Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ho hum

I'll be over here if you need me.

Take note.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hitch Unleashed

Do yourself a favor and take a minute to read Christopher Hitchen's damning repudiation of McCain/Palin's anti-intellectual crusade in Slate:
This is what the Republican Party has done to us this year: It has placed within reach of the Oval Office a woman who is a religious fanatic and a proud, boastful ignoramus. Those who despise science and learning are not anti-elitist. They are morally and intellectually slothful people who are secretly envious of the educated and the cultured. And those who prate of spiritual warfare and demons are not just "people of faith" but theocratic bullies. On Nov. 4, anyone who cares for the Constitution has a clear duty to repudiate this wickedness and stupidity.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Obama Rally in St. Louis, Saturday, 10/18/08

According to the liberal elite media, a record 100,000 people showed up Saturday to attend to Barack Obama rally under the Gateway Arch in downtown St. Louis. That's a lot of pinko, terrorist-sympathizin' baby killers to congregate in one place! I'm surprised no one called the Army on us... By contrast, McCain only drew around 2,500 patriots to the pro-America suburb of St. Charles two days later.

Jesus Hussein Christ -- the xenophobic, McCarthyite attacks from the far right are starting to drive me a little nuts. I apologize. Two more weeks. I can make it.

Anyway, The Wife and I went to the rally. We brought along a few of her students who were really excited about going, and they were exceptionally well-behaved. I'm a terrible judge of distance, but I'd say we got somewhere between 30-40 yards away from the speaking podium (the zoom on my camera is just worthless). It was pretty cool to be part of such a large crowd, in a Red State of all places, but overall it was a fairly standard stump speech about the economy and health care. Still, at least I got to see the future president in real time. At one point, one of the speakers went silent for a few minutes and the crowd in my area started chanting "We Can't Hear You!", to which the rest of the crowd rejoined with a "Yes We Can!" Kind of funny; kind of annoying. Read about the real event here.

After the rally, we stopped off at Crown Candy Kitchen in Old North, and I ordered a chocolate banana malt and roast beef cheddar melt on sour dough that was out of this world. That was the real highlight of my Saturday.

Friday, October 17, 2008

"I even spilled my soy chai latte over my shitzu"

This is just too perfect - Obama roasting McCain at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Show Me Barely Contained Rage

I've been keeping an eye on the polling data on Missouri, and it's been real revitalizing to watch the state go from blood red to a vibrant shade of purple. In fact, up until a week ago, Obama was maintaining a small but steady lead in the Show Me state. The latest polling data I could find, though, puts McCain one percentage point ahead. Statistically, it's still a dead heat. There is hope.

Nevertheless, it's disturbing to note that road signs as sickeningly offensive as this are being spotted in my current home state. (Please note the completely superfluous use of quotation marks, in case you had any doubts about the sign-maker's mental acuity.) But at least it's somewhat reassuring that Missourians are also responsible for the popular "Rednecks for Obama" signs at the DNC back in August. It also helps that I live in the city, because everywhere I go I see Obama/Biden bumper stickers, yard signs, and T-shirts. On the rare occasion that I do see a McCain/Palin yard sign, it feels endearingly quaint and out-of-place.

Obama's coming to St. Louis this Saturday to give a speech under the Gateway Arch to shore up local support. I got an e-mail from his campaign asking if I'd like to RSVP for the event (as if there's going to be a person at the check point with a clipboard saying, "Ah, I see you're on The List; go right ahead, Sir."). I'm going.

McCain, however, doesn't come to the city; he goes to the county. And whoever wins the counties is going to win the state.

I still have a tough time understanding any appeal McCain might have left with moderates or indepedents. The Wife called me last night as she was on the road running errands, listening to the debate on the radio. "Did McCain just snort?" she asked. Yes, he snorted, guffawed, harrumphed, sighed, seethed, rolled his eyes, jutted his tongue, and gnashed his teeth. Who wants this guy in their living rooms for the next four years?

Side discussion: What's worse - the road sign of Barack "H" Obama in a turban linked to above, or the fake food stamps the GOP is dispersing in southern California that depict Obama next to an assortment of fried chicken, ribs, and watermelon?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Where’s that dumb pig now? Dead, that’s who.

This already feels like old news, but George Saunders' latest New Yorker spoof on Sarah Palin's unblinkingness and disjointed grammar is just too perfect not to share. Words fail to describe:

Explaining how she felt when John McCain offered her the Vice-Presidential spot, my Vice-Presidential candidate, Governor Sarah Palin, said something very profound: “I answered him ‘Yes’ because I have the confidence in that readiness and knowing that you can’t blink, you have to be wired in a way of being so committed to the mission, the mission that we’re on, reform of this country and victory in the war, you can’t blink. So I didn’t blink then even when asked to run as his running mate.”

Isn’t that so true? I know that many times, in my life, while living it, someone would come up and, because of I had good readiness, in terms of how I was wired, when they asked that—whatever they asked—I would just not blink, because, knowing that, if I did blink, or even wink, that is weakness, therefore you can’t, you just don’t. You could, but no—you aren’t.

Of course, we now know that her story of not blinking may be yet another one of her fanciful fabrications.

But now, re-reading Saunders' bit in light of Palin's cringe-inducing interview with Katie Couric, I think he may have been too generous in following the train wreck of her logic. Try making sense of this excerpt from the interview:

COURIC: Why isn’t it better, Governor Palin, to spend $700 billion helping middle-class families who are struggling with health care, housing, gas and groceries? Allow them to spend more, and put more money into the economy, instead of helping these big financial institutions that played a role in creating this mess?

PALIN: That’s why I say I, like every American I’m speaking with, we're ill about this position that we have been put in. Where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy. Um, helping, oh, it’s got to be about job creation, too. Shoring up our economy, and putting it back on the right track. So health care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions, and tax relief for Americans, and trade — we have got to see trade as opportunity, not as, uh, competitive, um, scary thing, but one in five jobs created in the trade sector today. We’ve got to look at that as more opportunity. All of those things under the umbrella of job creation.

