Friday, December 31, 2010

Music Friday: Avett Brothers Smorgasbord

On a day of excess, I thought I'd offer a number of videos from a band that has become one of my favorites over the past year or so ~ the Avett Brothers. I've featured them before on a Music Friday, but today on New Year's Eve day I'm providing four songs of note. To go to the videos, simply click on the name of each song.

First up is "Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise," a slowly paced song with lyrics I enjoy.

Batting second is "Talk on Indolence," and you can find the lyrics below.


And the final of the quartet is "Kick Drum Heart."

All of these videos come from their Live Volume 3 album/dvd.


Talk on Indolence
Well I've been lockin' myself up in my house for sometime now,
Readin' and writin' and readin' and thinkin'
and searching for reasons and missing the seasons.
The Autumn, the Spring, the Summer, the snow.
The record will stop and the record will go.
Latches latched the windows down,
the dog coming in and the dog going out.
Up with caffeine and down with a shot.
Constantly worried about what I've got.
Distracting my work but I can't make a stop,
and my confidence on and my confidence off.
And I sink to the bottom and rise to the top,
and I think to myself that I do this a lot.
World outside just goes it goes it goes it goes it goes it goes...
and witness it all from the blinds of my window.
THREE, FOUR

I'm a little nervous 'bout what you'll think
When you see me in my swimming trunks.
And last night in New York I got raging drunk.
Remember one time I got raging drunk with you.

Now, I can recall a time when we made the city
Streets our playground, kissing in the fountains
Filled with cigarettes and bottles,
Sped through Italian city streets of cobblestone.

Because we had to
Because I loved you
Because the damned alcohol
Because what ever at all

Now I've grown too aware of my mortality
To let go and forget about dying
Long enough to drop the hammer down
And let the indolence go wild and flying through

Because we had to...

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Belated Music Friday: "Electric Car"

A few days ago I remembered I had forgotten to serve up a Music Friday post. Sorry about that. I haven't had my laptop on over the past few days, so I never got around to it.

Anyway, on the plane ride back from Florida this afternoon, I read an optimistic article by Kiera Butler in the current issue of Mother Jones. Her "Econundrums" column takes on eight electric car myths, which reminded me of the song "Electric Car" by They Might Be Giants, which is on the band's Here Comes Science album, which followed two previous kids albums: Here Come the ABCs and Here Come the 123s. If you have young kids, I strongly recommend the trilogy of albums/DVDs. And Schoolhouse Rock.

Click HERE to watch the song's video.

And if you are interested in Butler's article, click HERE to start reading.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Mistletoe

A while ago on a Facebook status update by Jason Isbell, he made a ribald crack about accessorizing with mistletoe. When I read his post then, maybe a week ago, I thought, "What's the deal with mistletoe anyway? Why mistletoe and kissing?"

Since I was lazy at that moment, I didn't follow up on my questions.

As I was surfing the InterWeb tonight, I came across a short article on Slate about the origin of using mistletoe during the holiday season. While I found the quotation from Dickens' Pickwick Papers to be creepy, the article relates some of the history behind the plant and its connection to the holidays.

In sum, blame the Celtic Druids and the Greeks and especially the concept of the "kissing ball" from 18th century Britain.

You can click HERE to read the article from Slate. But a more detailed explanation about the plant's significance is available by clicking HERE to read a Web article with a title that is poorly (not) punctuated: "Mistletoe its history, meaning and traditions." The latter concisely details the kissing ball and gives more info about the Druids.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"390 - and rising" & Darryl Cunningham on Climate Change

Click HERE if you're interested in reading an article about global warming from The New York Times. The piece begins with some history and background information about the scientist who started recording levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in the 50s. Yes, the 50s.

And that scientist, Charles David Keeling, was a registered Republican.

Below are some choice cuts from the article.

From page 1:

As the political debate drags on, the mute gray boxes atop Mauna Loa keep spitting out their numbers, providing a reality check: not only is the carbon dioxide level rising relentlessly, but the pace of that rise is accelerating over time.
“Nature doesn’t care how hard we tried,” Jeffrey D. Sachs, the Columbia University economist, said at a recent seminar. “Nature cares how high the parts per million mount. This is running away.”
From page 2:
By the late 1960s, a decade after Dr. Keeling began his measurements, the trend of rising carbon dioxide was undeniable, and scientists began to warn of the potential for a big increase in the temperature of the earth.
From page 3:
In an interview in La Jolla, Dr. Keeling’s widow, Louise, said that if her husband had lived to see the hardening of the political battle lines over climate change, he would have been dismayed.
“He was a registered Republican,” she said. “He just didn’t think of it as a political issue at all.”
The basic physics of the atmosphere, worked out more than a century ago, show that carbon dioxide plays a powerful role in maintaining the earth’s climate. Even though the amount in the air is tiny, the gas is so potent at trapping the sun’s heat that it effectively works as a one-way blanket, letting visible light in but stopping much of the resulting heat from escaping back to space.
From page 4:
The Internet has given rise to a vocal cadre of challengers who question every aspect of the science — even the physics, worked out in the 19th century, that shows that carbon dioxide traps heat. That is a point so elementary and well-established that demonstrations of it are routinely carried out by high school students.
However, the contrarians who have most influenced Congress are a handful of men trained in atmospheric physics. They generally accept the rising carbon dioxide numbers, they recognize that the increase is caused by human activity, and they acknowledge that the earth is warming in response.
But they doubt that it will warm nearly as much as mainstream scientists say, arguing that the increase is likely to be less than two degrees Fahrenheit, a change they characterize as manageable.
From page 5:
At midnight Mauna Loa time, the carbon dioxide level hit 390 — and rising.
From Darryl Cunningham Investigates:
For a comic presentation about climate change, click HERE to read a conversation between a guy and a penguin, a very smart penguin.

Flashbacks of Junior High

I was reading a post on Roxane Gay's blog the other day, and she makes a funny crack about how the members of her writing group should all get Members Only jackets.

The image of Members Only Jackets created flashbacks to junior high school, the fashion thereof, and other desires.

I admit I had a Members Only jacket back then in sixth and seventh grade. I got compliments from girls, which naturally made me nervous and self-conscious. Well, for full disclosure here, I doubt it was a true Members Only jacket but a knockoff of some sort that my mom picked up at the Waterloo K-Mart after strategic whining from yours truly. So a K-Members Only jacket. It wasn't in an elite membership -- let's just say that. My parents, two people who lived their early childhoods during the Great Depression, were/are the practical sort, so the jacket although goofy in obvious ways wasn't too dissimilar from regular jackets. And at K-Mart prices, there's no problem there.

The other fashion staple of the early 80s were pants that were the rage in my corner of northeastern Iowa at the time, probably a year or two after they were the in-garment on the coasts. You might have guessed what I'm talking about here: parachute pants.

Yes, parachute pants. I'm still waiting for them to make a comeback simply because I want to laugh at people for wearing the stupid garment. I will not lie though. I wanted a pair. At least one pair to be like the cool kids would suffice. But Virg and Deloras saw right through that fashion silliness. Add the strangeness of somewhat skintight garments with multiple zippers and pockets to the fact that they were expensive, that's not a good equation for this guy. No parachute pants for this fellow. No way.

Oh but I did appreciate them. I did a lot of appreciating since as we know junior high is when puberty hits. And young ladies at that time, well, they wore parachute pants. The noise the pants made as girls walked down the halls of West Junior was erotic to me. Like others, I had sensitive antennae to such things, which leads me to the accidental foresight my parents had when I get to thinking about it.

I mean, how do you hide a boner in parachute pants?

As you might have predicted, there are stores on the Internet who will gladly truck in economic nostalgia for those of us who desire, who desperately need, parachute pants. Click HERE for one such store. I wonder if I can talk Mrs. Nasty into buying a pair.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Yahtzee Mind, Beginner's Mind

It had been such a long time since I played Yahtzee that I returned to having a "beginner's mind" about the game as I tried to sort through how exactly you play the game and then explain it to my daughter a couple of days ago.

As Shunryu Suzuki says in his famous book, "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In expert's mind there are few."

I played the heck out of that game when I was younger. During the holidays or when my nephews (sons of my oldest brother are around my age) would spend the weekends at my parents' house per the divorce agreement, we'd all sit around the kitchen table and play Yahtzee, Risk, and other assorted board games. Yahtzee and Risk were my favorites.

So now I'm thinking about the different options I have for strategy when Hannah and I play, not closing off the many possibilities for winning the game via diverse means.

But I have some questions and concerns about Yahtzee that I might not have thought of back then.

In the Upper Section once you add up the scores for aces, twos, and so on, if your total score is "63 or over," you "score 35" more points. So why that number, 63, a number that seems odd to me now? It doesn't even look strong. It's a wimpy number. It exudes wussiness. If I were to see 63 on an offensive lineman, the number doesn't exhibit greatness. I can think of no famous 63s in college football or the NFL. Even looking at the number, it's soft, all roundy and stuff -- not jagged lines that inspire greatness like 72 or 54 or 78 or 77.

