’m putting it to good use so far, by which I mean I’ve spent the past hour reading web comics and looking at silly pictures on the internet while I drink coffee and listen to cocktail-lounge music on Pandora. I’m shooting for total awesomeness this weekend, and nothing’s going to stop me. Don’t even try.

off | 7:10 am CST
Category: coffee, daily drivel, entertainment, food & drink, music, play, vacation, work | Tags:
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Sunday, May 8th, 2011

A mondegreen for you to ponder today from the song “Jack and Diane” by John Mellencamp, who was then known as either John Cougar Mellencamp, or maybe John Cougar; he was changing his name so often back then that I lost track:

Gonna let it rock, let it roll
Let the Bible Belt come and save my soul
Hold on to sixteen as long as you can
Changes come around real soon, make you swim in a van

I know he’s not really saying that, but it’s all I can hear. In my defense, vans were considered to be the cat’s ass by everyone I knew back when this song was popular. The coolest people drove vans as big as garden sheds, exteriors airbrushed with dreamy Frazetta knock-offs of big-breasted nekkid chicks, insides carpeted wall-to-wall-to-ceiling and back down the other wall. The ones that didn’t have king-sized beds in them had bars or Lay-Z-Boy recliners and, if memory serves, some had hot tubs, none of them big enough to swim in but, still, the seed of the idea had been planted.

When I asked My Darling B to finish this part of the song for me she couldn’t remember it off the top of her head, but right after listening to it on YouTube (there is nothing you can’t find on the internet) she immediately noodled out the correct lyrics, “Changes come around real soon, make you women and men,” which make a lot more sense than mine, although I’m probably going to sing mine until the day I die.

Jack and Diane | 11:56 am CST
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Sunday, April 24th, 2011

While we were waiting in line for the doors to open at the Majestic last night, a car coming up King Street pulled a yooie in the middle of the block, trying to swing into the open parking spot right in front of the theater. It was a small car and had an impressively tight turning radius, but the driver had a little too much confidence that it would be able to squeeze through that turn without hitting the curb. Everyone in line winced and more that a few sucked air in through their teeth when the undercarriage of the car connected with the cement of the curb with a grinding noise that we could feel in our bones. Backing off the curb, the driver slid easily into the parking slot after realigning the wheels and the passengers started to climb a little self-consciously out of the car.

Barely a minute or two later, another compact car did exactly the same thing, only this time everyone was laughing, even the guys who were getting out of the first car, making it extremely awkward for the guys in the second car to even think about getting out. The driver of the first car made it a little easier for them by explaining what had just happened, though.

When the doors finally opened and we got into the theater, we headed straight for the balcony. There is a row of seats on either side of the stage, and we’ve been lucky enough to snag a couple chairs up there every time we’ve seen this show. The luck held last night. Not only that, but the seats right next to the stage were open! Score!

We hadn’t been sitting there more than a couple minutes when who should come visit us at our seats than the guy who got out of the second car. “I wonder if I could ask a favor,” he appealed to me; “My brother and I have seen every Jonathan Coulton concert from these seats …”

I didn’t want to be the one to break this guy’s streak, so we traded seats with him — and ended up with the balcony seats we saw our first Jonathan Coulton concert from. Even more coincidentally: The people sitting next to us were the people sitting there when we saw Coulton the first time and they were the people in the first car that scraped the curb. Small world.

Curb appeal | 4:19 pm CST
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Ears: Still ringing. Voice: Intermittent and hoarse. Smile: Still broad and frequent after last night’s concert at the Majestic with Paul & Storm and Jonathan Coulton.

Paul & Storm did a great set, starting off right this time with “We Are The Opening Band.” They tried mixing it up when they came here once before by opening with another song and didn’t get to “Opening Band” until two or three songs into the set, confusing the hell out of ever fan who came that night. We have never fully recovered, but last night’s concert went a long way toward our hopes for a full rehabilitation someday.

