Monday, December 31, 2007

Penny on the Sill

I hope everyone is prepared to rush headlong into 2008 in the most manic yet safe way possible. I know I am.

Originally, we had planned a New Year's Party for the Misfit Toys, a gathering where all of us who hadn't gotten around to making plans, didn't want to pay to go out, etc. could all get together for drinks, Guitar Hero, and watching the ball drop. In fact, originally when I took a poll of all my friends it seemed like nobody had made plans or knew what they were going to do.

As the year waned, however, it seemed like all those misfit toys with no plans started to find plans, and had something better to do. So our quiet, boring gathering idea was tossed out the window.

TFN and I are instead heading down to the Eastern Market to see Impercept play in a loft. It should be fun.

Before I sign off until next year, though, I wanted to relay a bit of superstition given to me from the K&A faction over beer and greasy food at Honest John's last night - If you put a penny on your windowsill today, it will ensure that you have enough money in the new year. It won't make you rich, but it will give you enough.

Really, isn't enough all we're really looking for?

So TFN and I put our pennies on the sills this morning. You should too.

I hope you all have a fun, safe holiday, and no shortage of someones to kiss and hug at midnight! And here's to all of us (raising an imaginary glass, although there will be many real ones tonight) - may all of us have enough this year!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Banging My Head Against A Wall Over New Year's Resolutions

Baby No Name Sporting A Bucket
Originally uploaded by alpharat
On the evening of Christmas Day, I was standing on the porch at TFN’s dad’s house, listening to the coyotes. That’s apropos of nothing, but it was still a cool moment – one of those moments that are pretty special, but stand alone, unrelated to the context of things, unless you want to be writerly and force the connection. In this case, I don’t.

The photo of Baby No Name with a bucket on his head is similarly without context, other than to share it, and to say it’s a cute moment with a cute kid who’s growing up fast.

I think that’s how I feel about New Year’s Resolutions - I can't mentally create a context for them. Apparently, along with the New Year that is rolling in whether we like it or not comes the idea that I need to make New Year’s Resolutions.

Goals and the New Year can be contextually related, yet they shouldn’t need to be. Why does January 1 need to be the day my life changes for the better? Does that give me three days to let things slide?

This is really a hard one for me. Making a plan to change or accomplish something should be this thing I do simply because it needs to be done, and setting a deadline seems like I am setting myself up for failure.

Then again, where does the fear of deadlines for this come in? We live in a world dictated by deadlines. My job is a series of deadlines, dates and milestones that have to be met in order to move forward, to succeed and also to remain employed.

Our lives are dictated by deadlines. You need to pay that mortgage, car loan, student loan, cable bill, etc. all by a certain date in order to retain the services associated with them and to remain in good graces with your debtors.

Getting up on time, getting to work on time, showing up for dinner or to meet with friends – aren’t these all a series of deadlines?

So where does this fear of the New Year’s Resolution come from?

Perhaps it’s an awareness that I would be using the idea of a New Year’s Resolution to do the things that I should be doing anyway.

I want to see my family more often.

I want to be on my bike even more than I am now.

I want to write outside of what I already do now. I’d like to finish that novel I’ve talked about for years.

I want to learn to paint.

I want an office with a visible floor.

I want to remodel the kitchen and put a new roof on the house.

I want to take more naps.

I want to start up that band I’ve been talking about.

I want to smoke less, if not quit completely.

I want to frame those prints that have mats in various forms of completion.

I want to up the gauge on my earrings.

I want to finish blogging about the trip to Italy.

I want to take another trip.

I want to take 20 more trips.

I want to live greener.

I want to be randomly kind to people I don’t know.

I want to learn to be a better person.

Maybe there’s this idea that a new year equals a clean slate – and yet I know this isn’t true. My debts are still here and relationships with friends and family remain the same whether or not it’s 2007 or 2008. Life goes on, regardless of the year.

So, will I make a New Year’s Resolution? Yes, I think I will. Will I tell anyone what it is? Probably not, until I complete it, anyway. This will take some pressure off me to do it – I am critical enough of myself, it’s best that I don’t feel like others might be critical of my failures as well.

Maybe my resolutions should include being less critical of my shortcomings, but that brings with it the possibility that, should I cut myself too much slack, it might just be easier to let it all go.

So for now, my only publicly announced New Year’s Resolution is that I resolve not to reveal my resolutions.

TFN had a better one. She announced that her resolution was to visit a bar near our house that we always said we wanted to check out.

That’s a goal I can get behind.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Naked Holiday Greetings!

Christmas Tree
Originally uploaded by alpharat
I hope everyone had a great holiday. I know I did. Wonderful food, time with my family, seeing friends from out of town that I only get to connect with once a year...

It all catches up with you, though.

Today, I am home sick, catching up on sleep, and simply trying to get healthy again.

As for the odd title of this post, part of moving on after the holidays involves TFN getting ready for the Dirty Show, so while I'm nestled up on the couch, she's in her basement studio, taking photos of a nude model.

It's not the most traditional post-holiday observance, I guess, but it's what I'm used to.

OK, I'm going to take a nap now. Hope everyone is recovered from the holidays.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Merry Christmas!

So, this may be the last time we talk until after Christmas, so I hope everyone's holiday is safe and sane.

Here's a little bit of Christmas cheer. (For the record, I pretty much was this kid.)

Monday, December 17, 2007

The beginning of the Italian Recap, where the trip gets back on track...

OK, you've all patiently waited for me to recap the Italy portion of our trip, so I figure I'd best get into it before the holidays takes everything and runs with it.

So, for a musical soundtrack to the trip, I'll offer up Lavender Diamond. I saw them last week, and aside from being in the running for having the cutest singer ever, they are one of my latest musical obsessions. Another one of my latest musical obsessions is the Appalachian Terror Unit, but their music is not as aesthetically appropriate for a trip recap.

We finally arrived in Florence, exhausted from the Paris-Milan-Florence jaunt, and starving. We were at this point, about eight hours behind schedule, having originally intended on hitting Florenec early that morning on a leisurely overnight train ride. Instead, we checked into our hotel with a little less than an hour to meet Z and the Mr.

Normally, this would not have been a problem, as Florence is not that big, and we were about a 10-15 minute walk from our predetermined meeting place, in the shadow of the statue of Perseus holding the head of Medusa aloft. Unfortunately, as we made our way there, it became obvious that we didn't quite remember our way from the year before, and Florence is not on a grid, so we missed the meeting point entirely at the first pass.

A still life in Florence
Originally uploaded by alpharat
At this point, TFN was visibly frustrated. It was her birthday, and she was really looking forward to meeting with Z and Mr. Z to restore a bit of normalcy and festivity to the day that had thus far gone horribly wrong. As the meeting time came and went without us having yet made it to the piazza, she was in very low spirits. Fortunately, when we arrived at the statue, 15 or 20 minutes late, Z had waited for us, and smiles and hugs happened, and the trip got back on track.

I will confess that our evening with Z and Mr. Z was by far the hardest we partied the entire trip. Drinks lead to dinner (at a secondary choice after we discovered that our original favorite restaurant was now trendy and difficult to get into, and came with rude service as well. The dinner that we ended up with was delicious and came with two liters of wine.

Originally uploaded by alpharat
After the dinner, we ended up at a literally underground bar, where we pushed rude and stupid American college students out of the way, while an Italian band played covers of English songs from the '60s. This included a cover of "Paint It Black" for TFN's birthday. This evening also included many drinks until we stumbled back to our hotel, just a few hours away from having to get up for a trip to Siena. We were happy that the trip was back on track, although we'd be cursing Z due to our hangovers the next morning...

More soon...

Friday, December 14, 2007

Hockey Lesson #1

I don't know if any of you saw this last week, but we were watching the Wings at the bar when this happened.

Basically, the lesson here is that when you are making a breakaway for the goal, you do need to realize that the goaltender does NOT need to stay in the crease, and that you can't just put your head down and think that the goalie won't charge you.

The Green Fairy

The Green Fairy
Originally uploaded by alpharat
I promise I will finish the trip recap soon, but I just wanted to take a moment to announce that I just found out the absinthe is once again legal in the states!

