Thursday, September 27, 2007

Fashion nuggets, courtesy of

1. Do these socks come with an instructional pamphlet? 'Cuz I'm pretty sure I'm going to need some directions. And a mission statement. Because I can't grasp why these exist.

2. For the lady who wants her outfit to scream, "I AM the NRA!"

3. From the actual product description: " Monochrome stripes greet the bust." Boy howdy, do they ever. I guess that's one way to put it.

Bonus fact: This shirt is featured in their WORK WEAR department.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Maybe it's just the fever talking...

But this line, contained in a spam e-mail I received today from one "Casimiro Brockly Studebaker" (which doesn't top my all-time favorite, "Squintessence Rutabaga," but admit it, it's still reasonably fabulous--is "Brockly" a play on "broccoli," I wonder?), is epic:

"The day went on like that. Apparently forever. We crawled across the

the seconds to doomsday."

Whoa, man.
WHOA. That's heavy.

Friday, September 21, 2007

"All our hatred was left behind/When we took command of the First Avenue Stage."

I'm devastated to report that the Spam Museum in Austin, MN, is closed on Mondays. Talk about a bummer. At least the gift shop was open, so we could peek around a little bit at the Spammy insides (including a conveyor belt near the ceiling, ferrying Spam all around the building)... Oh well, I'll just have to try again somewhere down the line--it didn't look like they were in any danger of running out of Spam anytime soon.

But despite the Spam disappointment, the final day of our Tour de Dork rebounded on an up note. One
hell of an up note.
They Might Be Giants.

Oh, yeah.

They Might Be Giants

They Might Be Giants

Shannon and I staked out a good spot right behind the sound guy, on the top of a little flight of stairs near the back of the room--nothing against being up-close and personal by the stage, but well, we're short. We'll take any help we can get.

They Might Be Giants

They Might Be Giants.

And with a setlist that included "Spider," "It's Not My Birthday," "Meet James Ensor," and "Alphabet of Nations" (in addition to the standbys like "Birdhouse," "New York City," and "Older"), I was in dork heaven.

John & John.

Can salute.

Damn good times, indeed.

TMBG Fun Fact: Their song "Minneapolis," included on their Venue Songs DVD/CD, was the first one they wrote in the series:

"The experiment begins in the Twin Cities of the single state known as Minnesota. Specificially, the legendary Minneapolis rock club, First Avenue, where the artist formerly known as public radio's Garrison Keillor first bathed our world in the purple madness of songs such as, 'When Doves Cry,' and 'Powdermilk Biscuit Rain.' It is Keillor's legacy of Midwestern pledge-drive funk that gives They Might Be Giants the idea for its very first venue song. A song that shall never be played again.")


Just before we got up here

All the guys were having a fight

Marty was yelling at Danny and John

John threw stuff at Dan

But the anger we felt for each other was kept

In our private backstage world

All our hatred was left behind

When we took command of the First Avenue Stage


First Avenue Stage.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

RenFest without transvestite strumpets is like a day without sunshine.

The next stop on Tour de Dork 2007 was the one, the only, Minnesota Renaissance Festival.
Where the huzzahs begin.

I must admit, it wasn't quite as mind-bending of an experience as last year. Maybe two years in a row is too much, too soon--or, maybe not seeing
chain mail bikini girl or transvestite strumpet left holes that no amount of ye olde fajitas or pickle-shaped action figures could fill.

But still, the pickle-shaped action figures were pretty cool.


And so was meeting up with my old college buddy Ann--we hadn't seen each other since we graduated in 2001.

Me & Ann.

And I do enjoy the
Mud Show quite a bit.
Mud show!

Mud show!

The high point of the day for me came when we were watching this troupe of troubadours trying to keep playing as they were swarmed by bees. The fife player on the left was getting the worst of it--he finally had to quit playing altogether, and scurried around the stage waving his fife at the bugs yelling, "Bees! Bees, everywhere!"

"Bees!  Bees everywhere!"

