Thursday, December 23, 2010

Top Ten Thursdays: How are we livening up the holidays?

10) Drinking 12 vials of 5-Hour Energy and doing all of our Christmas shopping in 15 intense minutes.

9) Telling mother the truth about the “friend” we brought home from college.

8) Making naked snow angels.

7) Spiking the punch at the office party with peyote, then dressing up like a coyote and ordering our boss to give us a raise.

6) Sending out Christmas cards with photographic evidence showing why husband became ex-husband.

5) Letting Elmo tickle us.

4) Watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer while playing Dark Side of the Moon.

3) Tying an iPad to a fishing line and pulling it through crowded mall.

2) Setting concealed bear traps by the tree to catch Santa.

1) Whipping out the mistletoe cockring.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday Random 11

It's one more random than 10!

After more than five months, I am finally home. I am in my own house, in the area where I want to live, with only The Lovely Becky and Libby under the same roof with me (and our furry, butt-licking children, Stinky and Jonesy).

My mood improved almost as soon as we moved in. Despite all the chaos of boxes and detritus and the constant playing of where-the-hell-is-that-thing-I-need-right-goddamned-now, I felt settled for the first time since we moved in July. Actually, for the first time since March, when TLB found out she got her new job and we started making preparations to leave da UP.

I feel like a bit of an ass making a big deal out it. After all, despite living with my in-laws, it’s not like I was living a life of hardship. They have a spacious, beautiful house, and they were extremely generous and accommodating. And yet the change in my mood made me realize that I had been rather depressed living there. I think it was because I felt rootless. No matter how nice the surroundings are, it’s very difficult to feel at home in someone else’s home. Compound that with me working at home, having to set up my office in our bedroom, and living in a place where it was hard to get out during the day because everything was rather far away, and I felt a bit trapped, too.

But now it’s all good. We love our house, we love where we live, and it’s very likely that this is where we’ll stay for a long, long time. There’s even a nice retirement castle up the street, so when I get old and forgetful or old and ornery or old and incontinent, Libby can stick me in there.
Now it’s music time, and with my desktop PC back, I have access to all my music again. Let’s demonstrate the musical capabilities of this fully operational Battle Star!

1) “Block Rockin’ Beats,” The Chemical Brothers. Speaking of my Battle Star, yesterday I got my desktop set up again. I hooked up my pretty heavy-duty Klipsch computer speakers and subwoofer, which I had kept in storage so I wouldn’t annoy my in-laws with Geddy Lee bass lines for the last few months. I planned to christen the new home office (conveniently located in the basement) with a foundation-shaking playing of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.” Unfortunately, just after getting iTunes updated and ready to go, my speakers died before I could reach the first Angus Young power chord. Ain’t that a b? It’s especially too bad because this Chemical Brothers classic would sound much more awesome if it wasn’t coming out of my little Dell Yugo speakers.

2) “Nowehere Again,” Secret Machines. I really think the best moment of the past week was the first night I slept in my own bed again. It’s not just the familiarity of my own space, it’s also that TLB is a master sleep-designer. She has always been a bit of an insomniac, so she has tried to fight that by making our bed insanely comfortable. I climbed in, pulled the flannel sheets and flannel comforter cover up, and lay back into what felt like a hug on a cold December night. Heaven.

3) “Flash,” Queen. No other group could have pulled this off. It’s ostensibly a terrible song for an even more terrible movie, but Queen make it work by embracing its pomposity and ridiculousness. That takes talent.

4) “Planet Earth,” Duran Duran. A very meh first single from them. It’s like they had all the parts but someone had forgetting the screws to put it all together.

5) “So It Goes,” Nick Lowe. The sound of pure, unfiltered happiness despite its dark lyrics. Mentally, I wind up skipping every time I hear this song.

6) “Breaking the Chain,” Peter Case. Not to be confused with >the Dokken song of a similar name, which is unfortunately available on YouTube while Mr. Case's excellent song is not. However, the Dokken vid yielded this awesome comment, "I never realized Kajagoogoo were this heavy." Here's Peter Case from the same album, Torn Again.

Unrelated note from last night: While we love the new area, it of course has its drawbacks. Number one is that many parts of it are quite affluent, and with that affluence comes rubbing elbows with some folks who feel privileged, nay entitled, to act like rich assholes. Case in point: We took Libby out to eat last night, and afterward, while Becky was getting Libby in her car seat, a guy in an SUV backed in to the spot next to us, on the side where the door was open and Becky was securing our child. He literally was inches from the open door and TLB, and then had to wait about 30 seconds to open his door until TLB was done. He did this when the next row was practically devoid of cars.

“Can you believe that guy?” TLB said when she got into the car.

“Well,” I said. “Keep in mind that we do live in the Illinois habitat of the North American Puff-Chested Douche. And when the North American Puff-Chested Douche sees a parking spot, it has to take it as soon as possible.”

7) “Never Enough Neck, Pt. 2,” The Fucking Champs. METAL! During my brief, failed attempt to start running again this past summer, I had made a playlist of Fucking Champs songs—80’s style instrumental metal that has all the good riffage without annoying things like Sebastian Bach singing. I had worked out this kind of action/Indiana-Jones movie set to the music, which gave me something to focus on instead of how I thought my heart was going to burst out of chest like a tiny alien hatchling in Alien. That’s literally the only way I can stand running, to distract myself away from the fact that I’m actually running.

8) “Positive Bleeding,” Urge Overkill. I have late-80s/early-90s stuff like this labeled “alternative rock” in iTunes, which makes it sound as dated as Crystal Pepsi. Random tangent: TLB and I were watching Total Recall, the Paul Verhoeven sleazy classic that successfully predicted the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger. At one point der Governor goes to the red light district of Mars, which you know is the red light district because it has adult movie theaters. Except that the very concept of adult movie theaters is so 20th century. They can make a mask that doubles as a bomb, but the Mars of the future still required you to go out for porn? That dated the movie more for me than the monocrome computer monitors they showed or Sharon Stone’s perm.

9) “Thieves Like Us,” New Order. This, however, shows how you can be of a time but still timeless. It’s funny for me to listen to this now, too, because this was the soundtrack for TLB and I when we lived in the north Chicago suburbs and were a couple of crazy high school kids never realizing we’d grow old and pick out flannel sheets together. We certainly didn’t expect that we’d be living here together.

That’s the biggest change in this move for me. Nearly all of my life, I’ve moved places with the anticipation of moving again. Even the six years we spent in Iowa City—the longest I ever lived someplace without moving over a state border—we figured wouldn’t be permanent (and we also moved in town from an apartment to a condo). The UP sure as hell wasn’t permanent, and even if TLB hadn’t gotten a job, I think we would have packed up and moved in the next couple of years.

Now, as we set up the house, we realize that we are likely going to be in this house for a long time, maybe even permanently. TLB and I were talking about what kind of light fixture to put in the dining room, with my lovely wife unable to make a decision. “Put whatever you want in there,” I told her. “Hell, put fish wallpaper on the walls if you want. It’s our house and we ain’t leaving.” I always wondered if I would ever be able to shake that moving anticipation, that Navy-brat wanderlust that lasted long after I was no longer a military dependent. I suspect that it won’t be a problem now.

10) “Ghosts of the Midwinter Fires,” Agalloch. As the name might imply, this is some FUCKING METAL!, even more so than The Fucking Champs. This track, though, is incredibly beautiful for the first three minutes, before the band kicks it up a notch and the Cookie Monster grabs the mic. I still dig it after that point, but your mileage may vary.

11) “Antenna,” The Church. Another TLB-Brando dating classic, and quite the underrated 80s album. Much like Nick Lowe makes me mentally skip, just about any song off Starfish makes me feel like the sun is shining on me. A good way to end today’s list, especially on a sunny but cold day.

Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Moving day tomorrow

I've been swamped with work and travel and now tomorrow the movers are bringing our stuff down from Big Beaver Storage. We still won't be in the house for good until this weekend, but knowing my TVs will be in the same county as I am will be very satisfying. I'll be sure to post pictures of my new man-sized safe.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Top Ten Tuesdays: What changes are we making to TSA search policies?

10) To put travelers more at ease, all body scanning stations will play Barry White songs.

9) TSA agents will be required to use hand warmers for a minimum of 15 seconds before commencing groping.

8) Platinum-level frequent fliers will gain free access to the Champagne Screening Room.

7) All children under the age of 10 will be fully searched as 98% of all airline terror is caused by children under 10.

6) Passengers who decline pat-downs will be given option to fly while restrained in strait jackets.

5) For flights deemed high security risks, all passengers will be fed free roofies during boarding and receive a free glass of water to the face upon landing.

