Wednesday, April 30, 2008

We Made You Mixtape!

Hello my fello gravy afionados! Magda and I have collaborated to put a mixtape online for you. Its kind of bluegrassy-americana-ish stuff for the most part and all of it is dance(or jig)able, though some parts of some of the songs are not. Its very good gettin'-stuff-done music. My esteemed colleague may elaborate further. She picked out six of the songs, and so did I, and then I moooshed 'em all together and voila. Please give it a listen, and perhaps create one yourself. Let us know which songs you dig the most. There is another one in the pipes. Good luck gettin' through finals everybody! [Or for Pat, Ian, and Cynda: HAHAHAHAHAHA enjoy another month and a half suckers]

a benandmagda joint production all copyrights reserved and shit

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

hey you know what would be really fun you don't but i do it would be dressing up pat like waldo and playing where's pattycakes? at all kinds of different portlandish events and the beach and stuff yep

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Believe it or not, concrete floats (kinda)

Civil engineering students have this yearly ritual. It involves 6 months of blood, sweat, tears, and epoxy as well as a weekend long gathering known as the American Society of Civil Engineers Great Lakes Regional Conference. Because we love our acronyms, it's the ASCE GLRC. Word.

Anyway, 14 schools design and build (amongst other things) concrete canoes and then race them to see who is the best. Or in the case of Marquette's region, who can come in second to UW-Madison, the creators of the greatest concrete vessel in the WORLD last year. I'm not even kidding. They beat those kids from the Netherlands at worlds.

Our scrappy band of misfits' goal this year? To bring a canoe that wouldn't break in half on the way down. And it didn't! But alas, my hull design made it impossible to turn so we came in last in all the races. Oh well. Still better than last year.

In short, a weekend of shenanigans that included Notre Dame and Valpo's canoes showing up in two pieces (ND took theirs out on the water after the competition anyway), another canoe literally falling apart in the water, and some other dudes sinking. Oh, and Madison killing everyone.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Just in Case You Missed It

Yep, a dog peeing on Natalie Portman's leg. Take that Yale!

And you said nothing good ever came out of the paparazzi. It would be fairer to say that nothing good ever comes out of me logging in to Blogger.

Elderly Woman Applying Makeup Most Heartbreaking Thing On Earth

"PARMA, OH—In an unbelievably heartrending and entirely futile undertaking intended to recapture some infinitesimal shred of her faded beauty and youth, 82-year-old Rachel Shultz painstakingly put on her makeup Monday. "This is the same shade of lipstick I wore when I met [Shultz's long-dead husband] Kenneth," Shultz said as she steadied her palsied right hand with her left while applying the bright red cosmetic to her thin, bloodless lips, a process that only served to accentuate the weathered crevices crisscrossing her face like hundreds of tiny dried riverbeds. "That was in Cleveland right after the war, back when I was a candy striper. I was quite the looker." Shultz later dozed lightly in the lobby of her assisted-living center while waiting for her daughter to drive her to a friend's funeral."

I cried a little bit

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Vote the Hook

We have a lot of choices in this upcoming election season. At this point, we don't even really know what those choices will be. But one thing is clear - Steve Novick represents the values important to Oregonians.

So this November, don't vote for a candidate based on empty promises. Vote for someone with a concrete quality you can count on - a hook.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


I don't know if you guys ever found the A.V. Club, its linked on The Onion's homepage and so its like a little brother or something, but anyway its a really sweet site for music, movies, tv shows, video games, books, interviews, and really weird articles about beer thats supposed to taste like pizza. I really like it because they don't just do new stuff, they have a lot of articles about old music and movies and the writing tends to be concise and kind of funny. There is one weekly (Mondays) article I like a lot called 'Popless' where this seasoned music critic has cut himself off from new music for a whole year and he's going alphabetically through his archives and listening to, say Bread through the Byrds. So he says a little bit about a lot of bands, then goes through the singles of some bands he didn't talk about, and leaves a bunch out. The best part is that he's not a hipster at all, and doesn't really give a fuck what the criticism hegemony dictates. He's really cool and it gives me a little bit more grounding in the way everything ties together. So check it out. Oh yeah, don't read the comments, ever. They will destroy your brain.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

New Pornographers

So I realized writing this that I have no idea how to review a concert.

