Friday, September 30, 2005

You Can Help The Four-Legged Victims of Hurricane Katrina

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, many people have been left homeless. They’re turning to the Red Cross and FEMA for help. There are many other victims of the Hurricane who don’t have voices, and don’t have anywhere to turn to for help; these are the many dogs and cats who were left homeless when they were left behind by their owners, or turned over to shelters by owners who had no other option.

This is where the Michigan Animal Adoption Network stepped in. A 501(c)3 non-profit organization for animal rescue based right here in Metro Detroit, their volunteers have so far made three trips to the Hurricane-ravaged South, rescuing more than 137 cats and dogs.

Many of the animals are in pretty rough shape. They are malnourished and suffering from a variety of conditions brought on by their harsh experiences. The Network is nursing them back to health, and getting them ready for adoption.

One such dog is the aptly named Lucky Gumbo (pictured). Here’s her story (from their site):

Lucky Gumbo is a 3-year-old beagle who was surrendered to a shelter when her owners evacuated. She is heartworm positive and getting ready to be treated by MAAN. She is currently living the good life in a Royal Oak foster home, smelling the flowers and grass in her new northern home. In spite of what she has endured, Lucky is sweet and gentle and loving. Once seen through her treatment, she will be spayed and placed in a new permanent home.

What can you do to help?
1. Donate – the Michigan Animal Adoption Network desperately needs funds for food, gas and medical supplies.
2. Foster a dog or cat – even if you’re not able to provide a permanent home for one of these animals, MAAN needs responsible foster owners to provide a loving environment for dogs and cats as they are nursed back to health and placed in permanent homes.
3. Adopt an animal – give the ultimate gift of a home to one of these poor boys and girls.

Visit the site for the Michigan Animal Adoption Network for more information on all of these options. There is even an easy Pay Pal option to make a simple tax-deductible donation.

Keep in mind that while the hurricane is drawing the attention and urgency, MAAN has lots of other wonderful non-hurricane-related homeless pets who need the same care and attention as their newest arrivals. We all need to do our part to help out these unfortunate animals. It’s often said that the true test of a society is how it treats its most helpless. The dogs and cats really need our help, and you’ll feel great knowing you did your part.

UPDATE: Other organizations helping the Animals of Hurricane Katrina also have pets for foster and adoption, and also need your help:

Guardian Angel Animal Rescue

Michigan Animal Rescue League

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Tonight's special - 48-oz. calamari porterhouse

In the world of science, things are moving forward according to my master plan. These scientists in Japan have taken the first photos ever of a live adult giant squid.

The first image that pops into my head is this huge calamari steak, grilled up with a bit of garlic. That would rock.

Apparently, this camera they used was like a giant fishing lure with big hooks. The squid, as long as a bus, ripped his own tentacle of to get loose. The tentacle was still flopping around when they pulled it up.

"The grip wasn't as strong as I expected; it felt sticky," he explained.
No kidding! You ripped his arm off! I’d imagine that would hamper the strength of anyone’s grip.

Now, I’m getting this image of a cursed family. Descendents of the scientist who will be forever haunted by a ghostly giant squid, who flops next to them as they lie in their beds, moaning in a squishy voice “yoooo tooook myyy arrrrrmmmmm…” Real Saturday afternoon creature feature stuff.

But seriously, I like the idea of farming these guys for steaks. I mean the squids. Not the scientists. link

In other science news that goes along with my master plan, scientists in England were able to extract spider blood from a 20 million year old fossilized spider.
The droplets are the first identified examples of spider blood ever found in an amber fossil. It is possible the blood could be used to extract DNA.

If that won't produce dinosaurs, at least we can get some dinosaur spiders… link

Dueling Banjos Would Go Well with This Story...

It seems like we have a lot of news stories coming out of the Metro Detroit area that just reinforce my opinions that we, as a race, just keep getting dumber. This is another one.

Apparently, this guy from down in the Clem (that’s Mt. Clemens for my non-local visitors) was admitted to the hospital with stab wounds. It turns out, he got them from dueling. With his cousin. Over thirty bucks.

In the incident, the two men who reside in the same home on Walnut Street with other relatives disagreed over a $30 debt. Wielding a knife, the older cousin confronted the younger cousin, who retrieved a knife and accepted the challenge, the sheriff said.

"He could've done any number of things," Hackel said. "He could've called police, he could've fled the area. But he took on the challenge and became part of the problem."

The guy who got stabbed is only 19. The challenger was 31. Both are way old enough to know better. I think I knew that you weren’t supposed to challenge family members to games that ended with one of you dead by the time I was 9.

I also like the brief mention that they live in the same home, with other family members. I get this immediate image of the Hatfield family compound, but in the city. Dogs under the porch, Ma hanging up the washin’, Pa brewin’ hooch out in the shed, you know, real all-Americans.

Dueling is not something you think of as a possibility in this day and age. You picture it as more of a French Aristocrat defending an insult to his name or something. Apparently these two guys have a stronger sense of honor than one would realize at first.

Another interesting factoid in the article – it’s apparently illegal to even challenge anyone to a duel. It’s a felony. I gotta remember that. It’s only through pure luck I haven’t gotten busted for challenging my friends to pistols at dawn over whose turn it is to buy the next round. Link

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Official End of Summer

Although the calendar says that autumn began last week, that really makes it autumn in name only. Just like the first day of spring never yields immediate pleasant weather around here, the first day of fall never launches into immediate frost and color changes.

But last night, sitting at the bar at the Belmont after having worked out, I saw the true herald of fall. It's a moment that makes you want to bundle up; a sharp reminder that the nights of sleeping by an open window are ending. Yesterday, summer officially ended. Yesterday, the Belmont ran out of Bell's Oberon.

Around here, Bell's Oberon is the official beer of summer. When I lived in Kalamazoo, home of Oberon, the day the first kegs were tapped was like a municipal holiday. When April arrived, and it was time for Oberon, we would take the day off from work, go to the brewery, and take part in the festivities. There would be music and laughter, and friends saying hello and congratulating one another for having survived another frigid Kalamazoo winter.

Back in Kalamazoo, and here in Detroit, pints of Oberon (with an orange slice, never with lemon!) are consumed with abandon all summer. It's the attitude that, in Michigan, we should be merry and enjoy the weather while it's here. There's no way of knowing how long it will last, so don't waste it. That's true of both the weather and the beer.

Last night, Walt ordered a pint of Oberon. Mickey went to pour it. The pint was half full when, with a pop and a hiss and a lot of foam, summer ended. There were no more kegs of Bell's Oberon in the Belmont.

Goodbye Oberon. I'll see you next April.

Fortunately we have Bell's Winter White Ale to get us through the long winter nights.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

If you don't know where Waldo is, you're exactly where they want you...

The American Library Association has designated the last week in September as Banned Books Week. Take some time to exercise your first amendment rights by reading a book that has been challenged or banned. Those rights that allow you to read these books are the same rights that allow us to pursue the idea that people actually care what we have to say on our blogs.

Don't have time to read? Here are a couple of titles from the list of The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000 that won't take too much time out of your week:
25. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak

26. The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard

51. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein

And the only thing surprising about this one being on the list is that it came in so far down:
88. Where’s Waldo? by Martin Hanford

The Forbidden Library is another great resource, compiling many books that have been banned or challenged in the U.S., as well as the reasons for which they were banned. While many books are banned because they deal with issues that tend to get the average uptight American's panties in a bunch (such as sex, drugs, or women voters), some surprising challenges include this one, which makes me embarrassed to be from the Metro Detroit area:
Zen Buddhism: Selected Writings. D.T. Suzuki. Doubleday. Challenged at the Plymouth-Canton school system in Canton, Mich. (1987) because "this book details the teachings of the religion of Buddhism in such a way that the reader could very likely embrace its teachings and choose this as his religion."

As you go through the lists on either site, you'll see a lot of favorites from your childhood. I know I did; and while I may have issues, as the professionals like to call them, I really doubt that I got them from reading How to Eat Fried Worms.

Finally, some good press!

GirlPunk has a great interview with Karen Neal, lead singer of the Detroit band Queen Bee. Karen goes to the same Punk Fitness class that I do, and she is a real sweetheart, as well as being part of one of the best bands in the Motor City.

There is a whole section in the interview where she talks about Punk Fitness Detroit! While this piece doesn't mention me by name, I think it paints a much better picture of the class than the article I referred to previously.

From the article:

I got to admit you have an awesome figure so you're into working out or does that come naturally? What involvement do you have with the Punk Fitness Programme in Detroit?

Why, thank you! Quite honestly, I have never been to a gym, nor a fitness class until I heard about Punk Fitness! I've been through extensive physical therapy due to several disc herniations in my lower and cervical spine and really felt I needed a change of lifestyle. After attending one class, I was hooked! Julie Hecker has been teaching fitness for over 20 years. She is a total scenester and supporter of Detroit bands! The classes take place in different bars before the patrons show up and the people that attend get to pick the songs we work out to! There's nothing more exhilarating than jumping around to DK's "Nazi Punks Fuck Off" or doing sit-ups to Peaches "Fuck the Pain Away"! It's sometimes weird hearing your own shit played, but flattering when you find out that someone else requested it! Everyone is either an artist, musician, writer, performer or freak of some sort. It brings the Detroit scene closer and makes you want to work harder hearing your favorite music! I am a much happier person today than I've been in a while, now that I am getting exercise and meeting new friends! Julie works us hard, then stays for a beer and hangs! I actually started a hula-hoop trend within the class! I cannot say enough good things about Punk Fitness because we all need it! This idea is pure genius and I'm gonna do all I can to help promote it! I want to be the picture of Punk Rock health!

By the way, even if this one doesn't mention me by name, I like to think she's thinking of me when she refers to either the writers or the freaks in the class. I'll take either as a compliment. Link

Monday, September 26, 2005

Turf Wars are Becoming Surf Wars

In the wake of Katrina, a lot of dismal stories of death and destruction have arisen in the media. Some are very believable, some smack of urban legend; either way it's been pretty gruesome. It may be a long time before we know the full truth about all these stories, but the latest story sounds like the beginning of a bad science fiction novel.

According to this story in the Observer, some trained dolphins have escaped from a miltary base and are loose. And they may be armed.

Apparently, these dolphins have been trained to dispatch underwater terrorists with a toxic dart that fires from a gun mounted on a harness. And they may have been wearing these harnesses when they escaped.

Is this the beginning of the end? Surfers and swimmers used to only have to worry about the occasional shark attack or random jellyfish. Now it looks like they need to worry about pissed off porpoises looking to pop a cap in their speedo-clad asses.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have entered the era of the swim-by shooting.

Jousting: The Monster Truck Rallies of the Middle Ages

Medieval Trivia:
Q: Why is beer so expensive at Renaissance Fairs?
A: To prevent you from getting drunk enough to punch out the “actors”.

That’s my favorite Renaissance Fair joke. I made it up all by myself.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable weekend. It started Friday with a viewing of the Corpse Bride (See it! See it now!).

Saturday was a 22-mile trail ride out at Potowatomi. I was a little nervous about how my training for Iceman was coming, but after Saturday’s ride, I’m not worried. I will need to keep up with the training right until the race, obviously, but I walked away from Saturday’s ride feeling so good that I’m pretty confidant that Team Angry Monkey will show up solid to represent at the Iceman.

As for Sunday, if you haven’t figured it out by the beginning of the post, we went to the Michigan Renaissance Festival on Sunday. I don’t go out of my way to go to these things for several reasons, but I seem to make it here about every other year, for other multiple reasons. This year it was free tickets (Thanks, Mike and Erika!).

Now, I realize that I am a cynical bastard, and that leads to my bit of disdain for these things. But I have a bit of historical context as well: in college, I was a theater major for a bit. Most of my “colleagues” at the time worked these things all summer, and then spent the rest of the time either telling everyone they worked them, and that counted as a paid acting gig, or quoting Monty Python and the Holy Grail in a bad English accent. Add to that the fact that I had a roommate who sold swords and armor at these fairs and you’ll realize that I’ve had my fill of these things.

My wife’s criticism of these festivals is a semantic one; she has a degree in art, and her beef is that they need to be called medieval fests or some such, because they have very little to do with the Renaissance. That angers her a bit.

Now that I have said that bit, I have to add that there are things I do love about these fairs, things I actually get excited about. These include the food (most notably the giant turkey legs), the shopping, the entertainment, and the people watching.

As far as people watching goes, these fairs bring out a large contingency of white trash, geeks, and Hot Topic punks; there are even more people who blur the lines between each of those groups. It’s like the crowd at Hamtramck Festival, but carrying swords and wearing corsets that are way too small.

This year we also had the benefit of attending with my friend’s seven-year-old daughter. There’s nothing like bringing a child to something like this to knock that cynical chip off your shoulder. She seemed pretty amazed by a lot of the stuff we saw and did, and she spent a half hour watching the glassblower, until we dragged her off to see the joust.

I love the joust; even though it’s all scripted and comically camped out, there is so much excitement in the air watching these guys charge each other on horseback. The crowd is cheering, the horses are thundering across the field, and you know that even those these guys are old hats at this thing, nothing is entirely safe when horses and pointy sticks are involved.

I believe that my friend’s daughter is more of an intellectual than I am, or maybe it’s her manifesting feminine sensibilities. Either way, this kid, who was sucked in by watching a guy make a bottle for a half hour, became visibly bored with just a few minutes of the warfare. Ah well, to each his own. Maybe she was so enraptured because he had a blowtorch, too. That I can relate to.

So to sum up, regardless of what I say to make fun of the fair as a phenomenon, I had a great day. And I owe some of that to that little girl that reminded me that sometimes the best way to appreciate something is to pretend that you're seeing it for the first time.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

We have seen the real enemy, and he is a naked oil tycoon

As Hurricane Rita rolls toward the Gulf Coast, they are shutting down the oil refineries again, and gas prices will shoot up yet again. That's just the way it works right? Refineries shut down, prices go up, right?

Apparently not, according to facts being brought to light by Michigan's governor Jennifer Granholm. I love Jennifer Granholm. I really do.

Our beloved governor, as well as seven other Democratic governors, sent a letter to the Bush Administration, as well as to the Congressional leaders, demanding that price gouging be investigated, and that consumers are refunded. We're not talking about one guy who owns a gas station and wants to rip you off; this is price gouging on the corporate level.

According to a a study by an economist from the University of Wisconsin Madison, the hurricane never affected gas prices. Not only that, in order for gas to be $3/gallon, crude oil would need to be $95/barrel. It's been around $65/barrel, so we are all being blatantly ripped off.

Will anything be resolved? Not while King George is in the White House. He assigned Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to investigate. Gonzalez is already way too busy setting up an FBI force to defend us from porn. It's good to know they have priorities.

Which I'll leave to the experts to comment on:
"I guess this means we've won the war on terror," said one exasperated FBI agent, speaking on condition of anonymity because poking fun at headquarters is not regarded as career-enhancing. "We must not need any more resources for espionage."
I couldn't have said it any better. It's nice to know the war is over, though.

Dirty little secrets? Not really.

For my first post-liberation potty post, I wanted to point out this story about the latest amazing findings by Scientists from the American Society of Microbiology.

Apparently, women are more likely to wash their hands after using the facility. Women in general have better hygiene than man.

No duh.

This to me is one of those studies that somebody convinced somebody else to fund in order to justify paying some other people's salaries.

Everybody knows most women are cleaner than most men.

Other groundbreaking finds from the study include noting that people at an Atlanta Braves game are less likely to wash their hands than people at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry and Shedd Aquarium.

OK, first, if you've ever been to a ballgame, you don't want to touch anything in those bathrooms.

Second, they are ignoring the fact that most everyone at the ballgame is intoxicated on some level. I think I'm the only one who goes to the museum drunk.

And the creepiest part about it all is that the study was conducted by spying on people in public restrooms.

See, that guy wasn't a pervert. He was a scientist.

Say it with me - "potty potty potty potty"

I apologize if it begins to seem like this blog is about to descend repeatedly into potty humor.

You won't have noticed it, because, other than this post, I have made a conscious effort to avoid it, but as I write this post, I'm saying screw it. If potty topics become prevalent, you can stop coming here, or start telling your friends to come here. I'm guessing it will be the latter.

What's the deal with potty humor? People think it's funny, and are often afraid to admit it.

Many moons ago, I traveled down to Charlotte, North Carolina to be a featured guest speaker at the International Children's Literature Conference. I was the only undergraduate to be invited to speak at that conference. I was surrounded by some of the world's most prominent authorities on children's education and literature, and I was considered a colleague.

What did I speak on? Poop.

My paper was entitled, right there in the program, "Why we really do need books about poop: the topic of bodily functions in children's literature."

So I stood in front of these people, in my suit, in a lecture hall, and said words like "poop", "pee", "booger" and "fart". While I was explaining why potty humor is essential and healthy to the emotional and intellectual development of children, I was thinking "they all think you're a hack, they can't believe you were invited to speak, this just isn't right."

Then someone laughed. Nervously at first, but they laughed. At the funny part (I was using some humorous visual aids, if you can imagine), where they were supposed to. And these people listened, and applauded, and came up and shook my hand afterward.

Potty topics are an amazing part of our society. It's one of the last taboos, something everyone does, but nobody wants to talk about (aside from 11-year-old boys, that is).

So, as I see stories I want to comment on, I will no longer be afraid to descend to the level of pee humor.

It's in my blood.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Like summer in a glass...

It's been a while since I posted a drink recipe, but I had a good one last night.

Last night at Little Tree, after edamame, some pork and crab wasabe dumplings, and a plate of really good sushi that included Australian Ahi tuna that just melted in your mouth, the bartender suggested a dessert drink: a Key Lime Pie Martini. I swear, it tasted just like key lime pie. I had two of them just to make sure.

Now I know a lot of people are martini purists, and feel that these new flavored drinks can't be called martinis; but I really enjoy flavored martinis as an after-dinner cocktail. If you want, you can always just call them something else.

Key Lime Pie Martini

2 oz. Vanilla Absolut
2 oz. Pineapple Juice
1 splash Rose's Lime Juice

Pour the ingredients over ice, shake, strain and serve in a sugar-rimmed martini glass. Garnish with a lime.


But who would win in a fight between these guys and ninjas?

National Geographic has a story on Lucha Libre, Mexico’s masked wrestlers. It’s a pretty interesting piece, but not very in depth. It’s actually quite superficial and fluffier than anything you’d expect from National Geographic. Even on their Website.

But, if you read into the article, there is a buried tidbit that is one of the most earth-shattering truths I’ve encountered on the Interweb so far this week, and it’s already Tuesday. These guys are quite possibly the greatest athletes of all time. Say what you want about American professional wrestling, but Mexican luchadores are the real thing. It says so.
From the article:
"We've fought Japanese, Guatamalans, Panemanean, Carribbean, and Americanos. But American lucha is fake, not like ours," Diablo says.

See? That guy said it, and National Geographic printed it. That’s all the proof I need.

Which really explains the masks if you think about it. Anyone who would be able to perform those theatrics for real in the wrestling ring would have to be a superhero. A masked wrestler would be the perfect superhero secret identity.

It’s just like Southern Culture on the Skids sang about Santo:
By day a famous wrestler, by night a superhero; protecting the world from infamous bad guys and chicks…


In which I age just a little bit more...

I was in Nordstrom Rack last night and I found a great pair of GBX shoes for $40. They were big chunky things, patent leather with a brushed stainless steel buckle. Two years ago, I would have been all over them like a donkey on a waffle. Last night, I tried them on and thought, “OK, these are just obnoxious.”

This is when I realized I’m getting old.

It started to hit me this weekend in Kalamazoo. That, and a wicked hangover also hit me; 12 hours of straight drinking with a switch from beer to wine will do that to you, but I digress.

The party for the end of Bilbo’s Underground was everything I expected it to be – fun, drunken, and anticlimactic. It’s been two years since I’ve even visited Kalamazoo, and I think I’d said goodbye to Bilbo’s a long time ago. But we went, drank many pictures of Oberon, made it back to a friend’s house, drank wine, passed out, and went to a breakfast that I sipped coffee through and fought the urge to throw up. It was fun, but I’m getting too old for this.

I don’t know if I expected some sore of epiphany visiting the old hangout, but I didn’t get it. There was a kiss with my wife in the bar for old time’s sake, and a wicked hangover. Bilbo is dead. Long live Bilbo.

Monday, September 19, 2005


I just want to take this moment to wish everyone a Happy Talk Like A Pirate Day.

Q: Did you hear about the new pirate movie?
A: It’s rated Arrrrrr…

Q: Do you know why?
A: Because of all the booty.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Roadworn and weary, I've gone one too many miles...

