Monday, December 31, 2018

2018? More like Two Thousand and Great! 

Things I Liked in 2018:

Pickwick the Owl, Twix, Daisy
Weird posters, Best pals, DeLorean tomfoolery
Yes Michigan, Rebuilt windowframe, Farm projects

Fall Colors in Northern Michigan
Probably the most visually spectacular thing we did this year was drive across upper Michigan in October when the leaves on the trees were unspeakably brilliant. I saw colors I simply had never seen before. Talking with locals (even old-timers), many of them said that this was one of the best years in their memories.

Window Rebuild
One of the windows in our 1960s cottage was in really bad shape...rotting to the point where the glass was almost falling out. Of course since it was hand-built a billion years ago, I had to go to the local lumberyard and have the boards hand-milled to be the correct widths. And then I had to hand-cut the joints on-site, router the edges so the glass fit correctly, and match the angle that my granddad had cut in so that it would open properly. After a ton of sweat and splinters, I set the windowframe into place and it worked.

Old Nation Brewing's M-43 and Upper Hand Laughing Fish beer
2018   2018
I bumbled into a couple of good Michigan beers this year. This is them.

Camping With Ten Thousand 7th Graders
My kid was pretty hesitant about going to his school camp, so I volunteered to be a counsellor for the whole time. BUS TO BUS! The camp was originally scheduled for early September (picture perfect time for camping) but got re-scheduled for NOVEMBER! IN MICHIGAN! We were in lodges so it wasn't like we were in tents or anything, but we were outside for essentially the whole day, building fires, shooting arrows, building shelters and climbing rock walls. One morning when we woke up it was 16° fahrenheit. Nevertheless we persisted, learned about nature, and almost nobody died. And my kid kinda liked it, so in the final analysis I think we came out on top.

I Fixed My Washing Machine
For a while it was taking our washing machine FOREVER to run, and when we looked at the cold water filling the drum would just trickle out. BUT, if I swapped the hot and cold lines, the cold would be fine, and the hot would trickle in. Additionally, when the washer was running, the pipes in the basement would rattle and howl. Long story short, I tore that whole fucker apart, ordered a new inlet valve for $18, hooked that duder up and it's like we've got a brand new (old) washing machine.

Weird Posters
Some lunatic in my neighborhood has been putting up these weird posters that are confusing and quite frightening in many cases.
Unfortunately there is no way to know who has been doing it.

Star Wars Costume Exhibit
The Detroit Institute of Arts hosted an in-depth costume exhibit from all of the Star Wars movies and it was incredible to see so many of the real-deal costumes up close and personal. Of particular note was the original Princess Leia costume from the 1977 movie. It was kinda taped-together and scuffed. The belt looked like it came from Studio 54 and was hastily spray-painted, and the boots could hhave been found in a cardboard box at a thrift store, but Hollywood magic made it royal.

This lamp (re)built by ReTech
At a weird art show this fall I stumbled into this guy's functional sculptures made from found objects,
rejected doll's heads, medical equipment, LEDs, human bones and whatever else catches his eye.
I loved about a dozen pieces but ended up buying this lamp which has cool bulbs on a dimmer and a secondary light inside.

I ate at 4 great restaurants in my area for the first time:
Satchel's BBQ
• BBQ within feet of my house
Miller's bar
• No menus, no bill, just burgers and honesty
Standard Larder & Bistro
• Ooh la la.
Everest Sherpa
• Hearty food from Nepal, Tibet and India (unfortunately trapped in a non-atmospheric strip mall).

I saw 4 great music performances in my hometown:
Martin Sexton show at the Ark
• Intimate vocal acrobatics
Iron & Wine show at the Michigan Theater
• Clouds and beards
Jason Isbell show at Hill Auditorium
• I got to shake Jason Isbell's hand on the street while he wandered around (probably looking for shoe stores). Then he went to Chipotle
Jit Exchange Show at UMMA
• More on this below:

The Jit Exchange at the University of Michigan Museum of Art
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The Jit Exchange brought it from Zimbabwe to Detroit. The art museum is a pretty cool place to hang out. Tagging @sp_ace_cadet @oldwestsidegirl @dragon_archer_

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My son's drum instructor and a good friend of ours both worked on bringing together
this show which incorporated Detroit Jit dancing and Zimbabwean Jiti music.
It was so positive and full of energy it kept me smiling for days.
Another clip here and here.

I'm Goin' to Disney World!
The family took a trip to Disney World and stayed in the Contemporary Resort (the original 1971 resort built under Walt's watchful eye). We've been to the park a handful of times now and at this point, we don't break our necks racing around from dawn until the park closes... we are much more discerning and casual in our pace, and it ends up being pretty nice.

Batter Up!
We got the chance to attend batting practice at a Tigers game from down on the field. It was a great behind-the-scenes view of what goes on and Leonys Martin threw a ball to Henry (two days later he was traded to the Indians. Martin, not my son. My son still plays for the Montreal Expos).

Back In Time
Some days your buddy comes to town in his DeLorean and you both say “Welp, let’s dress like bros from the Middle Ages and go drive around for a while.”

We stepped out of the car at Dominick's and the old guy at the door said "I guess I need to check your IDs, you guys might not even be born yet."
Kevin said "Oh no, we're very old."

The farm got a new roof this year, and it was amazing to see. They took off the tiles that had been there at least since the 1960s, then pulled off the cedar shake shingles under that to get down to the original (true) 1x10 boards from when the upstairs was added to the house (mebbe 100 years ago?), all the while shielding themselves from the flocks of bats they were disturbing. The end result is a great-looking roof, no leaks and re-built chimney that I kinda want to make out with.

