Friday, April 30, 2010

Friday Foolery

Mike Roe played real good
But he left his mic clip on
My microphone stand.

Twelve hours of relief
Then twenty-four of regret:
Fear the nasal spray.

B-1 has many
Benefits. It will give you
That vitamin smell.

As the weekend nears
The eternal question looms:
“What’s for dinner, dad?”

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Obligatory Garden Post #1

I should be writing a query to find out some information for a manager that I already gave to him once about thirty days ago... but since our e-mail system automatically erases things over thirty days old it's gone. But instead I shall write about...


Yes, it's back again... bigger and better than ever.

First up is herb row. Last year we found to our surprise out that herb entries in the 4-H fair automatically go to state. So this year each daughter of sowing age has planted FOUR herbs, with the best two of each being submitted. Those devious 4-H rule-writers have caught on to our catching on and are thus making it a requirement to submit a poster with each herb submission. Not to be outdone, I planted a few herbs for home, including spearmint, basil, purple basil, and one other one I forgot. Probably wolfbane. Then, when these slow-germinating seeds are just beginning to sprout, I go to a home center and see well established versions for just a couple bucks each. Grrrrr. Did I buy last year or start from seeds? I'm fairly certain that Brooke submitted a plant that was started from seeds, which I think is a requirement for 4-H, but maybe we started it later in the spring? Since I can't usually remember when I last clipped my toenails I'm not surprised that I can't remember something from a year ago.

Next up in the annual CATBOX GREENS! Yessum, lettuce grows amazingly well in a cat box (with a few holes drilled near the bottom for drainage). We did this last year with mesclun and just one box provided more than two adults could eat. This year we are UPPING THE ANTE by planting half a tray of mesclun, two spinach plants, and one tray of romaine lettuce. And of course it goes without saying that these are brand new cat boxes, never used for their intended purposes.

We're also making another foolish attempt at peas. Last year I tended and cared for two window boxes of peas and after all the work was provided with a very small bowl full of very tasty peas. This year I'm doing the same. Will I ever learn? Does it take a quarter acre of these plants to provide enough for one side dish? I was going to do sugar snap peas but, uh, I forgots.

Also in and growing are carrots. True to my contained gardening mania (thanks, darling, for the inspiration with the Container Gardening for Dummies book... didn't know you created a monster, did you?) I would like to start another batch of carrots in a deep container. And also some potatoes. Down in Princeton the Rural King had seed potatoes but I haven't found them up here yet, not that we'd be so lucky as to have a Rural King.

And let's not forget the GARLIC and the RASPBERRIES!

This year I've decided that the grapes can hang themselves. The last few years I've tended and cared for and birdnetted and watered and just about the time the grapes look ready to eat they mysteriously disappear. Durn birds/squirrels/hobos. Just breaks your heart.

We've also put in a lone strawberry plant and a cherry tomato plant in a container. This way they can get an early start and if we have a frost scare I can bring them in for the night.

Enough boredom for now. Soon I shall dream of a fine patch of tomatoes and green beans.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sets of Four

Gift Certificates
Had for a bargain from the
4-H auction. Yeah!

Sporadic raining
No outside projects done but
Lots of snuggle time.

For some odd reason
This morning church seemed to drag
But now we are home.

Difficult to sleep.
Do I have it all covered
For the Mike Roe show?

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Afternoon

First I found this page while looking up the answer to a "debate" my wife and I have over reheating food that's been left out too long and the next thing I know I'm an expert on eating grasshoppers, making waterproof matches, and building a shelter out of twings and debris.

Of course this will all come in plenty helpful when, uh, when, well, just when.

CD Review - Ravish and Other Tales for the Stage

Another one from last year. Just after I wrote this I was surprised to find that a local dance group was putting on Wonderboy. Coincidence? It is about as close as Sleepytime Gorilla Museum will ever get to playing Fort Wayne and somehow I still managed to miss it.