4) TSA agents will ask a series of questions designed to get to know you before reaching down your pants.

3) All travelers lacking health insurance will be eligible for free colonoscopy during body cavity search.

2) Agents will no longer be able to use the phrases, “Get a load of these,” “Whoah, mama, daddy like!” or “How you doin’?” during searches. Also, there will be a five-second time limit on giggling.

1) Before invasive searches begin, passengers will be asked if they voted for George W. Bush. Those answering in the affirmative will be fitted with a ball gag since this is what they asked for.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday Pandora 11

It's one more Pandora than 10!

This week I’m turning control of the tunes over to 3B Radio, the official Pandora station of Three Bulls (America’s most trusted name in half-assed blogging™). The idea was to make a station that would be full of love and hate, tunes you can’t live without, tunes you’re ashamed to admit liking, and tunes that you would start a jihad against. Here’s what I entered in my five categories.

1) A song you love but you KNOW is definitely not for everyone: “Heat of the Moment,” Asia
When The Lovely Becky and I went to see The 40-Year-Old Virgin, we were the only people in the movie theater to laugh at the two Asia jokes. Made me feel as old as the time I talked to someone who didn’t know who Kip Winger was.

2) A song you are embarrassed about loving so you will roll up the car window when it comes on: “That’s What You Get,” Paramore
This is Rock Band-sponsored shame. I’m covering my face with my hands right now.

3) A song that you have a hate relationship with, meaning a song you are familiar with and CANNOT stand: “Personal Jesus,” Depeche Mode
The worst song from a band I cannot stand.

4) A song that do NOT like from a band you DO like: “The Crunge,” Led Zeppelin
The only way this song makes sense is if Zeppelin intended it as a joke. “Let’s fart out a terrible song on an otherwise classic album and see what happens.”

5) A song that you love so much you would nutpunch someone for denigrating it: “You Make My Dreams” Hall & Oates
I cannot have a bad day when I hear this.

6) A song that you know is completely overplayed but you still love and can listen to over and over again anyway: “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Queen
You know how some people love The Rocky Horror Picture Show and want to sing all the songs a zillion times? Well, I hate that movie more than The Goonies. But “Bohemian Rhapsody” is my Rocky Horror. I never get tired of hearing or singing it.

After a couple dozen entries like that, here’s what Pandora cranked out for me today:

1) “Untouchable,” Taylor Swift. Here’s the difference between young love and old love: economy. When you’re young and in love, you can take a few minutes to say the same thing over and over and over again, because it’s just you and the person you’re interested in. Old love doesn’t have time for that. There’s kids to feed and jobs to work and shit to do. Old love wonders why you just didn’t stop at the first chorus because, really, you said everything you needed to say. That’s much more efficient, and even better, it’s more appreciated, because old love knows about the kids and work and shit and is grateful that you stopped what you were doing to say I love you.

2) “Stop and Stare,” OneRepublic. I am stopping and staring at the lack of a space in the band name. Why? It triggers the MS Word spell check and sticks a little red line beneath the name. Although that’s the most creative thing about this lukewarm cup of coffeehouse pop.

3) “All-American Girl,” Carrie Underwood. I would completely gloss over this except that it’s about a) having a kid and b) about a father who wants a son but has a daughter and he becomes enraptured with her. I wish part A was as easy as Ms. Underwood makes it out to be, but in our case it was more like “Experiments in the Phantasmal Realm of Procreation (Infertility Opus Pts. I-XXII)” by Dream Theater. As for B, when you go through a Dream Theater song like that, you’re just happy that you wind up with anything that can hug you and doesn’t have leathery bat wings.

4) “Party in the U.S.A.,” Miley Cyrus. I would have made Hannah Montana about an all-American girl who has a secret life in a death metal band called Succubus. I’m also pretty sure this song would give lab rats cancer.

5) “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” Guns N’ Roses. Now we’re cooking with heroin! Even if I don’t physically do the Axl shimmy, I mentally do it every time I hear this song. I also can’t tell if Pandora is making a subtle joke about Hannah Montana, thereby showing AI self-awareness. If it starts singing “Daisy” or asking if I’d like to play Global Thermonuclear War, I’m pulling the plug.

6) “You Really Got Me,” Van Halen. Daddy’s little girl has apparently grown up, created a time machine, and started hanging out at the Whiskey-a-Go-Go.

7) “Paranoid,” Black Sabbath. I have to admit, it’s the pure schizophrenia of 3B Radio that is making me a fan. Much like the Axl shimmy, this one always makes me mentally do the Ozzy head shake, that awkward little headbang motion he would do when he was waiting for Tommy Iommi to finish his solo. Of course, now Ozzy can’t stop doing that shake.

8) “Don’t Need Nothing But a Good Time,” Poison. Fuck me gently with a chainsaw. So awful, and yet I’ve always been kind of drawn to its awfulness like a mosquito to a bug light.

9) “Tennessee Flat Top Box,” Johnny Cash. Here’s a good litmus test for whether a song has any redemptive value: would it not suck if Johnny Cash sang it? You could probably hand him, “Don’t Need Nothing But a Good Time,” and he could turn it into a cautionary tale about a life full of shallow sexual encounters, substance abuse, and rootless existence. But even he couldn’t save “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.”

10) “I Won’t Give Up My Train,” Merle Haggard. This requires a dog to drink with. Sadly, I only have two cats.

11) “Workin’ on a Groovy Thing,” The 5th Dimension. Not my cup of Joe (needs more drum solo), but groovy enough to end today’s list.

So there you go. Surprisingly not completely awful. Have a good weekend.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Top Ten Wednesdays: What are we proposing to reduce the deficit?

10) Cutting all earmarks except those for lean meats and vegetables.

9) Charging a one-dollar fee every time a politician says “the American people.”

8) Reducing the budget burden of Social Security, Medicare, and federal education programs by making elderly who are too sick to work a “key ingredient” in the school lunch program.

7) Slashing regulatory overhead by making businesses swear that they won’t do anything illegal.

6) Eliminating unemployment benefits by handing brooms to the jobless so they can sweep themselves under the rug.

5) Putting the Department of Education up for sale on Craigslist.

4) Telling America to have a Coke and a tax bill.

3) Lowering taxes for the wealthy, waving a magic wand, and saying “presto!”

2) Getting a bloated, tearful Washington to admit to Jillian Michaels that it only spends excessively because it feels unloved and unwanted.

1) Cutting our ballooning military budget by eliminating unnecessary weapons systems and pulling out of draining foreign conflicts with no end in sight. Just kidding, we’ll probably just eliminate all federal financial aid for college.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Chicago Bears in "Throwmance"

I don't think I've been quite on my game this season with the Bears blogging. Part of it is being pressed for time, part of it focusing a lot of my creative energies on rewriting my book. But I'm pretty happy with framing the Bears new pass-happy offense as a high school romance gone awry:


Since TLB asked the question, "Rikki" is running back Ricky Williams, for whom Mike Ditka traded all of his draft picks.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Top Ten Tuesdays: How are we going to reshape the American government?

10) Polishing our dark spots to a pearly-white sheen.

9) Making sure that Washington will no longer pick on the poor, powerless, under-represented wealthy.

8) Increasing the self-reliance of the elderly by removing Social Security.

7) Using our social mandate to eliminate social man dates.

6) Combining funding for the arts with funding for health coverage.

5) Switching from pork-barrel policies to bent-over-a-barrel policies.

4) Making sure everything old is Newt again.

3) Putting a church addition on our state houses.

2) Outsourcing the regulation of business to businesses.

1) Replacing its bleeding heart with a metal fist.

Friday, November 05, 2010

No Random 11 today

Which is too bad, because I was going to do an All Angry Music Guide edition. But Libby has pink eye and a fever, which means doctor visits and babying and trying to get work done in between.

The other thing I've been keeping in mind, amid the talk of historic and sweeping and mandate and a Roman helmet for America (look it up) is that, regardless of the shift in power, the 'Baggers grabbed hold of the House. It's been expected since last year, it fits a historic trend, and in the end, while they will rant and rage and do all the stuff they've done since the last election, they won't get squat done. They don't have the votes and, more importantly, many of the conservative Democrats who were part of the problem were replaced with people who were out-of-the closet conservatives. I don't think they're going to get many crossover votes. Furthermore, it's real easy to say you're going to cut spending and another to actually do it. There's no way the GOP can slash spending and keep giving the rich their tax breaks without making painful, politically unpopular cuts.

At the same time, the Democrats deserved this. It reminds me of a South Park episode, where Cartman fakes being handicapped so he can enter the Special Olympics and presumably win it easily. Only he finds out that he's so fat and out of shape, kids with disabilities are far better athletes than he is. I certainly don't want the Rand Pauls of the world in power, but at the same time if one's message is so weak that it can't beat the likes of Rand Paul, well, maybe you deserve to lose.