Reducing taxes has got to accompany tax reductions and tax relief?

Oh dear.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Bloggers on Blogging, or, Why the Apocalypse is Near

I don't even know what to make of this. Apparently, there is a loose collective of eager-to-network St. Louis-area bloggers, nay, a "guild" of bloggers, who are hosting a conference on blogging this weekend. Yeah, you read that right. It goes without saying that this Well Respected Blogger is in no way affiliated with the local bloggers' guild because, as you are all well aware, I am a maverick, a renegade, a lone wolf from the Lone Star state, if you will. In other words, I wasn't invited to the party.

Still, I take it as a rather egregious slap to my chiseled, electronic face that I wasn't asked to be a keynote speaker at this event. Possible topics that I might have lectured on include:

"Solipsism: Why No One Will Enjoy Your Blog As Much As You"


"Music Blogging is Fun! Or, How To Post MP3s and Evade Johnny Law"

or, perhaps the most pertinent topic of all,

"Not All Bloggers Are Virgins (wink!): How To Juggle a Job, Two Blogs, and Still Give the False Impression That You Have a Life"

These events would have been standing room only. Clearly. Oh well, their loss.

In spite of this, the schedule of events that they have pulled together does pique my interest. CSS, vlogging, monetizing, oh my. The inner nerd in me says "Go, henceforth, and embrace your geeky brethren" but the outer nerd in me says, "What? And ruin your perfectly good plans to eat potato chips in your boxer shorts all weekend long?"

The timing is kind of bad (a little advance warning would have been nice), and as far as I can tell you have to purchase a weekend wristband to the whole silly PLAY:stl music fest to gain entry. $15 just to hear a couple bloggers talk about blogging while the audience live-blogs the event! Geez Louise.

I am such a dork for even thinking about going.

I am an even bigger dork for blogging about thinking about going.

I think it's going to be potato chips and boxer shorts for this lone wolf after all.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

And I said, "Thanks, but no thanks, to that blog to nowhere"

People keep asking me about my Well Respected Blog, which is weird because it means that there are some people who actually read it. Weirder still because I get the impression that some people even enjoy it. While I am obviously flattered by the prospect of a small herd of people smirking behind their computer screens at my infrequently updated, self-reflexively asinine comments on increasingly mundane things in the world around me and/or links to things on the Internet that I found to be moderately interesting or worthy of linkage, part of this does cause me to bristle. Mostly due to the unspoken assumption that my other blog, the one I actually put an ounce of effort into, is chopped liver. It's like college all over again - when I poured so much energy and focus into my band, the usual response I'd get from friends not in the band would be, "Oh, *yawn*, you're still doing that? Good for you." Thanks assholes. I love you too.

I jest, of course. But out of respect to the four or five people who have shown a glint of interest in this paltry blog, I suppose I owe it to them to update the darn thing once in a while. And what better segue back into the world of blogging than that of the hilariously under-qualified pro-God VP nominee of the Republican party, Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin! I'm going to bite my tongue on the litany of biblical disasters she would surely rain down onto the world should she somehow ascend to the throne in the Oval Office, and instead thank her for inspiring this video. I LOL every time I watch it (please note: video may not appear in your Google Reader):

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

See? Wasn't that worth the wait? No need to thank me now; I can feel the gratitude seeping through your web browser.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Pop vs. Soda

I always thought it was just a Michigan thing. I guess not.

Edited to add: I hate the formatting options of Blogger.

Friday, August 08, 2008

The Dogs of War, Redux

As Russia and Georgia seem poised on the brink of war, may I kindly direct your attention to these fascinating satirical maps of Europe in 1914.

So who else is excited for the Olympics?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Bat blog

Bruce: We hack the internet.

Alfred: Hack the internet?

Bruce: Yes, hack the internet.

General: No one's ever hacked the internet before.

Bruce: Well, there's a first for everything.

General: Okay, I like it. But which one of the internets do we hack?

Bruce: All of them.

--from The "rejected" Michael Bay script for The Dark Knight.

I watched The Dark Knight this weekend. For an action-adventure/comic book movie, it was pretty fucking incredible. But after reading Michael Bay's proposed script for the same film, I have to say that my mind was racing with the possibilities of what could have been. Recommended reading for film geeks and/or individuals who believe that Michael Bay is a talentless hack. Easily the second-funniest thing I've read on the internet all month.

In other movie news, Wall-E made me cry. No, really, it's that good.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Guys named Todd

Yes, George Carlin was a hilarious and hugely influential stand-up comedian, yadda yadda yadda. But you know what, I've got a bone to pick with that little weasel. For most of my adult life I've had a complex about my name, all thanks to the following bit:

You're probably laughing now, but try spending your prime adult years attempting to make a good first impression on people when every time you introduce yourself you hear George Carlin going "Taaaahhd" in the back of your head. Yeah, it's not that funny anymore. It kind of takes you down a notch.

Todd. Taaaahhd.

The Mrs., bless her heart, never fails to remind me how ridiculous my name is. There are really only two kinds of Todds in the world, she tells me, ice skaters and the villains from '80s teen comedies, who are typically blond and chiseled. For the record, I don't happen to fall into either category.

But George was right: Todd is a goofy fucking name.

Is it too late to start going by my middle name?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

My life is now complete

How did I manage to go so far in my life without ever having seen this before?

Friday, June 06, 2008

I don't even know where to begin

What's been going on at the Well Respected Blog? Only one post per month, and the last post was just a comic? Christ, I'm slipping. Okay, I'll try to bring the WRB back up to speed with a quick list of what I've been distracted by recently:

1. Moving.

2. Blogging about moving elsewhere.

3. Making sweet muzak:

3a. Band 1 is off to a slow start, but the tunage is promising. After two months I think we've finally found a drummer, which has really helped because rhythm guitar and bass can only hold your interest for so long. We still need another body or two to help flesh out the sound: lead guitarist, pedal steel guitarist, musical saw-er, something. I think our original goal of having an album recorded by the end of the summer is out of reach, but when the time comes (next summer?) it'll be something glorious.

