Thursday, June 30, 2011

Shallow Thoughts on Fashion

As part of my gig this summer, I man an informational table for a sliver of the afternoon on most weekdays during a "fair" for incoming first-year students.

When I'm not talking to folks, the fair is a good venue for people watching. Often, I witness the behavior of helicopter parents, get to see how these young adults get along pretty well with their parental units, and observe how the child takes after or doesn't take after certain parents in physical appearance, gait, and personality.

But I thought I'd post my shallow thoughts on the fashion I see around me, fashion of both the parents and the new students.

Neon shoestrings seem to be in vogue with some of the kids these days. I wonder if they come with complimentary Cyndi Lauper cassettes. I haven't seen that stuff since the 80s. The future's so bright I gotta wear shades.

I'm surprised that people still wear boat shoes. I tried some on once a long time ago. They were uncomfortable and ugly.

Last year I noticed lots of tattoos on young adults, especially those foot tattoos with fancy script on 'em. The ubiquitous ankle tattoos seemed to have fallen out of favor and been overtaken by those scripty deals. Not so many tattoos this year so far though. I guess the youngins will wait until they're in college to get all inked up. Or not? Are tattoos falling out of fashion, or is this data set an aberration?

Maybe this is some kind of metrosexual moment for me here, but how do khaki shorts and grey shirts match? That's bland on bland. Gentlemen, you can do better than that. Get in the game.

I need to create a clothing company that has massive factories where t-shirts cost wholesale about two bucks. I'll slap some kind of brand name on them, something like Richley & Co. or Bascombe & Tilly or Love Nasty (Get it? A spoof on "Love Pink"), mark 'em at $30-45 a shirt or shorts or whatever, and make a killing. It's not about the quality of the merchandise--it's the image, the brand they have to have. I shouldn't throw stones too hard though. I wore Ocean Pacific shirts in junior high school. Hollister is the new Ocean Pacific and Hobie just with better marketing and infrastructure.

Those tight t-shirts have to be uncomfortable. I mean how does a guy lift his arms in those things?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Living Beyond Our Means

In an opinion column in the the NY Times a while back, Friedman's "The Earth is Full" provides a perspective that I've read before.


Two articles in the May issue of Scientific American connect to what Friedman is talking about and the Panglossian outlook from the "eco-optimist" Paul Gilding that Friedman quotes from extensively.

But I'm no eco-optimist.

As Daniel T. Willingham relates in "Trust Me, I'm a Scientist," "Because we want to see ourselves as rational beings, we find reasons to maintain that our beliefs are accurate. One or two contrarians are sufficient to convince us that the science is 'controversial' or 'unsettled.'"

It's difficult to move people mainly on logical appeals, which scientists have been trying to do for decades upon decades. Scientists who study global warming have been banging up against beliefs for a long time. I'm repeating myself a bit since last month I covered some of this ground in "This Has All Been Related Before." But what the hell.

In a more hopeful vein, the editors of Scientific American feature seven "Radical Energy Solutions" that are rated on their likelihood to happen and their potential impacts. The seven are these: "fusion-triggered fission," "solar gasoline," "quantam photovoltaics," "heat engines," "shock-wave auto engine," "magnetic air conditioners," and "clean(er) coal."

Solar Gasoline, aka "syngas" created by concentrated solar collectors, sounds pretty cool to me, an invention that might have a partial answer to the satirical lyrics of Merle Haggard's old song, "Rainbow Stew."

If you don't like eating rainbow stew, James Howard Kunstler's The Long Emergency is a book to read, especially if you have a darker sensibility or if you're no eco-optimist.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Music Friday: "John the Fisherman" & "To Defy the Laws of Tradition"

Via FB yesterday, I found out that the band Primus will have a new album out on September 13. From the sound of it, Green Naugahyde will be similar to the band's early stuff, the alternative rock masterpieces of Frizzle Fry and Sailing the Seas of Cheese.

