Sunday, November 26, 2017

I am thankful for these things (part 2)

Given that this post should appear directly above part 1 of this series, I am just going to jump into the second half of list.

  1.  The Soloman Grundy's on Rock My Ass-After I got out of college, the only thing I knew about my future is that I did not want to jump into being an actual adult. Instead, I wanted to see if I could make a living making music. My attempt failed. But I did play in a band for about 8 years. We put out 2 albums and a 45. The band played shows in a number of towns, got written up in a few publications, and tried our best to make the band sustainable (which akin to saying we tried our best to get hit by lightening). I have mixed feelings about the experience. I didn't achieve the goal I set out for myself. On the other hand, I have some pretty good stories out of the experience and made some friends I would not have made if I had not tried. Recently, I was made aware of the existence of this video of a cable access show we appeared on. Whatever my feelings about the years I spent trying to "make it", This video makes me happy. It shows the band at the height of our collective ability. We had years of shows and practice under our belts by that time and I think we sound like we were trying to sound. The band sounds like a group that was worth the cover charge (especially if you ignore the main vocalist).  Give the video a try. I hope you like it. 
  2. Ice cream-Not much to say about this except that I love ice cream. Even flavors that are not very good are still pretty good. Like Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, I do not believe I have ever been dissatisfied by the experience of eating ice cream. Although I admit I have some anecdotal evidence in support of the argument that the second pint is never as good as the first.
  3.  Bowling- I have loved bowling since high school. It's a great game. The task of bowling the ball is simple enough that most people can do it, but the mechanics of rolling the ball are complex enough to make rolling well consistently a challenge. The scoring takes some familiarly with basic math: just enough math that some people are impressed by folks who can score the game manually. Mr. Torvik and I were in a bowling league together one year. For a brief period when there was a bowling alley in downtown Minneapolis, Mr. Torvik and I would sometimes bowl over our lunch hour. The one downside to bowling used to be all the indoor smokers. But Minnesota took care of that by making smoking in public buildings illegal. I've never thought that I spent too much time bowling. Also, my biggest brush with fame took place at a Minneapolis bowling alley called the Lariat Lanes.
  4. Trampoline-This 1995 song by the band The Greenbury Woods is flipping fantastic (the linked video is not great as a video, so just listen to the music). The vocals, the guitars, and the song structure build, collide, and crash that give a real sense of majesty. Normally when a song I love does not become a hit, I interpret that as a sign that the world is not just. I never think that when I hear this song. Instead, I disappear into the music. Rather than being a sign of an unjust world, songs like this are strong evidence that the universe was shaped by a loving creator who wants us to have good things. Certainly the song is better evidence than some of the stories in the Old Testament.
  5. Pop-Tarts-When I was a kid, my mom would celebrate Saturday (and only Saturday) by letting the kids have Pop-Tarts for breakfast, watch Saturday morning cartoons, and then going to the great local library I mentioned in part 1 of this list. To this day, when I want to celebrate something, I stop at the store and pick up some Pop-Tarts. I prefer the chocolate fudge but they are all pretty good. Is loving Pop-Tarts a sign of a sophisticated palate? Probably not.  But if loving Pop-Tarts is wrong, I have no interest in being right.
  6. Rabbit of Seville-A 1950 cartoon in which Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd confront the everyday problem of what to do when a little rabbit hunting causes the hunter and prey to be part of an opera. This cartoon has everything that one associates with Bugs and Elmer: (1) classical music; (2) inventive wordplay; (3) Bugs dressing like a woman that Elmer finds attractive (what does that signify anyway?); and (4) bad aim. I do not know if Quentin Tarrantino ever admitted that the shaving scene inspired one of the scenes in Reservoir Dogs, but I also do not know that he has ever denied it.
  7. Rabbit Seasoning-This 1952 cartoon is plotted around Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck trying to convince Elmer Fudd that it is either duck-hunting season or rabbit-hunting season. My favorite part is the scene where Daffy attributes a mishap to "pronoun trouble." I use that phrase whenever I get confused by another person's pronoun use. I do not think anyone has ever connected my saying that to the cartoon. So I guess that is an inside joke with myself.™
  8. Robin Hood Daffy-This will be the last cartoon. Daffy and Porky Pig appear in a version of  how Robin Hood met Friar Tuck. "Yoiks and away!" I'm smiling about this cartoon as I type. Fun Fact: Dr. Max (mentioned in the entry on Cedar Falls, Iowa in part 1), would refer to cartoons as "color-toons." I assume he did this because when he was a kid cartoons were all in black and white and used color-toon to distinguish between the cartoons of his youth and the new-fangled cartoons with color.
  9. The Good Place- I'm not sure what I can about this show without running into a spoiler  problem. It's a comedy on NBC. It was created by people also involved in the shows Brooklyn 99 and Parks and Rec. I was not a fan of Cheers but Ted Danson is terrific (as is the rest of the cast).  There have only been 20 or so episodes thus far so you plenty of time to get up to speed before new episodes return on January 4.