So I know I should be getting ready to hit the road for Kalamazoo, as I m just getting up at the time we were planning on hitting the road, but I've got a few minutes while the coffee brews to give a brief recap of last night.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

It was the Mydols, the Grande Nationals and the Supersuckers. We missed the Mydols, and got there halfway through the Grande Nationals set. They were amazing! As we walked in the door to the Bag, while I was waiting while the doorguy went through his stack of guest lists to find our name (thanks, Andy!), I heard them say they were going to play "Cold Water", which is my favorite Grande Nationals tune, by virtue of the fact that Julie always plays it in Punk Fitness. So I was stoked about getting there to see it performed.

The Grande Nationals are local, and by local I mean Ferndale local, not even just Detroit local. They have a great power pop rock sound without being garagey (and there is a plethora of Detroit garage right now; this is refreshing). Stevie, the singer has a stage prescence a lot like David Johanson. We saw the New York Dolls a few months ago, and that ranks up there with one of the best rock shows I've seen. Grande Nationals were similar on stage.

The Supersuckers came out, opened with a rocked-up version of "Roadworn and Weary", closed with a long version of "Born with a Tail", in which Eddie Spaghetti passed his bass around the band for everyone to knock out a bass solo, even the drummer who played it with his sticks and it sounded great. Mixed in to the set they had a few of my other favorites, like "Supersucker Driveby Blues", and they played some new stuff which, as Eddie said "is the greatest rock ever, because that's what we do."

And Eddie signed my 7" cover for "Born with a Tail", and gave me some old-school props for having it (I bought it in 93 or 94), and it was pretty cool to meet him and talk for a second.

Anyway, you've now seen what it looks like when I hammer out an entry in 10 minutes, before I've had any coffee. Gotta go, gotta hit the road.

I'll chat when I get back.


Friday, September 16, 2005

Batman begins, and an era ends...

I finally saw Batman Begins last night, at a Brew and View at the Magic Bag. Without going into much detail, because it would just turn into a half-assed review, I have to say that I think it’s the best Batman movie yet. It was even better than the 1960’s Batman!

This is saying a lot, because I am both a huge Batman fan and a Tim Burton fan. This one was the best so far, though. Not even that rubber-faced prat, Katie Holmes was able to wreck it. Granted, it seems that they tried to give her minimal lines, but whenever she opened her mouth, it was painful. As my wife pointed out though, it didn’t really matter, as Bruce Wayne’s love interest is always a weak, pointless character in these films. She’s just a device, usually.

I do like seeing movies at the Brew and View. It’s the perfect way to catch many films, sitting at a table with some friends, watching a movie on the big screen while a waitress occasionally swings by with another PBR tallboy (pure class!). It’s not the ideal place for any film; dramas or artsy films would never work here, but something like Batman, or Jackass, which was awesome at the B&V, is perfect to be viewed in a bar.

Tonight we're headed back to the Magic Bag to see the Supersuckers. That should be fun. I haven't seen them in about five years, but they were really good then (that was the night after my wedding). And, tomorrow I am going to Kalamazoo for the night. It's weird. We're going out there because Bilbo's is closing. Bilbo's is a bar from my past. Not only did I work there as a bouncer, bartender, cook and waiter for four years, it's also where I first talked to the girl who would become my wife, and where we went on our first date. It will be sad to see it go, but it hasn't been the same for many years, I've heard.

I'll let you all know.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Mow swiftly, my friend. Mow... for FREEDOM!

Some guy in Omaha mowed a curse word into his front lawn and there is nothing anyone can do about it. It’s protected by his First Amendment rights.

The story itself is rather amusing, but I think what everyone really wants to know is what is the phrase? Although, I think we can hazard a guess:
"When I first saw it, I saw the big U, and I had to back up just to see if that's what it really said," he said.

Yeah, I think we all know what it probably says.

It reminds me of an event from high school. My best friend’s mom traveled out of town on business for a week. She left him charge of a few things; caring for his siblings, cleaning the house, feeding the dog, etc. She also left him in charge of the lawn.

Now, he lived in a really nice neighborhood; it was the nicest subdivision in our small town. We “affectionately” referred to it as “Snob’s Knob”, and it was home to several local doctors and many of our teachers. His house sat atop a gently sloping hill.

The lawn was quite tall and needed to be mowed on the day his mom left, and needless to say, he didn’t mow it that day, or the next. We spent the week hanging out, and listening to music, and being bums. And the grass kept getting taller.

Ok, it’s the day his mom is coming home. The proper thing to do would be to mow the lawn, and say nothing about it. No harm, no foul, right? Not this time.

He got out his brother’s Led Zeppelin boxed set, you know, the one with the crop circles on the cover? And took the mower out to that hill and mowed a 50-foot identical reproduction of the crop circles onto that broad, gently sloping hill. And as a piece de resistance, he put up a six-foot inflatable Godzilla, surveying the masterpiece.

It was magnificent. We both thought so. Right about then, his mom pulled up. She didn’t agree.

And there is nothing in the First Amendment preventing you from being grounded for exercising your right of expression.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Beer’s Power Can Only Be Used for Good

After Katrina, I will admit that I went to the local grocer and bought five bags of Zapp’s Cajun Dill Gator-Taters. Without making light of the tragedy, I was concerned about not being able to buy one of my favorite snacks for a while (confession – I once even bought a case of Zapp’s directly from the company, so deep does my passion run). I also mourned the possibility of being temporarily unable to obtain Turbodog from Abita Breweries or Pat O’Brien’s Hurricanes.

Granted, these are petty concerns in the whole scheme of things, but they were thoughts that crossed my mind.

Well, the good news is that both Zapp’s and Abita Breweries survived the hurricane. Pat O’Brien’s, sadly, did not (although their online store is open). Abita is even launching a new brew to aid in the rebuilding of NOLA. Fleur-de-lis Restoration Ale is a golden ale that will hit store shelves on October 3. For every six-pack sold, Abita will donate $1 to the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation. They also have a line of Restoration Ale merchandise, with 100% of the proceeds going to the Foundation.

So, when you get a chance next month, try a sixer of Fleur-de-lis. If you’re going to be having a beer anyway, won’t it feel good to be able to say you’re drinking for a good cause? I'd say that even gives you reason to drink more.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Secret Online Bargain of the Week - The $50 Hippo!

The BBC has a story about a group of hippos facing extinction in the Congo due to poachers. In Virunga National Park, there was once a thriving population of 29,000. There are now less than 900.

This is really sad, obviously. But as I read the article, I noticed a tidbit buried further in the story:
"Hippos can be bought for around $50"
50 bucks for a hippo? How cool would that be?

Just imagine, coming home to your own little herd of hippos (are a group of hippos called a herd?) hanging out in the yard. And at that price, even with shipping, it's probably cheaper than a lot of pure-bred dogs. Plus, if we all went in together, and bought a couple of hippos each, maybe we could move them somewhere where the poachers couldn't touch them. Like out west. The hippos could be the first animals brought in by those guys who want to add lions and elephants to the great plains.

If the Congo won't take care of its pets, we should give them to someone who will.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Does something smell Rotten?

John Lydon is like a recurring rash or an old knee injury; just when you think you’ve seen the last of it, it flares up again. But to his credit, while he may appear to act without reason, self-promotion is at the foundation of all his public appearances.

So last week, when Lydon appeared twice in the news, once for dissing Bono ("Every time I see Bono in those big fly glasses and tight leather pants I just can't hack it. I can't see that as solving the world's problems. He's crushing his testicles in tight trousers for world peace."), and once for allegedly throwing coffee on Jimmy Pursey of Sham 69, it was no surprise to find out that he has an album coming out in October.

“The Best of British £1 Notes” will be released October 3rd on Virgin Records. Like most Sex Pistols albums, this is just a re-release of a bunch of things he’s already put out, spanning from the Sex Pistols, through PiL, to now. If you buy the limited edition 2-CD set, you’ll be treated to a bonus disc remixes that includes (and there is no way I could make this up) a dance mix of “God Save the Queen”.

While it is just a rehash of a lot of his old successes, it’s a nice collection. And as someone whose heard his travesty of a record “Psycho’s Path”, I can assure you that anytime the old stuff is just reissued, it’s a lot better than hearing him produce something new.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

It's not pee, it's science!

Scientists in Singapore have invented a pee-powered battery.

They claim that this urine-powered battery was invented to create a low-cost, self-powered diagnostic kit to detect diabetes and other illnesses.

I suspect they just wanted to invent something that you could pee on.

In other pee-related news...

A restaurant in China was raided for selling the meat of endangered tigers on its menu. However, it turned out that what they were listing as tiger meat was actually really just donkey meat marinated in tiger urine.

Which I always guessed would taste just like chicken. Link

Panic In Detroit

Yesterday evening was positively surreal. Simple as that.

It started routinely enough; I mowed my lawn and was trimming along the fence when someone I never saw put a cigarette out in my hair. Then my arm. Then my legs. All I was feeling was burning on my body. Yep, stumbling into a hornet’s nest will do that to you.

Flailing like a madman, I ran to the house, making sure I didn’t carry any of the beasts into the house with me. After I took stock, I realized that aside from a few painful welts, there was no real damage, so I went on with my business.

After dinner, we followed a friend downtown to watch him DJ. This was where things got interesting.

If you’ve been to downtown Detroit you know what I’m talking about when I mention boarded-up skyscrapers. Detroit has entire sections of downtown that are all but abandoned; Bowie wrote “Panic in Detroit” about them. The club we went to was in one of these areas.

We parked in an alley behind the bar. I was a bit worried about the car being stolen, as there was a cockroach the size of pony on the wall in the alley, and I think he was debating whether or not he could wrestle the keys from me.

Entering the back door of the bar, we were greeted by the leering face of a madman, screaming “Drink, you bitches!”

This was the owner of the bar.

“He looked a lot like Che Guevara, drove a diesel van
Kept his gun in quiet seclusion, such a humble man”
- David Bowie, Panic In Detroit

At one time, this place was amazing. It had vaulted ceilings, chandeliers, a balcony with seating, and a decent sound system.

This was before the owner gave up and stopped cleaning the place.

The place smelled of mold. The tables on the balcony were buried in beer bottles, and we noted that a newspaper on one of the tables was two weeks old. Trash piled up everywhere, and the phone behind the bar sat off the hook, the receiver half hidden by a pile of paper. The lights on the balcony were out, and half the bulbs on the chandelier were burnt out or missing.

For a moment, I wondered if I’d had an allergic reaction to the hornets, and was in a coma somewhere.

