Sunday, March 24th, 2013

We got all kindsa kulcha today.

About a month ago, My Darling B asked me if I wanted to go to the opera. It’s not something she asks me very often – like, never – so I said yes. I couldn’t think of anything else to say. She caught me unprepared.

But that turned out to be a good thing. The show she got tickets for was The Real Divas of Dane County, a reality show/opera mash-up. I’m only passingly familiar with the “Real Housewives” television show, and the only opera I know is what I heard watching Bugs Bunny, but I think they did a fair job.

We got there way too early, though. The last time we went into town for a show at the Overture Center there were huge crowds milling around in the lobby for three different shows and we had one hell of a time grabbing our tickets from the will-call window in time to get to our show. We didn’t want to cut it as fine this time so we left an hour before show time, only to get there and find no other shows going on and virtually nobody in the lobby. After picking up our tickets, we had forty minutes to kill before the show.

So we headed up State Street to see if we could find an open bar where we could sit and sip a cocktail before the show, and it turned out we could: The Fountain had plenty of empty bar stools and a bartender who was more than willing to mix a couple drinks for us. He had an interesting way of mixing a martini: After he chilled the glass with ice water, he poured just a bit of vermouth into the glass, swirled it around enough to coat the insides, dumped the excess down the drain, then filled it up with gin. My dad would’ve loved that, both for the theater of it and the resulting delicious martini.

When we told him we were in town to see a show, he let us know that there would be a big band playing in the upstairs bar later and invited us to stop by if we were staying in town. We hadn’t planned on it, but figured what the hell, we can do things spontaneously once in a while, and came back.

Good thing we did, because The Fountain Big Band is fantastic! If I counted right, there were five sax players, five trombone players, three trumpet players, a piano player, a drummer, a guitar player and a bass player, all jammed into a back corner of a very intimate venue. They all seemed to be professional musicians or professors of music from all over the state, and a few from out of state. They get together at the Fountain on the last Sunday of each month and, without any kind of rehearsal, belt out some of the foot-tappingest big-band music I’ve heard. We enjoyed it so much that we stayed for both the first and last set. And to think we wouldn’t have even heard of it if we hadn’t been too early for the opera.

kulcha | 9:56 pm CST
Category: booze, entertainment, food & drink, music, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, restaurants, show | Tags: ,
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Sunday, March 10th, 2013

My Darling B took me to see The Gershwin Songbook at the Overture Center today. Other than a lot of songs by George and Ira, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. The show was produced by an acting troupe called Four Seasons Theatre and the advertising didn’t make it clear whether they were going to just sing, put on a play or what.

When we got there, the stage was set with a piano, a drum set and a few other instruments for a quartet that came out shortly to provide the music. The whole troupe came out to sing Strike Up The Band as an introduction, then each person in the troupe took turns singing about two-dozen Gershwin tunes. One of the three founding members of the troupe stepped out from time to time to provide a little color commentary, most of it stuff that I’d never heard before. I didn’t know, for instance, that George Gershwin died so young.

And that was about it: simple and fun. We recognized quite a lot of the tunes but were surprised in the end at how many we had never heard before. B and I are both Gershwin fans and yet somehow neither of us had ever heard of songs like Blah Blah Blah or Vodka before this, making us both feel like Gershwin newbies.

The highlight of the evening for me was when a pair of singers made a guest appearance on stage to perform several numbers from Porgy and Bess. Ariana Douglas opened with a mournful rendition of Summertime, then stepped away while Gregory Brumfield sang a spirited I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin. Then together they sang a version of Bess, You Is My Woman Now that got me all misty-eyed. It’s one of my very favorite love songs, after all, and I’d never seen it performed. That was worth the price of admission all by itself.

Gershwin | 6:38 am CST
Category: entertainment, music, My Darling B, O'Folks, play
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Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

song stuck in my head“I got a song stuck in my head,” My Darling B said the other day.

“Yeah, me too,” I said. “You tell me yours and I’ll tell you mine.”

She chuckled at that. “Really?”

“It’ll be okay,” I assured her. “Mine is one you like.”

