Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Turkey Day, Tofurkeys!

Wishing you all

a Happy Thanksgiving,

no matter what may be included in your feast.

[And I'm not too proud...or recycle this post from last year.]

"Thanksgiving, man.
Not a good day
to be my pants."
—Kevin James

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Live At The Majestic.

Live. Acoustic. Bent.

Three words that I hoped for...and got.

As my marathon run of a concert calendar year winds down, with one or two more options still possible during December, I went to see Matt Nathanson on Wednesday night in a little 350-capacity theatre in Madison called the Majestic, and he didn't disappoint. (I'm not sure it's even possible that he could. Ever.)

"Bent" is a song on Nathanson's live disc, At The Point, (the studio version is also on Beneath These Fireworks, but I like the live version better) and when we saw him at the same venue in October 2007, it wasn't on his set list. The show was still incredible, but I would've liked to have heard "Bent."

Wednesday, I got to. He played with his full band, but about halfway through the show, he sent them off stage to give them a bit of a break and play a few acoustic songs...and brought out his 12-string guitar.

He went into a bit of a monologue about electing a new president and how awesome that was (and since there are maybe four conservatives in all of Madison, that went over pretty well with the crowd), and he stood on the stage alone, and slowly and quietly let the words slide out from "In A Big Country," by Big Country:

"...but I can live and breathe and see the sun in wintertime.
In a big country dreams stay with you
like a lover's voice fires the mountainside.
Stay alive...
...stay alive."

After everybody applauded, I turned to my buddy and said something like, "He should really play 'Bent.'" And um...guess what came next?

Nathanson can be so sarcastic and sharp and funny and self-deprecating during his between-song banter, and then pour everything he's got into his songs, slow or fast. You come away from one of his shows feeling like you just spent a couple hours with an old friend.

Well...most of the crowd does, anyway. One of the audience members, who happened to be directly to my right and talking loudly among his group for the entire show, kept yelling out a song he wanted to hear every time there was a near-silent moment, and finally Nathanson said, without even looking up from his mic, "After a certain number of times of yelling the same song, it's time to give it up. You've lost this round, sir, I'm not going to play your song. Let's move on." And that shut him up for a little while, until the guy hurled back an insult by telling Nathanson he looked like he was from Dawson's Creek because he was wearing a sweater vest. I think only half of it made it up to the stage, though, because Nathanson just said, "ohhh, Dawson's Creek." And that was the end of that.

A bit later in the show, he gave other audience members a chance to suggest some songs for his set, by saying, "OK, what do you wanna hear? Yell some songs out." And after five seconds of everybody naming their songs at once, he replied, "Yeah, we're not gonna play any of those, but..."

As the last song of their set approached, Nathanson described the encore process to us, telling us that after the song was over, he was going to say something like, "That's it for us. Thanks, Madison, we're done! Take care of yourselves," and walk off stage like they're really done. But then he shared a secret, telling us that really...they were going to come back, because they had a couple more songs to play. "So it'd be best," he said, "that when I say, 'We're done,' you should all say, 'Noooo! Noooo!' and act like you really don't know we're coming back. And then cheer and clap like crazy because you want us to come back. But...we're really coming back. We're coming back whether you're here or not. So, like...if you all leave, we're still gonna come out and play two more songs."

I've never had anyone walk me through the steps of a successful band exit/encore re-entrance, complete with audience participation. But he did a fine job.

And you know what? They came back! And as he strapped his guitar on, Nathanson said, "We've never successfully performed this song live,'re gonna try it and see how it goes."

And they belted out AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long," from start to finish. And the crowd of three hundred fifty felt and sounded more like thirty-five hundred! Let's just say it was a success, and even Nathanson looked surprised as he surveyed the small crowd after it was over.

Never expected to hear that from him. Although during the October 2007 show he ventured into snippets of The Cure, and Hanson (yes, "Mmm Bop.").

If I don't see another show this year, it was a phenomenal end cap to 2008.

"If I bent like you said was best,
would that change a thing?
If I spent myself...or what's left
Would you still leave me here?

You're so sorry about it all
Now that it's over...
Should I thank you for that dear?
You're so sorry about it all...
And I hope you'll always be."
—Matt Nathanson, Bent

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Look! Up In The Sky...I Mean, Down On The Road!

I've got a story that's going to severely test my writing skills (shut up...I do too have writing skills. maybe skillz, even!), because what I witnessed in person was so much more shocking and so much funnier than anything I'll be able to describe with words. And I don't have any visual aids to help it along, either.

But I've got to give it a shot.

Last weekend I was driving to a buddy's house, and a few miles of that drive runs through a marshy/wildlife-type area near where I live. I was at a stop sign, turning onto a two-lane county trunk road, with your normal standard-size ditches on either side.

Before I had a chance to get up to any kind of traveling speed, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye that looked like it was falling from a height of maybe twenty feet, near the ditch farthest from the lane I was in.

When I looked over to give it my full attention, I saw a big mass of something and it took me a few seconds to realize that it was a bird...a big bird (not that one)...with its wings splayed out and its body not at all in any sort of upright or flying position.

As I watched, I realized that this bird wasn't flying, but...tumbling. It had hit the ground in the ditch, and must have done so at such an angle that instead of stopping right there on the ground,! That's the only word I can use. It bounced! And it bounced a good several feet up into the air, because its momentum carried it onto the road and it did, from what I saw, two complete flips in the air before coming to my lane, about ten yards in front of my car, which was now completely stopped as I watched this unfortunate display of aerobatics gone awry.

