Friday, August 29, 2008

This just in...

If you like/love/appreciate the Cleveland institution of Velvet Tango Room in any way/shape/form, you simply must, if you are ever in Boston, visit Eastern Standard.

Holy mother of freaking god, that place is something wonderfully special.

My friend and I had a great time, with a little bite to eat and a series of spectacular cocktails. Things got even better when we were invited to stay behind after hours and pick the bartenders brains -- apparently they saw something special in us. This turned in to an hour-and-a-half of the finest cocktail experience I've had in some time.

These guys do many awesome things, from making their own blueberry infused gin to ordering wonderful herbal essences from the far reaches of Earth.

The best thing is, you can get this exact same type of splendor at Velvet Tango Room any night of the week. I'm digging it in Boston, and plan to go back again tomorrow, but I'm also looking forward to getting home to Clevo and reminding myself how fantastic the cocktail opportunities at VTR are there.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Greetings from Boston

Hello Cleveland(ers),

I'm sending you this mash note from Bean town, where I'm comfortably holed up in the downtown Sheraton, killing time until Joe Biden gives his VP acceptance address.

One observation about Boston, and I hope you don't think me too crass. All cities are full of beautiful women - Cleveland has its share - but the women I have passed on sidewalks and in cafes in this town are lovely in a wonderful way, serious and educated and on point. For a couple hours this afternoon, I wanted badly to move here and have one take me in as a project, a prospect that needs some buffing and romance to achieve his potential. Call me what you will - callow, perhaps? It was just a thought.

But back to the moment at hand. I'm spending my evening in my room, watching TV. Oh well.

I did the same thing last night, though in my defense I did go out to a funky little dive called Bukowski's, which I really liked despite my significant loathing of the bar's namesake, who I fervently believe was the worst-case, lowest-common-denominator, valueless distillation of the very worst and immature weaknesses of Hemingway. To be honest, I've never much respected anyone that considers themselves a Bukowski enthusiast. The women who claim him always have serious issues, typically with their fathers, and seem to be making some childish literary point with their fandom that they mistakenly confuse with the avant garde. Men who like him are usually smart though still wallowing in some junior-high yet perpetually girlfriendless nineteen hybrid noteworthy only for is startling level of digusting naivete.

Can you tell I don't like Bukowski?

I hope none of you do, or if you do, that you don't take my harsh rhetoric too personally. We are, after all, virtual strangers to one another. Literally.

Also, I'm happy to admit I like the Mickey Rourke performance in Barfly. I know, I'm a regular Whitman with the multitudes of contradictions inside me.

Anyway, I had a good day today. Gave a presentation in the morning that went well - the audience response was robust and supportive, at least. Then I went for lunch and an urban hike with my friend and his wife. (By the way, it is weird for me to think of my friends as having wives - I've known these two as a couple for years and was in their wedding, but it still feels strange to me. Not in a bad or mean way, just funny that my friends are increasingly married. Nevermind.)

After an uninspiring lunch - and my realization that Indian Pudding is indistinct from Gerber pureed carrot baby food - we did a little sight-seeing, including stops at Paul Revere's house, the church where the "1 if by land, 2 if by sea" thing took place, and a visually stunning old-school graveyard. My friend and I both agreed that it was impossible to figure out where the bodies were actually buried, as the way the tombstones were configured didn't seem to indicate anything. Then we read a little historical marker explaining why this was the case. Turns out some decor-minded citizens decided to up and move the headstones and "reorganize" them in a way that was more pleasing to the eye and convenient for walking through the graveyard. Isn't that weird?

After the graveyard, we hiked back to the train station nearest the government center, stopping off for lovely Italian pastries at Mike's on the way. Now I'm whupped and looking forward to reading a bit before falling asleep. (Speaking of reading, I finished Keith Gessen's debut on the plane and it was wonderful. All you male Bukowski readers should check it out. Actually, male and females, Bukowski and non-Bukowski fans alike).

Tomorrow I have work and networking to attend to, as well as a quick lunch at the Trident Cafe and a walk down Newbury. I have dinner and drinks plans (separately) at some interesting places that I'm looking forward to, Match and Eastern Standard, respectively. I shall report back to you how things turn out.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Date Report - Prepare to Laugh at me

So I had my date last night. It was good. I like the woman, as I said previously she's smart and funny and pretty. She has really impressed me with her ambitiousness, her seriousness about life and what she wants from it. That is probably as much about her being impressive as it is about her being so different from the last couple gals I dated, who were in their early to mid-thirties and just content with floating along.

Anyway, the date was on last moments notice, and everywhere I called was full up, so we ended up going to Tremont Tap House. It was really loud, compared with what I remember from last time, but it was fun and the beer/food was good. When we finished up and walked out, there was still about an hour left until we were to meet our mutual friends at a show, so I suggested we grab a drink somewhere else in Tremont. She agreed, and we drove over to Sokolowski's.

Yes, Sokolowski's. The Polish cafeteria. That one.

I'm sure most of you reading this are now snorting, hopefully in a somewhat sympathetic laugh.

In my defense, somehow I had it in my head that since she was talking about her Polish roots she'd like it.

I am a fool. I know this. Some times my brain just doesn't work.

Actually, I can't say she didn't like it, I don't know. She seems pretty laid back, so maybe she was cool with it. She didn't refuse to go in. That's something, right?

While we are there, she starts yawning and apologizing for her yawning. We each drink a beer and head out to the car. By this time it is clear that the "meet at the show" part isn't happening, and I start driving her home.

We chat and joke during the drive home, and when I drop her off there is the awkward in-car hug. She gets out, I back out the drive way, and as I'm leaving I send a text to her friend, asking her to let me know what she hears.


I accidentally sent the text message to the girl I had just been out with, not the friend that had set us up.

Now you can start guffawing.

It was like a slow motion traffic accident. I typed the text, then went to my "recently used numbers" list. Date Girl was second on that list, Our Mutual Friend was third. I started scrolling down and as I went to select Our Mutual Friend the joint in my thumb locked up and I hit the wrong button completely inadvertently.

As I sat there, now at the stop sign at the end of her block, I watched in horror as the screen flashed from "Sending Message" to "Message Sent" screens. In my head, and maybe out loud, there was a steady drone of "oh no .... oh no .... Oh no .... Oh No .... OH NO!."

But, Oh Yes, I had done it.

At this point, I was faced with an impossible decision. Ignore my buffoonery and just resend the message to Our Mutual Friend or try to explain what had happened to Date Girl. Upon reflection I don't know if my decision was the right one, but I immediately called her up.

When she answered, it was obvious she thought I was being creepy. That was fair, as it is pretty creepy to drop someone off and then call them 2.5 minutes later, while your car is still sitting at the stop sign at the end of their block. She answers and I say, "Don't worry, this isn't a creepy post-date call, this is a douchebag post-date call." Like that's better. I explained what had happened in as quick a manner as possible. She sort of laughs, says she had heard the phone beep in her purse but hadn't had a chance to read the text yet. I assured her that when she did, she'd have proof that I was a total idiot. I'm not a mind-reader, but I'm pretty certain she was thinking that she already had that proof.

I told her again I had a nice time and would call her soon and we hung up. I tossed my cell phone in the back seat and drove home with the blood slowly draining from my face.

By the time I got home, I was appreciating the humor of the situation. Later I received a text from her friend, something to the effect of how she had heard about the text incident, thought it was hilarious and cute.


All I can say is thank god I'm not from one of those traditional societies where you have to kill yourself out of shame. If so, I'd be splattered on the pavement in some ironic pose. As it is, I'll just hide in my apartment.

So there you have it, Lesson # 953 on why I am still the Cleveland Bachelor.

Biden Time

I've had a fan request for a post on Biden.

Sorry, Christine, to relegate you to mere fan status, but I needed a pick-me-up after last night. More on that next.

Obama picked Biden. Fact.

By the way, has anyone actually received "the text" yet? I'm typing this at 8:50 Eastern and I haven't received one.

As for the choice itself, I think it was a good one. I'm not sure if it was the best one. I would have liked to see Virginia's Warner selected, but that's been off the table for a while.

In the last couple weeks I've been slouching toward a Gomorrah-like rationalization of putting Clinton on the ticket, saying things like winning with her is better than losing without her, and that the Hill-Bill tandem could bring just the level of dirty politics that Obama needs to deal with McCain's ruthlessness. I'm happy on a principled level that Obama seems to have avoided making the deal with the devil(s) that I was suddenly so willing to make, though if he loses the election by an Ohio or Virginia, I'm gonna be upset.

As for Biden, I think he's a good guy. He's smart, engaged, funny. People say he puts his foot in his mouth a lot, but that's just the media caricature. Seriously, no one in the Senate has foot-in-mouth disease as bad as John McCain, but the media doesn't cover it that way.

Hopefully they will finally start to, and I think a combination of his histrionic negativity as well as the "I don't know how many houses I have" gaffe will cause the MSM to start doing so, but that's for another time.

I honestly need to do a bit more thinking about why I like Biden, but for now check out David Brooks's pro-Biden op-ed from yesterday. He does a great job of introducing the candidate to the larger population, and I think (hope) his rise from humble roots and tragedy will resonate.

Amazingly enough (though maybe we should stop be amazed by these scumbags), McCain already has an anti-Biden ad out.

Who does that? Who releases negative ads about the VP mere hours after the person has been chosen and before they've even appeared in public with the presumptive nominee?

John McCain, that's who. I am shocked people are supporting this guy. His entire campaign is "look at all these half-ass bad things I can make up about Obama." One-half of our country is suffering from massive delusions.

Friday, August 22, 2008

First Dates

So I have a date tonight. A couple I'm friends with set it up, and I've met the girl a few times now. She's cool and funny and pretty and level-headed, so it should be a good time.

But that isn't the point of this post.

As I was thinking about dates and, particularly, first dates, I started trying to remember some of my previous first dates. Most of them I can't remember at all, some events I can remember but not the person, some girlfriends I remember but am clueless as to what we did.

I'm firmly in the camp that says your first date doesn't have to be a somewhat more laid-back reincarnation of prom. You don't need to go to somewhere fancy, just do something cool.

The best first date I ever had was during college. The girl's name was Tisha, she was a couple years older and I still lived in the dorms. She picked me up, and we went to McDonalds to get fountain cokes. It was a blast. More importantly, it introduced me to the glory of the medium-sized McDonalds fountain coke. We only hung out a little bit more after that, she got back with her ex-boyfriend, but a few months later we actually became roommates for a couple of months. I lost touch with her after that, but it was a great first date.

Another great first date was also in college, when this girl I had passed on the quad so many times and I finally had a random chat, which lasted through lunch and the afternoon. We decided to meet up later for laundry, which was the most fun I've ever had cleaning anything in my life. We ended up dating for several more months, but then moved back to our respective states for the summer and things fizzled out. We are still friends, and she has recently been married and had her first child. It made me happy a couple weeks ago to send her a present for the baby.

Another time, actually the girl I was dating immediately before I met the one who I went on the laundry date with, ended up being a visit to the local nature preserve. We made out a bit in the grass, only to discover we had gotten bitten to shit by some insects. I ended up being vaguely allergic to those insects, as I woke up with hives all over my hands and feet, arms and legs, and face. Not a good thing, as we had decided to have date #2 the next night. Fortunately, I went in to work and the sage woman that was my friend and confidante there told me to get some benadryl and it would go away. I was 19 at the time, and so as she went to the store to score me some booze for the date she also picked up the benadryl. She failed to warn me that I shouldn't use both products at the same time -- I guess that's a lesson one is doomed to learn the hard way -- and the date ended (predictably) with my passed out and my roommate walking my now ex-date home. I saw her one more time after that - a random stop by during the Super Bowl when my roommate and I were home watching the game and feeling sorry for ourselves that everyone we invited over already had (much cooler) plans.

My only Cleveland first date was about as casual. We went to the Phoenix in Cleveland Heights, had coffees and lunch and just hung out for a few hours. A week or so later we had our first night-time date, which some consider a key component of the first date, which was a stroll around the Tremont art-walk.

My first date in Texas, where I lived before here, was dinner and a movie, an event only made unique by the fact that my brother tagged along. There were many other first dates in Texas, some laid back and others were fancy, but I don't really remember very many, neither the places nor the people. Funny how that happens.

When I was in college I developed a pretty standard first date -- the first three examples in this post were actually deviations from it. It involved an afternoon walk down the cool commercial district, the bar/head shop/funky cheap ethnic restaurant strip. I spent a lot more time on that strip than most others and knew it like the back of my hand. We'd stop in the Koffee Kup (a dirty-ass half cafe/half Vietnamese restaurant) for Vietnamese coffees, then hit up the record store where the single smartest music guy ever lived -- dude never steered me wrong. Then we'd hit up the used bookstore, where I'd pay attention to what kinds of books she liked. If the didn't fit my standards, the date would end shortly after that (I know, I'm a smug dick and my romantic bad luck is nothing more than karma paying me back for this type of shit), but if it was impressive we'd keep heading down the street, getting something tasty at Boo-Boo's Dawg House or a fish sandwich at Lunker's. Those dates were usually successful (at least those that made it past the bookstore) because they included lots of fun (and usually new things for my dates) to do but also gave us the chance to talk. It wasn't super high pressure, because there were things to look at or interact with or think about, yet it always seemed like, at the end of the afternoon, they had fun and thought I was interesting. Then again, I always seemed to date a certain kind of girl - bookish and alternative with a smoothable edge. I have no doubt that many others would think me cheap or boring or lame or whatever.

During my Master's degree, first dates ran from shooting pool and drinking beer at a campus pub before meeting up with a group of our fellow students to crashing an undergraduate party to going to a party thrown by my friend Tony. I also continued my generic first date practice, though it evolved from a walk down the head shop district to having dinner at a place called Lucca's and drinks at a basement bar called something I am totally blanking on right now. Those were less successful.

Now that I'm a "grown up" I guess something similar will probably develop, but life hasn't been consistent enough to allow any kind of pattern to develop, whether on purpose or just evident upon review. It'll be interesting to see what does happen, though.

In the meantime, I should probably go do some sit-ups or something.

Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Something for you to read, Part 9

Congreswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones passed away today, and you can read her New York Times obituary here.

Tubbs Jones was an historic figure that took principled stands and showed a lot of class in how she handled the primary election this year. I have only lived in Cleveland a short time, but I know she will be missed by her constituents.

