Friday, April 29, 2011

Music Friday: "Alabama Pines"

So I came up here for my dad's surgery, which didn't pan out as I related in my last post.

Today didn't go very well. Instead of Virg going to a hospital, my sister and I took my mom to one. To cut to the chase because I don't really want to write much about it and I'm tired, she has fluid collecting around her left lung. At least she's lucid this time. She just needs to get the lung issue cleared up.

I had planned on going home tomorrow after my dad's change of plans. Now I'm back to my old plans on going home on Sunday.

So here I am. My dad didn't go to the hospital. And my mom's in the hospital.

So I give you, with no manner of smooth segue, Jason Isbell and 400 Unit playing "Alabama Pines,"which is the lead song off the new album. And here's Isbell playing it solo and acoustic at a radio station.

Road Trip & Tuscaloosa

I heard about the disaster in Tuscaloosa this morning when I read the news reports and viewed videos of the tornado that decimated T-Town.

But then I had to travel to Iowa because my dad's heart surgery was scheduled for tomorrow. As I got near Iowa City, my sister informed me that the surgery isn't going to happen because once they checked my dad's blood, they found the white blood count and kidney levels too high to do the double bypass. So we wait for about another month.

So now I'm here in Waterloo to visit with my parents and siblings for another day, and I head back on Saturday.

On the way up, I thought about my dad of course, but I also pondered the state of emergency in Tuscaloosa. It sounds as the tornado ripped right through the main thoroughfare in the city and just east of the Capstone. For all I know, the apartment where Mrs. Nasty and I first lived together as a married couple could be gone, wiped by the destruction.

Because of a city I love, it's been painful watching the news.

The picture below is of the Cedar Crest neighborhood right off 15th where our old apartment was/is.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Random Notes from a Crank

This weekend I watched a number of TV programs, and they informed me that having a dog helps prevent heart disease, and the same goes for gardening. Some research out there provides a causal link that says people who garden having less of a chance of heart problems and stress in general.

I can see why someone would try to make that claim since there is a therapeutic aspect of gardening. And you can get some low-impact sort of exercise, I guess. But what about the weeds? They don't create stress. But possibly anger? I look down at my rows of lettuce, spinach, shallots, and carrots, and I think, "I just pulled some of you bastards a little while ago."

Obviously, I should have sprung for a bagged mower, so I could put grass clippings in between the rows. That's a veteran move my dad used in his garden all the time.

But to dogs. I can see how they reduce stress, but then again, these studies don't account for the constant picking up of poop or the barking. I'm a dog lover--don't get me wrong. Darby has been a great dog for us, so I'm not saying I dislike my dog or something.

A couple of programs the kids and I watched were on Animal Planet. They featured certain breeds, and one of shows focused on my favorite: the English Springer Spaniel. Loyal, smart, obedient, easy to train, great with kids, those dogs are my favorite breed. No contest.

During the program's talk about the breed, they discussed how a Springer is being used in a suburb in Ontario somewhere for harassing geese from public parks and golf courses. It was fabulous. They showed tape of that Springer running all over the place to chase off geese, swimming after 'em, flushing those honkers to somewhere else.

Darby isn't a Springer. She's half beagle and half either Black Lab or German Shepherd, but she has a hatred for birds like that dog in the show. She protects the backyard from any bird landing on the ground. She don't play.

Since I've been taping Looney Toons on Cartoon Network for our viewing pleasure, I've been reliving cartoons from my childhood. There are benefits to this. Today Quinn ate a whole big carrot for a snack while saying on occasion, "What's up Doc?"

But Daffy. I prefer the Duck to the Hare. In particular, I enjoy the old Daffy Duck cartoons before he started getting paired with Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd. In the older cartoons, he was more of trickster figure and perhaps slightly lunatic with all the hootin' and hollerin'.

Later on, the Duck got made into a vain, cheap, and self-centered character. To a degree, he compares to the Jack Benny character Benny created for his show.

Take care clowns.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Music Friday: "Midnight in Mississippi"

For me, one of the iconic albums of alt-country during the 90s is Dog Days by Blue Mountain, the band out of the fine city of Oxford, Mississippi, a town I wouldn't mind moving to after I retire.

Blue Mountain disbanded at one time, but they're back together now as far as I can tell even though it's hard to track down what's going on with the band via the InterWebs. The album above came out a few years ago, and today's featured song from it recounts a story borne of juke joint culture in the Mississippi Delta, the area where Delta Blues music originated.

Hope you enjoy "Midnight in Mississippi."

I'm also wondering, if some readers are inclined to share, what you might think are some of the important albums of alt-country during the 90s? I have some ideas, but I'd rather hear yours.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Fumbling Toward Culinary Talent: Makeshift Baked Potatoes

I've made versions of this recipe for years, probably as far back as when I taught myself to cook back in the early 90s. But I've never featured it in one of my Fumbling... posts.

I'm fond of sour cream on my baked potatoes, but many times I've found myself without that tangy dairy product. Sour cream is a product I usually purchase when I need it for a recipe of some sort. It's not a foodstuff like yogurt that I consistently eat or the kids will eat. On occasion, tubs of sour cream have hung around way past their "best by" dates in my fridge.

And then you get in the debate with yourself about "So ... I wonder if this stuff is okay? Will I get sick if I try it?"

So when I don't have sour cream or the sour cream I have at the back of my fridge is a sketchy character, my go-to slathering agent for baked potatoes is a dairy product I usually have on hand: cottage cheese.

So here's the basic recipe I used tonight for dinner:

  • 3 small red potatoes baked (well, microwaved)
  • Lowfat cottage cheese
  • Roughly a half cup of shredded cheese
  • 2-3 tablespoons of freshly chopped chives from the garden
  • Dashes of hot sauce of your choosing
  • Salt and pepper to taste
It's a simple recipe, but it's good.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sunday Hangover: A-Day & GymTide

What the hell, right?

What I am thinking--writing a Sunday Hangover feature about Alabama's spring game.

Although you might look at this post with scorn using a grimace similar to Coach Saban's above, here it is. When you're as addicted to Crimson Tide football as I am, this isn't "beyond the pale" or "jumping the shark." It's business as usual.

Three cliches in two sentences--I'm not starting strong in this post.

Damn it, another one.

Okay, okay, I'll get to the game.

Bryant-Denny was a packed crowd as usual--over 90K in the stadium for a free football game and lots of fun to be had afterward I can imagine.

The major battle in spring ball has been at quarterback, with AJ McCarron and Phillip Sims the main combatants even though Blake Sims could provide an interesting wrinkle for defenses in "wildcat" formations.

Of the two QBs, neither emerged as the clear number one signal-caller after A-Day. From this amateur's eyes, McCarron seems to have a better touch passing on the intermediate and longer routes, and P. Sims (below) seems better in the pocket and might possess the stronger arm.

Later in the game, Sims directed the White team down the field pretty well. I see why recruiting services ranked him the number one quarterback in the 2010 class.  

Trent Richardson, as you should expect, will be a force this season. Eddie Lacy played well, and the true freshman Dee Hart also looked good at tailback. He's a smaller version of Richardson, but he could be faster.

On defense, the secondary looked stronger. And it has to be because that was the Tide's main weakness last season. Unless Penn State suddenly gets pass-happy, its first major test will be when Arkansas comes to T-Town on September 24.

Dont'a Hightower, the senior linebacker, didn't look as sluggish as he was last season when it was his first season after knee surgery. He seems to have his speed back. The linebacking corps could be quite salty with Hightower, Upshaw, Johnson, and Mosley and Jordan, DePriest, Harris, and Stinson providing depth. This Adrian Hubbard guy could turn out to be a good DE too. 

As always, I look forward to fall. 

And congrats to the Alabama gymnastics team who won their fifth national championship on Saturday. The last time they won it all (2002) Mrs. Nasty and I were in attendance at Coleman Coliseum. 

Roll Tide, ladies.  

Friday, April 15, 2011

Music Friday: "Vultures"

I was first introduced to Nicole Atkins from her Daytrotter session.

And her new album, Mondo Amore, was dirt cheap the other day for download, so I picked it up.

She's originally from New Jersey, and his first album's title, Neptune City, is an homage to her place of birth although she grew up in Shark River Hills near the Shark River (scary sounding, eh?) according to

She describes her musical style as "pop-noir" (, and the official video of "Vultures" reveals as much.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Clap On... Clap Off...

On occasion, I'll buy a cheezy t-shirt.

If you need visual proof of that statement, check out my "Sucker for a Cheap T-Shirt" post from August of '10.

One of my favorites is a shirt I bought for one of my buddies when I lived in Tuscaloosa. Emblazoned on the front of it was this statement: "Tuscaloosa: A Drinking Town with a Football Problem."

Classy, eh?

When the Nasty family spent the night in a hotel near the Indy airport before our trip the next day during our spring break trip, we stopped into Target to do some shopping. I couldn't resist a royal blue t-shirt in the clearance rack with an advertisement for the Clapper.

You remember that gadget and its commercial, don't you?

If you need reminded, check out the video below.

One of the drawbacks to watching this classic 80s commercial is that the crude earworm of "Clap On... Clap Off..." may infect your brain.

After I showed the video to my kids tonight, they were chanting the lyrics: "Clap on... Clap off."