  10.  Fargo- If you never been to Fargo, you might think the town doesn't have much to offer. But Fargo has a pretty cool downtown, a well-run marathon (with a finish line inside the Fargo Dome), and Sammy's pizza. But I digress, this entry is actually about the Cohen Brothers movie and the TV show of the same name. If you didn't see the movie, you can still watch the TV show without missing anything. The movie is ranked by the American Film Institute as one of the top 100 films of all time.  The TV show is as good as the movie (which, frankly, is probably harder to achieve given that a movie is two hours long and a TV show season is 26 hours long). My favorite season so far is season two. But all three seasons are worth watching.
  11. Weeping Wine-Two weeks before I was supposed to start high-school, my family moved to Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Like almost everyone, my teenage years were less than graceful. And it really took me two or three years to get comfortable in Oshkosh. Another way of putting this would be to say I was a nerd (in the pejorative sense, not the science-whiz sense). One thing that may have hurt my ability to fit in was that I did not like most of the music that was popular at the time. It seems incredible in the age of streaming music services, YouTube, and social media, but try to find out about music out of the top-40 mainstream involved reading about music rather than actually listening to it. I spent a lot of Saturday mornings at the Oshkosh Public Library looking at the current issue of any magazine that reviewed music. That's how I discovered Lloyd Cole and the Commotions. When their first album came out, I remember reading the review and noting that the guitars supposedly sounded like The Byrds meets Television. I was not familiar with Television's music but I liked The Byrds. So I went over the the Exclusive Company record store and bought the album and instantly became a fan of Mr. Cole.  In 1991, Mr. Cole put out an album called Don't Get Weird on me Babe. Weeping Wine is the second song on that album, and is my favorite Lloyd Cole song. Lyrically, the song has a lot of get phrases. Also, although I dislike puns, I like how Mr. Cole uses a double meaning of wine and whine. Musically, it feels like there is a perfect amount of instrumentation moving around in the mix. The lead guitar is great. I love that guitar solo. Anyone who has ever spent time in a music instrument store knows that lots of folks can play blisteringly fast guitar solos. The real trick is to play a guitar solo that a person can remember and hum along with.
  12.  Baseball-Baseball was not my favorite sport when I was a kid. I loved professional football. I especially loved the Minnesota Vikings teams of the 1970s. In fact, for a while I published a little Minnesota Vikings 'zine (circulation 3: my mom, my grandparents, and my great-aunt), But my love for football waned as it becomes increasingly clear that the game brutalizes, chews up, and spits out the people who play it. I liked baseball when I was a kid (and I loved playing Superstar Baseball). But now I find that I love baseball. I like the stats, the fact that much of the game is played the same way it was in the 19th Century. I like the way the game lends itself to conversation and sitting in the sun (during day games anyway). I also love that it is a game that can have two of its best players have dramatically different body types. Behold Aaron Judge (the big dude) standing next to Jose Altuve.
    Mr. Altuve, by the way, won the American League Most Valuable Player Award this year. Mr. Judge was the American League Rookie of the Year.
  13. Walkin’ Dog-One of my favorite places to eat lunch in downtown Minneapolis. Tuesdays and Thursdays are “dog eat dog days” and one can purchase two hot-dogs for the price of one-and-a-half. I am always happy when I eat there. Get the Vienna Beef and don't forget a chocolate/peanut butter malt cannot be beat either.
  14. California Stars-California Stars is the first song on the album Mermaid Avenue by Billy Bragg and Wilco. Basically, the song lyrics were written by Woody Guthrie and were unrecorded (and perhaps even unperformed) until Billy Brag and/or Wilco came up with arrangements for them. I think the lyrics are about an unrequited love. But the music is so gorgeous that for all I know the lyrics are about clubbing baby seals and the music distracts me from hearing the words. In any event, this song is so great that I even love this version of Wilco doing the song with Jason Isbell. I normally hate long guitar solos (see the Lloyd Cole entry above) but this version, which has two guitar solos, makes me as happy as any other version of the song that I have heard.
  15. Sunflowers-My reaction to sunflowers is similar to my reaction to rainbows. I am never unhappy when I see a sunflower. I point them out whenever I see one growing. I'll stop the car and take pictures of a field of sunflowers. For example, here is a picture of a field of sunflowers that I took just outside Fargo (for real; also copyright me. Use this picture without permission and I will hire Mr. Torvik to sue you.)
  16. Hay bales-I do not know why seeing bales of hay in a field makes me happy but, just as I do when I see sunflowers or a rainbow. I  point them out when I see them. If I ever make enough money that I can take up farming, I am going to grow sunflowers and hay. Here is a picture  I took near Pleasant Hill, North Dakota. Pleasant Hill certainly seemed pleasant but calling the area a hill seemed like an exaggeration (same deal on the photo, copyright me).
  17. Target Field:  Perhaps this is a subset of loving baseball but Target Field, where my favorite major league team plays, is a terrific place to watch a game. I have sat in the third level, the bleachers, the second deck, the good seats behind home plate (not the Champions Club, however) and in the lower level along the first and third base sides. Every seat was excellent. When the weather is nice, the view of the downtown Minneapolis skyline is tough to beat. A couple of seasons ago, the Twins lost every game I attended. Nevertheless, I loved being at Target Field
