Monday, October 27, 2008

Bridge School

Cat Power roaming the crowd

Wilco with Neil and Pegi Young, "I Shall Be Released"

Smashing Pumpkins

Neil Young

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Like a barn raising, but for a TV

The new TV, she is up. So is the new "home theater furniture," which I assembled on Monday evening. It only took about half an hour, proving that my purchase of this particular TV stand on the basis of how easy it looked to assemble was right on target.

The giant TV arrived last week, and sat in its giant box in my living room until Wednesday. The manual for the TV did its best to convince me that I absolutely needed a professional to mount the TV on its stand, and that Philips could not be held responsible for any damage or injury or melting of polar ice caps that resulted from attempts to go rogue and do it on my own. I couldn't stomach paying someone upwards of $100 to come to my house, screw a few bolts into place, and plug in a handful of wires, though.

Instead I invited some friends over on Wednesday, bribing them with the promise of freshly baked banana bread and roasted pumpkin seeds in addition to the warm glow of knowing they'd helped out a friend in need. This would mingle with the warm glow from the giant TV, ideal for movie watching and Wii playing. Win-win situation.

We succeeded with little difficulty, and broke in the new TV in with Game 1 of the World Series and a Winnie the Pooh DVD. (Winnie the Pooh getting stuck in Rabbit's doorway: classic.) Next up, I need to actually order HD service. And a DVR.

The banana bread was delicious, by the way. Thanks to Lindsey for the tips on topping it with honey, and adding blueberries.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

This is a song about love

Saturday I saw the Magnetic Fields at the Capitol Theater in the Overture. The show was preceded by a full day of Farmer's Market (damn those baked goods vendors), walking around State Street and campus, walking back to meet Sam, Sooz, and Paul, and then doing all that (sans Farmer's Market) again; eventually walking to the Indonesian restaurant on Williamson St. for dinner before the show. I wasn't familiar with the Magnetic Fields beforehand, but I had a very good time. They apparently did an album with each song corresponding to a Lemony Snicket book?! I've never read those, but how funny. The opener was great, too. The Forewords - two PowerPoint presentations, one by the creator of, and one by a guy who highlights amusing ads from obscure trade magazines. We finished up at the Weary Traveller, and Sunday we spent a pretty autumnal afternoon in Paoli. Woo fall!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Halloween costumes from Value Village

... and what is wrong with each of them.

Pumpkin season has arrived again! With the approach of October 31st comes the increasingly pressing decision: what should you be for Halloween? Perhaps you have a good idea, but don't have time to gather the disparate elements required to pull off your look. Maybe you know exactly what you want to be, but the costume you desire is prohibitively expensive. Or it could be that you're still searching for inspiration.

My friends, I'm here to help. A few weeks ago, I went to Value Village in Racine and did your browsing for you. All of the costumes listed below are actual items that Value Village had in stock. At very reasonable prices, I might add. Of course, some of the costumes have slight condition issues, but rest assured: all of these have been helpfully noted by Value Village employees and are displayed prominently. Just take your pick from the panoply of choices:

Costume: 3-piece CSI Costume
Issues: "missing CSI badge"

[but other than that, you can totally tell it's a CSI costume]

Costume: Spider Fairy
Issues: "no wings"

[so... just a spider, then]

Costume: Mayhem Mansion
Issues: "spiders falling off hat"

[Mommy, this year for Halloween I want to dress up as a big, chaotic building!]

Costume: Killer Bee
Issues: "no bra top inside"

[but is there a bra top outside?]

Costume: Corrupt Cop
Issues: "torso is defective"

[I suppose that would embitter one]

Costume: Border Babe
Issues: "one binoculars missing"

[good thing it's just the one binoculars]

Costume: Juicy Burger Babe
Issues: "badge missing"


Costume: Dream Girl
Issues: "missing test tubes, shot glasses, star came unglued"


Costume: Vampire Vixen
Issues: "gloves are both left arms, customer says it was also sewn crappy"

[maybe it was sewn by someone with two left arms]

Costume: Sexy Chef (Male)
Issues: "buttons fell off and broken"

[clearly the costume rendered the chef too sexy to resist]

Costume: Little Red Riding Hood
Issues: "seam is ripped on right side, stinks really bad"

[okay, seriously?]

Monday, October 6, 2008


Ah, Sunday. The day of rest. Well ... not this weekend. Instead, Sunday was the day of family lunch, driving down to Chicago in the rain while the Brewers earned their season's final loss, watching a bunch of DeGrassi High with Sam and Sooz, eating roast chicken at Feed, and winding up at the Hungry Brain for a late night of improvisation from Jim Baker, Nels Cline, Glenn Kotche, and Fred Lonberg-Holm.

