Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Misunderstanding at Kroger

So I was at the grocery store last night and I saw Riley there. I said "Hey" and he said "Oh hey. I was just earlier reading your Japan blog," referring to the Make thing, I guess. I replied "Oh, yeah, I have fun doing that" and then he said "Uh, ok, I will."

I realized that he must have missed the "I" in my sentence, and thought that I had said "have fun doing that" like, as if to say "have fun reading the stuff that I wrote" which I'm sure sounded totally vain and stupid. It all happened too fast, and as soon as I realized that he had not understood what I said, he was like "well I gotta go get some rice" and that was it.

This was over by where the Mexican and Asian products are, near the produce. It's a good place to get rice. Mexicans and Asians, they both love that stuff.

The puzzling nature of this event lingered with me until a few minutes later, when I turned a corner in the cereal aisle and saw Jared. He told me that certain types of cheese (both shredded and in blocks) were on sale for 99 cents and showed me what he got. I told him about the misunderstanding I had just experienced, and he got a kick out of it and told me not to worry. Jared and Riley, they work at the same place, you see.

So Riley, if by chance you ever read this, I just want to say sorry. It was just a little misunderstanding, man. I'm not like that, I promise. It's so wild to think about what a difference one syllable can make.


Lest you think I am a total a-hole for hating on The Decemberists in my last post, I will now take this time to clown myself.

I was asked to play a show that's coming up, and here's what they put for my description:


Did they invent a new genre for me? I would have thought that blogrock would be more danceable, a little bit more stylish than what I do. Like the Icicle Monkeys or whatever. The real question though, is, does this mean that I should retire from music, blogging, or both?

Phrases That Are Now "Owned" By Pop Songs

In musicals people seem to break out into song all the time. People (at least the ones I hang out with, sappy folks that they are) are always saying things like that they wish they lived in that kind of world, the world where people are always just bursting out into song. But sometimes, in my mind, I sort of feel like I live in that world. Sometimes I hear something and have to do all that I can to hold myself back from "bringin' the noize" at an otherwise unmusical moment. Allow me explain.

You know how there are certain phrases that sometimes come up and you can't help but just bust out into song when you hear them? Well, with the help of the friends around me, I've been compiling a list of these phrases for a while now, and I think that by listing them I might just get a better sense of how infectiously musical life really is. I won't say what the songs are, because if you don't know, then maybe these phrases aren't as synonymous with these songs as I thought. This is a test. Here goes:

  • I'm so excited.
  • It's been a while.
  • Taking care of business.
  • Say my name.
  • Isn't it ironic?
  • You're so vain.
  • Straight up.
  • That's just the way it is.
  • Help!
  • I think we're alone now.
  • Wake me up.
  • It was good.
  • All night long.
  • What's goin' on?
  • That's what friends are for.
  • You can't touch this.
  • You're never gonna get it.
  • It's too late.
  • I like big butts.
  • There goes the neighborhood.
  • Cry me a river.
  • Alright, stop.
I forgot a few. Some were written on a napkin at the Super Bowl. Others were written on my hand and have since washed off. Remind me. Or make suggestions. Good ones. Ones that show that you "get it," if at all possible.

Do some of these totally not ring a bell? If so, let me know. This is important research I am doing here.

P.S. The first person to tell me who the guy with the accordion is in that picture gets a special prize. I can tell you this much, he is certainly proving that one song from Ishtar to be wrong:
Telling the truth can be dangerous business;
Honest and popular don't go hand in hand.
If you admit that you play the accordion,
No one will hire you in a rock 'n' roll band.
Of course we all know that bands like The Decemberists (a band whose popularity I have never understood) have made accordions cool again. This will be my next list: What are some bands who everyone else seems to go ga-ga for but that you just don't get? Go ahead, be mean, it's ok. We live in a sphere of buzz, and you vocally not liking them will not do anything to make them less popular. I'll get things started with an obvious one: The White Stripes. Or oh, what about The Polyphonic Spree. Ew, I know.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Here's Some Super-Important Stuff

Hello friend! It's good to see you again. Oh, the catching up that we have to do.

First off, thanks to Sarah from Virginia for another great picture of Flea in his signature stuffed animal pants. It is always a pleasure to host pictures of Flea during his greatest era. This one comes to us in the popular GIF format. You thought you knew GIFs, but I bet you've never seen them like this before huh?

I had a pretty good trip to Utah. I am glad to say that I had about as much fun as you are allowed to have when someone has died recently (the actual limit, if you are interested, is 27 jollies). I got to see some Dwight Schrute stencil graffiti, a rare DVD copy of Rubin and Ed, and a bunch of my relatives, including my uncle Paul, who surprised us all when he dressed up as Pee-Wee Herman one night. He really knows how to lighten the mood when everyone has just come home from a viewing! Before this grand exhibition, my mom kept asking him "Now why did you say you need white dress socks again?" and he refused to tell what they were for. It was most triumphant.

