Friday, April 27, 2012

Music Friday: "The Great Despiser"

The Great Despiser, the new album from Joe Pug, came out Tuesday. I thought I'd feature someting from the album because it's a strong collection of songs.

I've featured Pug before, so do that hyperlink thing if you're interested in reading more about the fellow and listening to older songs.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Random Notes from a Crank

I have to personally thank Jerry Seinfeld and possibly Larry David for introducing the mantra of "Serenity Now" to me. I've been using it a lot lately. A lot.

For his birthday, my son wants the other Star Wars trilogy: episodes 1, 2, & 3. I suspect he'll be disappointed with Jar Jar's presence like I was. Even kids don't like him much.

I've never gotten the name of "Athletics" for a baseball team. I like 'em because they're small market and all that, but that franchise, if I remember correctly, started in Philadelphia, went to Kansas City for a while, then migrated to Oakland, and possibly might be moving again. But Athletics, how boring is that for a mascot? And I dislike the unnecessary apostrophe ("A's") on their hats.

I just want to lay around all day and watch baseball interrupted only by napping and people occasionally bringing me food. On occasion, I'll speak.

A good while back, heck it was over spring break in fact, Mrs. Nasty's Boss asked me if I would look over her daughter's resume because she was applying for an internship. I helped the young lady with the document, and Mrs. Nasty's Boss asked if I want anything for giving her feedback. She said if her daughter got the internship, that she'd get me something. My offhand retort was that I'll take a case of beer. Shortly thereafter, the young lady got the internship. And me, I got a twelve pack of Sam Adams Boston Lager. That's consulting, Delta Delta Style. Quintilian B. Nasty: Will consult for beer...

Monday, April 23, 2012

Random Notes from a Crank

This weekend, our dog Darby was innocently doing one of the activities she really enjoys doing, which is running like a dog on amphetamines all around the backyard, and she jumped over the short semicircular wall we have around the perimeter of the back patio, landing on the hard surface, and a tremendous yelping and whining ensued as she skidded out down toward the chain link fence. After a call to the on-call vet because something obviously happened and she no longer would put weight on back left leg, I was told to take a wait-and-see approach while giving her baby aspirin. The injury didn't get much better over the weekend, so I took her to vet this morning to get it checked out. She's got the dog version of torn ACL. Because of the vet's schedule, she couldn't get in for surgery until Monday. Goodbye federal tax return, but the worst part, obviously, is Darby's pain and the long recovery ahead. Not good.

On a nostalgic whim I purchased the album, circa 1993, God Shuffled His Feet by the Crash Test Dummies. It was cheaper to buy the album than downloading it.

I'm sure many of you remember the hit "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm," and I always enjoyed the band's interesting lyrics. Mrs. Nasty hates them because of the lead singer's voice and told me as much this afternoon. But here are snippets from each song on the album for my and possibly your enjoyment:

  • "But God said nothing/ So someone asked him, 'I beg your pardon:/ I'm not quite clear about what you just spoke--/Was that a parable, or a very subtle joke?'" from "God Shuffled His Feet"
  •  "Times when the day is like a play by Sartre/ When it seems a bookburning's in perfect order--" from "Afternoons and Coffeespoons"
  • "They shook and lurched all over the church floor./ He couldn't quite explain it./ They'd always just gone there." from "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm"
  • "Your thumb and forefinger supposed to show you're not a wild beast./ You can hear their noises at night time./ They don't have to keep a certain bedtime." from "In the Days of the Caveman"
  • "Sometimes I suffer from distractions like/ Why does God cause things like tornadoes and train wrecks?" from "Swimming In Your Ocean"
  • "Well take my fingers, what do fingers really mean to me?/ You can easily look them up in the dictionary./ They call them digits, or technically they're known as the 'phalanges." from "Here I Stand Before Me"
  • "Running into you like this without warning/ Is like catching a sniff of tequila in the morning." from "I Think I'll Disappear Now"
  • "How does a duck know what direction south is?/ And how to tell his wife from all the other ducks?" from "How Does a Duck Know?"
  • "What if the artists ran the TV?/ All the ads would be for fine scotch whiskey:/ Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, the whole single malt family." from "When I Go Out with Artists"
  • "She could not control them, they kept her up nights./ I know what you're thinking. I haven't been drinking." from "The Psychic"
  • "The maidens had other plans for the two knights./ They'd give them potions/ And make them see dreams and lights." from "Two Knights and Maidens"
In the April issue of The Atlantic, there's an article about Ben Bernanke that's worth a read: "The Villain." 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Music Friday: "No Future" & "Jackson" plus Interview with Craig Finn

As I mentioned in the post below this post (or just scroll down), I've been listening to The Hold Steady a lot recently.