From the fine folks at

Want a free Obama button? MoveOn's giving them away totally free—even the shipping's free. Mine's coming soon, and I wanted to share the opportunity with you.

Click this link to get a free Obama button:


Something for you to read, Part 8

Check out's Ron Rosenbaum's anti-ode to that puzzling population of puzzle enthusiasts out there.

I used to have a girlfriend that would play sudoku on her cell phone when we would get in bed for the night. Sure, that quite possibly (probably) is a reflection on the level of excitement I bring to the bedroom but even so I never could quite wrap my mind around that, or times when she would shout with glee when finding sudoku books on clearance sale. I always struggled for the right word, but Rosenbaum finds it for me: reductive.

Check it out.

This nation has lost its mind.

Holy Fucking Shit.

Speaking of The National...

Aren't these lyrics fantastic?

Hey, love, we'll get away with it
We'll run like we're awesome, totally genius

(from The Geese of Beverly Road)

Something for you to appreciate

Check out Even Bader's photography, especially the Illuminati gallery.

Beautiful, if somehow harrowing in a way I can't express. A nice example of contemplative, objective zeitgeist.

I was listening to Alligator by The National while checking out his work and it seemed a nice pairing.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Now who?

So the Cavs got rid of my two favorite players, Joe Smith and (especially) Damon Jones.

I'm sure this new Williams guy is great and all, but who to cheer for now?

Why couldn't get rid of floppy Anderson?!?

LeBron to Bush 41

From the WaPo Olympics blog:
The Olympics are just four days old, but the best quote of the Games has already been uttered, and there is a 0.000000 chance that it will be topped. This from colleague Michael Abramowitz's Style Section story about the Bush Fam this morning.
Meeting Team USA with Bush 43 before the game, Bush 41 gave a warm hug to Lakers star Kobe Bryant and received an affectionate greeting from Cavaliers hero LeBron James: "What's up, pops?" the massive James asked.

One way for a 23-year old pro basketball player to greet a former President might be "Hello, Mr. President." Another might be "What's up, pops." I'm done making fun of LeBron for the crying and the scowling and the wide-eyed disbelief. Anyone who breaks out the "What's up pops?" line is ok by me.

Don't let the door hit ya, George

Something you might not be aware of:

George W. Bush's presidency will end up lasting about 2922 days. There are about 156 left to go, so we've managed to survive 2766 thus far.

Guess how many Dubya has spent on vacation?


That's right, nine hundred and nineteen days of vacation in just over seven years.

That's right, our dear leader has been on vacation fully 1/3 of his time in office. That would make the French and their infamous mid-summer hiatuses blush.

Of course, I guess we could spin it as a good thing -- I mean, how bad things might have got if he had cut those vacation days down to 800 or even 400?

Instead of asking McCain and Obama what role religion plays in their life or who they might put in what Cabinet position, maybe we should just ask if they are going to put in a full work week -- and maybe a weekend here and there -- once in office.

(Note: These numbers are in a large part drawn from Maureen Dowd's column today, so don't blame me -- or be all that surprised -- if the math is off.)

By the way, in case you were wondering, he president's on vacation today.


I'm as jaded as the next guy, if not more so. I usually find the Olympics boring (except the men's track events from 800 meters on down) and a brief interest in the Dream Team back in junior high.

I was a little irritated a couple times earlier this month when I was forced to sit in a living room with Olympics coverage on, though within an hour I found myself as patriotic and absorbed as the next guy, cheering on the USA women gymnasts in the prelims and feeling really sorry for that Nastia girl since her dad seems to be such a mean douche.

Anyway, last night I'm at a terrific show at the Beachland, with back and forth shows starting in the ballroom and tavern every 30 minutes. The whole night was ostensibly a Dreadful Yawns cd release show, but they'd invited a Chicago band named Big Buildings to play before them. Big Buildings stole the show, as they fucking blistered. They played what might have been the best 30 minutes of rock I've seen in a while.

Even so, as much as they rocked, during their second or third song, I notice to my right a little crowd growing in the back corner of the bar. I look over and see the TV has been turned on to the Olympics. At first I roll my eyes, then realize Michael Phelps is going to swim for what could be his record-setting 8th gold medal. I start switching my gaze back and forth between the band and the tube, but soon the band loses out and as the race starts I walk over to the TV and watch. The race was a great one, some relay/medley thing, and though the USA team consistently was in the hunt, the lead kept changing hands between Japan, Australia, and us. At every length hipster girlfriends were grabbing their boyfriends in delight and the enormously tall bartender was pointing out to the growing crowd which lane the Americans were in. Going into the final leg, the Americans surged ahead and kept it all the way. When the last guy touched the last wall, the crowd let out a muted cry of cheer, a combination of latent patriotism and salute to the unparalleled achievement of Mr. Phelps.

That guy really is a stud. I found myself dismissing his achievements a few days ago, telling someone that yeah, he may well be talented, but that's all he does, by his own admission. If I picked one thing and focused every second of every day of my life on it, I'd be pretty good, too. Maybe not Olympian, but pretty good. But, you know, I have a life.

That seems both petty and weak of me, and I knew it then, when I said it, but I still think there is some degree of truth to what I argued then. But I find myself today as impressed with Phelps as anyone else. I'm not impressed just with his great swimming skills - though he is admittedly unbelievably awesome in the pool - but rather his ability to excel throughout a long and stress competition. Dude had to know the eyes of the world were on him, that literally every single person who knew him was keeping tabs, and he didn't waver a bit. I guess he can be disappointed that he didn't set a world record in every single race (only 7, right? Yeah, only.).

So anyway, here's to Michael Phelps, all-universe class sportsman and new American hero.

If only he'd grow a Spitz-esque mustache.

Go USA! Beat China!

(Sorry, couldn't help it.)

Something for you to read, Part 7

OK, check this shit out. Apparently some Mexican archeologists have found the original entrance to the Mayan city of the dead. Underground. And underwater. With skeletons from human sacrifices. And references to ancient religious texts.

This is not a joke at all.

Check out this L.A. Times article. It is like real-life Indiana Jones shit.

Some people have jobs that are waaaay cooler than mine. Xibalba. Wow.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Prelude to something imaginably awful

For those of you still not quite certain who the monsters are in this recent conflict between Georgia and Russia, perhaps this AP article will help you figure it out.

Here's the first three paragraphs -- click the link above if you want the rest:

Aug 16th, 2008 | TSKHINVALI, Georgia -- Russian troops and their allies forced Georgian men at gunpoint to clean the streets of South Ossetia's bombed-out capital Saturday, avenging Georgia's attack on the breakaway province a week ago.

Three teams of ethnic Georgian men in their 40s and 50s were seen hauling debris from the streets of Tskhinvali. When approached, one of them confirmed he was being forced to work.

"Labor even turns monkeys into humans," said a Russian officer, who along with armed Ossetians escorted one group of about two dozen Georgians through the streets of the capital.

Let's see, forced labor of non-combatant members of an ethnic group. Comparisons of said members of ethnic group to sub-human species. Where have we heard about that before?

Maybe those in the press and pundit class will stop being so knee-jerk quick to blow off comparisons between the newly-bellicose Russian bear and the rise of Germany in the late 1930s.