Jonathan Coulton had a back-up band with him last night! So we got to hear lots of old favorites, as well as some new songs, in full rock-out mode. The new songs would have been even more exciting if we’d been able to hear the lyrics … and here I go again into my grumpy old man riff:

Why doe the backing band have to be so goddamned loud? Are there really people who go to a Jonathan Coulton concert who don’t want to hear the words? I find that really hard to believe. Although the music is great, the nerd appeal of the lyrics has to be a huge draw. I snatched a phrase or two out of the cacophony but, for the most part, the new material was completely lost to me. I’ll have to buy the album after it’s released to find out just how great those songs really were. Hmmm, maybe that’s the ploy. Clever, Coulton, very clever.

Not that overblown volume of the concert kept us from enjoying ourselves. My Darling B was dancing in her seat just about the whole concert through, and we had great seats up in the balcony, the same seats we had when we saw this show for the first time, many moons ago. Of all the times I’ve seen them here in Madison I think I liked the show they did at the Barrymore best, but every show has its own pluses and the full-on rock mode of this one added a lot to it.

Full-on | 11:15 am CST
Category: entertainment, music, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, show, yet another rant | Tags: ,
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Sunday, April 17th, 2011

Please, WOLX, please stop playing “The Pina Colada Song.” My generation put that song at the top of the pop song charts so many moons ago, but we never liked that song. We bumped it up the charts by mistake. Haven’t you ever drunk-dialed a request line and asked them to play a song that you knew, even while you were blitzed out of your mind, was so bad it stunk on ice? That’s all we were doing back then. “Hey! Play that song about peeing in a closet! You know, ‘If you like peeing in a closet,’ that one! Whatever! Play it!” It was a joke that’s backfired on us disastrously. How were we to know that, thirty years later, there would be radio stations like yours that would torture us by repeating our drunken pranks over and over, day after day, week after week? Please stop. Please. Whatever they’re paying you, I’ll double it. Just make it stop.

Stop already | 1:08 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, music, play, radio, yet another rant
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Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

13th Annual Wisconsin Film Festival 2011

Our last viewing on Friday night was a collection of short films shown at Monona Terrace:

Blueberry was the story of a small girl, her enormous python and a dad temporarily distracted by a break-up. What could go wrong?

The point of Animal Control was completely lost on me. Honestly, I have no idea what this short was about.

Point Zero had something to do with ever-increasing trade-offs with fate and the ultimate irony. It had a lot of flashy graphics, but I had a lot of trouble following it.

St. Christophorus: Roadkill was not slightly unsettling, it was completely unsettling. It was also very deft at combining fright and funny.

The Legend of Beaver Dam was completely not what I expected. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen such a hilariously campy take-off of a stalker-strikes-the-campsight movie.

Slightly Unsettling Shorts | 11:03 pm CST
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Sunday, January 30th, 2011

On this morning’s broadcast of Says You, host Richard Sher asked the panel which twentieth-century pop song has been played more than any other on the radio. First guess, “White Christmas,” was not bad, but I think maybe it just seems to get more air play than any other song, especially right around the middle of December.

Next, they blew several guesses on Beatles tunes, but they didn’t get anywhere with that and finally had to ask for a hint. When the host told them it was recorded by The Righteous Brothers it didn’t take them long to get the correct answer, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling”, which has been played on the radio 45 million times.

That doesn’t seem right, does it? I’m pretty sure our local oldies station has played “Crocodile Rock” at least 45 million times in the five years I’ve been tuning in. Even if that’s an exaggeration I’ll bet it’s not far off.

My Darling B thinks it’s got to be “Bohemian Rhapsody”, but I say if any song by Queen has a chance of being played more than any other pop song it’s got to be “We Are The Champions”, which is playing in my head right now and won’t stop for at least a week, now that I’ve thought of it.

You Never Close Your Eyes | 1:57 pm CST
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Monday, January 17th, 2011

My earworm for the past friggin week, maybe even longer than that, has been “More, More, More” by The Andrea True Connection. Where the hell did that come from? I didn’t like that song when it was popular, I never had a copy of the single or the album, nobody ever plays it on the radio stations that I listen to, where the hell did that come from? Is it just a random misfire of the brain cell that’s been remembering every single goddam word of the song all these years? Maybe it’s a stroke symptom? Early onset of Alzheimer’s?