The lead singer of the band, Craig Finn, put out his own solo record, but I didn't get around to purchasing it until after by buddy Foz recommended it to me. Thanks, Foz.

The album, Clear Heart Full Eyes, is significantly different than the standard fare put out by The Hold Steady. The tunes are more reserved and less guitar-oriented, so Finn's fine lyrics are featured more prominently.

Possibly my favorite song on the album is "No Future." The idea that the persona of the lyrics met the Devil in a Perkin's makes me smile. But there's more to the song than just that. See for yourself below.

And here's "Jackson."

The interview he did with ABC News is interesting because he talks about his composing process and the themes in his music.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Random Notes from a Crank

At the end of every Inside the Actor's Studio, a program that I watch on occasion, the host James Lipton ends with a gauntlet of questions he got from some French talk show host (if I remember right). One of those questions is "What is your favorite curse word and why?" I watched the program that featured Tom Hanks when it aired, and his favorite curse word was "horse shit" because, if I recall correctly, it doesn't get used enough and it's very specific. Like Hanks, if I were to pick an underrated curse word, I'd have to go with "dog shit." Lowly old dog crap is what I'd pick. In comparison to Hanks' favorite, the poo of dog is not highbrow at all. Only the wealthy have horses, right? The hoi polloi have dogs, and they shit a lot. That stuff is common. Just think of saying something like, "That proposal is dog shit." That means it not even worthy of horse shit found in stables. It's common shit. 

Recently I picked up some stuffed jalapeno peppers wrapped in bacon at the local supermarket. I won't be doing that again. The bacon was incredibly fatty, even for bacon, and the filling had a bland sausage intermixed with some manner of cream cheese. So, since my bell pepper plants and poblano pepper plant croaked because of a cold spell, I plan to get a jalapeno pepper plant and do my own stuffed peppers, but I'll be using Laughing Cow cheese shoved inside them, and I plan to wrap them in turkey bacon. Healthy choices and all that stuff.

On a TV channel (Inspiration) I had never heard of before until recently, they've been playing episodes of The Brady BunchI used to watch that show all the time when I was a kid, and now my kids are watching it too. What an anachronism. One of yesterday's episodes we taped was the Johnny Bravo one when the whole gang becomes a musical group. I was troubled by one episode though that has the plot line of Marcia wanting to a female "Frontier Scout" like her brother Greg. As one would imagine, the plot focuses on Greg making it extra hard for his sister to become a Frontier Scout, but Marcia perseveres. Then in a twist at the end, Marcia suddenly decides not to become a scout because that's "boy stuff," and then Marcia turns to Carol Brady and asks about checking out some "fashion magazine" since she's a girl. Luckily, I usually watch these programs with my kids. After the plot twist, I loudly stated, "That makes me mad. That's wrong" in front of my two kids. My eight-year old daughter asked why, and I went into a diatribe about sexism, about how women can and should have equal opportunities and not have to necessarily do what people consider "girly" things. She agreed and said, "Yeah, that is wrong." Stoopid sexism.

On a more humorous note, I had forgotten about how often "groovy" was used as a descriptor on that program. People are groovy. Events are groovy. All sorts of stuff is groovy. Groovalicious I tell ya.

In addition, there's the hair. Oh, the hair styles. When I went to Alabama from '98 to '02, I thought those Southern fellows had shaggy hair. But the Brady boys, especially Greg and Mr. Brady with those white dude 'fros, that male lineage is lousy with shaggy hair.

I've been listening to The Hold Steady quite a bit recently. Today in the car I was playing the band's latest album Heaven is Whenever, and the opening track on the disc is "The Sweet Part of the City," which is song that's an homage to a certain part of Minneapolis, the band's hometown.

The song got me to thinking about the cities and towns I've lived in and their sweet parts. And these are all personal connections of course, but I thought I'd share. Heck, it's a blog. If you don't like it, get your own blog for your own solipsism.

In Waterloo, I'd have to go with my dad's stores, Virg's Foods and Independence Ave. Liquor, that he was able to start with the grace of small business loans somehow. I spent a lot of my working youth in those two establishments, learned a lot, and grew up in them. Likewise, the practice range at Byrnes has a great deal of significance to me since I at one time in my life was obsessed with golf and being the best golfer I could be, practicing till my hands started to bleed, stressing out about my swing plane, practicing my natural draw, trying to hone mindfulness (because once you get a decent swing, most of the important work in golf is done inside one's head). And the park on the outskirts of town with the concrete dinosaur my friends named "Fugly" is a place that rings of sweetness. I'll admit to a picnic there with one of my girlfriends once that led to spontaneous nookification.