Probably not, though. We can't seem to do the right thing at the right moment anymore.

Something for you to read, Part 6

Today's selection is actually a bit dated, circa 2006. It is Alan Richman's much-reviled pan of post-Katrina New Orleans dining.

Richman's tone, more than his thesis, is what pissed so many off, and though it caught a lot of attention when it was published, I'd forgotten about it till this week, when the media world shouted out a cheer at the return of the Times-Picayune's restaurant review column, which had been dormant since the hurricane.

Richman's an excellent writer, and occasionally funny, even if his haughty sense of humor can seem especially callous here after the Katrina tragedy. Worth reading if you like to think about food and/or tourist culture.

Baracky II

This made me laugh. I only hope the election comes out like Rocky II did ... with the good guy on top. Go Barack(y)!

pick me ups

It is funny how little things can change my mood in one direction or another. I don't know about everyone else, but I usually maintain an even keel ... until a series of events pushes me in one direction or another. If I'm having a regular day and then something good happens, followed by another good thing, followed by yet another good thing, by the end of the day I'm irrationally exuberant about the world and my place in it. Similarly, if I start from a position of calm and average mood, then something happens that is bad, followed by more bad and more bad, I'm ending the day in a dark and down mood.

Yesterday was one of those bad and more bad days, which came a day after another day filled with mostly negative developments.

By 8:30 I was pondering between just going to bed or sticking with my plans and checking out the show at the Beachland. I went with the Beachland because (a) I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep in that mood anyway and (b) because I needed Miracle Whip, which I could get at Dave's, where I could also ask for cash back to pay for my cover and a couple beers, since I had no cash on hand.

Make sense to you? It probably shouldn't.

Anyway, I get the Miracle Whip (and a bag of generic Cinnamon Toast Crunch) and drive over to Collinwood, feeling sorry for myself the whole way. I get there, park, walk over to Music Saves to see what is new, pick up copies of the new Bears and Dreadful Yawns albums, and then head over to the Beachland moments before the first band, The Climates, kick off.

The Climates were good, a talented instrumental troupe, though I was only paying about 25% attention. I was sitting at my favorite loner stool, at the far end of the bar, digesting the recent issue of the Scene, pausing only to clap between songs and sigh. I know, so fucking emo. I felt like Stan Lee's role in Mallrats, wandering around forlorn, admiring the casual affection between young couples and the glee on the face of dancing hipsters, while hunched over in my own world of wah.

The second band, Antenna Shoes, starts up and I start paying a bit more attention, both because they are good and because when the singer introduced the band it sounded a lot like "tennis shoes." I'm guessing that was on purpose, right? Clever. Anyway, the band was good, and I found myself pondering whether to get a copy of their cd or another beer -- I only had enough cash left from my Dave's score for one or the other but not both, and I didn't feel like starting a tab.

As I sat pondering and pouting some scraggly bearded guy walks up and says, "Hey, great tattoo, man," smiles and walks away. A short while later I realize this guy was with the band on the bill from Austin, TX, which makes sense as the image was inspired by a mural on a former record-store exterior wall there.

That gets me a little out of my reverie, and as I turn back to face the bar I see the bartender pointing at me from the other end of the bar. The point lasts a split second and he turns away -- apparently I caught the tail end of the point. A short time later he walks down and asks if I want another beer (decision made - I shall not be purchasing a cd this evening), and I say I do. He says he had just executed a cross-bar point to see if I needed a refill but I hadn't noticed. "Oh, but I had" I protested and complimented the style. A couple chuckles and I'm a bit sunnier than before. The freshly cracked beer probably helped with that, too.

Following Antenna Shoes, Oh No! Oh My! takes the stage and was wonderful. I'd have definitely bought their album, but my cash reserves had sunk under $10 thanks to beer #2. (I really have to start asking for more than $20 cash back when I go to Dave's before heading to a show!) They finish their set moments before I finish my beer, feeling a little less morose. I decide to head home for bed and don't even stay to see the Royal Bangs. At that point, I would've just been waiting for them to finish, which seems a waste.

Anyway, here I am, mid-morning Saturday. I need to go to the market to get some stuff for a bbq with friends on Tuesday (think anyone else will like the recipe for goat tacos I found?), work on a project that I've fallen a couple days behind on, and then head out to the Beachland again.

Great local show(s) tonight, by the way folks. The Dreadful Yawns are having their album release party in the Ballroom, with openers Pale Hollow, while three NEO acts -- Beardo Bandini, Good Touch Bad Touch, and Dinomania -- are playing a free show in the tavern.

Maybe I'll see you there.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Happy Bachelor Day!

If you didn't already know -- and there isn't really a good reason why you would -- today is Cleveland Bachelor Day.

More precisely, today is the first anniversary of my move to Cleveland. Or, at least, the start of my lease.

As a result, I have decided to dub it Bachelor Day.

Right now, there aren't really any fancy traditions to follow or games to play. If anyone has a suggestion, I'm all ears. Just remember, the day is all about me so plan accordingly.

In honor of the first Bachelor Day, I've decided to compose a list of all my favorite things this year. If you think I left something off and wish to ask me what my favorite thing is in some other category of your choosing, feel free. That's what the comments section is for.

Now, without further ado, the things that made this year the (first) Year of the Bachelor:

Favorite Lunch Spot: Melt in Lakewood
Favorite Dive Bar: Duck Island Club between Tremont and Ohio City
Favorite Music Venue: Beachland, Tavern to be precise, though I dig the murals in the Ballroom
Favorite Dinner Spot: Momocho
Favorite Cultural Institution: CIA Cinematheque
Favorite Movie Theater: Cedar Lee
Favorite Sports Team: Browns, though I enjoy going to Progressive Field
Favorite Media Personality: Kevin Keane of WTAM (I love the guy's sports enthusiasm!)
Favorite Cultural Event: Tremont Art Walk, though now I pretty much only hit up Asterisk, Doubting Thomas, and sometimes Visible Voice
Favorite Art Gallery: Asterisk (Dana DePew's place has the best vibe of any gallery I've visited in the USA!)
Favorite Place to buy books: Mac's Backs (Suzanne is a NEO treasure.)
Favorite Place to buy music: Music Saves
Favorite Place to buy clothes: Not anywhere special. I've probably bought the same amount from Shoparooni, TJ Maxx, and Brooks Brothers. Draw your own conclusions.
Favorite Place to buy groceries: The West Side Market (also a NEO treasure).
Favorite Place to have breakfast: Not much of a breakfast fan, though I've had an enjoyable leisurely time at Lucky's and some good cheap vittles at Nick's on Lorain.
Favorite Blog: Tie between Really Bad Cleveland Accent and Even Cleveland though there are many other good ones (see blogroll to the right ---->).

That's all I can think of for now. More category suggestions please!

Royal Bangs

Ugh. Last night I had a terrible night.

No use lingering on it any more than to say it was a total bummer.

But today is a new day.

And tonight is the Royal Bangs show at the Beachland.

The Royal Bangs are an up-and-coming indie band from Knoxville, TN. They first came across my radar when they were selected as one of the featured college bands for last week's New American Union music festival in Pittsburgh, brought to you by the fine folks at American Eagle and "curated" by Anthony Kiedis. The selection of the Royal Bangs cemented, in my mind at least, the band as one worth checking out. Some time last month I picked up their newish cd, We Breed Champions, and have been periodically digging it since.

