December 28, 2008
2009: The Year of Self-Sufficiency
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My family, like so many others this season, talked about the economy when we got together over Christmas. Unlike so many others, however, we went into more specific details about how we'd survive an economic armageddon. Our plan included a family compound (complete with guard towers and pillboxes), growing our own food, producing cash crops like dandelion wine and marijuana and distributing them via bicycle, kayak and the occasional zip line. As we discussed our plans, it dawned on me how very little I could actually help. I may have a couple of degrees, but I lack a lot of the practical knowledge needed to survive such a scenario. I've never fired a gun. My thumb is not green (indeed, I seriously doubt my ability to even successfully grow my Chia herb garden). I can't really build anything without easy-to-follow instructions.
To be honest, I was thankful my family would even let me in the complex with my lack of skills. Perhaps they mentally slotted me in the role of moonshine and drug runner. Or perhaps, they figured I could learn something useful for a change. With the new year almost here, that's probably a good idea. And not just for me. Feel free to make your usual New Year's resolutions, but also considering picking a few things from a list like this and vow to make yourself more self sufficient in 2009.
December 21, 2008
2009: A New Year Already?
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That said, it doesn't seem appropriate to make fearless predictions for 2009. I could certainly make fearful predictions, but no one wants to read that. There already seems to be a distinct lack of Christmas spirit this year, and I don't want New Year's to get ruined too.
In the spirit of optimism, here's a few things that I hope happen in 2009:
- Someone calls 911 in Dane County, WI and the Police show up and successfully handle the situation.
- Jimmy the Groundhog doesn't see his shadow and the Upper Midwest is blessed with a long, warm and early spring.
- A son of A.P. Indy wins the Kentucky Derby, at long last making up for the fact that "Indy" was injured on Derby Day back in 1992 and couldn't run.
- Neither a Kennedy nor a Cuomo is the new Senator from New York. Instead, New York appoints an unknown with good ideas (not beliefs)
- Chicago is awarded the 2016 Summer Olympics
So what would you like to see happen in 2009?
December 18, 2008
My Top Ten Songs of 2008
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After taking a peek at some top 10 lists, I realized that I don't listen to enough new music anymore. So, I downloaded a bunch of songs and artists that got raves this year and now I"m prepared to present my own top ten song list for your perusal and ridicule.
10. Viva La Vida - Coldplay: I want to hate Coldplay, given that they're really nothing more than a poor man's U2 with the added obnoxiousness of Gwenyth Paltrow, but this really is a good song. I can't help it.
9. White Winter Hymnal - Fleet Foxes: This made everyone's list and it's easy to see why - it's a short & beautiful song that ends just when you're about to get bored with it. Perfect.
8. Trashcan - Delta Spirit: So many of the so-called best songs of the year are folk tinged, so this is piano-driven ass shaker is a nice change of pace.
7. The One - Old 97's: This is such a fun song that casts the band in the role of the bad guys. Like I said before, so many of the year's best songs are kind of depressing, but not this "One".
6. Sexual Eruption - Snoop Dogg: Snoop just kills me (well, not literally). As if the title "Sexual Eruption" wasn't obvious enough, he has to whisper "orgasm" at one point of this song, just to make sure we know what he's talking about. Anyway, this is just a smooth, cool, throwback kind of tune.
5. This Is Not A Test - She & Him: Speaking of throwbacks, this song from actress Zooey Deschanel feels straight out of the '40s. She's a songstress, not a pop star, and that makes all of the difference - in the best possible way.
4. You Found Me - The Fray: My well-known weakness for schmaltzy music basically means that I'm going to heart anything The Fray ever does. Their new single is no exception.
3. Color Of A Lonely Heart Is Blue - Old 97's: One of the many great things about the Old 97's is that a typical album spans the range from country to alt-country to pretty poppy. My favorite song from 2008's "Blame It On Gravity" sits firmly on the country side of the specturm. I love these lyrics:
stars go off like flash pot dots that spark under candle power and stop.
lift up your light cuz you'll never see a night thats blacker
and the weight of it all gets heavier still
time as it crawls a little slower until
scorpios up a leading ol dan to cancer
2. TX - Jentri Colello: Jentri is a Madison, WI-based singer that's poised to make the big time in the next year. She's a little folky and on songs like this one is a bit alt-country too. I could easily have put all 5 of the songs on her debut EP on this list, but that would make me more obnoxious than Coldplay.
1. Creator - Santogold: While pure songs like #2 and #3 on the list above are wonderful in their own way, I really do love distortion and just plain noise in my music. "Creator" has it all. The best description I read called it a "wild mash-up of jazz, house and rock." That sounds about right. All I know is that I can't stop listening to it.
I'd love to hear some more recommendations. What's on your list?
December 08, 2008
College Football Bowl Pool - 2008 Edition
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It's time for our annual College Bowl Pool. Go here to join the action. You'll find our private league with group ID 27069 and password dummo2008. We usually make a charitable donation in the winner's name, so it's not only fun, it's for a good cause ;-)
December 07, 2008
Who are we (who? who?)?
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My last post got me thinking. Is America really the New York Yankees of the world, are are we something else? I've made analogies in the past where America played the role of Notre Dame (at least in the Middle East) and given Notre Dame's falling fortunes, that concerns me. So who are we?
Are we the Yankees? Even when we fall on hard times or make serious mistakes, we still have overwhelming advantages that make it certain we'll be back on top in no time. Or, are we Notre Dame? Are we relying on our traditional advantages and watching the rest of the world pass us by? Or, alternatively, maybe we're like the men's Olympic Swim Team. We're still a dominant, world-crushing force. What do you think?
December 04, 2008
Do I need a twirly mustache?
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I had lunch with a gallery owner from my neighborhood the other week. She was an interesting woman, but she said some things that really kind of ticked me off. The first was a remark that she had been hearing from friends around the world about how happy the rest of the world was with the election of Barack Obama.
Here's the thing. To the rest of the world, America is the New York Yankees. Unless you're actively a fan of the Yankees, you don't like them. Why? Because they win. Even if the Yankees are "nice" (and really, Derek Jeter has always seemed like a good guy), people still hate them. There are two, and only two, ways for the Yankees to be liked by the rest of baseball. First, they can start to lose. People rarely hate someone that they beat. Second, someone worse can come along. Fewer people hate the Yankees now that the Red Sox have started winning. Is this really the scenario we want for America?
We should be concerned, not pleased, when the rest of the world applauds our choice of leader. To go further with the sports analogies, how would I feel if the Chicago Cubs hired Ned Yost or if the Minnesota Vikings gave Matt Millen a job? I'd be thrilled. Would these moves be disasters for those franchises? Of course they would.
Going back to my conversation with the gallery owner, the second thing that bothered me was that she made the comments in the first place. When did we stop following the rule about not discussing politics and religion in public? I know that she brought it up because she felt "safe" with me. She assumed I agreed with her. Of course, given that almost half of the country didn't vote for Obama, that's quite an assumption, so why did she make it? I think it all goes back to the fact that conservatives think liberals are stupid, while liberals think conservatives are evil. As evil people, one should be able to easily recognize conservatives by their twirly mustaches or the "666" carved in their foreheads. The fact that I have neither and that I look just like them means I must think like them, right? It's like it's unthinkable that reasonable, normal people can disagree with you. I think it's this idea that fuels so much of the anger and hysteria around politics these days - and it's why I hate politics. It's not a discussion anymore - it's just a screaming match.