Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Random Notes from a Crank

As simple pleasures go, one of the best is lying on a couch and reading a good book with the windows open. 

I could think of some other pleasures, but I'll refrain from "going blue" in this post. I sort of went there but then didn't. Or did I? Or did you? 

The book I'm reading now is Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson. It's a solid biography. Franklin is one of the most interesting founding fathers. The part I'm reading now makes me dislike John Adams even more than I already did. Franklin said it well when he described Adams this way: "He means well for his country, is always an honest man, often a wise one, but sometimes and in some things, absolutely out of his senses." 

Sometimes I have cravings for butter beans and lima beans. I ate some butter beans on Monday. I need to make some dishes that use them to spread the gospel of these humble and healthy beans. They're full of fiber that lowers cholesterol. They're a good source of protein, and they don't have a lot of fat. 

Right now I am also on a beets kick. There are good reasons for eating those roots

Oh, and also artichokes, which are also good for you

It'll be interesting if any other Cubs get dealt at the trade deadline. They just moved Barney to the Dodgers for a player-to-be-named-later, but we'll see if Russell, Wright, Ruggiano, and Bonifacio are traded. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Music Friday: "Who Do You Love"

In our travels to and from Wisconsin, I had my iPod on shuffle like I usually do. For whatever reason, a number of tunes from George Thorogood were selected. I have his 2120 South Michigan Avenue album. 

In honor of his classic sound, here one of his staples.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Band Names Gratis Part Four

As I did once in 2012 and then a couple of times in 2013, I'm providing some band names I've thought of. For some reason, these usually come to me when I'm driving, and a number of these came to me from our vacation. We're at the Kalahari resort in Wisconsin Dells. 

So here they are:

Friday, July 18, 2014

Music Friday: "Turtles All the Way Down"

After a full day of watching a dance competition, I need some kind of tonic against the music I've heard all day. 

The opening track of Sturgill Simposon's Metamodern Sounds in Country Music should do the trick. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Music Friday: "Stones in My Passway" & "Paper in Fire"

An album that came out this week is John Mellencamp's Performs Trouble No More At Town Hall

If you're not familiar with his Trouble No More, Mellencamp recorded that album in 2003, and it has a wide selection of traditional blues songs. Great stuff. 

The new album is him playing the album's songs live in addition to these classics: "Small Town," "Teardrops Will Fall," "Paper in Fire," and "Pink Houses." 

Below is the opening song of both albums, "Stones in My Passway" by Robert Johnson, and I've thrown in "Paper in Fire" for the heck of it.  




Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Random Notes from a Crank

I just have to vent this question. When the @#$% are The Bottle Rockets going to put out a new album? 

This weekend we're headed up to Iowa to visit my dad. We haven't visited since my mom's funeral in early February. We'll visit her grave on Saturday and take my old man out to dinner at Texas Roadhouse. He's moving to a smaller apartment in the old folks home. And yes, you just read "old folks home." I prefer that term to "assisted-living facility," which sounds way too technical and sterile. He's going to give my daughter a Norwegian doll of my mom's, which will make Hannah cry. And apparently he wants to give my son a bunch of old coins. He's been more upbeat when I have talked to him lately, so I think he's gotten somewhat used to being solo. I think the move to different apartment will also help.

I wish I could still read Latin like I used to. Right now one of the books I'm reading is Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor. Back when I was in Latin classes, I have the privilege of reading Julius Caesar, Cicero, and others in their native tongue. Cicero's speech about the Catalinarian conspiracy is a serious work of art. And I enjoyed Julius Ceasar's style of writing: direct and concise. 

I started reading Brian Wood's comic books about Star Wars. His series informs readers about what was happening between Episode IV: Star Wars and Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. I do believe I'm hooked. I dig the depiction of Leia as a warrior princess. It's a fun narrative. 

Lately the only fiction I read is sequential art

For Father's Day I bought my dad The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression by Amity Shales. Virg was born in '27, so he was a little kid during the Depression. I'm thinking about buying the graphic version of the book that came out a while back. 

Stay Positive: Maxims from Poor Richard's Almanack

As I've written about before, I've always been fond of maxims. In fact, back in grad school, I wrote a paper about Aristotle's discussion of maxims in his Rhetoric and explored the maxims people use when they comment on students' papers. 

