Thursday, November 20, 2008

(Working Myself Up to?) A Fever Pitch

My Smart Wife, out of town on bidness, tried to talk me down (a phrase that I guess now should be in quotes with a little superscripted TM after it, thanks to Rachel!) about the SECRET VOTE by THOSE BASTARDS in the Senate the other day, during which they lovingly caressed Joe Lieberman's backside with tongues, fondue paddles, Shamwows and disintegrating digits (you can't get too close to Lieberman - the waves of foulness and hatred emanating from the hole where his heart used to be have a corrupting influence on human flesh and souls - just ask John McCain). But, as you can see, smart as she is, she didn't succeed. I'm just too stubborn and stoopid sometimes.

Finally, Big Joe got his happy ending and the American people once again have to wipe themselves off and crap their pants in disbelief.

Oh, Harry Reid - you're a worthless toadlike excuse for a human being, a pig of a man, a cancer on Congress, a leaking stopper on the bunghole that is the Senate and many more things that I don't dare write else I'll face an obscenity trial in Boston if I'm not already scheduled for one. I don't care what kind of political games you and your cretinous buddies are playing, what kind of deals have been struck, what kind of relaxed attitude I'm supposed to be having about this because you guys obviously know better than me what's going on and I should just lay back and trust you to rape me gently all night long because eventually I'll enjoy it.

Not gonna happen.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Nubian "Dave"?

So, what'd we do with the rest of our weekend?

After bumming around downtown post-planetarium, we went to our hotel, relaxed, looked around for a decent restaurant. Thankfully, that's something Chicago does not lack. First place we called had room for us at either six or eight, but nothing else. We took this as a good sign and we were right. I won't bore you with the details, but if you're ever in Schiller Park near O'Hare and really, really hungry, you will not regret going to Giannotti's Italian Steakhouse. Dang, but the 'monkey had a happy stomach Saturday night.

From supper back to the hotel for a while - the next stop on our agenda wasn't until 10pm. We lazed about like overfed lions, watching The Three Stooges. Nothing beats a good Stooge. Except another Stooge.

Finally, we rolled downstairs and set out for The Big Show: Robyn Hitchcock, performing I Often Dream of Trains at the Old Town School of Folk Music.

Kids, it's been nearly two decades since we last saw Robyn and excited as we were to hear him do Trains live, we had trepidations. We had qualms. Was this really just a joke, a way to squeeze some cash from old fans, was Robyn still as good live, etc and so on.

The answer: We is idjits. Robyn is if anything better than he used to be. Trains live was a moving experience. Robyn put everything into the performance, ably abetted by his two multi-instrumental accomplices, and we should never have doubted him for a second. We beg forgiveness.

The show was nearly two hours long with barely a few minutes of off-stage time between the album performance and the almost equally long encore. Robyn began with an antique Walkman tapeplayer, brought out by an accomplice, who propped it on the grand piano next to the microphone and clicked it on to "Sometimes I Wish I Was a Pretty Girl." After a minute, Robyn came out, sat at the piano and began messing with the tape speed, slowing it down down down before he finally shut it off. Easy joke? Hypercommentary on the possible stupidity of paying to hear an album probably every person in the audience already owns? (I think I have four copies...) Whatever, it was amusing. The Boy laughed.

And then he was off. Some songs were nearly note-perfect performances, like the opening piano piece, "Nocturne." Other times Robyn couldn't resist messing with his own lyrics, turning "drawn by Nubian slaves" into "drawn by Nubian Dave" for instance. I'll never hear the song the same again. And he did substitute once, a song I don't know well but that is on the new CD edition of Trains, called "That Fantastic Mother Church," for "Furry Green Atom Bowl." I gotta give him that one. I was wondering how he'd pull it off.

Standout tunes: Robyn slipped in a sublimely psychedelic rendering of "Winter Love" (technically not on the original album but I'm not gonna quibble) with electric and acoustic guitar, live manipulation of his vocals, piano and pulsing chord-organ sounding electronic keyboard. One of the most beautiful things my ears have ever heard. What else? How about a funny as hell - but it better be! - and enthusiastically performed "Uncorrected Personality Traits." Awesome "Sleeping Knights of Jesus, " too. Robyn apologized after this one, though. He wasn't attacking Jesus, he said. Jesus was cool, ahead of his time. He was attacking Christianity. Big laughs from our trio and other parts of the auditorium, some rather dry and forced I thought. (Godlessness is good; "Christianity is Stupid").

Encore set was lots of fun. "Raymond Chandler Evening" with a stunning improvised pocket trumpet solo and many more, including the show closing "Goodnight I Say," one of my favorite Hitchcock tunes. It's still in my poor little head. I think we also got to hear a brand new, totally spur-of-the-moment song. While they were tuning, folks started calling out song titles. Robyn studiously ignored them all until a woman yelled "Vegetable Something!" Robyn started to laugh, said she'd broke him down, stepped out to the mic and out poured a sixty second song about "vegetable something!" I'm not sure which of his "vegetable" songs she really wanted, but this one rocked!