Blue Wave
After two-years of non-stop nonsense, it seems like my fellow citizens are starting to recognize the importance of voting and the numbers of people participating in mid-term elections is heartening. Additionally, a number of progressive candidates gained ground, so maybe the normalization of some helpful ideas can get traction in the upcoming election.

Stunt Camp
Henry attended a terrific Stunt Fighting camp at Ring of Steel where he learned fake punches, swordplay, high falls, archery and pyrotechnics. My only question is: When is the camp for adults and b) can we bring beer?

Charley Harper Glasses
I fell in love with the simple geometric designs on these Charley Harper glasses and received two sets for Christmas.
My initial thought was to take them up to the cottage but now I think I want to see them every day.

Chips Ahoy
The bad news is that the huge 200+ year old Burr Oak at the farm lost some serious branches this year. The good news was that with the help of friends and family we were able to cut up the limbs, rent a truck and an massive 9" chipper and we chopped up a ton of that wood into woodchips, knocking down the woodpile from being 8 feet tall to being only like 2 feet tall. Plus we cut down a bunch of junk trees and generally cleaned up the whole property. AND we chipped the flower beds for "Free." The best best part was that the neighbor kid, Truman, is WAAAYYYY into landscaping equipment and owns his own rototiller. When he came onto the property and saw that we had a Bandit™ 9" chipper his mouth dropped open. I said "Hey bud, this is the Bandit™ 9" chipper with fully rotational discharge chute" and he said "Oh I know, I've watched YouTube videos of it." He was a really big help, with a huge grin on his face the whole time.

Tunnel of Trees
On a mini-vacation in August, Penny and I finally drove the Tunnel of Trees on M-119 in northern Michigan.

Pickwick the Owl
For my best girl's birthday, I tried to commission local artist David Zinn to do an original chalk artwork on our sidewalk to celebrate.
He was very kind and mysterious, and (without accepting any payment) a magical cake-squatting owl appeared on our front walk.
His name is Pickwick and we love him.


Big rock, super pop, laid-back country,
the slow burn, the night shift, the parking lot pirouette,
a couple weird albums from the '70s that I just stumbled into,
some long-time friends, lots of first-time strangers:

Golden Hour by Kacey Musgraves
Far and away my favorite album of 2018. Recommended sunny Saturday morning listen. A light warm collection of smart singer/songwriter-y tunes with immaculate production. I keep thinking of it as Harriet Wheeler (from The Sundays)’s Nashville album.

Sand by Sand
I honestly started listening to this album because I liked the album cover. The band is called "Sand" and the album is called "Sand" and the cover has a picture of a sandwich in the sand. Do you get it? What I found was a warm, CSNY-influenced Americana album from 1973, with shades of the weird soundtracks Pink Floyd did in 1969 and 1971.

Historian by Lucy Dacus
One of my litmus tests to find an album that will stick with me is if the album is done, and I think to myself "You have an infinite universe of music to choose from. What do you want to listen to next? I think I want to listen to that same record again." Kinda sprawling and atmospheric but also intimate and personal. The production is really clean and her voice is sweetly pure. It’s sort of the black turtleneck/heavy eyeliner flip side of the Kacey Musgraves record.

Balsams by Chuck Johnson
It is almost a disservice to think of Chuck Johnson as a guitarist because, while he is extremely adept at playing his instrument, the sounds on Balsams feel almost like a swelling church organ or the gusts the winds might make in a dry melodic canyon. Similar to William Tyler's Modern Country, this album is a sprawling ambient blanket containing layers of braided sound and landscapes of sun-baked minor key melodies, like the earth-bound companion to Brian Eno's Apollo.

C'est La Vie by Phosphorescent
This one crept up on me. It's a quiet, intimate singer-songwritery album that would have felt right at home in the late '70s. Relaxed, hummable tunes with intricate instrumentation.

Television City by Television City
Michigan-centric Americana that just happened to be recorded by a bunch of my favorite people. It was fun to follow the evolution of this record as it grew from loose ideas to become the full release that it is now. Some of the tracks are true epics, but in the end I gravitated toward the looser and more sparsely intimate songs that sprung up fully-formed in the later stages of making the album.

Barry Goudreau by Barry Goudreau
After the band's rocket to fame in the late '70s, Boston mastermind Tom Scholtz became inevitably tied up in legal battles with his manager and label, leaving the rest of his band idle. During the downtime, guitarist Barry Goudreau enlisted almost the entire band to record nine very Boston-sounding tracks. It feels almost as if Scholtz left every amp and microphone as-is after Boston's second record, and Goudreau and company just stepped in and recorded the band's third record while Scholtz wasn't looking. The album's clear highlight is the minor hit "Dreams" which channels a familiar guitar tone and anthemic chorus.

Providence Canyon by Brent Cobb
As it turns out, when your brother is widely regarded as the best producer in town, your album ends up sounding pretty good. Laconic and laid-back, Cobb's uncomplicated songwriting and warm voice evoke wooden porches and ice cold cheap beer, but in a way that seems less calculated than the bro country clunking up the airwaves on country radio.

The Mountain Moves by Treetop Flyers
Somehow transported forward in time from Laurel Canyon in the 1970s, Treetop Flyers' debut album is collection of wistful acoustic Americana tunes in the style of CSNY and America (another British band that captured the California sound with unexpected accuracy). Like a less-bombastic My Morning Jacket, this five-piece croons and noodles over lazy backbeats, the songs buoyed by rich harmonies. Their subsequent albums nudged toward slightly busier instrumentation and production, but this first record is a warm summertime beachfire gem.