Music for the stage, classical pieces written to accompany dancers as they do their thing, often runs the risk of being boring background music, second fiddle to the dancers. However the very kinetic nature of dance lends itself to more interesting, music that can stand on its own. Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker and Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring come to mind as two excellent examples that lose little sans dancers.

So it was with much fear, trepidation, and hope that I approached Ravish and Other Tales for the Stage, music composed for modern dance companies by members of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, a band that has managed to hold my attention for far longer than is rightly fair. Would these compositions fall flat or would they somehow manage to avoid the pitfalls of “stage music?” I’ll hold off of my answer to build antici…. pation.

The first, longest, and least successful section of songs comes from The Live Billboard Project. “The Good, The Bad and The Beautiful” is atmospheric with a low rumbling buzz of the bass harmonica with occasional shimmering guitar chords and a piano at the end which introduces the apprehensive main theme. Something is coming and it’s not friendly. “Ravish” is a bit more complete with the theme clashing against dissonant crashes of horns and piano and cello, an off-kilter rhythm that leaves no doubt that this was composed for a modern dance group. Two “auction” songs plus two other brief snippets remind me of Dave Thomas Americana projects, more setting a mood than leaving any kind of musical trail, but “A Living Billboard” is a quick favorite with a lumbering steady beat, stuttering violins, and an ominous, pensive melody that deliciously builds as a kind of cross between SGM and Book of Knots. The frightfully spooky “A Private Grace” uses a Tin Hat Trio-like sparseness in the orchestration that leads to many creepy moments in the first section before drunken circus horns enter to start a lilting waltz with affable ghouls and their glockenspiel tones. The Theremin soon adds its ghostly wail, a hollow ache for a life long past, making this dark and amazing song as comforting as it is disconcerting.

“Confession” is the lone track from Ame to Ame, though it definitely leaves one wanting more. Crisp and brittle strummed violin leads to a detuned plucked melody and a trumpet violin, which is a violin with a hearing horn embedded in it (like those old fashioned record players) that truly makes it sound like a cross between a violin and a trumpet. In addition to these instruments the husband and wife team of Carla Kihlstedt and Matthias Bossi round out this lonely song with charango, toy guitar, zither, bass harmonica, musical saw, glass and water.

Five selections from Wonderboy make the most consistent listening. “Portrait of a Lanscape” combines hints of Debussy with a smidgeon of Danny Elfman to create a somber yet light footed solo piano piece that moves into “Sticks and Paper”, a more minimalist composition built around a repeating figure on the piano. “The Aviary” is yet another miniature that packs a big punch. The piano weaves a nostalgic memory with slight violin backing, holding back until halfway through when the floodgates really open for a 1940s themed love song. “Small Wonder” is the chilling two minute childhood fantasy of a troubled child while “Sea of Stars” could be another Tin Hat Trio song with a steady beat led by the bass harmonica.

“Adam’s Misfortune”, from Heaven’s Radio, took awhile to get to me, opening as it does with a monk chorus in a giant cathedral, being soon joined by similar female vocals in a foreign tongue. An ambient sound collage of background noises soon enter, a kind of hazy memory, overcoming the piano to become a squeaking, pulsing white noise before subdued but tribal drums wash over the surf, leading the way back to the forlorn piano melody and choral vocals. If Eraserhead needed a new soundtrack Lynch would need to look no further than “Adam’s Misfortune”.

Ravish is hands down the best new music for stage that I’ve heard in a decade. It’s also the only new music for stage that I’ve heard in a decade. Anyone who likes the quieter, spookier works of Danny Elfman but thinks that the man may be a bit past his prime should give these forlorn melodic memories a welcome home in their collection.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Cookin' With Gas

PGP encrypt,
FTP, Thresher, server:
Common work phrases.

I would give to you
This very nice brake hose clamp
But I have lost it

A bike ride to work:
Deceiving sunshine tricked me
Forty-one degrees

Took lunch too early
So now I feel it’s home time
But there’s one hour left.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

CD Review - The Minor White

Time for another 2009 Best Of Review! Sadly all I had was a digital copy to review and it somehow got erased before I could archive it forever. Time to shell out a few bucks, I suppose.

