As you may or may not know, I’ve been working on a new musical project for a good portion of this year. Ryan and I have been slowly plugging along and making progress on a post Marianas project that has a couple things in common with our old group, but moves in lots of new directions as well.

One of these directions is that our new group is going to have vocals. Every song. We’re both big fans of groups like Talking Heads and Depeche Mode and even more modern artists like Notwist and DNTEL, and it seemed like the next logical step. Plus, it seemed like a good way to challenge ourselves even more.
The problem is that I’ve never really done much in terms of lyrics before. Sure, I’ve written down slews of stuff for songs that never turned into anything, but I’ve never penned anything that I’d feel either comfortable or interested in singing aloud and especially recording. I’ve done a ton of writing in my life, including lots of reviews (obviously), loads of fiction (including several 20+ page unpublished pieces), and lots of essays and non-fiction. Writing lyrics is an entirely different beast, though.

Because I’m still sort of learning at it, I find myself falling into familiar traps like trying to rhyme each end of line with the next. I catch myself coming up with over-used words and I’ve done a large amount of simply slashing and burning different things that I’ve written when upon second reading they sound like the work of a complete lightweight idiot.

All of the above said, I have come up with some lines that I’m really proud of (I’m trying to take the mindset that I have to be comfortable enough with anything I come up with to see it in print at some point) and I go through little periods where it seems like I can spit out one line after another. I just want to come up with words that are slightly original and I won’t feel embarrassed about in the morning. Is that too much to ask?

Kranky RecordsIt seems like such a minor detail, but I have to say that the small packaging change that Kranky Records instated last year sometime has thrilled me. The label started experimenting with cardboard sleeve packaging as far back as Pan American’s 360 Business / 360 Bypass and Godspeed You Black Emperor’s Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antenna To Heaven double CD, but now it seems like the aforementioned packaging has turned into their primary mode of delivering music.

As mentioned above, this is a rather silly, minor thing, but it makes me happy for several reasons. The first of these is that their packaging now feels largely like a mini LP. Obviously the artwork is not as large (and they still make LPs of all their output), but in pure tactile ways, their small sleeve releases are quite nice. Secondly, their CDs and packaging simply take up less room on my shelf while still being plainly visible. Like a lot of people, I’m starting to accumilate quite a collection of CDs, and the slim packages from Kranky still fit on the shelf nicely (with readable spines) while some other companies insist on not only putting releases inside jewelcases, but including cardboard slipcases, etc. I’m not a huge treehugger (well, okay, sort of), but it just seems kind of wasteful at this point in time.

So that’s my little ramble. Kranky has always been one of my favorite labels, and their new understated (but nice) packaging is just one of several reasons why.

After a long, hot summer and a rather nice, somewhat extended fall, it seems that cold weather will finally be arriving this week in Nebraska. It’s supposed to freeze the next couple nights in a serious enough way that covering plants won’t be enough to save them. Because of this, TG and I have been trying to gather just about everything we can out of our garden before the frost hits and everything dies. She went out the other night and brought in everything that was of a decent size, including a slew of peppers, a huge bowl of chard, several butternut squash, some tomatoes, and a pumpkin.

Veggies from the garden

We had such a successful garden this year that it makes me a little sad knowing that I won’t be able to go out in back whenever I’m cooking dinner and grab a green pepper or a tomato to add to the recipe. We have loads and loads of homemade pesto in the freezer (and I might get one more big batch made if I can motivate myself tomorrow night), but it seems that the fresh organic veggies grown by our own hand will be coming to an end very, very soon.

Fortunately, there’s a lot of compost going for next year already, and we have even more plans and ideas for what we want to let loose in the spring. It’s still gonna be a bit sad seeing everything wilt and come to an end.

If you’ve looked at this site at all in the past, you’re probably aware that the more updated part of this domain is the music review section. In the time since I’ve started doing them (nearly 10 years!), I’ve gotten to the point where I now receive a fairly modest amount of CDs from record labels (and publicists) to review. I do my best to get around to a majority of them, but it’s a bit hard sometimes.

At some point in the past year, I got put on the mailing list of a major label, and despite a couple emails from me to them asking to be removed, they keep sending me stuff. I’ve stopped feeling bad about trading these CDs into stores for things I want, or giving them away to friends who actually like what this label sends me. They also send me loads of crap that if they looked at my site, they’d know I would most likely never review.

At any rate, I open the post office box today and find not one, not two, but three of the usual huge cardboard mailers that they usually send things to me in. Within each one of these mailers is the same, 4-track (same track, different versions) CD of what is apparently the first single from some new forthcoming Eminem album. One of them is nearly smashed to bits, which is maybe why they felt the need to send me two more in addition to it.

3 CDs

Looks like the museum of lost music will be aquiring some new radio singles in the near future.

History of World War I by John Keegan A couple months back, I asked for recommendations (at an online forum I frequent) on good, somewhat entry level books about the history of World War I and World War II. Several people responded back that historian John Keegan was about the best route you could take in this area, so I hunted down his books on both of the aforementioned wars.

My main reason for reading the books is that I feel flat-out stupid about world history often. I went through high school and got A’s in all my classes, but at that time I was doing just enough to get those good grades (which really wasn’t that much) and nothing much sunk in. Then, in college, I took hardly any world history classes at all en route to an art major and writing minor. I know a shedload about art history, but in terms of world history I’m pretty much an idiot.

At any rate, The History of World War I was just what I was looking for. Keegan runs through just about everything he can in a tight 400 pages, opening with the political conflicts that flared up at the beginning, the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, and finally the standdown and miscommunications that finally led to the war.

The most interesting (and utterly depressing) thing (to me anyway) about the war was the fighting itself. Living in the current age, it’s hard to imagine trench warfare and the absolutely gut-churning battles that went on (especially Ypres) back and forth for years and years, eventually leading to the deaths of millions and millions of troops on both sides.

I’m taking a break before reading the second book from Keegan, because while the first one wasn’t a difficult read, it was obviously heavy subject matter and I couldn’t bring myself to tackle World War II directly following it. If you’re looking to brush up on your own history reading and want a solid, but not overwhelming place to start, this is as probably good as any.

You may or may not know that TG and I live near a college campus. There are actually two college campuses in our town, and the one we live near is the home for the textiles, clothing and design program (of which TG is a badass masters student), the food sciences program, and all the agriculture and natural resources programs. On this campus, there are a lot of cowboy boots, big belt buckles, and rodeo shirts that are worn in non-ironic ways, and the campus as a whole has a different vibe than the other one.

Anyway, tonight I’m walking the dogs around the union on the campus near our house when a guy walking towards says the following while talking on his cell phone…

“Yeah, that would be great… What dorm are you living in again? (pause)
Okay, well I’m gonna stop by there tonight then if that’s cool with you, because I’m going to need some extra chaps this weekend.”

After a mild heat streak last week, it has now cooled off and it feels like fall is here. I took last week off from work and was busy, busy with lots of different projects and generally enjoyed the amazing outdoors (hence, no posts). Soon, I will have some finished projects (remodeling, music?) and books to report on. Until then, a picture of Zoey hanging out on our landing and looking very suave.

Zoey on the steps

If you have a pet, you probably already know that they’re one of the best forms of stress relief and therapy out there. I would agree.

Elsa and I rasslin'

At least one night per week, this is a fairly typical scene in our living room.

Me podcasting while Elsa sleeps behind me

Elsa looks concerned in that picture, but I think it’s only because she heard me say something that rhymed with “treat,” “walk,” “car ride,” “outside,” or “cheese.” Regarding the podcasts, I’ve now been doing them for about four months in addition to the regular music reviews on my site and just last week I passed the nice round number of 50. It’s a bit more work, but honestly it’s kinda fun, and I have to try to use up my web storage space somehow. Yeah, I still need to make an RSS feed for them, I know that. I have some vacation days coming up in the next few months, so maybe I’ll get to it then.

I mentioned the garden a long time ago, and despite a rather brutal heat spell a couple weeks back, it’s now growing and thriving more than it ever has. Due to some diligent composting by TG and a lot of groundwork by me, our expanded beds have provided us with lots to eat this summer.

First off, we have the basil plants. We have several varieties, and what started out as three small plants has not only taken over nearly the entire herb garden bed, but have re-seeded around themselves, leaving small plants growing out of our brick path and a small planter that was sitting nearby (the picture area is roughly 4 x 2 feet). We’ve made batch upon batch of pesto, and from the looks of the new growth I’m going to have to make some more this weekend.


Next up, we have our swiss shard, which went through a really productive stage before being beat back by the heat (and is now back again). This stuff is amazing in soups or even sauteed up by itself with some diced onion and balsamic vinegar.

Swiss Shard!

On a whim, we planted a single small chili pepper plant and it has completely gone off. We both like hot food, but these little peppers are so strong that it only takes two of them to do an entire batch of soup or stir fry. They’re strong enough that you don’t want to cut them up and then go to the bathroom anytime soon unless you’ve washed your hands really well. I found that out the hard way. We’ll probably end up making some chili paste out of them.

hot pepper!

We have a couple green pepper plants, a single sweet gypsy pepper plant, and a couple red pepper plants as well. Although we’ve gotten quite a few from each plant so far this year, all of them seem to be absolutely flourishing right now. It’s hard to tell, but this shot is of the top of a single plant, where there are at least six peppers all growing near one another. The entire plant has something like ten to fifteen peppers growing on it, and that is repeated for each plant. So yeah, we’re going to be eating lots of peppers soon.

green peppers!

One of our experiments for the year was to grow some viney plants, and our luck with them is hit or miss. The butternut squash plant has gone insane, spreading all around our beds and forcing us to wind and re-wind the vines around as it continues to grow. We have between 8-12 butternut squashes growing right now in various sizes. Kick-ass soup will be made with these.

butternut squash!

Lastly, we have the lone pumpkin that has grown from our pumpkin plant. Like the squash, the vines are snaking all over the place, but it’s just not putting out. This little fella is cute enough, I suppose, but I was hoping for at least a single pumpkin big enough to carve (or make cinnamon-pumpkin ice cream out of).


We also have some huge tomato plants, carrots, and a couple other things, but everybody has tomatoes and ours are going through sort of a quiet streak right now.

Needless to say, our little garden experiment has gone really well this year. We even had enough raspberries to make homemade ice cream with earlier in the summer, and our grapes (Concord, not the greatest) fed the squirrels and birds for weeks. Once again, we learned a lot about what grows well and where, so hopefully next year is even more successful for us.

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