3b. Band 2 started off with a bang. Nearly a month after being together we played our first show (without a name even). Here's a summation of the experience taken from an e-mail to a friend:

Well, I randomly played my first gig on Friday. So fucking weird. The drummer's other band was supposed to play, but the singer had to pull out, so... we filled in instead. And, surprisingly, it went pretty well. We played 10 songs in about 16 minutes. But what was really strange, and Blanks-esque, was the line-up of other bands playing. Upstairs there was this reggae show going on, and the club had this huge, dreadlocked rasta bouncer. So all the while as we were loading our equipment into the club (we had to park like a block down the street) we had to maneuver past these slow-moving reggae dancers and the strong scent of patchouli. Downstairs, where we played, the first act was this 40+ guy doing a soft acoustic set. We dubbed him "Esteban," but it turns out his name was actually Ken. After Esteban, this Rage Against the Machine-meets-Metallica-meets-dogshit metal band plays (you know the kind, the lead singer has a huge spike through his lower lip and screams into the microphone like an angry Daughtry; the lead guitarist has shaved eyebrows and crazy eyes; the drummer has an insanely huge drumset; the bassist has a Rancid shirt on). After this awesome metal set is... another acoustic set. This time by a sensitive type guy doing covers of songs like "Wonderwall" by Oasis. And then we went on. And then this band that started with a cover of "Kick Out the Jams" by the MC5 and ended with a cover of the Stooges' "TV Eye," during which the lead singer/guitarist, who looks exactly like Mr. Rosso from Freaks & Geeks, tries to solo out in the audience in front of a bunch of horrified women. I mean, wow, you had to be there.

After the strange success of that night, we managed to land another gig at a much more reputable venue, albeit with another confusing line-up. Us, a ska band, and a group that could only be described as Wine Bar music: earthy, groovy noodling on the guitar; lite funk on the bass; and bongo drums. Yyyyeah. The bar owner liked us, however, and asked us to come back a few weeks later. We were going to but... we decided to can our drummer. Bottom line: he had a double-bass pedal. And he used it. Buh-bye. So now we've got a new drummer, and it makes all the difference in the world. We no longer sound like a post-hardcore band, now it's more like a jangly, lo-fi sound, which I think is what we were hoping for from the beginning. The only problem? The new drummer went out and joined a traveling circus, so we'll only have access to her for random weeks throughout the summer.

Let's see... what else have I been up to? Oh yes...

4. Mowing the lawn, or attempting to.

5. Working.

6. Playing with all sorts of neat political statistical toys, like this one.

7. Celebrating Obama's primary victory!

8. Watching the Sex and the City movie. Dan, you must be getting a lot of lead paint chips falling into your salads if you thought this piece of garbage was any good. Atrocious doesn't even begin to describe it. It's like the producers gathered together a focus group of devoted 13-year-old fans with a combined IQ of 87 and asked them to write a script that was as predictable, self-indulgent, and superficial as possible. Oh, and to please throw in a crap-your-pants joke for good measure, because that always gets people laughing. Christ on a stick! I wanted to gouge my eyes out and vomit out my eye sockets. And I'm not ashamed to admit that there were parts of the TV program that I enjoyed, but the movie was just plain bad. And do you want to know the worst part? I got ID'ed. I haven't been ID'ed to buy beer at bars for years now, and yet I supposedly don't look over 17 in order to get into an R-rated movie? Come on!

Okay, that's it for now. Thanks for checking in, and don't do acid.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


If you've ever been to Cincinnati, you'd find this hilarious.

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Supremely Interesting Blog Post!

As you may have already noticed, I'm really quite unimpressive when it comes to this whole blogging thing. I mean, damn, if the McCain girls can grab national headlines with their grimace-inducing videos, I'm sure I could hold the attention of one or two of my distance friends at least once a week, right? All these empty days and no updates, it just gets to be a little intimidating after a while, you know.

But not this time! (<-- Credit goes to my dear friend Obama for that phrase.) Instead of worrying about having a "topic" or a "purpose" to a post, I'm just going to barf up a quick list of events that have happened to me recently (which I'm sure just sounds thrilling to you). So, fuck it, here goes:

1. I bought a house. It's a gorgeous two bedroom/two bath rehab in the Benton Park neighborhood, within noseshot of Anheuser-Busch. The best part about it? Now I get to stay positioned by my front door and yell "Git offa my property" whenever anybody walks past. As god as my witness, I am buying a gun to protect my new home. A cork pop-gun, but a gun nonetheless.

2. I survived an earthquake last night. Okay, so maybe "survive" is a strong word, since during my 15-second tussle with the seismic forces of planet earth, I spent the first third of the experience wondering if it was just my crazy cats having a heated duel at 4:30 in the morning. 'Twas not the case. In any event, I have now officially survived a tornado and an earthquake in my time. Score? Todd: 2, Mother Nature: 0.

3. Larry King is an awful interviewer. I simply cannot understand how this owlish man has earned a reputation as a master in his field. Persistence and a vampiric-like endurance are the only two plausible explanations I can come up with. Can anyone else think of a better reason?

4. If there's anything I hate more than magnetic bumper stickers (often of the "Support Our Troops" variety), it's the Live Strong bracelet. So you can only imagine my gleeful reaction upon seeing both trends mashed into one: a magnetic Live Strong bracelet on the back on an SUV. Brilliant! I heart America.