Oh. My. God. Greatest concert I've ever been to. I know that is like 9, so its not particularly hard. This was the first time that I've been to a concert where I absolutely loved the band. LastFm says I've listened to them.. 517 times. And that's not including the last two days, and that's not including last summer in Ian's car. God, I've had some good times in that car.... But that's besides the point and not likely to bring about any domestic felicity to any newlyweds that we might now. Basically, Ian had a leaked copy of Challengers and I've been listening to them ever since. So I was basically able to sing along with the entire set. Which is amazing. Oh right, and the starters were pretty damn decent to. I had never heard of Okkervil River before I found out that they were playing with NP, but Magda was crazy about them, so I gave them a shot, and more or less like them now. It is so weird to have a concert begin with a single funny-looking guy just saying "The president's dead" and playing by himself on an acoustic. The rest of the band didn't join until half way through the song. It was kinda unnerving, and he kinda sang a little too into the mike and was really loud and hollow sounding, but then again he was drunk off his ass. It was pretty funny, he kept knocking down mic stands. Other than that, they were pretty good, played the two or three songs that I really like, but a few slow songs like they do, but still loud rockin' and with a lot of guitar, and I'm just thinking this is great, but its going to get oh so much better. And it was. The NP were great. The only down side was the Neko was sick, and kinda warbled through her songs, and couldn't hit high notes. She had a particularly hard time with "These are the Fables" and started just skipping the high parts. The crowd was encouraging, though, and it was fine. I kinda expected them to basically just play songs from challengers, which isn't my favorite album, but they didn't. Actually, it was just about an even distribution. There could have been a lot more Neko songs, and I think they probably cut her part short. They were playing with a lot more energy then they do in the albums, and they were kinda just shocked that there were so many people who love them even in a middle-of-nowhere place like Ithaca. I don't really have any other words besides awesome. So I'm just going to leave it at that.

One of the best parts of the concert was the contrast between a decent rock band who was slow at times and played too loudly and a very crisp, clear kinda pop band. You kinda got both. It was great.

(I forget the ranking system, but I'd go with almost perfect, and subtract a bit for a sick Neko)

PS: My friends, who went with me, said the concert was "good." I am counting down the days until I leave.

PPS: After the concert, I came home and spent all night writing a paper that I barely started. I didn't sleep, and can't exactly remember if the paper has a thesis or is coherent in anyway. Right before I turned it in, I noticed that I forgot to capitalize a sentence. The concert was totally worth it.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Your Intrepid Hero Relaxes After Infiltrating North Korean Nuclear Silos Disguised as a Cat. Mission Accomplished!

But not before celebrating with Taco Bell.

Photo courtesy of Mrs. Spear and Patrick Spear, Esq.

I Have a Crush on Barack Obama

I went on saw the Senator speak Wednesday. Stephanie got me a ticket and I went in and then she sneaked past the Secret Service and joined me. And that is a man that wakes up the hope in me that was so crushed November 2004 that I thought it could never come back. That old game, where you think about who you'd take a bullet for, well the older I get, the fewer people it would be. But he is one. I know Scott is following the election, anybody else? Thoughts? I have been reading DailyKos and Huffingtonpost and Politico and The New York Times pretty much daily for the last few months watching this thing. It has been a helluva rollercoaster.

*There was a part in his speech where he talked about all the speeches he'd given and all the babies he'd kissed, and he pointed out into the crowd and said "That's a cute baby. I'm gonna kiss that baby." And the mother literally handed her baby forward on the hands of the crowd to receive a kiss. A crowd-surfing, Moses-on-the-Nile, baby. It was hilarious and heart-warming.