There were 10 people in the bar; six were the DJs, one was the owner. He told us to go behind the bar and take what we wanted. We could pay him what we thought we owed at the end of the night. Then he smashed a bottle against the wall.
"He laughed at accidental sirens
that broke the evening gloom

The police had warned of repercussions
They followed none too soon
A trickle of strangers were all that were left alive"
- David Bowie, Panic In Detroit

The rest of the night proceeded as uneventfully as this place could be; our friend played a surreal set, bouncing from James Brown to Iron Maiden to Depeche Mode to Skinny Puppy to Dead or Alive. It was the perfect soundtrack to this place, where the owner stopped back to chat, turn the music up or down, or throw bottles and light bulbs at the wall or the DJs. Handing me a bottle, he instructed “the key is to throw it so it drops just in front of the DJs. If you throw it too hard, you could hit the window. Trust me, that was expensive.” I, however, declined to chuck a bottle.

As we talked to this manic guy, the story began to take shape; he had simply given up on the neighborhood, the bar, the city; he'd stopped cleaning, and was planning on closing in a month. Until then, it was anything goes. Drink up the bottled beer, the kegs aren’t working and I’m not fixing them. Nope, you guys drank the last of the Newcastle, how about a Heineken?

All in all, it really felt like we had found a bar that was closed, snuck in, and made it our own. Or that we were in some Mad Max movie, living it up in a post-apocalyptic city. It’s not a bad place; you should check it out before it’s gone, if you can find it, and if your idea of a good night out is to pretend you’re in Berlin after the war.

Note: When we left, the giant cockroach was still there, guarding our cars. I apparently misread his intentions, and for that I apologize.

Apple does it again, but why?

So yesterday Apple launched the iPod nano. It’s the newest iPod innovation since the shuffle, and people are talking about how revolutionary it is. I don’t get it. They just made it smaller. What’s the big deal?

"iPod nano is the biggest revolution since the original iPod," said Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO. "iPod nano is a full-featured iPod in an impossibly small size, and it's going to change the rules for the entire portable music market."
Don’t get me wrong. I love my iPod mini. The trademark white earbuds are in right now, currently playing “Voodoo Cadillac” by Southern Culture on the Skids (although it really seems to be in a Germs mood today; random has been playing a Germs tune every three songs or so). I’ve had my mini since I got it for my birthday in June (thanks to my lovely wife), and it’s pretty much a necessity.

Yet, I don’t see the nano being a necessity, and I am a gadget junkie! I’m viewing the nano like I view those Razor phones. It’s really cool, but it's still just a thin cell phone. I bet people will accidentally be busting nanos in their pockets regularly in the near future, just like the criticism I've heard on the Razors.

But that’s not even my beef with the hype. I think I just can’t believe everyone thinks the fact that they found a way to make the mini thinner is all that innovative. It’s cool, but it’s not earth-shattering science. It’s like the White Stripes; they make great music, but they’re not the musical pioneers that Rolling Stone wants you to think.


Tuesday, September 06, 2005

In Which I Party Like A Rockstar (a.k.a. The Very Paybacks Weekend)

Author's Note: This is one of those diary-style blog entries. If you don't like them, skip this one.

Labor Day Weekend is a great time to be in Detroit, as it seems like there is something fun to be found anywhere you look. This year we hit Pontiac’s Arts, Beats and Eats on Friday and the Hamtramck Labor Day Festival on Saturday.

Arts, Beats and Eats is your typical street festival, with booths selling tickets that you redeem for overpriced beer and miniscule portions of food from local restaurants. The music is what makes it great, though, and while people cram their bodies up to the main stage to catch free performances from “heavy hitters” such as Seether, Eddie Money and Rick Springfield, we made our way to the side stages for performances from local artists the Twistin’ Tarantulas and the Paybacks.

The Paybacks are a solid presence on the Detroit scene and arguably one of the best rock bands to come out of the Motor City in a long time. They were performing as a three-piece; guitarist Danny Metric was unable to play out due to illness. Even as a three-piece, they played a solid set, with front-woman Wendy Case filling in the riffs quite well.

Hamtramck’s Labor Day Festival is a much more raucous decadent counterpart to Pontiac’s festival. First of all, there are no food or drink tickets. Want some food? Walk up to the booth and buy it; the same goes for drinks. This eliminates the feeling that you’ve wasted your money when you’re going home with one or two extra tickets that you couldn’t redeem, because nothing is available for only one or two tickets.

The food is authentic, too. While I was there, I loaded up on a plate of pierogies and a kielbasa loaded down with sauerkraut, all prepared by local Polish eateries.

And the entertainment? In addition to a wrestling ring in the middles of the street featuring live independent professional wrestling, there were a great many local bands playing on the stages. Once again, we saw the Paybacks. They were playing as a three-piece once again, and Danny Metric also had to cancel a performance earlier in the day by his side-project, the Muggs.

Former Detroit Redwing Darren McCarty’s band Grinder was also there, following up a main-stage performance in Pontiac the night before. It was a bit of a farewell party for him, as he’s been traded to Calgary. His band was well-received, but I am embarrassed to admit that prior to his performance I stood right next to him and merely wondered who the guy with the Mohawk was. Of course, I had been at the festival for six or seven hours at that point, and had visited several bars and beer stands by then, so we’ll forgive me.

