Friday, August 28, 2015

Music Friday: "Strangers" & "Airplane"

Langhorne Slim & the Law put out a new album recently, and it's a solid effort. 

I really got hooked into their last album, The Way We Move, and The Spirit Moves is a good follow up to that one. 

Here's "Stangers" and "Airplane." 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Stay Positive: Food Activism in France & Donating Food to Those Who Need It

Today I read about a new law in France in The Guardian. France recently passed a law that mandates supermarkets donate food that would have gone into dumpsters to people who need it. 

"Should It Be Illegal for Supermarkets to Waste Food?" in The Atlantic presents a more nuanced perspective though. 

The activist who started the movement in France wants it to spread to other countries, which is perhaps a noble goal. However, as the author of the article relates, the US has a good infrastructure in place to promote food donations (though I would venture to guess that it could improve), so it remains to be seen whether a law on the books would help. 

Regardless, supermarkets and organizations that donate food to people in need is a good deal. And it's more sustainable. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Stay Positive: From Eyesores to Green Spaces

In an AP article "Abandoned Chicago Railway Reborn as Popular Park," Jason Keyser informs readers about an old railway line that has been turned into an almost three-mile elevated bike path. 

As the article relates, "Chicago and cities throughout the country are transforming hulking pieces of obsolete infrastructure into useful --even inspiring -- amenities: In this case, a park in the sky  that doubles as an alternative transportation corridor."

Some positive news for you all...

I'd like to read more of it connected to the greening of our cities and towns. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Music Friday: "Cissy Strut" & "Just Kissed My Baby"

Last night I was watching one of the episodes of the HBO series Sonic Highways that follows the Foo Fighters recording songs at various places throughout the US. 

One of the episodes was in New Orleans, and The Meters were talked about a bit. 

Time to funkify your Friday, people. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Random Notes for a Crank

It's depressing when some of your nose hairs have turned gray. 

I'm not a big NFL fan. I grew up rooting for the Vikings. Where I grew up you had to choose: Bears, Packers, or Vikings. I choose Minnesota. For a long while, I didn't follow the  NFL much at all. If you've read this blog, you obviously know I'm emotionally and intellectually invested in college football, specifically the SEC and particularly the Alabama Crimson Tide. 

I'd like to see Minnesota do well, but if there was another team I'd like to do well, it would be the Raiders. They always seem to be the team of misfit toys. And those home jerseys have to the be the best in the NFL; black jerseys, gray pants, gray helmet with the Raiders logo. In addition, Raiders is the mascot of my fraternity. 

I hate the First Day of School Eve. They never get to bed easily. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Random Notes from a Crank

Austin City Limits hasn't been doing much for me lately, but the latest episode introduced me to a band I had never heard before, White Denim. It's like Southern-tinged prog rock. Me like. 

Lately I've been thinking about either-or decisions/dilemmas:
  • Cleaning the bathroom vs. cleaning out the garage
  • Explosive diarrhea vs. talking about religion with your mother-in-law
  • Explaining what an agnostic is vs. explaining the Gospel of Thomas and why it didn't get into the Bible to a conservative Christian
  • Vodka vs. Rum (both are really poor choices)
  • Keg stand vs. beer bong
  • Donald Trump vs. Ross Perot
  • The tax-exempt status of churches vs. corporate welfare
  • Listening to someone talk about his or her love for Wilco vs. Listening to someone talk about his or her love for Taylor Swift 
  • Someone making comments about teachers getting the summer "off" vs. someone making comments that it's the teacher's fault, not the student's
  • Calling someone out on their underlying racist comments vs. calling someone out on their underlying sexist comments

Election season is fast upon us. My fantasy is that Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders runs as an independent, Donald Trump runs as an independent, and whichever clown they choose wins the Republican nomination. I don't know who I would bet on if I had money to bet. 

I belong to a mass group on Facebook called "You Might Be From Waterloo/Cedar Falls Iowa If Your Remember..." A recent post talked about Bishop's Buffet at Crossroads Mall. My parents and I ate at that place all the time. We were regulars. It was one of those old style cafeterias. You'd slide along your tray and pick out what you want. The line would begin with salads. Then it would be desserts and breads. Then you'd turn, and next were entrees followed by sides and drinks. It was a good place to get my pie fix taken care of. Below is a three-part photo array of the place. 

This photo below is from after they renovated, maybe sometime in the late 90s. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Music Friday: "Sledgehammer"

I've spent a number of days at the local pool this summer. It closes this Sunday because K-12 starts this Tuesday. 

The next to last time I was at the pool with my kids this song came on the sound system via the local "Hitmix" radio station.

I think it holds up pretty well. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Random Notes from a Crank

The July-August issue of Mother Jones has a solid trio of articles people should read. 

The first, "This is Your Brain on Smog," relates the scientific studies that are linking air pollution to dementia. 

The second, "The End of Punishment," provides a different take on the bad kids (or just kids in general) and how educators and other folks should deal with them. It's possible the type of punishment schools have been using just makes things worse.

The third, "The Natural," details the exploits of Allen Hershkowitz, the NRDC, and Hershkowitz's Green Sports Alliance in getting sports franchises and whole leagues to be more sustainable and thereby save money. 

Today is National Left Handers Day. Being a southpaw, I'm happy we have our own day amongst the tyranny of a right-handed world. This article explains seven points most people don't know about handedness. To celebrate southpaws though, check out this article from USA Today about fourteen of the greatest lefty athletes

Monday, August 10, 2015

Fumbling Toward Culinary Talent: Deloras-Inspired Goulash

I hadn't made goulash in ages. This recipe is inspired my mom, who made this version of goulash quite often. 

1 lb. ground beef
Box of macaroni
2 regular cans of petite diced tomatoes
2 small cans of mushrooms, drained
1 small yellow or white onion, finely chopped
1 bell pepper, finely chopped
1 beef flavor cube 
Strong smidge of Tatsefully Simple Garlic Garlic seasoning
Smidge of Penzey's Northwoods seasoning
Small smidge of basil and thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the macaroni, drain, and set aside. In a skillet sauté the bell pepper and onion for a good while. Then brown the ground beef with the pepper and onion. 

In a dutch oven combine the ground beef mixture, tomatoes with juice, and mushrooms. Dump in the macaroni. 

Put about 1/4 cup of water in a glass, drop a beef cube in it, and microwave for a minute. Dump the beef-flavored water into the pan. Then add the seasonings and cook over medium-low heat for approximately 10-15 minutes. Stir often to coat the pasta and fully mix the ingredients. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

[Belated] Music Friday: "I Believe"

I'm a day late, unfortunately.

On the Facebook the other day, I shared some listicle that has been cavorting about the interwebs about the most underrated R.E.M. songs

I agree with a number of picks, and the article reminded me that Life's Rich Pageant is one of my favorite R.E.M. albums. 

"I Believe" is one of my favorite songs off that album. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Random Notes from a Crank

I was happy to see this article from Grist: "Obama's Big Climate Plan is Now Final -- And It's Even Stronger Than Expected." 

The plan tends to go along with Saudi Arabia and China getting themselves together as I related in my last Random Notes... post

This morning two ladies came to my front door to let me know about the glory of God and all that kind of stuff. I told them that I was an agnostic and thanked them for coming by. Score that a major victory for me because I had just gotten up and didn't have any coffee in me yet. I thought I had left all those door-to-door church people behind when I left Alabama where I had a few come to my door to chatter on about whether I had "accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior." My usual answers were that I was an agnostic (the truth) or that I was Buddhist, an answer that usually bewilders people with a "Christianity is the only true religion" mindset. 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Music Friday: "Susan Anna Gal"

I read an album review in Utne yesterday about a musician I had never heard of. His name is Jayme Stone, and he plays the banjo. 

His latest album is a recording of traditional tunes originally recorded by Alan Lomax, who preserved all kinds of folk music for the Archive of American Folk Song for the Library of Congress. 

Here's one of the songs from the Lomax Project.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Music Friday: "Speed Trap Town"

If you read my previous post, you know why I'm featuring this song today. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Stay Positive: Something More Than Free by Jason Isbell

Jason Isbell garnered all manner of acclaim after the release of Southeastern, which won album of the year at the Americana Music Awards but, predictably, didn't win the Americana album of the year at the Grammys.