5. I've been trying to curse less. And then I drove to work this morning. Sorry, but since I'm already on a crotchety old man Andy Rooney-style roll here, allow me to make some state-by-state driving comparisons. In Michigan, people just tend to drive fast, and it's OK because the speed limit is typically higher. In southwest Ohio, people are more or less insane when they get behind the wheel, swerving in and out of lanes of traffic for no apparent reason other than to see what they can get away with (it's about as exciting as a drunken game of corn hole). The preferred method of changing lanes in metro Cincinnati is by suddenly cutting off the car behind you with only a few paint layers' distance to spare. The results are even more erratic once you head into ritzier areas like Hyde Park, where these Charles Bronsons in Beamers have no fear of increased insurance rates due to reckless accidents with commonfolk like me. In Missouri, however, people just lay on the brakes for no apparent reason. You can be driving down a perfectly straight road following a Missouri driver with no other traffic around, and then. Stop. They'll just push on their brakes and forget to speed up. It's bad enough when it's just one car breaking in front of you for no reason at all, but when you're surrounded by these oblivious blockheads, curses will fly.

6. Google rules my soul. And I'm kind of okay with that. I recently discovered the simple pleasures of Google Calendar and Google Reader, and - holy cow! - my internetting will never be the same. Sure, it's kind of scary all the data Google probably has on me, but I highly doubt I'll ever be in a situation where I would be important enough to be blackmailed by Google. "We understand you're running for Mayor, Mr. Blogger, but how would you like it if your constituents knew what you were Googling at 8:23 pm, November 14 when you were 21 years old? Bwahahahaha!" I guess I'm just not vain enough to worry.

7. I've been playing my bass again. With other people. With two other sets of people, more precisely, and things are starting to sound pretty good. If you behave, I'll even dedicate a bass solo to you -- Ooh, so smooth! You know you want it.

8. I make no guarantees that I will update this again anytime soon, or regularly thereafter.

Finally, you have to burn the rope. No, really, you do.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

You look like a mingler

So, did you hear, the Kids in the Hall are touring, eh? I already picked up tickets for their May 20 stop at the Pageant and begrudgingly paid the exorbitant TicketMaster "convenience" fee (which is so convenient that it's actually charged to each ticket purchased, because somehow having a computer process a payment is a very costly endeavor). I can't wait.

I watched the sketch comedy show obsessively as a kid, which probably explains why my early teen humor was so bizarrely dependant on highly inappropriate queer jokes, Satan, and sarcasm. But while the show was brilliant for its oddities like chicken ladies, cabbage heads, head crushers, and flying pigs, I think oftentimes the simplest gags were the most effective. Here are a couple of my favorites skits:

Friday, March 21, 2008

Dig it, the dancing bean

My wife, for reasons unbeknownst to me, thinks I dance like this:

Pfft. She crazy. Everyone knows I dance more like this:

And when I'm feeling particularly frisky, you might catch me busting out a little bit of this:

Oh yes, ahem, and while we're on the subject of dancing prowess, it appears that local St. Louis novelty mop-topped concert goer Beatle Bob has not only been spotlighted by the Associated Press, but that his arrhythmic devotion to the Rock and/or Roll has earned him a feature in Blender, the magazine for men who like breasts and baseless music reviews.

A to Z and Highway 61 Revised have more info on the perplexing presence of this local club fixture. Dude's even getting a documentary. A teaser is now available:

A lot of locals can't stand him, though. An enigma wrapped in a conundrum wrapped in controversy, that one is.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The funnies

Leave it to people with more creative cynicism (and evidently more free time) than me to turn my least favorite cartoon strips into two of the funniest websites I've ever run across. The first is Marmaduke Explained, which, you guessed it, explains why the daily Marmaduke cartoon is supposed to be funny in 500 words or less. Here's an example with a typically Marmadukian scenario in which the oversized Great Dane is dragging his Owner Man behind him on a walk:

Marmaduke destroyed his owner-family's mailbox (and probably a number of other things) during his afternoon walk with his owner-man. Owner-Man makes light of the mailbox situation to his wife, yet another example of how the bulk of their communication is a numb, disconnected and empty series of weak jokes and ironic understatements deployed in order to distance themselves from the horror and futility of spending their lives as the prisoner-slaves of their powerful, self-serving ogre of a dog.

This site has been a steady stream of amusement ever since I first stumbled across it a year or so ago. It's well worth browsing through the archives to find the tasty bits about Marmaduke, the Owner Lady, and frottage. If my cubicle neighbors were ever wondering why I randomly choke on laughter, this is it.

Another revision of the Sunday Funnies worth checking out is Garfield Minus Garfield, in which someone with access to Photoshop strips every Garfield cartoon of the fat, lasagna-loving cat, leaving Jon looking like a sad, delusional man with predictably humorous results. Check it out:

Monday, February 25, 2008

Been busier than Javier Bardem

As any long-time reader of this blog can attest to, I don't lead a particularly bloggable life. This past weekend, however, was unusually action packed. The big news is that I'm an uncle! My sister gave birth to her first kid Saturday afternoon at 12:46 p.m., after a prolonged labor that started Thursday or Wednesday. The extended labor had everyone worried, but after several phone calls from my folks (mostly of the "Hi, we're calling to tell you that we don't have any new news" variety) everyone is now happy and healthy. In case you are interested, my new niece has brown hair like her favorite uncle, and also like her favorite uncle she is a Pisces. The extra good news is that little Zoe now takes off any pressure on me to beget grandchildren for my parents for the time being.

While becoming a parent will undoubtedly change my sister's life forever, my life also started down a new, exciting, and irrevocably nerdy path this last weekend. Say goodbye to normal socializing, books, television, bathing, shaving, feeding the cats, or giving a damn what the neighbors think: I got a Wii! The wife won it on eBay, and while it was technically supposed to be a birthday present for yours truly for the following week, when the UPS man finally delivered it on Friday (waiting till the last possible, infuriating minute, I might add) there was just no sense in keeping it locked up. And, O sweet Jeebus, I am never leaving the house again. It is ridiculously fun.

Now, I've never been hugely into video games -- in fact, I haven't owned a new gaming system since I had the 32X adaptor for my Sega Genesis, and even then the only thing that got me going was Road Rash II -- but the Wii has the sort of intuitively fun gameplay that appeals to a wide cross-section of demographics that happens to include both me and my wife. We played it pretty much non-stop this weekend, and already we've almost beaten the final Star Battle in Mario Party 8. My entire right arm is sore from all the thwacking, swinging, shooting, jumping, and sawing. The pain will go down eventually, right?