Pennsylvania’s “The Minor White”, named after a famous photographer, first caught my ear with the song “Go To Hell.” I’ve heard many songs by this unoriginal title and all of them have been angry missives full of thunderous drums and heavy guitars. But not the one by The Minor White. Instead the sound is subdued and mysterious, very much like “Blue Jay Way” by The Beatles but with a “Your Mother Should Know” piano part. The song smolders listlessly for most of its brief life, resigned to its fate before igniting into nearly two minutes of musical majesty led to conclusion by a fiery electric guitar.

Many of the other tracks on Old Theatrics also include a variety of parts that would normally seem jarring in being paired together. While many is the time when just such odd combinations have brought a smile to my face in this case it all fits so well, seamlessly flowing from one style to another, that you barely notice the change has occurred. And the fact that somehow these magicians can conjure these transformations in a brief 3.5 minute song only adds to their mystique. “Fever Scene,” for instance, opens with a landscape of sustained guitar chords and organs before becoming a jaunty happy spring day of a tune with light electric guitar and spritely drums, culminating in an uplifting folksy protest song a mere 3:33 from it’s inception.

Every song sports topnotch songwriting, incorporating to-die-for melodies with succinct instrumentation and lyrics that would make our own Vandolah proud. “Old Fashioned Drinker (In A River Of Gum)” is a nostalgic trip with melancholic vocals and sweet strings with such stream of consciousness lyrics as “I’m a straight-jacket jester in a cellar of gold”. “Money For Puppets” opens with only voice, a lone kick drum, and barely a guitar before bringing in the Everly Brothers and Randy Newman for a lurching, breezy rhythm sure to set your foot a’tapping. Despite obvious influences of Elliot Smith and Bob Dylan these merry melody makers somehow manage to blend in Wilco and Radiohead, even bringing in early Pink Floyd in for “Vaudeville”, sitting nicely beside upright bass, banjo, and violins that evoke a half-time feel of a bygone era.

Old Theatrics by The Minor White is an intoxicating mixture of opposites: folk instruments and electric guitars, vaudeville elements and modern music, a lonely feel couched in comforting warmth, acoustic and electronic living together in tension-filled harmony. Put on your brown derby and check out this collection of impressive songwriting with that new-fangled internets.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Haiku Continued

Oh... you thought I wouldn't keep this thing up... DIDN'T YOU?!?!?

Taxes are due NOW!
Better pay up fast before
Obama gets you.

It is a rare thing
To hear someone loudly yell
“Hey, lay off the sauce!”

The weekend equals
Tents in the basement, spouse time
And a hot breakfast.

Seven years ago
Melynda and I first met.
Life forever changed.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Fiscal Responsibility

It's not like I like to complain... but there's so much to complain about.

This morning I ran into construction traffic on my short one mile commute to work. Remember the stimulus bill in the fall of 2008 that was so urgent that even Senator John McCain left the campaign trail to run back to Washington to vote for it? It was so urgent that the money is JUST NOW being spent ... the summer before the mid-term elections and right before the primaries. "Hey, you idiots back home... look at the bacon I'm bringing back for you!"

Locally what I'm seeing is a lot of unnecessary construction work, which means that for a short time union-carded construction workers are employed, workers they hope will run to the voting booth and/or donate money to their campaigns. On Berry and Wayne, two one way streets in downtown, they have about a half mile of lanes orange barrelled off so they can... What? Fix potholes? Repave? Dig up and repair the aging sewer system that some government organization is mandating we fix at a cost of millions of dollars?

Nope. They're replacing each of the curb corners that meet the street with the new handicap-enhanced curbs. Now it's not like the curb corners are sheer drop-offs that would be difficult for someone in a wheelchair to navigate. Nosir, they are already sloped nicely, making it a joy and a breeze for those on bikes, pushing baby strollers or in wheelchairs to cross the street. I estimate there are about 100 corners in the area in question and I can't imagine that some construction crew is doing each corner for less than a thousand bucks. So at a minimum it is costing your children and grandchildren $100,000 to handicap corners that are already handicapped. Add in the cost of interest and you can probably double that. Add in the fact that I'm probably way low on my estimate and it's probably half a million for these unnecessary improvements.