Apparently it's been legal since March, but nobody told me... I don't know why.

Green Fairy party, anyone?

Monday, December 10, 2007

When it rains literal cats and dogs, I might get confused. Until then...

So it’s been cold, yucky and icy as of late. Last week, we had temperatures bouncing up and down too, which lead to the ground freezing and then a warmer rain that was flooding the streets everywhere.

It was quite odd, but I believe I understood how it happened. I knew what was going on.

The reason I say that is because, that evening, on the local news, they of course devoted some airtime to the odd weather. They interviewed some local residents who spoke about how odd it was as well.

One guy they interviewed, who spoke about the strange weather, had on the screen, beneath his head, his name and the phrase “confused about the weather.”

I feel so bad for this guy.

From now on, he’s going to be known by all his friends as the guy who’s “confused about the weather.”

He will also never again win an argument with his wife. Not when she can say “Oh, yeah? Well at least I’m not confused about the weather!”

The Channel Two News ruined his life…

Friday, December 07, 2007


This was emailed to me from the A of the K & A faction. I can't argue with it's logic:

As Ben Franklin said: In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom, in water there is bacteria. In a number of carefully controlled trials, scientists have demonstrated that if we drink 1 liter of water each day, at the end of the year we will have absorbed more than 1 kilo of Escherichia coli, (E.coli) - bacteria found in feces. In other words, we are consuming 1 kilo of poop. However, we do NOT run that risk when drinking wine & beer (or tequila, rum, whiskey or other liquor) because alcohol has to go through a purification process of boiling, filtering and/or fermenting...

Remember: Water = Poop, Wine = Health

Therefore, it's better to drink wine and talk stupid, than to drink water and be full of shit.

There is no need to thank me for this valuable information: I'm doing it as a public service.

Bottom's up!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (En Francais)

I'm not sure how prevalent the news was here in the states, but the fact was, while we were in Paris, there was a massive transit strike going on. This caused several problems:

You couldn't take a train anywhere. They simply weren't running.
It was night impossible to get a taxi. They were in short supply, due to the above reason.
Many of the museums weren't open, simply because people couldn't get to work.

Fortunately, we were staying in the Latin Quarter, a hip, student-focused neighborhood near the Sorbonne, so restaurants and nightlife were close at hand. Unfortunately, issues like this strike also tend to get the students riled up (Remember the barricades? Les Mis? Yeah, it was this neighborhood.), so the students were ready to go at any moment, and because of that, the neighborhood was also heavily patrolled by police in full riot gear. But they made no attempt to deter our fun, so we simply took them as an unnerving presence.

In Paris, we didn't let this deter us. We walked everywhere, more so than in trips past, and we saw many of the things that we'd not seen before. Like L'Orangerie, an Impressionist museum that introduced me to Marie Laurencin, an artist I had neither heard of nor seen, but fell in love with immediately.

We visited the cemeteries, seeing the graves of Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein and Jim Morrison. We went to the Conciergerie, where Marie Antoinette spent her final days before going to the guillotine over the whole cake deal.

We went to the Sacre Couer, and Mont Martre (where we saw the cafe from Emilie), and even went to the Erotic Art Museum on Pigalle. That one was a total surprise; what we figured would be silly joke for a few Euro turned out to be an unbelievably extensive collection of art and artifacts, and even included some pieces by Degas I'd never even known to exist.

We went to a piano bar, and a regular bar where French college students were playing American covers.

We ate a lot, and had a lot of wine, and just relished the idea that we were in Paris, strike be damned.

Then things got a little worse. One of the high points of the trip was to be, for TFN's birthday, an overnight train through the Alps into Florence. Unfortunately, the strikers were also setting train tracks on fire, and vandalizing switches. No trains were leaving the country, and TFN's fabulous birthday adventure was about to turn into a run-of-the-mill Planes, Trains and Automobiles traveling nightmare.

In order to get out of France, never mind getting the trip back on track, we needed to first catch a cab to the airport and book a flight to Milan for the next morning. Due to everyone going through identical issues, the hotels at the airport were booked up, and all we could get was a very large, very lavish, very expensive suite in the Hilton with a lovely view of the parking lot.

The wonderful restaurant in the Hilton offered a $100 buffet, so we opted for the restaurant next door, which was like the French version of Denny's. Just like the Denny' here, the food was awful, but at least this one also had wine.

At Christ-it's-early the next morning, we caught our flight to Milan, then we took a shuttle to the train station, and while I went into the office to buy tickets to Florence, TFN stood outside, and demonstrated her ability to tell off a beggar in Italian. She does it very well normally, but when she's pissed off (on her birthday, no less!) she ranks up there with the best. She can make them scatter.

I bought the tickets to the train (I wasn't wearing a watch, but I walked out of the station and told TFN when the next train was – she glanced at her watch and informed me that I had just bought tickets for a train departing in 10 minutes – more running ensued). Finally, we were settled on the train to Florence, where Z and Mr. Z were waiting, and we could celebrate the birth of TFN (and Thanksgiving) in style.

More to come…

Friday, November 30, 2007

Home again, home again, Jiggedy jig...

Italian Port-A-Potties
Originally uploaded by alpharat
Despite the best efforts of the weather and the rioting masses, we have managed to complete our trip successfully and safely.

It was a bit touch and go at times, due to fire and the aforementioned riots, but it was still a great time, all things considered.

More later, just know that all is well.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Sid and Nancy World Tour 2007

Sid and Nancy
Originally uploaded by alpharat
We're off on our world tour, to a Paris that has ground to a halt, then onward to Florence to see Z!


Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Street near Sacre Coeur
Originally uploaded by alpharat
Why is it that, every time we plan a trip outside the US, something comes up to threaten our ability to get around?

The first time we went to Paris, it was riots in the outlying neighborhoods. There were soldiers everywhere, and burnt out cars on our trip into the city.

In Venice, a transit strike on the morning we were to come back forced us to find an alternate boat to take to the airport.

Now I understand that the Paris transit unions are on strike, with no intention of caving.

It's not even what I would call a great reason, either. The government said workers should work for 40 years in order to collect a pension, rather than the current 37.5. Why is that unreasonable?

Maybe I don't think it's unreasonable because we work longer hours for more years than countries in the EU. Or maybe it's just that I don't want to walk everywhere in Paris.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Icemannish Things

Iceman is over, and the bikes are going in for an end-of-season tuneup (which is sorely needed for TFN's Hi-Fi!), so let's take a walk, shall we? It shall be long and convoluted, and may or may not pay off. Let's see what it's like when we get there, as this one is more about the trip than the destination.

This is Mika. Thanks to TFN, he is my current secret guilty pleasure. I don't mind sharing him, though. Go ahead and listen while we walk.

Iceman weekend started unrealistically well. We took Friday off, and I did some homewise projects, like putting patio furniture away, while TFN worked from home for a bit. We left for TC at noon, which was later than we planned but earlier than we hoped for, if you know what I mean (the time you plan to leave is always much earlier than the actual departure).

We made amazing time up to TC (I don't want to brag, but rumors that we made it from 16 mile in Troy to downtown TC in 3 and a half hours are apparently true), and got there in enough time to go to L Mawby (our favorite winery up there) for a tasting and several bottles to go. L Mawby isn't open on Sundays in the off season, so this was an imperative.

Wine in hand, or actually in the back seat, we checked into our hotel, and made our way over to the Grand Traverse Resort to register for the race, where we met up with ST and KayBee, who were just getting up to the TC as well. We were slowly assembling the group... Picking up one more (Mookie), we went to Minerva's for dinner, ran into some friends, and made our way back to the hotel for a beer and a mild case of food poisoning - which is sad, because I love Minerva's but I don't think I can go there anymore.

Iceman morning was cold but sunny, and we assembled at the gates with plenty of time to prepare, have that last ill-advised smoke of the morning under the baleful glares of healthier riders, and get ready to make a go at this thing called Iceman.

ice mzn 005
Originally uploaded by
We all blasted out of the gates at a great pace, I know TFN and I were poised to blow our previous times out of the water - or the sand in this case. The temperature was perfect, and the sand was wet and packed.