This was an extraordinarily generous gift from my wife -- especially considering how our early days of "dating" consisted of her coming over to my apartment to watch me and my stoned friends play Soul Caliber -- so this tells me that I was an even better husband than I had realized on Valentine's Day.

Speaking of dating, the wife and I actually had a decent excuse to get dressed up on Saturday night. After a dinner of Persian cuisine and chocolate milkshakes, we indulged in a little musical theatre with the traveling Broadway production of Avenue Q, playing at the Fabulous Fox Theatre (which features an elaborate "Siamese Byzantine" interior that truly is fabulous). The musical centers around a group of Sesame Street-esque puppets searching for their purpose in life, in affordable (read: slummy) apartments in New York City. The songs touched on racism, shadenfreude, closeted homosexuality, masturbation, and, most poignantly, "What Do You Do With a BA in English?" That's something I've been asking myself for these past four years. Despite the unnecessary Gary Coleman jokes (he was the super of the building), it was a really enjoyable production.

All in all, it was quite a weekend. Enough excitement to get me through my first five-day work week in some time, I expect.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


...and looking for something to do. Any recommendations?

Friday, February 15, 2008


Big day for Senator McCain. Today his former rival Mitt Romney endorsed the old man, with the grapevine also abuzz over a possible endorsement from George the Elder for the ex-POW. My only thought on the matter is this: if McCain wins the general election in November, my dad could have a second career as a presidential impersonator for at least the next four years. Could be interesting.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy VD!

Ah, Valentine's Day. My favorite time of year to pay tribute to the patron saint of generic S-shaped diamond pendants and artificial sentiment. Originally, the wife and I had planned to forego buying each other presents and instead put the money toward our trip in March (why spend Spring Break in Indianapolis when for a few dollars more you can go to, say, Jamaica?). But while she was verbally OK with that agreement, she also managed to drop enough clandestine hints to suggest that I would be a predictably unromantic cheapskate if I didn't get my new wife something to celebrate our first Valentine's together as a married couple. (She will, of course, deny this was her plan but I'm not as slow as I look. Women! Am I right, or am I right?) And considering I had completely skipped out on Sweetest Day, which was apparently a no-no even though as a holiday it's more contrived than Earth Day, there was an expectation to deliver this time around.

My excuse of "But baby, every day is like Valentine's Day when you're with me" no longer seems to get as much mileage as it used to, if it ever got me anywhere

So while the wife was out at her grad class last night, I headed out to the mall. The mall, if you've ever been, is hell on earth. Everything about it is designed to make you feel inadequate. Out in the parking lot, you're feeling snazzy and confident about your appearance and demeanor. And then as soon as you enter the sliding glass doors you feel like a pig farmer caught on To Catch a Predator. Your hair is a few locks into mullet territory. Your teeth are too yellow. Your skin is shiny. Your fingernails are packed with some undistinguishable grime. Your coat has too much cat hair on it. Your shirt isn't fitted properly and your pants haven't been washed in weeks. Your shoes are scuffed beyond the help of a shoeshine boy. It's a depressing experience, is what I'm driving at. I can see why so many people my age are in mountains of credit card debt - going to the mall to punish their self-esteem and buy expensive items they don't need to feel better about themselves.

I got in, got what I wanted, and got out. Okay, it wasn't exactly that easy. I got lost on my way driving to the mall (the highway is closed and I thought I was being clever with a shortcut; I was not), I parked in front of Dillard's and then got lost wandering around Dillard's trying to find a way out into the mall (hidden behind the perfume counters); and then I got lost walking furiously around the second floor of the mall trying to find the handbag of my pursuit (turns out the store was on the first floor). And then I impulse bought some earrings. I spent way more than my original budget of $0 allowed.

Back at home, I strategically hid a variety of eight different animal Valentine's cards with sickendingly cute expressions like "You're Purr-fect" (kittens) or "Valentine, I think you're fetching" (puppy with a stick), each with a temporary tattoo of the appropriate critter, to be dispensed at various times throughout the course of the day. I stowed away the gifts and the box of heart-shaped chocolates I had bought a long time ago. Last but not least, I finalized the playlist of the Valentine's Day mix CD I had been working on in lieu of actually updating my music blog (sorry Scotter!). The playlist, if you need any help on your own, goes a little something like this:
  1. The Lucksmiths - Adolescent Song of Mindless Devotion
  2. The Magnetic Fields - Absolutely Cuckoo
  3. Sakert! - Sanningsdan
  4. Jon Brion - Knock Yourself Out
  5. Belle & Sebastien - I'm a Cuckoo (Avalanches remix)
  6. The Shins - Strange Powers (Magnetic Fields cover)
  7. Tullycraft - Twee
  8. Brendan Benson - Alternative to Love
  9. Beulah - If We Can Land a Man on the Moon, Surely I Can Win Your Heart
  10. Saturday Looks Good To Me - Ultimate Stars
  11. Hidden Cameras - A Miracle
  12. The 6ths - You You You You You
  13. She and Him - Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?
  14. They Might Be Giants - Love is Eternity
  15. The Unicorns - Sea Ghost
  16. Devendra Banhart - Lover
  17. The Rosebuds - What Can I Do?
  18. Apples in Stereo - Seems So
  19. Go Sailor - Bigger Than an Ocean
  20. Ladybug Transistor - Splendor in the Grass
  21. of Montreal - Nickee Coco and the Invisible Tree
  22. The Rentals - The Love I'm Searching For
  23. Adam Green - Dance With Me
  24. The Mountain Goats - Going to Georgia
  25. The Zombies - This Will Be Our Year

It's not easy making a mix for someone who shares your entire music collection, so obviously there are going to be songs on it that she's familiar with, but I think I managed to sneak in mostly new stuff on there for her. It's a tad twee-heavy, but I needed a theme to work with.