The album is interesting and fundamentally inconsistent. The apparent influences change from song to song, with a guitar hooked, chorus-friendly, poppy gem like "Cat Swallow" followed shortly by a seemingly Sparklehorse-inspired tune ("Japanese Cars") followed later by an equal parts Bob Seger/Arcade fire tune like "Russia Goodbye." Plus there are lots of subtle Pinkerton-era Weezer feints throughout.

None of this is bad, but I think it will be a while before the Royal Bangs discover their "real" sound. Which is cool.

Meanwhile, I'll be there to check them out, along with solid opening acts like Austin's Oh No! Oh My! and Memphis's Antenna Shoes.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Best Politicians in Cleveland

Christine's post reminded me to write this post, which I had first considered when I heard about Joe Cimperman's response to Bob Shores about how he stands on the idea of a new liquor license being handed out to the address where the old MODA building stands.

In a word: opposed.

And I'm glad.

The other night, a friend and I had dinner in Tremont. We are both civic-minded, engaged types, and had a thoughtful conversation about Cleveland politics and which leaders were poised to help solve the problems this city has faced, still faces, and will continue to face. We both immediately agreed upon Joe Cimperman, and both agreed that although we'd have liked to see him beat Kucinich in the primary, Cimperman could do much better spending his political career here in Cleveland, perhaps first as leader of the council and eventually as mayor.

What do you think? After Cimperman, my friend and I pretty quickly ran out of other names ... and we pay attention to local politics. Which other politicians do you think hold promise for the area?

Note to Major General Robert Lee: Screw You.

I'm reading this article today, concerning the latest waste of taxpayer money by the Department of Homeland Security. This time they decided to send a decent-sized contingent of senior staff to a convention ... in Hawaii ... at a high dollar resort on Waikiki Beach.

Whatever, nothing new. Especially when DHS is concerned.

But then I get to the organizer, Major General Robert Lee of the Hawaii State National Guard, and his comments on why it was necessary to host the convention in Hawaii.

From the article, "Lee said that it was unlikely that anyone from the Pacific Rim would make the effort to attend "if this conference is held in Cleveland Ohio."


Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Hey folks - I'm going to Boston for about 5 days later this month. Anyone have any tips? I'm particularly interested in cool venues/galleries to check out and hidden culinary treasures.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Something for you to read, Part 5

Actually, I don't know if this is really Part 5. I'm just guessing. I could go back and look through all 203 of the previous posts, but, well, I'm not gonna do that.

Anyway, today's assigned reading is a well-written, incredibly well-sourced essay by Joshua Green in The Atlantic on the demise of the Hillary Clinton campaign.

This essay is unusual in that I think it would appeal to casual observers of politics as well as those who studied the field at post-graduate levels.

Check out the article here. There are hyper-links throughout, but this link will also take you to a series of memos written by members of the HRC team, nearly always damning in their tone and incompetence.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Two things for you to read

1) James Traub's essay (NYT) on the roots of the Georgia-Russia conflict. Exceptionally well-written, thoughtful, and honest in its critical approach to both sides.

2) David Gann's essay (New Yorker) on French impostor extraordinaire, Frederic Bourdin, the Chameleon of Nantes. How did this guy end up this way? I blame his mother.

Enjoy your Sunday afternoon, folks.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Toast to the West Side Market

As some of you know, I've been considering moving out of my expansive Ohio City abode for another neighborhood more suited to my cultural tastes. I've been leaning toward the Cedar-Lee area of Cleveland Heights, but nothing is set in stone.

Most of the time I'm pretty set on getting out of this particular neighborhood, but every so often something reminds me of why it is a decent place. Today's trip to the West Side Market was one such experience.

After sitting around, fiddling with work I should do but can't quite force, I decide to go grocery shopping. A quick walk has me at the market, where for a ridiculously small amount of money I pick up 4 fresh peaches (thanks to the gal at the stand that directed me to the better selection), a bag of mushrooms for a buck, some organic spinach and carrots, a bag of chili cheese popcorn, a 1/2 lb of the best sliced hard salami I've ever had (from the apple-cured meats stand), a pair of quesadillas and a tin of Mexican lasagna from the Oreale folks, and a gyro to go from Steve's. Some folks, including the publishers of Maxim, say Steve's has the best gyro in the country. It is pretty good, but far from the best. My personal favorite is a little run-down shop in Kankakee, IL, called Mickey's, but I'm sure there are some far better options out there that have so far eluded my belly.


Despite my adventures in Parma, I still ended up giving MoveOn money today to help our guy Barack. Perhaps it was all the poignant anti-Bush El Vez jokes that reminded me how important it is to win this November. After all, an election is a policy choice, not group therapy, and the right choice between Obama and McCain is pretty damn clear.

And besides, I only donated $20. And got 45 Obama buttons in return.

So, if in 4-6 weeks you find yourself wanting to sport some Obama paraphernalia, you know who to holler at.

(In case you aren't very smart, the "you know who" I'm referring to is me.)

El Vez for Prez

El Vez for Prez?

El Vez for Prez, indeed.

Last night I went to see the El Vez spectacular at the Beachland. I knew it would be fun, I was aware of the costume changes, but somehow I underestimated the glory I would find.

I'd heard of El Vez before, but always as a Latino Elvis impersonator. (Here's something I didn't know: El Vez, in a previous professional life, was the frontman for The Zeros. Wow.)

That's not quite accurate. There are definitely some musical references, as well as some stage kicks and gaudy belt buckles, but that's about where the similarity ends. Instead, El Vez combines dozens of pop songs, changes the lyrics to enhance the political theme of his tour, and puts together a stage show singing and dancing spectacle.

I laughed so much, I did a little bit of a old man with bad knees shimmy, I had a great time. I can't wait till the next time he comes through, whether on his Christmas tour or gospel tour.

In the meantime, I have a great El Vez for Prez tour poster to hang next to my Captured! By Robots Bush tour poster in my office.

Moment of the day: Toss-up between El Vez's seamless back-and-forth between Marshall Tucker Band "Can't You See" and Oasis's "Wonderwall" quotes OR my friend's wife and her friend's stories about weekend lingerie pillow fights. You be the judge.


Also, is it just me, or does it seem curious to any of you how quickly and emphatically the government has been making this anthrax case lately.

It seems odd how, now that this mild-mannered scientist is dead, there is this avalanche of evidence showing what a deranged, sorority-obsessed, homicidal lunatic he was. I mean, if this much information comes out within 24-48 hours of his death, don't you think the FBI could have detained him?

You know, the FBI that now insists Bruce Ivins was a lone gunman. How Manchurian Candidate/Warren Commission of them.

Seems awfully J. Edgar Hoover-ish to me. Then again, as news comes out that the White House ordered the CIA to forge a letter "proving" the intelligence the administration cherry-picked to make the case for war, well, lets just say I don't hold much stock in the relative "truthiness" of what I hear.

I'm not saying Bruce Ivins was innocent or even normal. Just that this stuff seems to wrap up awfully cleanly and perfectly. And when that happens, well, the one thing we can be assured of is that the version of events we (the public) is being sold is anything but true.