At Williamsburg Road (the 17 mile checkpoint), I stopped to have a bananananana and talk to KayBee, our support person, for a second. As I did, ST caught up with me. He informed me that TFN, who was right behind me, had gotten a stick sucked up into her deraileur, and she couldn't hold any gears on the climbs.

I waited for her to get to Williamsberg. She was frustrated and angry. After I looked at her bike, I could see that something was out of whack back there, but it was beyond my limited mechanical intellect to make any repairs in a timely fashion. So I told her that she could bail there, or if she wanted to limp it out, I'd stick with her. She decided she wanted to finsh.

So we took off from there, hammering as fast as her bike would permit on the flats, charging up all the hills until the point where her bike went Kachunka-chunka-chunka! and her chain started bouncing up and down the cassette, without settling into a gear. Then we'd get off and walk.

For the most part, I provided pep talks as she forced her bike to limp as well as it would.

We finished last in our classes, but we had a great time, and we crossed the finish line smiling side by side. I'm buying that picture!

It was all about helping out a teammate and riding our bikes on a gorgeous day. I think it's something I'd do for any fellow Angry Monkey (you don't leave a man behind!), but with it being TFN, we actually had a lot of fun doing what the Hi-Fi would do.

Good times.

And there was a cooler full of Fat Tire waiting at the finish.

I want to thank my Fellow Angry Monkeys who raced with us that day. I want to thank the Angry Monkey Support Crew who drove our cars to the finish, cheered for us at the checkpoint, and had cold beer ready when we got to the finish. I guess I also want to thank my teammates once again for not drinking all of the Fat Tire before we finished. And I want to thank TFN for sticking it out, and deciding that she was going to be the toughest member of our team that day.

The official after party had a change of venue this year. The K&A faction had rented a suite, but when they arrived they found out the place had messed up and lost their room, so they instead opted to put them up in a 2,000 square foot condo. K made tacos for everyone, and we hung out there. It was a lot better than a bar.

The bummer was that Z was putting out fires at home, and couldn't make it out to party with the primates, but at least we'll be in Florence at the same time as her and the Mr. Z, duly note that your prescence is required at least once to have a drink or 20 with TFN and I!

Sunday was set aside for a BIG breakfast, several visits to wineries (L Mawby was open again on Sunday due to an event. Yayyy!), and the drive home. We stopped in Frankenmuth for a big dinner and our second mild case of food-related illness for the weekend (I blame this one on gorging myself, though). I do think that, in retrospect, Frankenmuth is a scary town and hopefully it falls into the ocean with rest of California (however improbable this may be, it could happen, God willing.

Now for an interlude, here's more Mika:

Are we ready to convolute? Good. If not, I'll wait. OK, are you ready? Let's go.

This should really go into another post, but I'm on a roll, so we'll just keep going.

Quicken Loans just announced today that they are moving downtown and bringing 4,000 jobs with them. This is amazing news for my Detroit, and if it's not entirely indicative of a turnaround yet, it's definitely pulling a nail out of the coffin. I would love to see this place keep it up, but I think it will still be a little stalled until Kwame gets out of office.

If things get better, I can see myself moving into the city. A few weeks ago, we went to Indian Village, and discovered that it's entirely realistic to buy a 6,000 square foot house in the city. We're not wealthy, property is simply that inexpensive there. Unfortunately, the taxes are crippling and include zero in the way of city services right now.

If Detroit doesn't get better, the next few years may see me... we'll just say elsewhere for now. That's all I have to say about Detroit for now, though. We'll hope it continues to improve.

Hmmmm... this was a pretty failed convolution as I am out of stuff to blather about.

OK, more later, and I also have some Halloween and Iceman photos to share at some point.

I'll be back soon.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

I need beer. STAT.

This. Is. Simply. Awesome.

HEBRON, CT (NBC) -- It may have seemed like an emergency at the time, but a Connecticut man is now regretting his call to 911.

35-year-old Brian Poulin of Hebron was arrested Sunday after police said he called 911 several times and asked them to bring him beer.

Hebron was charged with disorderly conduct.

Police said he called 911 numerous times and told the dispatcher he was out of beer and asked them to pick up more for him.

Poulin was transported to Windham Community Memorial Hospital after officers arrested him at his home.

Police did not say what he was treated for.

He is scheduled to appear in Superior Court in Rockville on Nov. 20.

I know we've all had moments like this before, when the beer runs out. What is the guts vs. lack of brains ratio required to get call 911 to declare it an emergency?


Fortunately, we are already collecting provisions for Iceman this weekend, so we will not be presented with such an emergency.

For The Love Of Trash

TFN's first date was to see John Water's Hairspray. That sparked an obsession that hasn't let up.

John Waters is an interesting cat. In the length of his film career, he has made movies like Hairspray, Pecker, Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, and Crybaby. Through them all, he has created this perfect way of glamorizing seediness. He makes trashiness OK in a strange way. TFN got me hooked on his films, and we always thought he'd be cool to meet.

Now we're going to find out.

Next month, he's coming to the Crofoot to give a monologue. Not only did we pick up tickets for that, we got tickets for the meet and greet. I probably won't have much more time than to say "Thank You", shake his hand, and (hopefully) get TFN's picture taken with him, but it will be enough. It will totally be a real brush with greatness.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Today Forecast - Little Whirlwinds

I am a big fan of the time shift this time of year, just for the feeling that I have somehow managed to sneakily steal away both an extra hour of staying up and an extra hour of sleeping in.

Normally, that extra hour of delicious sleep on the first Monday back is also an extra-special joy. Not this year, however.

This year, I had to get up at 4 (but at least it was really 5 if you want to play the time change card in the opposite direction), to take TFN to the airport.

She’s in Bosstown for the next few days. The only funny thing about this early morning excursion to Detroit Metro was that the Dropkick Murphys’ song “Shipping Up To Boston” came on the radio just after I left her at the curb outside the departures entrance.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Murphys, they’re one of Boston’s finest bands, a blend of working class irish music and blue-collar punk. I’ve been a big fan of these guys for years, but they really got their big break being featured in last year’s best picture, “The Departed”

But anyhoo…

TFN is gone until Wednesday, and bachelor time is usually pretty laid back around here, focusing heavily on loud records, microwave meals and tackling a few household projects. This one is somewhat the exception.

First off, we have come to the sudden realization that this past weekend was our last at home until December. Next weekend, we’re staging a two-wheeled attack on Zillaland, as the masses descend for yet another physical torture/drunken debacle of the type known as the Iceman Cometh Mountain Bike Race. So tonight, one of my projects will be to ensure that every bit of cold-weather gear for a wide range of possible weather conditions has been assembled.

On top of that, this trip marks thhe first time that Shane has gone to stay at the dog hotel. He’s an old-timer, and my kid, so I wouldn’t dare “kennel” him. This place is a full-blown dog hotel, where he’ll have a bed in his little room, with music piped in, and the hotel features a range of play areas, divided by dogs’ interests and activity levels. I signed Shane up for the “I like other dogs provided they are mellow like me. Playtime = laying down together on one giant dog bed.” He’s laid back like that.

Because of this, tonight we’re off to the vet for a Bordetella shot. This is apparently a vaccination that isn’t typically given to a dog, unless he goes and stays at a kennel, or a hotel in this case. Apparently, it’s also shot up the nose. Shane hasn’t heard about any of this.

After Iceman, it’s just a few days before we head back to Europe. Going back to Paris and Florence creates a vastly different feeling. The first time, not knowing if you’ll ever return, one is overwhelmed by this need to see everything and do it all. The second time, armed with the knowledge that we’ve seen the things we needed to see for the sake of seeing them, and equipped with the idea that some places are obtainable enough that one can seen them more than once, we want to experience the places, rather than simply see them.

I want to spend a full day on Mont Martre, not just a few hours. I want to smirk at the lines to certain museums, knowing that they needed to be seen once, but also that once is enough to, again, experience them. I want to… hell, I just want to take it at my own pace, sometimes fast, sometimes slow, but not at the whirlwind pace of the traveler on the mission of sucking all the marrow out of an entire culture in four days (speaking of marrow… must find some oxtail as well… mmmmmm).

That is the extent of the leading edge of my upcoming whirlwind. I’ll leave you with a bit of trivia about Pablo Picasso (who had a little house on Mont Martre). His given name was Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Clito Ruiz y Picasso. How could he not have been destined for greatness?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Happy Anniversary

my wedding day
Originally uploaded by alpharat
I know this is the wedding picture I pull out most often, but it's a fun reminder of the time that 65 clowns crashed our wedding reception - as if one needs to be reminded that something like that happened!

Fact is, a few years ago (eight to be exact), TFN and I were married.

Happy anniversary, baby! Thanks for putting up with me for yet another year.

Friday, October 26, 2007

This is my day job...

For any of you who've wondered, this is a description of my 9-5.

I had no idea that Jack and I shared life in the trenches so closely.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Paul Raven

For people who haven’t been keeping up since the beginning, the world of industrial music is a convoluted, incestuous mess. If you were to look at a list of the lineups of any 10 industrial bands, you’d see that they shared all the same members in some shape or form.

The biggest part of industrial music was spawned out of Chicago, surround Wax Trax and Invisible records. These guys are bunch of like-minded people, all who have become underappreciated music legends.

One of those legends was Paul Raven.

Raven has played in sooooo many of the industrial heavy-hitters, it gets hard to keep track. His big start was with Killing Joke, but he also had a hand in Prong, Ministry, Godflesh, Murder Inc., Pigface… the list goes on.

To be sure, my first exposure to Raven was with Killing Joke's “Money is Not Our God”, which came out when I was in high school.

I got to interview Raven for my Web site a few weeks ago . It was an amazing phone call, we just chatted forever, about all the old great names in industrial music, who was what, etc. He even gave me his cell phone with a promise to connect when he was in Detroit with Ministry next year.

I think you see where this is going.

Shortly after I put the interview up on my site (two days later), I got an email from his PR Agent. Raven died of a heart attack in Geneva, where he was working on recording a project with Mob Research.

It was kind of stupefying news.

I was reminded of one thing we’d talked about in the interview. We had talked about William Tucker. Tucker was another one of the incestuous network of industrial musicians. We saw him in Grand Rapids playing an acoustic show with Chris Connelly, and TFN had hung out with him at Pigface shows. He was a stellar guy, who committed suicide shortly after the Reptile House.

When Tucker died, he and Raven had been working on a project together called Sons of Domination. According to Raven, a few of those songs were completed. I hope they get released someday.

Here’s one with William Tucker (and yes, that’s the same drummer in the striped shirt as was in the first video with Raven – this is the incestuous network I’m talking about).

During the interview, Raven said this about Tucker: “God bless that fucker. That’s all.”

I think that could apply to both of them.

Rest in peace, man. It’s a shame I never got to have that drink with you, but I hope you know I thought you were awesome.

If you’re in the mood, here’s one more with Raven. It’s Murder Inc., which features Chris Connelly, who was the person playing with William Tucker when I saw him, and Martin Atkins, the drummer from both of the previous videos in this post. Small world, made just a little bit smaller...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

It's All Horribly Wrong! (but not in a horrible way)

I have to say, I had a great past few days. It was a positively stellar weekend, made best by everything that didn’t work out.


As referenced before, we were headed downtown so that TFN could spend some quality time with her boyfriend. With that in mind, we settled in at the Loco Bar for some good food and beer with good friends.

The tickets stated: Doors at seven. Show at eight. Based on my mathematical skills, this meant that, if we head to the club at nine, we’d catch part or all of the Street Dogs (the second band), and then see Tiger Army.

So why was it, at nine, when we walked into St. Andrew’s Hall, Tiger Army was on stage? Not only were they already playing, but they were in their encore?

Apparently, the opener didn’t show up, so they rushed the Street Dogs right on stage.

The next fiasco, despite our being on the guest list and having a photo pass, the bouncer wanted to confiscate TFN’s camera – simply for the sake of getting into a pissing match.

While TFN fought with the bouncer, I managed to call up the tour manager, who came out into the lobby, told the doorstaff to cut the crap (thanks Cash!), and then took TFN down in front and put her behind the barricade to shoot the band.

So, even though she only got 15 minutes of show, she got to spend it five feet from Nick 13. She was happy.

And also, later we both confessed to each other and to the friends we were with that the most fun of the entire night was getting into a screaming match with the bouncer… and winning. We’re horrible like that.


Saturday started with a 17-mile bike ride (those miles fell away so easily, too. I really think I am getting to be ready for Iceman!). Then, plotting our next move, it was decided that TFN, ST and Abi (all recurring characters) as well as KayBee (a new character) would go to a haunted house.

Going to a haunted house is a big production for us. It requires a series of preparations. It requires going home, reading reviews of all the houses, making fun of the bad ones before finally choosing the one we’d like to go. Then we have to go to the 7-11 for large coffees. Then we have to go to the liquor store for a bottle of Bailey’s.

Our designated haunted house was in Pontiac. It was one of those expensive ones ($19 to get in), but supposedly one of the best in the state. It was in a crappy neighborhood, but really, all of Pontiac is a crappy neighborhood.

We got there, and we got in line. This was the line to buy a ticket. After standing in line for 30 minutes, polling people who came out of the place (“It was OK” being the most common report), we ran out of coffee and reached to ticket booth.

Were we to but the tickets, we were looking at a two or three hour wait. Unless we bought the $27 ticket, which would put us in the 15-minute line, away from the plebian unwashed. That’s right kids, for a mere $8 more, you too can become a member of bourgeoisie! We’re against that kind of classicism, so we made the proper choice.


We left.

What happens next is a true Halloween moment. Much of Pontiac consists of one-way streets. Making our way to the expressway proved difficult. Despite the fact that we were heading toward the expressway, following signs that said “To I-75”, we managed to drive around in a circle. A big circle. A circle that it took an hour to make. Eventually, we ended up in Troy.

Oh, also, this whole hour circular drive included having all the windows down singing along to the radio at top volume. All the hits. George Harrison, Prince, Rick James… man, when five people who can’t sing are piled into a Scion, singing together at the top of there lungs – screaming actually – it doesn’t sound as bad as you’d think. It sounds bad, yes, but not that bad. Bad in a fun kind of way.

Also apparently bad enough to ward off any carjackers while we ghetto cruised Pontiac.

We ended the evening in the bowling alley across the street from the liquor store and 7-11 where we started. And it was a perfect night.

Also, I bowled better than ST, but in his defense, he left his balls at home that night.


So once you’ve done nothing at all productive all weekend, Sunday is the day to catch up. Run errands, clean house, do laundry, right? That was totally the plan anyway.

At some point after haircuts, the call came in, pointing out that this was quite possibly the last nice day of the year, and if we didn’t end up on the porch at the K&A Faction House, we would be making a dire mistake. One can’t argue logic like that.

It was a perfectly unexpectedly lazy way to end a weekend where nothing had gone as planned…

Friday, October 19, 2007

A boyfriend and some girlfriends...

Let me introduce you to TFN's boyfriend.

This is Nick 13. He's the guitarist and lead singer for Tiger Army.

We're going to see them tonight.

I am pretty stoked, even if TFN has a crush on him.

That's not really fair to do, though, so in the interest of equal time and humiliation, I will present you with some musicians who have, at various times, been my girlfriend.

Amanda "Punk Cabaret Is Freedom" Palmer (Dresden Dolls)

Next up, we have Kathleen "The truth ain't pretty like a pretty little girl like me" Hannah (Bikini Kill, Le Tigre), and Kim "We can still be friends" Gordon (Sonic Youth, Free Kitten). This video is actually Sonic Youth (there's a shortage of quality Bikini Kill videos from that era), and Kathleen is the girl with dark hair and pigtails bouncing around (That's right - we got two for one with this video).

There are a few more, but I made you look at enough video for one day.

Ah well, this was supposed to be a deep and poignant post on the nature of having crushes on celebrities, but I instead spent a lot of time watching videos with these ladies in them...

Who have been your celebrity crushes?

Also, if you are at home tonight, and you're into reality shows (two strikes against me), check out that American Band show. Local band the Muggs is one of the contestants. Very talented musicians, very cool guys.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

An Open Letter To The Guy At Holiday Market Last Night

Dear Guy,

Last night at Holiday Market, I saw that you brought in your own canvas tote bag to purchase groceries. On behalf of Mother Nature, I'd like to say thanks! Bringing your own bag to the store helps offset the footprint you're making on the world. You are really pointing out that the best possible choice in the "paper or plastic" debate is "neither".

Plastic grocery bags, when they become litter, can take hundreds of years to break down in the environment. As they do, they leave little bits of toxic remnants in the soil and water.

Additionally, plastic bags drift far out into the ocean, where they strangle and poison wildlife. Seabirds and turtles mistake them for jellyfish and eat them, which can kill them in a variety of ways, none of them pleasant.

There is also the fact they are created from petroleum, a resource we are steadily depleting.

Although it's easy to villify plastic bags, we can't let paper get off scott-free. Paper bags are created from a renewable resource, but are not necessarily "greener". The production of paper bags creates more pollution than plastic. It also requires more energy and water, and takes up a lot more space in a landfill (although it will break down quicker).

So, grocery guy, by bringing your own bag to the store, you're doing a small part to reduce environmental stress, and it's something we can learn from. Every little bit helps, and if we all do this, things would be in a much cleaner state. I thank you for pointing this out, and the turtles thank you as well.


The fact that you are enacting and spreading this small bit of environmental awareness does nothing at all to offset the fact that you drove to the grocery store in a 10-mpg Hummer.

Go to hell, you self-righteous yuppie asshole. I hope you break an ankle hopping down from your high horse. People like you are the reason my generation has such a beef with the baby boomers.

Thanks again.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Good News: Michigan is open again. Bad News: Hookers cost more.

So, after a few hours of being closed, the state opened back up. I didn’t notice, although I did stock up on smokes just in case. Really, not many people noticed, aside from the campers thrown out of the state parks on Sunday.

Now, with the new budget plan, we’re dealing with some new taxes. Income tax is going up, and service taxes are being levied on a few things that weren’t taxed before.

Some of the new things make no sense, like vending machines and payphones. First of all, I haven’t used payphones in forever, but I wonder if they are going to have to modify them to accept pennies. “Please insert 38 cents for the next three minutes…”

Fortune telling and astrology services are being taxed now, too. I wonder if they saw that one coming.

The one thing that surprised me the most, however, was hookers. Right there in the list of things Michigan is levying service taxes on… escort services. They are taxing the hookers now!

I wonder how many of these escorts are going to see themselves brought up on tax evasion charges, or on prostitution charges should they honestly report their income? It’s the Al Capone thing all over again. They can’t bust them for what they want, so they get them on tax evasion.

You can see a full list of the new taxed services here. (Apparently somebody still offers baby shoe bronzing, and it’s a big enough industry that the state sees a benefit in taxing it. Who knew?)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Sorry, Michigan is closed for business

So, unless the people in Lansing reach an agreement by Monday, Michigan is gonna close. Well the government will, anyway.

What’s that mean?

No state parks. No mountain biking for Angry Monkeys. That’s the one I care about the most. That, and no booze.

There’s a ton of other stuff, too. No Secretary of State Offices, no Lotto, no casinos. Some schools will even have to shut down, because they won’t be getting state aid.

I sent a letter to my local representation. I got a form letter back that didn’t even address that they had read my letter far enough to find the proper form letter to send back. I’m not even sure what issue this form letter was meant to soothe me over, but it had nothing to do with my desire to keep the state parks open (or stay stocked up on booze – although I didn’t mention that in the letter).

Really, it’s embarrassing. When I was in college, we got the phone turned off at our apartment. It wasn’t my fault; it was the fault of our psychotic roommate who took the phone money and did hell knows what with it. But the fact is, the phone was turned off and it was embarrassing to admit I was living in a place where the phone had been disconnected for failure to pay the bill.

That’s exactly how I’ll feel about being a Michigan resident if this shutdown happens.

On a positive note, November’s vacation has been booked. We decided to revisit our favorites. We’re flying into Paris, spending a few days there, then taking an overnight train to Florence. After a night in Florence, we’re going to Siena for a night, then back to Florence for a few more days.

Maybe by the time we get back, the state will be open again. If it’s closed, we might end up having to sit outside until we can get in and get our stuff.

Michigan is hurting economically, and all this partisan posturing just makes things worse. We need to attract new businesses and money as the auto industry is failing us, and yet the gov’ment doesn’t seem to really be into helping us out.

All I know is that the only thing that is halting the mass exodus of Michigan residents right now is the fact that we can’t sell our houses. Given the choice, I’d be heading to Chicago, Austin or Seattle right away.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Bachelor's Weekend

bacheloring it
Originally uploaded by alpharat
TFN is off to Chicago for the weekend, leaving me to a weekend of crazy bachelor antics.

Yep, beer, records and hanging out with the cat. I'm a wild man.

Gotta go, my food is about to come out of the microwave!

This one's for Moose...

Not much of a horse
Originally uploaded by alpharat
Moose asked Z, "Why don't people ride zebras?"

Why indeed?

Tell me that riding a zebra wouldn't look wicked-ass cool, especially if one were dressed right. I am thinking that one should either be decked out in a pin-striped zoot suit with two-toned patent leather shoes. I think one could also get away in a totally glam-trash getup consisting of other animal prints, like a leopard-print trench coat, or some other distinctive real (or imaginary) animal print. Plaids would be acceptable as well, as long as they were obnoxious enough. A distinctive wide-brimmed hat would be necessary as well.

That's right, in order to properly ride a zebra, one needs to either be dressed like a pimp or a glam rocker.

Unfortunately, even with the proper wardrobe, pimps and rockers do not ride zebras. Why is that? Surely, given the option, Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie would have made more than a few appearances perched upon a striped steed.

So I consulted the Interwebs. Apparently there are two reasons.

One is that zebras have weaker backs than horses. They have the ability to carry a person, but it has to be a lighter person and it can't do so for an extended period. This still would have allowed for Ziggy Stardust to make brief trips to the pub on his zebra though, were it not for the other reason people don't ride them.

Quoting an expert, one George Hinkey of Nature Australia Magazine:

Generally, zebras are too cantankerous to ride. They are vicious and unpredictable and it takes a lot of effort to train them to a stage where you can saddle or harness them. That is why they have never been domesticated. Lord Lionel Walter Rothschild, however, managed to harness a team of four zebras to pull his carriage, which he rode from his zoological museum in Tring, in the English county of Hertfordshire, to Buckingham Palace.

Neither horses nor zebras
Originally uploaded by alpharat
I don't know why an Australian should be accepted as a zebra expert (they have kangaroos there, not zebras, and kangaroos really can't be ridden, even if they are nicer), but I am willing to accept that he knows what he's talking about. Perhaps he has tried to ride a zebra and saw firsthand how mean they are, or maybe he once attended a Shakespeare in the Park performance of Macbeth and sat next to a zebra who talked throughout the performance, and crinkled a candy wrapper during quieter moments of the production, and he made an educated guess that, given the zebra's rude behavior, it probably wouldn't like to be ridden.

And that's a fair assumption. I once went to a performance of Jesus Christ Superstar and at a climactic moment, when Jesus was dying on the cross and the entire theater was silent, a large woman about four rows back was tearing into a package of Reese's Pieces. Crinkle, crinkle, crinkle. Based on that, I assume her to be rude, unaware of public decorum and probably rather opposed to being saddled and ridden to the grocery store.

That's how logic works. Even in Australia.

So, Moose, that's why people don't ride zebras. It's because they are not nice, have no manners, and say mean things about one of America's founding fathers, Teddy Roosevelt. I'm not sure what their problem with Roosevelt is, or even if they all have a problem with him, but I think there was at least one I heard say something about his moustache. That particular zebra also made fun of Gandi's bald head, so he may have simply been especially cantankerous.

I also have a cat that is stubborn and angry, and to this day has resisted any attempt to teach her to make a pot pie. So that would be an answer to the appropriate followup question: Has anyone taught a cat to make a pot pie?

