Friday, April 18, 2014

Music Friday: "Matamoros"

Back when I was seriously into "alternative" music (the 80s and 90s), I'm sure someone told me about The Afghan Wigs at a party or something. Maybe it was a stoned Phi Sig at a mixer, or maybe it was some young lady I hooked up with. I don't remember. Regardless, I'm sure the band garnered its share of critical acclaim in the 90s, but it was never a band I got into, and I don't really know why. Based on some perfunctory research, it looks like they broke up in the early aughts.

Now it's 2014, and the band has a new album, Do To The Beast.  

I got the album recently, and it's a good one. Below is second tune on the album.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Stay Positive: I Never Heard a Story I Didn't Like

If you're looking for an excellent read, I highly recommend Todd Snider's I Never Met a Story I Didn't Like: Mostly True Tall Tales

The folk singer is known for his concerts where he tells insightful, entertaining stories in between songs. From what I can gather, many of the chapters are versions of his stories, his creative non-fiction, that he recounts before he plays certain tunes. He's a witty dude. 

Some of my favorite chapters are the where he talks about his friend Moondawg (of the song "Moondawg's Tavern"), his encounter with Slash of Gun-n-Roses in a hotel bar, the chapter about his friend Skip (who inspired "Play a Train Song"), and the chapter about Kris Kristofferson.

Snider's a raconteur. And the book has all kinds of playful moments where he calls attention to the fact that he's writing a book and that sometimes the stories he says onstage are not exactly what happened.  

To give you a taste of his wit and wisdom, here are some selected passages from the book:
  • There's always a loophole. All you have to do is stare at the loop long enough and you'll find the hole.
  • There they were, the football team. And I don't mean to disparage any of the other kids. I'm just saying that it could be argued that they looked like a bunch of dirty sheep standing around in a field, waiting to push a grown, screaming man on a padded sled. 
  • He [Skip] said, "Never go straight, always go forward." He said, "Don't apologize, I don't care enough." And when he answered the phone, he said, "I'll play your silly little game." 
  • …when it comes to slogans and fashions and bands, I like to be what I call "post-hip, pre-retro." That sweet spot, right when something isn't cool anymore and before it becomes cool in an ironic way. The cutting edge of uncool.
  • Contentment, not rejection, is the enemy.
  • …if someone asks you what a song is about and you don't have an answer, you might be in possession of a song that's not really about anything. 
  • You may occasionally have gotten the ideas from these pages that I am a little hard on sports. But baseball's not a sport. It's an art. I will not argue this point. If you try to argue with me, I will reply with a fart. 
  • Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a night. Set a man on fire, he'll be warm of the rest of his life. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Music Friday: "21st of May" & "The Lighthouse's Tale"

Nickel Creek got back to together to make a new album, A Dotted Line

It's good. I'm more of a Punch Brothers listener, but the album is solid work. 

Today I feature one song from the new album. On YouTube the band describes the song this way: "Sean wrote this song on May 20th, 2011, the day before the supposed rapture as predicted and advertised by Bay Area pastor Harold Camping (whose point of view he sings it from). It was a close call but we made it."

I'm glad we dodged the rapture, folks.


Here's an old tune, "The Lighthouse's Tale," from the band's self-titiled album circa 2000.  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Stay Positive: Decent Stand-Up

I'm not a huge fan of Louis C.K., but I liked his opening monologue when he hosted Saturday Night Live. Usually the opening monologues of SNL aren't that good, but this one is. 