The rest of the day will include kabobs at our favorite neighborhood restaurant, followed by gelato at our favorite dessert place until the Ted Drewe's Frozen Custard stand reopens in the spring. Oh, and keeping the wife away from the computer until after she's received everything she's gonna get.

Do you think this will earn me any romance points? Nah, who am I kidding, I'm just barely skating by on even.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Mystery Kibbitzer

I saw in the news today that the Coen brothers have acquired the screen rights to film Michael Chabon's novel The Yiddish Policemen's Union. (Okay, not that I consider Variety magazine to be the "news" or that I check it regularly, or ever, but this is exciting news nevertheless.) I can't imagine a better-suited team to handle the mixture of mystery and comedy that pervaded the novel than the Coen brothers. In fact, the entire time that I was reading the book, my handicapped 21st century imagination kept picturing the events unfolding as if it was a movie, from the sour patzers at the Einstein Chess Club to the daring, near-naked escape from Peril Straight. I just can't wait until I start to hear about the casting. Who could possibly fill the role of Willie Dick, the miniscule Indian police chief whose office and motorcycle are built to two-thirds scale? For some reason I kept picturing Mel Brooks as the boundary maven Itzik Zimbalist.

Is it only a coincidence that the publishers of this book originally marketed it with a movie-like trailer?

I started a book club in St. Louis a little while ago, and the first book we discussed was The Yiddish Policemen's Union. Not as many people showed up as I had hoped, but what we lacked in quantity we made up for in quality. Everyone seemed to enjoy the book, even if the ending did go a little too far-our, Law & Order for our tastes. (If you watch Law & Order, particularly the SVU variety, you'd know that I'm not saying the book got bogged down in technical legal jibber jabber, but how solving one murder case somehow spirals into much larger, less believable conspiracies that always manage to implicate well-organized, nefarious criminal entitities. I imagine the Coen bros. could make this absurd escalation more enjoyable.) I selected the book after falling in love with the much touted, Pulitzer Prize-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which, incidentally, is also being made into a movie.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Sometimes I wish I had a camera on me at all times

Yesterday, because I was sick and had taken the day off, I was headed to St. Louis Bread Co. (what the rest of America knows as Panera) for some chicken noodle soup to lift my spirits. And lo and behold, what should I see but a make shift stand advertising "Ashes To Go." You cannot make this shit up. There were three individuals standing around in flowy white robes with a synthetic sheen to them, apparently imposing ash marks on the foreheads of busy city dwellers who care about repentance and eternal salvation but not enough to actually go to church.

One of the enterprising ash-givers was a woman, so I knew they weren't priests. One of them was eating a burrito, which I found to be a particularly humorous sight. The last one was engaged in a long, drawn-out transaction with a passer-by. I don't know about you, but if I wanted my ashes in a hurry I wouldn't want to be troubled with excessive chatter. There seemed to be an exchange of money. I couldn't tell if they were charging for the ashes, or simply asking for a suggested donation, but something about a pay-per-blessing scheme seems a little Medieval to me. But what do I know? That's capitalism for ya.

Ashes To Go. God's honest truth. If I only had a camera.

Monday, February 04, 2008

What's today's top story?

Thanks, Post-Dispatch, for sharing the really important stories.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Why I don't go out

This past weekend I had the brilliant idea that instead of staying in, I was going to go out. Thankfully for me, there were two local music shows of interest taking place on Friday night from which to choose. The first show promised to be a standard-fare indie rock show, headlined by the band So Many Dynamos that was featured on the cover of the local alt weekly not too long ago, and generally seem to be regarded in the community as the local saviors of indie rock because they have big bangs and have done some recording work with one of the dudes in the band Death Cab for Cutie (warning signs #1 & 2). This was a free show with free parking in a neighborhood I'm familiar with and, judging from their MySpace page, it was their last show in the city for some time.

My alternate show option was the CD release party for a hip-hop group called Earthworms, and they were apparently once voted the "#1 Hip-Hop Group in St. Louis" by the local alt weekly. This show promised to have live bands, DJs, tee-shirt printmaking, and other things to appeal to my thirst for pop culture paraphernilia. Although the venue's location was about equidistant from my house as the first place, it was in a neighborhood I have yet to explore, and their MySpace made it look like I had plenty of other chances to catch them live in the near future.

So I ended up going with show option #1. Besides, having just returned from a dinner at Applebee's, I was dressed and ready to go to an indie rock show. Here's a breakdown of how my night went:

8:35 - I park and begin wandering around the SLU campus. Not really sure where the venue is, I spot a small group of young folks with angular bangs and brightly colored scarves and retro sneakers. I follow them into the Billiken Club (located in the basement of the SLU student center).

8:40 - Inside the club, I step up to the bar. "I'll have a Bud, barkeep," I said (or something to that effect). He doesn't bother ID'ing me despite the prominent "We ID!!" sign because it's fairly obvious that, after the bartender, I'm the oldest guy in the place.

8:41 - "Hi!" says a perky young man suddenly sitting next me. "Do you see my friend over there?" He points to a young lady in a brown T-shirt. I nod uh-huh. "Well, she thinks you're super cute," he remarks. And then adds, after looking me up and down, "And I can certainly see why she thinks that." Oh brother. "Gosh, well, tell her 'thank you' for me." Seeing how he didn't have a crumpled up note requesting me to circle either "Yes" or "No" to the question of whether or not I found his friend cute in return, I turned my attention to the first sip of my local brew.

8:50 - A woman is talking to me. She's telling me her plan to build up good credit by buying one pair of socks every month on her credit card, and how if she could move anywhere besides St. Louis it would be Texas because the whole state's racist and that's really funny somehow. She's Asian. I'm Texan. I think I missed the punchline. She asks me if I know many people in the city since I just moved here. I answer "my wife." She decides to go to the stage to see if the first band is about ready to play.

9:00 - The first band starts to play.