Ok, maybe the above about 63 is a stretcher. But how did the R&D folks at Parker Brothers come up with this number I wonder. Was it based on weeks of playing the game, or did some statistician calculate the possible variations of total scores in the upper section and find the mean or median? I would assume the latter method is what went down, but I prefer to believe that a group of four folks playing for weeks on end, drinking cocktails, and scarfing down food at Hasbro HQ in Pawtucket, RI. I prefer that story. I have preferences.

From my perspective now, I have issues with how the Lower Section is arranged, an arrangement that I propose is the reason why I still have problems figuring out what beats what in poker. You see, in poker here are the hands in order of strength: straight flush, four of a kind, full house, flush, straight, three of kind, pair, etc.

Now in the Lower Section of Yahtzee, it's all screwed up. From top to bottom it goes: 3 of a kind, 4 of a kind, full house, small straight (sequence of four), large straight (sequence of five), yahtzee (five of a kind), and chance. All you can see, there's no semblance of order here except for 3 and 4 of a kind. Statistical and organizational tomfoolery.

Because of this, to this day when I play poker, I still get an overwhelming feeling that a straight should beat a full house. I feel it in my bones. You see, Lg. Straight is right next to Yahtzee.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Commercial

Click HERE if you're interested in watching some of the ways you can apply the phrase "Roll Tide" in everyday life.

Apply liberally.

Roll Tide.

Music Friday: "It Didn't Make a Sound" & "The Coast"

One album I didn't feature in a previous post that came out this year was the debut of the Court Yard Hounds, a band that is the two sisters from the Dixie Chicks with a backing band.

Click HERE to watch them perform "It Didn't Make a Sound," and/or click HERE to watch a video for "The Coast."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Doing the Elliptical... Thinking

As our Xmas gift to each other, Mrs. Nasty and I decided to purchase an elliptical machine because we both want to get in better shape.

For me, since both my mom and my oldest brother have had multiple heart surgeries over the past few years, I'm getting apprehensive about my health. Once you add in that I'm going to be 40 in January (and my 40s will be the personal decade that I really start kicking some ass by the way, so be careful) and I'm feeling not only flabby but also "worthless and weak," to invoke the famous video by Twisted Sister (click HERE for that), it's time get my girlish figure back.

So today I was doing the elliptical... thinking.

I don't know why I've been so obsessed with music lately, but listening to tunes does provide joy in my life. It always has, and it's definitely (or defiantly as many college students prefer to "spell" it) better than the fare offered on most of the channels of the squawk box.

I'm rediscovering some old bands whose work I only had on cassettes through the power of cheap downloads.

But to return to the elliptical, some bands just work well for me when I'm pumping my legs and arms on the NordicTrack contraption that is iPod compatible. I'll hit a good song, such as "Mountain Song," and want to push it further.

The band that helped me with this morning's workout is Jane's Addiction, in particular the first album, Nothing's Shocking.

With JA's hard-edge true alternative rock and Perry Farrell's sometimes creepy lyrics, my mind wandered in an extended Jack Handy-like fashion today, so here's a partial offering:

I've always found this phenomenon about seeing the Virgin Mary in various stuff really strange. I respect religious beliefs, but finding all these images of Mary all over the place seems a bit silly. Also, why is she usually crying? I guess I could see that maybe she's crying for the "walking sarcasm" (Twain's words, not mine) of humanity and how we're fouling up Creation, but for Christ's sake, she was the mother of Christ. Who else has that distinction? I would imagine it was awfully hard though to break it to the in-laws that she was indeed pregnant without Joseph and her doing the deed. I mean, how do you explain that you got knocked up by God or the Holy Ghost or whatever, the immaculate conception deal? At least the Greeks had Zeus doing the deed in various but unwholesome guises. Then again, how would you like to come into being like Athena did, out of your father's head? Her birth explains why she was Zeus' favorite. But, to get back to Jesus, how do you think his brothers (James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas) and sisters (who are unnamed tellingly) felt about him? I mean, your brother is supposed to be the son of God. That's intimidating.

And today those were some of my thoughts on the elliptical.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

It's Bowl Season

In this post I'm going to feature some prominent or interesting bowl games and offer my so-called thoughts on the matchups. I'm not going to go over all of the bowl games because that would just be way too much and way too much work. If you thought the top ten/twenty albums of 2010 was long, then a breakdown of all of the bowl games would be ridiculous.

So here you go:
Maaco Bowl Las Vegas: Boise State vs. Utah, Dec. 22
Oh, how the mighty have fallen, eh? If TCU put a whipping on the Utes in Salt Lake during the regular season, then the Broncos will also destroy Utah. I don't think this will even be close.

Insight Bowl: Mizzou vs. Iowa, Dec. 28
It's been a disappointing season for the Hawkeyes, and with the team's leading receiver arrested for drug-dealin' stuff and the starting running back suspended, I don't think Iowa's offense is strong enough to keep its defense fresh and off the field. Mizzou by 10.

Valero Alamo Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Arizona, Dec. 29
The Cowboys offense is downright unstoppable it seems, but the Pokes defense doesn't stop anyone. I expect a shootout, with the Wildcats losing in the fourth quarter.

Bridgepoint Holiday Bowl: Nebraska vs. Washington, Dec. 30
This is just a mismatch, plain and simple. Nebraska will win handily, but this is well worth watching to see how the NFL-bound Washington QB responds to the tough and salty Black Shirt defense.

Chick-Fil-A Bowl: South Carolina vs. Florida State, Dec. 31
The Gamecocks were embarrassed in the SEC Championship Game. Florida State's last game saw the Florida Gators scoring only 7 points and getting soundly beaten by the 'Noles' multi-faceted offense. It'll be close, but FSU, which is now once again a rising power under Jimbo Fisher, wins by a touchdown.

Capital One Bowl: Michigan State vs. Alabama, Jan. 1
This season has been a disappointment for the Tide. The last time they played a bowl game after a loss at the end of the season (vs. Florida in the SEC Championship Game), things didn't go well at all versus Utah. It was one hellacious first quarter, one that Alabama never recovered from. And sans their brain fart of a game in Iowa City, Michigan State just wins. I don't like this matchup. Flip a coin. If it's heads, Tide's secondary steps up without having Mark Barron as captain of the defense. If it's tails, Alabama's defense gets hurt once again by big plays in the passing game, which is the main reason for the losses to South Carolina, LSU, and Auburn this season.

Gator Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Michigan, Jan. 1
The Bulldogs have a strong defense, and the Wolverines a matador type of defense. Mississippi State's offense is mediocre, and Michigan's offense is prolific. When in doubt, the SEC trumps the new Big 12 here by a close score.

All State Sugar Bowl: Ohio State vs. Arkansas, Jan. 4
I have a bad feeling for the Razorbacks in this one since the Buckeyes usually have strong defenses. This is one of my upset picks even though I want Arkansas to win. Ohio State wins a close one carried by the performance of Pryor.

Tostitos BCS National Championship Game: Auburn vs. Oregon, Jan. 10
God, I would love to see the Ducks beat the living daylights out of the Tigers or War Eagles or Plainsmen or whatever the hell Auburn people seem to think is their mascot. The Iron Bowl debacle is one of the worst losses in Alabama football history in my opinion. It was more painful than when Mrs. Nasty and I watched the Tide lose in Bryant-Denny 9-0 on a day when it sleeted on us for a while. Believe me, that day sucked.

But I digress. Auburn wins by four points.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Top Ten/Twenty Albums of 2010

The folks over at No Depression are doing their annual reader's poll of the top twenty albums of 2010. Below I'm going to provide my top ten of the year with an assortment of significant and honorable mentions (the next ten). I posted my own top twenty over at No Depression, but after I posted, I realized there were some other albums I would have put it the top ten if I had remembered them.

So here goes my revised top ten/twenty. If you've enjoyed some albums that came out in 2010 that are on this list or ones that aren't on it, feel free to post ones that you feel are worth mentioning.

1. Justin Townes Earle, Harlem River Blues
This guy is an artist I've really grown to like over this year, and this album is outstanding. The songs are written from the p.o.v. of characters in his new town, NYC. His work melds country, blues, and folk traditions. If there were an artist I would want to do an album of Hank Williams' covers, JTE would be the man. Favorite Songs: "Harlem River Blues," "Workin' for the MTA," and "Ain't Waitin'."

2. Drive-By Truckers, The Big To-Do
DBT is not known for its uplifting lyrics. Although the band does have some work that is darkly humorous, they're not a feel-good band. The Big To-Do got back to what the band does best: playing straightforward, guitar-oriented, twangy rock-n-roll with dark lyrics. Favorite Songs: "The Fourth Night of My Drinking," "This Fucking Job," and "Eyes Like Glue."

3. Frontier Ruckus, Deadmalls and Nightfalls
This band's sophomore release is just as good if not better than than its first, The Orion Songbook. I don't know how to classify these folks, but I like their old-timey/alternative instrumentation and willfully obtuse lyrics. Favorite Songs: "Nerves of the Nightmind," "Springterror," and "Pontiac, the Nightbrink."