I'm looking forward to the album since I've always enjoyed those albums, especially the two songs from Frizzle Fry that are featured today

Without further ado, I offer videos of the songs below in addition to the lyrics of "John the Fisherman."

John the Fisherman

When he was young, you'd not find him doing well in school.
His mind would turn unto the waters.
Always the focus of adolescent ridicule,
He has no time for farmer's daughters.
Alienated from the clique society,
A lonely boy finds peace in fishing.
His mother says "John this is not the way life's supposed to be."
"Don't you see the life that you are missing?"

And he says...
When I grow up I want to be,
One of the harvesters of the sea.
I think before my days are done,
I want to be a fisherman.

Now years gone by, we find man who rules the sea.
He sets out on a dark May morning
To bring his catch back to this small community.
He doesn't see the danger dawning.
Four hours up, oh the ocean swelled and swelled,
The fog rolled in; it started raining.
"The starboard bow." "Oh my gosh we're going down!"
They do not hear his frantic mayday.

And he says
When I grow up I want to be,
one of the harvesters of the sea.
I think before my days are done,
I want to be a fisherman.
"I'll live and die a fisherman."
Calling John the Fisherman.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Farming and Agency

In the June issue of Ode Magazine, there's an article by Diane Daniel titled "Farmers as Change Agents." In the piece she details a different population of folks who have become interested in farming, and it's a type of agriculture that goes against the agribusiness-induced, monoculture farming of soybeans, corn, etc. If you've read Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, you probably have a good inkling of what Daniel writes about.

Since Ode is an international publication based out of the Netherlands, some of the examples are from Europe, but the sustainable agriculture program at the University of Kentucky is featured briefly in the article. Of course, there are other alternative agriculture programs developing at other universities across the nation since some professors of agriculture see the current food system as ecologically and economically bankrupt.

It's nice to read an article that has a positive take on farming since I remember my uncle Raymond, a farmer who raised cattle and grew soybeans and corn in northeastern Missouri, telling me emphatically that "If you want a good job, being a farmer ain't it."

What my uncle was talking about then is what George Pyle discusses in his fine book Raise Less Corn, More Hell.

The article I've linked exemplifies the magazine's mantra of being "for intelligent optimists," but Pyle's book is required reading for intelligent pessimists.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Poll for an Important Question

A week ago I posted "An Important Question."

Today I created a poll that you can find on the right side of the blog to address this question.

Unlike the vapid two-party system we're under in America, the poll offers eight choices for your vote.

The poll closes at midnight on July 4th.

Monday, June 20, 2011

I Thought It Was a St. Louis Thing

For Father's Day yesterday, one of my presents was a washers set, the mass produced type pictured above. Mrs. Nasty and the kids got the set from our local Rural King

For those of you who aren't familiar with the game, it's a variation on horseshoes except players use large washers and square boxes with part of pvc tubing in the middle of the boxes. You set the boxes twenty feet apart and toss the washers to their destination. A washer that goes into the tube scores three points, and a washer that goes into the box outside the tube scores one point.

I was first introduced to the game at a party maybe during my sophomore year in college. I don't recall exactly, but it was somewhere in that time period. Since where I went to undergraduate was/is lousy with all kinds of folks from the St. Louis area, I assumed washers was a St. Louis thing, a game born of the working class in South City, a game played outside in the small backyards of the city where Busch and Bud flow freely and alleged pork "steaks" are grilled.

As a side note, I'm surprised South City does not have its own Wikipedia entry and I have to link a "Neighborhoods of St. Louis" page instead.

Maybe I'm mistaken in assuming that it's a St. Louis thing since the International Association of Washer Players in based in Birmingham, Alabama. Then again, when I lived in Alabama, I never saw anyone play washers, and after reading up on their version of the game, it's not the washers game I'm familiar with. I'm used to seeing homemade boxes for the game, not pits.

For example, when we played washers at my fraternity house, we used someone's homemade boxes, and if you wanted to play a game involving pits, you went to the back edge of the backyard for horseshoes.