9:35 - The first band is finishing up their set. Not bad, they definitely got better later on in their set - big choruses, a gawky trumpet player, and two female backing vocalists who looked as uncomfortable being on stage as I was standing in the crowd. They were called Say Panther (I know, indie, right?) and judging from local concert calendars they open for just about everyone just about every week.

9:50 - Band #2 starts. They're called Maps & Atlases (again, tres indie). The lead singer has a(n ironic?) mustache. They play jumpy, frenetic rhythms with wound-up vocals.

9:55 - I begin to notice that there are some really young people here. Like, really young. Are those people standing next to me in high school? Junior high? That one boy can't be any older than 11, 12 max.

10:00 - Overheard: "Have you ever heard the van Kellar?," asks one tall, skinny boy in tight black jeans with greased down bangs, a stud earring, and a black jacket with a fur hood. "The what?," replies a similar-looking tween metrosexual wearing mascara. "The band Hella (?)." "No." "Yeah, they sound just like this band [Maps & Atlases] except they don't have any vocals and the drummer is like three times better." "Oh, cool."

10:35 - The set feels like it goes on forever. I think it ends sometime around here.

10:45 - The headliners So Many Dynamos are setting up the stage for their performance. The 12 year old boy I saw earlier is now howling with anticipation. Actually, it's more like barking. In any case, it's frighteningly mannish for a boy of his age.

10:50 - The group of high school girls is now in a circle, doing some clapping and chanting thing that you probably saw kids do back on the playground in elementary school. I am definitely too old to be here.

11:00 - So Many Dynamos start playing. I mentally commend the venue and the sound guy for running such a tight ship.

11:01 - If I didn't know any better, I'd say this was emo. (I've heard them described as being akin to the Dismemberment Plan, and checking on allmusic... yup, sure enough, emo.) People seem to be into it, though.

11:10 - I coined a new term: emo headbanging. Whereas traditional heavy metal-inspired headbanging consists of moving one's head back-and-forth in a rapid "banging" motion; emo headbanging consists of moving one's head quickly from one side to the next, emulating the directional movement of one's bangs.

11:15 - Uhhh.....

11:20 - OK, so maybe it wasn't the most well thought out plan, coming out tonight. The show was still playing, but I was throwing in the towel. At least there was KDHX's Deep Krate Radio with hosts Fly D-Ex and DJ Iceman playing on the drive home to remind me that in the future perhaps I should opt for supporting local hip-hop over generic, albeit local, indie rock.

Paczki Day!

Today is Paczki Day and that can mean only one thing: later today I will be foregoing dinner and stuffing my face with a couple of the overstuffed, gelatinous pastry blobs you see above. Growing up in a WASP household in the largely Dutch, Christian Reform stronghold in western Michigan, I wasn't exposed to the wonders of Paczkis. I was, however, fortunate enough to have a Polish-American wife who grew up near certain Polish immigrant enclaves in Detroit where local bakeries carried on the time-honored tradition of pouring all their remaining lard, sugar, and fruit into these delectable confections as a way to celebrate Fat Tuesday before Lent. In fact, her great-grandfather on her mother's side used to work as a baker in Hamtramck where I'm sure they indulged in their annual Paczkis. So, to the residents of Hamtramck, you're welcome.

Now, I know you may be thinking, "But Todd, you don't observe Lent, why do you feel the need to partake in this historical religious and cultural observance?" Well, I may not observe the birth of a Jesus H. Christ either, but that doesn't stop me from exchanging gifts with my family once a year. It's one of the few benefits of being a 21st century secularist: selectively picking the traditions I feel like observing, and weeding out any possible boring or depressing side effects.

Speaking of Fat Tuesday, Saint Louis is also apparently home to the country's second largest Mardi Gras celebration. Seeing how I cringe at the thought of crowds and generally frown upon drunken buffoonery, I'll probably be sitting this one out.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Yeah, intelligent input, darling

My review of Kate Nash's outstanding new album Made of Bricks is now posted on Playback:Stl. The video below is of the album's debut single, "Foundations." And she's British, in case you hadn't already gathered that much.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Friday, January 18, 2008

Free beer!

Wow, I can't believe anybody ever thought this plan would be problematic. Makes perfect marketing sense to me.

Distorted opinions

This week has been Stephin Merritt mania! First I wrote a fairly standard review of the new Magnetic Fields album Distortion for Playback:STL, which was published earlier in the week here. Then, deciding that wasn't enough, I wrote an entirely new essay (and I do mean essay) and more than doubled my word count for the Post-Rockist, including audio, in this new post. So don't think I haven't been writing lately; I have been. Just not here so much. Keep up!

The new album is a huge change, but it's caused me to go back and listen to their back catalogue all over again. Here's a brief selection of some favorites I found on video. The boys at Better Chatter have posted their own Stephin Merritt playlist worth checking out if you still have any money left on your iTunes gift cards leftover from Xmas.

"Born on a Train"

"With Whom to Dance"

"All the Umbrellas in London"

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Writers: Keep On Strikin'

It may be heretical for me to say so, but to be perfectly honest I'm actually a little relieved that the Writer's Guild of America is on strike. And the reason is quite simple: I'm turning into a political junkie. Now I may enjoy watching reruns of How I Met Your Mother as much as the next guy, but I can't imagine anything providing me with as much sheer entertainment value as this 2008 presidential campaign. This is human drama at its finest. I may not be a sports fan, but I imagine this is how they feel tracking their favorite teams, watching the development of underdogs and budding star talent, witnessing old heroes crumble, predicting potential playoff scenarios, tallying mounds and mounds of useless statistics, and debating the relative merits of questionable wins and losses. When Obama gave his victory speech in Iowa last week I nearly cried, I was so moved. Hearing Tom Brokaw make fun of John McCain's uninspired victory speech in New Hampshire left me in stitches.