4. Deer Tick, The Black Dirt Sessions
I saw these guys in concert this year, and they are a trip. To a degree, I think they're a reincarnation of The Replacements, and that's high praise from me. While I don't find this album as strong as previous ones, it's good stuff. Favorite Songs: "Twenty Miles" and "Mange."

5. Glossary, Feral Fire
This is a band, in my opinion, that more people need to know about. They're not flashy. They're not particularly hip. They just play good music. The band from Mufreesboro put out a solid album here. Favorite Songs: "Lonely is a Town," "Save Your Money for the Weekend," and "Hope and Peril."

6. The Hold Steady, Heaven Is Whenever
Guitar-oriented rock-n-roll with interesing lyrics. It's that simple. Favorite Songs: "The Sweet Part of the City," "The Smidge," and "Our Whole Lives."

7. Trampled by Turtles, Palomino
The Duluth-based "thrashgrass" band put out another good album this year. While I don't think "thrashgrass" captures their work, that's what the band calls itself for lack of a better desciptor. Favorite Songs: "Wait So Long" and "New Orleans."

8. John Mellencamp, No Better Than This
As Mellencamp has said before, "It's never been cool to like John Mellencamp." His teaming up with T-Bone Burnett combined with the old fashioned recording process at historic American spots created an excellent album, one that grows on you. Maybe he is becoming "cool"? I doubt it, but who gives a @#$%. Favorite Songs: "Save Some Time to Dream," "No Better Than This," and "Clumsy Ol' World."

9. The Henry Clay People, Somewhere on the Golden Coast
Straight outta the O.C. Or something like that. Last.fm describes the band as "a type of no-frills, pretention-free rock that has sorely been missing from LA." I know little about the current L.A. music scene or most music "scenes" for that matter, but I like the album a lot. Favorite Songs: "Working Part-Time," "End of an Empire," and "This Ain't a Scene."

10. Mumford & Sons, Sigh No More
A loyal reader of this blog turned me on to these guys, so thanks TG Dem. While I usually have a weird revulsion to the British accents of certain bands besides the Beatles and the Spice Girls, Mumford & Sons' Sigh No More is a very good album I need to listen to much more often. Favorite Songs: "The Cave" and "White Blank Page."

Honorable Mentions (the next ten):

JJ Grey & Mofro, Georgia Warhorse
Mr. Grey still hasn't outdone his second album, Lochloosa (under only Mofro's name), but this is a strong effort.

Ryan Bingham, Junky Star
I found this album to be kind of uneven and lethargic at times, but it's still a good one. If you liked his first two albums, you'll like this one.

Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, self-titled
Ms. Potter has a very good voice, and the band that backs her rocks. The album is overproduced, however.

Punch Brothers, Antifogmatic
I'm thinking about seeing these guys in concert sometime. They meld bluegrass and chamber music.

Blue Giant, self-titled
This band has a strong debut album--alt-countryish, folky leanings.

Local Natives, Gorilla Manor
Daytrotter has been featuring the hell out of these guys. While they're a little poppy at times, the songs stay with you.

Truckstop Darlin', self-titled
Sure, they have a sketchy name, but the the band reminds me the Drive-By Truckers, Lucero, Uncle Tupelo, and Whiskeytown. I like those comparisons and the debut album.

Trombone Shorty, Backatown
This guy will make you get up and dance.

The Sheepdogs, Learn & Burn
This band seems to have taken in elements of classic rock and reformulated it for now. And they're from Saskatoon. How often do you get to say you like a band from Saskatoon?

Centro-matic/South San Gabriel, Eyas
Eyas is a EP, but if you can only download one song from this, download SSG's cover of Lionel Ritchie's "All Night Long." They turn a party song into something completely different. Check it out.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Fumbling Toward Culinary Talent: Cabbage Soup with Smoked Sausage

I followed the base recipe for a traditional cabbage soup today since I had a head of cabbage in the fridge that I needed to use soon. And I also had some smoked turkey sausage that I had been looking to use for a while.

Ingredients:
1 whole sweet onion, diced
1 bell pepper, roughly chopped
2 shallots, chopped roughly
3 scallions, the whites cut into medallions
4 cloves of garlic finely chopped
4 cups of low sodium chicken stock
2 cups of water
2 carrots, sliced into medallions
2 medium size potatoes, peeled and diced
1 small head of green cabbage, quartered and chopped into ribbons
1/2 lb. of smoked sausage, cut into half moons and browned on a skillet
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup of chopped fresh parsley
Small smidge of smoked paprika
Smidge of Herbs de Provence

I sweated down the onion, bell pepper, shallots, garlic, and scallions for maybe 10 minutes on medium-low and then poured in the chicken stock, water, carrots and potatoes.

Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. After roughly fifteen minutes, put in the cabbage smoked sausage. Get the concoction to the simmer stage again, and then let it do its thing for about fifteen minutes more. At the end, add in the salt, pepper, herbs, paprika, and parsley.

I was surprised by how this soup turned out. Since the cabbage is simmered for a short time, it comes out with a slightly sweet taste. Although I've always enjoyed corned beef and cabbage, I don't usually eat a lot of this vegetable because I don't know many dishes that call for it. And let's face it, when people think of vegetables, cabbage is not one that leaps into their minds. Cabbage, sexy it ain't. Even the sound of the word is guttural and ugly sounding almost to the extent that it could get verbed, such as "The criminal cabbaged his victim" or "My ex-wife, she cabbaged me up real bad."

If I ever can get my get my hands on some andouille sausage, that good stuff would be an excellent replacement for the smoked turkey sausage in this recipe even though the fat content in andouille is a much higher than what I used today. But hell, andouille is good with just about anything to me -- in soup, with pasta, on a pizza, inside of a bun, etc.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Music Friday: "Paris (Ooh La La)"

I happened upon Grace Potter one night when I was watching a documentary about Woodstock. She was briefly featured in the film because she was talking either about the influence of Janis Joplin or Grace Slick or both. I can't remember.

Regardless, this song is from the self-titled album, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, which I believe is her third album. It's a good album but a little over-produced for my liking since I usually like my tunes with some grit and darkness in them. At least based on the reviews, the first two albums are held in high esteem and not as slick sounding.

Click HERE for "Paris (Ooh La La)."

Thursday, December 9, 2010

0 Views

On our way back from the great state of Iowa after Thanksgiving, I was listening to a program on NPR, and the host did a feature of a strange little website that I've visited a few times since I heard about it.

The people at Zero Views select YouTube videos that have at the time of selection "0 views."

If you're looking for a place to visit for some quick entertainment/weirdness that showcases people's penchant for uncritically presenting all sorts of "stuff" to the world, you might enjoy the site. Click HERE to check it out.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Processed

Wow. The breaking news in college football right now is not related to Cam Newton. Coach Urban Meyer is resigning as the head coach of the Florida Gators.

The Gators, who were soundly whipped by Alabama in Bryant-Denny, had a disappointing year after Brantley was anointed as the new great Gator QB who would obviously command the scions of gridiron talent at the University of Florida. Instead, the Gators ended up with a 7-5 record.

I have no idea who will be the next Florida coach, but if I were a Mississippi State fan, I would hope the Athletic Department in Starkville is working toward getting Dan Mullen, former Florida offensive coordinator and current head coach of the Bulldogs, inked to a lucrative long-term contract if they haven't already.

As an Alabama fan, I would like to see Mullen at Florida because he's somehow turned State into a contender in the West, but I don't think that'll happen.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Judging Melons

In the recent issue of Utne, there's an article taken from Small Farmer's Journal titled "The Watermelon Whisperer."

Like the author, David Feela, I also don't seem to have the best luck picking out watermelons, but his short essay recounts his encounter with a older lady named Margaret, who gives him the low-down on how to judge melons. There's a three-step process, and you can read the article by clicking HERE.

I remember reading or hearing about the "sugar spot" on watermelons, and the color factor is kind of obvious. But the article finally explains the thumping method. I have seen people thumping melons since I was a little kid (my Dad is a proficient thumper), but I never understood exactly what they were listening for. Apparently the ideal is a vibration "radiat[ing] through the entire melon."

Friday, December 3, 2010

Fumbling Toward Culinary Talent: Luke's Cauliflower Salad with Modifications

Before the fall semester began, I went to a get-together for the graduate students that I've worked with this semester. One of the grad students named Luke brought a cauliflower salad to the potluck that was quite good. So I asked him for the recipe since Mrs. Nasty is crazy about cauliflower, and I'm a fan also. Usually I find ranch dressing to be an abomination, but the stuff works for me in this salad.

What follows is the base recipe that Luke provided:
Dry:
1 whole cauliflower chopped, the florets chopped to bite size pieces (4 cups)
1 stalk of celery, chopped finely (1/2 cup)
1 large carrot or two small carrots shredded (1 1/2 cups)
3-4 green onions, chopped finely (1/2 cup)
Wet:
3/4 cup of Ranch dressing
3/4 or a full cup of Parmesan
1 teaspoon of minced garlic
1 tablespoon of dried parsley

You mix the wet ingredients into the dry and let it chill for at least fifteen minutes.

Since I don't have dried parsley in house for whatever reason and I have a penchant to add herbs and spices to recipes, I modified the recipe a bit by making these additions to the wet ingredients: one small shallot chopped finely, a large smidge of thyme, a small smidge of marjoram, a very small smidge of tarragon, and a smidge of smoked paprika.

Oh, and I also added a half slab of turkey bacon into the mix, cut into small pieces of course.

Music Friday: "I Don't Know" & "Catfish 2 Boogaloo"

After finding out about this band via Daytrotter, I had to have their album, Learn & Burn. The four-piece band from Saskatoon plays some solid, straightforward rock-n-roll. No overly artsy bullshit.

Click HERE to enjoy the video for "I Don't Know."

You can watch them play "Catfish 2 Boogaloo" in concert by clicking HERE.

And if you want the free download of their four-song session at the Pop Montreal Festival via Daytrotter, click HERE. The title of the session is "The Sweet Music of the Sippin' Whiskey."

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

"Ten Years After O'Brother"

One of the posts on No Depression today reflects on the effects of the soundtrack of O'Brother Where Art Thou? and the state of Americana music. Click HERE if you're interested in reading it.

I found the post interesting because the soundtrack does seem to represent a tipping point of sorts for old timey and bluegrass influenced artists and how those genres started to attract more fans in this decade. I don't agree with what he's saying about the influence on 9/11. Sure, it's part of the milieu. How couldn't it be? But I don't see it as a significant factor why people started listening to Americana music.

Instead, I'll use Occam's razor and propose that people were exposed to really good music that they didn't know much about or didn't have much of, and they got hooked like I did since I got back into Woody Guthrie, Johnny Cash, various blues musicians, and alt-country folks along with discovering artists like the Hackensaw Boys, Trampled by Turtles, Emma Hill, Old Crow Medicine Show, the Gourds, Neko Case, Railroad Earth, et al.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Huzzah to Us

This morning my co-author shipped the manuscript of our basic writing textbook to our publisher in New York.

The book has 12 chapters and two appendices that weigh just over six pounds. The initial manuscript is 435 pages.

Huzzah to us.

Grading the Outfitters

I happened upon this short article from TreeHugger.com today and thought I'd pass it along.

The article grades assorted retailers on the working conditions of their supply chains.

Click HERE if you're interested to see how Target, Ann Taylor, Levi's, Wal-Mart and others rank. What I'm curious about, however, are the specific reasons behind these grades. For example, what are the significant differences between a C+ and B rating?

And I usually worry about grade inflation in general anyway since from my experience people think they deserve Bs for C or D level work.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sunday Hangover: Auburn

If it isn't bad enough that the Tide loses to Auburn in Bryant-Denny, they lose the Iron Bowl to a team they pretty much dominated most of the game. Like the trip to Baton Rouge, Alabama should have won this game.

As the adage goes, when you get a team down, you have to bury them when you have chances. And the Tide had multiple chances to bury Auburn in the first half. An opportunistic poke of the football after a huge pass play that ended in a touchback, a dropped pass that would have been a touchdown, a downright whiff by the right tackle that led to a sack of and fumble by McElroy, these are the plays that kill you -- the missed opportunities.

If the Tide converts a touchdown on any of those three trips to the red zone, Auburn gets the loss they deserve.

There's plenty of blame to be given to the defense though with the two huge pass plays for touchdowns. The glaring weakness of this team in the pre-season was the secondary with only having one front line guy back (Barron) from last year's team in the nickel package. And Barron, the veteran and one hell of a player usually, had a bad game on Friday. Saban is a consummate secondary coach, but when you trot out redshirt freshman, true freshmen, and players with little SEC experience in the secondary, you will get burned. And it goes back to giving up big plays.

South Carolina thumped the Tide in Columbia. There's no doubt there. Like the big pass plays on a green secondary in the South Carolina game, those also hurt the good guys versus the obnoxious tigers of LSU and Auburn.

9-3 is disappointing, especially with the result of the Iron Bowl. I didn't have high hopes for another national championship this season. Those thoughts were for Kool-Aid drinkers and unanalytic sports journalists. However, the losses to LSU and Auburn smart. They are painful markers on this season even though this Tide squad is a strong one. Not a great team but a strong one.

So I'll sit here and wait for what bowl and matchup awaits the Tide, what decisions will influence the personnel and chemistry for next season's squad, what recruits sign with the Tide in February, and what the A-Game shows about the potential of next year's team along with the interesting quarterback competition between McCarron and Sims.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Music Friday: "For Whom the Bell Tolls"

As we got closer to Waterloo on Wednesday, I tuned into 107.9 FM, which is the radio station I listened to when I was living in this area along with KUNI because those were the two best options. And 107.9, whatever its name is now, still plays lots of hard rock and metal.

To go along with the fare the station dishes out, I offer one of my favorite songs by Metallica. Click HERE to watch the band perform it in Moscow.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Grouchy Old Men


I have reasons why I'm usually reading three of four different books at the same time, but right now I'm reading the work of two grouchy old men along with my devotional slog through the whole obtuse but intellectually compelling A Grammar of Motives by Kenneth Burke.

Besides Professor Burke, the curmudgeons on my reading list are H.L. Mencken (The American Language) and Anthony Bourdain (Medium Raw).

I've read lots of Mencken. He did very interesting and insightful work on a range of topics (Treatise on the Gods mixes erudition and humor quite well), and I've heard about how excellent The American Language is supposed to be. The man doesn't disappoint. I've always enjoyed the Sage of Baltimore's style--how he uses simple and complex sentence structures and selects a wonderful variety of word choices, the high and low--and his Juvenalian study of American English at that time is a lot of fun. Besides focusing on our use of the English language, the book is also an examination of American character. In particular, one statement stands out for me when Mencken talks about how Americans love to adopt new or in vogue words, how they are not linguistically conservative like the British: "A new fallacy in politics spreads faster in the United States than anywhere else on earth, and so does a new fashion in hats, or a new revelation of God, or a new means of killing time, or a new shibboleth, or metaphor, or piece of slang" (30-1).

Spot on.

Bourdain of No Reservations fame, on the other hand, writes like he tends to talk, which goes against the usually useful mantra of folks who teach writing. But Bourdain talks/writes in very interesting ways (except for the overuse of profanity), and his book, and I hadn't realized it came out this year, courts my fascination with food, my growing exasperation with the Food Network, and other food/cooking concerns. His "Heroes and Villians" essay, for example, has the directness of a punch in the gut, and I look forward to reading the "Alan Richman Is a Douchebag" chapter.

But rather than this post being some sophomoric book report, what I'm pondering is why I'm drawn to such grouchy old men. Even Burke in his massive tome has occasional snarky comments about Aristotle, Emerson, Kierkegaard, et al.

Sure, I'm getting older myself (creeping up on the big Four-O); however, I think I've always sort of been a seventy-five year old dude in a younger body ("What the hell are all these people texting about? Don't they have better things to do?").

I should be thankful, I know. I have the loving Mrs. Nasty as my wife, and my kids are my main joys even though there are some times when I understand the old saying, "Madness is hereditary. You get it from your kids." I've been called a lot of names in my life, but my favorites are "Dad" and "Daddy."

I'll chalk up my grouchiness and penchant for reading grouchy old men to my defensive pessimism, which is a phrase I was introduced to recently from an article in Ode Magazine, and I can't link the article from Ode's website for whatever reason (See why I'm defensively pessimistic, especially about technology?).

So I'm thankful but wary.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday Hangover: Georgia State

63-7. The touchdown the Panthers scored was on a kickoff return, but the Tide's final tally could have been larger since Georgia State (a start-up program) played Alabama to help fund their athletic department. Nevertheless, it was a beat-down, a wood-shedding.

After watching the game last night, there are a few aspects to ponder about the Tide's performance and the prospects of playing Auburn on Friday, November 26. Like Isbell sings in "Outfit," "I'll lay it out real nice and slow."

Alabama is a top twenty team, and they have a lot of young talent. Georgia State is not a good team, and they have young talent.

Alabama, for whatever reason, is still having difficulty running between the tackles.

Mark Ingram is still held back, speed-wise and cut-wise, by his left knee. The good guys need Richardson healthy for the Iron Bowl.

There was reasoned anticipation that Eddie Lacy would become the third back in the rotation, which is the role Upchurch held last year, and he was a nice change of pace to the Ingram Richardson duo. But the 3rd back role and Lacy's role in the offense never materialized.

Julio Jones, when healthy, has to be the best all-around wide receiver in the country and easily the best blocking WR around.

Good luck to McElroy on his interview to become a Rhodes Scholar tomorrow in Birmingham. I hope he gets that honor, and I hope his smarts and athletic ability help us beat the Tigers Friday.

