Saturday, April 30, 2011

Reasons Why I Liked the Royal Wedding

I'm not a fan of pop culture.  I don't read fiction, don't watch TV, don't go to movies, and don't listen to "popular" music.  Pretty much if the crowd is headed one way, I'm headed the other.  However, I must say that I was struck by the beauty and pageantry of the royal wedding yesterday. 

I was taken aback by the fact that I was touched by it, and in the past 24 hours I've been trying to dissect why.  I've settled on a couple of things:
  • In an environment of deep political division, multiple and endless wars, an economy teetering on the brink, hundreds dead in the south, gas and food prices skyrocketing, and just about every other piece of apocalyptic news one could imagine, comes this genteel and sweet celebration.  What a breath of sweet, fresh air in an otherwise caustic news environment.
  • I'm a fan of marriage.  I know they don't all work out (been there, done that, got the T-shirt to prove it).  But when it works, it's a wonderful God-given gift.  Call me old fashioned, but I still believe in it, and the good that it can do. 
  • For a society like the UK where the marriage rates of adults have plummeted to their lowest levels since records were kept in 1862, I like the tone this celebration sets.  
  • Lastly, I just like weddings.  I like the celebration and the formal, public reorganization of what a marriage means.  I like putting on the suit and dancing with my wife.  I like being around my family.  And when I consider that I'm at an age now where I attend far more funerals than weddings, I'm spiritually refreshed by the celebration of life that weddings provide. 
So, well done, William and Kate.  Thanks for allowing us to celebrate along with you, and  for the opportunity to remember that life in 2011 doesn't have to be an endless string of bad news, pain, and suffering.

Friday, April 29, 2011

New Vikings Quarterback Ponder Another Draft Failure

With the 12th overall pick in the draft (12th!), the Vikings addressed a short-term problem with a long-term solution. 

With few exceptions, the 1st round pick of an NFL team needs to be a player that can step in and start, at a minimum, or make a difference in the team at the maximum.  By drafting Ponder where they did, the Vikings' brain-trust chose to forgo a difference-maker and acquire a project - one that will take multiple seasons to fully develop, if he pans out at all. 

Folks, this is team that was 6-10 last year, and finished last in the NFC North.  They needed to find a way to get immediately better with the draft.  Instead, they took a pick that was nearly universally slotted for the 2nd round, and did so without even trading down to improve their lot.  Even if Ponder was absolutely THE player the Vikings needed to take, he could and should have been had much more cheaply. 

Last week when I flew out to Seattle, our departing plane flew over an embarrassing, still-deflated Metrodome.  Who knew that such a visual would represent a harbinger of yet another Minnesota Vikings draft day epic failure?  

Thursday, April 28, 2011

How Great Thou Art

As you've seen from this blog, I'm a big music fan.  While my preference runs for the alternative/indy genre most of all, I literally like everything.  Certainly not every artist, but every genre has something there for me to enjoy. 

Country is one where I have the biggest disconnect.  While I enjoy classic country (Cash, Willie, Waylon, the Hanks) anything new that I've liked has really been relegated to the more alt-country performers (Lyle Lovett, Robbie Fulks, Dwight Yoakem).  But with that, great performances are where you find them, and the following, ladies and gentlemen, is just that.

Carrie Underwood brings the Country Music Awards audience to tears, and completely obliterates an incredible guitar solo by Vince Gill that should have invoked an ovation if any other singer would have been sharing the stage with him.

This is an awesome performance.  Enjoy

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Swanson's Bait Launches New Website

Swanson's Bait of Hackensack, MN (and my favorite bait store) has launched a major upgrade of their website.  Beyond fishing tackle and fishing electronics, the store features their famous clothing and gift items that are personalized to local area lakes. 

I've already placed my first order, and I'm told that new merchandise will continually be added.

If you're headed north on 371, be sure to stop into Swanson's and say "hi" to JT and the crew.  But if you can't be there anytime soon, stop by the Swanson's Bait website and order up some lake area gifts.  You'll feel like you're up north.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Critics Continue to Go After Morneau

Twins "fans" on the StarTribune have been kicking around Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer for being "soft." 