Monday, April 11, 2011

Norwegian Wood

Above is a picture of my grandmother's steamer chest. When she took the ship from Norway to America way back when, this trunk held all of her possessions.

The chest is now my sister's. In the process of dividing our parents' stuff that hasn't gone to where they live now, she got the trunk, and I got an antique kid's rocking chair from my parents, a chair I fondly remember sitting in as I read books and watched TV.

But there's a story behind the chest and my grandmother coming to America when she was very young. She came over when she was somewhere between eight and ten years old if I remember right. When she was sent to America, her parents stayed behind in Norway.

From what my mom has told me, my great-grandparents got a divorce in Norway at that time (sometime in the early 1900s), which had to be a badge of dishonor within a socially conservative Norwegian culture (think about Isben's A Doll House, for example). Apparently, they got a divorce, and my great-grandfather then married a Swedish woman as his second wife. For reasons unknown or possibly out of spite, my great-grandmother sent her daughter to the US at a young age.

From what my mom says, my grandmother landed in New York City like other immigrants, and then she traveled by train to Montana to live with her aunt and uncle, who raised sheep therre. Eventually, her new family, which also included her aunt and uncle's children, moved from Montana to Montevideo, Minnesota.

But what gets me is that my grandmother was put on a steamship not knowing any English at all. All she had was this trunk and a tag around her wrist directing the higher-ups on the ship where she needed to go. What a precarious situation, but maybe it wasn't all that uncommon. I don't know. My mom tells me that my grandma told her that she remembered people talking to her, but she had no idea what they were saying.

As my mom says, her mom wouldn't talk much about the trip or her parents because, as you can imagine, the whole deal had to be traumatic and the cause of much bitterness. Grandma, I'm told, did talk fondly about living in Norway though--the beauty of the towns and surrounding countryside, the fjords, etc.

In contrast the troubling history associated the trunk, I have good memories of this steamer chest made of Norwegian pine.

The first thing I can remember from when I was very young was hiding in this chest when playing hide-n-seek with my nephews who would often visit during the weekends.

This chest is connected to my very first memory, the first thing I remember. I hid in it and thought myself very clever. It was not only a great spot to hide, but the red synthetic fur that lines the inside was fun to feel.

I did get in trouble for hiding in the chest though. I don't remember why exactly, but it probably was because it's an antique. I didn't get put in a time-out back then (did they even have such a thing in the early 70s?), but I remember my mom scolding me.

And in another positive note, Deloras also stored her Xmas ornaments and holiday brick-a-brack in this chest at our house on 1051 Wisconsin Street, the home where they lived since the late 50s. And I associate holidays at my house with Norwegian Christmas cookies--cringla and fudamumbuckles--and gatherings where the whole family opened presents on Christmas Eve.

If you were puzzled why I was playing hide-and-seek with my nephews, that's because I'm the last of my siblings. I was one of those happy accidents, or as Virg told me one time as we drank a few beers in the 19th Hole after playing golf, "The damn rubber broke."

Because of the years separating my three siblings and me, my oldest brother has two sons who are actually older than their uncle (me).

But the strangeness of being the final kid is that I didn't get to know my grandparents just like my mom didn't know hers. Three of my four grandparents were gone before I popped out in 1971. I only met my grandmother, my dad's mom, once, and that meeting was at an old folks home (the old terminology) made of cinder block painted institutional white in rural northeastern Missouri. The only remark I remember her making to me, if I remember right, was "You're Judi's brother, right?" Then my dad shuffled me off to some waiting room-like area where I watched TV and he talked to his mom.

I didn't write the digression about my experience with grandparents (mainly lack thereof) in some attempt to milk sympathy from readers.

Rather, I'm just happy that my kids know their grandparents.

The mementos from the past--the rocking chair, the 4/10 shotgun I have of my grandfather's, etc.--are nice, but they don't beat the lived experience.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Music Friday: "Angels and Acrobats" & "Set Your House in Order"

If you read Tuesday's post, you might have anticipated this happening: I'm drunk on Amanda Shires.

After reading more about her via the InterWebs, I downloaded her most recent album, West Cross Timbers. I liked it so much that I moved on to acquiring her earlier album, Being Brave.

Being Brave is interesting in that it mixes songs where she sings with simple instrumentals. On the instrumentals it's usually her playing the fiddle accompanied by either a banjo or guitar. The instrumentals remind of being at McGurk's in St. Louis, so heads-up, Fozzie.

Below is "Angels and Acrobats" from West Cross Timbers.

And a more uptempo number is the traditional gospel song, "Set Your House in Order."

I'd like to get me one of those "Holy Ghost guns." One of them could be quite useful.