Also being done in my immediate area is the repaving of State Street. They recently repaved a section just east of North Anthony... and then repeatedly dug it back up to do repair work and patched it so that a brief stretch is like driving over a corrugated tin roof (and I would know). But instead they are doing a stretch just west of North Anthony... the part that's in pretty good shape. This strikes home personally because THEY PUT A GIANT "CONSTRUCTION AHEAD" SIGN IN MY YARD! Okay, technically it's not in my yard but rather in the park strip... you know, the bit of land between the sidewalk and the street that I don't own but I'm responsible to maintain? Plus they spray painted all over the street and curb in front of my house to mark that there were no gas, cable, or electric lines directly in front of my house. So now when we open the front door we are greeted with a giant orange sign. We've been told that it will be there through mid-summer. I plan on mowing AROUND it through mid-summer and if they want it trimmed around the city can do that when they mow the center strip. I'm sure my neighbors will love it but my I don't plan to string five or six shorter cords together so my electric-powered weed trimmer can reach. And of course they can't place this giant sign in the median strip that runs down the middle of our boulevard because the laws state that is has to be on the right-hand side. Grumble grumble grumble.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Buffet Review #1

I would like to announce my lovely wife Melynda who is returning from her blogging self-exile in order to co-write today's entry. Welcome, lovely wife!

This past weekend we ate at The Black Buggy, an Amish buffet. No, not the kind of food Amish REALLY eat, as you can see from their carts at the local Wal-Mart which are piled high with Party Pizzas, Doritos, and more Doritos. No, this is stereotypical comfort food. Yep, all the comfort you can shove down your gullet.

The first thing we noticed was the sheer size of the building. It had electric lights and everything. Once inside we briefly browsed the store section which had such traditional Amish favorites as mulling spices, apple cider, and Amish taffy. We paid our admission, picked a seat, and then heading over to chow down.

From our vast years of buffet experience (and no, not that "singer"), at most buffets you will find dozens of different choices, a mere handful of which are items you like AND look appetizing. Not so at The Black Buggy! Sure, there were dozens of different choices but only a handful did NOT look appetizing. Even taking a little bit of each item there simply wasn't enough room in our average-sized bellies for all this food, even if one of them hadn't been inhabited by a tiny human. There was deep fried pork chops, crispy fried chicken, catfish nuggets, good meatloaf, mashed taters and gravy, Amish noodles, beef and noodles, roasted chicken, hamburgers, giant hot dogs, stuffed peppers, biscuits and gravy, baked tater casserole, hash brown casserole, baked beans, corn, giant salad bar, chili, peeled shrimps, ham and beans, macaroni and cheese, loads of prepared salads and fruit, baked potatoes, sauerkraut and sausage, fried cabbage, deep fried chicken livers and gizzards (not eaten by either of us), fried okra, cooked mushrooms, BBQ pork, chicken and dumplings, vegetable beef and a few other things our glutenous minds can't remember.

They also had fresh baked breads with Amish butter, which is, we think peanut butter and honey.

And then there were the desserts. Sure there was the usual self-serve soft-serve ice cream of vanilla, chocolate and swirl but there was also (gasp) fresh made cinnamon rolls, angel food cakes, quick breads, three kinds of yummy cobbler (not the gummy pasty stuff usually found at buffets), homemade cookies, pies and cakes. Lots of pies and cakes. Think of a pie... they probably had it. Well, they didn't have sugar cream but they had custard, peanut butter, chocolate, four or five kinds of fruit pies and... well, I'd best stop. They also had some sugar-free pies but really, what's the point of that at a buffet? And above all else, coconut cream pie which was super-D-liscious!

We hear they have a breakfast buffet...

Iiiiiiiiiiit's GARBAGE DAY!

Lazy afternoon
Crammed full of family tension
Down in Patoka

It is best to fast
At least a week before the
Black Buggy Buffet

Nothing says “love” like
A date with just your wife and
A buffet of meat.

Five hours in the van
Goes by like minutes with your
Best friend by your side.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Fee Fi Fo Fum

Concert Promoter
I am he and that is I
Who makes no money.

I am comfy for
My shirt is made of rayon.
I just made that up.

It’s a good feeling
When G.M. knows your name.
He just called me “Doug”.

You know it’s broom time
When your daughter dumps the bag
Of googily eyes.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Playing with Ketchup

Easter is too good
For a measly haiku but
Work with what you got.

Okay, I’ll admit
I ingested the very
Last potassium.

Roast beef in the fridge,
Thought you were fair game for lunch.
Maybe you were hers?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Review - Suit of Lights - Bacteria

Another review from last year... great nuvo-Brit-PopRock-hyphen-music-stuff

My eyes bulged when they read the info sheet on a band called “Suit of Lights” an noticed the name of “Trevor Dunn”, the bassist for Mr. Bungle, a bizarre band of yesteryear that has inspired some of my favorite bands of today. If Mr. Dunn was involved in this “Suit of Lights” band then they must be trippy weird, or at least an interesting diversion from the grey clouds of life.

Fortunately I was not let down though I was dead wrong about the “weird” bit. The songs on Bacteria, the second album by Suit of Lights, reach back into the past while bounding ahead into the future. The opening track, “Judgment Day”, includes giant slabs of 80s power-prog-pop (Asia and Yes during that period) while tempering things with quiet moments to amazing dramatic effect including a moving instrumental bridge that could have been included on Alice Coopers Welcome To My Nightmare album. “Colors of Hell” sports a British vibe with lush strings and a lopsided yet endearing keyboard melody played in 7/4 time. A sinister edge pervades “All In Good Time”, again evoking mid-70s Alice Cooper, but this is soon evaporated in the face of “Modern Miracle,” a poppy, peppy, breezy song full of snappy drums, muted trumpets, bouncy bass and wistful background vocals that evoke the carefree sound of The Turtles covering “Penny Lane.” If this song doesn’t slap a silly grin on your face and a butterfly in your heart, well, you’re more of a crusty curmudgeon than I and that’s saying a lot.

“Dark Matter Halo” is a bit of a downer with lyrics such as “And the question that you’re going to ask is / Did it amount to anything?” and other bits about the flies waiting for you to die but to distract you from getting too glum the band hits you with walls of deliciously noisy guitars and a rockier beat in “Halfway Houses of the Holy”. A somber piano and orchestral feel permeate both “Unfaithful Arms” and the album closer, “American Music”, showing a mature flair for composition within the cramped confines of the three minute song. My favorite song, however, is “Puppet Show”, a lively ditty where The Turtles meet The Zombies for a romp at the playground, wrapping a 3/4 beat around mischievous organs that are Lennon’s snide remarks against McCartney’s silly love songs.

I’m not really sure why they call the album Bacteria unless it’s because the songs are infectious, sticking in your mind and eventually crippling your immune system to the point where all you want to do is lay on the davenport and listen to this album. Like Elvis Costello, from whose song they took their name, Suit of Lights does an amazing job of crafting slightly off-center rock songs that bear definite traces of its late 60s art rock heritage.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Haiku 4 U

One haiku is pie
But ninety are difficult
Unless you don’t care.


April Fool’s Day is
The most high holy day for
My oldest daughter.

Three days in the tomb
Makes Friday schizophrenic
Thursday makes more sense.

Easter tomorrow.
Why does the sunrise service
Start the crack o’ dawn?

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Have a happy Good Thursday, everyone.

Remember, Truth over Tradition.

Fair - Disappearing World

Just published... Since submitting this I've come to realize that one of their many secret weapons is the drummer. I'm not a drummer and drums aren't what I first hear but this guy is all over the place! No, not showy all over the place but tastefully altering his drum patterns and adding just the right fills at just the right times. Joey Sanchez, my hat AND toupee are off to you!