  18. Hey Ya- The original song and video are are great. This song is one of the songs I use as a rebuttal when someone says they don't like hip-hop. What's not to like about this song? Anyway, much as I like the original, the thing that makes me happy is this cover by Walk off the Earth.  Give it a look and then we can discuss. As far as I can tell, this video is made from a single take. At least I can't find a spot where there was a cut. The musicians are obviously talented musicians but also physically gifted to hit all those various cues throughout the song. The part where the big guy shows up to "shake it" and then play the piccolo cracks me up. But maybe the best part is the bearded blond guy who holds the big guitar and then shows up dancing at the end. He reminded me of how some English bands in the early 90s had dancers who were actual band members. Bez of the Happy Mondays might be the most famous example. If one thinks about all the creativity that went into the original song, then the Walk off the Earth folks figuring out a cover version using some unconventional instruments, and then the planning, practice, and execution of the is video, how do you not feel happy? Look at what people can do if they practice and persist.  Which leads me.
  19.  People Are Awesome-This website produces compilations of people doing amazing feats of strength, agility, and creativity. Like the previous entry, one marvels at the amount of dedication it took people to perform some of the stunts. I don't know but I bet a lot of these clips were preceded by a failed attempts. In some cases, probably a lot of failed attempts. But the people involved thought they would be successful and kept trying. Maybe what I love is persistence.
  20.  My law school experience-If Reader(s)™ did the math after item number 1 above, it would be clear that I did not go to law school until several years after I graduated from college. Mr. Torvik and I were in the same section of the University of Minnesota Law School's class of 2003. Probably because of my advanced age (I was the oldest person in my section after the older person dropped out after first semester), I loved law school. I knew that my formal education was probably over after law school. I had been in the "real world" long enough to know that being a student is a good way to live. One literally spends the day learning stuff when one is a student. While there was certainly a lot of course work, doing that work was a lot better than many of the jobs I had during my musician years. For one thing, no one insists that you do all the studying standing up. I think a lot of law school stress comes from students who are going to law school straight from undergraduate studies. That type of student often did not seem to have an alternative plan if it turned out that law school did not suit them. To those students, washing out of law school meant being turned out into the abyss. My attitude was that I knew if law school didn't work, I could always go back to delivering pizzas.  To summarize, I learned a lot of new things, made some life-long friends, and also ate a lot of boneys hoagies (the second-greatest sandwich of all time).
  21.  Madden-As an actual grown-up, my mind sometimes reels about the amount of time I spent in college and after college just goofing off. My friends and I loved the John Madden video games put about by EA sports. We would sit around commenting on the game the others were playing while waiting our turn to play the winner. During these gaming sessions, the jokes were non-stop. There is one particularly spectacular bone-headed play of mine that witnesses still bring up with me. The camaraderie of those times makes me happy. So, even though I detested the 1970s Oakland Raiders teams that John Madden coached (they beat the Vikings in the Super Bowl in 1976 and I have yet to forgive them), I love John Madden because of his video game.
  22.  Nowhere Man- When you are a young child, anything that happens more than once becomes a tradition. There are real traditions, like A Charlie Brown Christmas being played every year. There are also traditions that seemed like traditions only because they happened a couple times while you were a kid. In the latter category sits The Beatles movie Yellow Submarine. When I was really young, the movie was broadcast on network TV a few times. Nowhere Man is both a song and a character in the movie. It's the first song that I can remember liking. Indeed, when my brother got a tape recorder, one of the tapes he made was of me singing the song. I think I was four at the time. Anyway, although the song would probably make me happy just because it was my first favorite song. I think my choice holds up. It has great harmonies on the vocals. One can hum the guitar solo (added points for how it ends on that little harmonic flourish).  
  23.  Hardcore History-Writer Dan Carlin periodically releases a podcast that tries to take an in-depth look at events in world history. Mr. Carlin's podcasts are incredible. The run long but they are totally worth the time investment. Like a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, you will not regret listening to this podcast.
  24.  BBC History Extra Podcast- Put out by BBC History Magazine, (apparently "the world's best selling history magazine), these podcasts give a brief overview of some part of world history twice a week. Want to learn about the Scythians? This podcast has got you covered. Need a fix on the Tudors as you wait for Hilary Mantel's next book. This is the podcast for you. As an added bonus, you get to listen to those very melodious English accents. 
  25. "Hitting the ground like sacks of wet cement"-Always funny and appropriate for the weekend. One of my family's favorite shows was WKRP in Cincinnati. The Thanksgiving episode where reporter Les Nessman does a live-radio report on an attempt to let turkeys fly free is beyond funny. This show ought to be on the list of great television comedies.


  1. I look forward to this becoming an annual Gillette-Torvik Blog tradition. Great stuff.

  2. Hadn't seen the hay bales photo before, that would make a good picture to hang on the wall. Thanks for the list Adam!


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