The Hungry Brain hosts the Emerging Improvisers' Sunday Transmission series every weekend. For a donation of $10 or so, you can pull up an easy chair, settle into an absurdly deep red plush couch, or belly up to the bar and watch musicians create something that wasn't there before.

This Sunday's performance was broken into three sets. Set 1 was Fred and Glenn, Set 2 was Jim and Nels, and Set 3 was the quartet. It was fascinating to watch these guys react to each other, responding to the music and coaxing loud, soft, dissonant and lovely sounds from a great variety of instruments and implements. The final set, with all four musicians on stage, was intense. One of my favorite parts was Fred Lonberg-Holm somehow making his cello sound just like a heavy metal guitar solo. I know there's an art to improvisation - a method behind the madness - and I'd like to learn more about it. I would imagine it's as much about listening as it is about playing.

Most of all, I felt fortunate to see four musicians of this caliber in such a cozy venue. The atmosphere was relaxed and low key. I watched the last set from a couch, for goodness sakes.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


Another good day for baseball in Wisconsin. Very good.

Game 3 of the NLDS was Tamala's first Brewers game of the season, and the first game ever in Miller Park for my mom and me. We felt slightly guilty about this, given the level of excitement over this series among fans. But through the generosity of a family friend, we found ourselves sitting at a patio table overlooking left field on Saturday evening - food vouchers and postseason towels in hand. Before finding our seats, we took a walk around the park. It was interesting to compare Miller Park with County Stadium. Everything at Miller Park feels much slicker. There's an espresso cart. Espresso cart! Why, back in my day...

This was the first time I'd attended a playoff game for any sport, fairly surprising given my alternating years of obsessive baseball, hockey, and basketball fandom. I don't plan to let it be my last. The energy in Miller Park was great on Saturday. Every strike thrown by Milwaukee was cheered loudly. Nearly every pitch sent the towels twirling; twirling speed and fervor was governed by the count. The game was one of the best I could have hoped for - the Brewers never trailed, but the lead was never secure enough to allow for complacency. There were disappointments and scares, but never calamity. And when the final strike was thrown, the stadium erupted. All the way to the car, everyone was cheering and yelling and high-fiving each other. Never before have I been fived so many times. My favorite drunken cheer overheard outside: "Two! More! Games! It's not! That! Much!" No matter what happens on Sunday, at least we took Game 3.

Not only did the Brewers win, but my pick of the Italian Sausage won the Sausage race in the 6th inning. Yes, it was a good night.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


It was a perfect day to visit the apple orchard. Crisp, sunny, warm enough to take off your sweater in the sun but cool enough to be comfortable if you left it on.

We bought a half bushel-sized bag for picking, which looked deceptively small when we set out but actually held a large amount of apples. We discovered that metal Radio Flyer wagons are really loud when you tow them up and down orchard rows, even on the grass. Much apple sampling took place, since we wanted to be selective. (The only rule about sampling was not to sample from the ground. Noted.) "Red Delicious" is such a lie. We also weren't too impressed with the Harralsons, but I'm still not sure if that's because the only apples we could find in picking range were inferior, or if they're really not that tasty. Cortland and Golden Delicious, on the other hand, got a thumbs-up. The prince of apples, as far as I'm concerned, is the Honeycrisp. Honeycrisps are only available for self-picking on Tuesdays right now, but I did grab a 3-lb. bag in the farm store. (Also, a caramel apple with homemade caramel. Wow.)

We tried a sample or two of self-pick raspberries as we wandered through the farm. Apparently you can also pick grapes, but we were too full of apples to care by the time we passed the grape vines. On the way back in from the rows of apple trees, we passed a few goats and a horse. Amazingly, despite living on an apple farm, they are still very interested in eating your apples. Plenty of pumpkins and other squash were available for purchase at the store. They made me think of Thanksgiving. Which made me think of winter. Not ready. NOT READY.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Fall fun

October is here, and the first weekend of the month promises much wholesome autumn goodness.

Friday: Early afternoon field trip to the apple orchard and pumpkin farm.

Saturday: Brewers playoff game at Miller Park! Maybe the only one ever!

Sunday: Family lunch, and then down to Chicago to visit friends and see some late-night music. I originally planned to see the Cardinals in Madison, but a Nels/Glenn/Jim Baker/Fred Lonberg-Holm combo wins both the "rarity of performance" and "coolness of venue" competitions.

Recaps will be provided.