When Franklin Roosevelt took office in 1933, he didn't spend the first two years of his first term worrying about how Republicans labeled him. He didn't adjust his message for the Father Coughlin's and Huey Long's of the country. He took action. Some of what he did was ineffective. Some of it borderline unconstitutional (for which he was rightly rebuffed). But I think the reason why he was elected again and again is because he made the American people feel like he was working for them, doing whatever he could to get the country out of the Depression or at the very least ease the effects of it. He sure as hell didn't maintain that popularity by appeasing his opponents.

Monday, November 01, 2010

T: The Party, Part III

Our story so far:
Part I
Part II

FBI AGENT DEMI KRATT, member of the T alien Fifth Column, LUCAS, and his human partner, JEROME, drive to a large Tea Party rally in Scranton, Pennsylvania. LUCAS is on the phone.

I need you, buddy...No, I know it’ll work. The cameras will be rolling, you just have to do that voodoo that you do so well...I knew I could count on you. (hangs up his phone)

Who was that?

Our secret weapon against the T’s.

Lucas, how are we going to stop them? They have superior technology, political momentum, a built-in distrust of the media....

But here’s what the T’s don’t have: control over their sexual arousal.

I’ll testify to that.

T females work very hard to keep their arousal under control, because when they do become aroused, they emit three times the usual body heart in order to send a signal to the males that they’re ready to mate. If we get Queen Palin to get hot and bothered.....

Her human skin will melt off!

And that means goodbye political cougar and hello dragon lady.

How is your friend going to manage to get Palin hot and bothered in front of a rally full of people?

The T’s may be very advanced in many ways, but our sense of what we find sexy lags about 25 years behind humans. My friend will fit the bill perfectly.

The three arrive at the Tea Party rally in Scranton and try to maintain a low profile in the crowd. Jerome jumps.

JEROME (whispering)
Lucas, baby, I appreciate the attention, but now is not the time.

The time for what?

You pinched my ass.

No I didn’t?

Jerome looks behind him and sees a big, burly man wink at him.

Hmpf, I swear they should hold this tea party in the closet.

They settle into the middle of the crowd as Palin comes on stage. The crowd goes crazy. Cameras everywhere flash and transmit her speech to all the major news outlets.

Hi ya, Scranton! Are you ready to take back Pennsylvania? (The crowd cheers wildly.) Are you ready for freedom and liberty and patriotism and Jesus and lower taxes and good times? (The crowd is almost orgasmic.) Then I’m your gal!

Outside of the crowd, a vintage black Pontiac Firebird approaches the crowd. It doesn’t slow down as it gets closer, until the drive slams on the brakes and stops with the hood pointed toward the stage. The crowd grows quiet as they and Palin stop to look at the car.

The T-tops pop off as Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” begins to play. Actor MARC SINGER emerges out of the top and falls across the hood of the car. He wears a headband, a muscle shirt, and jeans so tight, it’s easy to tell he’s circumsized.

Oh my!

As the song plays, Singer writhes and spreads his legs on the hood. The media cameras all follow him and then capture Palin’s reaction.

PALIN (waving her hand)
Is it getting hot out here?

During the guitar solo, flips on his front and dry humps the hood. Palin’s skin begins to glow and slowly melt off her face. When Singer flips back over and elevates his pelvis fully in the sky, the last of Palin’s mask falls off, revealing her natural reptilian look. Other T females have the same reaction, their fake skin dropping off, and even a couple of T males also heat up, including Lucas.

Lucas! Don’t tell me you’ve got the hots for that little County Seat tramp!

I’m sorry, I’m only reptilian. I can’t help myself. We had a thing back in the 80s.

The rally devolves into screaming chaos as the Tea Partiers run from the revealed T’s. Palin is oblivious, however, completely focused on Singer’s gyrations.

PALIN (leaping off the stage)
Come to mama!

She rushes Singer before being restrained by police.

Let me go! I need to mate! And feed!

They take her away and the other T’s are also rounded up, including Lucas. Marc Singer comes over to speak to Lucas.

Lucas! I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to expose you, too. Although I have to say, I’m flattered you still feel that way about me. I’ll get your bail money.

JEROME (pushes him away)
Save your money and get that mullet cut, son. I’ll take care of the bail.

Mr. Singer, thank you so much. You’ve done a great service to your country, exposing the T’s just before the election.

It’s all in a day’s work for The Beastmaster, ma’am.

Okay, then....Well, gotta go.

Say, need a ride in the Trans Am?

I’m good, thanks. (Leaves quickly)

SINGER (watches her go)
Yeah, still got it.

Fast forward to November 3. Agent Kratt reads the newspaper with Lucas and Jerome.

I can’t believe this. The T’s actually did better after they were exposed? How the hell is that possible.

LUCAS (reading)
“A tearful Glenn Beck helped marshal record turnout for an off-year election, telling his followers that political convictions don’t run skin deep, and that Sarah Palin’s heart was still the same, even if it was located where a human vagina would be.”

Get this, Rush Limbaugh said, “The T’s have what we need, a little cold blood to make the kind of ruthless government cuts that our warm-blooded bleeding hearts won’t. And as a bonus they’ll actually eat the rats running Washington.”

I hate to say it, Demi, but your humans are getting exactly what you deserve.

Maybe you’re right. (She takes out her cell and makes a call)

Who are you calling?

Marc Singer.

Get out!

Like Lucas says, I’m getting what I deserve. Compared to life under the T’s, a weekend of wiggling under The Beastmaster doesn’t seem so bad.

Hey, we could double.

Not on your life


Friday, October 29, 2010

T: The Party, Part II

Read Part I

AGENTS DEMI KRATT and BENNY DIX are caught by an identical pair of security guards working for SARAH PALIN. The guards march Kratt and Dix into the warehouse before Palin, CHRISTINE O’DONNELL, and GLENN BECK.

PALIN (wiping moose blood off her mouth)
Well, well, well, look what we have here.

My God, what did you do to that moose?

I believe it’s what you humans call dinner.

But you ate it like a....

On Palin’s cheek where she was struck the book, a flap of skin falls open. Underneath, Ageny Kratt sees a bit of green, scaly skin.

...a snake!

PALIN (noticing her skin and patting it back into place)
Snakes slither. I’m more like a....(she moves closer and sticks out a long tongue) komodo dragon.

So much for that lust in my heart.

My God, what are you?

Our name is unpronounceable in your silly tongue, but you can call us the Ts. (She pinches Agent Kratt’s cheek). And lucky for you I just ate or I’d be calling you dinner. I’ll save you for later instead.

But I’m hungry now! Can’t I eat her?

No! You didn’t finish your moose, so no human for you.

Your highness, I didn’t agree to this. Kidnapping. Murder. Cannibalism. (his eyes start to get moist) I’m scared.

If you don’t shepherd your sheep to those polls on Tuesday, you’re going to be terrified. (She licks the side of his face like she’s tasting him, then slaps his bottom.) And don’t forget what I promised you if we win. Now get! (turns to Kratt and Dix) Come with me so I can blow your mind before I eat your brain for breakfast tomorrow.

Palin and a pair of guards escort Kratt and Dix to a hidden room in the warehouse. It’s a futuristic control room, staffed by more of the guards. They step onto a series of circles and are instantly transported from the warehouse to a spaceship. The spaceship is full of aliens, some disguised as humans, others walking around in their natural lizard forms. Outside of a window, Kratt and Dix see several other ships waiting on the dark side of the moon.

Take a long look, because this is what awaits your precious little Earth. Soon we’ll have control of your Congress, then the White House, and finally the planet.

But why? What do you want?

Definitely the White House and dinner. Not necessarily in that order.

I’ll put this in terms you can understand. Think of us as the United States and the Earth as Mexico.

My God, you sick bastards.

As much as I would love to tell you about our diabolical plans, I have an election to help win and have to get to Scranton. I’ll see you on my dining room table tomorrow morning.

Palin leaves as the guards lock Kratt and Dix in a holding area.

Benny, what the hell is going on?

Well, I hate to say it, but I think the crazy guy at the rally was right. Always a bad day when that happens.

Outside the door, there’s the sound of a scuffle and two loud thumps. The door swings open. An African American man, LUCAS, enters. He’s clad in a three-piece American flag suit.

My name’s Lucas. I’m here to rescue you.

Aren’t you a little black for a Tea Partier?

I am the black Tea Partier. I was at the rally today, holding the “Obama is not my homeboy” sign.

Oh yeah, I saw you on Fox the other day. And last week, for that matter.