For me, here are the highlights:
  • I don't have real hunger. I have first-world hunger.
  • I do think men are worse than women. 
  • 21 and you're a lock for heaven already? 
  • "I don't know who's telling people that."
  • That's a weird thing that you think you can know.
  • Where's our mother? What happened to our mom? What did he do to our mom?
  • God's a single dad. 
  • This is our weekend with dad. 
  • And for some reason this is offensive to nobody?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Random Notes from a Crank

For major writing projects in my courses, I provide the criteria I use when I evaluate their work. For larger projects, I sometimes create what I call "alternate criteria" just for kicks. I thought I'd share the alt criteria for a recent project:

A Successful Teaching Portfolio (Alt Criteria)
  • Provides quality writing
  •  Lights a candle of pedagogical knowledge
  •  Instills pistis in the reader
  •  Has rhetorical kung fu
  •  Puts the critical in critical thinking
  •  Is enjoyable to read
  •  Exemplifies phronesis—practical wisdom
  • Assures the reader that you know what you’re doing
  •  Makes the mind step lively
  •  Seduces the reader with smart ideas, policies, assignments, and lesson plans
  •  Shows that the Teaching Force is strong in you
  •  Offers prose free of hokum, claptrap, “Engfish,” gobbledygook, administrative-speak, and logical boondoggles
  •  Is a hooey-free zone
  •  Seeks vengeance on anyone who ever doubted your ability as an instructor
  • Creates the sound of one hand clapping 

That's me quoting my professional self, something I rarely do on this blog. Don't get used to it. Those hyperlinks above might take you to some places though. 

With the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington, I wonder if anyone has approached Cheech and Chong about doing a movie? 

Regardless, I'm curious about how much tax revenue those states will generate from pot sales this year. 

Typical of HBO's adaptation of Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series, this season's first episode of Game of Thrones sexxed up the storyline. If I remember right from A Storm of Swords, when Tyrion and Oberyn Martell meet for the first time, they do so on the road to King's Landing. Instead, HBO has Tyrion Lannister going to a whorehouse to meet the Red Viper, and the first scene that introduces Oberyn and Ellaria Sand plays with the backstory that they're both bisexual. Classic move, HBO. 

And if you're a fan of the series, here's "Death Never in Games of Thrones Never Looked So Beautiful" from Mashable. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Music Friday: "I Stay Away" & "No Excuses"

Last night before class some students were talking about music. They mainly were talking about Smashing Pumpkins and Billy Corgan's poetry, but one person's comment made feel so damn old. 

I don't recall it exactly, but the gentleman said something to the effect of "I like listening to 90s music." 

As I said, the comment and the exploratory tone in his voice, as if he was going back into the archives, made me feel like a geezer. But when I think about it, I probably made similar comments about music from the 60s when I was his age. 

In tribute to excellent 90s music, I give you two songs from Jar of Flies by Alice in Chains, which I'm listening to as I write this post. It's one of the best EPs ever.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Music Friday: "Spinners"

The Hold Steady has been making the rounds to the late-night talk shows to promote their new album, Teeth Dreams, that came out on Tuesday. 

The couple of times I've seen them on shows, they've played this song, which is classic fare from this straightforward rock band. 

Here's to weekends of "salted rims and frosted mugs."

Monday, March 24, 2014

Random Notes from a Crank

As I was surfing channels Sunday night, I discovered that Tiffani Thiessen now has a cooking show. Now, I'm an agnostic, but if there is any proof that there is some divine entity and that being likes me for some reason, a show that combines Tiffani Thiessen and cooking might be it. I'm willing to thank the gods or whomever for this show.

Speaking of the alleged Food Network, here's a thought. Why don't you have shows that are cooking shows rather than cooking competitions? I'd much rather see Alton Brown, Tyler Florence, and other chefs doing now old-fashioned cooking shows. In the meantime, I'll be watching the Cook's Illustrated cooking shows on PBS. 

While I'm skeptical of how rational humans really are, Paul Bloom's "The War on Reason" in The Atlantic gives me hope. As he says, "… such scattered and selected instances of irrationality [based on research studies] shouldn't cloud our view of the rational foundations of our everyday life." In the closing paragraph, he really brings it on home: "Yes, we are physical beings, and yes, we are continually swayed by factors beyond our control. But as Aristotle recognized long ago, what's so interesting about us is our capacity for reason, which reigns over all. If you miss this, you miss almost everything that matters."

I started reading Neil Gaiman's Sandman series, a graphic novel that I finally got around to checking out. I'm enjoying it so far. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Music Friday: "Grand Canyon"

I know. I know. It's not Friday. I forgot all about it yesterday because I have been at a conference in Indianapolis. 