Regardless, we played a game yesterday, and the Hannah and I were victorious over Mrs. Nasty and Quinn. It was fun and brought back memories. I'm certainly rusty though. I need to get some practice in before late April for the 40th Roseball in Kirksville.

Even though they're a mass produced deal, the boxes seem pretty sturdy. I guess if they do break down, I can always follow the instructions on YouTube for "How to Build a Washers Game."

Friday, June 17, 2011

Music Friday: "Broussard's Lament," "Tell Me True," & "Come On Up to the House"

Sarah Jarosz was featured on an episode of PBS's Austin City Limits based on the strength of her first album, Song Up in Her Head. Her second album, Follow Me Down, came out this summer.

Today I'm offering a trio of videos from that performance in Austin.

First up is "Broussard's Lament."

Then you can enjoy "Tell Me True."

And finally, the trio is complete with a Tom Waits cover.

If you're thinking, "She looks young." Well, she is. She's 20 and already has two albums out.

There's a substantial biography on her website if you're interested.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Fumbling Toward Culinary Talent: Salsa Verde Turkey Enchiladas

I've made this dish a couple of times since Mrs. Nasty brought home Rocco Dispirito's Now Eat This!, which is a cookbook that has the subtitle of 150 of America's Favorite Comfort Foods All Under 350 Calories.

Before I started reading the cookbook, I had some healthy skepticism about the recipes since I'm old fashioned.  I like my comfort food the old way, damn it. But after browsing the book and making a number of dishes, it's a good cookbook. Dispirito has some tips that reduce fat and calories without losing too much flavor if any at all.

So what I'm presenting here today is my modification of Dispirito's "Cheesy Turkey Enhiladas with Tomatillo Salsa and Cilantro" (he needs to work on concision with his titles), which can be found on page 128.

1 package of ground turkey
1/2 of onion, chopped finely
2 Anaheim peppers, chopped finely
1 tin of store bought bean dip
1 jar of store-bought tomatillo salsa
Reduced fat Mexican cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

First you need to sweat down the onion and peppers on medium high heat in a skillet, and then you add in the ground turkey until it's cooked thoroughly. Salt and pepper to taste, but I also like to sometimes add smoked paprika and Worschestershire sauce to give the turkey a bit more character. Once the turkey cooked, remove the skillet from the heat and add in the bean dip until it's all fully incorporated.

Once that's done, trowel the meat/bean mixture into tortillas and place them them in a casserole dish. Liberally drizzle the salsa verde on top of the enchiladas and top with cheese. Bake at 450 degrees for 12 minutes, and they should be done.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

An Important Question

I posed an important question to Mrs. Nasty a few months ago. And just recently I got some input from other people.

Here's the question: What's is the best mass-produced food product ever invented?

I've thought about this for a long time, to the point where I heard the sound of one hand clapping.

By the way, the sound goes "whoosh, whoosh, whoosh."

My answer, and I'll put my choice up against any competition, is the Ice Cream Sandwich.

I don't know and don't care what that black stuff is that functions as the buns of the food product, but it is the superior mass-produced food product ... ever.

Mrs. Nasty's candidate is a foodstuff that has many variations, the potato chip.

I can see why many people would choose the potato chip as the main competitor to the ice cream sandwich, its main rival to the correct answer to this question.

Or do you have other competitors for this important question?

I invite you to provide any worthy candidates.

I still side with the glory of the ice cream sandwich even though the either-or choice between sandwich and chip exemplifies the sweet/salty dynamic. And of course, we're talking about matters of taste here. People could go around and around about this almost metaphysical question forever.

The choice between ice cream sandwich and potato chip reminds me of a little test Audubon put on recently where they pitted two of the smartest birds against one another in an intelligence test. You can read all about it in "Crow vs. Parrot: Who Is the Wisest in All the Land?"