Because I'm drawn to these concise bits of wisdom, I picked up a Dover Thrift Edition of Wit and Wisdom from Poor Richard's Almanack

What follows are my favorite maxims offered by none other than Ben Franklin:

  • Youth is pert and positive. Age modest and doubting: so Ears of Corn when young and light, stand bold upright, but hang their Heads when weighty, full, and ripe.
  • If Passion drives, let Reason hold the Reins.
  • Anger warms the Invention, but overheats the Oven.
  • Anger is never without a Reason, but seldom with a good One.
  • Craft must be at charge for clothes, but Truth can go naked. 
  • He that's content, hath enough; He that complains, hath too much. 
  • Discontented Minds, and Fevers of the Body are not to be cured by changing Beds or Businesses. 
  • In the Affairs of this World Men are saved, not by Faith, but by Want of it. 
  • The sleeping Fox catches no poultry. 
  • Diligence overcomes Difficulties, Sloth makes them. 
  • God helps them that help themselves. 
  • Diligence is the mother of good luck. 
  • When the Wine enters, out goes the Truth.
  • Eat to live; live not to eat.  
  • To lengthen they Life, lessen they Meals. 
  • What one relishes, nourishes. 
  • A learned Blockhead is a greater Blockhead than an ignorant one. 
  • The learned Fool write his Nonsense in better Language than the unlearned; but still 'tis Nonsense. 
  • The first Degree of Folly, is to conceit one's self wise; the second to profess it; the third to despise Counsel. 
  • Silence is not always a Sign of Wisdom, but Babbling is ever a Folly. 
  • There are three faithful friends--an old wife, an old dog, and ready money. 
  • Avoid dishonest Gain: No price can recompense the Pangs of Vice. 
  • Where there's Marriage without Love, there will be Love without Marriage. 
  • Pride dines upon Vanity, sups on Contempt.
  • As Pride increases, Fortune declines. 
  • Beware of the young doctor and the old barber. 
  • He's the best physician that knows the worthlessness of the most medicines. 
  • No gains without pains. 
  • Make haste slowly.
  • Three make keep a secret, if two of them are dead. 
  • Take counsel in wine, but resolve afterwards in water. 
  • Haste makes waste.
  • Don't throw Stones at your Neighbours', if your own Windows are Glass. 
  • 'Tis easier to prevent bad habits than to break them. 
  • Blessed is he that expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed. 
  • To serve the Publick faithfully, and at the same time please it entirely, is impracticable. 
  • Wink at small faults--remember thou has great ones. 
  • Be at War with your Vices, at Peace with your Neighbours, and let every New-Year find you a better Man. 
  • An open foe may prove a curse; but a pretended friend is worse.
  • Fish and visitors stink after three days. 
  • Men and melons are hard to know. 
  • He that won't be counsell'd, can't be help'd.
  • There is no little enemy. 
  • He that speaks much, is much mistaken.
  • Half Wits talk much but say little. 
  • Lost Time is never found again. 
  • People who are wrapped up in themselves make small packages. 
  • A good Example is the best Sermon. 
  • Bad Commentators spoil the best of books. 
  • To err is human, to repent divine, to persist devilish. 
  • Old Boys have their Playthings as well as young ones; the difference is only in the Price. 
  • When the Well's dry, we know the Worth of Water. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Evaluating the As-Cubs Trade

The good folks at Fangraphs provide a sound analysis of the recent As-Cubs trade. For that article, check out "The A's and Cubs Blockbuster Trade." 

From this Cubs fan perspective, I like the deal because from the looks of it, Addison Russell could be a great player and might make an impact at the MLB level fairly soon. 

The acquisition of Dan Straily and Billy McKinney doesn't impress, however. I would have liked to have seen Chicago acquire a stronger starting pitcher than Straily, but we'll see what happens with his career. What makes me hopeful about him is that his career WHIP is 1.25. His strikeout rate per 9 innings is a pedestrian 7.4, however. 