I’m the Diversity Specialist. I make sure I tell the media where I will be so that I get filmed at all the rallies.

How do we know this isn’t a trap? How can we trust you?

You can trust me and maybe live, or not trust me and definitely get eaten tomorrow. Believe me, I’m in as much danger as you are.

Lucas reaches into his eyes and takes out some prosthetics, revealing a couple of yellow, reptilian eyes. He also flashes his long tongue.

I’m a T and a member of a resistance group called the Fifth Column.

How original.

We’re a group of T’s who want to stop what Queen Palin is doing and live peacefully with humanity.

But I don’t understand. What do the T’s want? Why are they running for office?

I’ll explain everything, but we need to get out of here first. Just try to act like one of us.

The three of them sneak out and head for the transporter room. However, the guards there are checking credentials.

LUCAS (whispering)
When I make a move, step on the transporter quickly.

A guard asks for their credentials. Lucas strikes the guard’s throat.


Kratt and Dix get on the transporters. Lucas throws the switch and also drops what looks like a grenade. They beam out of the room just as it explodes.

They materialize in a field.

I bought us a little time, but we need to get out of here now.

Lucas turns to lead them away, but Dix pulls out an alien-looking gun and strikes him on the back of the head. Kratt looks on in disbelief as Dix pulls out his eyeball prosthetics, revealing reptilian eyes. He points the weapon at Kratt.

God, you’d think a race that can travel across the universe could make fake eyes that don’t itch.

You’re one of them?

You always were slow on the investigation, Demi.

But you’ve been my partner for years.

That’s why you trust me. We’re like your lizards, Demi, patient, calculating, waiting for the perfect time to strike. And very, very cold blooded.

Dix speaks into an intercom in the clicking tongue of the T’s. But as he does, a figure emerges out of the woods and jabs him with a black rod. Dix writhes in electrified agony and collapses. The man, JEROME, rushes to Lucas’s side.

Lucas, baby, are you hurt?

Lucas opens his eyes. Jerome lets out a cry of relief and gives him a kiss before helping him to his feet.

Agent Kratt, this is Jerome, my...friend.

Friend? I rescue you and get downgraded to friend?

It’s okay, you don’t have to hide your relationship from me. Jerome, are of them?

You know it. Queer as the driven snow.

No, I meant a T.

Earthling through and through, same as you, sister.

Jerome is why I became a member of the Fifth Column. I used to believe in everything the T’s stood for. Then I met him. Our relationship—T and human—is forbidden by the Queen and the T Council. I would be put to death for it. That’s what motivated many of us to start the movement.

Black, gay, and alien is no good for their T's either.

But why the stuff with the government, the Tea Party? Why not just attack? Those ships were huge.

As much as I love story time, we better skeedaddle before we have company. My car’s over here, Lucas can do his Basil Exposition imitation while I drive.

They leave in Jerome’s car.

Here’s the short version. The T’s—we—are a predatory group of entrepreneurial aliens, moving from world to world and stripping them of their resources. We are very advanced, but not invulnerable. We bleed, we die, and our ships, while large, can be felled by things like nuclear weapons. Plus, frontal assaults are messy. Resources get destroyed, lives get lost, and our PRM gets lower.


Planet Rape Margin. So we infiltrate, gain control of governments and weaken them to the point where we can take whatever we need in the name of “free market principles.” By the time people figure out what’s going on, we’re on our way to the next planet.

We’ve been eyeing earth for decades and building to this moment ever since we created the John Birch Society. Once the Queen appears, that’s the final phase before the PLP begins.


Planetary Liquidation Process. The plan is to gain control of Congress, impeach your current president on grounds that he’s not a citizen, and pave the way for the Queen to assume control.

President Palin.

God, that gives me the willies even without the alien part.

Well, we’ve got to stop them? The election is in a few days. We have to tell the media.

JEROME (laughs harshly)
Tell them what? That Palin’s an alien. Even if they believed you, the right wing would think it’s just left-win bias. We need proof.

Can’t we show them you, Lucas?

Palin will just deny it and again, you get the media bias thing. No, we have to get her to reveal herself.

Oh, yeah, Lucas, she’s just going to take off her face on national TV.

LUCAS (smiles)
No, but we can make her show her true face. (He takes out his cell phone and starts dialing.)

Who are you calling?

An old friend who just might be able to solve our problem.

Continue to Part III.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

T: The Party, Part I

At a Tea Party rally, two FBI agents, AGENTS DEMI KRATT and BENNY DIX, observe a crowd of protesters dressed in American flag-decorated outfits or colonial dress. Agent Kratt reads one of the signs that has a picture of Obama with a square mustache drawn on his face.

“Hitler was a community organizer.” What the hell does that even mean? I swear, being here is like swimming in a gene pool with a broken filter.

Hey now, where’s your patriotic spirit? Look at how creatively these folks wear their American flags. I see flag hats, flag shirts, flag pants, that guy wearing a tent?

It’s a muumuu. You know, you’re right. Let’s stay focused on that bomb threat.

You mean our wild goose chase? It was probably called in by Keith Olbermann.

Still have to do our job, Benny. Do you see anybody who looks suspicious?

A man in a three-corner hat, breeches, and stockings walks by.

Is that a trick question?

They move through the crowd. The rally begins, and CHRISTINE O’DONNELL appears on stage to thunderous applause.

Thank you, my fellow patriots. You know, when I was young, I was on the wrong path, doing whippets from cans of Reddi-Wip, kissing boys who weren’t my husband and going to black masses. But I realized the error of my ways and found salvation through Jesus and tax cuts. That’s why we’re here, to keep more money in our pockets so we can invest more in Christ’s love. And no one combines Christianity and limited government like our next speaker, Governor Sarah Palin!

SARAH PALIN appears in a leather jumpsuit. The crowd erupts in ecstasy. Agent Kratt sees women weeping, men swooning, and children standing in still rapture in her presence.

Don’t you find this a little creepy, Dix?

AGENT DIX (also mesmerized by Palin)
What? (snaps out of it) No. Hey, is it considered adultery if you fantasize about what you’d do to a woman if she was your wife?

Jesus Christ.

I know. Why he’d have to rule out lust in your heart?

How y’all doin’? It’s so great to be here in the great state of (squints to read teleprompter) Washington, D.C. You know, they say that the government that governs best is the government that governs least. Well, I’m here to tell y’all that no one will govern less than we will!

Agent Kratt sees a man dressed in a hooded sweatshirt and carrying a backpack. He’s acting strangely. Kratt follows the man as he pushes his way through the crowd and toward the fron, talking to crowd members along the way.

Aliens! We’ve got to stop the aliens!

The others in the crowd nod and agree with him.

Right on, brother, we gotta stop those aliens from taking our jobs and send them back to Mexico.

No, these aliens!

He reaches into his backpack and pulls out a thick book. Agent Kratt tries to stop the man before he can act, but he throws the book toward Palin. It flies in the air and hits her in the face. Chaos breaks out as security swarms to cover Palin. O’Donnell grabs the microphone.

O’DONNELL (screaming)

The man continues to struggle and resist arrest. He looks Agent Kratt in the eyes.

They’re not who they seem! They’re coming for us! They’re going to take over and destroy everything.

Kratt struggles to subdue him, but he hands her a piece of paper.

Follow her and you’ll find out. You see that she’s really a....”

Before he can finish, one of the private security guards for Palin knocks the man out. Agent Kratt protests but the man is out cold and taken away. She opens the piece of paper and sees an address written on it.

After the commotion dies, Agents Kratt and Dix talk with Palin.

Are you okay, governor?

PALIN (holding her cheek)
I would be better if you could have stopped that madman from assaulting me, but otherwise, yes, I’m fine.

I’m sorry that we couldn’t reach him sooner.

At least he didn’t have a bomb.

What the heck did he throw at me anyway?

AGENT DIX (holds up the book)
A cook book. I’m not sure why.

Maybe he was just a good conservative trying to remind you where a woman’s place is.

PALIN (glowers at Kratt)
If that’s all, Agent Kratt, I’d like to get back to work. I have a country to rescue.

Of course, governor. (under her breath) Knock yourself out, please.

Kratt and Dix start to leave the scene.

Did you think there was anything unusual about that?

You mean aside from a crazy man yelling about aliens and hurling a cookbook at the possible next president of the United States. No, why?

That book hit her square in the face, but I didn’t see any blood, a bruise, or a scratch.

They grow ‘em tough in Wasilla.

But what about the stuff that man said? About them not being who they seem?

Yes, when in doubt, listen to the crazy guy who throws books at people.

He gave me this address. Told me to follow her.