Potatoland by Spirit
Spirit is largely remembered as a hard-driving rock band based on their biggest hit "I Got a Line on You," so it is difficult to wrap one's head around this bizarro concept record. Originating in the early '70s and reworked for a 1981 release, the science fiction backstory is illustrated by a comic strip (included in the LP) and the disjointed nature of the album makes for a puzzling listen, but man, there are some good songs on there. Proto-disco, Beach Boys harmonies, Yacht Rock bounce, electronic synth noodling, bluesy chooglin' and a chiming Byrds-influenced closer, Potatoland is a grab bag of trippy California oddities.

One of my favorite music moments was Kacey Musgraves covering a Keane song

An intimate and perfect version of "Somewhere Only We Know" accompanied by cello, piano and banjo.

I spent a good amount of time curating this Shakedown Cruise playlist.

Summertime smooth rock from the late '70s and early '80s,
heavily influenced by yacht rock and big dumb fun sunset jams.
Expect big production, harmonies, sensitive lovers and lots of chest hair.
Full Sails and Feathered Hair, everybody.

Computers and Technology:

Cocaine & Rhinestones
This year I dove into a new podcast called Cocaine & Rhinestones (hosted by David Allan Coe's somehow-normal son) which highlights some of the wilder and weirder stories of country music in the 20th century. Drunken brawls and slimy managers, feuds and affairs, dirt poor angels and big city devils, nudie photo blackmail and backstage deals at the Grand Old Opry. Recommended, even if you don't like old country music.


I don't really follow hockey but I do follow giant googly-eyed orange monstrosities that haunt all of our dreams. Thanks Gritty!

Slow Burn "True Believers" podcast
This lengthy dive into Watergate gave insights into a certain political scandal and the country's reaction.

Joe Walsh on WTF (and Joe Walsh in general)
This interview with Joe Walsh was really great. He's sober now and remembers everything. He was like a Rock & Roll Forrest Gump, popping up to give Jimmy Page his first Gibson SG and learning how to play slide guitar from Duane Allman. My favorite quote: "Keith Moon decided he liked me. That was the scariest thing that happened in my whole life... In 24 hours, we stayed up for a couple days."


I don't play the video games that often, but everything about this one grabbed me.
The early animation style, the ragtime jazz, the simple side-scroll action.
The only slightly disappointing thing was finding out how much better my kid is at video games than I am.

Shower Thoughts
I stumbled across the Reddit community of Shower Thoughts. Many of them are dumb but every once in a while there is a little gem:

Amish girls have no way of knowing if it's a romantic candlelit dinner or just a regular dinner.

If you drew a dick on a vampire's face while they were sleeping they'd never find out about it.

If you were to play Mario games backwards it is the story of a plumber leaving his wife and his life progressively getting easier.

Technically everything you throw at a blind person is a UFO to them.

It is some people's jobs to deliver Digiorno pizzas to the grocery stores.

The most unsettling thing in the world would be knowing the day and month of your death, but not the year.

You don’t really wash your hands, they actually wash each other while you just stand there and watch.

Hotel California is basically a bad Yelp review with a two minute guitar solo.

A werewolf on the moon would be the most powerful werewolf ever.

It must be quite alarming for deaf people to find out that farts make sounds.

The more holes a net has, the better condition it's in.

People who sit on the front row at the cinema technically get to see the movie first

Diarrhea is literally a blast from the past.

It must take a while for a Giraffe to throw up.

One of the unspoken things about being an adult is having a favorite burner on the stove.

Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Give a man a poisoned fish, he eats for the rest of his life.


reading is fundamental
The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland
My favorite book of the year: A linguist is pulled from her unfulfilling academic life to dive into a black-ops government agency to save magic, travel through time, explore ancient martial arts, code in red hat internet protocols, learn WAY too much about corsets, watch Wikipedia entries and history books change before her eyes, witness hilarious Viking sex, visit the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, and generally upend the space-time continuum.
Incredibly, the science of magic and time travel are both given startlingly believable explanations and the story is told via quill-and-ink parchments, diary entries, government requisition forms and Slack Channel messages.

reading is fundamental
The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
Scratching the itch that Game of Thrones and The Kingkiller Chronicles is waiting to scratch, this fantasy series follows a mercenary barbarian, a noble-born swordsman, a crippled torturer and a wizard as their paths slowly intersect in the middle of a three-army war. It's one of those books where a chapter ends, and you're bummed out because you really want to know where that storyline was going, then you pick up the next chapter and say "Oh yeah, right! *They* were about to get ambushed, wonder what will happen?" and so on over and over again.

reading is fundamental
The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
Alfred Bester first published this in 1955 but it feels much more futuristically real than Flash Gordon or Fantastic Planet. One interesting element was that the author kept referring to futuristic high-society members like the Sears-Roebucks, the Kodaks, the Buicks and "R.H. Macy XVI, head of the powerful Saks-Gimbel clan." Other than that it was a ripping space yarn.

reading is fundamental
Woodstalk: 3 Days of Peace, Music, and Zombies by Bruce Worden
Author/Illustrator Bruce Worden (Goodnight Keith Moon) re-imagines the Woodstock Music Festival through the eyes of The Zombies (Rod Argent, Colin Blunstone, et al) as they are forced to battle a real zombie outbreak. Musical in-jokes wail as Ravi Shankar, Richie Havens, Joan Baez, wide-eyed hippies in a fumbled drug deal and a frazzled Vietnam veteran band together to try to survive 3 days of peace, music and zombies.

reading is fundamental
Dark Run (The Keiko Trilogy) by Mike Brooks
A brash captain with a dark past leads a ragtag group of smugglers and pirates on questionable adventures aboard their space freighter. Lots of obvious similarities to the TV show Firefly but still a fun and easy book snack.

