Friday, May 16, 2008

Enter The Haggis at the Majestic

Enter The Haggis played The Majestic Theater here in Madison last Wednesday night and the whole family went. Since I posted a rather lengthy review of their last Madison appearance, I'll just say this: they rocked. Once again, the band spent some time socializing with the audience after the show, and I was again struck by how genuinely nice they are.

is back in town for the summer, so she finally got a chance to see them (she tried to go to their show in Pittsburgh last January and couldn't get in.) Here's a video she took of one of her favorite songs. It's one of their "poppy-er" numbers, but that isn't a criticism. I had to edit it for the film student, even though I've never done it before. Somehow, that struck me as funny. Play the video through good speakers if you can. You'll get a better idea of what they really sound like than you will through tiny computer speakers.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Go to this show!

Hey, any of you readers who are in the Madison area, go see Enter The Haggis at the Majestic Theater this Wednesday, May 14. You'll be glad you did. They rock. Seriously. In the best sense of the word. Review of their last Madison appearance here.

I tried to get the MPs on the bill, but failed most heinously. Maybe next time.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Watch This Ad

I wish I lived in San Francisco so I could vote for her.


* The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.

* Each player answers the questions about himself or herself.

* At the end of the post, the player then tags five people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

It's taken me entirely too long to finish this. I don't know what's wrong with me. I think I made it more complicated than it needed to be. Oh, well.

1. Ten years ago I was:

I lived in the same house I'm living in now. My daughters were nine years old and two years old. Appliances-SFB, the band with which I had played for 17 years, had only recently fizzled out of existence and I wasn't playing any music at all. I was working as a cabinet maker for the same company I was working for when I got laid off last November due to the crappy economy.

2. Five Things on Today's To Do List:

- Take daughter #2 and neighbor kid to school.

- Go to new (temporary?) job. House painting with brother-in-law.

- Take dog to dog park.

- Go to Veseliyka rehearsal (8:00 pm.)

- Go to Madison Media Institute for recording session with RPO (10:00 pm.)

- Pick daughter #1 up at her job, drive her home (11:30 pm - no busses run at this time and I don't want her walking home alone at that hour) and return to MMI for remainder of recording session (ending at 1:00 am.)

Oops. I guess that's six. Messed up again.

3. Things I'd do if I were a billionaire:

* Pay off all my debt.

* Fix all the stuff in the house that is falling apart and add a sauna (pronounced SOW-nuh, not SAW-nuh.)

* Set up a multi-purpose music rehearsal/recording studio near my house so I can play music any time without bothering anyone and without other distractions.

* Buy a few toys (basses, guitars and other musical instruments, a restored Volvo P1800, maybe a motorcycle and a Piper J3 Cub airplane. Oh, and a bunch of spud guns, too. That should be about it.)

* Indulge my lovely and talented wife in whatever she would like - probably stuff like new knitting needles, yarn, some sheep, a new guitar and clothes that aren't always from a second-hand shop. I suppose she'll also want either a restored VW Beetle from around 1967 or a restored Volvo 240 wagon with a manual transmission. Oh, what the heck, I'll get her both!

* Travel.

* Determine how much money I need to keep in order to accomplish all the items above and so I won't have to worry about future income; seems to me one should be able to live quite comfortably on the interest if you kept, say $100,000,000 which would probably leave well over $800,000,000 to use charitably.

4. Three Bad Habits:

* Only three? Let's just say if you look up the word "loser" in the dictionary, you'll find my picture. Were it not for the generosity and tolerance of people such as my lovely and talented wife, I would most likely be homeless by now. As it is, homelessness is only an eye-blink or divorce away. I suppose I had better get rid of that Packer lamp, after all.

Okay, okay. The rules.

* The Sackville-Bagginses. Oh, I guess they're bad hobbits, not bad habits.

Start again.

* I have a difficult time motivating myself to do the things that would ultimately be the most rewarding.

* I'm a night person. I don't think that's really a bad habit, but our society seems to think it is. Unfortunately, the net result of my natural inclination and the societal expectations is that I'm chronically sleep deprived.

* I'm organizationally challenged. What does that mean? It means I have a difficult time keeping my life in order and getting to all the places I need to be at the time I need to be there. I've seen doctors about this. To the best of my ability to understand it, it seems that there are people whose brains are wired such that it is easy for them to be well organized. Then there are people like me, whose brains are wired such that they find it to be a supreme effort to keep everything organized and under control, and from time to time everything comes crashing down around them. In many other countries, this would not be a problem, but our culture is not very understanding of those of us who aren't able to compartmentalize their lives in the manner that has been dictated as "normal." We are understanding of the fact that there are people who find math to come easily and people who find math to be difficult, the same is true for spelling, athletic ability, musical and artistic aptitude, but people like me are called lazy, selfish, we don't try hard enough, or we have developed "bad habits." Of course, nobody seems to see anything at all wrong with the people who are compulsive about time and organization. I actually once had the experience of meeting some people for dinner, arrived a few minutes early and not only had they already ordered, but they had already started eating! Why? Because their time is so valuable that they can't bear to wait for anyone. What are they going to do with all that time they save? Win a Nobel Prize? Probably watch more television. Rrrrrrrrr....

