Sunday, November 30, 2008



State By State: A Panoramic Portrait of America
, edited by Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey.
This has been a slow read so far because (A.) it's long, and (B.) since a different writer penned each of the fifty essays in the book, it's the kind of thing that jumps around a lot in structure and tone. Some of the essays read like diary entries, built around the details of the writers' individual relationships to/with their states; some read more like traditional travelogues, with lots of geographical & historical bits thrown into the mix. Of course, the first two I read were the ones for Wisconsin and Montana...Montana's wins hands-down, mostly because Sarah Vowell wrote it, but also because the Wisconsin one's too much about rich folk from Milwaukee who "summer" at Lake Owen and pal with the people who own S. C. Johnson (makers of a bunch of stuff you find in the cleaning aisles at Wal-Mart). A little too "I'm down with the common folk because I drove up north once a year" for my tastes. (They should've gotten Michael Perry instead--he's a smart, worldly guy who captures the ethos around here in a really subtle, succinct sort of way.)

I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley.
Amazon told me since I like David Sedaris, I'd like this. Well...the comparison isn't entirely off, since this is coming from that same vein of self-confessional-comic-angst storytelling, but this wasn't as uproariously hilarious as the blurbs on the cover would've led me to believe, either. The best chapter is the one on how she was roped into being a bridesmaid at a long-lost friend's wedding, and the disproportionate relationship between what was expected of her, and how much enthusiasm she could muster to bend over backwards for someone she hadn't talked to since the tenth grade.


Doctor Who: The Complete Third Series

I swallowed this whole season in a matter of days--thank goodness for TV on DVD, being able to watch things in one (extended) fell swoop suits my impatience nicely. Now to sit tapping my foot, waiting for Netflix to hand over Season Four...

Freaks & Geeks: The Complete Series.
The greatest show nobody watched when it was on the air. (Actually, I remember tuning in a few times before it got cancelled...but I was a sophomore in college, and even as dorky as I was, I usually had something happening on Saturday nights.) This latest revisitation was brought on by this awesome "Freaks & Geeks Rewind" series, which lovingly reviews what happened in each episode, and points out all sorts of great "where are they now" factoids along the way.


Christmas Card Letter '08.
For something that I'm assuming 95% of the recipients throw away, I sure do put a lot of time into this thing each year.

A little something to get you in the holiday spirit...

(I don't think anything embodies our regional sense of humor more than Da Yoopers.)

Friday, November 28, 2008

It's official, then.

Most definitely worth the $1.99 I paid for it at Urban Outfitters in Minneapolis. Except, well, on Toivo's hefty frame, it's a bit more like a costume than a playhouse...

For our hefty little Toivo, it's more like a costume than a playhouse.



Thursday, November 27, 2008

The only moment in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade that I'm thankful for.

After having left the room, unable to stomach any more parade schmaltz and/or lipsynching:

"Mary! Mary! Get out here! You have to see this!"

"I love rickrolling!"

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"It's either me or the monkey!"

“...and he came into the Neighborly Bar one night, and by gum if he didn’t have a monkey! And his wife, how she hated that monkey, she said he stunk up the house. And you know, she was a pretty disagreeable woman to begin with, so this monkey issue was certainly a sticking point.

That night at the bar, his wife finally snapped and hollered, ‘It’s either me or the monkey!’ And he hollered back, ‘Then the monkey stays!’

But you know, she was right about that monkey. It was the dirtiest damn thing. It just made life unbearable.”

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"It's for the next one."

When we were in elementary school, me and my best friend Jenni were constantly fighting. We were never the types to have screaming matches, though--oh, no. Our spats were like something out of a Jane Austen novel--all perceived slights, silent treatments and harshly-worded letters.

We fought frequently enough that apparently, we started writing each other pre-emptive apologies.

"It's for the next one."

Ten year-old girls are a blast, aren't they?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thank goodness someone thought to dress us in matching outfits...

Lil' hobbity me and my tall cousin Katie, May 1987.

(Me & my cousin Katie, May 1987.)

...because otherwise their homage to Twins might not have been quite as obvious.

(Sure, she's seven months older than me, but let's face it, I'm never gonna catch up.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

All I want for Christmas... a YMCA for my goldfish.

(Not really. But if you want one and have $40 to part with, I've got good news!)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Something new for people from Wisconsin and Minnesota to bicker about...

Who has the biggest ball of twine? Is it the purported "World's Largest Ball of Twine" in Darwin, Minnesota ("Thrift + Patience = Success")...or the dark horse out of Lake Nebagamon ("I'm the king of all dump people!")?

Me? I'm rooting for the guy from Wisconsin, obviously. Especially now that I've discovered that the twine ball & I were born on the same day. Yep, I'm twins with a ball of twine.