As for McKinney, he's so young that it's difficult to tell how he'll turn out as a MLB player. He could just be a Matt Murton type (a guy I always liked who didn't get enough playing time under Baker in my opinion) or someone who finally progresses well over the years like Josh Donaldson, who the Cubs traded not that long ago. 

I would like to see the Cubs have more strong pitching prospects in the system. However, in an offensively starved MLB, I like that fact that many of the Cubs' strongest prospects are position players: Javier Baez (SS, 3B, or OF), Kris Bryant (3B or OF), Arismendy Alcantara (2B), Albert Almora (OF), Jorge Soler (OF), and Kyle Schwarber (Catcher or OF). 

The key, of course, is that a number of them need to pan out. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Music Friday: "Living in America"

With being part of a parade today and taking in various 4th of July festivities, I'm late to posting for Music Friday. 

Since this song was the next to last song in the playlist for the Coles County fireworks display, I give you the hardest working man in show business. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Random Notes from a Crank

As live albums go, it's hard to beat At Fillmore East by The Allman Brothers Band. They were a jam band before the term was invented. 

This summer, my going-into-first-grade son has played rookie league ball, which is machine-pitch baseball. Since I didn't get to play organized baseball when I was kid, I'm living vicariously through him. It's been fun practicing with him and working as one the team's ad hoc coaches. The first day of the tournament started on Monday, and my son's team lost its first game, which was difficult because they are a good-hitting team, but they've had defensive issues on a consistent basis. They kicked it around the yard last night and lost because of it. Bad deal. They barely won their game tonight. And tomorrow night they have a game. It's a double-elimination tournament, so it's either win and advance or lose and the season is over. 

One of the moms who was watching taekwondo class on Tuesday was reading a Reader's Digest. I'm surprised that mag is still around and that people still read it. 

The article, "Supreme Court Upholds Little Caesar's Right to Feed Christian Employees to Lions," is a wonderful bit of satire. Carpe diem, bitches. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Stay Positive: Visiting Wrigley Field

On Saturday we drove up early to watch the Nationals take on the Cubs in the 12:05 game, the first part of a scheduled double header. 

I haven't watched a game at Wrigley in a long time. I think the last time I went was when Mrs. Nasty and I were newlyweds, and at the end of July we will have been married 15 years. 

Anyway, the tickets were my Father's Day present, and I appreciate them. 

Our upper deck seats were great, Aisle 429 row 9 seats 7-10. We had three foul balls come our way. In the first inning two came right below us, and in the second, the guy right sitting right in front of my son caught a foul ball. 

Having seen the ball park pre-Rickets era, I have to say I'm fine with most of the changes. 

Where there was once just a massive sidewalk around Waveland and Addison is now some Captain Morgan bar that was doing a brisk business. Such changes were likely to happen. 

Wrigley Field needs a large jumbotron somewhere. 

The atmosphere, as usual, was great. Wrigley is a beautiful ball park. My kids and wife enjoyed the game, and we stimulated the economy by buying various Cubs paraphernalia. 

But I have two things to bitch about. 

Where the @#$% are the Old Style vendors? The mighty conglomerate of Anheuser-Busch has limited distribution of the fine, hearty lager from Wisconsin. Jesus, they have beer dudes hawking Goose Island crap in opposition to Bud Light hegemony, and I can't get a Old Style? 

Then again, beers were 8 bucks, so maybe I was better off with sipping on my daughter's lemonade from time to time. 

So here's the second point I have to complain about. The Cubs outfield is HORRIBLE. Or if you want to put it another way, you can use a deep Southern accent and say the outfielders we have are "turrible." 

What the Cubs have right now is a collection of outfielders that could be described as the "castoffs of other clubs" or the "isle of misfit outfielders."