* I'm sure I've missed a few, ask my wife.

5. Five Places I've lived:

* Monroe, Connecticut.
I lived there from the time I was born until I was 9 years old.

* Midvale Heights, Madison, WI
The house my parents moved to when they left Connecticut. My father had been offered a partnership in an advertising firm in NY which was reaping huge profits as a result of the Vietnam war. A life-long republican until shortly before that time, he was uncomfortable with the concept of profiting from an immoral and illegal war (sound familiar?). Rather than accept the partnership, he opted instead for a teaching position in Madison, WI at Madison Area Technical College.

* Township of Middleton/Verona, WI. When my paternal grandmother was no longer able to take care of herself, my parents bought a two family house in (Middleton phone number, Verona zip code), WI, using the proceeds from the sale of their house and the sale of my grandmother's house. Almost immediately after my grandmother's house was sold, she died, so she never lived in the house my parents bought so she could live with them. A couple of years later, my mother's parents moved in. At that point in my life (early twenties), I was trying to establish my independence and I moved out for what was to be the last time soon after my grandparents moved in.

* Willy Street neighborhood, Madison, WI
The first house my wife and I bought together. 900 square feet, 2 bedrooms, built in 1888. A very nice house, nice neighborhood, but not enough room for a family (the first owner had 12 children in that house and no bathroom - information courtesy of Elizabeth Miller, Historical Preservationist.) We also had a neighbor with what I think were serious mental health issues who decided that we were evil people. That, along with the space considerations, was enough to get us to move.

* Emerson East neighborhood, Madison, WI
A wonderful neighborhood. It's an actual neighborhood! We can walk to grocery stores, the library - almost anything you really need is within walking distance. The house is still pretty small (1149 square feet, three bedrooms, one bathroom and one scary bathroom in the basement), but we made it this far in the house and with our oldest in college (she's only home for maybe 5 months out of the year), I know the amount of time she lives here will only decrease, so we don't really need any more space. We have neighbors we love, so my guess is we won't move from this house until the bank takes it away, we're forced to leave the country by the ruling totalitarian regime, or we can't go up and down stairs anymore. The only drawback to this neighborhood is it is changing from an "undesirable" neighborhood to an overpriced neighborhood. In the last few years, as gentrification of Madison has spread, prices around here have skyrocketed. The middle-income people that used to be able to buy a house in this neighborhood are no longer able to do so. As a result, our taxes keep going up and every time a house sells, the new owners tend to be people with money. This trend is causing the whole atmosphere of the neighborhood to change, and not for the better, if you ask me. If we were looking to buy a house today, we wouldn't be able to afford the house we live in. I hate rich people and their rich attitudes. (Oops! I'm not supposed to say that! It's un-american.)

6. Five Jobs I've had in life:

* Record store sails clerk and manager.

* Stone cutter.

* Cabinet maker/woodworker

* Luthier

* Musician (a.k.a. deadbeat)

Tagged: Well, most of the people I can think of either have already done this mememe or they don't do mememememes. Unless I pick a few blogs at random, I'll have to go with two, and the winners are (drum roll, please) ...... Luminiferous Ether and Quaker Fruit Salad

Friday, May 9, 2008

A Man Without A Country by Kurt Vonnegut

Disclaimer thingy: cross-posted at the Spring Reading Challenge.

A Man Without A Country is a collection of twelve essays written by Kurt Vonnegut over a five year span. The copyright date is 2005, so you can do the math if you're so inclined.

I assume anyone reading this post is familiar with at least some of Vonnegut's work, so I won't go into that.

The essays cover a broad array of topics, but there are some recurring themes. In general, although Vonnegut's writing is frequently very humorous, his outlook on the future of humans and planet earth is rather grim. Overall, I found reading this book to be an enjoyable experience despite the occasionally depressing elements. Vonnegut was an incredibly intelligent writer and human being and had a gift for being able to cut through all the crap and get right to the heart of things.

There is a ton of quotable and interesting material in this book, but here are a few things that I found particularly thought provoking:

Vonnegut's observation that the famous Karl Marx quote "religion is the opium of the people" is often misunderstood. He reminds us that, when Marx made that statement in 1844, opium and opium derivatives were the only effective pain relievers available. Rather than a blanket condemnation of religion, Marx apparently was observing that religion can be a great comfort to people in times of strife. I think Vonnegut's point is that socialism and religion are not mutually exclusive.