So no, I don't need Hollywood's writers to resume work and continue to distract my time with programming that more often than not is tasteless, boorish, and completely unmemorable (even though it's so often hard to resist). I've got enough media to consume these days. My 40-minue commute to and from work is mostly spent tuned in to 90.7 KWMU (St. Louis NPR and Public Radio International); I don't even remember the last time I brought a CD into my car. Throughout the day I'm reading stories from The Morning News, Google News, Daily Kos, and The New York Times. I'll listen to NPR's It's All Politics podcast with Ken Rudin and Ron Elving, even though I wish it was updated more than once a week. I've even been trying to keep up with local news, although St. Louis media doesn't make that an easy task -- the website for the Post-Dispatch is all but useless, and the alternative paper the Riverfront Times doesn't place much of an emphasis on politics at all. Thankfully there are some local blogs that pick up the slack, particularly Pub Def, although Urban Review STL and a few others are doing a good job too. And then to top it all off, MSNBC's caucus and primary coverage has been a real pleasure to watch, even if Chris Matthew's is increasingly becoming a caricature of himself; at least Matthews and Keith Olbermann have more interesting opinions than CNN's Wolf Blitzer, who, let's be honest, doesn't have the chutzpah to be the channel's main selling point.

Now, it may be wrong to consider politics a form of entertainment, but that's honestly what it's come to these days, and it's a far more respectable form of entertainment than the return of American Gladiators. So guilded writer's of America, keep on striking; I've got Ken Rudin and Keith Olbermann to keep me occupied for now.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Grad Programs Considered, Then Re-Considered

Do you know anyone who’s truly happy with their job? I sure don’t. It’s so strange because, as a kid, everyone asks you, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” as if there are some really great opportunities out there – just use your imagination and you can do it! But it's not so easy, is it. As Jarvis Cocker put it, “Oh we were brought up on the Space Race, and now they expect you to clean toilets.”

I started a new job recently, so I’ve been giving a lot of thought to jobs and careers, hats to wear and ladders to climb. I’ve spent most of my time the past few weeks cutting and pasting different things into different Word documents, occasionally typing a few letters and numbers here and there. It’s about as exciting as it sounds. But overall it’s an improvement over my last job, in that I’m getting paid more to do less work, which, after all, is one of my major goals in life (although perhaps I’m just starting to come to grips with how much my old job overworked and underpaid me).

Still, I’m dogged by delusions that there is a perfect job out there for me somewhere, a delusion made even more ungraspable by the fact that I’m a twenty-something stuck in the Midwest. So it’s no surprise that I’ve given a lot of thought over the years to grad school, the purest form of escapism. The following is a list of graduate programs I have at one point or another seriously considered, and then later decided against (in alphabetical order):

American Studies – What a perfect waste of time. This degree had to have been created by folks who realized that a general “Liberal Arts” degree was a criminally useless waste of money, but who wanted to remain in school even though they still couldn’t decide what they wanted to study, so they just took courses in everything ranging from political history to pop culture (books, movies, music) and called it a specialization as long as it all dealt somehow with America. I’m sure I would love taking courses in this sort of program, but I’m also sure I would be pretty upset when I realized I was deeply in debt after paying for an unmarketable “degree.”

Communication – What the hell is a Communication degree good for anyway, and why did I want to get one for so long? I’ve never met anyone who’s benefitted from having a Master’s in Communication, just folks a few years older and starting out in the same positions as me.

English Literature – Getting a graduate degree in English Lit was one of my primary ambitions as an undergrad, until I realized a few things: (1) Spending two years of my life in a Master’s program wouldn’t help me get any further along than just spending two years working in a career field I was interested in; if anything, it would set me back two years. And (2) I didn’t want to spend seven-plus years in a Ph.D. program that more than likely wouldn’t provide much financial support (shockingly, literature doesn’t fare as well against the sciences when it comes to university grants), and then spending most of my adult life waiting for old, cardigan-ed professors in prestigious universities to die while I wasted away pining for tenure at some podunk school in the middle of nowhere.

History/Archival Studies – Same as above. Plus, I didn’t major in History. I’d be better off reading Jeff Shaara on my lunch break.

Law – If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years since graduating from college, it’s this: Any ol’ chump can get into law school; they just have to be willing to pay. Seriously, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been left speechless after learning that someone is a lawyer or law student. If that person can do it, I think incredulously, I know I could kick some major law school ass. But when I hear how most law school grads are unhappy, buried in mountains of debt, and tied to an 80 hour a week job that drains them of their soul, I tend to think twice of this as an option. Still, the fighter in me refuses to rule this out.

MBA – Stop laughing. I have honest-to-goodness thought about joining an MBA program. When you work in large international, multi-billion dollar companies like I do, you quickly realize that having advanced business training can put you ahead of the curve. While I tend to instinctively gag when I click on MBA program’s student profiles and see hundreds of similarly navy suit-clad drones smiling back at me, if my employer was willing to pay for me to go to a part-time MBA program (if they thought I was valuable enough) I would totally consider it a possibility.

MFA in Writing – Would be great, except that I don’t write.

Molecular Microbiology and Microbial Pathogenesis – Still a strong contender for this one.

Psychology (Clinical) – For some reason I am particularly choosy when it comes to Clinical Psych programs. I blame my heavily Freudian psych professor in college for biasing me against most traditional programs. Plus, as my good friend Josh once pointed out when I told him I was going to major in Psychology in college, “Why? You hate people.” The words stuck (and are true on most days).

Psychology (Industrial/Organizational) – I know, I’ll parlay my psych education with my business background! Brilliant! Oh wait, I/O Psych is basically an elaborate HR position. It’s like the worst of both worlds. Pass.

Psychology (School) – Refer to the notes on Clinical, and add to that the fact that I can’t stand to be around children.

Psychology (Social) – God, I’m just grasping at straws here, aren’t I?

While this is a cynical list, dreams die hard with the Well Respected Blogger and chances are good that I’ll be recycling the pros and cons of this list as 2008 progresses. In the meantime, it’s back to the working week for me. To paraphrase Elvis, I gotta do it till I’m through it so I better get to it.