Friday, November 21, 2008

Your Perfect Autumn Music

Like many, my introduction to the Vaselines was Nirvana's cover of Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam. Listening to Kurt Cobain on that song struck a chord with my young, sad slacker heart. Jesus didn't want ME for a sunbeam either! It's a song about sadness but also about knowing whom you are where you stand. This is exactly what autumn is to me – the cold and dark days get me down but give me a chance to reflect and take stock of myself.

The Vaselines have an oeuvre of 19 songs that blended equal parts twee and punk and paved the way for fellow Glaswegians Belle and Sebastian as well as, of course, Nirvana. Their songs of gleeful kissing and social disillusionment never sounded incongruous no matter if they were strumming or shredding. Which makes sense why Cobain, who named his daughter Frances after their co-founder, and his ear for pop song structure couldn't get enough of them.

Luckily you can get their entire body of work on the extremely pleasing The Way of the Vaselines: A Complete History, which, for $10, is worth investing in if you're looking for a delightful soundtrack to your autumn.

The Vaselines - Dying For It (mp3)

The Vaselines - Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam (mp3)

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Okay, while this is a truly awful video, it actually, in its dumbness, sort of gets at what makes Jay Reatard so great. There's something Ramones-like in the simplicity and goofy enthusiasm of his music which I find incredibly appealing. There's also just enough of a wink-wink "yeah, I get this is pretty over the top" attitude that it makes palatable the kind of sound that normally I might find a little too abrasive. Anyway, check this video out, if only because "See/Saw" really is a great song:

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Super Colon Blow?

I eat breakfast almost every morning these days, which makes me feel much more awake and really just generally helps to get my day going on the right note. Still, I can't imagine how productive I might be in the morning if I could just eat this cereal:

Friday, November 14, 2008


With all of the election-related craziness I didn't really have time to consider how depressing it was to see Chauncey Billups, easily my favorite basketball player this decade (see this post from last year for some evidence), traded to the Denver Nuggets last week. Beyond his reputation for steadiness and excellence under pressure (and, of course, his brilliant name), Chauncey Billups just seemed like a fundamentally friendly and bright person, the sort of guy that no one had a bad thing to say about and that seemed to be "close, personal friends" with about three quarters of the league.

Michael Rosenberg, (via DBB) has a very revealing and sad story about the moments after the trade went down in the Detroit Free Press today, that serves as a great reminder of how nice it was to have a person like Billups leading the Pistons for the last six years. I'm actually not opposed to the trade taking place for lots of reasons (see TrueHoop for a nice breakdown), but as member of the sappier, "Field of Dreams" school of sports sentimentalists, it would be impossible to not feel, even two weeks later, a lot of sadness about seeing Billups go.

Here's my single favorite Billups-related moment, the buzzer-beater against the Nets in the 2004 NBA playoffs:

Thursday, November 13, 2008

"Just Give Me the Ball"

I was just starting to come off my post-election high when I read this amazing paragraph from Ryan Lizza's profile of the Obama campaign in this week's New Yorker:

Obama, who is not without an ego, regarded himself as just as gifted as his top strategists in the art and practice of politics. Patrick Gaspard, the campaign’s political director, said that when, in early 2007, he interviewed for a job with Obama and Plouffe, Obama said that he liked being surrounded by people who expressed strong opinions, but he also said, “I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.” After Obama’s first debate with McCain, on September 26th, Gaspard sent him an e-mail. “You are more clutch than Michael Jordan,” he wrote. Obama replied, “Just give me the ball.”

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Rest of the Story

The postmodern reality-creation site Wikipedia has, for better or worse, eliminated the need for encyclopedias. Having instant access to information on virtually every movie, album, insect, philosophy, etc helps break down the limits of education. However, the fact that anyone can contribute occasionally makes the content little more than entertainment. But this is the beauty of the internet - anyone can write fiction. Josh shared a vandalized page about Count Chocula with me the other day that was way more interesting than any real information could've been. It reminded me of something I wrote a few years ago, my own constructed reality of a beloved childhood character. So instead of boring you with an argument for or against plentiful, but distorted knowledge, I'll leave you with my story. Because as a writer with a mischievous heart, sometimes I don't like to get my facts straight.


As a child, young Charles couldn't stay focused long enough to tie his shoes. He failed every class in elementary school except gym. He was the kid who pulled the fire alarm. The kid the entire class had to wait for as he finished his subtraction problems. The kid who threw spit balls. His father was a traveling cummerbund salesman and his mother seemed to hop on the back of any motorcycle driven by a mustachioed man with 'Shut Up Bitch' tattooed on his arm. By the time Charles was in high school, he wasn't running with a bad crowd - he was the bad crowd. If he decided to show up to school, he was usually on some sort of hallucinogen, barbiturate, or combination of the two. Escaping through drugs became an obsession for Charles. He would sit in his bedroom, trip or shroom, and imagine that his stuffed animals were playing the music he heard on his stereo. He even believed his pet rat led the dancing. The only things that occupied his time were video games, personal puppet shows, and pinball. What most would see as an unsatisfying, depressing existence for young Charles, he found to be a lot of fun. After a while, neighbor kids heard about all the fun he was having and began joining him in his bedroom. They played games all day and watched him put on his puppet shows to music, but, fortunately, they were not allowed to touch the drugs. It became the hot spot for neighborhood kids ages 2-12. Charles started charging admission and even saved enough money to move into a loft across town. His operation became so big a businessman approached him and offered to help him start franchising his business out. He went on to make millions, owning hundreds of 'funspots' across America. That young drug-crazed visionary was none other than Charles Edgar Cheese, or Chuck E. Cheese as you might know him.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Obama, I kid you not, won!

Just wanted to let you know that, in case you hadn't heard. I feel like I'm still in shock right now, and I expect to keep feeling that way for a while. Check out this really cool 3-d map from the Washington Post if you'd like to see the actual counties that carried Obama to the nomination.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Five Thirty Eight Updates!

Do you check Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight election site as much as I do? If so, here is a handy widget they just developed that you can use to keep track of all of their updates: (which stands for the total number of electors in the electoral college) is a fantastic website that presents giant and unwieldy chunks of data in ways that pretty much anyone can understand. More importantly, however, FiveThirtyEight is great because it allows you to talk like a genius. You can explain why improper party weighting makes Zogby polls unrealiable, or that Rasmussen polls should always be assumed to have a 1-2 point Republican lean, though their large sample sizes still make them the most reliable benchmark. Fun, right? If you have any sort of interest in statistics, give this site and shot. You'll never look at elections the same way again...