reading is fundamental
Twilight of the Gods: A Journey to the End of Classic Rock by Steven Hyden
Steven Hyden (Your Favorite Band is Killing Me) takes the pulse of classic rock to determine what is keeping the music breathing after 50-plus years and if it still matters. Golden gods/geriatric hangers-on such as the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac, the Eagles, Black Sabbath, and the Who are examined along with the fans, industry and culture surrounding this dusty but cherished genre

reading is fundamental
The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
It must be one of the few books to cast a flesh-eating zombie as the protagonist but somehow the reader ends up feeling for the main character. A global catastrophe has caused most of the population to become eaters, and a few pockets of humanity remain, looking for a cure. Despite the subject matter, it really is more of a road trip adventure through a post-apocalytic ruin with creepy scientists and bloodthirsty survivalists around every corner. Anyone who liked Station Eleven would probably dig this book.

reading is fundamental
Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop
I plowed through this series, and while the second book was the best, I was entertained throughout. An interesting aspect was that the magic derived from colored crystals (kind of like Fleetwood Mac's third album) and each color was more powerful than the colors before it, so you got this weird hierarchy of witches and wizards who could lord over somebody, or had to bow down to somebody else based on the power of the color.

reading is fundamental
The Rivers of London Series by Ben Aaronovich
I started this series last year but kept it up this year as well. A bumbling London cop finds he has a knack for the supernatural and ends up in a little-known (and little-respected) division of the police force. All of them are pretty good but The Hanging Tree was the best of the bunch so far.


Again, not a lot of TV watched this year.

The boy and I quite enjoyed Matt Groening's new medieval version of The Simpsons. The tone is a bit more adult and some of the jokes fall flat but it is worth digging into.

Fixer Upper
There are a bunch of unwatchable programs on HGTV, but this year we fell into this show where people often fix up old farmhouses. After a long year of tough projects at the farmhouse we've been working on, we found a lot of positive inspiration from this show.

Slow TV
Friends of our hipped us to this channel(?) lifestyle(?) where they show really boring things like the view from a train in Northern Europe for 6 hours, or a 4 hour documentary on cutting firewood in Sweden. Must See TV!


(in roughly the order that I liked it.)

Black Panther
Avengers Infinity War
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Incredibles 2
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Ready Player One
Bohemian Rhapsody
Ant-Man and the Wasp
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Pacific Rim: Uprising
Mortal Engines
Johnny English Strikes Again
A Wrinkle in Time

Things That Are Awful:

This Administration
This tweet sums up everything I despise about how our country is being run.
Callousness. Indifference. Partisan attitudes. Winning at all costs. Childish obstinance. Unwillingness. Cruelty. Greed.
I kept thinking of the horrible things that happened this year, and nearly all of them could be traced back here in one way or another.

The Deck
We had some work done on our deck this year and the contractor began to take advantage of our trust. It came to a head at a time when I was out of town and was not able to solve it (or even address it). It got worse from there and I still get angry about how he manipulated us after we felt like we could really trust him. The good news is that we found somebody else who could finish the job and we look forward to a sunset cocktail on the deck in the spring.

Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah
After several years of not wanting to go to sleepaway camp, we finally convinced our kid to go away for a week at a well-known camp for a week. He didn't pass the swim test which meant that he was unable to participate in a number of activities, the vegetarian food options weren't great so I imagine he wasn't eating much, etc. I had hoped this would kick off a lifetime enjoyment of summer camp hi-jinks and cherished memories, but ultimately he didn't like it, which I guess is fine...he's not the first kid to ever dislike summer camp, but I do feel bad that he spent an entire week stuck and wishing he was somewhere else.

It feels foolish to complain about this, but in 2018 websites that have visitors from European nations needed to jump through a bunch of stupid steps for the illusion of online privacy. It was legislated by people who don't really understand technology and caused a bunch of headaches and extra work for me this year, only to ultimately not really amount to anything. Just a dumb waste of my time.

Ambulance Blues
A family member, a best friend, and a former co-worker who can't catch a break all spent time in the hospital this year for three very different reasons and none of them were pleasant. There has been real progress on all three patients, but I was for real worried about them and focused a lot of nervous/positive energy on them this year.

Gone Gone Gone
Pete Shelley of Buzzcocks, Burt Reynolds, doofy Detroit radio DJ Mike Clark, Aretha Franklin, Stan Lee.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Music Like Firefly 

I revisited the Firefly TV series recently and it reaffirmed my love for the incidental music chosen for the show.

Sure, there is a lot of cool space battle rah-rah bombast that happens in the score when the guns start blazing, but the thing that I always liked was the odd juxtaposition of the dusty acoustic folk instrumentation with hints of Eastern elements and the occasional ambient/industrial-ish tones.

Much of the highlighted instrumentation in the music I gravitate toward seems to be dobro, mandolin, and violin with occasional acoustic guitar and banjo or piano as underlying accents. Music theorist Jennifer Goltz in her excellent essay "Listening to Firefly" (found in the book Finding Serenity) points out:

"When they flew off after an adventure turned out all right, we
heard slide guitar, a little strumming, sometimes a fiddle: it was the sound
of their home and the sound of everything being right with the world.

And the fiddle and guitar are portable instruments, perfect for the
lifestyle of the crew; the music they make calls up tunes played out
in the open, by people who were hundreds of miles away just yesterday.
[The musical theme] Serenity conjures the nomadic lifestyle
the crew leads and underlines the western aspect of the show."


Since this kind of Appalachian folk has much of its original roots in Celtic music, song forms like reels and jigs wend their way into the soundtrack by way of flutes, pipes, and hand drums. Then from left field, Eastern folk instruments and phrasings would drift into the edges, due in large part to the influence of Chinese culture on that universe. And of course, being a sci-fi show, there are broad stretches of the music that feature atmospheric instrumentation and occasional industrial sounds -- the machinations of outer space.

The soundtrack to Firefly and the Serenity film are great, but they aren't really appropriate as background music. The music tells a narrative to what is happening on-screen including fistfights, space battles and other thrilling heroics, but I was looking for something that could be on in the background while reading or maybe starting a role-playing game that all had the same mood and feel, and kept the signal going.

I pulled together a Spotify playlist of instrumentals that could be found in the Firefly and Serenity universe. As I indicated above, it is mostly instrumental acoustic folk with some bluegrass/Chinese hybrid songs and a couple appropriate tunes from film and video game soundtracks.

Take The Sky - Music Found in the Firefly Universe

The tracklist:
"Interlude (Eastmountainsouth)" - Eastmountainsouth
"The Signal" - David Joseph Wesley (from the Music to Smuggle By [Original Video Game Soundtrack])
"Slinger's Song" - Darren Korb (from the Bastion soundtrack)
"Cows / New Dress / My Crew" - Greg Edmonson (from the Firefly soundtrack)
"Robin and Marian" - Nickel Creek
"The Silver Spear/The Earl's Chair/The Musical Priest (Reels)" - Liz Carrol
"Stumptown" - Nickel Creek
"Katniss Afoot" - James Newton Howard (From the Hunger Games soundtrack)
"In Case of Trouble" - Darren Korb (from the Bastion soundtrack)
"Mansinneedof" - Sarah Jaroz
"Winnipeg" - Chris Pandolfi
"Dao Chuilian" - Red Chamber & Mei Han
"The Moon in the Sky (Xiao Yue Er Gao)" - Yu Liangmo
"Scotch & Chocolate" - Nickel Creek
"River's Dance" - Greg Edmonson (from the Firefly soundtrack)
"Spike in a Rail" - Darren Korb (from the Bastion soundtrack)
"Searching for Peeta" - James Newton Howard (From the Hunger Games soundtrack)
"Bill" - Tin Hat (from the Nebraska soundtrack)
"A Proper Story" - Darren Korb (from the Bastion soundtrack)
"Iguazu" - Gustavo Santaoalla
"Ashokan Farwell" - Jay Ungar & The Nashville Chamber Orchestra
"Pastures New" - Nickel Creek
"Aran Boat Song" - Darol Anger & Alasdair Frasier
"Spring" - Bruce Langhorne
"The Crystal Merchant" - The Greencards
"On the Drift" - Bedlam Bards
"First and Last Waltz" - Nickel Creek
"Dead End Alley" - Bill Elm and Woody Jackson (from the Red Dead Redemption soundtrack)
"Vale of Plenty" - Hans Zimmer (from the Black Hawk Down soundtrack)
"Amulet" - Copal
"Journey of the Sorcerer" - Eagles
"Cuckoo's Nest" - Nickel Creek
"Backstep Cindy/Purple Bamboo" - Abigail Washburn
"Saffron's Wedding Dance" - Bedlam Bards
"Choctaw Hayride" - Alison Krauss & Union Station
"Workfield" - Thomas Newman (from the Shawshank Redemption soundtrack)
"Su Prabhat" - The Greencards
"Datun Jelut" - Red Chamber
"By the River" - Edgar Meyer, Mike Marshall & Bela Fleck
"The Rock Garden" - Bedlam Bards
"Redemption in Dub" - Bill Elm and Woody Jackson (from the Red Dead Redemption soundtrack)
"Elsie"- Nickel Creek
"River's Jig" - Bedlam Bards
"Big Country" - Edgar Meyer, Mike Marshall & Bela Fleck
"A Kazakh Melody" - Abigail Washburn & the Sparrow Quartet
"Girls Picking Flowers" - Red Chamber
"Smoothie Song" - Nickel Creek
"Box Elder Beetles" - Wires & Wood
"Peace" - Sarah Jarosz
"Light Black" - Talk West
"Freiderick" - Sara Watkins
"City on the Mesa - Part 3 - Onwards to Meridian" - Joris de Man (from the Horizon: Zero Dawn soundtrack)
"Ah Ya Zein" - Red Chamber
"High Ham" - Psychograss
"Long Past Gone" - Sieber, Kammen, Fulton and Schatz (Music from Braid)
"Dry and Dusty" - Brittany Haas
"Local Honey" - Sean Watkins
"Mandala" - Yu-Xiao Guang
"Short Trip Home" - Edgar Meyer, Mike Marshall, Sam Bush & Joshua Bell
"Greeneries" - Takénobu
"Going for a Ride" - David Newman (from the Serenity soundtrack)
"Big Country" - Bela Fleck, Mike Marshall, Edgar Meyer
"The Rakers" - Elephant Revival
"Santa Anna's Retreat/Kitchen Gal" - Abigail Washburn
"Little Siam" - The Greencards
"Gone to Fortingall/Wired to the Moon" - Jerry Douglas and Michael McGoldrick
"The Majestic Swan" - Cadillac Sky
"Everything's Shiny Captain" - David Joseph Wesley (from the Music to Smuggle By [Original Video Game Soundtrack])
"White Snow in Spring" - Martin Simpson & Wu Man
"Maenam" - Sieber, Kammen, Fulton and Schatz (Music from Braid)
"40800" - Yu-Xiao Guang
"Out in the Black" - David Joseph Wesley (from the Music to Smuggle By [Original Video Game Soundtrack])
"Across the Marshland" - Janne Viksten
"Almost Home" - The Greencards
"Blue Balloons" - Blossom
"Leaving Atmo" - David Joseph Wesley (from the Music to Smuggle By [Original Video Game Soundtrack])"
"Public Enemy" - Glenn Stafford (from the StarCraft II Soundtrack)
"Downstream" Sieber, Kammen, Fulton and Schatz (Music from Braid)
"Dirtside" - David Joseph Wesley (from the Music to Smuggle By [Original Video Game Soundtrack])
"The Beekeeper" - Chris Thile
"Fischer Store Road" - Sarah Jarosz
"The Road of Trials" - Austin Wintory (from the Journey video game soundtrack)
"Paddle the Torrens" - The Greencards
"Leadfoot" - Haas Kowert Tice
"Dance of the Yao Tribe" - Red Chamber
"City of Rome" - Jesper Kyd (from the Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood video game soundtrack)
"A World Behind the World" - Jami Sieber
"I Do the Job" - David Joseph Wesley (from the Music to Smuggle By [Original Video Game Soundtrack])
"Pterodactyl" - Grant Gordy
"The Pasture" - Elephant Revival
"The Docks" - David Joseph Wesley (from the Music to Smuggle By [Original Video Game Soundtrack])
"Now That This Old World is Ending" - Dan Romer (from the Far Cry 5 Original Video Game Soundtrack)
"River Valley Waltz" - Janne Viksten
"Transit of Venus, Matavai, A.D. 1769" - Stephen Scott
"Salvage" - David Joseph Wesley (from the Music to Smuggle By [Original Video Game Soundtrack])
"Lauren's Lullaby" - Tin Hat
"Leonardo's Ride" - The Greencards
"Northern Winds" - Steve Earle
"Havelock" - Goldmund
"Midnight Ferry" - The Greencards
"Gypsy Camp/Art Stamper" - Tim O'Brien
"When the Morning Light Shines In" - Dan Romer (from the Far Cry 5 Original Video Game Soundtrack)
"Benediction" - Jami Sieber
"Solid Ground" - Break of Reality
"The Ghost of Blind Willie Johnson" - Tony Furtado
"Jason Ehleben" - Bells
"Verse Things Have Happened" - David Joseph Wesley (from the Music to Smuggle By [Original Video Game Soundtrack])
"The Last of Us" - Gustavo Santaolalla (from the The Last of Us Original Video Game Soundtrack)
"Downstream" - Shira Kammen
"Forslund" - Mike Marshall and Darol Anger with Väsen
"Keep Flying" - David Joseph Wesley (from the Music to Smuggle By [Original Video Game Soundtrack])
"Seeds of Light" - Karen Olson
"Sliding Down" - Edgar Meyer featuring Béla Fleck and Mike Marshall
"Independence, VA" - April Verch
"Safe and Sound" - Dan Romer (from the Far Cry 5 Original Video Game Soundtrack)
"Desert Capriccio" - Tan Dun / Yo-Yo Ma (from the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon soundtrack)
"A Prairie Tale" - King Creosote
"Silent Skies" - Karen Olson
"Acoustic Traveler" - John McEuen
"Inara's Suite" - Greg Edmonson (from the Firefly soundtrack)
"Love Keeps Her in the Air" - David Joseph Wesley (from the Music to Smuggle By [Original Video Game Soundtrack])