And then the house at 1051 Wisconsin St. I grew up in, of course, a home my parents lived in since the early 50s. They sold it a couple of years ago and now live in an assisted living facility.

In Kirksville where I got my B.A. and M.A., the core places for me were Pickler Library and my fraternity house at 207 E. Normal, a place that was nothing close to normal. We eventually got a new house at 815 S. Davis, but for those of us who went through the chapter during a certain era, the 207 house was our house. It wasn't a pretty place. It got the job done. It worked. From people turning up the volume on our shitty living room TV with a pen because we didn't have a remote and the volume button was broken to our brilliant idea of having a band, aptly named Shaft, play on the front porch mid-afternoon on Friday right in front of Baldwin Hall when classes were in session, it was a good place to be. Now that area is plot of grass next to a parking lot for the university.

Likewise, the place where Mrs. Nasty and I first lived together as a married couple has either been wiped off the face of the Tuscaloosa landscape, or it possibly just was severely damaged. The tornado of April 27 did its diabolical work. Then there's Bryant-Denny, Morgan Hall, and our crappy GA office in Rowand Johnson.

With St. Louis, I'd have to go with my office at Meramec with my good friend. Not an aesthetically pleasing place, but I got a lot of work done there, and we laughed a lot--even wrote parts of my first major published article in that office. I still miss my neighborhood in St. Louis--Lindenwood Park and Francis Park. My daughter doesn't remember St. Louis much at all, but most summers, unless it was raining, we went for a stroller ride to either Lindenwood or Francis Park every day. Our two-bedroom home was/is tiny, but I still really like that house. We were only the third owner of that house that was built in 1939.

As for our current patch of land on Cedar Drive, I'd have to go with the Nasty backyard.  

Saturday, April 14, 2012

That Just Ain't Right

What you see above is the garish monstrosity of "art" that currently resides beyond the outfield fences of Marlins Park in the new MLB ball park in Miami.

I know it's Miami and all, but that sculpture, if we have permission to call it that, looks like something a drunk and stoned hippy marine biologist, who was told by one of his esteem-building grade school art teachers that he was "artistic," cooked up in a hazy stupor one Saturday night when the Marlins owner was throwing a party at his pad, and the Marlins owner--sunburned, dehydrated, and wanting, as he said, to think "outside the box"--after a long rambling conversation with our artistic marine biologist friend (let's just call him "Phil."), said, "Sure, let's go with day-glo green on the walls. I like your thinking. And I also want to commission the psychedelic homage to Miami sculpture you've pitched to me. [Burp!] Honey, could you get me another Dos Equis, and Phil, pass the hashish."

I've been to what many people consider the worst MLB ball park out there: Tropicana Field. I've often compared that park to watching a baseball game in bathtub with a roof. It's not a good place to see a game.

After watching part of one game played at the Miami ball park recently, I think "the Trop" has some competition.

That thing in the outfield looks like some monstrous version of bric-a-brac one might find in a crappy souvenir store somewhere on the Florida coast. That shizz is damn ugly.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Music Friday: "All Down the Line" & "Stop Breaking Down"

One CD I've had in the car this week is the excellent album, Exile on Main Street by The Rolling Stones.

Like so many rock musicians, The Rolling Stones lifted heavily from the blues.

To my mind, Led Zeppelin is the only band to do a better job than the Rolling Stones in stealing African-American music reworking blues signatures into a rock-n-roll format. And Exile showcases the blues-appropriating acumen of the Stones.

The first tune is a video of the Stones circa 1972--good stuff. "All Down the Line" is track 15 on Exile on Main Street.

"Stop Breaking Down" is track 16 on the album, and it's a traditional blues song. The video features them playing with bluesman Robert Cray in 1995.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Random Notes from a Crank

My daughter came home a couple of days ago talking excitedly about how they're learning about fables in her second grade class. She began lecturing us on the major components of a fable: the characters are animals, there needs to be at least two of them, often there's a problem and a solution, there's a moral to the story, and so on. She says she's going to write her own fable called "The Fox and the Chipmunk." Last night on our ride back home from dance practice, I told her that maybe we could both write fables and then compare them. Mine might be titled "The Grouchy Turtle, The Wolverine, & The Blue Jay." I'm thinking about starting it out this way: "A turtle, a wolverine, and a blue jay walk into a bar..."

That reminds me of one of my favorite tales by Twain: "Jim Baker's Blue-Jay Yarn." Some people think the tale reflects Twain's experience about how he wasn't humorous at all at an event for Whittier's 70th birthday. He told a story about Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Emerson being drunk at a miner's cabin, and the tale went over like a lead balloon. I tend to think the tale is a commentary on human nature, however.

Writing a fable might be a way for me to start her overt rhetorical education since that genre is the first part of the fourteen part gauntlet of the progymnasmata from classical rhetoric. Maybe something to start this summer ... her summer school. Vituperation could get nasty though. But as the Roman educator Quintilian said, I aim to help her become "a good person speaking/writing well."

There are a couple of meetings I go to regularly at work where what I like to call "administrative-speak" is fully displayed. At least they're not throwing around the despicable, horrible word "incentivize," but I am sure tired of "leverage" being used as a verb. All kinds of stuff is always needing to get "leveraged." We need to do this to "leverage" that. We need to think how to "leverage" this or that in the future. And so on. LEVERAGE... Leverage... leverage. So "leverage" might be the new "incentivize" (the "new black"). And I hate it. Then I read this one very expensive report where a consultant recommended that we need to "incent" people. That @#$% might be even worse than the overuse of leverage. And while we're at it, we also need to "streamline efficiencies."

Because we had a freakishly warm March like much of the US, I got sucked into buying three bell pepper plants and a Poblano pepper plant. It has been cold here in East Central Illinois recently, and now I think those plants are dead. I was in the garden watering this afternoon, and they didn't look good at all. Damn you Rural King for having them available and damn me for having a false sense of security.

Today I had both of the starting pitchers in the Brewers-Cubs game going on my fantasy game. Greinke got shelled. Garza almost pitched a complete game shutout. Bitter. Sweet.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

America's "Fiercest Songwriter"

For whatever reason CNN did a short feature on James McMurtry on Monday.

It's neither long nor detailed, but it showcases his no nonsense, acerbic ethos. At least there's that.

When I get to thinking about the shallowness of the piece, at least going by his song lyrics, I think I can channel what McMurtry might say about the CNN piece: It exemplifies the lack of depth produced by the corporate media outlets.


In somewhat related matters, I doubt FoxNews will ever do a short feature on McMurtry because he's been particularly critical of a fellow "Texan," George W. Bush. For example, see "Cheney's Toy."

Other than the annoying question I'm sure he has to answer all the time about his famous father, there wasn't a lot of discussion about McMurtry's influences, his long and distinguished career, his own musical style, and his lyrics that provide social commentary and sometimes dark humor about the American human condition.

From what I recall, the article I linked to in a Music Friday post in 2010 does a much better job of profiling the artist.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Truman Capote and the Legacy of In Cold Blood

The book (above) I finished this morning is the kind of book I don't read that often. It's Truman Capote and the Legacy of In Cold Blood by Ralph F. Voss, who's a good friend of mine.

But I also am a fan of the "nonfiction novel" In Cold Blood. I'm pretty sure I've read some of Capote's shorter works sometime in my life, but his masterpiece was a result of him finding a small article in the New York Times about the grisly murders in western Kansas. Based on a hunch and backing from William Shawn of The New Yorker, he traveled to Kansas, researched the story, and turned it into a literary gold mine.

I didn't know much about Capote, but I do now. And after reading the book, I want to check out the two films of Capote and Infamous because I'm interested to see how the filmmakers chose to portray the man, how he went about composing the work, how the relationship between Capote and Harper Lee is presented, and how his presence in rural Kansas is portrayed.

For me, someone who reads mostly non-fiction, one of my favorite chapters in Voss's book is Chapter 4: The Myth of the Nonfiction Novel. And because I'm very interested in how native Kansans still feel about the book that is indelibly linked with their state, I really enjoyed the final chapter, Ch. 8: The Legacy in Kansas.

If you're a fan of Capote or In Cold Blood, I suspect this book is pretty much required reading, especially because of Ch. 5: The Gay Subtext of In Cold Blood.

Gone Fishing

For whatever reason, Easter Sunday felt like a good day to take the boat out on the local lake and go fishing. Really, it was the kids' idea mostly.

So this afternoon I charged up the battery for the trolling motor, got our fishing licenses, mixed some fresh gas for the outboard, got the kids new fishing rods and reels, and then headed to the lake.

The first couple of spots didn't turn up any fish. But we settled in at a spot on the far side of the lake from the dock and actually caught some fish. I caught three smallish bass and a juvenile saugeye (pictured above) while Mrs. Nasty caught a couple of bass. The kids got shut out unfortunately.

I can't say I got a ton of fishing in with the kids wanting to change their lures on a regular basis. My daughter somehow messed up the line in her reel, which took some time to fix. And my son did the same, but I wasn't able to fix it.

I had never caught a saugeye before. At first glance, they look similar to a walleye and fight much the same: they like to dive to try to escape.

Since Mrs. Nasty and my daughter will be away most of next weekend, I think the boy and I will try our luck at the campus ponds or the same lake though we won't be taking the boat just with us two. And we'll be using worms (with bobber) next time, so the little fisherman has a stronger chance of landing a fish.

I first have to purchase a new reel for him though.

Stay Positive: Reshoring

Even though the economy seems to be getting better, most reports could be labeled by the euphemism of "cautiously optimistic."

To my delight, on the front page of my local Sunday paper today is an AP article by Sharon Cohen titled "Taking a Chance on America." 

Cohen profiles Bruce Cochrane and his fledgling Lincolntown Furniture Company in North Carolina. Well, fledging is probably not the most accurate adjective for what the article reports. Cochrane is fifth-generation furniture maker. 

Here's a description from the article to bask in: "With rising labor and shipping costs in China, companies producing appliances, cookware, audio earphones, water heaters and other goods have decided it makes economic sense to move some or all of their operations back to U.S. soil."  

Friday, April 6, 2012

Music Friday: "Can't Change Me," "Learn to Say No," & "Steve Earle"

One of the albums I didn't have on my Top Ten/Twenty Albums of 2011 was Indestructible Machine by Lydia Loveless. In fact, I learned about it from reading other blogs' top albums lists of 2011.

I've been listening to it lately, so I'm featuring three songs from that fine album.

The first song up is an acoustic solo version of "Can't Change Me" performed at the excellent radio station of KDHX in St. Louis. The second is "Learn to Say No," which is probably something all of us need to do.

The final song of the day is the humorous "Steve Earle," which you can read about in "Lydia Loveless Makes Men Cry, Professes Her Love for Britney and Booze."

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Stay Positive: An Excellent Second Grade Teacher & Kid Literature

There are a lot of things to be positive about these days: the start of baseball season, spring, gardens growing, summer approaching, and so on.

But I'm not interested in talking about those subjects.

I'd rather talk about my daughter's excellent second grade teacher and a book.

One of the major projects for my daughter's class this year is students writing and illustrating their own books. This teacher knows her stuff. She worked her students through the writing process. Since I volunteer every Thursday to tutor and then eat lunch with my daughter, I got to see little snapshots of the progress of these project and how her teacher guided them through the writing process, which entailed rough drafts, mandatory revisions, peer review, and polishing their books for presentation.

My daughter wrote a tale that involves a princess; a dognapping; villains named Tim, Quinn, and Bob; dragons; nefarious intent; true love; hula dancing; and plot twists.

If you're interested in reading the full story, it's after the jump. The numbers indicate page numbers, but you're missing the illustrations. I wanted to provide some shots of some of the pages; however, our digital camera doesn't want to communicate with my laptop for whatever reason.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Baseball Predictions

With Major League Baseball expanding its wild card by two with a hastily put together one-game wild card play-in game this season, I thought I'd take this opportunity to take my fantasy baseball knowledge and try to translate it to decent predictions on the upcoming season.

As is the case during most seasons, there is usually a "break out" team that surprises pundits. My predictions reflect that probable reality. Below you'll find my predictions of what teams will win the divisions and garner the wild cards.

National League
East: Atlanta Braves
Central: Cincinnati Reds
West: San Francisco Giants
Wild Card 1: Miami Marlins
Wild Card 2: Washington Nationals

American League
East: Tampa Bay Rays
Central: Detroit Tigers
West: Texas Rangers
Wild Card 1: Los Angeles Angels
Wild Card 2: Boston Red Sox

World Series: The Rays beat the Braves in six games.

What I'd really like to see is two specific small market teams--the Kansas City Royals and the Pittsburgh Pirates--do well this season and be in the hunt.

For the Pirates, they have a less difficult path because of the weakness of NL Central.

SEC Rumors

I don't know if this is an April Fools report, but there are rumors that the SEC Commish is reaching out to Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill to see if they're interested in joining the Southeastern conference.

If those schools join, the SEC would be a sixteen team conference.