On Friday I went to a party, a gathering of folks who have ties to certain graduate programs at the U of Tennessee and the U of Alabama. 

At the party, we, in part, celebrated the life of one professor who passed away a couple of weeks ago. 

So today I'm playing another song from Drive-By Truckers' English Oceans. The final track on the album was written for a member of the band's touring family who died. Patterson Hood writes about the time he and his friend visited in the Grand Canyon during the band's last tour.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Music Friday: "Sing a Simple Song"

Time to bring the funk. 

Man, I wish there were a lot of bands like Sly and the Family Stone around today. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Fumbling Toward Culinary Talent: All Veggie Soup

Since it snowed today, and today being the 12th of March, I decided to make some soup. It's an all-veggie recipe. 

1 yellow onion cut in eighths
stems of "baby bella" mushrooms 
2 carrots, cut into one-inch pieces
4 whole garlic cloves
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
Chopped up stems of broccoli from a couple of bunches of fresh broccoli
1/2 of a white onion, rough chop
decent bunch of green-leaf lettuce, rough chop
2 bay leaves
Healthy smudge of bouquet garni
4 carrots, peeled and cut into thin medallions
1/2 of a white onion, finely chopped
1 bunch of kale, de-stemmed and chopped
1 bunch of broccoli florets 
package of baby bella mushrooms, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

To make the stock, I heated vegetable oil in a skillet on medium-high. I put the cut-up yellow onion, mushroom stems, and two carrots into the oil and browned it all for roughly eight minutes. Then I placed the garlic cloves in and cooked them for about four minutes. 

Transfer all of that to a stock pot and add in the broccoli stems, rough-chop onion, green-leaf lettuce, bay leaves, and bouquet garni. Cover with water, bring to a boil, and simmer for an hour and a half till it's about reduced by a third or a half. 

Strain the broth, transfer it back to the stock pot, and add in the carrots and finely chopped onion. Simmer for ten minutes. Add the kale and broccoli florets. Simmer for fifteen minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms and simmer for five minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Random Notes from a Crank

If you're a fan of the HBO series True Detective like I am, you'll appreciate this article about the final episode and the series: "Close to Perfection."

As some of you might know, I was once a professor at a two-year college. From my perspective, an article in Salon, "My Hard Lessons Teaching Community College," is a fairly accurate depiction of two-year college work though I think the two-year college where I worked had better metrics of "success" than the ones the author relates. Here are two salient quotations from the piece:
  • For many of them [students], why they fail is not a question of talent, or even basic skills. It’s a question so complicated as to be nearly unanswerable. Sometimes, they just don’t want or need what we can provide.
  • The other [premise] is much more profound and troubling: that with the right support (the financial aid, the grants, the scholarships, the tutoring, the early intervention, the developmental courses, the disability services, the right counseling, the list goes on and on) anyone can get a college degree. It’s patently false.

This article reminded me of a statistic I've read a couple of times: 12% of students who start at a two-year college graduate with a bachelor's degree after six years. That stat is shocking to most. However, it's not accurate and could be used unethically. Some people who begin at a two-year college have zero intention of getting a bachelor's degree (think of all of the truly vocational programs at two-year colleges), so that stat is skewed for a number of reasons. Also, some people go to a community college to see if college is something they want to try. Some discover it's not for them. No big deal.

Speaking of higher ed, with all kinds of discussion related to massive open online courses (MOOCs), here's some info from this month's Harper's Index: 
  • Percentage of students enrolled in massive open online courses who view no more than one lecture: 49
  • Percentage who complete the course: 4

Friday, March 7, 2014

Music Friday: "Pauline Hawkins"

I think the Drive-By Truckers might have their mojo back. 

The band's new album, English Oceans, came out this week. 