No. No they haven't.

Next question?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Back in the Saddle

tour de troit
Originally uploaded by alpharat
Believe it or now, there is for once a decent reason for my extended absence lately. I have been in the saddle. A lot. Somewhere between 120 and 140 miles last week.

There have actually been quite a few road rides. On evenings after work, we've been getting on our bikes and taking off, not returning until after midnight. It feels good to just be out there pedaling, putting mile after mile behind you.

Saturday, we did the Tour De Troit. 40 miles through the city. It was a really cool experience, with hundreds of riders...

A police escort....

The escort for tour de troit

And a beer by the abandoned train station when all was said and done.

train station and beer
So that's where I've been, and where I'll be until after Iceman.

I am getting stoked about Iceman, we have our hotel (with hot tub!), and are getting in prime shape for it.

I have a lot of things to be stoked about, actually. In November, we're going back to Italy. We're setting the itinerary for that now.

And I just found out that we've been approved to go to SXSW in March of next year! The cool thing about that is that we were able to get a hotel room downtown, by the festival, and we don't need to do what we did last year, which was stay at a hotel by the Interstate, rent a car, and drive into the city each day, spending a nightmare hour getting parking, then back to the hotel at 2 am, repeat each day. The hotel was expensive, but cheaper than a dumpy hotel and a rental car.

Also, we took the Bean to the vet Monday. Despite the fact that she went for the vet's face (yeah, she does that), he said her diabetes is improving, and switched her to one shot a day. Which means that she's easier to treat, and that, when we need to hire a catsitter when we go out of town, we only need to pay them for one visit/day.

Now, I just need to find a dogsitter... anyone want to watch a lazy, mellow husky while we're in Traverse City, Italy and Austin?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

No Ponies Here

It's kind of like a pony
Originally uploaded by alpharat
Unlike some other people, my newest acquisition is not two ponies, or even one pony, or even really a zebra.

I got a new camera.

My little point-and-shoot digital camera that had been given to me by MM, and had done so well for a couple of years, has finally decided to opt for retirement. It's been heading that way for a while, requiring a thwap on the lens cap to get it to open and such. While that was cool and impressive in a "Fonzie bangs on the jukebox" kind of way, it was getting annoying, too.

So I went to the local Schmest Schmuy and bought another little point-and-shoot from a salesman who bore the distinction of being incredibly uninformed about any of the cameras available, but was, however, more than willing to attempt to talk me into a more expensive model that he knew as little about as any of the lesser expensive ones.

Originally uploaded by alpharat
I like the new camera; it's compact, and as I discovered when we took it to the Detroit Zoo to play with it, it takes nice pictures, especially when TFN plays with it, as in with the little photo of Shane.

Sha also got something that she's pretty excited about this weekend. The Silver Spoon is a highly respected Italian cookbook - in Italy, which says a lot. It was first published there in 1950, and wash just recently published in English. It's like an Italian version of The Joy Of Cooking, and it demystifies a lot of Italian dishes.

Originally uploaded by alpharat
If you're looking for something that explains the history of Italian dishes, or the regions the dishes come from, this is not the right cookbook for that. It was simply translated into English - not Americanized. As long as you're aware of that, it's an incredible compendium of recipes (there are somewhere around 400 billion recipes in here I think, give or take 400 billion), and based on making one recipe - gnocchi - it's going to be a lot of fun.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Look at that S-Car-Go!

Originally uploaded by alpharat
If you read this site with any regularity, you're aware of my love for shellfish. Generally, this comes in the form of oysters, clams and mussels, which can all be purchased live and on ice at one of the various fishmongers in the area (they're not exclusively fishmongers, but I like that word).

This love of shellfish also includes snails, which don't live in the water and probably aren't shellfish at all, but they have shells, and I'm not sure how else to classify them.

I've had escargot at a few places, but always at restaurants. The best escargot I ever had was in Paris (go figure!), but I've had it in restaurants stateside as well, and it was always quite good.

A week or so ago, we decided to get frozen escargot from a local gourmet shop as an appetizer to a big Italian Sunday dinner of spaghetti and clams in white whine and garlic. (I know, you're either thinking "more shellfish" or "escargot is French! Why have it before Italian food?" Either response is fine, but it was our dinner so we're allowed to mix things up.)

I'd never had frozen escargot before (although I'm sure most restaurants in the U.S. probably use it, I'd never made it at home). It was quite easy; simply throw it in the oven until it bubbled, then serve it up.


I don't know if you've ever eaten a petting zoo, but while I haven't either, I can only imagine that this is what it would taste like. It tasted like a bunch of dirty little goats running around, knocking children over, chewing on whatever they could get their mouths on and doing their business wherever they pleased.

That's not a good flavor. We pitched the snails without even making it through one.

Fortunately, the rest of the meal was exquisite.

I think we've decided that we will never again prepare snails in our house.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

How Green Can You Be?

It all depends on how far you want to go.

I eat healthy. I try to go to the Eastern Market for my produce as often as possible. Most of it’s locally grown by small farmers. Much of it’s organic. I’ve tried to grow my own produce, but I don’t have the skills to do it with any efficiency.

I couldn’t do the 100-mile diet (for those of you too new to remember Z writing about it, it simply means not eating anything produced more than 100 miles away - more info is here). I mean I could - I just don’t want to. I don’t want to give up coffee. Or oysters. Or olives. Or French or Italian wines, or California wines for that matter. There are too many things that I’m simply not willing to give up.

I’m not a vegetarian. I probably could be a vegetarian, I eat vegetarian quite often, and I can cook vegetarian food, I just don’t want to be a vegetarian. I like the occasional bloody rare steak. I like pulled pork, sausage and bacon. I like to occasionally splurge on duck. It wouldn’t take much to become a vegetarian; I just don’t really want to do it.

Also, being strict about being vegetarian would be a royal PITA. Vegetarians have to worry about stuff like, “Is there fish oil in this salad dressing? Is there lard in these beans? Is there beef gelatin in this glass of wine?” (Yep, even that last one is true.) Look, unless it’s going to kill me immediately, I don’t want to have to stress about what I’m eating. And I don’t want to face a day where the fact that beer and wine are made with animal products will force me to give them up.

Sorry, If I’ve opened up a horrible revelation to any vegetarians reading this, but yes, many beers and wines are made with various animal products in them.

Local Produce, Imported Cheese
Originally uploaded by alpharat
On this token, I could also really never become vegan. Even if most vegetarians are not overly concerned with minute traces of animal byproducts in their beer, vegans are. Vegans also don’t eat cheese, which I think is against the Bible. I know there was a thou shalt or something about how fresh mozzarella is really good and how Jesus wanted us to have it with tomatoes, basil and balsamic.

So, when it comes to eating, I guess I’m a moderate. I like to eat healthy. I go out of my way to get local produce and to eat organically. I eat more fish than I do red meat, and have no problem going a few days without any meat. I’m OK with this. I could probably leave a smaller footprint on the Earth, and while I do think of that occasionally, right now I’m comfortable with myself.

And I think that’s the important part. But, I will probably frown at everyone who is less committed to healthy and environmentally sound eating habits than I, and pity those who are stricter. It’s the old “anyone driving slower than me is an idiot – and everyone driving faster is a maniac” phenomena. Something in our psychological being forces us to look at everything relative to ourselves. Einstein said something about relativity, but it was only kind of the same thing.

Now that we’ve set the stage, I would like to introduce you to another dietary/lifestyle group – the freegans. In their own words, ”Freegans are people who employ alternative strategies for living based on limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources.”

What does that mean? Freegans adopt a vegan lifestyle, but only eat things they don’t have to pay for. I’m not talking about homegrown self-sufficiency either. They dumpster dive for food.

These are the same people who are ”are outraged that people literally freeze to death on the streets while landlords and cities keep buildings boarded up and vacant because they can’t turn a profit on making them available as housing.” OK, we all may be outraged at this, but they take a logic leap and decide that this belief means that they should be squatting rent free in these abandoned buildings.