You’re going to spy on Sarah Palin because some nut job said you should?

I have a hunch.

Yeah, and I have a job and a pension I’d like to keep.

I understand, Benny. You don’t have to come with.

AGENT DIX (sighs)
You’re lucky I don’t have a date tonight.

They get in their car and follow the address. The building is a warehouse in a dark, remote part of town. The scene looks deserted, until a cargo truck appears. Two men who like identical to the security guard who punched out the man at the Rally get out. They go around to the back of the truck and lead a moose out of the back into the warehouse.

A moose? Why the hell would they be bringing a moose here?

Maybe the governor is homesick.

AGENT KRATT (getting out of the car)
I’m going in for a closer look.

Demi, are you crazy? Demi? Damn it!

He gets out of the car to follow his partner. They sneak around to the back of the warehouse and find a series of boxes that rise to a window. They climb and have a perfect view inside.

Palin, O’Donnell, and GLENN BECK stand inside, along with 20 of the security guards, each of whom look exactly alike.

Jesus Christ, Beck! Do you know how close we were to losing everything?

BECK (crying)
I know, I know. I’m sorry, your highness.

Can I turn him into a newt?

For the last time, dingbat, you’re not a real witch! Look, we need to speed things up. That book tore open my skin. Do you have any idea what would have happened if the cameras caught that? We need to win control of Congress next week and start implementing Operation Impeachment as soon as possible. Beck, save those waterworks for the cameras. You need to get your people out there and teabag those polls! (Takes a breath). God, I’m so hungry, I could eat a moose.

The guards lead the moose in. Palin starts to unhinge her jaw.

Agent Kratt watches in horror as there are terrible slurping and chewing sounds. She hides her eyes until things grow quiet. She looks again.

PALIN (her face bloody)
Oh, that hit the spot. But I have just enough room for dessert? (She pulls out a gerbil and holds it over her open mouth.)

Kratt’s face registers disgust. She’s about to rise to get away when a gun reaches her head. She turns and sees two of the security guards, holding her and Agent Dix at gunpoint. They raise their hands over their heads, and the guards march them toward the warehouse.

Continue to Part II

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Top Ten Tuesdays: What are we having trouble figuring out?

10) Bra hooks

9) Peace in the Middle East

8) How to let gay people serve in the military without being all gay

7) Katy Perry and Russell Brand

6) Why donut holes taste better than whole donuts

5) How to appeal to the base instincts of the general electorate (Democratic Party only)

4) The Facebook

3) Where to stash the body

2) Whether Sarah Palin is a sign that God loves us, hates us, or has a really wicked sense of humor

1) How to make money by writing top 10 lists

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Random 11

It’s one more random than 10!

I watched some coverage of the Juan Williams firing last night. Williams was let go from NPR because he was on Fox News and said that when he sees Muslims on an airplane looking too Muslimy, he gets nervous.

Here’s the thing: I think NPR overreacted. I don’t think he should have been fired, because I do think he was trying to make (awkwardly) a point that just because he’s nervous about a group of people doesn’t mean they should be targeted for discrimination (how mighty white of him). If you want to be considered an objective reporter and analyst, it’s important to try and not venture into O’Reilly style clownery, but at the same time that line gets humped all the time these days. So I would have reprimanded him but not canned him.

Here’s the other thing: Juan Williams was a dumb ass. People who think that seeing Muhammad A. Muslim in his fashionable Mecca attire means he could be a terrorist need to take a good, long look at the pictures of the actual assholes who perpetrated 9/11. Were they wearing robes, head coverings, and sandals? Or were they trying NOT to stand out so they wouldn’t, you know, be stopped from their plans? Any terrorist worth his salt isn’t going to dress up in a Washington Times editorial cartoon terrorist outfit and try to get past airport security. Even shoe bomber Richard Reid didn’t look any more threatening than your run-of-the mill rock roadie. The guy you need to worry about is the well-dressed, clean-shaven guy in first class who should be relaxing and enjoying the flight but is instead muttering to himself and sweating. Could be nervous about flying. Could have had some bad foie gras. Or could be...A TERRORIST!

The beauty of this is that I watched the coverage on the Chicago Fox News. One of the anchors is a black woman, and I wondered what would happen if she said she didn’t trust white people because whites have done so many terrible things to black people over the centuries. Think the ‘Baggers would support her right to express her opinion?

Ranting over, time for music to soothe the Michael Savage beast....

1) “Folds in Your Hands,” Passion Pit. I don’t get into any particular band because they’re underground or cool or any of that stuff. After all, the other night I had trouble falling asleep because I was thinking about how I could improve the tactics of my adventuring party in the videogame Dragon Age: Origins. I’m not fooling anybody on the cool front.

Still, it’s nice when I have a little musical secret, a group I really like that doesn’t get a lot of recognition. I thought Passion Pit was one of those groups. Then I saw their CD on display at Target. Now, I will never begrudge anyone commercial success, and I hope they sell a bunch of copies. But I’d be lying if a little bit of me wasn’t disappointed.

2) “The Twistinside,” Everclear. My interest in them was somewhat, um, rekindled, when I realized that a young Christina Hendricks starred in their video for “One-Hit Wonder.” Although it seems like it should have been called “Two-Hit Wonders.” I also wish I was the kind of person who was above that joke.

3) “Send a Message to Her,” Beck. One of those artists I feel like I should like but really don’t. He’s incredibly creative and unpredictable and tries new things and yadda yadda yadda, but I’m always left feeling like I’m ready for the next song about 90 seconds in.

4) “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song,” Fleet Foxes. Great music for the transition from fall to winter. There’s such a clear, cold, refreshing aspect to the singing, like a brisk sunny day, but the sparse musical arrangement makes me think of tall trees that have lost most of their leaves.

5) “Rebel Rebel,” David Bowie. Only a great riff can be repeated over and over and over and over again for several minutes and not wear out its welcome. The funny thing about this song is that the bass has the most variation compared to the guitar and drums, and Bowie’s vocals manage to sound completely slathered in make-up but also really tough. Classic.

6) “Dry,” PJ Harvey. There’s something really cool about how this sounds. It’s a bit noisy, but there’s a lot of space between the noise, too. It reminds me of how a lot of Beatles songs sounded, where they were busy, but each element was allowed to breathe. If this was recorded today everything would get squished toward the middle and it would lose its ability to sound like a confessional, lament, and rant all at once.

7) “What a Wonderful Man,” My Morning Jacket. Random tangential story: An old friend of ours, Byron, recently got to play with My Morning Jacket along with Levon Helm and Donald Fagen. I haven’t seen Byron in years (except when he’s been on TV playing with his band, Ollabelle), but back in our New York days we went to see him play all the time, and The Lovely Becky and I even swapped apartments with him and his lovely wife. Anyway, the review for the show complimented Byron by saying he sounded like a young Rick Danko. When I read that, I felt so happy for him because I know that would have completely made his year. Funny how I can feel that way for someone I haven’t seen in a decade. I’d like to think he’d have the same reaction if someone called me, “the Dorothy Parker of the dick-joke set.”

8) “Caledonia Mission,” The Band. Creepy! THE SONGS ARE COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE!

9) “Louie Louie,” Black Flag. Henry Rollins was the best vocalist in punk history. All the snarl and menace of Rotten, all the energy and righteous anger of Strummer, with a voice that sounded like washboard abs.

10) “Double Team,” Tenacious D. I’ve heard this album countless times and I still laugh at the jokes, especially at “the Buttress of Windsor,” “underpants,” and “hail Satan!”

11) “Campus,” Vampire Weekend. I was talking with my brother Tickle about the perils of dating in the age of Facebook. I’ve been on The Facebook long enough to see some relationships dissolve and the sometimes ugly break-up graffiti that gets left on someone’s wall. I am very thankful that I didn’t grow up with that hanging over my head. Sure, my enamored teenage self would have loved the prospect of Web cams, text pics, and the easy access to pictures of boobies. At the same time, I would have hated the possibility of any of my faults and inadequacies as a boyfriend to have been published and, even worse, Liked.

So here’s to being happy I grew up without the Internet. Not only did it save me embarrassment, but because I really had to work hard to see boobies, I think I appreciate them more. Not to mention trying to see what was happening on scrambled cable feeds trained me to spot an exposed nipple from up to 1500 kilometers away.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Top Ten Tuesdays: What accusations are we making against our political opponents?

Extra-volume cold-calling edition!

12) Kissing of babies simply a cover to select the tastiest one for eating.

11) Refusal to get on the scale with a duck proves she’s a witch.

10) Plans to deliver a hefty tax cut to the wealthiest 1% of Americans by showing up at their doors and making them fish the money out of a g-string.