Like any good little earworm, it has stubbornly refused to go away no matter how much music of any kind I listen to. I was playing big band and swing music all yesterday afternoon, yet last night I heard Andrea True cooing in my inner ear once again. It will not die.

Sidebar: Although I’m able to remember every single goddam word of the song, not that it’s a huge challenge, I would never in a million years have recalled who recorded it without the amazing power of the interwebs. All I had to do was key in the words to the chorus, and when I did that I learned not only everything I would ever need to know about Andrea True, I also found out the song has been re-recorded by every dance song diva on the UK charts. The Brits just can’t get enough of that song. I wish I could give them the never-ending loop that’s stuck in my head.

More More More | 7:06 am CST
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Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

I have no idea where I was or what I was doing the night I heard John Lennon died. I remember seeing plenty of television news stories with video of people weeping and lighting candles, but when I try to recall the first time I heard about it, I just can’t. It simply didn’t make as big an impression on me as it did on other people.

Actually, I don’t have a lot of associations like that. My memory seems to be association-free. I don’t remember where I was when I heard Reagan was shot, or Ford was shot at. I only remember where I was when I heard about the 9/11 attack because I was in an airplane over Alaska where we were grounded for four days, and I remember that I was at a tech school in Munich when I heard the Challenger blew up because the class wiseass greeted me on the street with, “Hi, Dave! The space shuttle just blew up!”

“Yeah, right,” I said in reply. When I got back to my room the only thing on television, of course, was that video of the explosion, replayed over and over again.

I’m pretty sure I must’ve been in Eau Claire, where I was going to school, when I heard about Lennon, but even with that hint I can’t put myself in place or time. Most of the 80s are a blur to me, anyway. It’s a completely lost memory, as so many are.

Memory-free | 5:59 pm CST
Category: current events, entertainment, music, play, space geekery
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Friday, November 19th, 2010

I stuck my head in Laurie’s cube this afternoon to ask her if she could tell me the name of the tune that was playing on her radio. It turned out to be “Only Prettier” by Miranda Lambert. You’ll have to google that your darned self if you want to hear it. I was going to link to it for your pleasure but every time I tried my computer got snowed under by a blizzard of advertisements. That woman’s got more sponsors than a Nascar driver.

Laurie asked me if I was going to look up the words, and I, being the smartass that I am, said I shouldn’t really have to by this time because they played it three times a day on the station she listened to. “You can hear that from your desk?” she said, not quite believing me until she came and stood by my chair. Yes, I can hear her radio. The angle of the walls of her cubicle are just right to focus the sound of her radio across the aisle at my desk. I can’t quite hear every word, but I can recognize every song when it comes on, and if they don’t play “Only Prettier” at least three times a day on whatever station it is Laurie listens to, I’ll eat my cowboy hat (a safe bet – I don’t have one).

To her credit, Laurie offered to turn her radio down and I had to beg her not to. I asked her only because I wanted to look up the words when I got home.

Pretty Good | 8:52 pm CST
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Saturday, November 6th, 2010

Today’s weekly visit to the thrift store at St. Vincent de Paul’s turned up four fabulous LPs, and don’t even ask me what an LP is because I’ll only give you a look that would freeze you solid where you stand, you heathen.

It’s not easy to find an LP worth taking home from the thrift store, not because they don’t have any but because the bins are chock full of the cast-off tripe of pop culture, particularly from the 1980s: Multiple copies of Rick Springfield, Barbara Streisand, Asia, Sheena Easton. Sheena Easton! If I ever had any Sheena Easton albums, and I’m not admitting that I did, this is purely hypothetical, I’d turn them into salad bowls before I gave evidence like that to a thrift store.

And there were copies of stuff that wasn’t tripe, but made searching for nuggets of gold that much harder. I ran across dozens and dozens of Linda Ronstadt albums. Just how phenomenally successful was she, anyway? I seem to recall that, just as she hit the big time, she quit pop music to sing opera or something else as diametrically opposed to pop anybody could possibly get. She must’ve had a longer pop career than the one I remember, though, because I found albums I’d never seen before.

Every single one of the bins had at least one copy of the soundtrack to The King and I in, too. There’s another musical phenomenon I never had an inkling of.

To make the searching easier, I found a bin that wasn’t so filled with albums that I couldn’t flip through them, then pulled a handful from the next bin, jammed it into the one I’d just picked through, and kept on flipping. I had lots of time while My Darling B was doing the grocery shopping and, after that, when she went to browse the shelves at the kitchen gadget store. She could spend all day at the kitchen gadget store if I didn’t go in there to get her.

So what did I come away with?

A flawless copy of an Ink Spots ‘best of’ selection, and I mean flawless, no fingerprints, no scratches. I can now enjoy I Don’t Want To Set The World On FIre without having to wait for it to come around on my Pandora channel. (I can’t use Pandora now without thinking of blue cartoon people. Thanks a lot, James Cameron.)

The first Dire Straits album, again in excellent condition. Dire Straits is the shiznit. I feel awful for not buying more of their albums back in the day, like maybe I could have kept them together longer if I’d just given them the support they needed by buying more when it counted. So, to assuage my guilt, I pathetically snapped up a copy of this album from the used records bin. It’s way cool. Also, Douglas Adams was their biggest fan, and anything that reminds me of Douglas Adams makes me smile.

Carol King’s Tapestry. I must be the only person born in the 60s who has never owned a copy of Tapestry. Maybe that’s why I’ve always felt inadequate.

The fourth album was by Joan Armatrading, who I’m entirely unfamiliar with except for just one song, The Weakness In Me that I’ve liked a lot ever since I heard it in the movie Ten Things I Hate About You. I started to listen to the album this evening but it turned out I wasn’t in the mood for it, so I swapped it out for Dire Straits and vowed to get back to it later.

Off the record | 6:26 pm CST
Category: entertainment, movies, music, My Darling B, O'Folks, play
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Thursday, November 4th, 2010

It’s guy night and I said I was feeling like having runny eggs on something, so My Darling B and I stopped at the co-op on the way home to pick up some bacon and I served all that on a plate with a side of toast and called it dinner. B loved it anyway. How lucky can a guy be?

That’s all I got. Let’s hear what Leo’s got.

Guy Night | 10:07 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, food & drink, Guy Night, music, My Darling B, O'Folks, play | Tags: ,
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Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

Thank goodness there are still people like Leon Redbone and Leo Kottke in the world. They can make me forget about all the crap going on in what is laughably called reality, and they do this by the simple act of playing their guitars, singing a few songs and telling some jokes. For three whole hours, it completely slipped my mind the world’s going to hell in a handcart. That kind of talent is almost indistinguishable from magic.

The first I heard they were coming to town was about two weeks ago, and thank goodness I read The Isthmus every week or I might have missed them. I don’t think they spend a lot on publicity. There might have been posters in a few stores around town, but other than that the one-column ad in Isthmus and their names on the marquee of the Barrymore Theater were all the warning we got.

When they came to town about two years ago and I mentioned to my Mom that I’d seen them she sounded pretty jealous, so this time around I gave her a heads-up and asked her if she wanted me to pick up a ticket for her. She was so pumped to see the show she drove three hours in a blinding snowstorm, navigating by sticking her head out the window so she wouldn’t lose sight of the car in front of her. Kidding. But she was pretty jazzed about seeing the show.

We had dinner at Monty’s Blue Plate Diner across the street from the theater, then ambled on over about twenty minutes before the show was scheduled to start to find some seats and settle in. Leon Redbone opened the show, Leo Kottke finished up, and they were both amazingly fun to listen to, as if that were ever in question.

Redbone and Kottke | 6:15 pm CST
Category: entertainment, music, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, restaurants, show | Tags: , ,
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Saturday, August 7th, 2010

image of book shelves

I don’t know how many books we have. I wouldn’t be able to give you even a ball park figure. Could be hundreds, could be thousands, I have no way of knowing, because most of them are doubled up in the garage-sale book shelves we’ve collected over the years, and a significant number are still crammed into boxes, waiting for the day of liberation when we have enough shelf space to bring them out in the open air. It could happen. Not sure when; I’m a little vague on the details of that, too.

Although I planned to knock together a proper book case to stash some of the books in, I got to thinking, as I was looking over the lumber on sale at the local do-it-yourself store, that I could rig up something more like a multi-media organization and display center than a piddling book case. Besides needing a place to set our books, I also need shelf space for my ever-growing neato typewriter collection, as well as a rack to hold the stereo components I’ve cobbled together and a nearby shelf for the LP phono albums I keep finding at the thrift store. Aaron Copeland’s Grand Canyon Suite for a buck! Nat King Cole’s Greatest hits for a buck and a quarter! I couldn’t leave them there, could I?

Obviously all these considerations called for a shelving system, nay, a structure that would be a bit more suitable to the various needs of each different tenant. Connecting all the wires of the stereo components in a typical book case, for instance, sucks. You can’t get at the back of the components, which are all in the dark, unless you give each component a quarter-turn that leaves half of it hanging over the edge of the shelf, so you have to nervously hang on to it while you’re plugging things in. Then you have to try to quarter-turn it back while simultaneously tucking all those wires in. And that’s if you’re lucky enough to be able to fit all the components into a single shelf. When you have to poke holes through the back of the book case and run wires from one shelf to another, you might as well do a couple shots before you even begin and just keep drinking to dull the pain.

A mere book case, being just eight to ten inches deep, won’t hold a typewriter, either. I’d need a shelf at least sixteen inches deep, and made of wood stout enough to bear the thirty-pound weight of a 1929 Underwood upright. Particle board doesn’t cut it for a job like that.

With all these considerations running through my head, I selected a car load of lumber that might have given the impression I was remodeling a closet rather than building a place to keep our books and record collection: a heap of three-quarter inch plywood and two by four studs that came to a grand total of forty-six bucks, much less than the eighty or so I would have needed to build a proper book case. I was well chuffed about that.

Assembly took all freaking day. It wasn’t hard, it’s just that I wanted to take my time and make sure it got done right the first time. After clamping all the two by fours together I carefully measured out the grooves that would hold the shelves, then cut them out with a router, one-quarter inch on each pass. Took two hours, much longer than I thought it would, but that’s largely because I don’t use a router much so the widest blade I have is a quarter-incher. When I go shopping for more lumber next week I’m going to see if there isn’t a router blade that will hack out a three-quarter inch dado on one pass. There has to be, right? If there isn’t, don’t tell me.

Hacking the plywood into shelf-sized pieces took only twenty minutes or so because I have a table saw and it’s awesome. I’m literally awed by it, and maybe just a little scared yet. I still count my fingers after each pass, for instance, but that doesn’t make any less awesome.

Then came assembly. I hadn’t quite worked out how I was going to do this. Most of it ended up coming together on a wing and a prayer.

The first set of uprights, on the far left, was easy: Using a beam level I made sure they were straight up and down, and then I fixed them in place.

The second set of uprights, in the middle, was a little harder. In theory I knew exactly how far they should have been from the first uprights and should have been able to place them using a tape measure and a plumb bob. I don’t have a plumb bob, so I cobbled it together by sticking the top shelf and the bottom shelf into the slots on the first uprights, slapping the second pair of uprights against them, and screwing things together to see if that would work. For some reason that I’m not completely aware of, it did. The rest of the shelves slid into place deceptively easy and I was inordinately pleased with myself. That was the calm before the storm.

I tried to put the third pair of uprights, on the right-hand side, in place using the same method. The moment I stepped back to it up, everything fell apart. I tried again and got a little further along, but it fell apart again. When I finally got the top and bottom shelf fixed in place between the uprights, I could clearly see they were leaning forward further than a drunk taking a leak at a urinal. I took everything apart, lined it up again and, while I was fitting the bottom shelf into place, the top shelf fell out and tried to give me a concussion.

Eventually I worked out a sequence that would let me put all the shelves in the slots except one. I tried every way I could think of to get that sucker in there, even shaved the edge down a bit with a chisel, and it came really close to sliding into place where it should have gone … right before everything fell apart again.

At that point I should have started drinking vodka from a beer bong, but I had to shower and pick up My Darling B from work.

After supper it all went together rather easily. I don’t know what I did differently. I guess because I’d had that chance to walk away and not think about it for a while, my head was clear enough to get through the sequence without making mistakes. Not that I recall making mistakes before that, I just seemed to be having rotten luck lining everything up. It all went so much more smoothly after supper, though, that it was almost magical.

If I can find the time to put a few more of these together I’ll not only have a place to put all the books, we may also finally know the answer to the question Just how many books do we have in our possession?

Shelf-Improvement | 9:20 pm CST
Category: books, entertainment, music, Our Humble O'Bode, play | Tags: , ,
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Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Ricky Lee Jones concert announcementOMG! OMG! OMG! Rickie Lee Jones is coming to town in February! OOOOgah! OOOOOgah!

I’m gonna go get tickets TOMORROW! Do not wanna miss Rickie Lee Jones!

Only thing is: She’s coming to the Barrymore. That could be a problem. The Barrymore has famously fucked up the sound when some of my favorite performers have appeared in town, most notably Susanne Vega. They didn’t do Zooey Deschanel any favors, either.

On the other hand, the night we saw Leon Redbone and Leo Kottke at the Barrymore was one of the most memorable performances I’ve ever attended. And they did a pretty decent job putting in JoCo with Paul & Storm … so this could turn out okay.

RLJ | 9:00 am CST
Category: entertainment, music, play
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Wednesday, November 7th, 2001

Remember how I’ve complained for years that my brain, against all reason, has squandered valuable memory neurons, or whatever they’re called, storing all the words and melody to the theme song from Gilligan’s Island? Well, guess what? I’m finally putting it to some good use.

Who hasn’t had a noxious pop tune stuck in their head? I used to play a game with Cal Thomas, a fellow I worked with, whenever this happened to me. I’d wander into the office, up to Cal’s desk, and say, “Got a tune stuck in my head.” He’d roll his eyes, knowing I wouldn’t go away until he asked, “Okay, go ahead and do it.” Then I’d hum or sing the first few bars of a tune he usually knew, and he’d pick it up at the next verse.

I’d heard this trick worked for one of Pete’s coworkers, and it worked for me, too. But I don’t have Cal to pass my tunes to any more, and B will cause me violent physical harm if I try that trick on her, so for years I’ve had to suffer this maddening mental malady on my own, and it’s gotten worse in recent years as pop music becomes more and more gut-wrenchingly awful.

During a recent bout of a particularly annoying rap “song,” though, I learned a new valuable trick: Whenever the offending tune started playing, I thought of the Gilligan’s Island theme, and discovered that my brain couldn’t play two tunes at once. After a while, I realized that I didn’t have to make the conscious decision to switch to Gilligan’s Island; it started all by itself to replace the annoying pop tune. Now I can train myself to start playing Gilligan’s Island to replace almost any annoying tune. The downside is, of course, that I have to listen to the theme from Gilligan’s Island for a while; sometimes I train my brain to play The Stars And Stripes Forever instead, just so I don’t end up a stark raving lunatic.

[Jeff Dominick replied:] It’s a little late to be concerned about that, my friend. If it helps, I also suffer from that same malady of getting songs stuck in my head. Believe it or not, the one that ends up there most often is God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. Not the words, mind ya, just the tune. I hate that song, I’m an atheist, and I really don’t like Christmas, so why that particular song??


earworm poison | 5:54 am CST
Category: daily drivel, music
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