By the way, this article surveys the ocean of disbelief that exists regarding this case a lot better than I could ever do.


What is going on? I mean, Bernie Mac just died, the mayor of Detroit spent some time in jail, a US tourist was killed at the Olympics, buses en route to church conventions are flipping, and - biggest deal of all - the Russians invaded Georgia!

I have a few friends in Georgia, as well as a soft spot in my geopolitical heart for the former Soviet state, as it has been one of the few places to stand up to the monstrosity of Putin and post-Yeltsin Russia. I heard on the radio as I was fading off to sleep last night that the Soviets, I mean Russians, had started shelling Tblisi, that they were targeting government buildings, that the Georgian president had declared marital law, and that tiny Georgia was doing its best to repel the attack, even though they stood not a chance against a small fleet of bombers and a convoy of 150 tanks.

Say what you will about John McCain, but he is the only one that seems to call this attack as it is: a massive act of violence which Russia is predominately responsible for. Obama merely called for both sides to step back, as did President Bush, who was too concerned about watching the Olympics and not offending China. I guess the days when "A Man Stands Up" are mostly gone in world politics, and especially American politics.

In any respect, my thoughts are with my Georgian friends - Lasha, Dato, and Tik0. I hope this awful nonsense ends soon for you, that you and your family don't suffer too badly, that all ends as well as can possibly be hoped. Good luck!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Before I forget...

Last Saturday, after my volunteer shift had ended and while I was drinking PBRs with my new volunteer friend, I heard the greatest quote come over a nearby radio, tuned to NPR:

Something along the lines of, "From time to time, the brain must lay fallow."

It was a justification for taking mental vacations (which I am all about).

I think it was a rip off of Balzac, but that doesn't really matter.

Something for you to read

You probably don't have enough to read, right?

I mean, who does these days.

So, to fix that, I've decided to share with you a cool little article I recently stumbled upon. I can't remember where I came across the link, so please forgive any e-poaching.

The article in question comes from a Spring 2007 issue of Filmmaker magazine. The topic concerns the recent mumblecore film-making movement, which includes recent festival hits such as Funny Ha Ha, The Puffy Chair, and Hannah Takes the Stairs.

The movies definitely aren't perfect, but they combine the DIY mentality of people like Linklater and Kevin Smith with the youtube generation's (mostly) humble narcissism and a traditional liberal arts education, mix it up, and create some pretty clever and often touching films. You should check them out.

More importantly, someone should have a mumblecore festival here, like the Harvard festival the article mentions. I'm looking at you, John Ewing, and you, Bill Guentzler.

For those of you who read the article, let me know what you think. I was particularly taken with the notion of how the festival circuit facilitates such networking and creative collaboration. I know the same thing happens on indie rock tour circuits, though high gas prices are making it more difficult to occur. Hopefully the same thing doesn't start to happen in the indie film world, though if it does, maybe that would make stronger regional networks and a greater diversity of burgeoning movements. Thoughts?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

My favorite Indians player

In less than two months, Sal Fasano has won me over.

The mustache really helps. So does the fact that he's a die-hard Bears fan.

Old Angle, Still Creepy

You might remember my late-June post about an incredibly creepy incident at the Old Angle tavern. If you don't, here's a quick recap: I was at the Old Angle with a female friend. She had to go to the restroom after a while and, when she went down there, was scared out of her mind by finding a guy (later revealed to be an Old Angle employee) hiding in the women's restroom, ostensibly peeping. (Some have criticized or disputed this peeping conclusion of mine, but in the absence of any other explanation offered to me on what dude was doing hiding in the ladies room, what alternative conclusion should be drawn?)

This post of mine got a good bit of attention, thanks to another blogger's email to the OCNW safety director, who in turn got in touch with the owner of the Old Angle. Eventually, I received an email that apologized for the incident, listed all the steps the place has taken to make it a more safe environment, and promised action to figure out why this employee was hiding in the restroom and to make sure it wouldn't happen again. Specifically, the owner promised that "In the meantime, I have contacted an electrician to install a light in the alcove in question - that should make it pretty hard for someone to try to conceal themselves there. I will keep you updated as events unfold, and please do not hesitate to contact me about this or any future concerns."

For the record, I have never heard another peep from this guy. Also, having beers there with a couple friends on Sunday, I learned that the aforementioned light in the alcove has not been installed. (Note: I didn't scope this out myself, as the alcove is in the women's restroom - the woman in our group went down there and told me about it. So it is possible a light had been installed, but was just not turned on. Which completely defeats the purpose.)

I'm left with the conclusion that the owner's main goal in responding to me was to avoid any more bad blog press. Once he accomplished that, he didn't follow through on anything else. No light in the alcove, the side entrance is still wide-open to anyone who might want to sneak into the place (though he justified this on the grounds that it makes life more convenient for customers and did not promise to change that), certainly no further communication to me.

So, boo Old Angle. I gave you chances. No more.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

If you were born between 1973 and 1979, keep reading

Thank you for continuing to read. Obviously you are between the ages of 29 and 35. Or you wish you were.

Now that I have your attention, I'd like to encourage you to check out The Wackness. It is playing at the Cedar-Lee right now and it is wonderful.

This is especially true if you listened to smart hip-hop in the mid-90s (such as KRS-One or A Tribe Called Quest), identify with the visage of Kurt Cobain, or remember fondly the rise of the Biggie and Puffy.

This is further true if you, in the words of the current president, acted "young and stupid when you were young and stupid." 'Nuff said.

If these things apply, or you just want to see Ben Kingsley off his rocker (or, to a lesser extent, one of the Olsen twins as a society girl slumming as a deadhead) in a warm cross-generational urban buddy movie/bittersweet romantic comedy/coming of age flick.

Memo to Obama

Tip O'Neill is credited with saying "all politics is local," a statement brilliant in both its accuracy and its pithiness.

I think you can go a step further: all politics is personal.

Few Americans vote based on the results of sophisticated processing of policy-related information. Instead, they vote on their gut and their heart.

Barack Obama, you are slowly losing my vote.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not becoming a McCain convert. I am just decreasingly enthusiastic about you every day, as I see you waffle, compromise, and become more Bush-like in your rhetoric and press relations.

Sure, I'll end up voting for you (more than likely), but right now that feels more like a "Not McCain" vote than anything else. I think back to how I felt about your candidacy in the late months of 2007 and what I thought about you as far back as 2004 and I can't really tap into that excitement anymore.

And that, Senator, is your fault.

My qualms are three-fold. If you or anyone with a voice in your campaign cares, feel free to read them. Feel free to email me. More than anything else, feel free to stop trending the way you have been since at least April.

1) "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss"

I'm not sure if you are starting to remind me more of George Bush or Bill Clinton. Either way, this isn't a compliment. I'll start with Clinton, whom I loathe. Somehow Bill Clinton has this reputation among left-leaning citizens of being a good president. I think that's because they associate with him as a victim of the right-wing attack machine. Republicans are bad, thus Clinton = good. That's nonsense, of course. Clinton was a terrible president. He accomplished nothing of substance, allowed his personal life to become a national distraction while the right-wing ushered in an era of irresponsible deregulation and fiscal mismanagement, and - worst of all - signed off on and proudly claimed credit for legislation that was consistently more conservative than his immediate predecessor, George H.W. Bush.