9) Plans to deliver a hefty tax hike to the wealthiest 1% of Amerians by showing up at their doors and making them shove the money into a g-string.

8) Love of Taco Bell belies soft stance on illegal immigration.

7) Participated in a World War II re-enactment wearing a French army uniform, which is just embarrassing.

6) Has never provided an adequate explanation for why all of these homosexuals keep sucking his cock.

5) Lack of marital affairs hints that opponent is hiding something.

4) Job creation plan hinges on most Americans becoming Indian or Chinese citizens.

3) Supports the invisible hand of the free his pants.

2) Kissed a George W. Bush and liked it.

1) Is actually a politician.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Random 11

It’s one more random than 10!

We’re closing on the U.P. House today. No more phantom cat pee. No more royal douchebags. No more 200-inch snowstorms. No more flight delays because the wheels of the plane are frozen to the tarmac.

I spent a good part of this summer feeling sorry for myself about the house—the collapse of the first sale, the low, low price of the second sale, the delay in selling it forcing us to move in with The Lovely Becky’s parents. Then we started looking around at what happened to the Chicago market, where it’s not unusual to see houses that lost six figures worth of value and still can’t find buyers. Suddenly taking six months to sell and getting a check (even a small one) seems like a blessing. I guess the definition of “lucky” lost a lot of its value if we’re considered in its bracket.

We’ve also put an offer on a place and hope to be back to our indie-label status in December. The upside for us is that the housing crash opened up a lot more possibilities for us. We’re in fact buying a place in John Hughes country, the sort of North Shore area that has a reputation as a breeding ground for privileged buttwipes who would serve as the rich antagonist against a less privileged buttwipe such as myself. Even though our particular neighborhood is not ostentatious, I had a bit of a dilemma in coming to terms with my eagerness to live in this area. Would I become more of a privileged buttwipe? Was I already carrying the privileged buttwipe gene, genetic code that might go viral should I acquire a certain level of equity? But as we went through our inspection yesterday, I couldn’t help but think of how much I dug the house and the neighborhood and the location relative to the rest of the city. I can see TLB and I growing old and Libby growing up quite happy here, to the point where it won’t surprise me my next piece of real estate will be one of Chicago’s many fine Polish cemeteries. That’s worth a little buttwipe risk.

If you ever catch me wearing an ascot, however, you have permission to run me over. On to the tunes....

1) “VCR,” The xx. A 2009 release that would have easily made my best-of 2009 list had I heard it before 2010. This entire album is fantastic: quiet, moody, hopeful, lonely, romantic...all packaged in something that sounds familiar yet (to me) feels refreshingly original.

2) “Silence Kit,” Pavement. I notice that our blog group seems to have slowed a bit. Most of us have been at this for at least a few years, and I do think it’s harder now to keep at it. Blogging feels like a relationship. After the honeymoon where it all feels new and exciting and you’re eager to try as many positions as possible, you settle into a routine. Routines can be a bit of a drag, and this blog has dragged in the last few months (at least) because I’ve had my hands full with life beyond these virtual walls. So the thought of quitting has popped up from time to time.

Yet, every time, I come back to one thing: I like the routine. The routine gives me comfort. And I still find thrilling sparks of energy from it, maybe not as frequently as I once did, but enough to leave me wanting more. Doing this for five years has also made me a vastly better writer than I was before I started blogging. It’s not a coincidence that, after fifteen years of unfinished futility, I got to the end of a novel draft in less than two years.

And, of course, there are the blogging relationships, the in-jokes and comments and kidding that I enjoy even more than my own writing. I don’t want to lose that, so I hope that our blogging group doesn’t break up. But if we do, we should definitely reform in a few years and cash in. We can start by blogging at New York’s Summerstage.

3) “Help, I’m Alive,” Metric. Speaking of blog groups, it was fantastic to meet Von along with Jennifer and Grizzled this week. There is nothing like enjoying the company of online friends, and then find out they are even better in person.

4) “Blankest Year,” Nada Surf. Just a great, go-to Friday song. Makes me happy, gets my foot tapping, doesn’t require a lot of thought yet doesn’t seem dumb.

5) “Rebellion (Lies),” Arcade Fire. I was a bit shocked when their latest album hit number one. Then I hear this and realize I shouldn’t be, because Arcade Fire know how to create indie arena rock meant to be played loud to a stadium or fairground full of people.

6) “Girls,” Beastie Boys. The newer, serious Beastie Boys may technically be better, but it’s not nearly as entertaining.

7) “Living Well Is the Best Revenge,” R.E.M. I know the murmur of Murmur and the other early R.E.M. records is a great part of their charm. But when I hear the loud, vibrant songs on Accelerate, I kind of wish they would go back and record some of those songs like this—a greatest hits revisited and turned to 11, or at least 8.

8) “Stupid Thing,” Aimee Mann. I know the meaning would not be at all appropriate, but I would love to make a Sarah Palin video set to this.

9) “Your Head Is on Fire,” Broken Bells. I don’t know if it’s getting older or being distracted or a quality control issue, but I’m finding 2010 to be a downer year for music. There was a lot of stuff I thought I’d really love, like this—The Shins merged with Danger Mouse, the hippest of hop for white people like me—and yet I’m feeling slightly meh. I’m almost at the point where I’m going to give a disc three listens. If it doesn’t happen by then, it’s not going to.

10) “Summertime,” The Sundays. It’s always sad when you notice the shortening of the days. I’ll be cruising through the summer, feeling energized by having light well into prime-time hours, until one day it’s six o’clock and I have to take my sunglasses off so I can see the road.

11) “Highway to Hell,” AC/DC. Damnation has never sounded so appealing to me. I am also seriously missing my big, bad computer speakers (packed away) because it is a crime to not shake the foundations when this song comes on.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Top Ten Thursdays: What personal failures are we glossing over with our jubilation about the Chilean mine rescue?

10) Failure to retrieve TV remote from deep, inaccessible area behind couch.

9) Lack of publisher interest in our Anderson Cooper fan fiction.

8) Inability to open the pickle jar.

7) Carelessness in texting penis photo while wearing tell-tale Packers Crocs and Super Bowl ring.

6) Ongoing unemployment status that’s trapping us in our apartment/bathrobe.

5) Afghanistan.

4) Absence of light at the end of our erectile dysfunction tunnel.

3) 20-pound weight gain while watching new season of Biggest Loser.

2) High likelihood of getting crushed like Chilean miners in a mine collapse during forthcoming election.

1) Writer’s block preventing us from creating a tenth joke for our top 10 list.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Lovely Becky's lovely new novel

The Lovely Becky published her newest novel today, The Countess!

I'm really in awe that my wife has already published two novels. Seeing the amount of hard work, determination, creativity, and dedication to craft she has put into them has been an inspiration. You can tell that writing is her passion, and I am very, very proud of what she has accomplished.

Even better, she was interviewed today on WGN's Midday News, who elevated her to Dr. Lovely Becky status.

She has three readings scheduled and I hope to see some of you in the real-world Meatscape.

--Chicago, October 12, 7 pm, Sulzer Library

--Milwaukee, October 16, 2 pm, Boswell Book Company

--Iowa City, December 3, 7 pm, Prairie Lights Bookstore

Please join me in congratulating my amazing wife.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Friday Random 11

It’s one more random than 10!

This is the weekend before one of the biggest weekends we’ve had since Libby was born. We’re probably bidding on a house this weekend. Tuesday is the release of The Lovely Becky’s lovely The Countess. On Friday we close on our U.P. house, and it looks like this time it will be for reals.

The biggest is of course TLB’s book. The finished copies came a couple weeks ago, and I was filled with so much pride in my wife as we took the final version out of the box. She worked so hard on The Countess, and to see that hard work finally realized in a beautifully designed book filled me with a lot of happiness for her.

That’s one of the unheralded parts of marriage. You get to cheer for someone, to share their thrills, to make their happiness your happiness. Becky wrote a great book, which was made into a great looking book, and now it will hopefully have great success. I get to share all that with her.

Some of you can, too. She has a reading at the Sultzer Regional Library in Chicago on October 12 at 7:00 pm, and another in Milwaukee on October 16 at 2:00 p.m. at Boswell Book Company. Plus my dear wife is going to be on WGN on Tuesday at 11:30, getting interviewed at 11:30 am for the mid-day news. And all this comes after she got interviewed by Reuters last week. All that’s left is for her to pick out a new husband after she officially becomes a big deal.

As for me, I’m slowly revising my novel and, while the progress has been held up by things like cleaning crawl spaces, I’ve got 40 pretty solid pages, which is about 35 more solid pages than I’ve ever had, and I can feel myself slowly picking up steam again. The first part of the book is about 120 pages, and when I have that revised, I might be ready to send it out. I’m both excited and scared shitless by that prospect. But writing wouldn’t be fun without that combination of feelings.