Am I wrong in thinking that this is simply a way to adopt a political lifestyle to cover up the fact that they’re gross and just a bit underemployed?

I guess I never realized what a capitalist pig I was until now. I like owning property that won’t be taken away (as long as I’m working and paying bills anyway). In fact, I don’t mind working when it allows me to splurge on things like a decent bottle of wine or a plate of raw oysters now and then. And while I guess that may be selfish, I’m not ready to start eating garbage in order to feel better about my impact on the world.

If you want to learn more about Freeganism and becoming a gross person Freegan, they have a Web site. They must use the computer at the library, because, last I checked, most vacant buildings don’t have access to the Interwebs.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Drying Out

Despite tornadoes and high winds in the area, we got through the storm pretty well. Better than others, anyway. A few blocks away, trees were ripped out of the ground, and not much further, people lost power for three days. TFN's sister ended up with four feet of water in her basement, as well as a host of fish and frogs who traveled with it.

Apparently, due to the storm coverage, they also bumped the broadcast of the Miss Teen USA pageant. That's a shame, because around here everyone missed seeing this firsthand:

I neither know nor care who won the pageant, but I am extremely grateful that Miss Teen South Carolina was able to confirm my suspicions about beauty queens.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Weathering the storm

As I'm writing this, I have taken refuge. There is a wicked thunderstorm going overhead right now, and tornadoes have been sighted in the area. I'm hiding out in the basement with a cat and a very nervous dog glued to my hip.

Storms don't bother him, but he's used to lying in the dog bed while they pass. Picking him up and carrying him down the stairs (he didn't want to go) has him feeling like things aren't right.

It's amazing that, in this day and age, we can still be humbled by something like the weather. I'm hiding out in my basement while thunder crackles outside, and TFN's sister, who lives on a river bank, has water inches from her back door and they're waiting to see if the water will still rise.

Now the nervous dog has just thrown up on the tile. Nice. I think it's partly out of nervousness, and partly that he's not used to being carried, especially right after he's eaten. Ah well, off to get some paper towel, hope the house doesn't collapse while I'm upstairs...

Ok, we're back safe and sound and the tile is clean again. Where was I?

Ah yes, we get so cocky about our mastery of the world, it just takes something like the psychotic weather of the past week to humble us up a bit.

If the power goes out, A. I won't be able to access the Interwebs, and therfore this post goes bu-bye, but B. the big thing is that we'll lose the sump pump. Withouht the sump pump, the basement will take on water, especially with all of the rain we've had. Sister in law who lives on the river has FIVE! sump pumps, all laboring to keep the house safe. Power goes out, they're fucked.

It's 2007, we have electricity and the Interwebs and cable TV and Fruit Rollups, yet when a tornado is sighted, I may as well be a Neanderthal hiding in a cave, waiting out the rain. Then again, Neanderthals didn't have Youtube, and they couldn't watch things like this to weather out the storm...

What'd I tell ya? Cat-blogging! All cats all the time!

See you when the storm blows over.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

It's my party and I'll blog if I want to.

I just realized that a few days ago signaled another year of this little site. Actually, it was Saturday which signaled the day that I inauspiciously started one of the blog things on the internets two years ago with this little blurb. At that moment, Kit Burns was framed! was born. In just two years, it has become a multi-million dollar juggernaut of the the literary world, and there's nowhere to go from here but up!

Blogging has been a lot of fun. I've met some great peeps on the internets, and read some great writing. While my interest has ebbed and flowed in doing it, it has never gone away completely, and it probably won't do so anytime soon.

I do want to thank the investors who've made this possible, those who took the risk of laying out the venture capital in the early days, and I am happy to know that I've made you more money with this project than you could have possibly imagined. Between merchandising, action figures and the film rights to Kit Burns was framed! The Movie, we could all retire tomorrow. But then, the boredom would kill us, wouldn't it? So lets just get back on the bus and take this one as far as it will go.

There are also a few others who've I relied upon for influence and connections, without which we never would have been able to manage the information acquisition we had, or the legal wrangling that has at various times kept most of the staff here at Kit Burns was framed! out of prison (and to Jordan, who took one for the team, we're still appealing!). You all know who you are, and while I respect your desire to remain nameless, I did want to thank you.

And, since I don't know what else to say, let me just share a few photos that I took Saturday, the second anniversary of our inception.

This is how we do fountains in Detroit.

Detroit fountain

Cats and a giraffe.

kitties and giraffe

Ciao! Thank you, and don't forget to tip your waitress.

The newest addition to our family

Nicole's new baby
Originally uploaded by alpharat
I'd like to welcome this lovely young lady to our family. She's TFN's new ride, and don't let her good looks fool you - she's tough.

You'll notice she looks a little uncomfortable in the photo. That's because she's sitting in the living room. She's claustrophobic and hyperactive. She hates sitting still and really hates being inside. Unfortunately, the weather has been less than cooperative.

Rather than criticize her claustrophobia or hyperactivity as flaws though, we choose to celebrate them. As soon as the weather breaks, we'll take her to environs more comfortable for her. I'll be sure to get a photo of her in a more natural state then.

Monday, August 20, 2007

For Jamie

While I put a lot of stuff on my blog, I also am pretty secretive. I talk about a lot of fun stuff, but really, I keep my personal details to a minimum.

Sometimes, though, it feels good to write something down, even if I don't feel like sharing it with the world.

So I've decided to write about Jamie. Jamie was a rockstar of the highest order. Jamie could drink you under the table without a second thought, but he would never hold it against you.

I first met Jamie when he played keyboards in the Lust. They stayed with us the weekend that they came into town. I was blown away by his charisma, his friendliness, his lack of attitude and his infectious smile.

During the weekend they stayed with us, we talked about a ton of stuff. Jamie was eloquent and intelligent, and not at all wrapped up in being a rock star. On the first night he stayed with us, we walked through my yard in the dark, drinking beer and talking about everything from religion, to history, to food and the state of my struggling (now failed) attempts at a vegetable and herb garden.

We pulled out a whiskey bottle and passed it back and forth, drinking and laughing.

I slept on the lawn that night.

Jamie didn't get riled up about anything. When The Lust played at the Old Miami that weekend, the soundman at the bar was abysmal, yet he was unphased no matter how angry his bandmates were. And when his bandmates stood on the curb, heatedly arguing about how to load their gear, he stood off to the side with Nicole and I, smirking with that twinkle in his eye.

For as enamored as I sound of Jamie, it doesn't touch the connection that he and Nicole made. That weekend in our little house, the two of them sat at the kitchen table for hours, well past the time the sun came up that morning, talking about a wider and deeper range of topics than you could imagine. They forged a friendship that night.

When the Lust left, Jamie told us to come visit him at the Double Door whenever we were in Chicago and we would never pay for drinks. He was right, and it was detrimental to me on more than one occasion, but as always, he and Nicole would sit and chat well past close. She loved that kid.

Friday night, Jamie took his own life. We found out Saturday afternoon on our way to a party. Nicole broke down in tears on the street. She didn't want to go to the party crying, but I dragged her in, feeling it was better that we were among friends at the moment than in the alley behind the house. We tucked away for a bit, and then proceeded to try and enjoy the night.

It wasn't until we got home that night that I really broke down, full of sadness, frustration and anger about it all. For a few minutes, I think I grieved deeper than I ever have, until I went to bed out of exhaustion more than anything else.

It's strangely appropriate that it started raining here on Saturday, and hasn't stopped yet.

The hardest thing to deal with is the anger. When Maria passed away earlier this year, I was able to be angry at the cancer that took her away from us, her husband and her daughter. With this, I can only be angry with Jamie. I miss him so much, but I'm angry with him, too.

He was an amazingly special person, one that I feel fortunate to have considered a friend despite the fact that we only spent a limited amount of times together. I'm sure we're not alone in this regard; I'm sure he touched a lot of people that way.

I can only hope that he's found peace, and escaped what he was running from. He will always be missed, and fondly remembered.

(Edit - I removed Jamie's last name as this post was generating a lot of traffic, and I don't want to cause pain to anyone; if you know me and you know Jamie, you know where to find it, but I know Jamie had eight bazillion friends I didn't know, and the rambling of someone they don't know probably may not be the most cathartic for them.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Cat-blogging! All cats, all the time!