Current President Bush, too, is loathsome, more so for his hostile disingenuous than his stupid decisions (at least Clinton's disingenuous came with a smile, though his "triangulation" and "spin" were equally dishonest ways of communicating with the mass public).

Barack, you have started to do this, too, with your adoption of Bush-like press relations (most evident in recent reports of your campaign's punishing reporters not on the plane, refusing to tell reporters where they are heading next until the plane has lifted off, refusing to distribute pool reports to anyone not on your side of things, etc.). You've also resorted to the worst kind of "explanations" and barely-honest claims concerning what you really meant when you said something or how your pandering moves right-ward are actually liberal and so on. The only silver lining I see in this -- and trust me, I really had to stretch -- is that you seem to be so bad at this kind of mendacity that it couldn't possibly come naturally (a la Clinton). So that tells me your instinct isn't to lie. It also tells me that, instead, it has been a clear decision. Which is about as bad.

2) Your move to the middle has coincided with a rapid deterioration of your perceived advantage. Coincidence? I think not.

Who are you, Senator? The knock on you that you were a mystery hidden beneath vague promises of hope and change is starting to ring true, though perhaps not in the way people expected. Since you began your cynical and ill-advised move to the middle, you've expressed support for the ridiculous FISA bill, the moronic Supreme Court decision about the DC hand gun ban, changed courses on offshore drilling, and espoused a handful of straight-up Republican positions. Who are you trying to win with this strategy? Do your advisers really not tell you (or believe themselves) that every movement rightward loses support from the left, and that steps rightward aren't guaranteed to win you support with the crowd you are trying to woo. For evidence of that, look at your recent decline.

Apparently when you and your advisers were taking notes on the Kerry campaign in '04, you only paid attention to the swift-boating. Although you've done a decent job responding to McCain's lunatic claims, you need to remember that the 527 crowd is not the only reason why Kerry lost. He also lost because not enough Americans believed in what the guy was selling, and a big part of that lack of faith was because they couldn't figure out what his opinions were. Sure, Karl Rove was an evil genius at playing the "flip-flopper" card, but it wouldn't have worked as well if Kerry hadn't, well, flip-flopped in his previous policy stands and early campaign rhetoric. You, sir, take flip-flopping to a new level. As every week brings us a new instance of you adopting a new conservative dimension to your position on another major issue, the end result isn't increasing swing voter comfort levels with your earlier reputation for being a progressive. The end result has clearly been and will continue to be a rising discomfort among progressives and left-leaning voters with who you are. We just had 16 years of image-conscious presidents assuring us they were something that history shows us they were not. Offering more of the same is not a solid sales technique, as your campaign so presciently pointed out during the primary season.

3) My own experience in Parma.

Much of Northeast Ohio is excited about your visit to Baldwin-Wallace College today. For a while, so was I. So much so that I decided to drive down yesterday to your Parma office, where a campaign email told me to go, and pick up a ticket. I got there an hour or so after the office opened, and there was a crowd of maybe 20 people standing in what maybe was a line. I didn't see anyone outside who looked like a voice of authority, so I went inside, where another dozen or so folks were. I saw an in-charge looking guy giving a couple other people tickets, so I walked over. After the two received theirs, I asked if I could have one. The in-charge guy looked at me -- and I mean looked, like I was being evaluated for fitness to attend -- and then said he was sorry, that they had run out. Before I could respond, a woman and four girls of late high school/early college age walked over and interrupted. They asked if they could volunteer for the next day's events and he said they could, and instructed them to join a group of others that were waiting outside for instructions from the volunteer coordinator. I said, "Oh, I'd love to volunteer, too." Again the look of appraisal, followed by a smug "We aren't accepting volunteers."

So, let's review. Handed out two tickets right in front of me, then told me he didn't have any. Then told 5 women they could volunteer, immediately after which he told me they weren't accepting volunteers. Why might this be the case? I don't know. The man and woman who did receive tickets were Latino and African-American, respectively. Though perhaps the man was the mayor of Parma and the woman was the leader of Ohio Lawyers for Obama or some big-time bundler or something. Perhaps the women were really members of B-W's Vote for Obama group and the older woman was their faculty advisor. Perhaps.

But that wouldn't explain the evaluative gaze he cast upon me both times before rejecting my request. Maybe something about the way I looked indicated something negative. After all, I did have shorts and a t-shirt and a corduroy cap on. I also wear glasses. Maybe that's bad. Maybe the tattoo did it. Maybe I wouldn't add to the portrait of diversity Obama's handlers clearly try to posture behind him when speaking. Maybe my male presence would upset the PUMAs the campaign is trying to reassure. Maybe lots of things.

But the fact is, I drove to Parma, asked for an opportunity to observe my chosen candidate speak, and was rejected with a sneer and a pair of lies from some hack advance guy. I just didn't add to the vibe they were trying to create, so I couldn't get in the room. When I asked him if it was just my bad luck that the two folks in front of me happened to snag the last tickets and if the women that had interrupted me happened to fill the last 5 volunteer slots, he said, "Yep" in the most sarcastic way you can imagine. I stated that this was all bullshit and walked out, noticing that the volunteer group was entirely female, and started driving back to Cleveland while doing a slow-burn.

I cannot ever know what was in the guy's mind, but I can tell you what it felt like: racism. Don't get me wrong - I'm not coming even close to conflating my denial of a ticket to a speech with Jim Crow, or anything remotely like it. Being born into a position of demographic privilege (i.e., white and male in the USA), I haven't come across that kind of hostility nearly as often as my friends who have minority backgrounds have. In those rare instances when I do experience it, it is a shock and a sharp pain. I'm especially shocked to receive the treatment from the campaign that prizes itself on its post-racial composition and offers a break from the cynicism of the past. I also want to say that I don't think the guy refused to give me a ticket or let me volunteer because he doesn't like people of my race. Instead, he was most likely implementing a stupid policy, designed to maximize a certain image, and did so in an incredibly clumsy (yet simultaneously hugely arrogant) way.

I sent a text message to a couple of my friends about this on my drive back, one being my best friend from grad school, who also happens to be African-American and has been a civil rights activist for years. He was shocked and angered, too, but noted with disappointment that Obama's team has increasingly been working like a tightly-controlled machine, walling the candidate off from the public and taking a ruthless tack toward dissent suppression, and that this is really starting to upset liberal and identity group activists.

I am smart enough to know that Barack Obama wasn't the one who sneered and rejected me. But I still feel the burn of one of his representatives doing it, and doing it so clearly in the name of politics. Like I said at the beginning of this post, all politics is personal. That moment in Parma became a milestone for me, and in the fall when I go to the polls I'll probably not only still feel the sting, but also that sting will probably be more powerful and fresh in my mind than the positive feelings I have also had, like when I watched his 2004 speech or when I saw Arcade Fire play at a rally for him or when I went door-to-door in a super-shady neighborhood before the Ohio primary or when I first realized the transcendent role he could play in our future.