McCarty was not the only celebrity in effect that night. Following the festival, the SSM show at the Belmont was wall-to-wall people, some of them famous. Attendees included Meg White, Brendan Benson, esQuire, and members of the Von Bondies and HafLife. I was, at that point, too partied out for all of the festivities going on around me, but I was definitely able to sit at my table and reflect on how cool it is to be in a town with such a vibrant music scene. And buck-fifty cans of PBR.

The weekend was wrapped up with a trail ride at Bald Mountain, where I sweated the toxins out of my body before putting them back in at a very relaxed backyard bonfire. For those of you in attendance, thanks. It was a nice night.

Another thought on NOLA

One weekend, two crowded street festivals. Even as I had a wonderful time, I thought several times about New Orleans, and it seemed to be the first topic on everyone's minds. Even as I complained about the cost of the beer stand, I thought about another city where the streets are filled with people but there are no beer stands, and no rock bands; and not even any clean water. One more reason to feel fortunate for my safety and comfort, as well as for, as my friend puts it, "at least we got to see that city once while it was standing."

So everyone in the South is still in my thoughts and prayers, and for my local friends who read this, HafLife is playing the Whitney Garden Party on Thursday, and they are donating their proceeds from merchandise sales to the Red Cross. It's a great band, and a better reason to check them out.

Any Press is Good Press!

Today's Detroit News has a write-up in the Fitness Section on Punk Fitness Detroit, with quotes by yours truly! It doesn't paint the most flattering portrait of me "with beer and cigarettes in hand", but whattayagonnado? For the record, I told the interviewer that the class was supplementing my training for November's Iceman race, but did she mention that? No.

Punk Fitness is a class I've been taking part in for almost a year now. We meet at bars throughout Detroit, and have a formal workout class. It's a surprisingly tough class, with cardio and strength training. Our instructor Julie is certified, and certifiable, and is an old-school Detroit punk to boot! The class is fun, the music is great, and when the workout is done, you only have to walk across the room to grab a beer (or you can be like me, and partake in a beer before and sometimes during class as well). What's more perfect than that!?!?

During the summer, I take the class once a week, down at the Belmont on Tuesdays, to supplement my mountain biking; during the winter I'll go more often. It's a great night out, and a great way to stay in shape without feeling like you're exercising.

Check out the Punk Fitness Detroit site for more info, including class schedules, and photos of me that make me look a bit... let's just say reduced in mental capacities.

Note: If you read closely, you'll notice that the article was written by none other than Wendy Case of the Paybacks.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

One More Toast to the French Quarter

Last night we paid tribute to New Orleans with a visit to Howe's Bayou, the local Cajun place. As far as Cajun restaurants go, this place is quite authentic, from their excellent selection of Po Boys (my choice for last night was the andouille sausage with sweet mustard and slaw, with the requisite side of mac and cheese), to their fresh raw oysters (always at least one West Coast and one East Coast variety available), and a full compliment of Louisiana libations. The place not only has TurboDog on tap, but they also serve authentic Pat O'Brien's Hurricanes (both of which I partook in).

Per my friend's recommendation, as an after dinner drink, I had a cocktail called a Sazerac. This anise-flavored cocktail was both potent and sweet, and was the perfect way to cap off an evening with good friends who are all lucky enough to still have our homes, families and lives intact.

We learned from the bartender that the Sazerac was invented in the French Quarter, and is considered to be the first cocktail. In my own research, I also found out that the word "cocktail" is thought to come from the type of glass it was served in.

There are a bunch of recipe variations on the net for this drink (and in fact, the original recipe seems to have been made with brandy and absinthe, and some people say it was rye whisky), but this recipe (found here) seems to be the closest to Howe's tasty recipe:

Sazerac Cocktail
  • 2 oz. Bourbon
  • Dashes of bitters (Howe's uses two kinds)
  • 1/4 oz. Pernod (Howe's just rinses the inside of the glass with the Pernod)
  • 1 tbsp. Simple Syrup
  • Garnish: Lemon wedge
Shake all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into an old-fashioned glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge.

The site also has a Hurricane recipe if you are unable to get Pat O'Brien's mix (you can normally buy it online, but their site is down; I think their fulfillment center is currently underwater).

A few more musings on it all

It's still really strange to think that this whole city is gone, for how long? Months? Years? Forever? I have a few souvenirs from my visit: a voodoo doll, some beads, some postcards, a poster, but it's really hard to think that today, in the U.S. something like a storm can leave us so devastated.

BoingBoing listed a site, put on by some guys who work for directNIC, a company that is maintaining Internet servers in New Orleans. They are holed up in a building, keeping things going. They are also keeping a regular journal, and things don't sound good:

Security has become a major concern now, because the NOPD is ineffective and the looters/terrorists are roaming the streets. Word is now that they're lighting buildings on fire, but I can't confirm that. Anyway, we have to run guard shifts and patrol and it limits our downtime.

It is a zoo out there though, make no mistake. It's the wild kingdom. It's Lord of the Flies. That doesn't mean there's murder on every street corner. But what it does mean is that the rule of law has collapsed, that there is no order, and that property rights cannot and are not being enforced. Anyone who is on the streets is in immediate danger of being robbed and killed. It's that bad.

So again I say, good luck to everyone toughing it out in the South. I hope things can come together for you all, sooner than later, and you can begin to put some sort of order to your lives again.