Check out the Northland NewsCenter website for video footage of JFK--the twine baller's initials & nickname--and his ball of twine that aired tonight on the 6 o'clock news and nearly made me snort Cherry Coke out of my nose.

I have to go see this next summer.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Round 3.

Game, set and match.

There's got to be a morning after...

Behold, my mother's handiwork while I was out at work today.



Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The time my brother was accidentally elected to public office.

November 1998: My brother Dewey was working as an engineer for the early morning music & chatter show at KISS 92.1 in Duluth (before it went all "Delilah"-y) . Election Day rolled around, and the DJs noticed on a sample ballot in the paper that no one was running for a spot on the county Soil and Water Conservation Board.

And then this happened.

That one time Dewey got elected to office.

"What do we do?  Dewey can't serve."
(Click for a larger version.)

Sadly, the "Reverend Dewey" has not sought public office since this brush with infamy. But it sure did liven up the folks' Christmas card letter that year.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Goodbye to all that.

During the buildup to the Iraq War in 2002-2003, I was serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA in Helena, Montana. One thing most people don't know about AmeriCorps (until they enroll) is that there are some restrictions placed on members' abilities to engage in public political activities. The purpose of these (confusing) restrictions is to preserve AmeriCorps' non-partisan image/status--public service is by no means exclusive to any one political party, so it's crucial that AmeriCorps as a whole not be identified as "belonging" more to one over another.

The sticky thing about these restrictions, though, was that they applied only when a member was "on-duty." But technically, AmeriCorps VISTA members (unlike some other AmeriCorps programs) are on-duty 24/7. Primarily, that "24/7" rule exists to prohibit members from getting second jobs or attending school during their service, but in many respects it was also read to imply that we were representatives of VISTA and our projects in the community, and that we should keep that in mind during our hours out of the office.

In order to take part in some political activities, a member had to be either "off-duty" or on leave, but in many of the communities where VISTAs serve (particularly in Montana, where we had VISTAs stationed in towns with smaller populations than some high schools around here), our members' identities in their communities
was "the VISTA." So even after their 9-5 day had ended, they were "the VISTA" when they went grocery shopping, or out for pizza, or at a bar. Their identity in their town was their public service. You couldn't turn it on & off like a switch.

This put many of us in a bit of a pickle. The VISTAs I worked with were of a variety of political stripes--liberals, conservatives, independents--but one thing we had in common was that we were very engaged in politics on the local/state/national level. I think people drawn to public service and volunteerism are, by nature, the same people who are very interested in politics and who get fired up about elections. So here you have a group of people who are incredibly passionate about the issues and knowledgeable about community organizing...who are essentially told no, you have to sit on your hands and ride this one out.

There's a part of me that agrees with why those restrictions are in place, because it's important that no side of the political coin tries to commandeer AmeriCorps for itself and it's a slippery slope. But there was another part that hated having to tell members to "watch their step" if they wanted to write letters to the editor or show up at an anti-war rally. I understood why AmeriCorps needed the rules, but I felt like a tool sometimes for having to enforce them.

Anyway, long story short: I promised myself that after AmeriCorps, I wouldn't sit on my hands again.

This has been a fascinating, frustrating, infuriatingly long Presidential election. It's been building up for, what, almost two years? God, that's absurd, isn't it? And kind of awe-inspiring, too, seeing so many people get so fired up about this choice we're about to make. Granted, I haven't lived through a lot of Presidential elections, but this one, by far, is the most intense I've ever experienced. It seems like everyone except the most jaded and/or oblivious among us is on edge right now--whoever they're rooting for, it feels like we're standing on the brink of something. There's a lot of shit hitting the fan right now in America, and I think we're all a little freaked out about where the next few months (and beyond) are going to carry us. (And I think the rest of the world is pretty nervous, too.)

I don't get into politics too often on here--not nearly as often as I do in my everyday life, anyway--because, well, I get that fix elsewhere. And because I see this blog as an outlet for fun and frivolity, for the most part, and because I'd rather debate politics than just climb up on my soapbox and preach. So I'm summing up why I'm voting for Obama and not for McCain in one sentence:

And however you vote tomorrow: there's a lot of work ahead of us. It won't be time for either
side to gloat--it's time to roll up our shirtsleeves and start building out way out of this mess.

Let's get things done.

"One of my favorite quotes is from Theresa of Avila—‘All the way to heaven is heaven.’ If you’re looking for heaven you can find it here, and you can work for heaven on earth. And if you’re looking for hell, it’s easy to get there, too, on earth. And before you’re dead, before anybody can say what’s going to happen to you later, it’s important to work for the stuff you see in the world that you really feel is important. I just don’t see that in a lot of the shouting back and forth across the aisle and self-righteous screaming at each other.
It’s more complicated than that and we deserve more.”

- Josh Ritter