Below is track 4 on the album. Based on the first few days of listening to the CD, my favorite songs are "Grand Canyon," "Hearing Jimmy Loud," "The Part of Him," "Primer Coat," and "Shit Shots Count," but "Pauline Hawkins" is a good one too. I especially like the guitar feedback-piano solo that comes about three-quarters of the way through the song, which is then followed by some rambunctious goodness. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Random Notes from a Crank

The other day my six-year-old son told us that he had two girlfriends. The first one is Lillie, a girl a year younger than him. He went to pre-school with her. The second, apparently, is Taylor Swift. I explained to him that he's too young to have a girlfriend and that Lillie is prettier than Taylor Swift and probably much nicer. I continued by telling him that I think Taylor Swift always looks like she's squinting or something. Also, with how many breakup songs she writes, you have to wonder if the men in her life aren't the problem. Maybe the real problem is her? 

Thought Catalog, one of those sites that's frequently shared via social media, had an interesting compilation of advice. It's titled "21 People On What They Would Tell Their 19-Year-Old Selves." My personal favorites are the advice given by Anya, Parker, Donald, Jackson, and Katelyn. 

If I had to provide advice to my 19-year-old self, like anyone else, there are a number of statements I'd make that I'd rather not share on the InterWebs or in polite company. However, here's some advice for that fool that I'm willing to share:
  • Stay an extra year in undergrad because you should get a second major either in psychology, communication studies, sociology, anthropology, or history.
  • Read more. In particular, read about rhetoric, composition studies, organizational communication, professional writing, psychology, history, anthropology, and sociology. And comic books and graphic novels. 
  • Don't sell some of your comic books ~ the Daredevil when Elektra dies and the Amazing Spider-Man with the Spider-Mobile and the first appearance of the Punisher. You'll want to show them to your kids. 
  • If she's not into you, she's not into to you. Move on. 
  • Apply this principle liberally: Ars est celare artem.  
  • What you will learn being a member of a fraternity will translate more productively to your professional life than most of the classes you will take as an undergraduate. Get good grades and all that, but keep this fact in mind. 
  • Manage your money better, you idiot.

The other day I got a copy of Studs Terkel's Working. I'm enjoying it so far, but I wished I would have read it a long time ago. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Fumbling Toward Culinary Talent: Mushroom Infused Meatloaf with Mushroom Gravy

This is a variation of a recipe I learned about from Cook's Country from America's Test Kitchen, a PBS cooking program. The episode is "Comfort Food Classics" if you want to watch the program. 

16 saltines
3.5 oz. of shitake mushrooms
10 oz. of button mushrooms
1 white onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 and a half cups of beef broth
Worchestershire sauce
2 eggs
1 lb. of ground pork
1 lb. of ground sirloin
1/4 cup of rice flour
Smidge of thyme
Healthy smidge of fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

First, take the saltine and use a food processor to get them to crumbs. Set them aside in a large bowl.

Second, take the shitake mushrooms and 4-6 button mushrooms, place them in the food processor, and pulse until all crumbly. Set this aside in another bowl.

In a large cast iron skillet, sauté the onions until starting to brown and then add in the mushroom mush. Add some salt and pepper. Cook that for 3-5 minutes and then add in the garlic. Cook for a minute or two after adding the garlic. Transfer this to a bowl, so it can cool for a while. 

Add the mushroom-onion-garlic mush to the saltines and mix well with beaten two eggs, 1/4 cup of beef broth, and some dashes of Worchestershire sauce. Add in the ground pork and sirloin and mix well. 

Instead of using a loaf pan, use the skillet. Dump the meaty goop into the pan and shape it into a loaf. Place the skillet into a 375 degree oven for approximately an hour or until the internal temp of the meat is 170 degrees. 

Remove the meatloaf from the skillet and place on a cutting board. Place aluminum foil over the meat, so it stays warm. 

Scrap out the meat leakage that remains in the skillet and place the remaining button mushrooms (sliced) into the skillet. Add some salt, pepper, and thyme. Cook on medium for roughly five minutes and then add in the rice flour. Cook for a minute. Pour in the beef broth and a bit of Worchestershire. Heat until it boils and then reduce to low. In five minutes, the gravy should be ready.