And that was it. Standing ovation and he was gone. The Boy, My Smart Wife and me were in a musical and mental daze. We went back to our hotel and finally got to sleep around one. Hit the Lego Store in Schaumburg on Sunday morning and headed home.

A good time was had by all.

(PS - Saturday night Robyn wore the groovy shirt he's wearing in the picture above, though this isn't from the Old School. I want a shirt like this.)

Now playing: Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians - Hangin' Out with Dad
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Jammies and the Moon

Went to Chicago for the weekend. Here's what happened....

Straight to the Adler Planetarium first. Never been there before. But I'd go again in a second. Beautiful building with gorgeous deco-style architecture. Took my breath away, except for the too modern Office-Chic remodeling which has gone on inside to accommodate all of the new exhibits, cool as they are.

And one in particular was about as cool as anything ever gets for the 'monkey. First exhibit we went to was one designed for youngsters about the history of our manned space and moon explorations, but specifically based around the life and story of astronaut Jim Lovell. This was really, really, really, really incredible.

Why? Because though I knew it was there according to the brochure, knowing about something and experiencing it are very different things. After a few minutes of looking at the rather juvenile displays, I turned the corner to find something completely original Gemini space capsule.

Has your heart ever leapt into your mouth? Mine did when I proposed to my wife. And when I turned the corner on the Gemini capsule. "Wow" is probably the only word marginally sufficient to cover my emotions, because it expresses all of them at once. I walked around and around it, trying to shove my face through the glass. My heart was pounding. I was crying.

Last December I turned a corner at the Kemper Art Museum in St. Louis and almost touched my favorite piece of art on the planet. I didn't know it was there. I could have spent the entire day just standing there, staring staring staring. No reproduction I've seen has ever done it justice. The depth and vivacity of the colors are stunning. And it is huge!!! I didn't think I'd ever feel that way again until yesterday. standing within inches of a Gemini capsule trumped the Max Ernst a hundred-fold at least.

After walking in circles for a while, I sat with the family on the conveniently placed benches (for watching a short film about Lovell's Gemini flight which was surprisingly good). The whole time, though, I kept looking back at the capsule. Wow. Wow. Wow.

I've been in love with NASA and our space program my entire life. Memories of Apollo missions are among my earliest. I remember my mom making me take a nap in the middle of the afternoon, jammies and everything, but I would only do it after watching another Saturn V blast off from the Cape. My breath just caught writing about it. My eyes are watery. My heart is almost aching.

Why aren't we on the moon now? Why haven't we reached Mars? Why aren't we exploring the asteroids? For chrissakes, it's 2008!!! We need to move on, to explore, to leave this planet. It's a great place, a wonderful starting point, kids - but we gotta move! We're made for this. If we want to survive, space is the place. We're here to go. And we have to go now.

More on the weekend tomorrow...

Now playing: Tangerine Dream - Invisible Limits
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I'm working on a big thing for you kids, so please be patient. I kinda mentioned it before with my last music post, but I decided to go the extra mile which is why it's taking me so long. Problems have occurred. People have been sacked. Villages too. Be patient, children of the night, be patient.

That doesn't mean you can't have fun while you're waiting. Check out this awesome video post by Ed at Enriched Geranium. Thrill your ears to the magnificent sounds of the Appliances-SFB! Gorge your eyes on their unearthly beauty! Poke your tummies, amazed at the pleasure waves emanating therefrom!

I'm not joking. The Appliances-SFB rank as one of the best bands I've ever seen. Read Ed's admittedly somewhat biased appreciation of his old band. I really can't improve on it. Sometimes, wrapped in my blankie, zoning on my astral-navel contemplations, I think of the Appliances and I shudder with cosmic awe, amazed and grateful that I was lucky enough to witness them live...dozens of times. But you can watch one song by them. That's good, right? Right?

Space rumor has it that there are re-releases of Appliances-SFB musical confabulations now available. I think this rumor should be heeded.

Now playing: Laughing Soup Dish - Teenage Lima Bean
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, November 9, 2008

UPDATE! Monk Fight Rages On

Well, those crazy monks is at it again, kids. Recently, this blogger brought you a story of bloodied tonsures, but today we've breaking news of monks rioting at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.

One of the reasons these holy men are so hopping mad is over a hundred-plus year-old argument about a ladder. I shit thee not, brothers and sisters. This is part of the reason I'm an athiest. When I break a bottle over a dude's head and push the broken end into his eyes, it's because he insulted: A) My Momma, B) My Sister or C) My Big Fat Ass. In other words, I commit violence for serious reasons.