Here are the players the Cubs are running out there on a regular basis: 
  • Justin Ruggiano: 104 at bats, 15 runs, 25 hits, 2 HRs, 10 RBI, .240 average, .333 OBP, .718 OPS
  • Junior Lake: 231 at bats, 27 runs, 54 hits, 9 HRs, 25 RBI, .234 average, .263 OBP, .675 OPS
  • Chris Coghlan: 99 at bats, 10 runs, 20 hits, 2 HRs, 4 RBI, .202 average, .282 OBP, .615 OPS
  • Nate Schierholtz: 245 at bats, 22 runs, 49 hits, 3 HRs, 27 RBI, .200 average, .253 OBP, .551 OPS 
  • Ryan Sweeney: 104 at bats, 8 runs, 21 hits, 0 HRs, 8 RBI, .202 average, .242 OBP, .484 OPS
As much as I hope Lake learns how to shorten his swing with two strikes and other players somehow become solid contributors, I'm not confident in such outcomes. Those counting and percentage stats are jaw-droppingly bad. Just really bad. 

Kris Bryant or Javier Baez need to learn how to play outfield. Soon.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Music Friday: "High Road"

John Fullbright's second album, Songs, came out this spring, and I've been listening to it pretty regularly. It's a solid effort, a slower-paced affair compared to From the Ground Up, which is an outstanding album. 

A representative sample from the new album is "High Road," a song about love and loss. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Random Notes from a Crank

On Tuesday I took the kids to the pool for the first time this summer. I didn't remember what time the local pool opened, so I checked the web. The site I was on stated the pool opened at 1 pm, so we didn't go until then. When we got the there, the pool was packed, and the real opening time is Noon. I complained to my kids that the website said it opened at 1 to which my daughter replied, "Just because it was on the web doesn't mean it's right." I know where she got that reply from. Me. A happy boomerang of parenting.

It's difficult not to notice a really bad tattoo, one of those ink jobs you look at and think, "That's horrible." I saw one at the local pool the other day that was not only horrible, but also it was despicable. Some dude had a large tattoo of the battle flag (stars and bars) and the official flag of the Confederate States of America on his back ~ smack dab in the middle of his back right below his shoulder blades. I might expect seeing a tattoo like this, say, in the Deep South where there are active lineage societies like United Daughters of the Confederacy and Sons of Confederate Veterans, but I was surprised to see it in east central Illinois.

After they came in the mail last week, it occurred to me that two books I bought have titles that start the exact same way. The two books are You Are Not Smart by David McRaney and You Are Not a Gadget by Jaron Lanier. In defiance of these titles, I might go around thinking of myself as a smart gadget. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Music Friday: "Salty Disciple" & "Triggers and Trash Heaps"

One of the new releases this summer that I'm digging is Centro-matic's Take Pride in Your Long Odds. And that's a great title for an album. 

Here's one of the songs from that album, "Salty Disciple," and a older song, "Triggers and Trash Heaps" from Fort Recovery




Sunday, June 15, 2014

Random Notes from a Crank

A couple of weeks ago I was on the website for Arizona State University for some reason I don't even remember anymore. When I was on the site, I accidentally clicked on a link for ASU Online. Now whenever I'm on certain websites, there are these ASU Online ads prominently displayed. I'm being stalked. Stop stalking me ASU Online. I'm done with taking classes. ASU Online, you creep me out. I'm not interested. 

If you get Harper's or have access to the magazine, I highly recommend this article from the June issue: "The Civil Rights Act's Unsung Victory" by Randall Kennedy. It's solid analysis of the act, its influence, and its connection to how people talk about race at present. Here's a passage that's worth noting: "The difficulty is distinguishing nonracist libertarianism from its fraudulent, pre textual lookalikes. There is good reason to be skeptical of those who, in the name of liberty, condemn a law that has rescued millions from the tyranny of unchecked racial ostracism." 

I have a subscription to Esquire magazine because getting subscriptions was one of the elementary school fundraisers this year. The magazine is usually bathroom-quality reading material, but the June/July issue focuses on fatherhood, and there are a number of good articles in it. One in particular is Stephen Marche's "Manifesto of the New Fatherhood." It's a good read for today, which is Father's Day. The last § or ¶ provides a strong summation of the situation: "At the heart of the new fatherhood is a somewhat surprising insight: Men, as fathers, are more crucial than anybody realized. The changing American father is transforming the country at all levels, from the most fundamental to the most ethereal, economically, socially, politically. The epidemic of fatherlessness and the new significance men place on fatherhood point to the same clandestine truth: The world, it turns out, does need fathers." 

Huzzah to good, responsible fathers.