That said, I think I'm going to take next year off from RenFest. Perhaps my heart requires a bit more absence before the fondness kicks in again at full-tilt.

I'm going to let the rest of these speak for themselves because, well, I'm lazy.

Shannon & Scott, soaking it all in.

"Ear ye."


Dunk the wench.

Lady Visa.

The "Moons Over My Hammy" of cave tours.

The first stop on the Tour de Dork was Crystal Cave, aka "Wisconsin's Longest Cave," located a bit west of Menominee (home of UW-Stout, aka "when in doubt, go to Stout," which no, isn't their official motto, kind of like how UMD's motto isn't really "come north and freeze your ass off").
Crystal Cave.

Now, this wasn't my first time at the rodeo, so to speak--I've been on cave tours before. Well, one cave tour. But it was
a doozy, the filet mignon of cave tours, and frankly, it's the standard by which all other cave tours I take in this lifetime shall be measured by.

Crystal Cave is...well, it's a little more, uh, commercialized, shall we say. For starters, the tour starts in the gift shop.

One of the more sophisticated cave entrances I've seen.

And instead of narrow concrete stairs winding precipitously through crevices in the rocks, here things are a little more, well, accessible.


And while the tour of Lewis & Clark Caverns out in my old stomping grounds was pretty well-grounded in scientific facts and historical stories, Crystal Cave veers a little more toward flights of fancy. Like the bit about walking around a stone pillar once clockwise for good luck, and twice for bad.

The "good luck pillar."

Or the bit about the "Room of Ghosts and Ghouls," which does have one vaguely ghost-esque shape in the wall, but which also contains likenesses of the Road Runner and Ronald Reagan in the rock (although, considering my opinion of Reagan, I guess he
could sort-of qualify as a ghoul...). Or the cockamamie story about a caveman driving a motorboat and crashing into a wall (right about where Shannon's standing).

Did I mention the wall of "good luck pennies" yet?

Still alive & kicking, despite not putting any money in the wall.

Or the rock formations referred to as "cave bacon"?

Referred to, scientifically, as "cave bacon."

(I can't see it, either.)

But despite the hokey factor, it was fun. Ten dollars worth of fun, anyway.
We saw bats, stalactites (the size of soda straws, mostly), and a couple of stalagmites here and there.
Bitty bat.



And, on the way there, we passed through a town with a park named "Handy Andy Park." That alone was enough to put the excursion into the "win" column.

Two thumbs up.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Tour de Dork.

What's on deck for this weekend:

(Wisconsin's "longest cave")



(John & John)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Random rules.

(A blatant rip-off of The Onion A.V. Club feature of the same name, wherein famous musician/fan types put their mp3 players on shuffle and talk about what comes up.)

The Beatles - "For No One"

Paul isn't my favorite Beatle (that honor goes to the late, great George), but this is definitely one of my favorite Beatles songs. And from one of my favorite Beatles albums, too. This kind of quiet, unspoken deterioration of a relationship is so hard to put into words, and I think that's why this song impresses me so much. The melody of this song is so deceptively "up," like the front people try to keep up for the world even as this major prong of their life is falling out from beneath them...just a really subtle, elegant blend, I think.

Eels - "Girl From the North Country"

My favorite band (well, one of them) covers another one of my favorite musicians--can't really go wrong with that.

William Shatner - "Ideal Woman"
I'll go on the record here in saying that I think William Shatner is a national treasure. Wait, he's Canadian, isn't he? Then that makes him an international treasure. Seriously--Has Been is a great, great album. I'm so not even kidding about that. Buy it for the "Common People" cover, and then stick around for the rest, because it's totally worth it. Go!

Elvis - "Stranger In My Own Hometown"

"I'm like a stranger/A stranger in my own hometown." I remember listening this to a lot in August of 2005.

Roy Rogers - "Don't Fence Me In"

When I was moving back from Montana, I made a bunch of mix CDs for the drive--I spent hours digging through my CDs (instead of packing, haha--oh, not really), picking out stuff that held special significance or that just sounded like it'd be good driving music. And I took extra-special care with the first mix, the one I'd have in the car when I drove out of Helena that August morning...this was the opener, right after Nina Simone's "Feeling Good." Oh, god, I bawled like a baby.

Wilco - "ELT"

was my first Wilco album--I bought it before I went to an R.E.M. concert in St. Paul in August of 1999, since Wilco was going to be the opening band and I didn't want to go in totally blind (deaf?). And I loved it. At the time, I didn't know that this album was kind of a departure from their usual sound...this is poppier than most of their stuff. But, given my musical shelteredness at the time, this was probably a good place to start.

Björk - "It's Oh So Quiet"

I must have a little teensy bit of musical-theater-lover DNA tucked away in me somewhere, because I love this song. It's so ridiculous and girly--I don't even need to close my eyes to picture the jazz hands and 50s-style poofy skirts fwooshing around a stage somewhere. Plus, Björk was on Space Ghost that one time. I have to respect that.

George Harrison - "Between The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea"

Ahh, there's my favorite Beatle. Another old-fashioned-sounding song. With ukulele! And tuba! And one of my favorite lyrics: "I don't want you/But I hate to lose you."

Eels - "From Which I Came/A Magic World"

This whole album is intricately tied with my memories from May 2005 and my trip to Britain and Amsterdam. I'd brought my CD player with me, and I'm pretty sure Blinking Lights is the only thing I listened to on the whole trip, from takeoff in Helena to touchdown back in the same. It reminds me of planes, trains, and buses, of long walks in Bath and Edinburgh, of rainy nights in Amsterdam and croissants and pears and "scurvy prevention" campaigns. And a lot of slow evenings in hostel rooms, too, playing gin and Uno and trying to soak as much of the moment in as humanly possible. This song title in particular seemed particularly resonant at the time.

They Might Be Giants - "Meet James Ensor"

"Before there were junk stores/Before there was junk" A (the?) song about "Belgium's famous painter." God, I can't wait to see these guys next week.

R.E.M. - "Fall On Me"

During my last year of college, I had to take this lame-o composition class as a requirement to graduate...ugh, why do they make composition classes so tepid? I found it ironic that classes designed to get people to hone their writing skills and develop "their voice" were so...well, why do they suck all the joy out of it? God. Anyway, one of our projects was to pick a poem or song lyric and dissect it, basically, for meaning. To an English major who'd spent the better part of four years doing that kind of crap daily, it was pretty easy. This was the song I chose, which I thought was kind of neat since there's a lot going on (there's two countermelodies/counterlyrics buried in there under the main line), and it was kind of layered and had an element of mystery to it. Apparently I was the odd duck out, because everyone else in the class chose a bunch of crap off the radio at the time (bear in mind, this was prime Spears/Backstreet/J-Lo timing). For peer reviews, I got paired up with this girl who'd done hers on a Corrs song. (They were that one Irish band that was semi-popular at the time, with the three sisters and the one weird brother in it.) And oh my GOD, it was the most insipid thing I'd ever read. The song was about as hard to dissolve as a sugar cube--typical blatant love song tripe. It was like lameness being piled on top of a heap of stupid, with a nice layer of schlock drizzled over the top. Ugh.

The Who - "Squeezebox"

All those CSI shows are threatening to ruin The Who for me. But I still like this song, mainly because it reminds me of that one episode of Freaks & Geeks where Lindsay wanted to go to see a Who concert, and her parents listen to one of the albums to decide whether it's appropriate or not. And in the middle of this song, her mom's trying to mime playing an accordian during the "in and out and in and out" part, and oh god, it's so naïve and funny.

Vandeveer - "Grace & Speed"

This gets stuck in my head a lot. One of my favorite albums so far this year, too.

The Monkees - "(I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone"

I've had a crush on Michael Nesmith since I was eight. haha And I don't care, this song is badass.

Stevie Wonder - "Uptight (Everything's Alright)"

I picture a football field with an unrealistically energetic marching band performing whenever I hear this.

Frank Sinatra and Bono - "I've Got You Under My Skin"

On the first mix CD I think I ever made, when I was home for summer break in college the year we got a computer with a CD burner at Rancho del Asbach (1999?), this was on there. So was "It's Raining Men," New Kids On the Block's "Popsicle," and the Baywatch theme song. I particularly love/chuckle at the part where Bono starts cooing like a trumpet. Coincidentally, I believe this was also around the same time that I realized "scat" is also a word used to describe animal droppings.

DeVotchKa - "The Enemy Guns"

Great driving music. All swirls and gypsy flourishes.

Tom Petty - "Cabin Down Below"

I distinctly remember getting Wildflowers when it came out, and right after that on the NBC Nightly News (with Tom Brokaw) they had a report on about scandalous rock lyrics that featured the "we can roll another joint" line from "You Don't Know How It Feels." All of a sudden I felt very dangerous. haha

Clem Snide - "Fontanelle"

Maybe the sweetest song ever. A blessing in song form, really.

Ewan McGregor - "Your Song"

Uh-oh, that latent love of musical theater rears its perky head yet again. Whenever I think of this, I have to think of this guy I worked with out in Montana, Will--we drove together from Montana to Minnesota in June of '02, and somewhere during the delirious hours in South Dakota we must've listened to this on repeat, I don't know, twenty times? And Will took some paper out of my glove compartment, and was writing out this vast and complicated outline of the song and what he kept referring to as "the emotional thrust!", and he was doing this ridiculous fist-pumping and to this day, I can't help it, now I do it, too.

Carl Douglas - "Kung Fu Fighting"

If it's wrong to love this song like I do, then I don't wanna be right.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Ain't no party like a big Greek party, 'cuz a big Greek party don't stop.

A couple of weekends back, my old friend Georgia got married to her longtime boyfriend, George. After many years of slackerdom, and many failed attempts to get my sorry butt down to visit her, this time, I came through. I guess I know how to crank it up a notch when it really counts.

There goes the bride!

George is from a big Greek family. And they are very Greek. They take their Greekness seriously like folks in Moquah take their pigs-in-a-blanket and cabbage seriously. I've been to lots of pigs-in-a-blanket, cabbage-strewn weddings in the past. But I've never been to a big Greek wedding.

And I was way out of my league.

Delicious heart.
Yes, that is a heart made out of strawberries.


Yes, that is a tray of sculpted butter next to a centerpiece containing an individually-lit orchid, on top of which was one of these, containing more than a dozen roses & orchids apiece:

Centerpiece topper.

Did I mention the ice sculpture yet?
The ice sculpture.

Lemon sorbet.
And yes, that's a delicious lemon sorbet, festooned with yet another orchid, to "cleanse the palate" before course 4 of the five-course dinner. I TOOK A PICTURE OF IT, it was that amazing.

Pictures cannot do this wedding reception justice. And I mean that in the most glorious way possible. It was, hands-down, the most opulent extravaganza I have ever been witness to. And for two of the nicest people I've ever been witness to, too, which makes it all the more awesome.

Oh, and did I mention the "dessert table" yet? Which was about as big as my living room, and filled with every conceivable treat you could possible come up with? Each more succulent than the last???

The "dessert table."
The "dessert table."

Or...the to-go boxes?
The to-go boxes.

To say nothing of the scrumptious wedding cake itself.
Checking out their cake.

And have I mentioned how they throw money into the air during the Greek dances yet? Wads
of money? To the point where the entire dance floor was covered in $1s by the end of the night?
Money goes flying...

By the end of the night, I was waiting for a unicorn to run out or something.

Thank goodness Shannon came with me as a witness--otherwise I don't think people would've believed my story when I got home.

Shannon samples some treats.
By the fountain out front.

What an amazing night. What a great wedding. What a great couple! Georgia, I'm officially hooked on the big Greek parties--you let me know if any of George's cousins or friends are looking for a good German-Polish-Norweigan-Slovak girl from up north.

Georgia with some schlub from up north.    (haha)