But the problem with that test is that they should have used ravens instead of crows because the Common Raven is a highly intelligent species. Ravens would have kicked parrot and crow butts that day.

In my mind, the ice cream sandwich is the best food product ever invented just like the raven is the smartest bird in the world.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Random Notes from Home & the Road

I got back from Waterloo late this afternoon. I left Friday morning to visit my parents--my mom in their assisted living facility and my dad in a rehab facility since he got sprung from the U of Iowa Hospital on
Thursday. He's doing better, getting stronger each day it seems.

But I thought I'd share some of my random notes from the road trip since on six-hour drives I encountered some stuff, and the mind tends to wander in various directions.

I don't know how truckers do it. On the drive back, my lower back was getting achy. Driving a big rig for such an extended period of time has to entail some lower back doodads that keeps a body loose.

At a gas station, a sign informed me that because of "in climate weather" the electronic pay pads weren't working properly.

The wind farm northeast of Bloomington-Normal is an impressive sight, so impressive that I wonder if they rotating blades cause bad driving as some people get transfixed by those rotating blades that create energy. What's really cool is seeing one of those blades being hauled on the road. You feel small.

About a decade ago, I vowed to turn the channel whenever an Aerosmith, Styx, or REO Speedwagon song came on. I hate that shit. I am especially disgusted by Aerosmith for some reason.

I ate at the I-80 monolith in eastern Iowa this afternoon, at the Wendy's inside. I had a fancy side salad and some of their fries. They were good. I was surprised by how decent the salad was--quite good for fast food.

No cicadas in Waterloo. I suspect they'll get the 17-year variety in four years.

I heard The Wailin' Jennys on NPR this morning on the Mountain Stage program. They are damn talented ladies.

I get angry at people who consider the Midwest "flyover" country or a boring landscape. There are many beautiful woods, rolling hills, and flatlands on my drive in a northeasterly direction. With people's addiction for sublime-like landscapes, they miss the beauty of nuance, the power Bryant writes about in the "The Prairies." Flat isn't necessarily ugly, clowns.

I like sports a lot and all, but I wonder if the collective citizenry spent more time paying attention to politics and policies rather than obsessing about what's wrong with LaBron James, we'd be a hell of a lot better off. Or rather, at least citizens would be more engaged with what's going on. Sports are the new "opiate of the masses," but speaking as a fan of college football and MLB, man, that's a good opiate. Me like.

I miss Ron Santo on the radio.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Music Friday: "Drunken Poet's Dream," "Bad Liver and a Broken Heart," "KMAG YOYO," & "She Left Me for Jesus"

I mentioned the fine music of Hayes Carll a couple of weeks ago in "Music, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and Leaky Analogies," so I thought I'd offer you a quartet of his songs.

Carll reminds of Todd Snider in a number of ways. Both artists should be considered Americana musicians, and they both have a country twang to 'em even though Snider is originally from Portland, Oregon. And they both have good senses of humor.

First up is the slightly lascivious "Drunken Poet's Dream."

And if the song title of "Bad Liver and a Broken Heart" doesn't sound like good ole traditional country music, I don't know what does. The commentary about Texas before he plays the song is good stuff although I don't care for the pot-shots about Arkansas. He has a mission though.

This tune is a way slowed down version of the song compared to the version on his first album Trouble in Mind.

And then next up is "Kmag Yoyo," which is described in the post I referred to at the start of today's post. It's more rollicking than the first two videos.

And finally, time for some cornpone with "She Left Me for Jesus." This is the music video for the song.

"If I ever find Jesus, I'm kicking his ass."

I wonder if that guy's girlfriend's name is Mary Magdalene.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Thruttering Lust

Here in east central Illinois (and other parts of the US) the theme of small talk has been focused on the reemergence of the 13-year cicadas. The photo below showcases one of those noisy insects hanging out near the back of my garage.

The swarms seem to be dissipating in my area of Chucktown, but they're heavy just north of us, which is campus. Visitors have the displeasure of experiencing the big black bugs flying around harmlessly and sometimes landing on them.

