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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