Her new album, Carrying Lightning, comes out May 3.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Taking Home

The picture above is from when my father was in boot camp during the Second World War. As far as military uniforms go, I've always liked the Navy's. Then again, both my dad and my oldest brother were in the Navy although my grandfather (WWI) and two uncles (one in WWII and the other in Korea) were in the Army.

My sister scanned this old photo of Virg and sent it to me since the local TV station in my hometown, the city that was the home of the Five Sullivan Brothers, is doing some segment on veterans. She sent it to the station and then me.

There was a time when I thought about going into the Navy right out of high school. I never took the military test or contacted a recruiter because that would have put the hard-press on me with military recruiters constantly pestering me.

I would have gone in right before the first Gulf War, which didn't involve the Navy as much as other wars have, though I may be wrong in that assumption. I'm no scholar of military history.

But I was too interested in college instead of learning a trade such as being an electrician. I traveled to Kirksville, Missouri for schooling, which strangely enough is just north of where Virg went to high school in La Plata, birthplace of Lester Dent, author of Doc Savage pulp fiction. Virg's family settled in northeastern Missouri after my grandfather didn't do well farming in Minnesota and found better prospects in the Show Me State.

But to get back to learning a trade, as I was fond of telling my colleague where I worked previously, there are some days when I think to myself, "Maybe I should have been an electrician."

Just like anyone else who gets some years behind them, you begin to think about the past choices you've made and how little decisions have greatly affected how you got to be where you are now or who you're with or what's happened in your life in general. If you think too much about such things, the alternate causal chains may drive you crazy.

So where the am I going with this? Hell, I don't know. I've all over the place in this post.

I guess I'm thinking about living a full life and the choices I've made since Virg will head down to Iowa City at the end of the month to have major heart surgery.

One aspect of my dad's personality that I might have picked up on is that, as many people know, Virg is not afraid to give you his opinion. He can be brutal with his honesty. He's demanding. And he sometimes says exactly what's on his mind. Unfiltered.

For some jobs, like being an electrician or a meat cutter or a manager of a grocery store, those tendencies are perfectly fine. For other professions, they can be a detriment on certain occasions.

Regardless, this weekend the Nasty family heads up to Waterloo to gather belongings and other artifacts from my parent's house that is now going to be sold since they've moved into an assisted living facility. I'll be bringing back a deep freeze, gardening tools, and other assorted stuff.

I'm not going home; I'm taking home.

And that makes me sad.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Isbell Interview

I'm not familiar with the music blog Hear*Ya (yet), but today I read a really good interview with Jason Isbell on the site.

"An Interview with Jason Isbell - Here We Rest" is an interesting read, to me at least. But as some people might know, I'm a big fan of Mr. Isbell, and the interview only gets me more geeked up about the new album.

I especially like Isbell's comments about his creative process, his approach to writing lyrics, how he has a deep sense of place, and how "most of the songs that I write, probably 90%, come from true stories I've heard or conversations I've had with someone about their life or some part of my own life that I'm trying to sort out."

I'm also intrigued about Amanda Shires.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Music Friday: "I Believe (and Poem)" & "Nerves of the Nightmind"

I recently purchased the new R.E.M. album Collapse Into Now, and I like it. The band's releases before this one have decent (Accelerate) and mediocre at best (Reveal) for fans like me who have been listening to their work since Murmur.

My favorite R.E.M. album is Life's Rich Pageant. I like the album so much that I smuggled the phrase "life's rich pageant" into the book I'm writing/revising. "I Believe" above comes from that album, a work that also features "Begin the Begin," "Fall on Me," "What If We Give It Away?," and "Superman." Other favorite albums are mine are Fables of the Reconstruction, Reckoning, and Document. That era was a fine time to be a R.E.M. fan.

And I'm particularly fond of Automatic for the People too although I despise "Everybody Hurts." On that album the final three songs are outstanding: "Man on the Moon," "Nightswimming," and "Find the River." It's hard to repeat that kind of trio to close an album.

An emerging band that reminds me of R.E.M. in some respects is Frontier Ruckus, whose second album I featured on my "Top Ten/Twenty Albums of 2010" post. Check out the video for "Nerves of the Nightmind" from Deadmalls and Nightfalls below.

Now Frontier Ruckus is more alt-country, folk-rock, Americana, or whatever the heck they want to describe themselves as, but Milia's lyrics remind of Stipe's in some respects although when you compare his lyrics to Stipe's lyrics from the early R.E.M albums, there's a lot more to go on when deciphering meaning. But they both have playful and literary steaks as writers.

Early R.E.M. lyrics, to my eyes at least, remind me of "language poetry," and some of Milia's lyrics work that way too even though "Nerves of the Nightmind" isn't that hard to figure out unless I'm really off base.

And speaking of lyrics, both are below.