The bird came to rest facing the ditch from which it bounced, and was seated on its...I dunno, whatever you call a Canada goose's ass. Not on its feet, but just planted right there on the road, unmoving for at least ten seconds while it tried to get its bearings.

While it was doing that, I was staring right at it, trying to figure out what I'd just seen. Did a hunter just shoot it out of the sky? It was sitting so completely still, I wondered if it was even real, or if someone was off on the side of the road throwing decoys into traffic.

Those thoughts didn't float around in my head for very long, as the goose began to noticeably move its head and neck. One of its wings was still a little out of whack, and as it got to its feet, I could tell it was trying to tuck it into its folded position.

The goose took a few very slow steps and as I started to creep my car up toward it, it turned and began to walk away, opening its wings and flapping them a few times, but never leaving the ground. Instead, it waddled straight ahead for a bit and then off into the ditch next to my lane, and into some tall weeds to recover from the stunt it had just involuntarily performed.

The only explanation I have for what I saw is that it was a misjudged landing. And not by a little!

We've all seen smaller birds fly into windows and get a little dazed...or worse, as you sometimes find them lying on the ground below. But this has to be the first time I've ever seen a bird bounce off the ground with such force that it flipped in the air without its own consent.

I think it took me as long to process what I witnessed as it did for the goose to recover from the accident. Maybe he had a couple too many gin-and-tonics the night before, or was a victim of those terrorists from Die Hard II, who took over the airport's computer equipment and reset sea level at minus-200 feet.

This guy clearly needs practice on his landings. And while I didn't have time to get my camera off the back seat and out of the bag before all of this was over, I'm assuming if I would've gotten a good closeup, the goose may have looked... and felt...something like this.

You kinda had to be there to see it.

"A goose flies by a chart which
the Royal Geographic Society
could not mend."
—Oliver Wendell Holmes

Monday, November 17, 2008

My Badge Number Gets Smaller.


Guess who's going to fail NaBloPoMo this month? I mean...not that I haven't already failed, but I think I've got a couple of days coming up where it's going to be tough to hit my post-a-day goal.

I've got some good stories to tell, but the one I want to tell tonight can't be told in the nine minutes I've got left before Monday becomes Tuesday. So instead I sit here writing these words, thinking they'll magically fill the void and somehow not sound quite like the B.S. they really are.

One thing I don't want to do is let this blog sit for weeks on end...but you've already heard that before, and then seen it happen.

I'll be back. I don't know when...hopefully tomorrow night, but I can't be certain with my schedule this week.

It'll be before the holidays pass us by, that's a guarantee I can give.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Claustrophobia in the '80s

I think I've had my fill of '80s hair metal/hard rock for a good long time.

A few buddies and I went to Schaumburg, a Chicago suburb, on Saturday to see a Y&T show.

"Who??" you ask.

If not for one particular song in the mid- to late-'80s, my reaction would be the same. But lo there was a song (and video) that stuck in the mind of an impressionable boy during that decade, and one of my favorite one-hit wonders has always been Y&T's "Summertime Girls."

My buddy's a fan of the group, and another buddy lives in the Chicago area, so the decision to road-trip was a logical one. Nothing like a three-hour drive to see one song live. But I can be quirky that way when it comes to concerts...and I'm almost always up for a road trip.

The venue turned out to be a decent-sized sports bar that held about three or four hundred people to see a show, with a stage on one end, and a sign that caught my eye that said, "Every Thursday Is Kareokee." (maybe they spell it differently in Illinois.)

I should back up a bit and say that on the drive down we found a new station on my XM called "Hair Nation," which of course provided an excellent primer for what we were about to experience. I'm not a big hair band aficionado, but I knew my share of the groups, and don't mind some of the songs that got radio play from that era.

The opening group, Cutlass, played for about an hour, and TheKid (if you read the comments, you know who I'm talking about) and I noticed they had many of the requirements of a wannabe hair/metal band...a bass player with long hair that he liked to throw around a little bit (although he needed more practice because he'd basically lean over and pause for a second to let his hair fall down, and then stand back up really quickly so it'd flip back up over his head. not the smooth hair-flipping transition that more seasoned long-haired rockers possess) and The Lean, where he'd stand next to other members of the group, lean back into them and pluck a few bass notes, and then go back to his assigned position...a lead guitarist who made strangely unnatural faces during his guitar solos because he thought that's what a guitar player had to look like while he was "feeling" the music (again, more veteran musicians can pull that off without it looking so forced...I think this guy just wanted to impress the crowd. he, um...didn't.)...and a drummer wearing a skull cap, who was clearly the most talented member of the group.

They surprised with a couple covers, though..."Barracuda," by Heart, in which the lead singer (a guy) sounded eerily similar to whichever one of the Wilson sisters has the lead vocal on that song (too trivial to do the research), and a rocked out version of "Fire & Rain," by James Taylor, a song which should best be left out of the hair band genre. But it was entertaining.

During the half hour break between bands, the adrenaline level got amped up a little bit, and the crowd became more and more tightly of those crowds where it was an effort to lift your drink because the person in front of you was standing so close. Didn't help that it was about a hundred and nine degrees in the joint, either.

