Friday, February 29, 2008

Erin Go Bra-Less.

I thought about sitting on this until a bit later in March, but I thought people might appreciate getting ample notice so they have time to pick up some of these in advance.
"Official Shamrockwear."

Hmm...okay. But how does it work?
It's versatile...I guess.

Hat, scarf, headband, hairband (there's a difference?), arm band, neckerchief, and a tube top??? I guess that is pretty versatile. Kind of puts the Infinite Dress to shame, really.

(I must admit that "bustier tubulaire" makes it sound way more sophisticated--those French may be on to something.)

And what St. Patty's Day ensemble would be complete without beer goggles?
Beer goggles.
But, be forewarned--these are NOT a protective device. So if someone throws acid at you, the goggles do nothing.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Even scarier than pledge drive season.


When I was a little kid, I was scared to death of the station IDs on our local PBS channel. And I’m not exaggerating--I was TERRIFIED. Every break between shows, there they were: near-silent 10-second shots of waterfalls, trees, Lake Superior. Water trickled. Leaves rustled. Waves lapped gently against the shore. I leapt behind the couch and whimpered, gripped with panic but unable to leave the room because if I did that, the TV would win. And I might miss 2.5 seconds of the opening of Sesame Street, and I waited all day for that theme song so obviously, cowering behind the couch suffering through 10 seconds of sinister nature-inspired audio, peeking around the corner to see if those wretched trees & waterfalls & waves were gone yet, was the logical course of action to take.

Here are some (very) hastily rendered approximations, in still form:
Fake PBS still.
Fake PBS still.
Fake PBS still.

Oh yeah, clearly, these are the stuff nightmares are made of.


Monday, February 25, 2008

Mish-mash.

Acrobatics.
This black squirrel's found a way to shimmy out on a twig, onto a string of twinkle lights, onto yet another twig, so he can dangle out into midair and get just enough grip on this bird feeder to gorge himself for a few seconds until gravity tries to slap him down. I admire his tenacity, but frankly, I get tired just watching him.

These gross me out.
I don't like the look of these.

And these really gross me out.
And somehow, these manage to look even worse.

Vaguely horrifying.
These are horrifying.

Buckled up for safety's sake.
This is not.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lunar eclipse.


Lunar eclipse.

One of few subzero nights in February when I'm glad there's no cloud cover holding in a little extra warmth.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Why I'm voting for Obama today...

...is summed up more eloquently than I could put it in this piece I read in the Atlantic a few months back.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Police blotter.


Saturday, 4:25 A.M.:
Complaint of neighbors having loud “intimate relations.”

Saturday, 10:33 P.M.:
Report of a streaker.

Sunday, 1:30 A.M.:
Report of a group of underage kids "smokin' and drinkin'" outside a nearby residence.

Sunday, 1:31 P.M.:
Caller states his daughter stole his beer and some movies.

Monday, 5:18 P.M.:
Caller states someone stole some soda cans and a pair of pants.

Monday, 6:53 P.M.:
Caller reports that she has been threatened by workers at "Tan Fastic" for over a month.

Tuesday, 9:22 A.M.:
Report that someone poured bacon grease on the tennis courts.

Tuesday, 11:52 A.M.:
Caller states that someone put ketchup all over her door.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

99 Heart-Shaped Luftballons.

99 Heart-Shaped Luftballons.
These were all over downtown Ashland today, tied to lampposts...I have no idea who was responsible for this (I know the VFW puts out flags for Veteran's/Memorial/Independence Day, but are they the types to take up heart-shaped ballooning duty?), but they sure did provide a much-appreciated blast of color in the midst of all the snow & slush.

Happy Love Day!

Balloons.
Balloons.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The longer I look at this, the funnier it gets.


My 4th grade class photo (1988):

Fourth grade.

I'm the ventriloquist dummy in the front row.


Monday, February 11, 2008

Reruns.


The tornado generally comes out of nowhere, though sometimes a warning on the TV buys me just enough time to run skittering into the basement. But it really doesn’t matter, because no matter where I duck & cover, the tornado always finds me. I don’t want to accuse the tornado of cheating in our game of meteorological hide & seek, but, well, I’m not entirely convinced it’s on the up & up, either. Is it peeking while it's supposed to be counting to twenty? Stop it, or I'm telling Mom.


Note that I’ve never actually been
in a tornado, or really even much of anywhere near a tornado (although there was that one time in Missouri when my veiled-but-still-probably-noticeably-panicked “Uh, does your apartment have a basement?” query was openly mocked). They’re reasonably rare around our particular geographical pinprick due to the lake effect--but there it is, nonetheless, sucking me up into the sky, a Dyson to heaven. As I spin, I notice the incredible amount of detail on the debris flying around me -- George Lucas has got nothing on my brain’s internal CGI, I guess -- and yes, there's almost always a cow twirling up there with me. Nine times out of ten, the last thing I see is the ground rushing toward me, but once in a while I'm done in by the flying cow or something else smashing into me in the funnel.