Though Preston Dial has played well this year, the Tide still doesn't have a consistent threat at tight end in the passing game.

The team misses Rolando McClain, Marquis Johnson, Javier Arenas, and Kareem Jackson mightily because of their athletic prowess and leadership.

The Tide is strong at home, but an excellent defensive game plan and solid execution of that game plan is necessary to beat the Tigers. Just containing Newton will be a hard enough task, however.

Since the Nasty family will be in Iowa and Virg's desktop computer is antiquated, don't expect a post mortem of the Iron Bowl to be up on Saturday. I'll get it out late Sunday maybe.

Music Friday: "Nobody"

I was introduced to Robert Randolph and the Family Band probably over a month or two ago. I had initially thought they played on Austin City Limits, but after a fruitless search on that program's website, I got nothing. Thinking about it a bit more, I think I might have watched a video of the North Mississippi Allstars at one time with Randolph doing his thing since his band opened for NMA, and I got intrigued.

Regardless, I find these guys to be an amped-up reincarnation of Sly and the Family Stone. And that's a very good thing.

Click HERE to watch them perform "Nobody."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday Hangover: Mississippi State

Let's see, Ingram had a touchdown, Jones had a touchdown, and Maze had a touchdown, all of which were big plays.

It was like old times except for the Tide's inability to run the ball between the tackles.

This inconsistent part of the offense has held back the team in many games this season. So Alabama got the ball to playmakers at the perimeter of the defense's fronts, and doing so paid off. I hope this is a preview of what we'll see when the Tide host Auburn the day after Thanksgiving.

Alabama will host Georgia State this Thursday, a game that was originally on Saturday the 20th, but the AD moved it to Thursday, so they could have a more regular week before they take on Auburn, the sixth SEC team in a row to have a bye week before they play Alabama.

The Tide's D played fairly well against a respectable State offense, but they'll need to play much better and more fundamentally sound when they take on the Tigers and Cam "The 200 Thousand Dollar Man" Newton.

I hope the Alabama squad is up for the challenge of this Iron Bowl. Georgia and other teams have exposed the weaknesses of Auburn's defense, but the key is keeping the Auburn offense off the field as much as possible and limiting the damage of Newton and crew. No one has been able to do that effectively yet, so I'm not optimistic about the Tide's chances.

But I want to be pleasantly surprised.

A defeat of Auburn this year would help assuage my memory of sitting through the 2000 Iron Bowl when Mrs. Nasty and I got sleeted on and the Tide lost 9-0 in a game that was horrible in many ways.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Music Friday: "Bastards of Young"

I'm in the mood for one of the finest bands in the history of the world, The Replacements.

This footage comes from a show in 1989, the year I graduated high school, and the song comes from their album Tim. Click HERE to watch the performance that has sketchy video and sound quality, but hey it was the late 80s, people. C'mon.

If I remember right, The Replacements were the first band I ever saw in concert at some old theater in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. A good time was had, especially by the band that was known for its partying ways. In fact, I read a blog post a while back by Patterson Hood about how when The Replacements opened for Tom Petty when he saw them during high school (DBT was opening for Petty this summer, so that's why Hood was talking about the memory), Petty kicked them off the tour because the band members, known for all manner of shenanigans, raided Petty's area and stole a some of his wife's dresses that they then wore on stage that night. So I think The Replacements knew something about self-destructive zones, and they seemed to enjoy them.

A band out right now that reminds of Paul Westerberg and the boys is Deer Tick. After reading a post about Deer Tick on No Depression recently, I think there are some striking similarities. Click HERE for Dana Blaisdell's post about them if you're interested.

And here are the lyrics of "Bastards of Young":
God, what a mess, on the ladder of success
Where you take one step and miss the whole first rung.
Dreams unfulfilled, graduate unskilled.
It beats pickin' cotton and waitin' to be forgotten.

We are the sons of no one, bastards of young.
We are the sons of no one, bastards of young.
The daughters and the sons...

Clean your baby womb, trash that baby boom.
Elvis in the ground, there'll ain't no beer tonight.
Income tax deduction, what a hell of a function.
It beats pickin' cotton and waitin' to be forgotten.

We are the sons of no one, bastards of young.
We are the sons of no one, bastards of young.
The daughters and the sons...

Unwillingness to claim us, ya got no war to name us

The ones who love us best are the ones we'll lay to rest
And visit their graves on holidays at best.
The ones who love us least are the ones we'll die to please.
If it's any consolation, I don't begin to understand them.

We are the sons of no one, bastards of young.
We are the sons of no one, bastards of young.
The daughters and the sons...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Restoration


This post is a counterpoint to my "Abatement" post in mid-October, and it also serves an after photo.

It took almost a month, but abatement wasn't needed. After getting second and third opinions on our situation, covering the the surface with new subflooring and putting down the Allure has worked out well. And that route was substantially cheaper.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sunday Hangover: LSU

It's pretty difficult to win national championships back-to-back. The Crimson Tide did so in '78 & '79 and '64 & '65. And they should have been given the mythical national championship in '66. Heck, Keith Dunnavant wrote a whole book about that, The Missing Ring, which I highly recommend.

I didn't get to watch the game live since I was traveling from the Indianapolis airport at the time of the game. I caught score updates from the radio, and Mrs. Nasty would call to let me know what was going on too. So it wasn't fun watching the dvred game last night after knowing the good guys came up short.

Alabama was doing okay until the fourth quarter, and in uncharacteristic fashion, the Tide faltered in the final frame. The defense gave up too many big plays in the passing game throughout the game, but the interception and fumble by McElroy were the big plays in the game.

Just when I thought the pass defense was fairly dependable, the mediocre duo of LSU quarterbacks made the Tide pay. That was a surprise.

Alabama's national championship hopes are dashed on the greasy rocks of Baton Rogue.

There's still an outside shot of winning the SEC West. However, the Tide would have to beat both State and Auburn, Georgia would have to beat Auburn at Auburn, and Arkansas would have to beat LSU in Little Rock. A way outside shot with all of those variables.

Depressing.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Music Friday: "Baltimore Blues No. 1"

Since I'm here in Baltimore for a conference, I thought I'd pass along a performance of one of the three songs I'm familiar with that have Baltimore featured in its name. It's "Baltimore Blues No. 1" by the mighty Deer Tick, and the other two songs I can think of are "Raining in Baltimore" by Counting Crows" and "Baltimore Oriole," which Mellencamp did a fine cover of on his Trouble No More album.

Anyway, click HERE if you want to watch Deer Tick perform on Letterman's show.

I was in Baltimore probably about a decade ago for a different conference when I was in grad school. As I shared to folks on FB, I think Baltimore needs to be renamed The City of Police Sirens because I heard a ton of them the first day I was here. My hotel isn't as close to the harbor as last time; I'm located toward the center of the city.

Last night I went to seafood restaurant, had a half dozen raw oysters, ate some crab cakes, and quaffed a couple of locally produced beers. And then it was back to the hotel because of this simple math: lots of seafood + beer + being at an academic conference = sleepy Quintilian B. Nasty.

After I take in sessions on today's conference program, I plan to head down to the Inner Harbor, grab some grub, and get some stuff for the Nasty family. For whatever reason, my son is intrigued by crabs, so I suspect Quinn will soon be acquiring a stuffed animal or hopefully something better that's crab-like.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Last Patrol

One of the benefits of undertaking air travel alone is that you get to read in solitude.

On my trip to Baltimore today, I took advantage of this and read some good stuff.

One article I read in The Atlantic was pretty darn powerful, at least to me. "The Last Patrol" by Brian Mockenhaupt recounts the final patrol of Charlie Company, which was a combined mission with a new artillery unit. The author, Brian Mockenhaupt, is described as "a former infantryman," who "is a writer in Detroit." And the story he tells is one hell of a piece of nonfiction, and I want to read more of his stuff. Click HERE if you're interested in reading his work in the November issue.

The article made me think about many things. But one point that rattled in my brain later is the paucity of strong non-fiction or literature that has been written about either of our excursions into Iraq of Afghanistan. I've read Here, Bullet by Brian Turner, which is a collection of poems based on Turner's experiences in Iraq, and that book has its moments. Other than that though, I don't know of a lot of non-fiction or fiction that is delving into the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. Maybe it's too early for that. I don't know.

I just find it odd that there hasn't been a lot of strong writing about these wars besides maybe the screenplays to the Generation Kill HBO miniseries, which is based on the experiences the First Recon Battalion of the Marines.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hangover Sunday: Bye Week

Woe to Mrs. Nasty, the Ole Miss alumna because Auburn waxed Ole Miss in Oxford Saturday night. I thought the Rebels would give them a good fight, but their offense couldn't eat any minutes and keep Almighty Cam Newton off the field. That stinks because if there is another school I'd root for in the SEC, it's Ole Miss.

So Auburn kept the offensive buzz saw churning, and the other offensive juggernaut in college football, Oregon, got tested by USC. But in the third quarter, the Ducks found their offensive rhythm. That offense is scarier than Auburn's. And if those two teams meet in the future (BCS National Championship Game?), not much defense will be played. I think the Tigers have a better D though.

