Friday, May 31, 2013

Music Friday: "Free Will"

Well, the bozos in charge of the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame finally inducted Rush into that august body. 

It's strange to me that it took the HOF until 2013 to put them in. And I say this as not a huge fan of the group. I like 'em well enough, but it's hard to deny they've been very influential in rock history. 

Today offer a video of "Free Will," one of my favorite songs by the group along with "Working Man." 

Have a good weekend folks.

Free Will

There are those who think that life is nothing left to chance, 
a host of holy horrors to direct our aimless dance. 

A planet of playthings, 
we dance on the strings 
of powers we cannot perceive. 
"The stars aren't aligned 
or the gods are malign"- 
blame is better to give than receive. 

You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice. 
If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice. 
You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill; 
I will choose a path that's clear- 
I will choose Free Will. 

There are those who think that they were dealt a losing hand, 
the cards were stacked against them - they weren't born in lotus-land. 

All preordained- 
a prisoner in chains- 
a victim of venomous fate. 
Kicked in the face, 
You can't pray for a place 
in heaven's unearthly estate. 

You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice. 
If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice. 
You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill; 
I will choose a path that's clear- 
I will choose Free Will. 

Each of us- 
a cell of awareness- 
imperfect and incomplete. 
Genetic blends 
with uncertain ends 
on a fortune hunt that's far too fleet.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Random Notes from a Crank

I rarely watch hockey games anymore, but I caught the overtime of Game Seven between the Blackhawks and Red Wings. This statement has been made before I'm sure, but hockey is the sport that gets it right with both team shaking hands after a series is over. 

In related news, I suspect there were a lot of hungover people in Chicago today. 

As much as I think Starlin Castro is a talented baseball player, his off-and-on discipline at the plate reminds me of another former Cubs shortstop, Shawon Dunston

This week I received a new eBay purchase in the mail. I bought the first ever English composition handbook for college students. Edwin C. Woolley's Handbook of Composition was published in 1907. 

I also have my eyes out for other old textbooks by Adams Sherman Hill (Harvard), Fred Newton Scott (U of Michigan), Joseph Denney (Ohio State), Hugh Blair, et al. And if I had the capital, I'd also like to get Lectures on Rhetoric and Oratory by John Quincy Adams, but I don't see that happening. My last name isn't Rockefeller. It's NASTY.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Music Friday: "Permanent," "Michigan," & "Girls Gather Round"

How I just got around to discovering these two dudes I don't know. 

The beauty of this late-coming knowledge is that their first two albums, Retrospect & Prologue, are free to download on the their website. And they have a new album out this year: The Ash & Clay

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Stay Positive: Comic Books & Graphic Novels

Recently I've gotten back into comic books, and I'm also venturing into graphic novels.

Above is one of the paperbacks I've bought recently. Daredevil was one of my favorite superheroes when I was a kid. Back in those days, I also regularly read Spider Man, The Avengers, and X-Men, but "The Man Without Fear" was always my go-to superhero. 

I've waded into the recent stories about Daredevil as told by Mark Waid, which goes to four volumes at present, and I've pre-ordered volume five, the cover of which is below. 

Obviously, like in volume 4, Daredevil and the webslinger team up. 

As for Daredevil in the Marvel universe, I don't know if experts would consider him as major of a character as Thor, Wolverine, Captain America, Iron Man, Spider Man, Hulket al. But I guess I was drawn to him because his comic books tended to have a darker sensibility. At least that seemed the case when I was reading Daredevil in the 80s. 

Besides the superhero stuff, I also read Fun Home, a graphic novel by Alison Bechdel that is excellent. Then I read a compendium of American Splendor by Harvey Pekar. 