I went to Deseret Book to check out the new Mormon Comedy DVDs, and there were a few tempting titles, most notably the Pinewood Derby-themed movie called Down and Derby starring Pat Morita (you know, Mr. Miyagi from Karate Kid, died recently) as the token non-Mormon actor in an otherwise made-for-Mormon movie. I didn't buy it, so someone should go ahead and get that one for me for my birthday, which is coming up pretty soon. I was hoping to find a title as compelling as last year's Church Ball, but nothing really grabbed me. Weird, I know.

All of this fuenral/Utah action took place over the week that was supposed to be spring break. What's strange is that I told myself that I didn't deserve a spring break this year, and then circumstances beyond my control forced me to go on a trip for the week anyway. Funny how that works.

Speaking of spring break, I was also reminded today that I still have $200 in traveler's checks in my bag from last year's spring break that I haven't used. Last year I went to Puerto Rico and couldn't spend more than $50 in traveler's checks no matter how hard I tried. Those were the days! I guess life is pretty good if I can have $200 in traveler's checks just sitting around, not needing to use them yet.

Speaking of money, did you know that our nation is in a financial crisis? Money traders in the Netherlands don't even want to take dollars because they are so crappy. True story. Maybe I should turn those traveler's checks into something a little more real, like a plow and some seeds.

Speaking of investments, $100 and about four weeks of waiting has brought me 20 of these:
20 smug looks? 20 Iowa shirts? 20 yellow hats? No, silly! 20 copies of the Prayer Breakfast's Small American on 12" LP. Everyone put in $100 and we got 100 copies of the record to split up 5 ways. For those of you who went to high school in Indiana, that means 20 records for each of us. I think. If you want one and I think you deserve it, they're $12. It comes with a free MP3 download like they're doing these days. If I sell all of these, I am projecting to make some BIG DOLLARS that I will put towards buying some solar panels and an electric scooter or something so that when the gasoline meltdown happens, I can tool around like an idiot.

Chocolate Skittles
Also very important:
I know what you're thinking: Chocolate Skittles -> horrible idea. Right? But, guess what? These are ACTUALLY PRETTY GOOD. I ate them while separating them out by color, and I can honestly say that they taste like what they claim to be, and it is actually pretty not gross, good in fact. Once you forget that Skittles are supposed to be fruity, this product totally makes sense. The Brownie Batter flavor is incredibly accurate.

Let's see, what else... I started messing around with Lily last night (whoa, out of context, that sounds bad), and once I figured out how to get help for the objects, I think that I can see this thing being a lot of fun. What is Lily? Not some hot chick, that's for sure. Far from it. The simplest way to put it is like this: It's like Max/MSP (VERY similar in its patch-cable-style programming, some of the objects are exactly the same in fact), but instead of controlling sound, it manipulates web content. You know, the internext! So the question now becomes: What do I do with this? I'm still sort of trying to figure that out, but I have some ideas for wicked brain freezes in the future. Something that will take the whole slab of what I've written here on this blog and manipulate it in a funny way. I have ideas.

In closing, here are nine controversial and unsubstantiated opinions:

  1. I dunno, I don't think that voting for a president based on sexiness is a bad thing. I mean, think about it. It just works out.
  2. Vampire Weekend. I don't get it. What's good about this band? Maybe that magazine is called Spin for a reason.
  3. Jimmy John's makes the best wheat bread in town. Prove me wrong, please!
  4. The scientific study of hallucinogens under controlled circumstances should continue. Dude, Crick was high on acid when he discovered the double helix, and nobody fronts on him. But yeah.
  5. Any Rush album after and including Presto is crap. Face it. Might as well be Yanni.
  6. Garfield Minus Garfield isn't that funny. Do you have to have absurdity calluses built up from watching years of Adult Swim for this to have any effect?
  7. Speaking of Adult Swim, Eric from Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! used to be in the band Elements of Need. How weird is that?
  8. HDTV is totally unexciting. The future offers us... wider, more expensive TVs? I don't know about you, but I've never been watching TV and thought "I wish there was more definition, or something." There is documented proof that this is a fabricated need.
  9. The internet is for babies. Let the babies have their way.
In even more closing, I leave you with this clip from the cool movie Triumph of the Nerds, a clip of a groovily long-haired Steve Jobs doing what he does best: belittling people because he can.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Overhead Tomahawk - Epic Frisbee Golf Movie

I was involved in the making of Overhead Tomahawk, the world's worst/best/worst/only frisbee golf (or frolf, as Jane magazine calls it) movie.