Silly monks - riots are for Moslems! Right? That's what the guys on the TV always tell me. Jeez, they aren't even cool monks, like in D&D or on Kung Fu.

Now playing: The Mars Volta - Metatron
via FoxyTunes

Our Stoned Ancestors

I'm a megalithic junkie, kids. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Right now, I'm just gonna point you at what's probably the coolest story in ancient archaeological news in generations - the discovery of an extraordinary hilltop temple complex in Turkey, consisting of dozens of megalithic stone rings, predating Stonehenge by a couple thousand years. It's a find that may revolutionize our understanding of pre-history. I've been watching it develop in bits and pieces for the last few years, but here's a great story with pictures that'll amaze you!

Now playing: Roky Erickson - I Have Always Been Here Before
via FoxyTunes

Flushing for the Future!

The greatest invention of Western Civilization? The printing press - nah! The internal combustion engine? Hell, no! Shaving cream? Why I oughta...

It's simple, every man out there will pull a Homer and slap his forehead with the force of spiritual revelation:

The toilet.

Yes, the lowly, the lovely indoor toilet is the greatest invention of our often ridiculous and contradictory and crazy Western civilization.

Think about it. Besides giving us a comfy place to read while crapping, the indoor toilet revolutionized how we deal with our waste. It carries it away from our homes on little tidal waves, into equally revolutionary public sanitation systems that keep our crap and piss out of the streets. The end result - less disease, fewer epidemics, a healthier and safer population.

Pretty cool. What if we could help the whole world to a toilet of their own? Check out this article about the need for a Flushing Revolution. We only need a celebrity spokesperson to kick start it.

May I suggest Jack Black? I'm not aware of any cause célèbre to which Mr. Black has attached himself and I can't think of any celebrity better suited to this toilet task.

Mr. Black, if you're out there, will you help us Flush for the Future (TM)?

Now playing: Wolfgang Dauner - Just Bring It Out
via FoxyTunes

Friday, November 7, 2008

Celebration Salsa!


(2) Cans diced tomatoes (drained)
(1) Cup white vinegar
(1) Cup shredded carrots
(5) Whole jalapenos (stems removed)
(1) Bunch fresh cilantro (washed, stems removed)

Combine all ingredients in blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Chill. Serve.

This is my basic smooth salsa recipe. I used carrots this time, but I've also substituted various fruits, fresh or canned. Makes a great dip, topping for baked chicken or throw a half cup in your favorite tomato sauce for a zingy pasta dish.

If you like it chunky, don't process and leave out the vinegar, add some cracked pepper and lime juice and you've got a nice pico de gallo. Sans onions, you'll notice. Some of us love onions but are not loved in return by them.

Now playing: King Crimson - Cat Food
via FoxyTunes

The Greatest American Hero

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Plans I Make

Man, but I'm tired today. Didn't have to stay up too late last night, being in the Midwest and all. More emotional drainage. By ten o'clock we had the news. And we yelled and hollered so loud the cats went running!

A few minutes later, when it all started to sink in, we were watching Jesse Jackson's eloquently silent face at Grant Park and the tears streaming down his cheeks, biting on his hand to keep some of his reactions inside. We joined him - with tears of joy and relief and release, but tears also for all who struggled so long and so hard in this country, many of whom are not here to see this new American day. A new day in which the real message for Americans is not that a black man can be President of the United States but that any person regardless of skin color, religion or gender can be President of the United States. And that democracy, as freakish and imperfect a social and political system as any yet devised, can still respond to the will of the people when they decide to exercise that will.

It was an incredible moment. People in our little city were celebrating - we could hear them from blocks away! And the images of people dancing and cheering outside the White House - I'll never forget that. I hope it's burned on Bush's eyeballs, that he sees it in his meager dreams for the rest of his sad life.

For the rest of the world there was also cause for celebration. Like my pal Nuzz at Bleedin' Out, I know I've got quite a few overseas visitors here - to them I want to say thank you for your support and encouragement in this long, long election season. I hope that the end will justify the struggle, which is really just beginning as we try and clean up eight years of ruinous domestic and foreign policy, and that America will once again be a leader and a partner with other nations around the world. Thank you for hanging in with us.