Some folks really freak out. They scream. They yelp. They curse. They make rapid movements of various body parts.

Is it really that bad though? I mean, it's not like they're sucking people's blood like mosquitoes do.

They're loud as hell, but their "melody of riot" (Son Volt) only happens every thirteen years.

Sure, once the process is over, they leave their husks all over the place, as you can see below. It's annoying to have to clean up all that stuff, but if you take it from another perspective, we should give 'em a break.

They emerge every thirteen years to mate. That's a long time to wait for nooky, folks. Think on that a while.

The cicadian rhythm is thruttering lust.

All that noise is an insect version of "Let's Get It On."

Friday, June 3, 2011

Music Friday: "Helplessness Blues"

I read about Fleet Foxes a couple of years ago when the band's debut album came out. I didn't pick it up then.

The band is the part of the vibrant music scene in Portland, Oregon, a milieu that, as far as I can tell, trends toward a folky-indie sound with the notable exception of the fine band Truckstop Darlin', which is alt-country of the Drive-By Truckers/Lucero persuasion.

A few weeks back I picked up the second album of Fleet Foxes titled Helplessness Blues. It's a damn fine album, and I really like the title track, which is below.

Like Blitzen Trapper, The Low Anthem, Blind Pilot, and The Morning Benders, this band seems to be one of the darlings of alternative music reviewers/bloggers, as you can witness by reading Hear*Ya's album review. For a different take on the album, check out what's said about it on Twangville.

I came into my first listen of the album (an inexpensive download deal) with skepticism akin to the writer's on Twangville. Then I liked the second album so much that I bought the first one.

And if you're someone who has sat in a hospital waiting for a surgery to get over, I'm sure you've had your own bout of helplessness blues--not dreams of orchards, or thinking of a different life, or questioning what you were told like in the song, but a more direct feeling of helplessness.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Match Made in Suburbia

I'm staying here in Coralville, a town that is presently a suburban outgrowth of Iowa City, home to strip malls and hollowness. As far as I can tell, there's no there there.

But as I got back from the hospital tonight, I considered a crude arithmetic:
  • Fried Pickles + Guinness + Me = Happy
The residential hotel I'm staying is not that far from the strip mall, so I walked. 

A Buffalo Wild Wings on a Wednesday night at 11pm is not a happening place. Just FYI.

But I got to watch MLB Network to see how my fantasy team is sucking while also watching the Rockies play the Dodgers. 

In Light of (Not So) Recent Circumstances, You Play the Kids

Over on Goat Riders of the Apocalypse yesterday, blogger Rob Letterly lets lose some venom in his post, "Cubs Manager Mike Quade is Really Pissing Me Off."

While I'm not all that comfortable with calling Quade "Mr. Clean" and "Baldy McGrindy" or describing Aramis Ramirez as a "rotting corpse," there are ideas in this post that merit attention as the Orphans deal with the DL stints of Byrd, Johnson, Soriano, and Baker.

Now with Ramirez's playing prospects being day-to-day for a while because of his injury in today's game, which was yet another loss, the Juvenalian satire of Mr. Letterly makes him look like a sage: "Snyder can play left, Campana center, Colvin right, LaMahieu, Castro, Barney can make up the bulk of a young, forward-looking infield."

At least with that lineup we could see a batting order that makes more sense that what Quade has been trotting out there recently:
  1. Campana
  2. Barney
  3. Castro
  4. Pena 
Campana needs to be playing every day and batting lead-off. And Ramirez has not got it done all season in the four hole.

The final four of the order would be some selection from Snyder, Colvin, Ramirez/LaMahieu, and Soto/Hill/Castillo.

One of the aspects of his post that I question though is that they might want to play Fukudome often to see if they can get anything in return for him in a trade. 

Then again, I don't think they'll get much for him at all. The benefit of giving the younger guys playing time outweighs the potential trade potential they can reap by playing Fukudome.