A transcendent role that is increasingly unlikely as he adopts Clintonian and Bush-like approaches to politics and, one would expect, governing.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

RIP Solzhenitsyn

Alexander Solzhenitsyn is dead. For those unfamiliar with his literary legacy, you can check out this AP obituary (though keep your eyes peeled for a NYT obituary - it will undoubtedly be great). For now, I'll just say he was an eminently talented writer, a man who managed to internalize Russian fatalism while exposing and condemning the political institutions (many of the very worst and inhumane order) of the Soviet Union that preyed upon this fatalistic orientation toward life and society. Solzhenitsyn himself spent years in a GULAG camp and wrote simultaneously from first-person and outsider macro perspectives.

He was a better writer (and quite arguably a better person) when he was railing against the injustices of the past than when he was fighting to shape his nation's future. Nevertheless, there are few men or women of letters that molded as many minds in concrete ways that also wrote with the talent and evocative spirit as he did.

Reading his obituary makes me want to set aside a couple weeks and devour the archipelago series, or at least a couple days to immerse myself in Cancer Ward.

New Year's Resolution

If the new year started on August 1.

Effective immediately (as of tomorrow), I'm going to start jogging again.

This may kill me, so if I haven't expressed my affection for you, take this as your notice.

If it doesn't kill me, I hope to work my way through all 9 weeks of this wonderful little couch potato to road race plan I found.

I tried this same workout a couple summers ago and managed to make it through 3 weeks before I quit. Technically, quitting wasn't my fault. My work-out buddy had to go and get diagnosed with cancer at that point, and I was so demoralized I just stopped. In other words, blame him.

He's fine now, by the way. And I don't really blame him. Not totally.

Anyway, I went three weeks and though it wasn't exactly fun or comfortable, it was doable and I did lose a little weight. I'm hoping to lose some now, too, but really I just want to end the 9-weeks in the type of shape that will allow me to exercise more regularly. When I was younger I was quite the runner, and used to sign up for 5-k races for fun. I have some friends that still do that, and it seems like a good way to go. I noticed a flier today for a 5-k on August 23 in Lakewood -- I'm definitely not gonna be able to pull that off, but it turned me on a little more to the idea.

Hopefully I won't scan back over my August blog posts some boring day in October and see this and chastise myself for giving up on this attempt after a couple weeks. I guess like all else, though, we shall see.

Whiskey Daredevils!

I just returned from a Whiskey Daredevils show. It was AWESOME. Those guys know how to rock AND have fun at the same time.

In reality, the entire show amounted to a series of "moments of the day" for me. As such, I'll note them below. You can pick which was your own favorite moment, as transcribed by me. Maybe we'll make a tally. Maybe we won't.

Anyway, tonight's show was especially interesting in that the band broke in a new lead guitarist. Weirdly enough, the new guitarist played the first set, and the exiting guitarist played the last set. Personally, if I was a member of the band, I'd have suggested the other way around, but whatever.

As I said, the first set took place featuring the new guitarist, and he was very good at his instrument. He didn't move very much, but he was still very good.

The second set was where the real shit took place. Or, at least, when I became intoxicated enough to pay attention to the important stuff.

Like, for example, the fact that the lead singer mocked to an excruciating degree one of his fans, who happened to clearly be a frat boy, wearing a fratty t-shirt and pleated shorts, for which he took a significant amount of shit. He didn't seem to realize he was being mocked, which was even funnier for me. Then again, he was a frat boy, so he probably wasn't going to get his own mocking no matter how much attention he paid, so perhaps we shouldn't make fun.


After that, I noticed several funny things.

For example, a really fat guy wearing a Tab (soda) t-shirt. You gals will get that one.

And another time, when the outgoing guitarist simply NAILED his solo, and then, as he finished it up, just looked at his hands in disbelief, as if they were controlled by some alien force of awesomeness and he was just a semi-willing subject temporarily possessed with shredding awesomeness, far beyond his own personal control.

Also awesome was the fact that the Garage had some VH1-esque channel on, and it was silently playing a series of 80s metal videos. Not only did I notice this, but the lead singer also did, and drew particular attention to a spectacular W.A.S.P video, saying that his band would not retire until someone paid them enough money to recreate said video.

I laughed.

I stopped laughing sometime later when I realized the band had segued into a bittersweet moment, following another solo by the outgoing guitarist, which I realized was the last for him as the member of this band. In a cool turn of events, the new guitarist came back up the stage and pulled out his own slide, and did a solo while the other guy kept playing his guitar. It was a cool homage from new to old, and the lead singer busted out some maracas to keep the vibe going.

Anyway, as the song ended, the singer provided a perfect quote. He wanted to thank the outgoing guitarist for leaving the band just as he had come in: slightly out of tune.

A couple more beers and a shot later and here I am, typing this to you.

I know you appreciate it. No need to tell me.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

music & art in Collinwood

So I went to that Zookeepers show last night. Let me tell you, those dudes are YOUNG! Like high school young, I think.

Still, they got some chops, especially the guitarist (who was sporting a Clay Aiken tour shirt ... awesome). They didn't play either of my favorite tunes, but it was worth getting out of the house anyway.

Today I went over to the Waterloo Arts Fest. It was awesome.

I actually volunteered in the morning, and found myself on a four-man crew putting up the wobbliest tents in the world. It was a lot of fun, and the three other people were really cool. We only worked together for like three hours, but it kinda seemed like we walked away sort of friends. I hope I bump into one or more of them soon, before their names and faces fade from my memory. With the way things have been going in that department, I better bump into them like sometime next week.

After my shift ended, one of my fellow tent-putter-uppers and I snagged some PBRs and relaxed in the cavernous community center room behind ArtsCollinwood. After trading tales and draining our cans, we split up, and I worked my way from booth to booth. I picked up a cool photographic print and a pair of neat postcards from some gals affiliated with the local Artisans Alliance group I always see outside Visible Voice during the Tremont Art Walk. I also snagged a homemade shirt from Shoparooni and a few cool cds from Music Saves, including Air's Moon Safari, Flight of the Conchords, and Danielson's Ships (the latter despite my disdain for Sufjan). Had a good chat with the female half of the store's ownership and was, for the first time ever, busted out as the infamous Cleveland Bachelor. She was totally cool, and even complimentary about it, but I was super embarrassed for whatever reason, like I had been caught red-handed at something nerdily shameful. Anyway, she gave me some tips on places in Collinwood to think about moving to, and all was well.

Afterwards I headed down to the Beachland and caught a couple sets of free local rock, courtesy of both Mystery of Two and The Hot Rails. Both were good, but I really dug the Hot Rails set. So much so that I picked up a copy of their cd and even googled the band when I got home to see if they had any more upcoming gigs. Note to Hot Rails: put a schedule on your myspace page, por favor.

After having my fill of music, I bounced around again, grabbed some grub from the gyro guys, spilled my drink on my pants, bought a $1 beer at a weird little bar next to ArtsCollinwood (not Cafe Marika), and then decided to go home. Doing so meant I would miss the several after-parties (particularly the cool collage party at Shoparooni and the pizza and music at Music Saves), but I was whupped.

Now I'm gonna get a quick shower, then head across the street to the Garage Bar to see my friend's band play. I'm tired, but after seeing these fellas play before, I have a feeling it will be only mere minutes before I'm bellied up to the bar and in the swing of things. I just hope tomorrow isn't too tough - I actually need to get some shit done.

Friday, August 1, 2008

off to bela dubby

Going to see the Zookeepers and a couple other bands at bela dubby tonight. Hope it'll end up being fun.

I really hope they play this one: