When Out And About Tomorrow Night

My band, “Elephant in the Room”, will be playing at the Outpost in Ramsey Saturday night at 9PM.

It came up pretty suddenly – so our leather-lunged lead singer Tommy “The H Bomb” Huynh won’t be interrupting his family vacation for it.     It’ll be the old, four-piece version of EITR.

Anyway – come on out to the Outpost Saturday night.  You never know what’ll happen!

Swirl

I started this blog 16.5 years ago – and one of the things I learned early on was that the key to making it work, day in, day out, through writers block and manic creative bursts, was to write to a schedule; whether it was a couple times a day or twice a week, just write, even – maybe especailly – if it was krep.

This past few months my cycle has been more “block” than “maniacially creative”.  It’s been a busy, exhausting couple of months for a variety of personal reasons – most of them very good, but pretty taxing.

I’ve been though the cycle often enough to know it’ll pass; I doubt I’ll ever feel the creative doldrums like i did in 2011, after throwing myself neck-deep into writing about the 2010 gubernatorial race and coming out completely exhausted.

But you know what they say – the first step is admitting you’re overstretched and exhausted!

Much more to come.

Play Stupid Games, Get Stupid Prizes

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Story 1:

Some guy riding a bicycle in downtown Minneapolis at 11:30 at night.  Blows a red light, collided with a motorcycle and was struck by a car.

Plainly, the drivers of the motorcycle and car, being wanton spewers of carbon dioxide poisoning our Mother the Earth, were at fault for failing to recognize the moral superiority of the bicycle rider and to acknowledge his right to disregard the traffic laws governing lesser mortals

Story 2:

Some gal riding a bicycle in Stillwater weaves around the barrier and falls into the river when the lift bridge began to rise.

Plainly, the bridge operator and the pilot of the boat for whom the bridge was opening, being wanton spewers of carbon dioxide poisoning our Mother the Earth, were at fault for failing to recognize the moral superiority of the bicycle rider and to acknowledge her right to disregard traffic laws governing lesser mortals.

Plainly, there is a crisis in Minnesota.  When will Governor Dayton act??  When??

As biking has become more popular (especially in places like the Twin Cities, were perverse incentives drive a lot of people to bikes), it’s axiomatic that a lot of those new people will not know what they’re doing.

Anniversary

In 1998, I’d had a pretty busy couple of decades.

I’d started in radio (koff koff) 19 years earlier, in 1979.  That lasted until about 1992, when – tired of trying to raise two kids with another one on the way on $7 an hour, I got into technical writing – mostly writing user manuals, online help, reports and fdjdjweim asklssssssssssssss….

…sorry  I fell asleep just remembering that phase of my career.  Technical writing didn’t agree with me much.   It was good for me – it got me into the software business – but a good technical writer is a stickler for details in a way that I really just don’t much care to be.

I’d been a technical writer for about a year, working at the old Cray Research facility in Eagan, when I ran into a fellow tech writer who was in charge of building a “usability lab” – a room where users could be observed doing the jobs they were supposed to be doing on Cray software, noting the problems they had, developing trends, and eventually making recommendations on how to design the software to be easier to learn, less obtuse – better.

And I thought – instead of explaining how to work with badly designed software, why not just design the software to be more self-explanatory, and make more money and get more respect in the bargain?

It wasn’t quite that easy; at the time, user interface / human factors / Human Computer Interaction design was seen rarely outside of highly regulated industries like medical devices or defense contractors.

And most of them had masters degrees in industrial, cognitive or experimental psychology.   I had a BA in English.

But I spent four years of spare time reading, practicing designing things, and learning about the trade from the few people I could find as mentors.  And twenty years ago today, I walked into my first User Experience job at StorageTek in Brooklyn Park.

And, to my amazement, succeeded.  For twenty years.

Some Of Their Best Friends…

UPPER MIDDLE CLASS NPR-LISTENING WHOLE FOODS SHOPPING DEMOCRATS FROM GOOD NEIGHBORHOODS WITH “GOOD SCHOOLS”:  “The problem with Republicans is that they’re just so racist”.

EVENTS:  “Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Upper Middle Class Democrat from a Nice Neighborhood:  We’re going to fulfill a liberal goal and start busing your kids and seriously integrating your school district”.