Before Night Falls [Antes que anochezca]

College is too easy, much too easy.* So I dig myself gigantic holes at the start of the semester and try to climb out of them exactly when it becomes impossible to do so. As such, I never do any of the Spanish papers I should do. They are easy, but I have grown to dislike assignments and due dates. So I read extra books and write papers on them. No one but profesoras seem to think this is a good idea. I love profesoras. This book, the autobiography of a hero author of mine, Reinaldo Arenas, took about a day and a half to finish:

Unfortunately, I read it in English because apparantly it really does get harder to learn a language as you get older. I hate being old.

I don't really know how to talk about an autobiography. I mean, I want to tell you how exciting and terrifying and conquering it is, but that sounds silly. Its true though. Arenas wrote in Cuba during the beginning of the Castro dictatorship, where he was harshly persecuted both for being a dissident writer and a homosexual man. It provides a lot of insight into his novels, but would very easily stand alone, especially since it is coherently written (mostly keep a continuous flow of time, which I didn't think he could do). Arenas is very explicit and humble and confident in the man he was. And from time to time, the elements that make his Pentagonia so unforgettable peak out and remind you that this was a man who had the vision to see into the being of things and understand how the world really works, the magic that hums quietly and only reveals itself to the awake and waiting. More than anything else, this is a document of a courageous individual not bowing to the overpowering demands of a totalitarian state, a message that no force on earth can make you compromise yourself. That a man, a survivor and exile, still had the voice to call for revolution and freedom for the countrymen who spied on and betrayed him. He still found joy in life, and that is a heartening challenge.

*I do not actually believe this, but one of the inner-Bens (the cocky one who lives in my spinal fluid) does. He gets me in all sorts of trouble.

Friday, April 11, 2008

This was going to be a PS to my Guatemala post

PS: I'm typing this on a Mac. I don't know what you are talking about, Ben, Macs are awful. Apple+x to cut? One-buttoned mouse? Program menus at the top of the screen? Seriously! Everything is over-simplified, and you can't do anything. And don't get me started on iTunes. I'm even kinda ashamed to have an ipod, but its only because its the only decent mp3 player. The computers though, are overly expensive (software and hardware) and are not any better. Its pretty sad, though, all of the computers at work and at the Sun are Macs, so I'm forced to use them a lot. Anyway, they suck. Bens wrong, and is just buying into Macs because they are indie and fashionable.

Guatemala Again

Yeah, okay, Ben wanted me to write about Guatemala, and has been annoying me about it for several weeks. Here it goes. It might be a tad bit of personal arrogance on my part, but part of me was actually kinda surprised that the place was still there despite me not being there for a year. I mean, I know it sounds trivial, but this realization actually meant a lot to me. First of all, all of the crappiness that I saw there the first time was still there when I went this week. It would seem to follow that it is still there now. The thing is, it will always be there. I can leave, but it does that life there is any different. People are still struggling to eat, they have no real chance for social betterment, they still live in corn stalk houses surrounded by garbage that never gets cleaned up. They still hike several miles into the mountains to work on a small plot of coffee trees or to gather wood. I guess all of this never really hit me when the experience was new and exciting. Of course, I realized it, it just never sank in until this time around. As a result of this, I guess, I started noticing the Church more and gained a newfound respect for the priests there who are working to make a difference, giving their lives, and in at least one case literally: (Kinda like Oscar Romero, but not killed in mass, and wasn't an archbishop).
Okay, so that was the over-exaggerated white guilt part of me. Honestly, its not all that bad, and people there are on the whole surprisingly happy with life. And its seriously a fun place to visit. The people who I went with this year were a lot more fun to be with, and I was a lot closer to all of them. It was also Holy Week, so we really didn't do that much "work", we kinda just chilled and watched the processions, which was cool. We went around the lake in a boat a couple of days, and shopping, where I bought hammocks, a blanket, and a few other things. It was all pretty cheap, of course. We went to this really sketchy bar one night, that was fun, but I swear, Guatemalans are the lamest partiers ever. It was mostly just guys, and they all just sat around being nervous around the handful of women or drunk off their asses. We were the life of that bar. The band was playing American and British songs from the 70's. It was pretty sweet. We went hiking up the mountains a couple of time, and seriously can't wait to hike a lot more. This summer, guys: hiking. Seriously. Cynda is the only one with a valid excuse not to hike. The last night, we ate tacos from some really sketchy street vendors. I think I got a little sick as a result, but totally worth it. Um, so yeah. That was pretty much it. I'll put pictures up eventually.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Tortilla Flat

This is my favorite Steinbeck book:

[I have only read East of Eden, Mice and Men, and Grapes of Wrath. I hear Cannery Row and The Pearl are good. I also hear birds.]

This is a fun little bit of a book with good heart and its own lacksadaisical little world to get lost in. Apparantly, though I wouldn't have guessed it, its loosely based around the Knights of the Round Table. It tells of the lives of a group of rascally friends in Tortilla Flat, just outside of Monteray, California after World War I. They have some pretty amusing and unscrupulous antics, but make each other into better men as they share a small home and their lives, as if Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer and their gang got to live together forever. Its the best, the humblest, I ever seen Steinbeck write, with a tender affection for these characters and their exploits as if he was the bemused guardian angel taking care of them that he mentions once in the book. You could read it in one day, easily in two, and you won't regret doing it.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

So I was going to start doing book reviews over the summer, even sketched a few out in my old moleskine (since disposed of) and somehow couldn't find the energy to put them up here. Pretty weak.

I've been meaning to read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius for a long time, since before I read You Shall Know Our Velocity!. It always cost too much at Powell's, and was checked out at our library. So I finally recalled it a week ago. And I am here to briefly inform you that you need to read it. Need. You know I wouldn't say that lightly. I've never even told anyone they need to listen to any album, some particular songs yes, but never an artist or album. So please believe me when I tell you that to be a member of our generation, you must read this book. This book is from our older brother Dave Eggers; a call-to-arms from the next evolution of Holden Caulfield. This novel is all-encompassing, all-pervading, all-true. It is everything you need to hear, exactly as you need to hear it. It is post-media, post-sensory over-saturation, post-cynicism. It is the manifesto for a group who know this is all bullshit, and want to transcend, but know their limitations, see their pride and self-aggrandizement, feel the pull of duty to family and friends and believe they can fulfill this, and beyond. That they are golden gods, capable of feats not yet seen, ready to will their dreams into existence and form. This book is a human, an extraordinary human exposed, cut and made real in order to summon you to his side. It is all bullshit and completely bullshit free. It is everything.

The story follows Dave as he raises his much-younger brother after both his parents die in short succession. He struggles with their loss, their shortcomings, as he becomes their replacement for his brother Toph. He attempts to be the super-parent while starting Might magazine, that which will reveal his generation to itself, will sound the horn for an age ready to be real and strong. You will laugh at his anecdotes with his brother and feel his righteous rage as he struggles between impulses to tear the world apart and become the world-healer, the broad-shouldered one who takes care of his friends, his brothers and sister, his life. Yet throughout he is aware of his actions shaping the story he is making, is cognizant of the artifice he is creating, is self-rebuking yet sure that he is doing the right thing, sure that while it may appear to injure him and the people he cares about, it is a blood-letting, a sacrament to move on and reach the heights of which they are capable. This book is not perfect, it drags in a few places, but it is closer than anything to the Great American Novel than I have ever read, because it is closest to the Great American Life as anything I have ever read. We are orphans, we are triumphant, we have no history, we have no future, we are what the world wishes to be. Pick up a copy.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

This is kind of trippy

I recommend Audio-Surf which is a game based on your music. It's like guitar hero meets tetris.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

New SF Music Festival Has Good Lineup/Maybe We Could Crash With Nancy or Ken or Doug's Crazy Uncle/Let This Not Distract You From the Below Posts

A bunch of these bands (Wilco, BSS, Tom Petty, Drive-By Truckers, Devendra, Regina, Two Gallants, Black Mountain, Beck) I've been wanting to see and won't be at Sasquatch. Music festival movie? I hope a certain little fella isn't late.

Ouch! I didn't check the price until just now. Quite a bit for three-day passes, no word on when single-day passes will be available.