1) “Carolina,” Josh Rouse. One of the things I like about having a big music collection is that I can get surprised when I’m randomly listening to it. I make a point to listen to everything at least once, but I had a period where I acquired more than I could keep up with. This is one of those acquisitions. So it’s nice when this bit of countrified pop pops up and gives me a very pleasant three minutes of enjoyment.

2) “1977,” The Clash. I know things have been bad in the last part of the ‘aughts, but as bad as the economy got, I don’t think the whole experience holds a candle to the late seventies. The late seventies sucked. There may be a lot of people who feel that our country is headed for the toilet, but in 1977, it felt like we were already looking up from the bottom of the bowl, and would have given anything to be back to the point of being held above it. The one upside was the malaise-rage salad of that decade fed great songs like this one.

3) “Hard to Explain,” The Strokes. I can’t listen to them without thinking of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog describing them as The Monkees with a drinking problem.

4) “Where Do I Begin,” The Chemical Brothers. The electronica equivalent of the power ballad, only instead of holding lighters in the air, we raise our glow sticks. I mean all of the preceding as a compliment, as I think this is a damn fine song.

5) “Congratulations,” Juliana Hatfield. This has MTV Buzz Bin production written all over it, and strangely I find mid-90s alternative (and mid-90s electronica for that matter) sounds more dated than 80s alternative, maybe because 80s alternative is currently the recycled style du jour right now (I’m looking at you, Killers). But this manages to surpass the legions of soft-loud-soft-loud Teen Spirit ripoffs that made 90s alternative both mainstream and eventually boring. I dig the crunch and the little obsessively dark lyrics. No video, which is too bad.

6) “Rock N Roll Singer,” Mark Kozelek. His acoustic cover of the classic AC/DC song, which transforms Bon Scott from the best dick-joke lyricist in rock history to something resembling a folky poet. Context is everything. Although this cover leaves off my favorite line from the song, “they wanted me to become a doctor or a lawyer-man.” Lawyer-man sounds so much cooler than just a lawyer.

7) “If I Can’t Change Your Mind,” Sugar. I guess alternative is here to stay on this week’s Random 11. I know it’s my mind attempting to superimpose order on random coincidence, but I love when I believe the iPod is really thinking, looking for patterns and maybe even reading what I’m writing and going, “oh, hey, what about adding Bob Mould to the Buzz Bin discussion?” Of course, while that would be cool, it could also be the start of the slippery slope toward self-aware AI that decides to enslave humanity under a radioactive cloud of sentient titanium-alloy tyranny.

8) “Everlong,” Foo Fighters. I rest my case. Of course, the iPod knows it can distract me from the Techno Tribulation End Days by selecting the best Foo Fighters song ever and one of the best songs from the 90s. I never tire of hearing this, especially the big rock finish after the quiet middle.

9) “So This Is Love?” Van Halen. An underrated track from an overrated band. I really don’t like even much of the classic Van Halen tracks much. Too overplayed, too oversexed, too undercooked, too underproduced. This, however, is a nice change of pace for them, a grooving track that still captures their strong points.

10) “Open All Night,” Bruce Springsteen. I think “open all night” may be the defining characteristic of modern America. You can drive around at any hour of the night and be confident you can get gas for your car and food for your belly. Even more, it’s become a greater expectation that you can find help at any hour of the day. I know if I need to call a company to ask about my account or discuss my service or whatever, I’m surprised if their customer service isn’t open 24/7. I think that’s kind of sad, even if I still expect it. Everyone deserves downtime, and more importantly, I think downtime is good for all of us.

11) “Poised and Ready,” Brendan Benson. You can never go wrong heading into a weekend with some nice power pop. Plus, I think TLB and I are poised and ready. We’re finally going to get closure on the U.P.—not that it was something awful, because it had a lot of nice moments. But we’re ready to move on. TLB is ready to move on after the mixed experience of her first book. And I’m ready to move on from being a wannabe writer to being an actual one, even if that involves getting the door slammed in my face, because that means I at least have something to reject.

Have a great weekend, and I hope I’ll see some of you at the readings this week!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Top Ten Thursdays: How are we showing our patriotism?

10) Shaving American flag into back hair.

9) Using burning copy of the First Amendment to burn down neighborhood mosque.

8) Exercising Second-Amendment rights by using guns to change the TV channel, signal lane changes, light the grill, celebrate goals at youth soccer games, and show asshole neighbor what we really think of his Halloween decorations.

7) Covering the hood of our NASCAR with the Declaration of Independence (between the Sony and BP decals).

6) Converting to Mormonism so we can claim Jesus for America.

5) Agreeing not to have intercourse with an apple pie until after we’ve married it.

4) Telling immigrants how awesome it is to live in the land of the free as we deport them back over the border.

3) Showing support for our troops by definitely really considering the possibility of joining the military at some potential point in the future.

2) Holding in nacho belch while “The Star Spangled Banner” is being played before kickoff.

1) Running for political office with the promise to restore America to its founding values! (minus the burning of witches, enslaving of blacks, exploitation of child labor, eradication of Indians, disenfranchisement of women, and a few other values.)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Top Ten Tuesdays: What misconceptions do we have about our own religions?

Special extended intellectual religious limbo edition!

12) 2% of American Muslims believe blowing themselves up is a great way to meet girls.

11) 28% of female white Protestants believe they can’t have orgasms because they’re not mentioned in the Bible.

10) 34% of Episcopalians can’t believe they’re not Catholic.

9) 38% of Mormons believe they can take an additional spouse as long as it contributes to the story arc of the series.

8) 53% of Lutheran comic book fans believe their religion was formed by Lex Luthor.

7) 57% of Southern Baptists believe that Jesus made the ball go through the uprights.

6) 65% of atheists believe that a lack of belief in God gives them the divine right to be really goddamned smug about belief in God.

5) 69% of male Jews believe that a woman lying with a woman as if she were a man is a sign that G-d loves us.

4) 71% of California Buddhists believe “Buddha” is slang for “weed.”

3) 80% of Catholic Pat Benatar fans believe hell is for children.

2) 87% of Jehovah’s Witnesses believe there is a Ninth Beatitude, “Blessed are the annoying, for they shall pester their way into the Kingdom of God.”

1) 99% of Evangelical politicians believe that saying America has a Judeo-Christian heritage is the same as Americans knowing what the fuck that actually means.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Top Ten Tuesdays: What marches are we organizing?

Special inflated participation edition!

11) The Rally to Restore America’s Masonic Heritage (requires secret handshake)

10) The Furry-Up for Keeping Craigslist Freaky

9) The March for Jerking Around Rally Attendance Statistics

8) The Million Man Limp Against Erectile Dysfunction (consult doctor if event lasts longer than four hours)

7) The Rally for Stuff White People Like to Scream About

6) The Coven to Show Dumb Fucks What Witchcraft Really Is

5) The Waterboarding of Glenn Beck (at the National Reflecting Pool)

4) The Nominal Excuse for Writing Off Your Trip to D.C.

3) The Quest Against Virginity (meet on WoW at 24:00 GST)

2) The 500-Ton Buffet Against Mobility

1) The Single-Man March to Kidnap Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart Until One of Them Gives Me a Job.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Friday Rushdom 11

It’s one more Geddy than 10!

First, the bad news. My house drama had gotten more melo than mellow. It’s quite possible that this second deal may fall through because of a combination of greed and gall on the part of the buyers. I can’t tell if that is an upgrade from phantom cat pee as a reason to walk away from the deal. Actually, it is an upgrade, because then it’s most definitely them and not us.

I was rather depressed about this last night, as the thought of having to start all over again with selling the house made me want to just cave and get it over with. But The Lovely Becky (aka the Strong One) responded with “fuck them” (I may be paraphrasing). And she convinced me to say fuck them, too. It may be a buyer’s market. I may be somewhat desperate to sell, especially before the big, bad U.P. winter arrives. But the difference between accommodating and butthurt is consent, and I’m not consenting to being butthurt. I feel like I’m fighting off The Sisters in Shawshank Penitentiary. Maybe I’ll win, maybe I’ll lose, but at least I’ll take a swing.

However, the good news: I am going to see Rush this weekend!

I’m off to catch them with my old dungeon master, to revel in nerdom, to frolic in geekery, and maybe, just maybe, dine on honeydew. So this early edition of the Friday Random 11 will focus on my favorite band and my 30-year relationship with their music. For the h8rs, I will at least try to make it entertaining. And, as always, I welcome your ridicule in the comments.

