Friday, May 30, 2014

Music Friday: "Sometimes" & "Elephant in the Corn"




The past two weeks I've been bogged down with reading lots of words and writing lots of words. Two more weeks to go. 

Today I offer a duo of great bluegrassish songs without words. 

When I was walking the dog last night, these two tunes came up back to back, random causal effects of the shuffle from my iPod musical universe. 

Thank the Gods for songs without words.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Random Notes from a Crank

I discovered today that Bob Mould has a new album coming out next week. I'm looking forward to it. From what I have gathered, Mould has been touring recently to commemorate the 25th anniversary of his highly regarded solo album, Workbook, that was his first solo album after he left Husker Du. 

I've gotten into this new series Fargo, especially Malvo, who is Billy Bob Thornton's character in the series. It's a series full of darkness, duplicity, and dark humor. 

Yes, I just rolled with alliteration via three d-words. Deal with it.

The other day, my son's rookie league baseball team destroyed the opposing team 15 to 1. It was nice to watch some offensive production. I haven't gotten to watch a lot of that this season with the current Cubs squad. The team is more interesting than last season's train wreck though. 

If you're a parent, Hanna Rosin's "Hey! Parents, Leave Those Kids Alone" in The Atlantic is worth a read. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Music Friday: "Left of the Dial" & "Asking Me Lies" + Interview w/ Craig Finn

This morning I was listening to one of my favorite bands, The Replacements. 

They've been playing some gigs lately, and below is one song from when they played in Chicago last year. The other is just a shot of the album cover of Don't Tell a Soul and the song "Asking Me Lies." 

What follows is an unedited interview with Craig Finn of The Hold Steady. Finn was interviewed for the documentary, Color Me Obsessed, which is a film I need to get.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Music Friday: "I'm Torn Up" & "Call Me"

One of the bands the blogosphere is talking about is St. Paul and the Broken Bones, an R&B, soul band out of Birmingham, Alabama. 

The band's album, Half The City, is a solid offering. 

The lead singer's voice reminds me a lot of Otis Redding. That's high praise from me because Redding is my favorite R&B singer. Ever. 

Check out the two songs below if you want to get your old-time soul on. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Stay Positive: Three Books about Bourbon

From time to time, I get into a reading habit about a certain topic or in a certain genre. A while back, I read three different biographies in a row about Woody Guthrie, Thomas Jefferson, and American Emperor, which is part biography-part history about Aaron Burr and what his plans might have been. 

Recently, I've gone through a trivium of books about whiskey, specifically bourbon. 

As hard liquor goes, bourbon has always been my favorite with gin a solid second behind it. As some of my readers might recall, I worked in my dad's liquor store during the summers when I came home from college and during holiday breaks. When it was a slow night at Independence Avenue Liquors, I sometimes did research about liquor. My dad had a bartending book in the store, and I learned a lot about the libations we sold. 

Mrs. Nasty bought me a book about whiskey a long time ago, but that one covered all manner of whiskies. 

In my recent academic tour de bourbon, I started with Clay Risen's American Whiskey, Bourbon, and Rye: A Guide to the Nation's Favorite Spirit. Risen does a solid job of relating the history of bourbon at the start of the book. 

However, the bulk of the tome features histories of brands and his descriptions and ratings of them. He turned his love of bourbon into a helpful guide to what whiskey a person should buy and why. Risen provides descriptions of each whiskey's "nose," "color," "body," and "palate" along with a general description. 

For example, here's how he describes Four Roses Small Batch, one of my favorites. It's a "medium" bodied spirit that is "russet/tawny" with nose of "hibiscus, grape jam, eucalyptus, honey, roasted nuts, and Now and Later candy." It garners three stars out of four possible and is described as a " truly great session bourbon; not too heavy and full of captivating notes." 

Some of the descriptions are hilarious. And it's also surprising how many NR (not recommended) ratings many whiskies get that are high-dollar investments. Caveat emptor.

In the section for recommended books in Risen's book, I learned about Chuck Cowdery's Bourbon, Straight: The Uncet and Unfiltered Story of American Whiskey. Cowdery, I found out later, worked in the bourbon industry for quite some time, and his book shows it. He drops all kinds of knowledge. 

Many of the chapters take readers through the specific histories of bourbon-making families, but others exemplify the "straight" used in the title. He's a no nonsense kind of writer. He's willing to call people on their lies, bullshit, subterfuge, especially the marketing side of the bourbon game. Lots of good stories out there, folks. His chapter on George Washington's distillery at Mount Vernon and Abe Lincoln's booze-selling occupation is interesting stuff, and the "Why Ratings are Bull" chapter gives you an idea of his direct approach to the subject. 

Cowdery also has an informative blog that you should check out if all this bourbon talk interests you.

I finished up my book tour about bourbon this week by finishing Dane Huckelbridge's Bourbon: A History of the American Spirit. The author has fun writing style. He uses an informative tone with sprinkles of humorous diction in the chapters. 

Also, he likes a good footnote, and many of them are quite interesting. Who knew that dentist-turned-gunfighter Doc Holliday enjoyed Old Overholt rye, a whiskey that you can still get nowadays? And I believe that's the same distillery Andrew Mellon acquired during Prohibition that was briefly played with on Boardwalk Empire

Regardless of all those interesting asides, Huckelbridge supports his thesis effectively. He presents bourbon as the true American spirit backed by lots of historical evidence, and he's right. You get to learn about Captain George Thorpe in Jamestown and the details, as much as one can piece together, about Washington's distillery. Then it's on to the influence of the Scots-Irish, the effect of the Gilded Age on bourbon, the dangerous experiment of Prohibition that is also tied to xenophobic tendencies in the republic, and so on and so forth. And there are some pretty fun pictures along the way. 

So if you like bourbon, you can feel good about a true American product via these three books. 

Buy American and all that. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Music Friday: "Synchronicity I" and "Synchronicity II"

When I was a kid, I listened the hell out of my cassette tapes of The Police

I dug the band's post-punk, pop-rocky sound, Stewart Copeland's impeccable drumming, and Sting's lyrics. I still enjoy the band's work, in fact. It doesn't get old.

The first video is circa 1983, and the second video is the band playing in 2008. "II" was the more popular song, but I always liked "Synchronicity I" better. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Stay Positive: Shady Characters

I just finished Keith Houston's Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, & Other Typographical Marks. For a word and writing enthusiast like me, it's a great book.

Houston takes readers through the interesting histories of a number of typographical marks. Below are the ones he covers by chapter:
  1. The Pilcrow (¶)
  2. The Interrobang
  3. The Octothorpe (#)
  4. The Ampersand (&)
  5. The @ Symbol
  6. The Asterisk and Dagger
  7. The Hyphen
  8. The Dash
  9. The Manicule
  10. Quotation Marks
  11. Irony and Sarcasm
Along the way you learn about the history of texts -- how people wrote and read them and how editorial conventions changed and became regularized even though people are still trying to work in new typographical marks in this chaotic age of the InterWebs. ;-)

In a number of chapters, the pilcrow, the octothorpe and the ampersand (the ampersand in this typeface [see above] gives the meaning away if you know some Latin) in particular, it clearly all started with the Greeks and Romans. Then you have folks who are hocking their typographical wares by promoting the interrrobang (Martin K. Speckter), the snark mark (Choz Cunningham), and the SarcMark (Paul and Douglas J. Sak). 

And I really dig the manicule. We need to start using those more often. 

In the chapter about the ampersand, I picked up an acronym or Latin saying I can use in my emails: SVBEV, which stands for si vales, bene est, valeo, translated as "If you are well, all is right; I am well." 

Also, in the chapter about quotation marks, Houston informs readers about these notations used at the ancient Library of Alexandria: "the diple, or 'double' (>) was placed alongside a line to indicate some noteworthy text, while its dolled up sibling, the diple periestigmene (>:), or 'dotted diple,' was used to mark passages where the scholar differed with the reading of other critics."  

When I read books, I write in them and often underline important passages and note really important ones with asterisks (*) of varying degrees. For example, if a passage gets underlined or bracketed and noted with three asterisks (***), that means I need to put it into my commonplace book. Now because I know about the diple and double diple, I have new tools in my reading arsenal. I need to incorporate the dagger too. 

If you get geeked up about the history of text-related practices like I've described above, you need to buy Shady Characters.  

Friday, May 2, 2014

Music Friday: "Laughing With"

I'm not a religious person although I once was. 

I'm an agnostic, but the best way to describe my approach to religious/mythological matters is disorganized spirituality

Still, I really dig this song by Regina Spektor.