I don't have much luck with elevators, either. Generally, if an elevator shows up, I know I'm about to get squashed. And for some reason, getting squashed in the elevator is infinitely more frightening than being squashed by the Dyson to heaven. (Maybe that's because I've actually been
in an elevator, so it has some bearing in reality, however small.) Sometimes, the cable snap happens as soon as the doors close, and maybe that's merciful because at least then it's over quickly. But other times, the elevator decides to toy with me…it rises a few floors, or a lot of floors, then suddenly it hesitates just long enough for me to have the "oh, shit" moment before the freefall. I wake up in my bed the instant the box hits the ground, all my muscles tensed stiff after a jolt presumably big enough to send the cat bolting across the room, because once my eyes focus, I usually spot her over by the door, eyes wide and wild.

I don't know what part of my brain is responsible for this subcategory of dreams, but I'm starting to think I'd be okay with that bit getting lobotomized.


There are some that are just plain weird, but not in a frightening way. One of them usually unfolds like this: I stand in front of a mirror, I pull out a hammer and a nail, and I proceed to pound the nail directly into the middle of my forehead. Sometimes, I'll hang a picture on the nail, or another mirror. Sometimes, I'll hang a tiny bucket off of it, like I'm waiting for my head to start dripping out sap. Brain syrup!


King Kong has been making regular appearances since I was about three years old and I watched the '76 remake on TV with my dad. When I was little, his giant head would appear alongside my crib/bed (I had dibs on the crib until Whitey was born) or outside of my windows, not menacingly, but just in a neighborly sort of way. Sometimes, I'd go over to his place, where his wife (Mrs. Kong, I presume?) would make giant blueberry waffles for us, waffles as big as our station wagon. As I've gotten older, these are fewer and farther between, but every once in a while he'll still come swinging by to see me. If I ever have children, I'm tempted to make them watch
King Kong at a highly impressionable age to see if this repeats itself. That'd be kind of scientific, right?

There's a lot of other guest stars: Chewbacca, the Hamburglar, the Burger King, Phyllis Diller, Tom Brokaw, the cast of
Seinfeld, Dolly Parton. The most freakishly frequent guest star by far, though, is Bono. Yeah, that Bono. The Bono dreams started when I was in college, which is weird because (A.) I wasn't a particularly big U2 fan, and (B.) later, I found out that my friend Maria has them, too, and that hers started around the same time. And she's not a U2 fan, like, at all. Was there something funky in UMD's water supply in the early 00s? Was it confined to just the English department or something? We may never know.

Bono accompanies me on everyday errands. We go to the grocery store, or to the laundromat. Sometimes, we go bowling. Once or twice, we were on an airplane, eating peanuts, but I don't recall where we were flying to. The dreams are
not romanti c-- I'm not catting around with Bono, so don't worry, Mrs. Bono, nothing to see here -- but they are strangely comforting, as Bono's a surprisingly good listener.

Maybe I should ask him what he thinks about those nasty elevator dreams sometime.


Friday, February 08, 2008

My Top 10 Albums of 2007.


Better late than never.

Honorable Mentions:






The Broken Family Band -
Hello Love
Jenny Owen Youngs -
Batten the Hatches
Grant-Lee Phillips -
Strangelet
Beirut -
Lon Gisland/The Flying Club Cup
Oppenheimer -
Oppenheimer













10.
Okkervil River - The Stage Names
I like this one because the lead singer’s voice sounds like the guy from Counting Crows, but the songs are about 200% better than anything the Crows have put out in, like, ten years. (Zing!)













9.
Richard Swift - Dressed Up for the Letdown
I’ll freely admit I’d never heard of the guy until he was slated to be the opener for Wilco in Duluth last September. In my ongoing efforts to be at least marginally familiar with opening bands of acts I’m going to see, I picked this up and immediately took a shine to it. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see Swift in person, as Wilco had to reschedule their show after their guitarist caught the chicken pox, but hey--I got something great to listen to out of the deal, so I ain’t complaining. The album’s a little bit woebegone in some respects, but propped up with solid Beatle-ish melodies and a vibe that reminds me a smidge of a one-man version of the Minus 5, too. Good stuff.












8.
Wilco - Sky Blue Sky
I think this one’s going to keep growing on me with time--it’s a very adult album, in terms of its depth and its subject matter, I think, and it seems like the kind that might open up more as I grow older and find new ways to relate to it. Not that I don’t relate to it now, and not that any of Wilco’s stuff prior to this could really be considered immature--but it does seem like this picks up where Being There left off some time ago, and carries those ideas and sounds off into a new direction. (And if you get the chance to see them live, GO--I’ve had a few hit-or-miss experiences with them in the past, but their lineup right now is really an outstanding group of musicians...they rocked our socks off in Duluth last fall. And shock of shocks, it even looked like Tweedy was having fun!)













7.
The National - Boxer
I found myself resisting this at first, but after a few trips in the car when I had time to digest it in full, I came to really like it. I’m not sure how to describe it, exactly--it leans toward the melancholy in sounds and lyrics, and it kind of drones from song to song...which is not to say that they all sound the same, because they don’t, but there is a common element in all of them that I can’t quite put my finger on. Something wistful, or earnest, or perhaps wistfully earnest. Not the most upbeat thing ever, but good food for thought when the mood strikes.













6. Jarvis Cocker - Jarvis
Yet another glorious nugget brought into my life courtesy of William Shatner. (Oh, there are many.) Mr. Shatner covered Pulp’s “Common People” in brilliant fashion on his 2004 album,
Has Been, which led me back to the original (Pulp is Cocker’s old band). His solo debut is filled with songs about bad relationships (“Don’t Let Him Waste Your Time”), bad people (“Fat Children,” “I Will Kill Again”), and an overarching sense of society’s imminent demise (“From Auschwitz to Ipswich”) that manages to hit the heartstrings and the brainstrings without totally bumming me out, mostly due to Cocker’s wry way with words. No wonder Shatner was drawn to him.













5.
Loudon Wainright III - Strange Weirdos: Music From and Inspired By the Film Knocked Up
Prior to this, my Wainwright familiarity was mostly centered around Rufus, Loudon’s perennial classic “Dead Skunk,” and his work on the late great TV show
Undeclared. Then I saw Knocked Up, and when in reviews of the movie I kept reading Judd Apatow’s glowing testimonials of Loudon’s musical greatness, I took the plunge and picked this up. I’m glad that I did--it’s an album that exists apart from the movie, but carries over a lot of the same themes (birth, love, disappointment, joy) and does so with great intricacy and sly humor. Loudon’s music lacks much of the theatrics of his son’s, but the more I delve into his back catalog, the more I like his style--there’s a touch of reality & the everyday in there that draws me in again & again.













4. They Might Be Giants - The Else
What can I say about TMBG that hasn’t already been said a thousand times in the past twenty years? So I’ll keep this short: I love this album, from start to finish, in all its toe-tapping, brain-teasing glory. (And here’s another band totally worth checking out live, should they swing through your town. Do you know any other acts that take time out from their shows to take phone calls from the dead? I didn’t think you did.)













3. Basia Bulat - Oh My Darling
A friend passed this my way last fall, and it’s been in steady rotation in my car ever since. There’s a sort of resonant, savory quality to her voice, and a sense of youthful (some would say “na├»ve,” but I say “youthful”) wonder to the presentation here that cheers me up every time I hear it. She’s touring the U.S. right now (as this album was just released in the U.S. this week, actually), and due to play at SXSW this March, so I suppose she’ll be a lot better known in no time.












2. Vandaveer - Grace & Speed
This was another one passed along by yet another friend, and it also became a fast favorite. Song topics include the usual (love, finding direction, etc.) and some of the unusual (murdered starlets, rogue cops), and some clever instrumental arrangements that hook my ear every time. (I just love hearing a clarinet pop in out of nowhere, I really do.)













1. Josh Ritter - The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter
Josh Ritter is possibly the nicest person I’ve ever met. And I know a lot of really nice people, so that’s saying something. And even if he wasn’t the nicest person ever, and even if his songs didn’t constantly remind me of my old life out west, I’d still have a hard time putting something else from ‘07 atop the throne here at #1. This album is delightfully all-over-the-place--parts boisterous singalong, other parts cryptically introspective, and all manner of shades in-between. It’s a smart, nuanced, and above all LOUD (well, louder than usual, for him) folk/pop/rock album (I never quite know what category to stick him in, exactly), and even it if does kind of go flying off the rails by the end, holy cow, what a ride.

Monday, February 04, 2008

His hunger for attention is only outmatched by his hunger for food.

Scenes from a day in the life of Toivo, our morbidly obese housecat.

There's often some of this:
Another familiar sight.

A bit of this:
With an empty Cool Whip container stuck on his head.

Definitely a lot of this:
And, still another familiar sight.

And more of this than you can possibly imagine.
A familiar sight.