“Okay,” she said, sounding rather unsure, “if you say so,” and then she started humming Oh, What A Night, arguably the worst pop song ever conceived by the English-speaking people.

“That’s pretty awful,” I said, once she’d unloaded that particularly ugly bit of mental baggage. “Here’s mine, then – ” I started to sing Think Of Me from “Phantom Of The Opera.” She joined in at about the third or fourth word and we howled the rest of it together.

Earworms: Sometimes you just gotta dig them out and strangle the shit out of them or they’ll ruin your whole day.

earworm | 7:43 am CST
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Saturday, February 9th, 2013

I like cows. Who doesn’t? Stupid people, that’s who.

i like cows | 9:18 am CST
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Monday, January 7th, 2013

Strap a GoPro camera on your trombone slide and serenade me.

dizzy | 6:19 am CST
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Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Alas Dave Brubeck | 9:00 pm CST
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Saturday, December 1st, 2012

Your devoted drivelmeister was out way past his bed time last night, boys and girls, and he brings back reports of a rich chocolate treat that is the talk of the town. A brownie, I believe. Or it may have been a goulash. I know a rich chocolate goulash sounds a bit unconventional, so maybe I heard that wrong. I’m a devoted drivelmeister, but I don’t always get the story one hundred percent accurate. This is drivel, after all.

The evening started out at the Cardinal Bar in downtown Madison, where the local band Beat Road Blues was the featured musical entertainment. My Darling B’s coworker, Adam, plays in the band and she’s sort of a groupie, I guess you might say. When he plays in town we usually stop by to give a listen, and last night we even talked Kris and Bryan, a couple of friends into meeting us at the Cardinal for drinks and snacks.

More than a few of B’s coworkers at the DMV turned out to see the band, too, and quite a few stopped by our table to say hi to B who, being in Happy Friday mode, made introductions all around. One of the first to stop by was Michael, who shook my hand and informed me that my wife was “a treat.” I think he meant a treat to have around, or a treat to work with, something like that, but the way he said it, it sort of sounded like he thought she was a glazed pastry, or a candy wrapped in foil. I think he realized almost right away that the compliment didn’t come out exactly the way he wanted it to, because he added, “Like a rich, tasty brownie.”

I didn’t know how to respond to that, so I did what I usually do in that case, which is laugh and wait for somebody else to say something. I’m not very gifted socially.

“Okay, I’ll shut up now,” he said.

When Jim, another one of B’s friends from work stopped by to say hi, we asked him what food B reminded him of. “Seriously?” he asked. And of course at that point we weren’t serious at all, but we wanted an answer anyway. “Okay, I think she like a goulash,” he said, “because it has so much variety.” That’s My Darling B: She’s a tasty chocolate treat! She’s a goulash!

She’s a dancing fool! Jim took B out on the dance floor for the band’s final number, “Mustang Sally,” and they cut a rug, maybe even two rugs. Watching from the sidelines, I can say with confidence that all those dance lessons we took paid off for her that night.

When the band began to pack up we left the Cardinal to head up the street half a block to Plaka Taverna to get a bite to eat. None of us had eaten anything besides the chips they were serving at the Cardinal so we were feeling a little hungry, and Plaka serves the most delicious Greek food: kababs and pitas with hummus and rice wrapped in grape leaves, and you can get combo platters that are perfect for satisfying a growling tummy. The place was crazy busy but we got the last available table and even though the waitress was running her legs off, she was game enough to play along when Kris asked her what food she thought of when she looked at B. “A chewy chocolate-chip cookie?” she guessed. Good answer, because who wouldn’t want to be compared to a chocolate chip cookie?

We weren’t quite ready to go home after we finished noshing at Plaka’s, so we walked back down the block to the Come Back Inn to order a final round and swap a few more stories and bad jokes. Our waitress talked me into ordering a foamy mug of O’Shae’s Irish Stout, and I mention that only to give you a very important heads-up about O’Shae’s Irish Stout: Whatever you do with it, don’t put it in your mouth! If that stuff is real Irish stout from Ireland, then the Irish are pawning their cheapest stuff off on the American market. I’d rather drink Budweiser, and I think you know how I feel about that bilge water.

We had a pretty good time at Come Back Inn, especially the girls. I don’t know what was in their beer but it sure made them giggly. (Okay, I guess the usual stuff in beer would make them do that.) Spoken conversation became impossible after the band started playing in the next room so they started spelling out words in the air with their fingers, and that turned into a game of chrarades, and THEN the giggling got really intense! When their back-and-forth became nothing at all but giggling Bryan and I cut them off and took them home to tuck them in bed.

Up All Night | 9:49 am CST
Category: beer, daily drivel, entertainment, food & drink, music, My Darling B, O'Folks, O'Folks friends, restaurants | Tags: ,
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Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

This one’s for t-dawg:


pie hole | 9:19 pm CST
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Thursday, October 25th, 2012

If you can hear a whole brass section going DUNNNH DUH-DUH-DUH-DUNNNH! as you gaze at this cinegraph, you must have wasted at least as much of your youth watching Star Trek as I did.

music to my ears | 6:33 pm CST
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Monday, October 22nd, 2012

image of Art Smart's Dart Mart in Milwaukee WIWe went to Milwaukee to see a taping of one of our favorite radio shows, Says You! and then we almost didn’t make it to the show! It was an evening taping but we left Madison in the morning and got to Milwaukee around noon so we could have a wander around town. Then we went back to our room to clean up and catch a short nap. When we were ready to go, I called for a taxi to pick us up.

The driver called me from the curb outside the door of the inn when he got there and I very nearly didn’t answer because he had a New York phone number, so I assumed he was a telemarketer. I only decided to pick up so I could mess with him.

“Yessss?” I answered.


That old dodge: Using my first name to get me to stay on the line. “Yessss?”

Pause. “Did you call a cab?”

“Oh! Yes, yes I did! Hang on, we’ll be right down!”

Then, as we stepped out the elevator into the lobby, a couple dressed to nines were looking out the window and saying something like, “I don’t know how he got here so quickly. Maybe it’s not ours.” But they went out anyway and stopped short of getting into the cab when we followed them as closely as a shadow all the way to the curb.

“Did you call a cab, too?” the woman asked me.

“Yes, I did,” I answered as My Darling B stuck her head in the door to make sure it was, in fact, our cab. It was. As I climbed in, B asked the driver to take us to the Helen Bader Theater on the UW-Milwaukee Campus, and then gave him the address: 2419 E. Kenwood Boulevard. “Right, right,” he said, and sped us to a faraway neighborhood of the city.

Let me just interrupt here to remind the reader that the only times we’ve been to Milwaukee before this have been on guided tours, or to pick someone up from the airport. We don’t know any of the streets or neighborhoods, but we assumed our driver did, and when he said, “Right, right,” and nodded, I don’t think we went out on a limb when we assumed he knew exactly where the Helen Bader theater was. Certainly, we expected him to know where the campus of the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee was.

So when he dropped us off at the intersection of what looked like a shopping district, we didn’t say, “Where the hell are we?” We assumed he’d dropped us off maybe around the corner from the theater and we only had to walk to the corner and we’d see it. Call me foolishly naive, I deserve it. When we walked down to the corner to get our bearings, though, we discovered that the driver had dropped us off on Kenilworth Street, not Kenwood Boulevard! I ran back to the taxi with B yelling, “Stop him! Stop him!” behind me. Thank dog it took him so long to get his dispatcher on the phone.

On the upside, he didn’t charge us for the ride to the correct address, and we got there in plenty of time.

I was trying to describe Says You! to a friend the other day and rather ironically found myself at a loss for words. Ironic, because Says You! is, as the show’s host, Richard Sher, describes it, a game of words played by two teams. It’s alrways played in five rounds, each with its own peculiar quirk. They played one of my favorite rounds last night, a game I can play without making my brain explode. Richard Sher gives the name of an actor and asks a panelist to guess the movie he’s thinking of. It’s usually an almost unknown actor in a supporting role. With just one name, the guess is at best wild, of course, although sometimes they actually get it on the first try. If so, ten points! If not, another actor’s name gets added to the list, this one a little more well-known than the first.

With the choices narrowed down a bit it’s not a coin toss any more, but still just barely an educated guess. Sometimes Richard will go with the most popular movie featuring the actors in question, sometimes the most recent, but sometimes he’ll go for the obscure title. You never know. The last name added to the list is a giveaway, the name of whoever got star billing, and when it gets that far its announcement is followed by a lot of facepalming and oh-I-shoulda-got-that groaning.

Two of the rounds are Bluffing Rounds: the host gives one team a word so obscure that it sounds as though he made it up on the spot. The words they used the other night, for instance, were “callithump” and “corf.” Don’t ask me what they mean; I forgot already. Each of the team members gets a card, but only one of the cards has the definition of the word on it; the other two cards say, “Please Bluff.” Those two team members try to make up a definition that sounds plausible enough to fool the other team into picking one of the made-up definitions.

There’s always a musical guest to play a song during the introductions, and to provide a musical interlude during the bluffing rounds, to give the panelists enough time to come up with a good bluff. The musical guest was probably the most delightful surprise of the evening: they were The Squeezettes, the power-polka band we just happened to see last month at the Monroe Cheese Fest. I described them then as an all-girl accordion band but there was a guy drumming and another guy playing a sousaphone, so obviously I wasn’t paying close attention. And although there are three women playing accordion, calling them an all-girl accordion band doesn’t do them justice. They describe their style as “power polka,” which comes much closer to capturing the feel of their art. Have you ever thought of “Wooly Booly” as a polka? Me, neither, but to hear them belt it out is to experience a whole new level of polka that I frankly wouldn’t have thought possible. I didn’t hesitate to buy a CD from the guy selling them in the lobby.

There was just one thing, and I mean only one thing, I would have changed about the evening: If I’d known the six people behind us were going to jabber and shout through the whole performance, I would’ve eaten a brick of cheese right before we were ushered in. I’ll have to keep one in my man purse from now on for emergencies.

How to see Milwaukee on just $500 a day – Part 2 | 8:59 pm CST
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Friday, October 19th, 2012

I wish I knew some guys I could run in slow motion with.

Permanent Revolution | 5:40 am CST
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Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Stuck in my head all day:

Call Me Maybe | 9:14 pm CST
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Sunday, September 16th, 2012

image of trunk full of goodwill donationsWe paid a visit to the Monroe Cheese Fest yesterday, which, if they were honest, they would call the Monroe Standing In Lines Fest. Ten thousand people crowded the city square of Monroe, so there were lines for everything. There were even lines to get in lines. I’m not kidding. To buy cheese curds, or cheesecake on a stick, or a beer – anything – we had to stand in a line to buy tickets for it first. I didn’t find a vendor anywhere that would take my money in exchange for something deep-fried, or cool and refreshing. I should’ve pulled the race card on them. “Oh, I get it: No tickee, no beer, eh? What kind of racist organization is this, anyway?”

Of course, each vendor had their own tickets. We couldn’t buy a whole fistful of tickets, then redeem them anywhere we wanted. Beer tickets would not buy cheese curds, for instance. Luckily for our thirsty selves, the New Glarus beer tent had a crack staff that kept the lines moving pretty fast. I was okay with the tickets-for-beer crap so long as I had a cold cup of beer in my hand.

We were invited to the cheese fest by a couple we know, Bryan and Kris. Bryan grew up in Monroe, so he knew it like the back of his hand and could tell stories about every building in town. He knew, for instance, that we wouldn’t be able to park anywhere near the courthouse square. Taking his advice, we parked on the edge of town and rode in on one of the buses the festival organizers chartered to bring people into town. Bryan suggested we meet in front of Baumgartner’s, a tavern Bryan said anybody would be able to point us toward if we couldn’t find it. Good idea, but as it turned out, we didn’t have to ask. The bus dropped us off right behind Baumgartner’s, so we were right where we wanted to be almost as soon as we stepped off the bus.

Our timing was perfect. Bryan phoned My Darling B just minutes after we arrived and left a voice message for her, saying he was in front of Baumgartner’s waiting for us, but after scanning the twenty or so faces of the people standing outside Baumgartner’s, we were pretty sure he was pulling a Candid Camera stunt on us. “If you’re in front of Baumgartner’s, then you must be cloaked,” I texted to him. I tried calling, but the cumulative weight of ten thousand cell phone users must’ve been overwhelming the one tired cell phone tower near the center of this normally-sleepy berg, because I never connected with him no matter how many times I tried to dial his number, even while he was leaving me more voice messages.

We hooked up eventually. He and Kris were standing on the other side of the road, near the beer tent. How fortuitous. After grabbing a cold one, we set off to tour the vendors set up around the square. That’s when we found out there were an infinite number of lines waiting for tickets, food, tickets, and beer. When we were almost all the way around the square, Bryan volunteered to wait in line for tickets to buy some cheese curds if we would go on to the beer tent and have a freshly-pulled cold beer waiting for him when he caught up with us. We agreed, and on we went.

I caught only the outlines of this plan, however, because while we were working them out I overheard the familiar strains of La Vie En Rose, played by all-girl accordion band, The Squeezettes. I had never been prepared for a version of La Vie En Rose scored for four women on accordions. I’m more accustomed to versions like the one sung by Edith Piaf, although Louis Armstrong can turn out a pretty good rendition, too. Overcome by the, ah, unique rendition by the Squeezettes, I lost track of what was going on around me and almost didn’t notice when the rest of the group moved on to the beer tent.

We ended up at the corner where we started, just as my Auntie Sue and Uncle Jim arrived. There was much hugging and hellos, followed by a trip to the beer tent to make sure everyone had a cool, refreshing drink before we went on to the next thing. The Next Thing was supposed to be listening to a blues band at the stage behind the brewery, but unfortunately it turned out that they were scheduled to appear much later in the day than we thought they were, so we made our way back up to the square and, on the way, happened to meet some people we knew. There was much more hugging and hellos, more cool libations from the beer tent, and shortly afterward we found ourselves in the shade of the buildings along the side of the square, where we passed the rest of the afternoon, shooting the shit while polka bands played old pop tunes. And it was not at all bad way to pass the time, I might add.

We made one side trip to see what the tour of the distillery was like. I have to say that I was disappointed. It wasn’t much of a tour. They herded us into a room, showed us a brief Power Point slide show summarizing the history of the Minhaus Brewery, poured a few drinks, and that was it. There wasn’t even a distillery to look at. They had a mega-still installed in the room, but it looked like it wasn’t hooked up to anything and, if I heard them right, it hadn’t ever been fired up. It was a virgin still. Maybe the tour will be a bit more interesting after they’ve actually distilled something and have a few good stories to share. Couldn’t say.

We packed up and headed out of town kind of early because standing around all day in the sun sipping beer made me a little sleepy. I wanted to get back before it got dark.

Monroe Waiting In Line Festival | 8:55 pm CST
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Monday, June 25th, 2012

The song stuck in my head this morning is Oh What A Night.

I have never liked this song. Never. I loathed it the first time I heard it. Loathed. “Hate” is too weak a word to describe my feelings toward this song. Only loathed comes close.

It’s not that there’s nothing redeeming about the song. The tune is really very catchy, and I rather like the vocals. It’s the words I can’t stand. If Elton John had sung it instead of The Four Seasons so I couldn’t understand any of the words no matter how much I wanted to, my feelings toward it would be a lot different. I’d probably like it, maybe even try to sing along. That will never happen, though, because I can hear all of the words. Every. Single. One.

Tim liked the song until I told him what the words were. That night I not only ruined a song for him, I planted in him the same revulsion that I feel for it. He probably even wants to blow his brains out with a bazooka, just like I do, when it gets stuck on a loop in his head.

Oh, what a night! Late December, back in sixty-three
Got a girl to give it up for me
Boinked her brains out, what a night

You know I didn’t even know her name
Who knew the best sex is anonymous?
Pegged her legless, what a night

I felt a rush and a rolling ball of thunder
This part about his orgasm makes me want to chunder
What a night!

When I read that the musical Jersey Boys was coming to Madison this fall, I was going to talk My Darling B into taking me until I heard an advertisement for it on the radio that featured Oh What A Night. Thinking about it now, I don’t know how I expected they wouldn’t include that craptaculous song. I guess I was just hopeful. Too bad. There’s a show I’ll never see.

craptaculous | 8:01 am CST
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, music, play, show, yet another rant | Tags:
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Sunday, May 13th, 2012

Singing along with Manfred Man’s version of Blinded By The Light on the way home from the hardware store:

She was blinded by the light
Wreck up like a douche under the rover of the night
Blinded by the light
Wreck up like a douche under the rover of the night

Some silicone sister with a man of Jemister
Told me I got what it takes
She said, “I’ll turn you all son into something strong
With a teenage coffee break.”

What? That’s not how you sing it?

This is one of the few pop-culture mysteries I haven’t tried to solve by looking it up on the internet. I looked up the words to songs like Elton John’s Bennie and the Jets because I never heard anything that sounded like words in the first place, except for the title. And I looked up the words to songs like Paul Simon’s All Around The World because we just had to know if he was really saying “Well the lights go up and the lights go down, Elvis is a watermelon” (he wasn’t – it was “ever since the watermelon,” of course).

But I’ll never look up the words to Blinded By The Light because the words I learned are the words I want to stay with me the rest of my life. I mean, if “calliope crashed to the ground” isn’t in there, I don’t want to know it. That’s one of the most awesome mental pictures ever.

(No, I have no idea what a man of Jemister would be. Somebody from a very exotic country, possibly in the middle east, or perhaps he works for a mysterious government agency.)

blinded | 10:57 am CST
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Saturday, April 28th, 2012

As I was scanning the headlines on NPR’s web site, my eyes flitted across a headline that turned the crank on my admittedly already-cranky disposition: Blowin’ In The Wind Still Asks The Hard Questions.” Heavy sigh. Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say something like, “Blowin’ In The Wind Asks Needlessly Cryptic Questions That Are Still Confused With Deep, Spiritual Meaning?”

I never got Blowin’ In The Wind. I could see that practically everybody else in the world felt it had the moral, ethical and philosophical qualities of the sermon on the mount, but to me it has always been nothing more than a lot of nonsense questions, strung together and sung to a repetitively simple tune that bored me silly.

I didn’t come to this conclusion quickly. Blowin’ In The Wind was once considered so spiritually significant that the Catholic congregation our family was part of back in the 70s sang it every Sunday during guitar mass, so aside from hearing it overplayed on the radio, I had to sing every line of it once a week in church, as if it were a prayer. Even with all that time to think about it, none of the supposedly deep, inner meaning of Blowin’ In The Wind has ever revealed itself to me.

This is a little maddening because I genuinely like Bob Dylan’s music, an appreciation I got from my Dad, who added quite a few Dylan recordings to the pile of 8-track tapes we kept in the back of the family shop. My favorite was Desire, an album I plugged into the Panasonic tape player and cranked all the way up to ten (this was back before anyone had ELEVEN) so I could hear it through the door of the darkroom when I had to work into the evening. Try overmodulating Bob Dylan on a cheap stereo sometime. You have never heard as many Mondegreens as I’ve heard listening to Black Diamond Bay.

I found a wife, Miranda
She wears a necktie and a Panama hat
Her pisspot shows a trace of
Another time and space
She cooks nothing like Spam

Now there’s a lyric that forces you to ask some hard questions, and I tell you honestly, as well as a little sheepishly, I’ve asked myself over and over again: What the hell does her pisspot have to do with anything? And Spam? Why Spam? In my defense, Dylan’s mumbling style of singing doesn’t make him easy to understand. Also, the water was running.

But even with all the words scrambled, Black Diamond Bay was a million times more enjoyable than Blowin’ In The Wind ever was, and it always will be, especially now that I know the words. You wouldn’t believe how hard it is for me to sing it without regressing to the screwed-up version in my head, though.

blowin’ | 8:38 am CST
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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
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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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