UPPER MIDDLE CLASS NPR-LISTENING WHOLE FOODS SHOPPING DEMOCRATS FROM GOOD NEIGHBORHOODS WITH “GOOD SCHOOLS”:  “No – we’re the good kind of racist!”

The Blog Can Drive

And for its sixteenth birthday vehicle, it chooses a 1968 Lotus 49.

Shot In The Dark started sixteen years ago today.  I was in my isolated basement cube at a doomed startup just about the time the dotcom bubble started popping.  I read an article on Time.com about this new phenomenon, blogging, bringing unprecedented number of people to the marketplace of ideas.

Having been a frustrated pundit in my twenties, it called out to me; I started reading Andrew Sullivan, and that night I went out to Blogger.com and started “Shot in the Dark”.

The neighborhood’s changed since then.  Other blogs have come and gone.  Others – Ed Morrissey, Powerline – made it big, and turned into self-sustaining ventures.

Me?  I just kept on writing.  And here I am today.

Anyway – thanks to all of you for joining me on this ride.  It’s never gotten old.

Kind of like the Lotus 49.

Rumors Of Demise Greatly Exaggerated

Blogging is dead.

It has been for a while.  Andrew Sullivan – my blogfather – wrote about it not all that long ago (in re the death of The Awl, a blog I don’t lament in the least)

William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection attempts an autopsy of blogging – at least, of blogging as a cultural phenomenon and business model.  Both were killed by the loathsome Twitter:

Social media really is a sewer, and I attribute much of the evaporation of the blogosphere to Twitter. It’s much easier to find an instant audience on Twitter than to build the relationship with readers to get them to come to your website. Twitter pundits are the worst pundits, counting their worth based on “followers” (many of whom are fake and purchased). The NY Times had an amazing expose on the purchasing of Twitter followers in order to create a fake reality of popularity that then can be monetized as an “influencer.”

The financial pressures also are real, as ever-increasing demand for clicks to drive dwindling advertising payout creates so much noise it’s hard to be heard. And yes, the financial pressures are real in this superheated media environment.

Monday will be my sixteenth anniversary as a blogger.  I’ve never been especially sensitive to the ups and downs of the field; I never became a superstar like John Hinderaker or Ed Morrissey or Rachel Lucas.    I didn’t go down in a wave of shame and humiliation, either, like Duncan Black or Oliver Willis or pretty much a anyone who ever blogged for “Minnesota Progressive Project”.  It’s always pretty much just been me, with the odd contribution from First Ringer (and, back in the day, Johnny Roosh and Bogus Doug).

And it was about the time Twitter and its hordes of droogs took over the job of facile instant political analysis that people stared hitting the gates.

And, like the other highs and lows, I didn’t care.  Twitter bores me stiff.  I use it mosty to promote the show, and to gauge the cowardice of liberal politicians (the ones that routinely block conservatives are, in fact, gutless cravens).

But the “death” of blogging interests me not in the least.   I got into it because I enjoyed writing.  And while I’ve gotten the odd paycheck out of the deal – back in 2007, I think I was gettting $200/months in ad revenue, which has plunged to maybe $100/year lately) and my annual pledge drive always adds a nice bump to the vacation budget, I do it for the pure unadulterated love of writing stuff for people to read.

Dead, schmead.  As far as I”m concerned, it’s just beginning.

And Here You Go

After about 32 years of trying to write music, a year of recording stuff, and a few months of frantic planning, it’s here:  the debut (and who knows, likely final) album by my band, The Supreme Soviet of Love.

See Red goes onsale today at your favorite music online music retailer:

The album includes a few songs that date back to the eighties – “Fourth of July”, “Chicago” and “Great Northern Avenue” are songs I used to play with bands back at the Seventh Street Entry way back when.

Others – “The Wonders Each New Day Brings”, “Almost Monday” and “Snake”, among others – are things I wrote in the past year, largely to prove to myself that the whole thing wasn’t just a nostalgia exercise.

And a couple others – “Shotgun”, “The Ugly LIghts” – split the difference; they’re lyrical reboots of ideas that’ve been knocking around my head for years, sometimes decades.

Anyway – the album is on sales as of today:

Coming soon (like, probably today) on:

  • iHeart Radio
  • YouTube Music
  • Spotify
  • Pandora

And hey – it’s priced to move!

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind y’all one last time:


Tomorrow (Saturday) Night:  Elephant in the Room (rock and roll covers, ’50s-’90s) at the Sundance in Maple Grove

8-12PM.  No cover.


Sunday Night:  Album Release Party; The Supreme Soviet of Love at O‘Gara’s in Saint Paul

5-9PM:  $5 cover.


Hope to see you there!

2017 Tour

Waaaay back last summer, when I  planned to release a Supreme Soviet of Love album, I picked a date:  November 12.  A Sunday night.  Few conflicts, start and finish times early enough to get everyone home for the evenings news – perfect!

My other band, “Elephant in the Room”, after taking taking a few months off to learn new material and change lineup, on the other hand, spent most of the year looking for a gig.

Any gig.

So between scheduleing a Supreme Soviet of Love gig for November 12 way back in July, and today, what happened?

Of course Elephant in the Room landed a gig for November 11.

So talk about this weekend!.


Saturday, November 11 – the Sundance in Maple Grove

Elephant in the Room will be playing at the Sundance in Maple Grove from 8 to midnight.  

EITR does classic rock covers from the 1950s through the 1990s – a grab bag of Elvis, the Kinks, Ian Hunter, the Cars, Bad Company, the Stones, the Who, Jimi Hendrix, the Eagles, Steve Miller, Tom Petty, John Mellencamp, Johnny Cash…

…well, pretty much anything that grabs you from that entire forty year period.

And the Sundance – which I just visited for the first time last weekend – is a nice place; bowling, golf (probably not much of that ’til spring), good pizza, decent beer selection, “Steak Night” on Saturdays ’til 8PM (just $10!), and, of course, live entertainment.  That’d be us, of course.  No cover that I”m aware of, which makes it even nicer.

It feels like it’s way out there – but it’s actually super easy to get to:

It should be a fun night and a fun gig.

Hope you can make it!


Sunday, November 12 – O’Gara’s in Saint Paul

This gets complicated, so stick with me, here:

“The Supreme Soviet of Love” will be having the album release party for its first (and wjho knows, maybe only) album, See Red this coming Sunday at O’Gara’s.

See Red includes a bunch of songs – a couple of them going back to the 1980s (we’ve encountered some of them here), and a whole lot more that I wrote in the past year just to prove to myself that the whole thing wasn’t a nostalgia exercise.

Who knows – it may have been both.  I don’t know.  And I don’t care!

The Supreme Soviet of Love will go onstage at 8PM, and come hell or high water we’ll be out of there by 9PM;  you’ll be home in plenty of time for the 10PM evening news, or the 10PM rerun of Walking Dead if that’s what you prefer.

There’s a $5 cover – 100% of which goes to pay the rest of the band.  Me?  I’m hoping to sell CDs (and they’ll be on sale there, as well as available for download on iTunes, Amazon or wherever you like to get your music from.

And by the way, the opening act, going on stage at 6:30ish, will be…

…Elephant in the Room.  Yep.  I’ll be opening for myself.    That’s one way to save money!

I’ll be hanging out after loadout until they kick me out of there, for anyone who wants to talk politics, music, beer, food, or whatever you got.


So I hope, in an ideal world, you can make both shows; the Sundance could become a regular gig if we draw a lot of people, and of course the album release party has been on my bucket list since Ronald Reagan was president.

Either one would be great, though!

Swinging Singles

As I noted last March, I’ve been playing guitar for 40 years.

I moved to the Twin Cities 32 years ago, largely to try to be a musician.

And since either or both of those events, I’ve been dreaming about making this announcement:

My first single [1], “The Wonders Each New Day Brings”, is out today.  It’s on most of your major music vendors:

Amazon.

iTunes

(It’s also on Pandora, Spotify and any number of other music services)

The album See Red is also available for pre-order; it will be released 11/10.

[1] OK, it’s technically a “Teaser Track”, not a single.  I don’t care.

Art Of Noise

So the Supreme Soviet of Love’s first album, See Red, is off to the printers.   My son Zam – who’s in school for graphic design – did the front cover art:

So I’m committed now.  The album goes on sale on November 10 (I hope), on both CD and digital  download; with a little luck the “teaser” (they used to be called “Singles”), currently a song called “The Wonders Each New Day Brings”, should come out a week from today, if all goes well.

So – hope you can make it to the Release Party for “See Red”, November 12 at O’Gara’s in Saint Paul!

World Tour 2017

Boy, is the weekend of November 10-12 going to be busy.

First – one of my bands, “Elephant in the Room”, is going to be playing at the Sundance in Maple Grove:

If you’re in the Northwest Suburbs that night, I hope you can stop by!

And then the next night, November 12, my other band, the Supreme Soviet of Love is having the release party for our first album, “See Red”, at O’Gara’s:

Doors open at 5PM, and the Supreme Soviet of Love goes on at 8PM.  Come on down, have a beer, enjoy a few tunes, hang out after for the closest thing to a MOB party I’ve been able to put together in a while!

Maybe I’ll print tour t-shirts…

George Barron

When people talk about what is wrong with American education today, at the end of the day most of the answers come back as some variation of “there aren’t more teachers out there like George Barron used to be”.

George Barron was my high school chemistry teacher…sort of.  He passed away late last month.

I say he was “sort of” my chemistry teacher because it didn’t really go well.  I mention this lest you think that this is going to turn into one of those Pollyanna-ish stories about teachers – Stand and Deliver or Mister Holland’s Opus or Watch Misplaced Teacher Turn The Meth-Heads Into Math-Heads or whatever –  where some plucky teacher triumphs over the recalcitrant kid (and the system that keeps them down, natch) and teaches everyone the Big Lesson by the end of the story.   It’s not.

Well, not directly.  Indirectly, it very much is.  But we’ll come back to that.

A solid generation before I took his chemistry class, George Barron was – or so I was told – a Navy dive-bomber pilot.  He didn’t talk about the war – none of the small group of teachers that were WWII veterans ever did – although he did make sure we knew that, during the war, he trusted his life to a tailgunner not much older than we.  Us, on the other hand?  He didn’t trust us to fetch donuts from the bakery. We had a way to go before we got there.

Judging by old high school annuals, Mr. Barron got out of the Navy, came to Jamestown, and became a chemistry teacher.  I know he was teaching when my father was a student, back in the fifties; he was still there when my dad came back to teach in the mid-sixties, and he was still teaching in 1979 when I was a sophomore in high school.  His legend preceded him; you learned a lot from his classes (Jamestown High School produced an inordinate number of doctors and scientists in those days, all of them alums of Barron’s classes), but he was tough.  .

I was not.  Not academically, at least.  I’d spent 9th and 10th grade bored out of my skull; English was a mind-numbing reiteration of grammar classes; History was taught by football coaches who had read less of the material than I had; but for languages (three years of German), Orchestra and Stage Band, I had pretty well checked out.

Which wasn’t a great start.

Toward the end of my sophomore year, as we were signing up for next year’s classes, we got a mimeographed sheet from Mr. Barron explaining that:

  • People who wanted to go to college took Chemistry.  People who wanted to go to Vocational school took “Practical Chemistry” from Barron’s associate, Mr. Scherbenske.  People who wanted neither, took neither.
  • He was tough, and made no excuses for it.  He had standards, and if you didn’t measure up, you’d get an “F”.

The page included a list of students who’d succeeded, and students who’d dropped the class – which struck me as a little odd at the time.  But I signed up anyway.

Of course, on top of everything else my junior year, Chemistry hit me like a truck.  Oh, Mr. Barron’s class hit everyone like a truck – but I was really, truly not ready for that.   I was disorganized, didn’t really have the math down, and just could not keep up.

I’d love to say there was an inspirational speech, or some moment standing at the blackboard trying to calculate a reaction where I had a blinding flash of epiphany that would be presented in a movie with a montage of late-night studying, slow improvement, and cutaway shots of Mr. Barron’s implacable grimace slowly softening into the hint of a smile.

But that’s Hollywood.  Me?  I cratered.  After my first six-weeks’ grade (a solid “F”), I dropped the class.  No, I didn’t switch to study hall; I managed to talk my way into Latin I; I started seven weeks behind the rest of the class, and caught up by the end of the semester.

My other classes?  I jumped from the C’s and D’s and occasional F’s of my first two years of high school to mostly A’s and B’s.  This was also my first year at the radio station – and I threw myself into that as well, and learned a lot of radio by the end of the year.  Part of it was that I was finally taking classes I cared about, and taking them from teachers who actually cared about the material themselves – my dad’s speech class, writing and a few others in particular.

Part of it was to not only live down, but expunge the stench of “quitting”.

Toward the end of my junior year, a sophomore friend handed me a copy of Mr. Barron’s mimeograph for the next year’s class. My stomach fell down my leg in an icy ball of confusion; I was listed among the kids who’d dropped the class.

My first reaction was to hunt him down and make him eat a bunson burner.  But the girl who’d sat behind me in class – let’s call her Lori – said “he’s just putting you out there as an example of a smart kid who didn’t gel with the class”.  It may have been BS, but I felt a little better.

The main point being, I spent the rest of that year, and the next, living that scarlet “Q” down.  And through four years of college, where I averaged over 20 credits a semester.  And the decades since, where in trial after trial, “don’t quit” has been the only real palatable solution.

And I owe that to Mr. Barron.

His “practical chem” colleague, another former Barron student, and my dad’s chess partner, Mr. Scherbenske, wrote a memorial to Mr. Barron in my hometown paper that sums the man up pretty well.

When Making Your Weekend Plans Two Months Out

It’s the working cover…

Looking for an early Sunday night out?  Block out the evening of November 12 at O’Gara’s in Saint Paul for my band, “The Supreme Soviet Of Love“, and the album release party (and only live date) for our first (and maybe only) album, See Red. 

Doors open at 5PM.   The opening act (“Elephant in the Room”) opens the show with a set of covers from the ’60s through the ’90s.   The SSOLs set begins at 8PM sharp.

Need a sample?  Here  you go

Anyway – I’ll post the EventBrite later this month.

I’m not quite gonna call it “The MOB Winter Party” – but if any Mobsters wanna show up for a drink or two after the gig (and before teardown), I’m totally there.

Long Weekend?

I’m taking an exceedingly rare sick day today.

Given that there’s a Holiday weekend coming up, I may not do a lot of regular posting until Wednesday.

Enjoy the weekend!

Our Passive-Aggressive Overlords

A friend of the blog writes:

Thought you’d enjoy this, from the people who say, “it’s not about entitlement for bicyclists, and we don’t hate cars” oh really? Yet you say Summit Ave should look like this, congested for one bike rider?

 

Which links to…:

First things first: I love biking. I love biking on Summit. And there are days when Summit, especially down by Lexington, does look exactly like that.

But the correspondent is right.  When you watch “Urban Planners” (the people who make cyclocentrism possible) when they think nobody’s watching, the level of Urban Minnesotan Passive-Aggression is nauseating.  The primary goal is as much about sticking it to drivers as it is about “bike-friendliness”; de-timing stoplights, putting obstacles and chicanes in roads to “calm” (read: snarl) traffic, and giving away traffic lanes to bikes, transit and trains.

Or whatever.  As long as the Car People end up getting pissed on.

Pledge Week!

It’s time once again for my annual pledge drive.

‘m not going to go all Andrew Sullivan and say “If I don’t raise $80K, the blog will have to shut down”.  As I’ve said before – I’d do this blog for free, and I’d do it for five readers a day (not counting myself).  But I’m not above passing the hat once in a while.

But if you like the blog, and it’s worth a few bucks, I appreciate every dime of support I get during my annual pledge week (which is usually more like 2-3 days – try that with MPR!)

I thank you in advance for any donations, and thank you for your support over this past fifteen years.

I Want To Ride My Bicycle, Year 11, Day 1

Why yes – it was ten years ago I started biking to work again.

Of course, I haven’t had ten straight years of biking.  After four years of working downtown (in easy biking distance), I followed up with a year of working someplace with a sixteen mile ride across Saint Paul, Minneapolis, Saint Louis Park and all the way to Hopkins, and then a few years where biking was just not practical.    I had a job two years ago that involved a fairly interesting ride from Saint Paul to Bloomington – but that ended after five months.

But now that I work out of my house (fingers crossed, knock wood), the time is right again.

So I got out and rode to downtown Saint Paul yesterday.

And I was surprised.  For not having ridden much in the past two years, it could have been a lot worse.  My legs actually worked the rest of the day, and when I woke up this morning.  Which was more than I could say ten years ago, when I started for the first time.

But I think I’ll give the legs a day off today…