Something I read this last weekend helped me hang in. I'm in the middle of a great novel right now by Christopher Priest called The Separation. I can't recommend it too highly. One passage hit me dead between the eyes. One of the primary narrators is writing about patriotism and the Second World War from several decades remove:

"I live in a time when it is fashionable in some quarters to be cynical about patriotism, bravery, political leadership, national purpose. I feel it myself sometimes, as in a properly sceptical democracy who should not? In 1941 things were different, for which I make no apology." (Pg. 71)
I feel like the last eight years have been a tremendous war, not over yet even if a battle has been won. Not anything as pathetic as a "culture war" or as mundane as a military war, but a war to define America in the 21st century. (See my earlier, weirder post for more on this). I also feel that my own definitions of "patriotism, bravery, political leadership, national purpose" have been more finely honed and sharpened during this war, that my sometimes nonsensical pursuit of meaning has been directly tied to these ideas and ideals more than at any other time in my life. Frankly, the cynicism that walled me in for most of my life should have led me to roundly dismiss these absurd, antique daydreams, to throw them in the trash. But that was before I saw my country ravaged by foul, literally evil men like George Bush, Dick Cheney and Karl Rove. Men for whom nothing mattered but their own ends, their own betterment, their own enrichment. They were wild dogs barely constrained by human form.

I therefore will make no more apologies in the round for the sometimes weird, sometimes angry, sometimes heartfelt things I write on this blog. If I screw something up or go beyond the pale and let my emotions get the better of me, I'll acknowledge it. But I'm done apologizing for caring and hoping. If anything, I'm more ready to continue the fight and win this war than at any time in the past. There's no going back, no giving up.

This is our time. Our time is now.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Terrorists Strike Today!

I wasn't gonna post today - but then I saw this diary on DailyKos:

Bomb threat closes Wis. polling place

Naturally, this got my Badger blood heated up, so I had to read find it's about my old high school! Middleton High School, in Middleton, Wisconsin, where I graduated third from the bottom of my class in 1984, received a bomb threat this afternoon, while students were still present and polling was ongoing.

Election mayhem or student prank? I think the former. I was in Middleton this last weekend and there are Obama signs everywhere. Even my own brother's lawn was literally festooned with them! (I didn't expect it - we don't discuss politics though I never really thought he'd be voting for McCain-Palin).

I know just how nutjob and plain fuckin' retarded folk around Middleton can be. I went to school and then lived there for years. There's still a very conservative rural element around there, regardless of all the freaks from Madison that have moved into Middleton.

I assume the threat wasn't real, there is no bomb, it's just scare tactics. But to the students of my alma mater (no matter how much I hated it while I was there), I extend my sympathies. No one should have to endure these kind of TERRORIST TACTICS in the United States, especially when they are perpetrated by fellow Americans.

In case you haven't fuckin' done it yet - GO AND GODDAMN VOTE, YOU STUPID SLACK-ASS MOTHERFUCKERS! And do it right. Vote Obama.

Update - I was wrong. It was a student prank. I still stand by my assertion about the backwardness of some residents of Middleton, though. This was evidently the work of a student at the school. He's been arrested. He's a stupid little shit. I don't like to condemn teens - I work with them all of the time and I know full well how much on the edge some of them are and can be, far more than many people realize - but he terrorized fellow students and the public and disrupted the voting process too. I'd like to know why he did this, but it doesn't really matter in the end. I'm just glad a bunch of other idjits and morons and mouth-breathers didn't take it upon themselves to emulate him or take his stupidity one step further.

If I was a "little" more emotional and foul-mouthed in this post, I apologize. My nephew may have been in that building at the time of the threat and I was very upset and worried.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Final Countdown

Less than 24 hours to go, kids.

It's been a long freakin' year, hasn't it?

I don't know if I mentioned this before, but we were there in Springfield when Obama announced his intent to run. As a former Wisconsinite, I've experienced cold weather in my lifetime, but I can tell ya that was one mother of a freezing day on the square at the Old Capital building. We're all glad we went though. One doesn't get to witness history very often, to say "I was there!"

And tomorrow, regardless of the outcome, we'll all be "there" - where ever "there" is for you.

What are your plans?

Me, I'm getting up as normal, getting the family fed and caffeinated and off to school and work, then I'm going to vote. I'm not really expecting huge lines. Our precinct isn't that dang big. But I'll bring a coffee and a book (reading a great one now - subject of a future post!).

Then off to work myself. I've got a lot to do this week, so the day should go by quickly. After work, we're coming home and doing all our normal junk - running The Boy to his martial arts class, taking out the trash, making dinner, etc.

Finally we can settle down and watch the returns. I think I'll make some pico de gallo for snacking. We've got a fancy, expensive, tiny bottle of champagne in the fridge already. And I've got my Laphroig at hand too. Plus our favorite Wisconsin beer - now in CANS!

Remember, if Obama wins Virginia, he's won it all. You can start celebrating then. If he doesn't, you'll just have to wait a few hours longer.

And, if for some reason you are still undecided or think that Obama is some kind of weirdo liberal nutjob, check out this piece by a former speechwriter for Nixon and Reagan, who's endorsing Obama. He calls Obama a "conservative"! (And if his definitions are right, so am I to an extent. Very creepy.)

Now playing: Roky Erickson - The Looking Glass Song
via FoxyTunes