Vonnegut believed that humor is a way in which people deal with things that are extremely upsetting. Sometimes a funny person simply loses the ability to look at things humorously (Mark Twain, who, along with Abraham Lincoln, seems to have been very influential on Vonnegut's life and career as a writer, was used as an example; apparently Twain gave up on the human race in the last years of his life.) As he grew older and less optimistic for the future, Vonnegut wondered if he, himself was losing the ability to be funny.

While Vonnegut apparently believed in a god (he made conflicting statements on this point), he also had this to say: "Our president is a Christian? So was Adolf Hitler."

Another quote I liked: "We are here on earth to fart around. Don't let anybody tell you any different."

And another: "You think Arabs are dumb? Try doing long division with Roman numerals."

And, finally, the epitaph Vonnegut wanted on his tombstone (he died in 2007, I don't know if he got his wish. I hope he did.)


I think this was a good book. I give it a 9 on a scale of 10. Or, in movie lingo, two enthusiastic, well-lubricated thumbs way, way up.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Anonymous Rex by Eric Garcia

Disclaimer Thingy: Cross-posted at the Spring Reading Challenge.

As it says on the cover, Anonymous Rex is a detective story. I generally find detective stories to be overly formulaic, and this book, while it wasn't exceptional, also didn't irritate me in the way that many books of the genre do.

Many contemporary writers of detective stories, mysteries, or whatever you want to call them, seem to think that adding some unusual twist to the basic premise is enough to make up for the lack of an original plot. The twist to this particular book was that the protagonist, Vincent Rubio, is a velociraptor. That's right, a velociraptor, like in Jurassic Park. In fact, in this story, approximately 12% of the population are actually dinosaurs masquerading as humans (score one for the "intelligent design" folks, I guess.) Thousands of years ago the surviving dinos on the planet, who had by that time evolved to be smaller in size than their ancestors (score one for Darwin), decided that their best hope for continued survival was to integrate into human society, keeping their existence a secret. The dinos can differentiate between humans and dinos by smell, which solves a whole bunch of potential problems. The dino scenario allowed for a few rather clever details (e. g. alcohol has no effect on dinos, but herbs such as basil and oregano are mind altering substances, providing a whole new take on "fern bars".)

The book begins with Vincent Rubio
addicted to basil and wallowing in extreme debt and depression following the mysterious death of his partner in the private investigator business. A suspicious fire at a dino night club leads to an investigation requiring Vincent's currently very affordable rates. Further intrigue ensues. I'll leave it at that.

Author Eric Garcia was only 26 years old when this book was published, and at times his youth was obvious, particularly when referring to cultural events that anyone my age would would know about, but obviously
were not understood by the author; in fact, it was clear that he didn't even realize that he didn't understand them, yet wrote about them with the self-assured obliviousness of youth. I should have made notes about them while I was reading the book, but I didn't and my aging brain doesn't seem able to dredge up details I read only a day or two ago, so I have no examples to cite. Oh, well.

I found Anonymous Rex to be a reasonably entertaining read, but nothing to get too excited about. Take out the dino element and it was an okay detective story - not great, but I've read a lot worse by much more famous authors. It is Garcia's first novel, so I may try another of his books some day to see how they progress.

Note: Now that I've written all that stuff, I discover that Casual Rex, the prequel to Anonymous Rex, was made into a pilot by the Sci-Fi channel and released under the name of Anonymous Rex (I don't do television, so this is news to me.) Garcia also wrote Matchstick Men, which Ridley Scott made into a film starring Nicolas Cage, released in 2003. In addition, he is the author of Repossession Mambo, the film version of which is due to be released in 2008 starring Forest Whitaker and Jude Law.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Reader's Poll

I have a hypothetical question for all my loyal readers. What the heck, for all my disloyal readers, too. Here it is:

Let's say there is a couple and they've been together for a long time. We'll call them Eleanor and Gus. In this hypothetical situation, Gus owns an item, let's just say it's a Green Bay Packer helmet lamp - it might look something like this:

Gus loves his Packer lamp. Eleanor hates it. One day while Gus is away, Eleanor, without discussing it with Gus first, packs up the Packer lamp intending to get rid of it. Upon his return, Gus is surprised to discover that his beloved Packer lamp is slated for the trash heap. Eleanor insists that the lamp is ugly and tacky, but not tacky enough to be cool. Gus maintains that, with the exception of the lamp, all the decorative items in their house were chosen by Eleanor and he has already given up many prized possessions. Eleanor then says Gus must choose between her or the lamp.

What do you think? Here are some options from which to choose:

a) Eleanor should focus her energy on something truly important and let Gus keep his Packer lamp. If she really cares about him, she should allow me, I mean him, to keep this one small, insignificant item.

b) Gus should keep the lamp and find a good divorce attorney.

c) Gus should keep the lamp, but put it where it will almost never be seen: maybe the scary bathroom in the basement.

d) Gus should say goodbye to the lamp, even though it would be akin to having someone reach down his throat, grab his heart, tear it out, throw it on the dusty ground and stomp on it while wearing golf shoes.

e) You have some other solution that you will now share.