With Morneau's reappearance in the lineup on Saturday, I was shocked to see how gaunt and sickly he looked.  He had obviously dropped over 10 pounds, and clearly had been very, very sick.  It was a fact that some "fans" either chose to ignore or, worse, they noticed and still felt Morneau was "soft."  Either way, these folks are a pathetic excuse for "fans."

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Letter to Fr. Columba

Dear Fr. Columba,

You most likely don’t remember me as I was just one hundreds of students to whom you taught Theology in the mid-1980’s. You were Br. Columba at the time, and I had hair. However, I remember you and your class like it was just a couple of years ago.

I’m not sure why, but of all the classes I took in my four years at St. John’s, yours is the one in which I have the most memories - dozens of them; all quite vivid. Everything from things like the classroom itself, to your first introduction to us (“it’s not Columbia, Columbo, or Columbus…”), your tour of the Abby Church, the red cover Bible we used, to some of your specific lectures on things like the creation stories, Peter and John’s race to the tomb, doubting Thomas and the Pentecost, the feast that is the Eucharist (especially when fasting), and our dissection of the Nicene Creed.

I’m not sure why all these stand out so clearly to me – I think I received a B in your class, I majored in management, I didn’t share the class with any friends – and you’d think I’d have remembered other classes with much more definition. But for some reason, segments of your class have stayed with me, in a very clear and noticeable way, all of these years.

One project you had us perform as part of your class was to write our own creed, and at the time I thought I took it pretty seriously. What I had developed, however, was a rework of the Nicene Creed. In scoring my paper, you told me as much, and I think you gave me a C. I was bothered about it at the time, as I felt that the Nicene Creed really matched my beliefs. If that was my creed, how could I have ended up with a C? But I think I missed the point you were looking to make.

In the years since that project, I’ve often thought back to it. What do I really believe? What truly is my creed? As my faith has bowed, flexed, and shifted, I have wrestled with those questions, and have always come back to your project. If I had to write it now and turn it in, what would it say?

So 26 years later, I feel compelled to ask: can I have a do-over? If so, I'd like to present you with my creed:
  • I believe that not only is God the source of all love, but that His love of His creation is boundless. I believe as well that He deeply loves me.
  • I believe that God came to live with us, teach us, and suffer a horrific and torturous death, all to reconcile ourselves to Him.
  • I believe that God answers prayers. Many times, the answer is "no, but..." and the "but" part is the thing that makes all the difference. 
  • I believe that God reveals Himself to me every day, even on the many days when I choose not to see Him.
  • I believe that there is so much more I have to learn, and so many things I cannot understand. While things like the suffering and death of innocents, evil activities, and inequities in life call me to question God, I eventually fall back to my belief that God's will is not man's will, nor mine.
  • I believe that as I shamefully lay my sins at the foot of Christ's cross, he welcomes them and offers me forgiveness that is impossible for me to fathom.
  • I believe that when this life is over, through the blood of the Christ, I will be returned to God, where again I will ask forgiveness in Jesus' name, and where I will be embraced in the love that is God for eternity.
  • I believe that I have an obligation to be Christ for others. While I fail at this over and over and over again, it is my obligation, and indeed what God seeks for all of us.
  • Simply, I believe in God, and in his active presence in life. I believe it with every fiber of my being.
Easter blessings to you, Fr. Columba. While you and I only shared one semester, you made a deep impact on me, and I thank you for how I have been changed by that time.

Take care,

Your former student 


Two nights ago I dreamt that my wife was having an affair with President Obama.

Last night I dreamt that the Minnesota Wild won the Stanley Cup.

I think it high time for me to evaluate my weekend alcohol consumption.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

New Patio Furniture, Part Two

A couple of days ago, I shared a picture of our new patio furniture. 

Here's what it looks like today:

I don't think I can take anymore...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Top 10 Live Albums Since 1975

There have been many lists and compilations that rank best live albums of all time, and they're typically front-loaded (justifiably) with the usual suspects - The Who Live at Leeds, Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison, The Allman Brothers At Fillmore East, etc. Instead of wading into the fray of why I consider one of those classics to be more worthy than another, I've decided to do my own list, but to focus on the years 1975 to present to eliminate most of the same titles that you'll find on everyone's list.