Cat on a hot red couch
Originally uploaded by alpharat
So, I was at the site for Mental Floss magazine, today (it’s one of those sites that’s part of my daily rotation), and I stumbled on a post about bloggers, and this thing they do called blogging.

Paraphrasing a bit, they searched around the Interwebs to find what various authorities and sources were saying about “the average blogger.”

They turned up some quotes, and I was looking at them, as well as at the stories, to try and figure out how “average” I am.

"The average blogger is a 14-year-old girl writing about her cat." - Alexander Halavais, assistant professor of interactive communications at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut

Ok, while I beat that age demographic, I have blogged about Miss Mina on more than one occasion. What’s wrong with that? Anyway, cat blogs are very popular with some folks, especially crazy cat ladies.

Another study they pointed out said that “most blogs are abandoned soon after creation (with 60% to 80% abandoned within one month, depending on whose figures you choose to believe) and that few are regularly updated. The 'average blog' thus has the lifespan of a fruitfly”

OK, while I haven’t been ultraregular on my updates, and while I blame it on my “job blog”, I do try to update at least once a week. Granted, there were times, in my bloggish youth, where I could update three times a day, every day. But age catches up with us. Occasionally I’ll get those bouts of energy, but right now, it’s not so often.

The biggest one that makes me wonder was a statement by the CEO of Google, who said that the “average blog” is read by one person. That makes me wonder how average I am. I think I get two or three readers, but I’m not exactly sure.

What if no readers came to this site, would it change anything?
Sadly, I think it would. Part of this whole blog thing, for me at least, involves the exchange of ideas, thoughts, revelations and inspirations. If nobody visits a blog, does it make a sound?

Anyway, for better or for worse, the post is here. Do me a favor though. Before you go, drop a short roll call comment at the bottom of the post, to alleviate the idea that I may simply be average.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Hi, my name is Ryan and I’m esoteric…

Il calore e insopportabile.
The heat is unbearable.

That seems to be the trend as of late. The heat has been stifling lately, creating the type of temperatures that force one inside to hide in the dark, next to the window air conditioner (or in my white trash neighbor’s case, has them sitting in lawn chairs shaded from the sun – by their van).

I read a news article that said we can plan on the next 10 years or so being cyclically warmer, too. That is, whether or not you believe is global warming, the next 10 summers are going to be hot simply because they will be. If that’s true, I’m heading up to Alaska for a few, because I like to breathe air, not wade through it.

Now, then, global warming - is it real? Apparently that depends on who you ask. There are people who say it’s coming, and we’re accelerating it – unfortunately, I am told that those people are being paranoid and melodramatic, simply because they love grant money and hate America. Those that say that global warming isn’t happening are, I am told, simply government shills on the take from big businesses with bigger check books (but at least they don’t hate America).

I guess it’s up to you where you want to side, but there are some indisputable facts. One, it’s damn hot. Two, polar bears are drowning. The fact that polar bears are drowning probably should be telling us we need to fix something. But it won’t. Not until there are people in the right places who are more concerned about sound environmental policy than about pushing some caribou out of the way so they can drill for oil.

My biggest/best global warming argument is this: whether or not you believe global warming is happening, or if it’s cyclical or man-enhanced, what’s wrong with being green? I like mountain biking. I like getting out in the woods. I like nature. Don’t most of us like nature? Then why not simply agree we all need to be nicer to the outside simply because it’s the right thing to do?

Believe it or not, I didn’t intend this post to be about this. My Italian phrase a day calendar just set me off.

What did I want to talk about? Well, I think it’s going to be a long and winding road getting there, so I hope you packed a lunch, because I’ll be taking the scenic route.

Will Smith don’t gotta cuss in his raps to sell records.
Well I do. So fuck him and fuck you, too. –Eminem

I don’t bring it up often, but Eminem is incredibly talented. His rhymes are tight, and his lyrics are great. It’s not something that gets mentioned often though, because allying one with Marshall aligns you with his fans, and… well I told you about my neighbors sitting in the shade of their van.

Plus, he doesn’t dis Detroit, like a certain punkass who’ll remain nameless in this context.

For those of you who think I may be slipping a bit, this is Barb Object (the band is I Object!). She’s very punk rock.

And for those of you who may think I went way to far and too easy with that one. This is Towers Of London. They’re pretty punk rock, too.

And, just for one more, we’ll let the Towers slow it down with an acoustic number. Also pretty punk rock.

So what is punk rock? Somebody has the answer…

I just got a screener copy of a new film, called Punk’s Not Dead. It was really great, and if/when you get the chance, see it. It’s a documentary, but not a solid historical documentary. Basically, the filmmaker interviewed punk musicians, both old school and new school, and talked to them about what punk means. The ideal. It’s pretty entertaining, and pretty eye opening, as the basic message is that about the only thing you have no right to do is to tell someone else that their idea of punk rock isn’t.

To sum up, Eminem is pretty punk rock. And he’s from Detroit. And another guy is also from Detroit and is not as punk rock as Eminem. I Object! Is punk rock, and so are the Towers Of London, and so is everyone who wants to be punk rock (except the aforementioned unnamed guy from Detroit). And Punk’s Not Dead is a good movie, and if you want to read my full review (blatant self-promotion), you can read it here.

Oh, speaking of blatant self-promotion, the film also talked about the classic “punk episode” of Quincy M.E., and I wrote a post about it here, with links to clippy goodness.

Getting back on the road that has nothing to do with Eminem or global warming, it’s been a great biking season, if a little accident prone. Case in point: due to unrelated spills, TFN and I ran in the Tree Farm Relay a few weeks ago sporting a matching pair of broken ribs. Broken ribs hurt. The only known treatment for a broken rib is beer. That’s a little known fact, but try it if you’re ever in the situation.

Another thing I wanted to point out the importance of the brain bucket. Long story short, TFN took a huge drop in the bottom of a pit, hitting the ground at about 15-20 MPH. She hit the ground hard and slid a few feet. She walked away with the aforementioned broken rib and a bit lighter after leaving the proverbial pound of flesh peeled away on the ground. Oh, and she had a cracked helmet.

It’s not the first time I’ve watched people (including the best rider I know, my personal bike guru) take some sick spills with little or no consequence that would have been much worse had their brain not been in a bucket. I will never ride a trail without a helmet, I will not ride with anyone who isn’t wearing a helmet and although we never did when we were kids, I wear a helmet on the road, and my kids will bike in helmets too. Man, it only takes one small lapse of judgment, one second where you’re not paying attention, to launch you over the handlebars. If you’ve got a brain bucket on, it’ll probably be more painful, because your friends will never let you live it down but it’s rude to make fun of people in a persistive vegetative state from a head injury.

As it was, we both ended up banged up but still able to race. So, to reiterate, put your brain in a bucket, OK?

2007 Tree Farm Relay

Oh, and for those of you who’ve been keeping track at home, Team Angry Monkey gained a few new members, but I really wanted to introduce this one . We’ll be starting her training very soon. It’s how Yoda recommends these things be done.

Taking the scenic route once more, we got hooked up with a group called Beat The Train. Beat The Train meets at 6:30 in the AM on Saturday at Historic Fort Wayne in an area of Detroit that one doesn’t usually even drive in. From there, we ride out bikes across the city, through Mexican Village, Wayne State, Greektown, Mt. Elliot cemetery, the Heidelberg Project, Bell Isle, Downtown, The River Walk… 33 miles later, we’re back in Mexicantown for breakfast.

It’s an amazing way to see the city; first of all, we rode through neighborhoods I don’t even like to drive through, but there is the whole safety in numbers thing, and 20 cyclists had no problem.

Also, as we went through downtown, there were a ton of business owners, opening up shops and restaurants for the day, who said hello and actually thanked us for coming into the city. It’s the kind of thing that continues to make me want to have faith in Detroit.

Ok… I think I’ve run out of thoughts for the moment… if anyone can tell me what this post is about, you know where the comment area is. There may even be a secret message in here, but if so, I didn’t put it there…