I also started a Pandora station that occasionally surfaces some gems but is often more miss than hit.

I discovered these while digging through lists on, Whedonesque, Reddit, AskMetafilter and from a handful of other helpful browncoats.

Let me know if you think of any other songs that would be appropriate and maybe this list can keep flying.

Comments: 0
Saturday, December 30, 2017

Twenty Seventeen 

Things I Liked in 2017:


1. This girl. 2. That guy. 3. Young cat.
4. Old dog. 5. Trip to California with a hot girl and a hot car. 6. Trip to NYC with cold ales at McSorley’s.
7. Working in the shop. 8. That orchard wedding. 9. Sitting on my porch drinking coffee.

That Orchard Wedding
My sister got married in an apple orchard and it was very nice for all involved.

Lager House Porchsleeper Show
The 'Sleeper put it together once more for a show to celebrate a buddy's birthday. You can see a pile of the videos here:

Henry playing drums
My kid has an amazing drum instructor and the lessons have really been improving his playing. Every once in a while, Penny and I will look at each other while the boy is practicing and say "Is that our kid? Or did a professional skinsman sneak into our basement?"

My kid started getting into playing Dungeons & Dragons and he's developing into a pretty decent dungeon master. (Note: This is probably be something that would get me burned at the stake a hundred years ago, so there has been some progress in society).

Stormtrooper Costume
Trooper1 Trooper2 Trooper3
Henry wanted to be a Stormtrooper for Halloween but the helmets he liked were all $70 so he decided to cut up some cardboard and make his own.
It took hours and hours and about a gallon of hot glue, but in the end it looked like a million spacebucks.

Touchin' Squirrels
For some terrific reason, Penny and I have decided to keep track of who has touched the most squirrels in the wild. The current tally is 9 for me and 7 for her. I have a feeling when we are in the old folks home, we'll still be playing (even if we are slowly trying to touch radioactive cyber-rodents by that time).

Building Cabinets in The Shop
Cabinet1 cabinet2
I've been working on cleaning out the workshop at the old farmhouse we inherited and it is a world of discovery
(ancient tools, mouse nests, chemicals that have been discontinued since the Eisenhower administration).
I was able to clear some surfaces and build two different cabinets this summer.
It's gonna be great (in about 6 years).

Snickers Crispers
Back in college we fell in love with the Good Stuff candy bar (so much so that we collected the wrappers and created our own Greg Brady-style beaded curtain for our door).
I’m happy to report that the Snickers Crisper Bar is about as close as you can come nowadays.