Before we get to the ranking, I'd also like to impart what I believe makes up a good live album:
  1. It should rework the original material and not just be an attempt at replicating the studio song
  2. It should feel "live" with audience sounds and interaction and
  3. The music should be able to stand on its own - e.g. it should be good enough to pop up in a mix of studio music without throwing things off.
With that as our criterion, here we go:

10) Joe Jackson Live 1980/86 - Recorded across four separate tours, this two disc set compiles most of his best known work to that point. He includes three very different treatments of "Is She Really Going Out With Him" which I think is incredibly interesting. It is likely the only song that most of the mainstream know him for, and it is likely the one he's grown increasingly tired of playing. The trio of versions is a tip of the cap to fans of the song, while allowing latitude for him to stretch his creativity. It is an interesting idea, and one I've not seen replicated on other live albums.

9) Roger Waters The Wall Live in Berlin - This live album and subsequent video was held at the site of the former Berlin Wall in 1990. Logistics and scheduling meant that the all-star lineup that Roger Waters originally envisioned did not come together, but even with secondary choices, there were some stellar performances on this disc. These notable include "In the Flesh?" by Scorpions, "Comfortably Numb" by Van Morrison, "Hey You" by Paul Carrack, and "What Shall We Do Now?" and "Young Lust" both knocked out the park by Bryan Adams. The album was created in the height of the animosity between Waters and the rest of Pink Floyd, which is a shame as the grandiosity of the event and the venue deserved the full Pink Floyd treatment. A huge opportunity lost.

8) Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band Live Bullet - Like other live albums of the time, this live album set the stage for Seger to break through into the mainstream, and with his follow up Night Moves he did all that and more. The concert was recorded in front of a home audience in Detroit, and their love for the band (and vice versa) comes clearly through the speakers. "Travelin' Man/Beautiful Loser" and "Rambin' Gamblin' Man" are great examples of significant live improvements on the studio originals.

7) Neil Young and Crazy Horse Live Rust Perhaps the seminal album with Crazy Horse, this 1978 release captures Young and band in a snapshot of that creative period. Classics from this album include both "Hey Hey, My My" and its inverse, "Cortez the Killer" complete with a reggae ending, and over eight minutes of "Like a Hurricane."

6) Kiss Alive - This was the album that propelled Kiss to its meteoric rise, but it is not without its controversy. Rumors abound on the amount of overdub work that was conducted on the album, with some calling into question its categorization as a live album altogether. The debate rages, and frankly that's what keeps this album at nothing better than 6. It is too bad, as there are some incredible songs. Upping the tempo from the studio albums, "Strutter" and "Deuce" both got an electrical charge. "Cold Gin" and the interplay with the audience captures the auditorium concert scene at that time perfectly, and "Black Diamond," complete with the sound of pyrotechnics exploding the in the background at the end, captured the Kiss live concert experience perfectly. This is on of the first albums I ever bought and still remains one of my favorite albums of all time.

5) Talking Heads Stop Making Sense - Recorded at the height of their craft, the album was built to support the movie of the same name as a soundtrack. Unfortunately, in the first release, the recording edited down the movie in a substantial way. Despite that, some of the tracks that remained are simply incredible, and are arguably better than their studio versions. Examples of this include "Psycho Killer," and "Heaven." Their new treatment of Al Green's "Take Me to the River," (a cover of their cover?) was really original and enjoyable as well.

4) Tragically Hip Live Between Us - There is nothing like a Tragically Hip live show, as there's nothing like the stage presence of Gord Downie. He's a force of nature; jerking around the stage, and spewing out words (or other songs altogether) in parts of the music. That whole experience was captured perfectly by this album. Literally every track can stand alone on this album, but ones of note include "Nautical Disaster," "Blow at High Dough," "Grace, Too" and "Fully Completely." It remains a horrible shame that the Tragically Hip has not completely broken through to the US, as the music they've made since the 80's has been enjoyed and treasured in Canada for decades. They're an incredible band, and worthy of the many accolades their countrymen bestow upon them.