I also got to watch parts of the Kentucky at Mississippi State game, and the Bulldogs looked impressive: a stout defense, a solid running attack, and a selectively strong passing game. Mullen, a man known to know offense, chose wisely in making Relf the de facto starter at QB for them.

Elsewhere, the Hawkeyes knocked off Michigan State in powerful fashion. The Spartans got woodshedded.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Music Friday: "Flashes and Cables"

I've been listening to the band Centro-matic a lot lately.

Well, to be precise here, I've been listening to Centro-matic and South San Gabriel a lot lately because both of those "bands" and actually one band fronted by Will Johnson. Both Centro-matic and South San Gabriel have the same band members; however, they produce albums under different names and sometimes albums under both monikers.

Centro-matic is the band that has a heavier, fuzz-laden, guitar-oriented sound, and South Gabriel represents the band with a more acoustic and generally slower tempo.

I don't know why Johnson and his mates decided on two names for the same band. Heck, I would have just stuck with Centro-matic to not confuse unenlightened music listeners.

I like their stuff, but the band (I'm just going to use the singular here) is an acquired taste because of Johnson's vocals. I lean toward liking the Centro-matic songs more because they tend to be more up-tempo and have a bit harder edge with amped up fuzziness.

One thing is for sure. The lyrics usually are willfully obtuse ~ a characteristic I'm more prone to tolerate in song lyrics than in poetry.

Readers, especially those of you educated in the liberal arts tradition, you want to take a crack at ciphering the lyrics? The best interpretation earns the distinction of me buying you an adult beverage of your choice (within reason--I'm no Rockefeller) next time I see you.

Here are the lyrics:

If we found the time,
If we found the merriment,
If we found the words,
We'd scratch them in new cement.
But those days are gone, and we've got only pictures now.
A rotary wheel and some leftover shotgun shells,
Nobody told us that the bastards were here.
All the rogues and scoundrels are shedding their tears.
No, nobody told us that the cameras were here.
All the flashes and cables,
Won't someone please save us?
So by our request please turn in your uniforms,
The medallions and pins for the Aries and Capricorn,
And file your complaints with this rookie officer.
He'll lend you his smile; he'll lend you his deafest ear.

But I digress. Click HERE for "Flashes and Cables."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Busyness

This link is related to the "Keeping Dusk" post, so I thought I'd pass it along. It's a post from HTML Giant.

Click HERE unless you're too busy.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Venting Store

In contrast to yesterday night's post about the tradition of "keeping dusk" by Scandinavians, I came across these two factoids in the October Harper's Index:
  • Date on which the Xinglong Big Family Mall in Shenyang, China, opened a "venting store" for women: 3/8/10
  • Minimum amount a woman must spend in the mall to enter the store and destroy household furniture and electronics: $6
Perhaps the Chinese are experiencing a psychological hangover from mass industrialism?

Regardless, I'm amused that the place is called a venting store and folks get to bust stuff to unleash their pent up rage. It seems like a more money-grubbing take on primal scream therapy.

When I told Mrs. Nasty about it, she was intrigued, so I wonder if the Chinese will import this product over here too.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Keeping Dusk

I finally finished a book I've been reading intermittently for a while now. It's The Secret World of Doing Nothing by Billy Ehn and Orvar Lofgren, and in it they detail the "inner world" behind activities that evoke nothingness to us on the surface: waiting, routines, and daydreaming.

I had high hopes for the book but am disappointed. Most of the book is a synthesis of research about these non-activities, which is interesting, but the text ventures toward data dumping at times. The activity I am most interested in--daydreaming--got the most coverage in the book, however. And in that third chapter, the authors (both Swedes) introduce a cultural ritual that I was unfamiliar with, what Scandinavians call "keeping dusk"

Here's how Ehn and Lofgren describe it: "After a day of work people sat silently in the approaching darkness [of dusk] and let their thoughts wander freely. After a while, the light was turned on and the magic disappeared. It was one of many special daydreaming situations that still are remembered by older people all over Scandinavia, and some still practice it today" (162-3).

As they further relate, "The tradition of 'keeping dusk' was a way of creating a space of rest between day and evening. The actual lighting of the first candle or lamp turned into a ritual," and "To those who were not used to this kind of meditation the behavior could seem strange. In houses everywhere people sat staring, with the vacant gaze that is typical of daydreaming, at the fireplace, at the window, or out on the veranda" (163).

I'm really intrigued by this cultural practice since it seems to have served as a traditional mass meditation, simply a time for quiet amidst the solitude of inner thoughts. The slow quietness enveloping the room, a certain degree of solemnity surrounding the ritual, thoughts on people's minds playing freely in silence, this is a tradition we Americans might want to appropriate.

No TV, no music, no computer, no interactive clutter--just you and the interplay of duskdreams.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday Hangover: Tennessee


Finally, a downfield passing game. I've been waiting for long pass plays all season.

Julio Jones had a career day with twelves catches for 221 yards, Richardson had over 100 rushing yards, and Ingram had two touchdowns.

McElroy bounced back with a solid game passing the ball, but he got hit too much for my liking.

While the Tide defeated the Volunteers 41-10, I have concerns, as always, with the games left on the schedule.

Tennessee's running back Tauren Poole ran for for 117 yards last night. That performance ends an impressive a streak of 41 consecutive games in which, as Alabama's Media Relations relates, "Alabama hadn't allowed a 100-yard rusher, dating back to Oct. 13, 2007, when Mississippi’s BenJarvus Green-Ellis went for 131 yards." Poole got most of the yardage on a 59-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, but giving up that much in the run game is disconcerting since the opponents next on the schedule are all run-heavy teams.

LSU runs the ball a lot, and their QB Jefferson has started to run the ball much more this season. Mississippi State is heavily run-oriented. And Auburn, a serious contender because of Cam Newton, is dangerous.

So the bye week comes at the right time. The Tide will travel to Baton Rouge for their next game in two weeks. Then they finish the season by hosting Mississippi State, Georgia State, and Auburn in T-Town. If Alabama can survive the next two SEC opponents, it sure would be great to spoil Auburn's undefeated season on November 26th. But, as I said, Auburn is a dangerous team, very dangerous.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Thou Shalt Call Me Minister

After my niece's wedding, I was inspired. The officiant of her wedding, which I missed unfortunately because my car's alternator blew near Galesburg on our way to Waterloo, was able to marry them without going to a seminary. He got his license to be an officiant at the wedding from some online "seminary."

I checked this out, folks, because I too would like to have the ability to marry people, etc.

As of yesterday, I am now an officially ordained Minister under the auspices of Universal Life Church, a church that only has two tenets, principles that I can wholeheartedly get behind: "To promote the freedom of religion" and "To do that which is right."

While I'm not interested in creating a church of my own, which is my right, and I'm not interested, as my certificate relates, to "[a]bsolve others of their sins," and I'm not interested in providing a baptism, performing a marriage would be a suitable task. Also, officiating a funeral, ceremonial rites (renewing vows, etc.), or last rites are options, but I'm not intrigued in those unless someone would really want me to do them for them.

I know what some of you are thinking, that I'm making fun of religion by doing this.

I'm not.

In fact, as much as I've given religious folks good-natured trouble over the years by questioning some of their beliefs, I do believe in the freedom of religion and the freedom to not have to have a religion or belong to a certain denomination or religious worldview. Heck, I'm a guy who subscribes to Shambhala Sun, a Buddhist monthly publication; I have studied religions that are dead, old, and alive; and I've always been interested in different religious/mythological worldviews and perspectives since I was a kid.

One of my favorite courses as an undergrad was Mythology where we studied, in essence, religions of the past and present, and the research and reading I've done in mythological/religious studies broadened my perspective substantially to the extent that I would consider myself leaning toward not being fully agnostic but spiritually inclined because at one time in my life I thought about becoming a minister (for real). I guess if I had to define myself, I'm a spiritual, partial agnostic.

And I'm much more open to others' religious beliefs than most Christians or atheists I've met. So there. I also feel that people should have the right to perform ceremonies as the ones above if the parties involved are okay with it.

So here I am, ordained if you need me.

Music Friday: "Wide Eyes"

Click HERE to watch the Local Natives perform the lead song on their album Gorilla Manor.

These fellows have gotten a lot of pub from Daytrotter over the past year, so I checked 'em out and was pleasantly surprised. They remind me of various alternative bands from the late 80s and early 90s. One aspect that I really like about the album is that percussion plays a strong role in a number of their songs. In a lot of bands, the drums just work as the propeller of songs, but percussion plays a prominent role in the work of the Local Natives so far.

Here are the lyrics:
Oh some evil spirit,
Oh some evil this way comes.
They told me how to fear it
Now they're placing it on their tongues.
Oh to see it with my own eyes.
No food or water for the better part of ten months,
Quietly he sat below the folds of a free trunk.
Oh to see it with my own eyes.
All the men of faith and men of science had their questions.
Could it ever be on earth as it is in heaven?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Stay Positive: "Hi-Fi Home Furnishings"

As is her custom, Mrs. Nasty usually buys her sales team a gift before they kick off a new market. For this upcoming market, she purchased some flippin' sweet recycled and repurposed goods: coasters made from old vinyl records.