Southeastern is one of the finest albums to come out from anyone in decades, so Mr. Isbell had a tall order writing a follow-up album. If I had to compare Southeastern to a baseball squad (something Isbell might appreciate because he's a baseball fan, in particular a Braves fan), I'm thinking the '27 Yankees. Sluggers up and down the lineup.

His new album, Something More Than Free, has a lot of live up to. And while Southeastern is a superb album, I still pine for Isbell's music that has a rockier tinge ~ if you recall tunes like "Never Gonna Change," "Goddamn Lonely Love," "Grown" (one of my favorites from his first album), "However Long," "Soldiers Get Strange," etc. Heck, if you listen to the first five songs of Here We Rest, you get the idea of the idea of what I'm talking about. 

But that is all minor complaining really. I'm just being picky. Sure, I'd like to have more electric-guitar-forward songs on his latest albums, but that wish flattens out with repeated listens to Something More Than Free

To take up baseball comparisons again, the new album could be compared to the 1995 Braves

And as I look at the lineup of songs, the first four are solid hitters. I envision three of the four batters getting singles in a baseball game with "24 Frames" getting a double or maybe a triple. 

Then comes the four power hitters of the lineup: "Children of Children," "The Life You Chose," "Something More Than Free," and "Speed Trap Town." Just fantastic songs.

Having followed Isbell's music closely since he was in Drive-By Truckers and then went solo, I see some common themes in this album with his earlier work: regret, flight, desire, nostalgia, bad decisions, grim optimism, sadness, loss, alienation, et al.

The album starts out of a pleasant tune, but looking more deeply, the lyrics of "If It Takes a Lifetime" reveal a pessimistic tone. When hearing, "I keep my spirits high, find happiness by and by,/ If it takes a lifetime," I get the sense that the persona of the song will never find happiness. "If it takes a lifetime" lingers in the air. Big "if." Later on, some of my favorite lines in the song provide this outlook: "A man is the product of all the people that he ever loved./ It don't make a difference how it ended up." I hope that's true. 

"24 Frames" provides one of the more interesting choruses I've heard in a long time: "You thought God was an architect. Now you know/ He's something like a pipe-bomb ready to blow./ And everything you've built that's all for show goes up in flames/ In twenty-four frames." I doubt the rubes who run radio stations will play a song comparing God to a pipe bomb. Their loss. 

The first of the power hitters, "Children of Children," could invite some criticism from the liberal intelligentsia (and I say this as someone who would be considered "liberal") because people could interpret it as a coming out against single motherhood. That would be flat-out stupid. The lyrics stoically look at teenage pregnancy with music that reminds me of Neil Young. 

If there's a song out there that in one line references Jack Daniels and in the next line references The Bell Jar, I'd like you to find it. The themes of flight, desire, and nostalgia resonate throughout "The Life You Chose." 

If people don't listen closely enough, they could see "Something More Than Free" as some kind of positive workingman's anthem, similar to how some people think "Born in the USA" and "Pink Houses" are optimistic songs about America. The persona of the song clearly is working too damn hard and has no life outside of working at least two jobs. When the persona thanks God or feels "lucky" "for the work," you get the sense that the character of the song is underpaid and overworked with no recourse or way out. 

As stunning as "Elephant" was on Southeastern, I think "Speed Trap Town" is its equal. It's a gut-wrenching song about a guy wanting to flee his hometown as his dad dies in an ICU: "But it never did occur to me to leave until 'til tonight/ When I realized he'll never be alright./ Sign my name and say my last goodbye, then decide./ There's nothing here that can't be left behind." 

The last two songs are odes to Charleston, SC and Centro-matic. The former, "Palmetto Rose" is a fun, jaunty number with soul. The latter, "To a Band That I Loved" surprised me because when I think of Centro-matic, fuzz-laden electric guitars come to mind. In contrast, the song is a slower-moving melodic treatise on the early days of the band when Isbell played with them when he wasn't touring with DBT. It's a song I didn't care for at first, but it's grown on me. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Music Friday: "Surfin' Bird"

Some commercial has this old tune tattooed in my brain as of late. 

You might as well enjoy this earworm too. 

Of course, you might also know it from Family Guy