And after having an email conversation with a guy I went to grad school with, a fellow who teaches courses on comic books and graphic novels at a R1 university, he recommended I check out Brian Wood's Northlanders

My friend is a scholar of Medieval Studies and can translate in Old Norse. Though I'm not a scholar in Medieval Studies, like him I have an interest in the Vikings, but that's mainly because I'm a quarter Danish and a quarter Norwegian. I like to think that my ancestors were Vikings of some ilk, but in reality my forebears were probably Norwegian and Danish fishing people who got killed or exploited or shook down by Vikings.

Nevertheless, I'm interested in Vikings and Viking culture. In fact, a couple of summers ago, I read A History of the Vikings by Gwyn Jones for personal enjoyment. And I may venture into other historical accounts/nonfiction about those folks in the future.

However, even though Wood's work is rooted in history, the seven volumes of Northlanders are fictional accounts about the dying out of Viking culture from various perspectives. From the looks of it, the volumes are all stand-alone stories. I've only read volume 1 (above) and 3 so far, and volume 2 is on its way. 

The artwork in Northlanders is gorgeous, and the stories are solid. Wood did his research. Lots of blood though. 

Because it seems pretty easy to convert graphic novels to the screen, I wonder if we could see Northlanders in film form sometime in the future. My hope is that HBO creates a series. I'd like to see Sven the Returned and the Shield Maidens on the small screen. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Ode to Radishes

What you see above is one of the first harvests of radishes from my garden. 

Radishes are not the sexiest vegetables out there. But then again, what vegetable is sexy anyway? What a stupid statement. Fruits tend to be sexy like peaches, strawberries, and grapes.

Anyway, at one time I didn't like radishes. My dad grew them in his garden all the time. Somewhere along the line once I got older, I embraced the spicy root and enjoyed its heat. 

I remember my dad slathering butter on cut radishes. I don't go that route. Instead, I just eat them as is, dip them into a dressing, or put them in salads. 

From what I've gathered, the radish has all kinds of nutritional and health benefits. Check it out:

Random Notes from a Crank

This past week was one where I became obsessed. On Wednesday I watered my garden as usual to find a whole row of spinach decimated. The spinach I had planted in spring was wiped out. Gone. Some bastard of a rabbit had gotten into my garden and feasted. Later in the week there were nibble marks on some of my lettuce. 

Defensive measures were taken. 

I read online somewhere that rabbits don't like kitty litter, so I poured granular stuff around the perimeter of the garden and then put together a concoction to ward off rabbits that I read about online. That sort of worked, but the next day lettuce was nibbled a bit more. On that Wednesday I also called the place where the whole family goes to get our hair cut to acquire hair clippings. I had been told that rabbits will not cross a barrier where there is human or another's animal's hair. 

On Friday I picked up the hair and arranged it around the perimeter of my garden, which was a strange task. In one grasp of hair, I'd think, "So now it's blond," in another grasp I'd think, "Now we're on to brunette," in another I'd think, "Wow, check out all that grey," and so on. 

The hair clippings seem to be working [Knock on wood.]. If I have any other problems, I'm considering building a moat. Then again, water in a moat just might attract more varmints. 

The one in the family even more obsessed than me is our dog Darby. Rabbits must be under our shed in the backyard because she's been sniffing around it for the same amount of time and "hunting wabbits" on the other side of yard by the neighbor's shed. 

Also, she's been staking out the back fence because the rabbit in the neighbor's yard is using a gap between the two fences a causeway to our other neighbor's yard. Here's Darby on stakeout yesterday.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Music Friday: "Might Find It Cheap," "Love the Way You Walk Away," & "Street Fighting Sun"

A band that I imagine will have a new album out sometime this year or next is Blitzen Trapper. I thought the band's last album was outstanding, so it got into my Top Ten/Twenty Albums of 2011

Here's a trio of songs from American Goldwing

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Random Notes from a Crank

I'm surprised at how many people with small- to medium-size lawns use lawn tractors. What a waste of money when you can buy a basic push mower for so much cheaper. And get exercise. 

When my son was cleaning his room today, he was singing Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It." 

Since I've gotten my grill, I've used it every day. 

Here's a maxim to remember: 
  • "Strategies without ideals is a menace, but ideals without strategies is a mess." ~Karl Llewellyn

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Fumbling Toward Culinary Talent: Bacon-Wrapped, Cheese-Stuffed Jalapenos

This recipe isn't a first run. I did a similar recipe about a week ago, and it was okay. So today I modified it a little bit: used turkey bacon and made sure I used toothpicks. 

5 jalapenos
3-4 wedges of Laughing Cow creamy Swiss light cheese
Slices of turkey bacon

Start with the peppers. Chop off the tops of them and use a paring knife to hollow out the membrane and seeds of the peppers. 

Take the spreadable cheese and cram it inside the peppers. Fill them to the brim.

Then it's wrappin' time. I suggest cutting some of the slabs of bacon into halves. Take the half pieces and wrap them atop the pepper so that piece of bacon acts as a cap to where the stem once was on the pepper. Skewer the pepper to hold the bacon there and then wrap one of two pieces of bacon around the rest of the pepper (depending on size of the pepper) and skewer it again. 

Put them on the grill and rotate liberally. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Fumbling Toward Culinary Talent: Pimiento Cheese

I've featured pimiento cheese before, but this version isn't such a large recipe. It's a variation of the basic recipe. 

8 oz. of shredded sharp cheddar
1 4 oz. jar of chopped pimientos, drained
4 oz. of cream cheese
1/4 cup of mayo 
2 green onions, chopped finely
Small dollops of Sriracha to taste
Smidge of smoked paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all of these ingredients using an electric mixer. When I did it in my stand mixture, it didn't take more than two minutes.

Here's what it looks like: 

I look forward to slathering this good stuff onto some French bread or putting it atop a burger. 

Music Friday: "Ring of Fire"

Speaking of Johnny Cash, one of my son's favorite songs is "Ring of Fire," another of my favorite songs of his. 

In fact, for a five-year old, he's a pretty good singer. He didn't get that from me. I'm a horrible singer. It must have gotten it from Mrs. Nasty. 

As Cash says, "Love is a burning thing./ And it makes a fiery ring./ Bound by wild desire,/ I fell into a ring of fire." 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Random Notes from a Crank

The craft beer industry has exploded the last twenty years. There's no doubt about that. You could probably go into evan an IGA grocery store and find some manner of craft brew on the shelves. But the beer that began production in 1980 by a homebrewer with dreams is a hard beer to beat still to this day, thirty-three years later. That beer is Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. A damn fine beer. And their Torpedo IPA and Ruthless Rye are outstanding. 

I started reading Lodro Rinzler's The Buddha Walks into a Bar... recently and got informed about the Four Dignities of Shambhala. As Rinzler explains them, they "are four mythical and nonmythical animals that represent different aspects of our training in wisdom and compassion. Of the real ones, they are the tiger and the snow lion. One of the mythical ones is, as you could probably guess, the dragon, but the other one is the garuda, which apparently is a creature that is part bird and part man. I don't remember reading about the garuda before, but maybe that's because I've read more in the other schools of Buddhism. 

So there you have it: Beer and Buddhism.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Random Notes from a Crank

Yesterday, I prepared some cheese-stuffed, bacon-wrapped jalapenos. I went out to start the grill and discovered, eventually, that my grill is dead. I've had it for a long time, and I've needed a new one for a while. The second burner was all corroded and rusty and barely pumping out any heat. For the past few months or so, I've been grilling with one and a half burners. 

I got the grill, if I remember correctly, as a gift for one of my first fathers' days, back when we lived in South City (St. Louis). As much as that fact holds sentimental value, I'm really like my new grill: four burners, a fully functioning side burner, and an electric start mechanism.

It was fairly easy to put together. Except I missed one part of the directions. After I had it all put together, for some reason I couldn't get the electric starter to work. Curse words were used. Then Mrs. Nasty noticed a AAA battery on the ground, smiled mockingly at me, and leafed through the directions to discover that I hadn't put in the battery for the electric starter. Typical move by this here hombre. 

I like maps and atlases, which I've prattled on about before. I also like learning about dialects. This map, the "Full Scale Dialect Map," combines my interests in both. My dialect region, where I grew up, is the Western North. Mrs. Nasty hails from southwest tip of the Inland North dialect region because she's originally from Cedar Rapids. My kids are growing up in the Central Midland region. 

I've been catching up on my magazine and academic journal reading lately. "Letting Biodiversity Get Under Our Skin" by Rob Dunn was featured in Utne, but here's the link to the article in Conservation if you're interested. Dunn provides information about the "possible link between biodiversity and human health."

Monday, May 6, 2013

Random Notes from a Crank

As I recounted in a February post, we renovated our half-bathroom. Recently we renovated our full bathroom on the main floor of the house. 

Below is home improvement porn.

This is the view from the doorway.

This is the view from near the tub/shower. Three of the walls are yellow, and the accent wall is a hue of blue called "bayside." 

This is the close-up view of the flooring, Allure "Limed Oak." 

I've noticed a difference in the water bill since we put in the new toilet in our half-bath. Now that we have the same kind of toilet in the main bath, I'm looking forward to an even cheaper bill. The tanks of those old toilets are so large that you could have stored a couple of beers in them. [I stole that image from an old Simpsons episode where Homer kept extra beer in the toilet tanks.]

The box the new vanity and sink came in was a huge box, which my five-year old son quickly decided to use in his room. Strangely enough, he wanted to sleep in the box a couple of nights, and we let him. Here's a picture of him asleep in his box, his cardboard cave.

Speaking of my son, as we drove through rainy St. Louis on Friday night, if there was ever any doubt about his loyalties in major league baseball, there is none now. It's clear he's a Cubs fan like his father. As we drove by the new Busch Stadium, he enjoyed booing the stadium because the Cardinals play there. Not exactly good sportsmanship, but I found it humorous. It was a highlight of the drive there for my daughter's dance competition out in Chesterfield. 

This past week I've had a Johnny Cash CD in my car, and my daughter has become obsessed with the song "A Boy Named Sue." In one day when I was carting her around to school and practice, we probably listened to it about ten times. Often over and over and over. I know how she feels because that was one of my favorite songs growing up, and it was one my dad introduced me to. 

As I was listening to Here We Rest yesterday, I had a realization. I don't know if anyone else has made this comment before, but my favorite song on that album, "Stopping By," is the yang to the yin of Cash's "A Boy Named Sue." 

I discovered a snack at the grocery store today: dill pickle flavored sunflower seeds. 

I have a hankering for buttermilk. 

Here's my on-deck reading shelf. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Music Friday: "Ain't Going to the Bar Tonight," "Hurricane," & Cape Fear River"

I've featured American Aquarium before on a Music Friday, but today I'm providing a trio of the band's performances because this week I discovered they're going to be playing with Jason Isbell at Off Broadway on June 19. Even though it'll be a Wednesday night, I hope to go to that show. 

The first song is "Ain't Going to the Bar Tonight" from Dances for the Lonely (2009). The second tune is "Hurricane" from Small Town Hymns (2010). The final video is "Cape Fear River" from Burn. Flicker. Die. (2012). 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Stay Positive: Kickball

I imagine them now. There are ghost runners hanging out on bases all throughout the land. 

Not until a few days ago I hadn't used the term "ghost runner" since I was a kid. Now I'm using it all the time. 

Besides some typical April rainy weather, it's been quite nice lately, and the kids and I -- well, my son and I mainly -- have been playing kickball in our front yard. 

It's a sweet game. All you need are bases and a ball. It's a mash-up of dodge ball and baseball. Once the ball has been kicked, the runner is fair game unless he or she is on a base.

I look forward to playing this game much more this summer. Game on, clowns.