So Y&T comes on stage, this band formed in the mid-'70s, and now featuring rockers in their mid- (to late-??)50s, and they played a couple songs that immediately took you back to the decade of the hair bands, complete with plenty of guitar...and then more guitar.

After hearing two songs, and assuming it would be well into their set list that I'd hear the song I came to hear, I squeezed my way back through the crowd to the sports bar part of the bar where there was room to breathe and it was about fifty degrees cooler, and I could actually stand and people watch and drink my beer.......and still see the band on stage from my new and improved, less crowded position.

And that's where I spent the rest of their set...watching them rock, thinking that maybe the song I was hearing sounded much the same as the last song...or two or three or four...that they played. And talking to a drunk dude from Milwaukee who changed his opinion of the group about half a dozen times during our conversation, from "they're not bad, huh?" to "they really know how to rock!" to "I've got all their CDs" and back to "after about an hour, they get kinda old, don't they?"

I responded with, "I'm really just here to hear 'Summertime Girls.'"

Which was pretty good, by the way. There was a cool, slow lead-in guitar solo to the song, and they gave the song a pretty good effort. They played it about an hour and a half into a two hour and fifteen minute set. (that's a LOT of hair band...especially when you add Cutlass onto the front end of that.)

On the drive home Sunday morning, my XM Radio was tuned to ESPN Radio the entire way, and I didn't even give Hair Nation a second thought. I think I've had my fill.

But it was all about the road trip.
And a bit of a walk down one-hit wonder memory lane.

"Pop music, disco music, and heavy metal music
is about shutting out the tensions of life,
putting it away."
—Peter Tork

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Only Icing I Know About Goes On A Cake.

I don't follow hockey much. [read: at all.]

If I hear the words "Stanley" and "Cup" on SportsCenter, I know that it's somewhere close to the playoffs in the NHL, but I rarely know which teams made it there (don't like half of them make it?), or who the favorite is, or how close anyone is to hoisting the Cup and drinking from it. (milk, right? wait...that's Indy.)

When I was younger, if someone asked me who my favorite hockey team was, my answer was the New York Islanders. I didn't have a reason for it...except that they were the Islanders. (don't look for the logic. there's none there.) Luckily for me, and my logic, there were very few occasions in my circle of friends when the topic of favorite hockey teams came up.

If someone gave me an Islanders jersey today, I'd wear it proudly, and proclaim them as my favorite hockey team. But I'm pretty sure they suck, and have sucked for a really long time. (don't quote me on that, though. cuz I don't know anything about hockey, remember?)

Read this list, and tell me which of these teams are NHL teams, and which are not: Atlanta Thrashers, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators, Minnesota Wild, Columbus Blue Jackets.

Got your answer? WRONG!! They all are! (either that, or someone's been hacking into the NHL's website and making stuff up.) Apparently, expansion runs rampant in the NHL.

(and oh, by the way. the Islanders do suck. they've got the worst record in hockey. I'll still wear the jersey, though. I'm used to that with my sports teams.)

The point of this post, however, is that I saw a hockey headline yesterday and couldn't help but click over to read the story.

Barry Melrose, whose name I recognize because he was a hockey analyst on ESPN for several years and when I'm waiting for other sports highlights to come on, sometimes there he is, talking to me about hockey, eh?

He left ESPN earlier this year to return to coaching in the NHL after being away for 13 years. And he took a job with the Tampa Bay Lightning (also a genuine NHL team, just like the other five), the team with the worst record in hockey last season.

Melrose was head honcho in Tampa Bay for a total of sixteen games, and with a record of 5-7-4 this season, he was fired on Friday. Management instead gave the job on an interim basis to assistant coach Rick Tocchet, whose name it took me three attempts to spell correctly when copying it from the article in which I read it, and who had once been suspended from the league for gambling charges.

When the hell did Al Davis buy a hockey team, and what did Barry Melrose ever do to him??

That's the only way I can explain it, because moves like these are only made in one professional sports organization, and that's Raider Nation. What...the...fuck?

I don't know Barry Melrose from Adam, and it won't affect my life in the least if he's a coach in Tampa Bay or an analyst on ESPN. But I feel sorry for him. He got royally screwed.

"Here are the reins to this last-place hockey team, and you better turn it around in 16 games or fewer, or you'll be out on your ass! Good luck! Have fun! Happy skating!"

"A good hockey player
plays where the puck is.
A great hockey player
plays where the puck
is going to be."
—Wayne Gretzky

Friday, November 14, 2008

Who's To Blame?...No One, That's Who(m)

Many, many years ago...perhaps dating back to the late '80s...I was all geeked out about Howard Jones.

All. Geeked. Out.

As geeked out about Howard Jones then as I am about Adam Duritz now. (frame of reference for you.)

His Dream Into Action disc got miles and miles of play from me when I "discovered" Howard and bought it a couple years after its release. And then I went back and purchased his first CD, Human's Lib, which had a very bouncy track called, "New Song," and made it OK to sing along very loudly with a "lyric" like, "Whoo hoo hoooo."

Howard had a bit of soundtrack success as well. In the scene in Better Off Dead, when John Cusack's French future girlfriend is secretly fixing up his Camaro, Jones' song, "Like To Get To Know You Well," is playing.

And back when I was more of a dork than I am now, I had a lyric push-pinned to my bulletin board in my bedroom that said, "Pretend the water is champagne and fill my glass again and again," from his song, "Life In One Day." (It spoke to me at the time, or something. And I don't even really like champagne.)

His later releases went away from the synthesizer sound and became more jazzy and instrumental. And while I've been away from the Howard Jones geekdom for some time now, I like to return to it every once in a while. He always seemed like the prototypical musician to me. Sure, there are plenty of rock stars out there. Howard Jones is a musician.

I never got to see him in concert, although I faintly remember him being at the Wisconsin State Fair one year, and I didn't push too hard to go. I think now...I'd push. And I might seek out an opportunity to see him, if he's even still crossing the Atlantic to play gigs over here.

The song he's probably best known for is "No One Is To Blame," which featured Phil Collins on drums and backing vocals on the single that was released to radio stations. But there are a zillion different versions of the song, and as I searched on YouTube for a good one, I found this one instead...which might not be the best, but as I found out, it's a performance from Shank Hall in Milwaukee, a tiny venue at which I've seen about a half dozen shows. And it was recorded in January 2007. (maybe that answers my question as to whether he's still touring in the U.S.)

I must not have had Shank Hall's website feed in my Reader at that time, because if I would have known about this show, I would have been the one shooting the video!!

Next time.
If there is one.
And I hope there is.
I'm starting to get all retro-geeked out about Howard Jones again!

"And maybe love is letting people be
just what they want to be."
—Howard Jones, What Is Love?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Stand Up...Sit Down.

I often wonder if I could have been a stand-up comedian.
[answer: no.]

Aside from the fact that I abhor speaking in front of people...and that I'm probably not very funny (trivial points, yes?)...I might have been a great success. [please refer to above answer for the truth.]

For some reason, the following story popped into my head this morning. And I thought, "Blog post!" So here you go:

About 17-ish years ago, the night before my sister's wedding, we were at the rehearsal dinner and my soon-to-be brother-in-law announced that before we started eating, he'd like us to all go around the room and stand up and introduce ourselves, say a few words and explain our ties to the group.

I was none too thrilled about this idea, and thought about sneaking out to the bar to play a few games of pinball, and coming back to my seat in time for dessert.

But I stayed. And people went around the room: "Hi, my name is so-and-so, and I'm married to so-and-so, and I've known the bride and/or groom for such-and-such number of years." As one person sat down, another stood up, and this went from table to table around the room. It was a fun idea, and went over pretty well.

I didn't exactly know what I was going to say, and as I watched the order, I thought to myself, "Three more people and it's my turn. Two more people and it's my turn. Oh shit, it's almost my turn!!"

And then it was my turn.

I stood up, and said, "Hi, my name is Gregg. I'm Karen's brother...
...and I'm hungry, so that's all I'm gonna say." And I sat back down.

Big laughs.
I don't know if it was really that funny, or...if it was my delivery. Or what. But it worked.

Pure. Comedy.

(clearly I missed my calling.)

"I started to do a study on how not to do
stand-up comedy. Yeah, it's lonely work.
You die, you die alone. It's you, the light
and the audience. If you win, you win big.
If you lose, you lose big time."
—Jim Varney

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Simple...But Painful.

I've heard many times that, in certain company, one should never talk about politics, religion, or money.

(maybe it was just the first two. but I added the third one to the list because it fits well with this post.)

Clearly...after the election we've all just slogged through...talking about politics was a necessity for some of us. If we didn't vent and support and complain and take some jabs over the last few months, we might have just exploded from all the pressure.

And religion is a bit of a muddy, confusing topic for me, but I'm all for discussion whenever anyone wants to dig a little deeper than sports scores and sitcoms.

I also believe that no topic is off limits on a blog. Or in a newspaper column, for that matter. You speech and all. If readers click over, and don't care for the topic of the day, they can keep right on clickin'. Or...they can stay, read, and voice their opinions in the comments section.

I lead in with all of that because over the life of my blog, I've taken digs at certain politicians or political candidates, while praising others...I've written posts about seeing the Dalai Lama and reading books by Eckhart Tolle, but haven't spent much time covering Christianity.

So I guess what I'm saying is that you, my readers (all both of you), do not fall in the category of "certain company." Because here I discuss whatever's on my mind. My opinions.'s money. Briefly.

I have a Simple IRA through work, and for the last couple months, when I open the statement, it's getting simpler and simpler. A few more months like those and it'll be the simplest IRA to figure out. Zeros across the board.........can't take anything more away from nothing, can you?

Maybe I was paying too much attention to the election, and not enough to other current events, there some kind of economic crisis going on that I'm not aware of? And if so, could someone please snap their fingers turn it around before I have to make plans to work 40-hour weeks until I'm 84 years old?

Sure is a good thing we have a Socialist coming into power in January. You know, so that whenever I need a handout, I can just turn to my rich neighbor and say, "Pleeeease."

[note to any potentially new readers stumbling across this blog for the first time: please check my November 4 blog entry, and your dictionary for the definition of "sarcasm," and that should sufficiently explain the last paragraph. thank you.]

"The trouble with retirement
is that you never get a day off."
—Abe Lemons

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The First Ton.

I read my share of blogs, and see many bloggers who have recurring features, such as the Thursday Thirteen, or Wordless Wednesday, or the Friday Five.

I think I've got one of my own (well...aside from the Sunday Squib, which seems to have gone into hibernation, maybe for the best), and I hope it spreads like wildfire among dart-shooting bloggers everywhere. It's the next big thing, I can feel it!

Welcome to the first installment of...the Tuesday Ton. Where I bitch about my dart night and wonder how I ever thought I was any good to begin with.

Truth be told, this is probably the first, last and only Tuesday Ton. Let's just say I don't plan to spend the time creating a graphic for it. Should I start devoting one day a week to dartspeak, I fear my readership will dwindle to nothing. And I can't afford to lose either of you.

How is it that one night, everything during league flies to the board with barely any effort at all, and another night, you're practically tripping over the line because you feel so uncoordinated?

Maybe that's like asking how it is that the Miami Dolphins can beat the New England Patriots in Week Three.

Last week, it took me fifteen darts before I hit my first bullseye. Which was about a game and a half. I can justify that by saying that I was more than a bit distracted watching CNN as our country made history. But tonight...sure I had a couple hat tricks, and found a couple triples. The rest of my, not so much. Struggle struggle struggle.

A buddy of mine sent me an e-mail a couple weeks back, asking for advice about darts, as he was getting into a social league and wanted to improve a bit. He asked for any mechanical/mental advice I could offer.

The mental part of it...that's the stumper, you know. I've made the physical dart-throwing motion thousands upon thousands of times since I started shooting in, um...the late '80s, I guess, is when I remember caring about shooting good darts.

But the mental part is so touchy. A bad day at work, or a mind filled with clutter...or a cute bartender (don't judge)...can all affect the outcome of a night of darts. Some nights on my drive to the bar, I'm amped up and focused to shoot great darts, and the entire night is a horror. And other nights, I drive in exhausted and not at all up for it, and...that's when I win five of my six games and shoot three hat tricks and seven tons.

Tonight, perhaps I'll blame it on NaBloPoMo...because I knew I had to come home and write a blog post. If I would have shot good darts, this blog post might have been about purple elephants, because I would have thought to myself on the drive home, "Well, I'm supposed to shoot good darts. That's not worthy of a blog entry."

(and...maybe this isn't, either. if not, thanks for stopping by, and hopefully you'll come back tomorrow. for a post...about purple elephants.)

All I'm saying is...and I have to try and relearn this on a daily basis, it seems...focus, focus, focus.

"Visualize this thing you want,
see it, feel it, believe in it.
Make your mental blueprint,
and begin to build."
—Robert Collier

Monday, November 10, 2008

Other Time Suc...I Mean, Great Internet Resources

Yesterday I revealed how I spent my Sunday...pretty much with ass in chair, right in front of this screen. It was, to say the least, a highly motivated day. Of doing nothing.

I figured I'd continue that theme tonight, and introduce a couple other sites that are equally as good as the NaBloPoMo site for wasting a good hour or nine. (tell me...where do the interweb hours go? and how are they three times as fast as normal hours?)

The first is a digital photography blog and forum that I found recently, and have been poking around on a little bit, finding more information there than I can process in a thousand photo shoots.

I bought one of these a few months ago, and while it's true you can take it right out of the box, press the button and take some good photos...the whole idea behind spending the money for one is to learn what other buttons to push and dials to turn and settings to set to make it take phenomenal photos!

Well, I'm still learning. Slowly. But if I can absorb even one-eighth of the information on those two sites, I might be well on my way.

Another site that a friend introduced me to in the past few months is Goodreads, a community of readers who talk about reading and what books they've read and what books they want to read and how much they liked certain books and why other books totally blew, and...well, you get the idea. It's about reading.

I set up an account over there, but haven't been too active in loading my profile with books. Still...there are plenty of avenues to explore and spend (waste) a good deal of time. Someday this winter, during a good blizzard, I'll add some books to my profile.

Or maybe go outside and take some winter scene photos.

Or about the winter blahs.

So let's see if I have this straight: I spend hours on a site for bloggers, but I can't keep up with the blog-a-day pace; I can lose myself in a photography forum for the better part of a day, but can't find time to get out and actually shoot a few hundred photos (which is the only way to learn); and I'm a big fan of a web community for readers, yet my reading list is so long, if I took a photo of it, the end would be so far out of focus, it would be unreadable.

Can somebody tell me what I'm doing wrong? Or point me in the direction of a time-management workshop?

(What corners of the interwebs do you spend way too much time in? Not that I've got time for any more, but I'm curious.)

"Describing the Internet as the
Network of Networks is like
calling the Space Shuttle
a thing that flies."
—John Lester

Sunday, November 09, 2008


So, it's rather easy to while away a day in front of the computer, clicking around on the Interwebs.

I know it's a football Sunday, and I've had football on TV the whole day. But I can't say that I've seen much of it. I listened...and saw a few highlights here and there...but for the most part, I spent an ungodly amount of time poking around the NaBloPoMo site, perusing various groups and discussion forums, seeing what...and new this year. The site's got more than 10,600 members this year. Amazing. (and no, I didn't visit each one.)

One of the discussions in the forum caught my eye...a debate over whether backdating a post or scheduling a post to be published on a certain day in the future should be considered cheating during this month of post-a-day posts.

I always took the NaBloPoMo challenge to mean that you wrote a post in a calendar day, and published it that same day. Granted, some people write long, laborious posts that they save as drafts and tinker with for days before they find them ready for the world to see. So that adds a whole other wrinkle to the discussion.

Many people in this particular discussion felt that backposting was cheating, but writing a few posts in advance and scheduling them to be published ahead of time was not. I haven't played around with Blogger's scheduler feature yet, so I don't know if it works flawlessly or not.

I voiced my opinion in the discussion, saying that I think both methods of filling up your days are cheating. But the bottom line for me in the discussion is that every blogger has to decide for themselves what they want to get out of this month, and what they personally consider cheating.

Whether I'm participating in NaBlahBlah or not, I've gotten into the habit of changing the timestamp on my post to the time when I publish it...not the time that I bring up the screen to start writing it. Because sometimes I have the post-editing screen open for a few hours before I'm ready to publish. regular readers have already found that on November 7, I snuck in about a dozen and a half words, hit Publish and didn't pay much more attention to my blog on that Friday.

Well...I crashed on my couch after work that day, and woke up minutes before midnight, with nothing in my brain to jot down, and knowing it would be futile to write a "real" post in two minutes anyway. I pulled up the screen at 11:58pm, and wrote those lines of deep, meaningful prose. But by the time I'd published them, it was already Saturday at about...12:08am maybe?

I left the original timestamp on that post of when I started writing it, and hinted in my words that I may not have quite met the midnight deadline. I even got a text message from an eagle-eyed buddy who, a few minutes after 12:00am, said, "According to my watch it's Saturday. Where's Friday's post?" (clearly I need to help him find a social life.)

I could argue technicalities...that I actually was sitting at my computer and writing the post on Friday, so mayyybe it could count for a Friday entry. But the fact wasn't published on Friday. Which is why I was quite engaged in the opinions on the backposting/scheduling discussion today.

Technically...I've failed NaBloPoMo. Already. Whether I vow to write three posts a day for the rest of the month to make up for my mistake, it doesn't change the fact that I didn't post anything on Friday, November 7. And...what I did post there, after the fact........whew, it's pretty thin stuff.

Sure, one of my readers was able to see through the words and get to the hidden meaning, the emotion, the depth...the Zen. And he should be commended for his insightfulness.

Or...his sarcasm.

I'm going to keep blogging through the month...or at least try...because I've been reminded of the sense of community I felt when I took on this project for the first time last November. And I'd like that to continue.

But no matter what I do from here on out, I'll only be a 29 out of 30. Not only because I was a few minutes short of a deadline, but also...more so, maybe...because of the total lack of substance in the words I put down on the screen.

I consider my post from November 4, which had only a couple graphics and a quote from Kennedy, to have far more meaning than what I scribbled down on November 7 to try and make a deadline.

And now I think I owe it to myself to complete a month of posts sometime between now and next November. Who knows which month that might be? (perhaps February. twenty-eight days, you know.)

"The difference between
failure and success
is doing a thing nearly right
and doing it exactly right."
—Edward Simmons

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Let It.......Snow.


That's what I saw when I woke up this morning. (not the view in the photo. but I'm assuming that's a sign of things to come.)

Snow on my car, snow on the grass, snow on the rooftops. It wasn't sticking to the streets, but...snow. Yuck.

As I was brushing off my car, I would have made and thrown a few snowballs if I had time, because it was the wet, packy snow that makes you want to have a snowball fight. Or at least see if your aim is still as good as when you were a kid.

But I was running a few minutes late for an oil change/tire rotation, so I didn't have any time to play. Speaking of tire rotation, that's about the only reason I'm looking forward to a little bit of winter. I got rid of the Kumhos this spring that came with my car and required no less than 19 minutes of time to spin through each intersection while driving on snowy streets. And that was even with tread still on the tires! Happy to dump 'em, and replace them with some Goodyears.

I was so excited about testing my new grippers, in fact, that I drove across all of my neighbors' yards and rutted up their lawns, just to get the "feel" of my new tires in some snow. (nooo...I didn't. thought about it, though.)

I knew it was coming. I've lived in Wisconsin all my life, so of course it was coming. But just a few short days ago, it was sunny and nearly 70. And now I need a jacket. And a snowbrush. And good tires. (check. check. check.)

Between my oil change this morning and the time that I sit here writing this, I've had a snowball fight, built a snowfort and a snowman three times the size of me, borrowed my brother-in-law's snowmobiles and put on a hundred miles, broke my leg downhill skiing, trained heavily for the Iditarod, shoveled my neighbor's walk as a kind gesture, and bought a snowblower because I hate shoveling. (especially with a broken leg.)

It's been a full and busy nine hours of winter, and after a few hundred thousand flakes, I'm ready for it to be over. Spring can get here any time now. And if I don't get to test my Triple-Treads until next winter...I won't exactly go road-tripping in search of snowdrifts, ya know?

When's the first day of spring??

"Nature has no mercy at all.
Nature says, 'I'm going to snow.
If you have on a bikini and no snowshoes,
that's tough. I am going to snow anyway.'"
—Maya Angelou

Friday, November 07, 2008

Not Really A Post (Post).

Sneaking in just under the wire...

...or perhaps a tiny bit over it...

here's my not-really-a-post post for Friday, Nov. 7.


Thursday, November 06, 2008

Two Out Of Three...So Far.

I'm two-thirds of the way through a unique trifecta that's timing itself out well on my calendar.

In late August, I got to see Counting Crows down in Milwaukee. In late September at a little dive bar in Cudahy, I saw Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers among a crowd of no more than three hundred. And a couple weeks from now I'm going to a Matt Nathanson show in Madison, again in a tiny venue where I'll be twenty feet from the stage...or closer, if I choose to be.

So in three short months, I get live shows from Adam Duritz, Roger Clyne and Matt Nathanson...three singer/songwriters who are firmly planted in my top...three. Not a bad 90-day span. Take into consideration that I saw Matchbox Twenty back in February, and all I'd need is a Will Hoge show sprinkled in there somewhere to round out my top five, all in the same year.

Unfortunately, Will Hoge was recently involved in a pretty serious car accident, so his recovery and rehab are his highest priorities right now.

I've thought about this on occasion...who's in my top five, or my top three, or if I even need to bother with a ranking, when instead I should just keep my eyes peeled for shows and go to everything that interests me. (which I do, anyway.) But I can't think of anyone else who might wedge themselves into my top five, and force one of the names I mentioned into a lower slot.

These concert announcements seemed to crop up one after the other, and I grinned bigger with each one I'd come across, staring at my screen and almost saying out loud, "You mean I get to see them this year, too??" It's been a very musical year.

It'd been a few years since I'd seen Roger Clyne, so I was stoked when I saw they were coming through the cheesehead state. I drove the hour and a half to the bar on a Wednesday night, and there were about zero people in the place when I met my buddy. By the time the opening act had completely lowered the bar for any future opening acts I might see in my concert-going career, the smallish bar was mostly full and ready to rock out to Roger Clyne.

I've talked about Clyne's former band, The Refreshments, in past blog entries, and my near obsession with the music on the two CDs they made before disbanding...and early in the night I told Adam I wasn't expecting to hear too many Refreshments songs, because The Peacemakers have a pretty good discography of their own already. I said, "Two Refreshments songs, max. They'll play Mekong, cuz they always play Mekong. And one other." (Mekong is as high on my list of favorite songs, by the way, as those five artists above are on my list of favorite artists.)

Well...before the night was over, they'd run through six Refreshments songs. I don't know if I've ever been giddy before, but that just might be what giddy feels like. Cuz I was it.

The topper was the first encore they played, a Refreshments song called "Una Soda." Never thought I'd hear that live, so when the first couple words came out, I knew the trip was worth it.

How can you not like a song that asks, "¿Dondé el baño, señor? Please point me to the door. And if you'd be so kind I swear that I won't puke on your floor." (I never said he was Shakespeare...but the Arizona boy's got style to burn.)

A Nathanson review will be sure to follow the show in a couple weeks, because it'll still be NaBlahBlah, and I'll be digging for topics.

But for now, I'll leave you with quite possibly the worst YouTube video of "Una Soda" ever posted...because it is, in fact, the only video of the song I can find. I thought about not sharing it, should it tarnish the song's image. But I promise you, it's much much better live. Wanna go see 'em?

"Flip a coin, what shall we talk about?
Heads I tell the truth, and tails I lie."
—The Refreshments, Mekong

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

It's (Not) Over.

It's over, right?
It's over.

After how many months of campaigning, the night has come and gone. And it's over.

I know it's over, because 349 is greater than 270.

I know it's over, because while I had to spend last night in a bar, shooting bad darts and staring at CNN whenever it wasn't my turn, I stood in front of the TV on the wall and applauded when I saw the yellow check mark show up next to Barack Obama's photo.

I know it's over because when I came home and saw a replay of Obama's speech in Chicago's Grant Park, he has now been given the title of President-Elect. And his voice and his message and his presence, energized the crowd of nearly a quarter million strong.

November 4 is over.
Eight..long..years......are over.

But the hope...the change...the new day...
...have only just begun.

"Change will not come if we wait
for some other person or some other time.
We are the ones we've been waiting for.
We are the change that we seek."
—President-Elect Barack Obama

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


"You can milk a cow the wrong way once
and still be a farmer, but vote the wrong way
on a water tower and you can be in trouble."
—John F. Kennedy

Monday, November 03, 2008

Tunnel Vision

The Pittsburgh Steelers play the Washington Redskins in D.C. in less than an hour. (and no, I'm not going to take to previewing football games during November to fill my NaBlahBlah quota.)

There was a funny blurb in the sports page on Saturday, quoting Ben Roethlisberger as not being too fond of playing Washington at home. But you probably can't guess all of his reasons.

"I'm not a big fan of playing there because it is loud, they're really good at home, and they try to make their cheerleaders stretch in our tunnel before we come out of the locker room. That's just not good," Roethlisberger said.

Couldn't stop laughing. Here's a guy who has a hundred-million-dollar contract in the most popular league on the planet, has one Super Bowl ring and a team with enough talent to contend for another...and he's getting sound bytes and quotes about the cheerleaders in the tunnel during pre-game.

When asked if it was a distraction, he said, "It can be, let's be truthful. They've done it before. I've heard a rumor that they're not allowed to do it anymore."

The report states that the practice by the Redskins—intentional or otherwise—was so talked about around the league that when Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a memo last year barring cheerleaders from such tunnels, some called it the "Redskins Rule."

Anything for an advantage, right?

Looks like the Redskins tried to take a page from the playbook of Shane Falco's team in the movie, The Replacements.