Since she was putting in an order, we got an extra set of our own. Here are our six: Woody Guthrie's Libary of Congress Recordings, a live album by Grand Funk Railroad, Beethoven's Concerto No. 5, Mancini Plays the Great Academy Award Songs, Barry Manilow Live, and Elvis Sings the Wonderful World of Christmas.

Click HERE to check them out at uncommongoods.com.

So my water, coffee, or adult beverage will now sit atop the inner portion of side three or four of Woody Guthrie's work, gems like "Hard Times," "Pretty Boy Floyd," "Jolly Banker," "Okies," "Worried Man Blues," "Lonesome Valley," "Railroad 'Bulls,'" "Government Camps," et al.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunday Hangover: Ole Miss

Sloppy. Man, that was a sloppy, Big 10esque game. Lots of punting and ineffective offenses.

But at least the Tide's defense came back and played a strong game against the Ole Miss Rebel Black Bears.

The Tide D kept the Rebels in check throughout the first half with a stifling defense that rattled and contained QB Masoli. Alabama also kept Ole Miss in really difficult field position most of the game. The only time I recall the "Bears" having good field position was when Maze fumbled after stupidly fielding a punt on his own five-yard line. He had a good return but got plastered by two defenders, one of whom used his helmet to knock out the ball. Ole Miss scored a touchdown on that possession.

Once again, the Tide's O, thought to be the major strength of this team, struggled getting any consistent rushing game going. The Tide only had 319 total yards offensively, and Ole Miss, like South Carolina, limited the running game by stacking the box and using various run blitzes. McElroy was sacked four times, and Julio Jones played only a little bit because of his broken left hand that has a plate and screw in it. I would imagine it would be hard to catch passes with that issue.

So I don't care how "down" Tennessee is this year. Alabama is going to have to play a lot better offensively to win in Knoxville next Saturday because as this weekend showed, any squad, regardless of perception, can get beat. The Tide D seemed more strongly focused and fundamentally sound, but the offense has to get it together.

But the Tide won 23-10 on a day when there were some surprises in the SEC. State beat Florida without the Bulldogs attempting a pass in the second half, and Kentucky beat South Carolina after Steve "Evil Genius" Spurrier used Les Miles-like clock management and decisions at the end of the game when the Gamecocks could have at least gotten into overtime against the Wildcats with a short field goal. Elsewhere number one Ohio State lost to Wisconsin and Nebraska lost to Texas, which opens the door for the Mizzou Tigers in the Texas Ten North. So maybe you're not a Mizzou sunshine pumper, travolta. Maybe you're on to something.

So I'm sure Oregon will move up to no. 1, and they better watch out this Thursday versus UCLA since the last two weeks the number one team has lost. You know, the old adage about things happening in threes?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Music Friday: "Lone Pine Hill"

One of the best albums I've purchased this year is Justin Townes Earle's Harlem River Blues. The song featured by Earle this Friday isn't from that album but from a previous one called The Good Life. And that's a very good album too.

"Long Pine Hill" is written from the perspective of a Confederate soldier. Click HERE to watch him perform the song.

But as I write this, a good chunk of Earle's tour dates have been cancelled since he's in rehab. You can see a post on No Depression that has his press release by clicking HERE.

There are all kinds of stories floating around on the Internet about what happened at a Indianapolis club a short while back, but I'm not going to truck in those. Needless to say, Earle, like his father Steve Earle, has demons to deal with. Both he and father have addictive personalities, and they're also great musicians.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Broadsided

In the recent issue of Utne, there's an article about the literary press called Broadsided. What they do each month seems like a lot of fun.

While I thought the October Broadside, which is a piece of flash fiction, was okay, I have the September Broadside on my office door, and I look forward to the November edition.

Click HERE to read "Open-Air Publishing" from Utne.

And by clicking HERE you can go directly to Broadsided.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Stay Positive: That Dog & The Virtue of the Process


This past Saturday the local PBS station had a deal in Kiwanis Park where kids could meet the Cat in the Hat and Clifford, get a free book, and do some other activities.

The payoff was a "gift bag" that the kids could get after doing four activities where their little activity cards were stamped.

The gift bags, however, were just full of ads mostly, and the process to get them was more enjoyable than the payoff.

Huzzah for the process and that dog.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Abatement


A trying morning is when you have to get out the Yellow Book to find companies under the heading of "Asbestos Abatement and Removal, etc."

I won't go over the many rooms I've painted in the Nasty home since we took possession of the house in the summer of '07, but it seems like we've been working on the kitchen/dining room area forever.

First, we ripped down wretched, 80s era wallpaper. Then I painted the walls two types of green for the desired color scheme. Then after roughly a year I painted a small stripe of Millsport Blue at the top of the walls combined with light blue as the main color and off white on the chair rail and moldings. Then I replaced the hardware on the cabinets and painted the cabinets. Then we got a faux granite countertop and new kitchen sink put in. And now we're having professionals lay down some Allure flooring.

The flooring dudes ripped up the carpet in the dining room this morning, and that was about it since they're not going to go any further because they're worried the old flooring might have asbestos in it.

I have visions of guys in Area 51 suits and two-ply plastic cordoning off the area as they work and money mercilessly bleeds out of our bank account.

So I had to call a guy to come out and test samples of the flooring to see whether it's asbestos-laden. For what's it's worth, he didn't seem to think it has asbestos in it, so that calmed my nerves a bit. But we'll find out Friday once the lab report gets back.

In the meantime, we're stuck with flooring in the dining room circa 1974 (see picture above). It's godawful ugly, unpleasant to walk on in bare feet, and a reminder how I might be screwed.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sunday Hangover: South Carolina

I had forgotten how grouchy I get after an Alabama loss. I hope there isn't more grouchiness in store this season.

But when I looked at the Tide's schedule before the start of this season, I had thought Alabama would lose one of the past three games against Arkansas, Florida, and South Carolina. I was most worried about the Hogs at the time, but yesterday the Gamecocks helped Spurrier finally get a "signature win" for his program since he arrived in Columbia. If there ever were a season where South Carolina has a very good shot to play in the SEC Championship, this year is it.

At the most basic level, the Tide just put themselves in too big of a hole early on in the game. When a team is down 3 to 21 against a very good SEC team at home, it's going to be very difficult to come back and win the game.

South Carolina played a heck of a football game with their QB Garcia having a career day. He and the Cocks' main receiver Alshon Jeffrey abused the Tide secondary early and often. There for a while, Garcia had no incompletions in the game, but he ended with a line of 17 of 20 pass completions and three touchdowns. Jeffrey had seven catches for 127 yards.

Ouch, babe.

Combine those stats with the facts that Alabama continually made stupid mistakes (four offsides penalties I believe) and had some poor tackling in the game, it isn't surprising Alabama lost by two touchdowns.

But South Carolina's defense played inspired football too. You can't discount how their D held Ingram and Richardson to less than a hundred yards rushing combined. McElroy had a good game to offset the poor rushing performances, but it just wasn't enough to overcome the Tide D giving up big plays and McElroy getting sacked seven times.

Next Saturday It'll be interesting to see how Alabama plays against a dangerous Ole Miss team, a squad that is quite good offensively but quite poor defensively. And the right Rev. Nutt loves being the underdog.

As McElroy said in a post-game interview, "This is an opportunity for ourselves to take a look at ourselves in the mirror and regroup and re-commit ourselves to what we want to accomplish."

That's about the only good thing you can take out of this loss. That and perhaps that the loss is against an SEC East opponent. With LSU and Auburn still undefeated, there's a lot of schedule left to win the West.

I'd love for the Tide to win the West and get a rematch with South Carolina in Atlanta. But as I said after the Arkansas game, "I have a feeling this season's defense is going to make me a nervous wreck." [Hey, that's me quoting me ~ apologies to Gray of Razzball.]

I stand behind that statement, and I hope the Tide players "re-commit" themselves and become a much stronger team.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Music Friday: "Close Every Valve in Your Bleeding Heart"

If you're a native Missourian you might recognize the name of this band: Ha Ha Tonka.

I had read about this band a couple of years ago and never got around to picking up any of their albums. I got reminded about them yesterday and promptly downloaded their most recent work, Novel Sounds from the Nouveau South.

Most of the band isn't from Camdenton where Ha Ha Tonka State Park is located, but three of members are originally from West Plains, a small town in the deep southern middle of Missouri, although it sounds like their base of operations is Springfield.

Click HERE to enjoy "Close Every Valve in Your Bleeding Heart," a song that references Dostoevsky.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Culture Through a Story


Through my son's daycare facility and through my daughter's elementary school, we've been buying loads of books from Scholastic. One of the many joys of having children is that you get to relive your childhood through their literature: The Lorax, Sammy the Seal, Puff the Magic Dragon, Green Eggs and Ham, Goldilicks and the Three Bears, and many, many others.

