Sunday, October 21, 2007

A good reason to move to North Carolina:

This is what my new hometown looks like every morning.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Holy shit!

If there's any justice in the world, this would be national news, and the Champaign County State's Attorney's office and courthouse would be exposed as a safe haven for drunk drivers, felony fleeing-the-scene NCAA Division I basketball players, and bicyclist runner-overs.

Judge Klaus said that there was "sufficient evidence" to support Davis’ defense; why weren’t Ninomiya or Carlson charged with an offense related to "plying" Davis (a minor) with vodka (or sexual assault, for that matter)? Why are there no pending cases addressing Davis’ underage drinking (an infraction which could cause her to lose her driving privileges)? Armed with a .20 BAC, I’m sure that Ms. Davis decided to drive blitzed halfway across town after thinking hard about her choices. Is anyone related to this case going to be held responsible for any damages or criminal behavior? The way the State’s Attorney handled cases like this one, Jamar Smith’s, and the girl who killed Matt Wilhelm while downloading a ringtone should make anyone nervous about being anywhere near a highway or parking lot in Champaign County. You blew a .20 leaving a bar in C-U? No problem! Just tell the nice judge that a big, scary person on foot was threatening to kill, beat, or molest you. Case dismissed!

If there's any consolation to this, it's that if you or anyone you love is cut in half by a drunk or distracted driver, the Champaign County State's Attorney's office will make sure that justice is well-served. I'm joking, of course. Good luck with that civil suit when no one is responsible.

I'm blogging again, so I must be pissed about this.

Monday, March 12, 2007

So, you've been diagnosed with ADHD? Why'n'cha do something useful with it?

What was it I was gonna write about? Oh, yeah. This is an interesting article, but not nearly as interesting as it could've been had the writer ventured any guesses as to the reasons behind the threefold increase in the use of ADHD-related drugs since 1993.

Why is this a typical (hypothetical) statement from the parent of an ADHD kid, according to me:
"Little Billy divides his after-school time between World of Warcraft, Halo2, and Ghost Recon, then hits the internet for MySpace and IM updates until it's really too late for him to dig too deeply into his homework. Between my career, my Aerobi-Jazzer-Yoga-size classes, and my Botox treatments, I'm finding it difficult to provide the parenting that a special child like Billy requires."

...and not this?:
"Little Billy came home from school, took out the trash, changed the oil in both cars, did the previous night's dishes, mowed the lawn, painted the house, completed his homework, and still had time to call his friends before going to bed, completely exhausted."

Why does it seem that ADHD is normally used as an excuse for not getting something necessary done, instead of an explanation for why one has no leisure time? I'll make a prediction that when someone discovers the cure for cancer, he or she won't make a statement like, "Yeah! I painted the entire exterior of the house in two freakin' hours, spent another coupla hours volunteering at the local animal shelter, spent some time categorizing sale items at Goodwill, then discovered the cure for freakin' cancer!"

Parenting in a pill; how wonderful. I probably would've been diagnosed with ADHD when I was growing up had its discovery not mysteriously coincided with the introduction of more advanced video games and widespread availability of the internet, neither of which existed during my childhood years. The only distractions that I had growing up were a set of encyclopedias, a globe, an 8-track player, and a room decorated in the style of circa-1776 America, complete with cork ball musket. Well, that, and the knowledge that I would be well-disciplined by my parents or other authority figures if I did not do what I was supposed to do.

I'm not a doctor, and can't say that there aren't people with a genuine need for ADHD treatment. I don't mean to poke fun at anyone with a legitimate ADHD diagnosis. For all I know, full-blown ADHD could be a serious, debilitating affliction. I'm just proposing that the ADHD diagnosis (and who, really -by NIMH guidelines- couldn't be diagnosed with ADHD?) and treatment should not be used as an excuse for lack of parental interest or other poor parenting skills.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Should we be offering potential University of Illinois athletes a four-year plea deal (two years in state lockup/two years of probation) instead of a four-year scholarship?

Seriously. Are any of my tax dollars going to these scholarships, or does it all come from the I Fund? If taxes are funding the scholarships for these jokers, why do I also have to help pay to squeeze them through the legal system (law enforcement, court costs, corrections, etc.)?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

New, mostly unsatisfying motorcycle blog is up!

My new blog, Ninety-Nine Percenter, is up (the link's on the right). Not much posted at the moment, but there's a bit of my philosophy regarding motorcycles as well as a few photos. Anyone, biker or not, is free to chime in.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The best songs and albums of 2006, at this particular moment…

Against my best wishes, someone traded a crack pipe for about 80 of my favorite CDs in a motel room in Oklahoma City last year. Yeah, I’m still bitter about it. Rather than shell out the bucks to buy replacements for everything that I lost (with the exception of a few key albums), I learned that I would need new, previously-unheard of by me music in order to survive. One album is 30 years old; most of these selections are a little obscure. If you wanna borrow ‘em, let me know!

Buckethead and Friends, Enter the Chicken (2005)
Buckethead is strange. He’s probably known best for his collaborations with Bill Laswell and Les Claypool. Ozzy was afraid that he’d show up for a gig to find a note from Buckethead saying he’d been "beamed up," which is why he didn’t hire him. He was released from Guns ‘n’ Roses for being unreliable and difficult for even his family to contact, which probably says very much. He’s capable of playing incredibly brutal music, but he’s capable of beautifully touching music as well. Enter the Chicken runs the full spectrum, from the aural pounding of "Nottingham Lace" to the moody softness of the Serj Tankian (System of a Down)/Shana Halligan (bitter:sweet) duet, "Waiting Here." Lots of loops, some occasionally unintelligible lyrics, but all highly listenable stuff.