3) Roy Orbison A Black and White Night Recorded roughly a year before his death, this album caught Orbison in the midst of a musical love letter by those he previously inspired. Backed by a band that included the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, k.d. lang, Jackson Browne, and Bonnie Raitt, the music made this night was fantastic. Orbison was in great voice for this event, and despite some recording snafus, what was captured was a real gem. What a remarkable career capstone.

2) Nirvana Unplugged - Recorded at the height of their craft, the Unplugged recording was remarkable in how Nirvana's songs were changed in the stripped-down format. "Something in the Way," and "Polly," in particular became very different songs in this format, and in many respects sounded better than the original. Likewise the Bowie cover of "The Man Who Sold the World," I believe to be one of their top 10 songs in their catalog. Cobain's interplay with the audience is clunky, but the music makes up for it. What a great album.

1) Peter Frampton Frampton Comes Alive - Like other recordings discussed previously or not (Kiss, Bob Seger, Cheap Trick) Frampton's live album was his breakthrough. Perhaps this is because the live album affords the opportunity for previously recorded material to mature and otherwise be re-worked. That was clearly the case with this album. Many of the tracks on it are unremarkable in their studio form, but when Frampton hit that San Francisco stage, the material he brought with him was a hell of an improvement. It was so good, in fact, that this album became a career black hole for Frampton from which very little future creative light could escape. While he remained productive ever since, he was never again able to deliver the commercial success of Comes Alive. As consolation, he owns the #1 live album ever recorded since 1975. At least in my opinion.

Monday, April 18, 2011

New Patio Furniture

My wife picked out some great new patio furniture that was on sale this week. After a little bit of assembly, it was all set to go.  I think it looks pretty sweet.

Of course I had to celebrate with a beer dividend beer.

Now we just need some friends to share it with.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Visiting Amazon

This week I'll be flying out to Seattle in a visit to Amazon, as we'll be evaluating them for a potential partnership.  I've been competing with them, either directly or indirectly, most of my ecommerce career.  Their leadership in the space, use of technology, and strategic vision have been areas of admiration for me for the past decade and a half. 

While I have a job to do and need to maintain my objectivity, I can't help but feel excited and energized by the prospects of this visit.  I can't wait to see it, and know that I'm going to learn a ton. 

It should be a really great week this week.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Eating the Rich - You Still Can't Get There

This video is long, but worth every last minute.  Shocking.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bullwinkle's Saloon in Seven Corners Minneapolis is Closed

Per their Facebook page, Bullwinkle's Saloon down in Seven Corners has closed its doors. 

What a sad day, indeed. 

I grew up with Bullwinkle's, literally.  In junior high my parents had season tickets to Gopher football, and a family friend had just bought the bar.  We would often go to Bullwinkle's before the game to have a "big dog," which would eventually morph into the famous Coney Island.  As time passed, I spent hours there pre and post game for Twins games (the Bullwinkle's parking lot was my favorite place to park), spent evenings there as a grad school student on the West Bank, and spent random weekend nights there with friends. 

I have a lot of memories of the place, but a couple stand out that I wanted to share: 
  • Over the entire period, I always remarked at the music at Bullwinkle's.  When we first went there, they had a massive reel-to-reel system which spun tunes that impacted my impressionable mind.  As the years progressed, so did their technology and musical formats, but in all the years their soundtrack was simply outstanding.  Literally every time I was there I came away impressed by the quality of their mix. 
  • At a Gopher football pre-game warm up with buddies, we were saddened to see a group in from Michigan State in the balcony that chose to fly the Spartan flag from said balcony.  As our beers imbibed increased, so did the noise coming from above us, as well as our agitation.  We ultimately hatched a plan to snatch the flag, which included setting up blockers on the stairs, at the door, as well as designating someone to rip the flag down and then pass it to a runner who was staged at the door.  I'm proud to report that our plan was executed flawlessly.  I wish the Gophers could have said the same against State. 
  • My best Bullwinkle's story was attending it for Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.  The game was played Sunday night, so we arrived at with the plan of securing a table early, watching the Vikings, the NFL game, and then the Twins.  We got the best table in the house; upstairs, directly under the TV, and we camped there the entire Sunday.  The Twins game was a total nail-biter, the bar as full as it could have been (we had to be WAY over fire code), and the booze flowing, so when Gene Larkin performed his 10th inning heroics, the powder keg that existed in the bar completely exploded.  Bartenders hopped up atop the bar, armed with bottles of champagne, and proceeded to hose down the euphoric patrons.  It had to have been one of the top 10 happiest moments of my life. 
So good-bye, Bullwinkle's.  I wish I could have sent you off like we did with Al's Bar in St. Louis Park.  Thanks for being a part of my life for three decades.  You will be missed.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Dog Named Blitz - Chapter Five, "One Year Old", Part 2