Lately the featured book for Quinn has been The Three Billy Goats Gruff, easily one of my favorite bedtime stories. I equate my Dad with the telling of The Three Pigs, another of my favorites, since he told the traditional story where the pigs scare the Big Bad Wolf with the butter churn. I had no idea what a butter churn was back then, but once explained, I found the situation hilarious. Stupid wolf.

But the story I equate with my Mom is those three goats and that bastardly troll, a jerk and a bully. My grandmother was a full-blooded Norwegian. She came over on a boat alone, knowing no English, with a tag around her wrist telling people where to send her: some town in Minnesota - perhaps a story for another post. So my Mom is quite familiar with trolls because of the stories she was told as a child. In fact, she told me that when she was a kid, her mother would occasionally scare her my telling her that if she didn't do this or that, trolls might visit the house. And no one wants that if you've read The Three Billy Goats Gruff. A troll would eat you. Not a good situation at all.

I've always enjoyed the story arc of the Three Billy Goats Gruff since it appeals to my hatred for bullies and loudmouths. And there's deception. The brothers knew the biggest goat would take care of the troll. While I don't like hoaxes in academia or government or politics, I like a good hoax in fiction.

But the whole story makes me sad a bit too since I never had a chance to meet that grandma (or most of my grandparents for that matter) since I was the last-born, born so out of place in the line of siblings that it was obvious that I was an unplanned pregnancy. As my Dad told me once over a beer after playing eighteen holes of golf, "The damn rubber broke." It's not as harsh at it sounds. We had a good laugh about it, and then he added something along the lines of "but you've been a blessing" or something like that.

So here I am, an example of the absurdity of existence, an effect of faulty birth control.

Regardless, since I'm a mutt and I never really had much of a connection to my other bloodlines (Danish, German, English, and French) other than how my Mom has a fierce loyalty to Norway, I am jealous of folks who have a deep connection to countries where their ancestors came from. I've always been fascinated by Norway because of my grandmother's connection to the country (she grew up there as a child), but I've often felt like a poseur if I talk a lot about it.

These thoughts have come up recently because I'm reading an excellent memoir that discusses living with a divided consciousness. White Field, Black Sheep is a book that, in part, delves into how being a hyphenated American can be a burden and a pleasure. The book takes me inside a mindset and circumstances I'm not familiar with, and learning about the author's background, that part of Chicago, and her experiences has been interesting and insightful. Click HERE if want to check out the book.

But back to goats. They're the real stars of Quinn's life right now, anyway. This Norwegian folk tale engages him, and I'm happy for that because, besides a few stories, that's about all I have to cling to about my Norwegian heritage besides some really tasty Christmas cookies: cringla and fudamumbuckles.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sunday Hangover: Florida


Ok, maybe the second half of the Arkansas game woke up the defense. We'll see. Regardless, last night the Tide dominated the Gators, defeating them 31-6.

Still, this skeptical fan didn't like how the Gators moved the ball on the Tide at times, but Alabama's D seemed to turn on a switch once Florida got into the red zone. It was a thing of beauty when the Gators went for it on fourth and goal in the first quarter. Burton attempted a bad impression of Tebow with a jump pass, and Alabama had it properly defended, which resulted in a interception by linebacker Nico Johnson.

Coach Saban and the players know they didn't play a good second half though. The offense was barely on the field, especially in the third quarter, and the only score the Tide had in the second half was freshman linebacker C. J. Mosely's pick-six (pictured above). In other words, Alabama could have done much better in the game, which I'm sure Saban will remind them about.

But looking at the schedule, Alabama survived the first two games of its SEC Bermuda Triangle: Arkansas, Florida, and South Carolina. But the conference schedule doesn't get any easier.

So let's check it out. Now, who did South Carolina play this week before they take on the Tide? They have a bye week.

Who will Ole Miss play before they take on the Tide in Tuscaloosa? They have a bye week.

Who will Tennessee play before they take on the Tide in Knoxville? They have a bye week.

Who will LSU play before they take on the Tide in Baton Rouge? They have a bye week.

Who will Mississippi State play before they take on the Tide in Tuscaloosa? They have a bye week.

Who will Auburn play before they take on the Tide in Tuscaloosa? They have a bye week.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Music Friday: "Excuses"

A fellow I was talking to the other day mentioned a band he's been listening to recently called The Morning Benders, so I checked 'em out and downloaded the band's most recent album, Big Echo.

The video provided HERE shows the recording of "Excuses," which involved a whole lot of folks, and as the lead singer talks about in the intro, they were going for a "Wall of Sound" vibe to the recording, which I really enjoy.

I'm not blown away by the album as a whole. It's decent. The band is a little too poppy for my taste, but I thought I'd share the interesting video.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Stay Positive: University Research

One of the downfalls of following environmental issues is that much of the news is so damn depressing. I taught a course for many years called "Values, Culture, and the Environment," an interdisciplinary class that is essentially a course in Environmental Rhetoric since we explored and wrote about how people perceive, talk about, and argue about "nature" and environmental issues.

Since a great deal of "nature writing" in the textbooks I had to choose from is elegaic, I provided a variety of sources for students to read, many of which provided business- and hard science-minded perspectives. We didn't just look at belletristic essays. We hit science-laden articles and a variety of articles that look at diverse quality of living concerns and geopolitical concerns. To stave off the negativity of some texts we read, such as Howard Kuntsler's fine but somewhat dated diatribe The Geography of Nowhere, I made an effort to inject the course with more positive-minded readings.

In that vein and because I miss teaching that course, I offer an article from Sierra about the really interesting research happening at various universities. The author discusses creating petrol from from cow manure, microscopic refineries, climate scrubbers, wicked strong batteries, optical-circuit technology, and electric vehicles.

Click HERE if you're interested in reading "The Latest from the Labs" by Edward Humes.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fumbling Toward Culinary Talent: Angel Hair con Garden Fare

Although I'm not a vegetarian and probably never will be, I eat vegetarian fare pretty often because I forget to thaw out meat and lately my freezer is a little bare. So the other day I slopped together a pasta dished based on what I had in the garden and around the house.

Ingredients:
1 bell pepper, chopped into ribbons
half white onion, chopped into strips and separated
1 Cayenne pepper, diced
2 shallots, chopped coarsely
2 cloves of garlic, chopped coarsely
1 medium size zucchini, chopped into slim half-moons
A large helping of leftover angel hair pasta
Olive oil
Smidge of thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Good helping of Parmesan cheese
Lime wedge

Heat the oil in a pan on medium/medium-high heat, drop in the onions and peppers, and sweat them down for about five minutes. Drop in the Cayenne and zucchini and cook for roughly another five minutes. Then put the garlic and shallots in the pan for a minute or two but make sure the garlic doesn't burn. Then drop in the spaghetti and put in the salt, pepper, and thyme. Toss the pasta around to mix it up thoroughly for a minute or two, plate, top with Parmesan cheese, and squeeze a little wedge of lime on top. A lemon wedge would work better, but I only had a lime around.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday Hangover: Arkansas

What a game.

I have a feeling this season's defense is going to make me a nervous wreck.

Because of the solid play calling from the offensive staff of Arkansas and the ability of Ryan Mallett, the Hogs carved up the Tide secondary in the first half of yesterday's game. Arkansas has a NFL first-rounder at QB and an excellent receiving corps, but a constant with their offense was that they couldn't establish a ground game. Sure, they had some decent runs now and then, but there was no consistency.

In the first half, the Tide secondary looked very green--multiple busted assignments and lack of a pass rush.

But like good coaches do, the Crimson Tide made halftime adjustments and played smart football in the second half. Fans got a glimpse of what was to come at the very end of the first half as time expired when Richardson busted off a long run as Alabama was trying to run out the clock and get to the locker room. If he would have had some downfield blocking by WRs on that play, he might have been able score.

Nonetheless, the Tide D only gave up a field goal to the Razorbacks in the second half while the offense rode the backs of Ingram and Richardson to victory. The secondary turned it around with two crucial interceptions by Lester and Kirkpatrick in the fourth quarter. Both of those DBs and others had been abused by Mallett earlier in the game, so making those picks must have felt redemptive, and you can read about those turnovers and McElroy's uncharacteristic interceptions by clicking HERE.

Alabama found a way to win. They gutted it out in the second half, which showcased a veteran-led offense and the defense finally getting its stuff together. But the first half of the game messed with my fragile psyche.

But still, can we get a strong pass rush ... please?

I don't know what to think about the Tide's chances versus Florida in Bryant-Denny on Saturday night. In my eyes, both Florida's offense and defense are better than Arkansas'. I know the atmosphere will be crazy though. It was loud when I went to games when the stadium seated somewhere around 83K. Now it holds over 100K. The crowd could make a difference in the game, but if the Tide defense plays another half like they did in Fayetteville, it's going to be a Florida victory.

No sunshine pumping here, people.