At one point his year, the moon came between the Earth and the Sun and it made my brain explode.

Botnik Seinfeld
Hoo boy. These geniuses loaded up a predictive text robot with a bunch of Seinfeld scripts and ended up making my new favorite television show.

KRAMER enters dancing with garbage.

KRAMER: Hey hey hey, great idea for big sponge: Make it so large you think it's got a fat clock in the middle.

JERRY: (takes off his bones)
Kramer, do you have a fun flashback to do?

George is wearing a $20 hat that says "Hello to Horse."

GEORGE: I'm kinda like the captain of hygiene.

The Women's March and The Science March
The reasons behind the need for these marches were and are infuriating, but it was pretty incredible to be a part of the groundswell of emotion, passion and anger.

Brian Regan show
We took the boy to see his favorite comedian. It was his first big comedy experience and he laughed at it.

Driveway Fires
One tradition we tried to enforce was having driveway fires in the summer.
We set up our hardware-store fire pit, gather some dry wood and kindling, then have the boy build and start the fire (ideally with just one match).
Once the beacon is lit, neighborhood kids appear with back-cabinet marshmallows and dusty Hershey bars and floppy graham crackers.
They whittle sticks and blaze their marshmallows until they taste horrible and burnt, and the grown-ups pass glasses of bourbon
in their camp chairs and everybody is reminded that life is pretty great in little glimpses.

A Trip to New York City
Henry's Auntie Joyce was a cab driver in Queens back in the day, so she wanted to take him to the city to show him around. She let us tag along. We saw Strawberry Fields in Central Park, the Alice in Wonderland statue, Carmine's, Knitty City, Excelsior Hotel (a total find), The Strand bookstore, the Lower East Side at night, McSorley's Old Ale House (the oldest bar in NYC), A real highlight was at 30 Rock where my dad knows the lighting designer for Jimmy Fallon's show. We got a hands-on tour of the stage, the area where the Roots perform, the desk, and a ton of backstage scenes. It really is the Windy Apple.

Henry's Birthday with Swordfights and Archery
Henry wanted to do swordfighting, wear armor and shoot a bow at his birthday, and the best place to do that was The Ring of Steel Action Theater & Stunt Troupe. The kids got to wear chain mail armor, hoist big weaponry, shoot bow and arrow, eat an Eye of Sauron cake, and have a general good time hitting each other with foam swords. A nerdy dream come true.

Winnie the Pooh Rain Art
When it rains on the sidewalks of Ann Arbor, this image appears.
I took a photo of it and it ended up being posted on Reddit and got upvoted 46,000 times.

San Francisco / Napa Trip
My bride has stayed married to me for exactly 20 years so I thought it would be nice to reward her for her patience. We flew out to California for a trip to Napa Valley and San Francisco (or "Frisco" as I kept calling it). We ate luxurious breakfasts and drank wine, and in "Frisco" we met with friends, cruised around the bay, shopped for records at Amoeba, grabbbed drinks at my favorite bar in the world The Royal Cuckoo, and generally enjoyed ourselves.

Among the highlights was that I had secretly rented a Ford Mustang for us to tool around in. The Mustang is one of Penny's favorite cars and I thought it would be a blast. Well, when we got there Hertz said there were no Mustangs available. The sound of Penny's heart breaking was audible so the guy behind the counter pulled some strings and got us into a Shelby GT 350. I guess Hertz and Ford offered a rental Shelby GT350 in 1966 and the one we drove was for the 50th anniversary. She purred like a kitten.

Toledo Mud Hens' Beatles Tribute Night
We were at a minor-league ballgame and a Beatles tribute band broke out. The game jerseys were tackily styled after the Sgt. Pepper's uniforms, and after the show we were treated to a Beatles tribute band. A splendid time was guaranteed for all.

Wisconsin Dells
Took the family to the Dells for spring break. It was mostly fine (mac & Cheese and New Glarus beers), but much of the resort town was not yet open for the season. The unexpected gem was this goofball Wizard Quest attraction, a clearly home-grown pile of unicorn fuzz and troll farts that was one-part obstacle course and one part treasure hunt.

Emagine Theater
My small hometown got a movie theater with huge screens and even huger beers. What a world we live in.

Cleveland Rocks
Went to Cleveland with a buddy to re-re-visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
A highlight was eating at Happy Dog where you can get the following things on your hot dog:
Bourbon Pork-n-Beans, Spaghetti O's, Andy Capp's Hot Fries, Pimento Mac-n-Cheese, Chunky Peanut Butter, a Sunny-Side-Up Fried Egg and Froot Loops.

Broken Jokes
I fell into a rabbit-hole of "Broken Jokes" like this one:
A horse walks into a bar. Before the bartender can ask for its order or comment on its physiognomy, the horse panics, because horses do not belong in bars. Much property damage ensues, and the horse is put down.

Then I stumbled into Fred Stoller's concept of a "No-Joke Joke." A "No-Joke Joke" is a joke that, upon first hearing it, you'll think that you have just heard a joke and, in fact you'll probably laugh. However on closer examination, analysis and scrutiny you'll realize that it actually wasn't a joke at all. Indeed, it merely sounded like a joke.

hoo boy. This got me.

• The town was so small, the Ferris wheel was painted green!
• She was so fat, her sister worked for the phone company!
• I come from a town so small, the hooker wore a helmet!
• I went out with this girl that was so fat, I didn't know whether to take her to a movie or to a Met game!
• My wife talks so much, when she coughs it costs me $22!
• Our town was so small, the police precinct had a screen door!
• She's so fat that when she leaves a nude beach, she has to show a receipt!
• My school was so rough, the yearbook was shaped like a canoe!