Check it:

I'm not sure whether to apologize or feel an incredible sense of accomplishment.

Also, my installments of Made in Japan pt. 4 and pt. 5 have hit the streets over on the MAKE blog. Hide the children! This happens every week, so I might just make a little widget to put in the sidebar that automatically links to the updates instead of announcing it like a chump.

I'm off to Utah in a few hours. I got asked to give the closing prayer at the funeral. I hope I don't get prayer stage fright! In the meantime, I will keep you posted with lots of India-transcribed songblogs and maybe a few pictures of the stuffed animal pants that those Sean Hannity fans in Utah are known to wear (you get my insinuendo, don't you?)

Monday, March 10, 2008

I Hereby Coin the Term "Googlooping"

Googlooping: When you notice traffic from unexpected search terms to your site and then turn around and intentionally create content about these weird search terms to further trick Google into thinking you are relevant to this search term. And who knows, maybe by writing about it, you might actually become relevant to those search terms.

For example, on my Feedburner stats, it tells me that people come here looking for images of Flea's stuffed animal pants. Or stuff about Brenna Lee Roth, Indian long fingernails, and of course "Fuller, go easy on the Pepsi." There are also quite a few hits for "redheaded twins" which is kind of creepy. By writing about these phrases, I am further increasing my Googleability for these phrases, even though they really don't have anything to do with my site. This creates loops of relevance, sort of giving people what they want, Googlooping my way up the ranks.

Recently I was told of a guy who blogged about needing an "appendix of jokes" that he had told to his friends so that he wouldn't tell the same joke twice. He started to notice that he was getting a lot of hits from searches for "appendix jokes," and so he decided to give the people what they want and to go ahead and post a bunch of jokes about appendixes. Now I am told that he is a major player on the internet appendix joke scene. It's an internet success story, thanks to Googlooping.

For now, this seems to work, but I suspect as the internet gets smarter, this will be harder to pull off. Googlooping. Seriously, try it, it works. You heard it from me, the internet authority on stuffed animal pants, Hesser machines for packing cabbage, amazing palindromes,, and also stuffed animal pants.

Giving the people what they want.

Introducing Little BlogSongs

Allow me for a moment to take a break from blogging about Flea's stuffed animal pants so that I may introduce a use for Twitter that I think is actually pretty un-WikiChump.

How this call came about:

Despite all the buzz, I always thought that Twitter was taking it a little bit too far with the who microblogging thing. I mean, like seriously, who cares where you are going to get coffee. It's just a little too precious, dontcha think? With people posting the minutia of their lives via cell phone, it seems to be made for people who want to get stalked. So yeah, I always kind of rolled my eyes when I heard people talk about it. I only have one friend who uses it, Kyle, and he doesn't even use it very often, and when he does, it is not about where he is getting coffee. Well anyway, I subscribed to his feed on RSS, and today he sent out this question:

"what did jennifer aniston call the pins on her sash at the restaurant in office space?"*
I was like "Oooooooooooooooh! I know this! Please let me be the first person to answer!" like a kid going buck waving his hand in science class when the teacher asks if anyone knows why bubbles float to the top of water. So I went to his thing, and then I was like, I don't get it, where do you post your comment? So I signed up and got an account to see if that would allow me to comment, but that option did seem to be there. Now I was stuck with a Twitter account. Sneaky...

The thing with Twitter is, I can understand the benefits of blogging via cell phone, but I hate texting, it just sucks. It's a horribly inefficient way to communicate. It always thinks you're trying to say "Asian" when you are actually trying to say "Brian."** On the one hand, there is a certain haiku-like simplicity to some Twitter posts, but why not just write resolve to write briefly on a regular blog? That way if your post does happen go over 120 characters or whatever it is, you'll still be ok. Anyway, I can see the appeal of posting stuff on-the-go, but I don't want to text.... So....

So I Googled around a bit and found, a service that lets you call a toll-free number and say something, and then it transcribes your words into text and sends it to a place you tell it to, like, as a Blogger post, to your own email, as a Twitter post, a Google Calendar appointment, etc. This sort of makes sense. With this, maybe this microblogging thing could be tolerable after all. So I try it, and I'll be darned, it works, weirdly well.*** After a little tweaking, I have it set so that I can tell it to send what I say to Twitter. But the secret weapon, and the thing that makes it the killer app for me is that it also includes a tinyurl that links to a sound file of your voice message. Perfect! I now have a lo-fi 30-second song blog, automatically updateable via cell phone. So I don't have to be anywhere near my computer to do this crap. Yeah, the sound quality is crummy, but that's the endearing part, right?