Can't stand Keanu Reeves, but (oh boy, here it comes) I've seen The Replacements more times than I care to admit. And I don't know whyyyy. Once might actually be once too many, but when it's on cable, and I'm on the couch, I'll watch it.

Brooke Langton might have something to do with it, I suppose. But as far as totally predictable, brainless movies's not bad.

(I better go rent a classic now and watch it immediately, for what I just admitted here.)

"Pain heals.
Chicks dig scars.
Glory...lasts forever."
—Shane Falco, in the huddle

Sunday, November 02, 2008

A Hilarious Tendency

Some of you I'm sure know about McSweeney's Internet Tendency, a site with some of the best...and funniest...writing around. I don't visit often enough, but I think I better change that practice.

Not sure if it's exactly the Web equivalent of getting published in The New Yorker, but I think it'd be awfully swell to get a piece posted over at McSweeney's. (to sleep, perchance to dream.)

I was at a Half-Price Books store recently, and as I'm often wont to do, I wandered over to the Writing/Publishing section. One can never have too many books on the writing craft, and being the owner of approximately 94 tons of them, I know of what I speak.

One of the books that caught my eye was a title called, Fondling Your Muse: Infallible Advice From A Published Author To The Writerly Aspirant. I'd seen the title before, and thought it was clever and a book I'd like to add to my collection. Anything to get my muse to come and visit on a more regular basis.

This time I looked a bit closer, and saw that it was written by John Warner, the editor of McSweeney's. And being on a Half-Price Books shelf, it was marked $5.95. (which, by the way, is substantially less than half of the $19.99 cover price. score!!)

I paged through it quickly, already knowing I was going to buy it. When I got home, though, I wondered how much real writing advice I might extract from the book. Reading his Acknowledgements page, titled, "The Blame Belongs Here," he thanked his wife, Kathy, at the end, "who took a chance on marrying me before I was a world renowned author of fake writing advice."

There are nuggets here and there that may help in your journey as a writer, but what the book mostly is is one of the funniest collections of pages ever bound together and sold at any bookstore anywhere. Perhaps if you're not a writer...or a writerly won't have the same effect. But if you are—whether you find it for half price or less, or have to pay the entire twenty bucks—you will enjoy this book. Tremendously.

"This book is dedicated to you,
by which I mean me, myself.
I say you because when I read it,
I know that I'm talking about myself.
I don't want you to think it's dedicated
to you, the reader, when I mean me,
the writer. It would be silly to dedicate
a book to someone like you, who had
nothing to do with writing it—don't you think?"
—John Warner's dedication in Fondling Your Muse

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Thirty? Maybe.

It's November, isn't it?

Last November I recall paying particularly close attention to this Web page for a good number of consecutive, in a row and everything!

And here we are again. It's the NaBloPoMo month that made NaBloPoMo famous. (among bloggers, anyway.) The response last November was so overwhelming that it was expanded to include other months of the year as well, so bloggers could take the post-a-day challenge in any month they chose. Or every month, if they were a little bit crazy. And addicted to their blogs.

I attempted it in March, but was met with a stubborn internet connection between 11pm and midnight in the early going, so my effort came up short. And I considered attempting it a few other times leading up to this month, also. didn't.

November is kinda special, though. During the last challenge, I happened upon a handful of killer blogs of which I'm now a regular reader. And I also wrote something. Every day. For a month. Those two reasons alone made the month a ridiculous success.

So while it's been practically flatline dead around here for the most part lately, I couldn't help but give it another go this month. Yes, it's about 2:30am as I write this, as I just got home from a poker game. And yes, it's time for bed. But it's also officially November...and I can cross today's post off the calendar and wonder how I'm ever going to work back into an every day routine. Yikes.

Truth be told, I think this month will be more difficult to complete than last November. It was new and unique last time, and I had more determination to finish. I already see a couple roadblock weekends coming up where I'll have to do some creative time management to make my goal. But I plan to use the "official" calendar day to my advantage whenever possible. I can post an entry at 9pm one day, and 12:45am the next day, and it'll all still be kosher, but give me a couple breaks here and there.

I considered just showing up here on November 1, writing a post about whatever, and then continuing on, day by day, without actually making an announcement. Sorta like Stealth NaBloPoMo, if you will. But this will make me more accountable. You know...until I fail, at which point I'll stop caring.

I even put a new badge in my sidebar, and will possibly create my own when the month is over to more accurately reflect my progress. ("24 post in 30 days. Almost really good.")

I have yet to conjure up what I may write about every day for 30 days, but if the McCain/Palin ticket wins the White House on Tuesday, you can expect a month filled with bitter rants. Won't that be fun!

The chances of McCain getting into office, though, are probably about as good as the Lions winning their last nine games to finish the season 9-7. Or maybe as good as a certain blogger making it through November.

I remember reading about one blogger participating in NaBloPoMo last year who woke up a couple minutes before midnight and, still blurry-eyed and half asleep, raced to his computer to write only three words—"I can't see!!"—on his blog to fill his quota for the day.

You might want to expect two or three or fourteen posts like that from me during the month. I think they lay ahead.

(some of that guy's family members read his blog, and when they saw the message they called him to find out if everything was OK.)

It's November, isn't it?

See you tomorrow.

"NOVEMBER, n. The eleventh twelfth
of a weariness."
—Ambrose Bierce