1) “Tom Sawyer” Even my iPod knows where to start on a Rushdom 11. It’s the song that got me and millions of other budding nerds into the band. When I heard they were touring, I initially didn’t plan on going. Then I read that they were going to play ALL OF MOVING PICTURES! EVERY LAST SONG, EVERY LAST NOTE! OMFG!

Ahem. So I called my friend Tom, because the guy I had to go see Rush with was the guy I used to roll twenty-sided dice with.

2) “The Trees” The last time I saw them play this live, I yelled out “Fuck yeah!” as loud as I could. It was completely involuntary, like breathing or falling asleep after sex. It’s about trees and socialism and Canadian nationalism and lumberjacking. It’s fruitier than a mulberry bush. And yet I don’t care, because I air-guitar that solo every single time.

3) “Cinderella Man” My musical obsessions started in the fifth grade, after my parents gave me a boom box for Christmas. After an initial dabbling with Kenny Rogers Greatest Hits, I moved on to The Beatles, because I’d heard so many songs and thought Yellow Submarine was an awesomely weird movie. That gave way to months-long obsession with REO Speedwagon’s Hi-Infidelity, which in turn got me to pay more attention to new music and start taping off the radio. I liked a lot of rock and pop music, and I was just as likely to record AC/DC as I was Juice Newton.

One day I heard “Tom Sawyer” and really dug it. Rush was hitting their most popular stride, and one night the classic rock station set aside two hours to play all Rush (back when radio stations could do cool stuff like this). I took two of my Memorex tapes, full of The Knack and The Police and even Kool and the Gang, put scotch tape over the recording holes, and erased them so I could record the Rush marathon.

That’s when this Rush fan was born. I had no money then, and my family wasn’t that well off, so there were not many opportunities to buy albums. Instead, I played those two Memorex tapes over and over again for the next several years, until I got a job in high school and eventually acquired every Rush album. “Cinderella Man” was one of the last songs in the marathon and is the only time I’ve ever heard it on the radio.

4) “Between the Wheels” I was in eighth grade when Grace Under Pressure came out, and it was the first Rush album I bought on the release date (I saved my birthday money for the cassette.) My interest had been peaked by this song getting played a lot on the radio before the album came out. My mom took me to the record store (remember those?), and when we got home, I popped it into my boom box. I spent hours, literally, sitting on my bed listening to the album, just doing nothing but listening to it and letting my mind wander.

They dug this song out on the R30 tour (which I also saw with Tom), and it took me back to that time, to sitting on my bed and letting my mind make its own music video. I miss both having the time and the right imagination for doing that.

5) “Vital Signs” Did I mention that we’re going to he concert IN A LIMO? With a GIRL RUSH FAN?

Here is one of the great things about persecuted for your musical beliefs: You instantly bond with your fellow Rush nerds. Tom was having a neighborhood barbecue with his neighbors, including one woman named L. Somehow the subject of Rush came up (ed.-it was probably destiny). Tom sheepishly revealed he was a Rush fan. L revealed that she, too was not only a Rush fan, not only born with girl parts, but was also Canadian! That’s like finding a black unicorn.

L, it turns out, has some connections, and through said connections had limo to take her and some fellow fans to the concert. She invited us to come along. So I will get to drink and not drive to the concert in style. I may even stand up in the sunroof and take my shirt off.

Anyway, the reason I mention this is because Rush fans finding each other are like two Masons meeting in the produce section. They may keep their secret hidden, but they sense a force in the other. Tentatively, they make gestures and before you know it, they’re behind the bananas engaging in the secret handshake. And then sharing a limo to the next temple meeting.

L said she is dying to hear this song live, and because she has added an enzyme to my Rush digestive process, I hope they rock the shit out of “Vital Signs” for her.

6) “The Spirit of Radio” I also watched the new Rush documentary, Beyond the Lighted Stage, this week. My review would be, “Come for the kimonos, stay for the insightful interviews.” It was a great documentary, not just for fans, but also in examining how three Toronto misfits formed a super popular band by playing rock music that almost guaranteed its listeners would not get laid.

There’s a point, after they discuss Hemispheres—the album where the 18-minute title track details a battle between Apollo and Dionysus for the soul of humanity (no, really!)—that they said they were through with those kinds of albums. “The Spirit of Radio” was the first song off the next kind of album they were going to make. This song is not about Greek Gods or battles or black holes (also part of the story). Instead it’s a jab at the music industry and a celebration of music, wrapping up a cool riff, a catchy chorus, and a reggae-ish finale in five minutes. They would make those kind of style shifts every few albums.

I know a lot of Rush fans who long for the Hemispheres days, and who hate the style shifts, who wish they had made Hemispheres over and over again (a sentiment shared by some of the people interviewed in the documentary). But even though I dig the old stuff and haven’t always liked their shifts, I like that Rush keeps trying new things. It keeps them interesting to me, it keeps me buying their albums, and it ensures that no matter what they play on Saturday, I’ll be into it. Bonus: a little "Paint It Black" before they start the song.

7) “2112” (so long it takes two videos!) Twenty minutes. Seven parts. Three kimonos. Two instrumentals. One pentagram. This song is more or less a blueprint for why I became a Rush fan:

--It rocks hard. The problem I had with a lot of prog was that it was too soft. I was in junior high and, despite liking sports and being one of the bigger kids in class, I was kind of sensitive. I was a class clown buy not assertive. I liked music that had balls, because it made me feel like I had balls. This was pretty heavy stuff back in the days before Metallica. And...

--It’s chock full of science-fictiony goodness. I was always very creative, and between the ages of 10 and 15, my creativity was channeled mostly into fantasy and sci-fi stories. Because those stories are full of heroes, confronting cosmic evil, yadda yadda yadda. Plus, the hero in this story, after confronting the cosmic evil, kills himself at the end because he couldn’t quite overcome his evilness. That fed into my growing love of anti-heroes. Plus...

--It annoyed the cosmic shit out of my mother. What good is rock music if your parents like it?

8) “New World Man” The fantasy epics may have been what hooked me, but songs like these are why I stayed a fan. One of their songs I always prefer live because they crank up the rock quotient more.

9) “One Little Victory” It’s tough to rock out as you get older. First, I think there’s a natural impulse to mellow with age. Second, there’s perhaps a self-consciousness about trying to look young and instead looking like an old fool. Third, you are more likely to pull something.

In 2002, after a seven-year layoff, after their fiftieth birthdays, and after Neil Peart lost both his only daughter and wife, Rush came back with this song, a raging slab of heavy rock that kicked down the door. I may borrow that approach when I turn 50.

10) “Cygnus X-1” Even I have my limits. I didn’t even like this screeching sci-fi epic when I was in the target demographic for it. I’m taking a mulligan.

10) “Finding My Way/In the Mood (Live)” Much better. Dare I say catchy. This is the old, pre-Neil Peart Rush, singing about workin’, drinkin’, and amazingly enough, screwin’. They were practically slaves to their influences, and it reminds me of the early stuff I tried to write, where I was aping epic fantasy novels and gory horror stories. They do have riffs and chops galore, which I did not have way back then, and while riffs and chops alone may not make great music, they will get me on my feet and waving my hands in the air.

11) “Resist” And we go out with the lighters in the air. I would be lying if I said this doesn’t get me in the gut a little, especially with the unplugged treatment. Because, as I’ve said before, this band is the soundtrack to my life. I’ve moved a dozen times in the 30 years I’ve been a Rush fan, and for each of those moves, there’s a Rush album to go with them. Do I really think they’re the greatest band of all time? No. But are they my all-time favorite band? Hell yes. Every time I get some variation of the desert island album question, Moving Pictures is always at the top of the list. And now I get to go see them perform that all-time desert island disc in its entirety with a friend who has shared my Rush fandom for three decades.

Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Top Ten Tuesdays: What's hurting us in the polls?

10) Screaming white people in intimidating breeches and tricorne hats.

9) Rumor that we will recycle all old people into Korans.

8) Failure to transform unemployed Americans to transform into employable Hispanics, Chinese, or Indians .

7) Audacity of government to rob us of our freedom to become ruined by crushing medical expenses.

6) Repeated attempts to win the blessing of voters least likely to give a shit.

5) Questions about our birth status when we couldn’t produce film of our mother giving birth to us onto a mat made of apple pie, next to an American flag, while a smiling Don Ho sings “Born in the U.S.A.”

4) Inability to articulate a plan to save America in less than 140 characters.

3) Ill-advised strategy of doing our own thinking instead of letting Jesus do it.

2) Constant discrimination against America’s marginalized, silenced, and downtrodden rich people.

1) Proliferation of polls saying that say we’re hurting in the polls.