For background on this serial, please click here. You can also start at the previous section

The good thing about a dog that needed a bath is that usually what got her dirty in the first place was around something fun. And we did indeed have fun duck hunting her first year. I had attempted hunting her a couple of times the season prior when she was just seven months old, but it just didn’t work. I tried to give ourselves the best chance possible to be successful by not hunting out of a boat, and instead hunting our dry land point. Out there Blitz would not be constrained by the small space of a boat, would not be covered up by camouflage where she couldn’t see very well, and pretty much could just be a dog. Unfortunately for me, I owned about a dog and a half in that little yellow body. Blitz spent the entire time dashing into the water, swimming around the decoys, running back onto the land, shaking, rolling in the cattails, then jumping back into the water to start the cycle all over again. She was so hard on the cattails that she ultimately flattened an area the size of a school bus, leaving us exposed to the wary, but likely entertained waterfowl flying overhead. Hence, between the noise of her thrashing and her swimming out in the very decoys in which I wanted our quarry to land, the hunting just was not going to be good, so her times out with me at this age were limited. And, no, we did not bag any ducks.

The following season I hoped that another year of growth and maturity would help, which it did. But not nearly as much as I thought, or I wanted. For, as I was able to see in multiple interactions with her, Blitz was unable to focus on one thing. It seemed she was always racing between new experiences and adventures; never content to sit and enjoy just one thing. For example, when sitting downstairs with her in the evening, I could give her a nice bone with which she’d curl up for a good ten minutes. After that she’d be up, drinking out of the toilet, grabbing some of my hunting gear out of the utility room, rolling around on the bed in the spare bedroom, putting her paws up on the pool table to pluck off a ball, or investigating the stairway gate for a possible jailbreak opportunity. I’d get off the couch, figure out where she was, corral her back into the living room where she’d work on the bone for another ten minutes when she’d eventually get up and head off for something bigger or better. I’m not sure if dogs can have ADD, but my dog clearly had a deficit in terms of her ability to pay attention. Her trainer Terry would tell me the same thing, but in more polite terms. “Uh, she really has a mind of her own. Yep, she sure does…” was often a piece of feedback I’d receive from him when inquiring about her progress.

But as a one year old, I was able to take her out in the boat, and while often a more active experience than I would have liked, it seemed to work fairly well. Within the blind fixture that sat atop the boat she’d roam around, moving from a specially designed “dog door” which provided a window to the action as well as a doorway for leaving on retrieves, to moving back and investigating what I was doing, then back again. She soon found that that there were things outside of the blind that were really interesting to her – lake water for drinking, cattails for chewing, and breezes for sniffing. This meant that she’s spend a good portion of her time psychically hanging outside of the dog door, inching closer and closer to falling into the lake. Most moments in the boat with her for me were spent looking at her yellow butt, tail waging, while the rest of her stuck out outside of the blind.

Eventually Blitz would get to a point of distraction that would ultimately get her in trouble – that one cattail that was just out of reach was often the culprit – and she’d make a move that would put her into the lake. At this point I’d need to secure my gun, reach outside of the dog door, and aid her reentry into the boat. The really bad part about this was that the dog door was in the middle of the enclosed blind, and I’d have to lie across the boat to pull Blitz back inside the boat. It left little room for maneuvering, and also left me with no place to go when the newly wet dog needed to shake off. Often, the shake would happen right in my face. Fortunately, most duck hunting clothes are waterproof. Unfortunately, I wasn’t wearing anything to cover my face.

Despite multiple dunks due to distractions outside of the boat, Blitz eventually became adept at exiting the dog door without falling into the lake. This was an incredible feat, as the blind sitting atop the boat completely covered it from gunwale to gunwale, with nearly vertical walls that rose directly up from the side of the boat. I’m still not sure how she did it, but Blitz somehow found a toehold on the blind, and would walk around the outside of the boat. I happened to be hunting with my buddy Fuzzy when Blitz pulled the exit stunt once. Blitz had moved out, and you could make out her movements on the outside of the blind based on the movement of the blind material. Fuzzy eventually asked, sarcastically, “Hey, Sid, where’s your dog?” “Defying gravity,” I correctly replied.

While the distractions of the dog’s ADD made things difficult at times, Blitz turned out to be a very good retriever. She quickly put together the correlation between the sound of the duck call and a retrieving opportunity, so once the calling started she would snap to attention, eyes skyward, looking for our quarry. In dog training parlance, having the dog see where a dummy or bird fall is called “marking,” and it makes it easier for the dog, once sent on retrieve, know where to go. Retrieves of birds falling without the dog seeing it are termed “blind,” and are substantively more difficult. Most highly trained dogs are trained for just such an event by used of what are called hand signals. In this training, the dog watches the handler, taking verbal and physical cues to guide their movement, until they get to the point where they can see or smell the downed bird. When executed with an intelligent and highly trained dog and an adept handler, it can be a thing of beauty. I’ve been witness to some of Fuzzy’s dogs making 80-100 blind retrieves, and it is incredibly fun to watch.

For Blitz, I did not extend the training to include hand signals, but I did do a couple of things in her training that aided her ability to find birds. First, I trained her to ignore decoys by throwing dummies through them, then ultimately throwing dummies into them. We initially did this on dry land, then replicated the exercise in the water. I’m fortunate that the training ultimately worked great. Given Blitz’s proclivity for distraction, a spread of a couple of dozen decoys were a disaster waiting to happen, but Blitz was so retrieve-crazy, she would solely focus on the dummy, and learned quickly that decoys are really boring.

The second thing I did was play a ton of fetch with her. Upon launching the dummy or the ball, I’d command “FETCH!” as she’s chase after the objective. She was crazy about fetching, and quickly learned that she couldn’t go out for another one unless she first brought the dummy back. I eventually got to the point where I’d throw dummies in to thick cover with the intention of making her really hunt to find the dummy. And no matter how buried the dummy was or how hard it was to find, I’d encourage her by saying “fetch it up,” until the dummy had been retrieved. Hence, when I uttered the command of “FETCH!” Blitz knew that there was something for her to pick up, and while it may be hard to find, it was out there, somewhere.

Unfortunately for some birds that were shot during hunting, Blitz was completely hidden within the blind, and hence she didn’t even know what side of the boat to start her search for the retrieve. In those instances, I’d throw a shell into the water in the direction of the downed bird, and that would be about as much help as she’d need. She would swim and work until the bird was found, or until I called her back into the boat.

Watching her retrieve was a joy, as she worked so hard and used all her senses. Often she’d be heading in the direction of a downed bird; swimming strong, but still unaware of the exact location. Ultimately, she’d get a glimpse of the bird, would hear it moving through the cover, or would get downwind to point where she could scent it, and her swimming would instantly shift from deliberate to a sprint. Absolutely nothing gave that dog more joy than retrieving, and her enthusiasm was contagious. I wish I enjoyed my life’s work with the same gusto and joy.

I found out the hard way, though, that sometimes that exuberance comes at a price. Blitz and I hunted together, and we had a particularly good weekend of hunting. I bagged a number of nice ducks, and Blitz did her part with a number of excellent retrieves. She made a couple of long ones, and ended up swimming more than she ever had previously. So when we left for home, the little yellow lab in the back of the truck never made a peep the whole ride. Ultimately we arrived at the dog wash in Hutchinson, and I got Blitz ready for requisite post-hunting bath. While washing her, I noticed that her tail, which was usually so active, was hanging uncharacteristically low. It wasn’t tucked in underneath her like she didn’t like the bath as she sometimes did, it just hung there limp like it was dead. I washed her tail, and she let out a little ‘yipe,” so I thought she must have hurt it some way. I finished her bath, carefully dried her, and got her back into the kennel.

We arrived home, and again my wife met us in the garage. She took one look at Blitz, who usually upon seeing my wife would shake her tail so hard that her entire rear end would sway, but now possessed just this limp tail, and immediately inquired what was wrong. I correctly replied that I didn’t know, that she must have hurt it sometime, but I was sure she was fine. We kept close tabs on the dog that night, but knew that something was up when it came time for Blitz to do her business. Blitz was only able to move her tail barely enough to make room for stuff to come out, so things were clearly wrong. I manipulated the tail, and it was clearly sore for the dog, but with it being Sunday night there was not much we could do about it. We ultimately went to the internet where we were quickly and accurately able to diagnose Blitz’s malady as “swimmer's tail.” It seems water dogs will use their tails as rudders to help them swim, and after periods of extended use, especially in cold water, the tail can become overworked and enter into the limp state in which we were seeing.  While it looked pathetic and clearly was painful, it would be temporary and was indeed common.

That mattered not to my wife, and future hunting trip departures were accompanied by the demand of "don't break my dog's tail." 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Case for The Red Hot Chili Peppers for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

In our next installment of bands that deserve to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, we examine the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

While early in their eligibility (they became eligible in 2009), I feel that the Red Hot Chili Peppers should be inducted.  I know there are a couple of strikes against them:
  • They're just newly eligible, when other bands (and better bands) have waited longer.  Their lyrics are sometimes quite sophomoric. 
  • Likewise, their stage presence was adolescent at times (appearing naked on stage, appearing wearing just a tube sock around their junk, appearing in light bulb costumes for Woodstock '94, etc.). 
Despite these liabilities, there are a couple significant reasons for their inclusion.  Consider the following:
  • Style: Their sound is a unique amalgam of hip-hop, hard rock, alternative, punk, and a huge dose of funk.  And the funk is what really pushes them into their own realm.  Flea's bass playing, in particular, has made Funkadelic (and even James Brown) a lot more accessible to a whole new generation of kids as he tipped his hat and adopted his style akin to Bootsy Collins.  Give it Away has to be one of the top 20 funky songs of all time.  Incredible.  Check it out.
  • Classic Work - Blood Sugar Sex Magik, the Rick Ruben produced title, is one of the best albums of the '90's.  It helped define that decade, and is a classic.  Perhaps not one of the top 100 of all time, but clearly in the top 300. 
  • Longevity: Despite death, other personnel changes, drug use, and other setbacks, this band has been at the game since 1983, and are still putting out very good, relevant music.
While their sound is not everyone's cup of tea, they are a very good band that has a great library, and their high-energy stage presence endearing.  They're worthy of being included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

Next up, the case for Robert Plant.    

Monday, April 11, 2011

Perpetual Winter in Green Bay Continues

Yesterday, temps in Green Bay hit nearly 80 degrees.  Despite this, there is still snow in my driveway, as this picture can attest.  The temp reading on the thermometer is down to 70 due to it being placed in the snow, and the Yellow Dog moved during the snap, but trust me when I say there's still snow, and the dog is still a good looker.

Just incredible.

Despite all of this, we'll be getting some new patio furniture this week.  We might have to enjoy it in the snow, but so be it.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Impending Death of Masculine

I ran across two videos this week that show that forces are still at play to drive the masculine out of our culture. 

The first is this apology video to "woman." 

The next is the popularity of "ex girlfriend jeans." 

Whether subtle like how men are treated in commercials or in the jeans story above, or overt like the apology above or the  "Boys are Stupid" T-Shirt campaign, the movement to take the "male" out of men is definitely alive and well in our culture.

From my perspective, I absolutely treasure the differences between men and women.  It makes life so much more interesting and enjoyable.  Yes, we have our differences and sometimes don't see eye to eye.  We have these because we are different, and that goes all the way back to our caveman days.  We're hard-wired for it.

Along those lines, and to make my point, I'd encourage all to see Defending the Caveman.  It probably gave more insight to my wife and myself on our relationship and differences than many years of therapy could have.  Highly endorsed.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Additional Photos from the Big Easy

Here are some additional photos from our recent trip to New Orleans to celebrate my cousin's wedding:

The happy couple on their first dance.  The song choice was "Lovesong" by The Cure.  The bride had to pick that one out, because there's no way my cousin has that much musical taste.

Here's Fuzzy at Pat O'Brien's.  And yes, he does have a buzz on.

Fuzzy actually took this shot, and framed it so the foutain got captured.  Given his state of mind at the time, I'm impressed with how it came out.

A great time was had by all, that is for sure.  

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Jerry Seinfeld Green Bay Concert Review

We attended the Jerry Seinfeld concert at Weidner Center last night, and were treated to a really good time.  Anything at Weidner is good (what a great venue) and when you throw in a talent like Seinfeld, you're in for a great night.   

Unfortunately, things started slow as opener Tom Papa was more miss than hit, especially right away.  He got the crowd more warm as his set went on, but personally, I felt his humor was a bit cliché.  The lines about what mom told him growing up felt like they had been rehashed from some dusty comic from the '70's, but clearly some folks enjoyed it.   

Seinfeld, on the other hand, came out like he was shot from a cannon.  High energy, great interaction with the audience, gratuitous Packer references, and the classic Seinfeld inflection had the audience eating out of his hand.  And deservedly so.  The man is hands-down funny, and even stale joke material like erectile disfunction medial commercials, done by thousands of comics for over a decade now, seemed fairly fresh.   

Bits that stood out included a discussion on cell phones, "moron-star," the marriage game show, and other people's kids being ugly.   

His encore included a chance for the audience to shout out questions or request bits, and here Seinfeld appeared really in his element.  While he likely gets asked similar questions in every town, his answers were delivered in a very interactive and fresh way.   

I've seen big name comics go through the motions before.  This was a guy that was not that at all.  He was on top of his game, and appeared to really have a good time.  I'd definitely see him again.   

Disappointment on the night was trying to find a place in town to get a late bite.  The two places we stopped had rolled things up for the evening.  Any suggestions from Green Bay residents on where to get dinner after 9:00 on a weeknight? 

The Case for The Replacements in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

As stated earlier, we're going to make the case for a number of bands that have heretofore been excluded from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  In today's installment, we make the case for the The Replacements. 

The Replacements were a pre-alternative band in Minneapolis throughout the 80's that gained fame for not only their sound, but also for their bad-boy behavior.   

Now, there are clearly reasons to keep The Replacements out of the hall 
  • 'Mats concerts we renown for a wide swath of performances - from outstanding to drunken nightmare, and everything in between. 
  • 'Mats songs could be incredibly sophomoric (Gary's Got a Boner and Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out are two good examples). 
  • They lasted as a band only a decade. 
But consider the main reason for including them: Influence. This band helped usher in the alternative genre.  At the time, their sound was defined as "punk," but that definition fails at this point.  It was alternative, and it paved a road not only for other alternative acts that followed, but it also helped ease the way for the grunge scene in the '90's.  I cannot stress this enough, as I honestly believe that alternative and grunge would have been much different without the Replacements. 

And note as well that their success came with two major strikes against them.  First, The Replacements refused to use music videos to push their careers.  This could have been a fatal flaw - that genre was absolutely making careers of some "musicians," at the time.  Despite this, The Replacements loathed the genre as you can tell by Seen Your Video and the video they released for Bastards of Young below. 

The second major strike against them was geography.  Consider the music scene in Minneapolis in the '80's.  Price dominated, and "The Minneapolis Sound" was all the rage.  The Time, Alexander O'Neil, Vanity 6, Sheila E and nearly a half dozen others cast a huge shadow.  Despite this, The Replacements were able to carve out a thriving career, and helped to shine a spotlight themselves for bands like Hüsker Dü and The Suburbs. 

I know their sound is raw.  I know they ticked off a bunch a people in their career, including many fans that attended drunken, disorganized shows.  However this band did things their way, overcame some long odds, and, most importantly, helped to spawn an entire genre of music.  For that they need to be considered as worthy entrants into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Look for the case for the Red Hot Chili Peppers next week.