Ten years ago a solo CD by some guy named Aaron Sprinkle joined my happy collection. I knew only that he was from one of those “Tooth & Nail” bands, gave the album a listen or two and then abandoned it as not worth my time to review.

Ten years ago I probably made a mistake.

This month I picked up the album Disappearing World by Sprinkle’s band Fair and zoo-wee Mama did they set the bar high for every other album released this year. It’s not that they do anything particularly different than all the other bands under the “indie” moniker but that they do it exceedingly well. Their specialty is finely crafted guitar and piano-driven indie songs that defy natural laws by packing so much goodness into such seemingly simple songs. Like any seasoned pro Fair makes these songs sound effortless, never getting bogged down in technical issues, always restraining themselves to play just the right note or sound or melody at just the right time.

Musically these songs could have come from any time in the past four decades, not being out of place on the albums of Todd Rundgren, Ben Folds, Joe Jackson or Death Cab For Cutie. The album begins quietly with sonic drips in the title song, soon blossoming into an endearing, cautiously cheerful song of chugging guitars, tasteful drums and iced with real strings. “Walking In My Sleep” has a delightful marching “I Am The Walrus” beat, mixing a pounding piano with dirty organs and a soaring, encouraging chorus.

This song also marks the first time the lyrics caught my ears. Some albums have great music and some have insightful lyrics but it’s rare to find one with both. With a truthful tongue in cheek Sprinkle sings “I never learned to fake it / So I never could fool you / With the honest truth.” “One Last Time” begins with the wry lyrics of “So the notion of a fiery end / Put me to sleep again,” while a breezy upbeat power pop beat leads the listener to revelation that “I could be sadder, I suppose,” a juxtaposition of dour ironic lyrics and cheery melodies that reminds me of the magic of They Might Be Giants in their first decade.

Lush orchestration marks the keyboard-driven “Take Some Risks” before leading to one of the most excruciatingly emotion-packed guitar solos I’ve heard in years, while the riveting rock of “The Escape Artist” brings in bits of Coldplay and Badfinger with a chorus of “You lost the human race / Another chip on your shoulder / Got a lot to get over.” “It’s Doubtful” packs a massive wallop of late 60s guitar-pop energy on top of lyrics like “If I’m happy / There’s a good chance I’m lying through my teeth,” taking us to the vulnerably honest “The Worst of Your Wear,” a quiet song of organs, acoustic guitar and the realization that “Life begins when the secrets end.”

This incredible album culminates with one of the best songs to have graced my ears in at least five years, “Anymore.” Starting off slowly, Sprinkle vulnerably sings over a haunting lone piano, “It’s almost like we’re here again / Right back where we started then / A shoddy alibi”, concluding “I don’t believe you anymore” as a fuzzy guitar adds it’s melodic underpinnings. Knowing what happens next only makes waiting through half a song of voice and piano all the more excruciating, yet it’s a most pleasurable waiting because eventually the piano grows a bit ragged, drums punch in and the entire band jumps into an urgent march as Sprinkle sings “I’ve got something to say / It’s serious” in a rocky variation of the previous verses. An orchestral feel builds as another guitar solo dazzles you with melodic self-control, the band builds in intensity, the guitar loses control, a crescendo and an abrupt ending that leaves you waving your arms in big backward circles to keep from falling over the edge of a cliff.

I’ll be the first to admit that much of the music I like is off the wall. Pretty much if I like something then the artist can kiss commercial success goodbye. But Disappearing World by Fair is an entirely different beast. It is artistic without pretension, disarmingly honest lyrically and packed with the kind of broadly appealing sophisticated/simple melodies that would make it rocket up the charts if only people could hear it. Not only have I heard what is sure to be one of the best albums of 2010, but I’ve “discovered” a tenured artist with a gold mine of past albums to delight my thankful ears, starting with the one gathering dust in my basement.