This two-hour car chase around Oklahoma City:

This had more drama and action than any other movie I saw this year.


Some of my fave songs:

The Nashville Sound by Jason Isbell
Once again making incredible American music with heart and romance and a little spitfire.

A Deeper Understanding by The War on Drugs
Dreamy and moody.

Amber Lantern by Timothy Monger
Local boy makes good.

Together at Last by Jeff Tweedy
I wandered into Amoeba Music in San Francisco just as this came on. I thought it was a live bootleg or something but it turned out to be a real release. The songs are good, even without layers of studio magic.

After the Party by The Menzingers
These were guys I had never heard of. Adult punk with mortgages and conflicts.

Is the Is Are by DIIV
Somebody described this as The Cure meets Real Estate and they were right.

Trinity Lane by Lilly Hiatt
Bold and fearless songwriting.

Need to Feel Your Love by Sheer Mag
Gut-punch rock from Thin Lizzy meets the Go-Gos.

For Sale: Live at Maxwell's 1986 by The Replacements
I got to see the Replacements a couple years ago and it felt a lot like this. Dangerous and electric.

Near to the Wild Heart of Life by Japandroids
Emphatic and empathetic raucous rock from this tuneful two-piece.

I also really liked Guided by Voices' "Glad Girls" (even though it came out a billion years ago):

Also this year I got way into But Seriously, Folks by Joe Walsh and Allied Forces by Triumph (just ask the guys in my office).

A friend asked for everybody's favorite soul song and I kept digging into weird old compilation discs
to find gritty, gutsy, greasy R&B tunes that I wasn't already familiar with.
The result is this Shake & Fingerpop Playlist.

The title is inspired by the first line which is
"Put on your wig woman/We're goin' out to shake and fingerpop."

Computers and Technology:

A year ago I would have told you that we don't need to subscribe to newspapers anymore because you can just look at the headlines on Facebook or the homepage of Yahoo and get the basic information you need. At the end of 2017 I subscribe (pay for) two separate newspapers (New York Times and Washington Post) simply because they are providing a service that few other outlets are managing to accomplish. These are among the few places where investigative journalism is happening and I want to keep that fire going.

S-Town and the Dirty John podcast.
These two dark stories (one Faulkner-esque, the other more like Elmore Leonard) kept me plugged into my audio machine this year.

Slow Burn Podcast
I've been listening to Slate's in-depth look at the Watergate break-in and they do a great job of linking the events of the past with what is happening now and it is both disappointing and heartening that the crime, deceit and skullduggery that happened in Washington in 1972 have real parallels with what we're seeing today.

Stuff You Should Know and Stuff You Missed in History Class
My kid got way into historical and science podcasts this year and these two are worth checking out. They made long road trips very bearable.


reading is fundamental
Jerusalem by Alan Moore
Sometimes you read a book and it is like watching Stranger Things or like viewing Interstellar or listening to OK Computer where you get done with it and is is so inter-looping and broad and genius and frustrating and confusing and incredible you just want to start at the beginning again and pick up the threads and relationships that you missed the first time.

This book is 1300 pages long and an entire third of it is spent during the time that a toddler is choking on a cough drop. An entire chapter is written in a seemingly nonsensical style inspired by that which James Joyce used in Finnegans Wake. Still, it is a sprawling and all-encompassing work that I will read again (someday)

reading is fundamental
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
A terrific book about a man who keeps re-living his life and finds a community of people who are in his same predicament.

reading is fundamental
Dreaming the Beatles: The Love Story of One Band and the Whole World by Rob Sheffield
The Beatles have been analyzed and discussed ad nauseum for the past 50+ years, but Rob Sheffield's series of essays manage to inject a personal narrative and contemporary worldview into this familiar mythology. Using sly turns of phrase and nods to Beatle lyrics in his analysis, Sheffield is able to offer a fresh look at everything from Abbey Road to Zapple Records.

reading is fundamental
Time and Again by Jack Finney
Another time travel book, this one set in New York City. I read this as we were in NYC so I was able to walk out and see the exact locations that were being referenced. Recommended.

reading is fundamental
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
A truly original fantasy novel from an unexpected perspective. Can't wait for volume 3.

reading is fundamental
Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch
A bumbling London cop finds he has a knack for the supernatural and ends up in a little-known (and little-respected) division of the police force.


Again, not a lot of TV watched this year.

Black Mirror
This is some of the best / most brutal social commentary and technological examination since The Twilight Zone. Highly recommended but not binge-able.

The Magicians
I really liked the books and the show is pretty faithful.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
Again, I liked the book.

Stranger Things II
More of the same. The second series had a bit less of the "WTF is happening right now" but the characters are very likable so I stuck with it.

Game of Thrones
We're finally caught up!.


(in roughly the order that I liked it.)

Blade Runner 2049
The Last Jedi
Wonder Woman
Thor: Ragnarok
Kedi (a documentary about cats in Istanbul)
Guardians of the Galaxy 2
Spider-Man: Homecoming
LEGO Batman
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Pirates of the Carriean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Things That Are Awful:

Uncle Rick
My dad's brother died this fall after a really brief illness.
If you have stood on the dock he built at our cottage you have experienced his strength.
He will be missed.
The Trump Administration
Chuck Berry
Tom Petty
Harry Dean Stanton & John Hurt
Chris Cornell
Will Stewart
Carrie Fisher (two years running)
A bunch of men turned out to be fucking creeps this year.
I'm glad they are being called out but it's tough to find out so many people you liked are fucking scumbags.
A ton more shootings and bombings
Hurricanes and wildfires
Charlottesville and white supremacists
Candle Salad
(found in an old cookbook and never forgotten)

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