Sufjan Stevens, Illinois (2005)
The side of the jewel case calls this album "Illinois," while the front (and call it "Illinoise" (as in "Come on feel the..."). It seems to me more likely that an album would be titled "Illinois" rather than "Sufjan Stevens invites you to: Come on feel the Illinoise," as the front of the album invites you to do, so Illinois is what I'm calling it.

I listened to the hype surrounding this album for about half of 2006 without having heard one note from it. I don’t consider myself a music snob, but when modern arena rock heroes are groups along the lines of Matchbox 20, Blink 182, and Limp Bizkit, my mind tends to block out anything that alternative/college rock press tries to pound into it. I’ll admit that I was wrong and the press was right with the hype for this one. If I hadn’t seen the Austin City Limits with Sufjan, Shara Worden, and what appeared to be most of a full orchestra, I might’ve overlooked this album, too. This album is all beautiful stuff, from the orchestration to the occasionally wacky lyrics. Some of the orchestration reminds me of Zappa, which is a huge compliment from me; there’s much going on at a technical level that people who appreciate that aspect of Zappa’s compositions—or anyone—can appreciate. Even if one can’t quite geet into the music at face value, I think that almost anyone would agree that it’s composed and performed by one insanely talented individual.

Michael Andrews, Donnie Darko (2005, Music From the Original Motion Picture Score)
This is dark, moody, mostly-instrumental album from a mostly dark, moody movie. The movie itself makes me think profound thoughts about life, death, and sacrifice; falling asleep to the soundtrack makes me wake up midway through it, freaked out by a sinister sounding creak or other instrumental boink. There’s a beautiful remake of Tears For Fears "Mad World" at the end, which alone is worth the purchase price.

Paul Gilbert, Get Out Of My Yard (2006)
You’ve probably heard Paul Gilbert without realizing it. He was the guitarist for Mr.Big (remember "To Be With You"?). He’s spent a lot of time in Japan as an instructor, and has recorded several solo albums through the years. He’s always near the top of guitar player’s polls in the mags, and is known for being extremely fast and extremely accurate. This new instrumental album showcases his songwriting/arranging abilities, as well as his agility on the fretboard. Highlights are "Marine Layer," a sweet acoustic duet with his wife, Emi, on piano, and the bluesy-fusion of "Twelve Twelve" and "Rusty Old Boat." He also does more with a three-string guitar tribute to Eddie Van Halen than I could ever imagine pulling off with six strings and eight hands.

Television, Marquee Moon (1977, Marquee Moon)
I’m not really much into Lou Reed’s music, and groups like the Dolls don’t do anything for me. The fact that Mapplethorpe shot the cover for this album probably would’ve caused me to lump Television into the early ‘70s Warhol-ish/decadent/artsy New York scene had I not heard the title track on WPGU. Some obviously history-ignorant person posted a comment on Amazon that these guys were essentially Violent Femmes ripoffs. I’ll admit that I did think that Tom Verlaine sounds a bit like Gordon Gano, and thought this was a Femmes song when I first heard it. The song seems to fade to an ending twice; while discussing with a coworker whether or not they were going to name the artist on the radio, it "began" again (and they did announce it after it was over). I found a used copy at Exile on the day that I heard it; they’d just aquired it earlier that day (fate?). There’s some seriously cool guitar/bass slightly odd time interplay, which is true for the most part for the rest of the album. A lot of reviewers on the ‘net seem to think that this album would hold up well if it were released today. I agree.

Fiona Apple, Not About Love (2005, Extraordinary Machine)
I first heard this song on WPGU, and my first thought was, "This sounds like Fiona Apple, but I don’t like Fiona Apple." I have a newfound respect for her writing and performance after this track, buried near the end of the album. Piano is at the forefront of the mix, with some crazy, swirling stringy orchestral stabs throughout. For some reason, I picture film noir-ish black tie dance numbers when I hear it. Lyrics are typically Fiona Apple-ish (relationship-y), but with enough word-turning to keep things interesting. A small example:

The early cars
Already are
Drawing deep breaths past my door
And last night's phrases
Sick with lack of basis
Are still writhing on my floor

The Good Life, Album of the Year (2004, Album of the Year)
This song is like a movie about a failed relationship compressed into song form. Apparently, Tim Kasher (the singer/songwriter) was going through a nasty marital breakup as the songs for this album were written. We go from this:

The first time that I met her I was throwing up in the ladies room stall
She asked me if I needed anything, I said, "I think I spilled my drink."
And that’s how it started, or so I’d like to believe

The first time that I met her I was convinced that I had finally found the one
She was convinced I was under the influence of all those drunken romantics
I was reading Bronte at the time; I had Bukowski on my mind

(Note: Bonus points for the Bukowski reference!)

…to this, later in the song:

She said, "Space is not just the place for stars,
I gave you an inch, you want a house with a yard."
And I know she loved me once, but those days are done
She used to call me ever day from a pay phone on her break for lunch,
Just to say she can’t wait to come home.

Yikes. Very sad, but very beautiful, and not horribly bitter in the end. The music is well-written and listenable, too, with some cool REM-like guitar noodling throughout.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

When a doo-rag just won't doo.....

As promised, my new line of t-shirts is nearly complete. The first out of the sweatshop will be my "Gang Affiliation" line. If you're proud of whom you're down with, show the world! If your gang isn't "represented" here, drop me a line. Custom orders are possible on a case-by-case basis.

These will be followed by "Memories of Democracy." Here's a sneak preview of the first in that series: