Monthly Archives: February 2009

it is not the well, or the bell

2/10/09

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Tonight’s game puts it in sharp relief: Lucy’s entire life has been spent growing up with Tyler Hansbrough. He came to Carolina the same year Lucy came to us, and he’s become a talisman of sorts, appearing every year in the fall and thrilling us until April. For four years! “Tyler” was the first non-family name she ever learned, and probably her first nascent crush.

Lucy at a year and a half

I’ve already told stories about how she would – at the age of eighteen months – take her diaper towelettes and wipe his brow on the actual television screen when he appeared to be sweating. Whenever he dunks, someone in my family usually yells “Dere’s Tyler dere!” in an early Lucy accent. Oddly, Tyler is perfect for a toddler: he almost looks like one, a perfect, blank protagonist upon which to project your wishes.

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sophomore season

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senior season

I’m not going to pretend she had a choice, really:

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Tessa at about 36 weeks

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summer 2005

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winter 2006

Even as new cousins came around, they, too, were brought into the fold:

Lucy: 20 months. Barnaby: two days.

O, people from other schools: feel free to hate Tyler Hansbrough or the team. That’s okay with us. Feel free to look at our Carolina brainwashing and gag reflexively; god knows if you’re from Dook, we do it with you. Those who dislike sports and find the whole tribalism thing to be irrational, that’s cool – we all need our religions.

As for tonight, we should throttle Dook into the putrescent snot-chasm from which they arose – but this is exactly the kind of game we lose. And while I’ll probably douse myself with gasoline, I won’t actually light it. Because win or lose, there’s nothing like sharing a good dose of the heavenly irrational with the ones you love the most.

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her shoes, which she chose, have a picture of Jordan hitting the jumper in ’82 over Georgetown – that’s my girl!

it’s all about the woodrows

2/8/09

Sometimes you have to take a look at the way Americans think, and cringe. The current apologia circulating the business world was laid out in Roy C. Smith’s essay in the Wall Street Journal, effectively saying this: the public may bemoan the crazy-ass salaries and bonuses garnered by execs and CEOs of financial institutions, but if we didn’t pay them so much, we would lose their considerable talents. In other words, these people are worth millions upon millions in compensation because failing to pay them threatens America’s economy.

I suppose you know where I, Angry McLeftypants, am going with this: Smith’s idea is mired in such unwavering BULLSHIT that I’m actually tempted to call it poppycock. Let’s break it down, shall we?

1. First off, aren’t these irreplaceably talented motherfuckers the ones that got us into this quagmire in the first place? How can anyone, with a straight face, say that the higher-ups at Lehmann Brothers are worth more than the GNP of Belize? If we’ve learned anything in the last decade, it’s that Everyone’s Faking It Except Ear, Nose and Throat Doctors. It’s also apparent that the culture of exorbitant bonuses has not ultimately done these big companies any favors. John Thain spent $35K on a commode – all kidding aside, how exactly did that help Merrill Lynch?

2. Second of all, I get the principle: if you have more responsibility, you get paid more. As recently as 1990, CEOs received, on average, 85 times what a normal worker received – about like it is in other countries. But by 2005, that number had jumped to 411. That’s goddamn insane.

Our country truly came into its own after WWII, an expansion and growth unsurpassed in modern history. And it all happened with a low, ethical, morally-sound pay gap between workers and execs. Now Roy C. Smith is telling us it can’t be done unless we lavish manna at the feet of CEOs? To paraphrase the Squirrel Nut Zippers, if it’s good enough for Grandpa, it’s bloody well good enough for us.

A humongous pay gap undermines morale, ruins the hierarchy, and actually makes companies perform worse. My heroes? Dan James and the folks at silverorange. Hugely successful company, some of the biggest clients on the Web… and Dan, the CEO, makes the same salary as his newest, youngest code writer. Genius. Those guys engender cult-like respect, and rightly so.

3. Here’s the most important thing: if our best and brightest don’t choose to go to Wall Street because billions of dollars aren’t being offered anymore… isn’t that good news? Take it from me – I’ve seen the greatest minds of my generation… well, I’ve seen the greatest minds of my generation smoke a lot of pot and waste the years 1990-1997. But the other greatest minds of my generation could have gone into science or medicine, but the allure of banking $$$ was too much for anyone to deny.

These people could have discovered an alternative energy source ten years ago, and we’d already be off gas. One in particular was a chemist who was working on the Genome Project. Another was processing an industrial chimney scrubber that never saw the light of day. In EVERY CASE, the Wall Street headhunters found them in grad school – or on a summer internship – and they were whisked away. Don’t blame them; they were 22. What would YOU have done?

I posit this: Roy C. Smith is so myopic about Wall Street bonuses that he can’t see what others might: if it weren’t for the gadzillions of dollars thrown around lower Manhattan over the last 20 years, there would have been a cancer vaccine.

oh yeah, and i like cheese

2/5/09

Oh fer chrissake, okay. I’m helpless against the meme onslaught. Personally, I can’t believe my “26/52 Address Book meme™ didn’t take off like frickin’ wildfire – that should be spreading around the nation like a stomach virus. Ah well. Here goes:

1. I started violin at six because my dad (a symphony conductor) said that there are only one or two clarinet players or trombonists in an orchestra, and violinists always get work.

2. Every part of this sentence is true: I erected a baffle on our suet feeder, and got a Hairy Woodpecker. Insert quotation marks wherever you like.

3. Learned drums in 2006 so I could play “Day Tripper” at the Jartacular, which still hasn’t happened.

4. In 1981, made my longest ham radio contact – Cedar Rapids, IA to Central America – with a 40m dipole antenna of my own construction.

5. In 1988, became the social chairman at my fraternity and mixed with the Chi O’s, the Kappas, the Pi Phis, the KDs, the ADPi’s and the Tri-Delts. Take THAT, 1981!

6. Played my Rickenbacker bass for the recording session over Thanksgiving (the same one we used, Schultz!)

7. At my second week at Carolina, got lost en route from Lewis Dorm to Hinton James, and ended up in the forest behind the old Tin Can.

8. Was on then-President Clinton’s executive book list for 1994 with “Next: Young American Writer’s on the New Generation” – with an article about why we hate Baby Boomers.

9. Worked as an intern on the film “Pump Up the Volume” in 1990, and got so drunk at the release party that I was dumped unconscious in a parking lot in Pasadena.

10. Was once up 16-0 on Chip Chapman during one of our epic one-on-one hoops battles – and still managed to lose. Used the misery of that defeat to practice so hard for the next ten years that I almost never lost again. That and Chip ate too many Hardee’s Sausage Biscuits on his commute to work.

11. Met my future wife when she was a freshman at Carolina; she showed up to a book salon, having just won the fake Dating Game in front of 500 undergrads at Granville Towers.

12. My favorite islands:

with more than 50 million people: The United Kingdom

with more than 5 million people: Long Island

with more than 50,000 people: Prince Edward Island

with more than 50 people: Monhegan Island

13. Favorite Carolina player: Rasheed Wallace and Tyler Hansbrough (tie)

14. Been to every home Dook game since the first game played in the Dean Dome in 1986. All goes as planned, this March will be my 24th game in a row.

15. During the height of the “Wednesday’s Child” mania at Carolina, a guy at Molly McGuire’s told me that I was “known as being really fun to meet the first time, but ultimately disappointing after that.” Spent every year since that moment working to make that not true.

16. Have a daughter named Lucy, who apparently sang the “My name is Stegosaurus, I’m a funny-looking dinosaur” song in front of her whole preschool this morning, and just the thought of it makes me cry.

17. My family gets the croup. Those who have had it know what that means.

18. Was born two weeks early, commonly referred to as “the last time I was early for something”

19. Have had to basically eradicate three things from my diet that I love: coffee, oatmeal and granola.

20. Was accidentally booked as a “motivational speaker” during a book tour for “13th-GEN” and decided, well, fuck it, and gave a motivational speech to a packed auditorium. Actually got a standing ovation. Been unmotivated to speak on the subject again

21. Despised golf until taken golfing by Jamie Block in 2004 – chipped in a 35-foot wedge shot, and have been chasing that elusive high ever since

22. Written 882 entries on these pages, and as of today, have 18,784 comments.

23. Visited a remote Kikuyu village in Kenya when I was 16, and the children had never seen red hair before. They pretty much thought I was the most unpleasantly bizarre thing they’d ever seen.

24. Came in 3rd at the Rubik’s Cube Solving Contest, Military Circle Mall, June 1981.

25. Actual text of the first email I ever sent:

Date: Wed, 23 Jun 1993 00:10:38 +0501 (EDT)

From: Ian Williams (ecstasy@gibbs.oit.unc.edu)

Subject: jellyfish sandwiches

To: T. Long (budster@gibbs.oit.unc.edu)

For the Budster, I would recommend a strong “chemical diet” of various pharmaceutical products designed to keep him feeling “happy” and “silently curious.”

My fee will be in the mail.

-Dr. Dickie Goodster, M.D.

Bud, what the hell were we doing?

***

As for the rest of you, you’re off the hook. You need only provide THREE things about you, in the comments below!

three line whip, the sort of thing they ban

2/4/09

Dear Dick Cheney: EAT ME.

Not that my blog audience haven’t read this already, or that there aren’t less guttersnipe-mouthed analysts greater than I willing to weigh in the on the subject, but our pustule-pated ex-Vice President has again told us that if we follow Obama into the future, we’re more likely to get nuked by Al Qaeda. Again, I must fight the urge to end every paragraph with “FUCK OFF YOU FUCKING FUCK!”

You don’t get it, do you, Dick? You miserable, dissembling, putrescent wretch of a human being – YOU DON’T COUNT ANYMORE. YOU LOST. You don’t get to tell anyone how to do anything anymore. You are no longer the Vice President, you are no longer a Senator, you are no longer ANYTHING – I just passed a homeless guy on the Venice boardwalk singing “Lean on Me” for loose change, and you have exactly as much power – and cultural relevance – as him.

Because of your choices, your politics of fear and your relentless terror-mongering, I spent most of 2002 in a state of non-functioning PTSD and shock, and it took years of therapy and drugs to get me to where I can see you clearly for what you are: a warped, twisted old fuck with blood lust and The Lie as his magnetic North.

Might a terrible terrorist attack happen while Obama is President? Yes, it might, and it might be horrifying, but if and when that bomb goes off, I will turn my bloodshot eyes towards YOU, and point the finger directly at your cold, empty heart – for it is YOU that has stoked the anger of the Muslim world, and it is YOU that continues to foment rage while the rest of us moved mountains to get rid of your bloated, poisonous presence in our Government.

You even lied about Guantanamo today, you arteriosclerotic fucker, saying that 61 prisoners had been released and had subsequently rejoined terrorist groups. That is a widely-known, absolute falsehood, and worse yet, YOU KNOW IT.

But let’s get back to the main point: if terrorists strike America during Obama’s tenure, it is YOUR FAULT. PERIOD.

As for the rest of the Republicans, they can go fuck themselves too. What a sad, sorry spectacle for America to endure. The only thing they they’ve got going for them is the possibility of Barack Obama failing with the economy, so they’re doing everything they can to derail the stimulus package – even after the Democrats caved in and gave them some of the useless tax reductions they wanted.

The G.O.P. – who, no doubt, would have made Republicans of the ’50s and ’60s weep with horror – care only about power, and the keeping of same. They are willing to let the overwhelming bulk of Americans writhe in fiscal agony for the sake of scorched-earth political maneuvering; truly, if we’re not outraged, we’re not paying attention.

Obama, his Cabinet, McCaskill, Tester, Gillbrand… clearly, they are all better people than me. Even though they throttled the Republican Party in the last two elections, they’re still willing to work with them. The Dems in charge are clinging to their last strands of post-partisanship and patience, but I promise, it will not be rewarded.

These conservatives, the new breed of power-mad fucktrons and the old, creaky matrons of Blow Me™ politics, know nothing except what team they’re on, and like JD said in “Heathers”, they’re only good for date rape and AIDS jokes. They keep telling us that Arabs are so simian and simple-minded that all they respect is overwhelming force; seems to me they were too dumb to realize they were talking about themselves.

that’s me in the corner

2/3/09

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I would like to say a word on behalf of Howard Jones. Perhaps he’s not as cool as your other ’80s artists, and his production style hasn’t aged particularly well, but I heard “Like To Get To Know You Well” in the car tonight, and let’s just say the motherfucker knows how to write a song.

The thing about “The Eighties” is this: whenever a decade is fetishized, romanticized and sold back to us for consumption, the conveyor belt of nostalgia only has so much room on it. The songs that boomeranged back through the ’80s Revival™ seem largely random – we get “Rock Lobster” (which was almost never heard in the actual 1980s) yet never hear a song, like, say, “It’s a Mistake” by Men at Work or “Sussudio” by Phil Collins, even though those songs were on endlessly.

“Major Tom, Part II” makes the cut, “Suddenly Last Summer” does not. “Take My Breath Away” does, “Harden My Heart” does not. You get the picture. And sadly for Howard Jones, barely any of his pop songs have made it across the chasm.

Think back to “New Song” (you know, don’t crack up, bend your brain, see both sides, throw off your mental chains) or “What is Love” or “Life in One Day”. Better yet, take all of the clichéd Yamaha synth sounds out of “No One is to Blame”, and you’ve got a huge hit for some artist today – the vocal line is easily that good. Last week, I heard Lucy in the car seat singing the refrain from “Things Can Only Get Better” (whoa whoa whoa-aa whoa whoa whoa-aa-aa) after hearing part of it earlier.

What Howard Jones needed, and did not have, was the essential recipe for any band/artist to achieve true commercial greatness: a successful album in the era after their initial breakthrough. For our generation, there was a pretty huge rift in culture between 1988 and 1992; if you survived that, you could survive anything.

The Pet Shop Boys could have been an electronic oddity from the ’80s, but zoomed back in 1993 with “Very”, one of the best albums of the genre. New Order could have been stuck in Mancunian gloom, but broke through again in ’93 with “Republic”. U2 and REM solidified their wavering foothold on the music scene with “Achtung Baby” and “Out of Time”, respectively.

But for the rest of these musicians, like Howard Jones, there are but a few archivists like me left, the ones who still remember the feel and the mood of that old era; the songs that were actually on the radio and in our hindbrains, the smells of a time untouched by relentless nostalgia and the dry-humping of the endless Irony Machine. I can still hear The Budster singing along to “No One is to Blame” – on cassette – in his fourth-floor dorm room in Hinton James, and that makes all the difference.

this blog was written at half-past kent

2/2/09

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click for bigger

Of all my crazy-ass projects, this one may have actually taken the longest. In early 2007, I saw this clock at Target with a pretty awesome twist: instead of numbers, it had little circles for photographs. They had photos of kittens and shit in them, but I figured the day would come when Lucy would know her numbers, and more importantly, know that numbers correlated to time.

Even more importantly than that, “time” can be read on a “clock”, which, when mastered, meant she might not burst into our room at 5:15am with questions like “do houses sit?” and “where is ‘the distance’?”

So this is our new tool for teaching time. As much of a technophile as I am, I’ve always hated digital clocks, and they’re hard for kids to read anyway (all the squared-off digits just make things more confusing). Explaining an analog clock isn’t a piece of cake either, but as long as you don’t overthink it with a bunch of hooey about the big hand’s relationship to the small hand, they won’t remember to be confused.

Now we can tell her “don’t wake us up until the small hand is on Uncle Sean’s face, and the big hand is between Mommy and Daddo.” She had so much fun helping pick out the pictures that she learned all her numbers as well – she only has trouble with “8”, but I’m fairly confident that’ll come around.

Note to those with far-flung relatives: don’t try this unless you are an extensive traveler, or have many years to gather all your photographic evidence. I had each person (or couple) make their own number on a sheet of 8×10 paper, which they then held as close to their face as possible. I had to get my sister to do it twice because she changed boyfriends before the clock was finished, and I had to Photoshop li’l Barnaby into the picture because he had gone from 6 months to 2 years old.

Parents and grandparents got the coveted 3, 6, 9 and 12 spots, and as for the look of it – I dunno, it reminds of those animated shorts on old-skool Sesame Street. Yessir, another fine project years in the making. Like our motto says here at CraftDaddo, why do something easy when it can be so much more difficult?

crullers and psychiatric advice, $50

2/1/09

Adjacent to our farm upstate is an old country store, now abandoned, that was built in 1812 as a set of stables. For a while, you used to be able to get sandwiches and Lotto tickets there, but the whole enterprise gave up the ghost at some point in 2003. Now it resides in the periphery of your vision, in the way that your mind automatically erases telephone poles and power lines, something so obvious and invisible that I can only glimpse it the corner of one picture:

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I bring it up because we’ve entertained – for about five seconds a year – the thought of buying that property and opening some store that sold unfathomably expensive coffee, histrionically-overpriced muffins, and those little toe warmers that make skiing bearable in the Appalachians. Even mentioning this desire is a cliché (see Michael Idov’s article in Slate about his own failed venture on the Lower East Side).

Inevitably, there is never enough foot traffic to generate sufficient revenue, the kerosene heater from 1923 explodes, and the local town council becomes your mortal enemy. After four months, the leak on your bank account begins to sound like the telltale nail embedded in your emotional tire, and by six months, you hate the entire world and yourself. When you lock the doors for the last time, you must convince yourself not to scrawl “GO FUCK YOURSELVES” on the glass with a permanent marker.

But I’m not entirely convinced these little dream projects always have to go sour. First off, coffee is not a bad product: it’s a legalized drug, and the markups can be insane. People are willing to pay for the placebo effect of what they believe to be a fantastic coffee bean – yes, I know Starbucks just closed a shitload of stores, but that was only after their oversaturation devalued the brand.

What you want – nay, what you need – is your other ace in the hole. There must be something else your store provides that negates the other worry, something big that absolutely guarantees income. Muffins aren’t the answer, nor is wireless internet – those are loss leaders that simply bring people in.

It could be something subscription-based; i.e., customers pay a monthly premium for a seat upstairs with a view of the Berkshires and a crackling fire, giving them a sense of ownership and a place to call theirs. Yes, that’s a terrible idea, but the structure of constant revenue isn’t.

The other idea could be something utterly bizarre that mixes with your coffee shop. Deep-tissue massage therapy? A batting cage? 15-minute complete fluid and oil change? A sensory deprivation tank? This particular property shown above has a bizarrely-long structure (a holdover from the stables) that no owner has ever used wisely. Could you put in two old-fashioned bowling lanes with manual pin-setters and charge $25 for the experience?

Any of you have a dream store/job/shop/café you’ve ever wanted to run? And what would your ace in the hole be?