So my goal is to record some kind of music onto it every day - for a month, at first. It'll be added to the sidebar over there on the right, and you can directly click on the tinyurl links right from there, but it can also be a separate subscription from the Twitter feed if you need that (feed readers are too time-saving though, and it ruins the surprise that comes with typing "fu..." into your URL bar, I know...). Hopefully this will keep me in the songwriting mode, and force me to be creative in some way every day. After a month, I'll see how it goes. I'll at least have a fast way to put up little updates, knock-knock jokes, soup recipes, etc. if I need to.

Here's to new, faster ways to say the same old crap!

*This question seemed almost too easy, like it was one of those banner ads that is designed to trick you into thinking that it's an actual contest, like "which one of these people is Tom Cruise?" and then there's a picture of Billy Bob Thornton, Will Smith, and Tom Cruise. I will say that Twitter does seem to be good for getting weird questions answered quickly, as Bre Pettis of ex-Make Weekend Projects podcast now-Etsy fame also wrote (dude, iTunes, duh [j/k!]).

**I find it quite surprising that there isn't some collection of funny T9 predictive text message errors like this anywhere on the internet. Am I looking in the wrong place? Help me! I like NEED this. Maybe this should be the place. Send me your funny T9 errors! We can do this!

***It turns out that the reason why this transcription service works so well is because it is actually done BY HUMANS. IN INDIA. Weird? Yes. Kind of reassuring? Sort of. I hope they like stupid songs. I wonder if they'll try to transcribe the lyrics. That could be amazing.

A Goodbye for Some, a Welcome Home for Others

Sometimes when you are hanging out in someone's room, you start to read their books. I was working on some mixing, and my friend Ryan was sitting on the floor, looking through some of my stuff. He started reading The Times of My Life, which is my grandpa's little self-published autobiography. I thought it was funny that someone else would be so interested in someone else's grandfather, but I didn't really think too much of it. I continued working, he continued reading. After a few minutes of flipping through the book, Ryan said to me "Mike, your grandpa is a badass!" I'm not sure if "badass" was exactly the word, but it was something similar, possibly something worse, something more complexly bad-yet-actually good. He might have said "motherf***er," I don't remember. I do remember thinking that if my grandpa had been there, he might not have realized that Ryan was actually paying a pretty high compliment. It's not very often that people compliment each other's grandfathers, but that's the thing, The Times of My Life is actually a pretty good book.

It didn't come as a complete surprise that he said this, because I sort of knew it all along. Grandpa, the survivor of the depression, the athlete, the Rhodes Scholar, the war veteran, the distinguished professor, the poet, the author of the words to hymn #113 in the Mormon hymnal, the wise sage of our youth, the proud wearer of bolo ties, the gardener, the writer, the quoter of Brit Lit at the dinner table, the story teller, the father, the husband, the lover of roast beef, the grandfather to his grandchildren. He had had an exemplary life, and throughout every page of his book, you could tell that he felt joy and faith in the things that he did. I had enjoyed a few very touching experiences in which I was able to flip through the book with family and friends and tell people about his life, to take it all in, and to wonder if maybe folks were just built differently back then, if greatness was somehow just in their blood, if "walking to school uphill both ways" really did make for better people.

What was the most mind-blowing thing about it all was to see myself in this book, as a young baby. To think that I was part of this story was a really profound thing for me, because naturally, one wonders how their own story compares to the one they are reading. How does the context of my own life compare with what was going on at that time? What sorts of struggles were the same? What sorts of struggles were different? I felt heir to a legacy of integrity, of excellence, and of love. I understood what all the hype about geneology was for: Seeing the life of a loved one unfold on the pages before me gave me a grand sense of the brevity of my time here on this earth as well as the long-reaching effects that a person's life choices can make. It's like facing both life and death, one's strengths and weaknesses, joy and sorrow, all of the extremes of life, all very quickly.

"Here is a life of joy." I had for a long time pondered the difference between happiness and joy, and had thought about the depth of the scripture "Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy." There I could see a life of struggles overcome, fears embraced, and sorrow mourned. Life, it seemed, was not always good, but was still full of joy. Not always happiness, but joy and the love of those whose lives were shared.

It is because of this that I did not feel regret when my mother called earlier this evening to tell me that my grandfather had passed away. When his soul left his body today, he was surrounded by love. He died in his bed, a place where he knew rest, in the house where he lived even after he lost his wife, Eleanor. My mother's mother. Today she greets him in the afterlife, their earthly separation now but a moment, their eyes both now open to the eternities.

Of all the sometimes seemingly hard-to-believe things about religion, one thing that I have never for a second doubted is that our souls live on after we die. I don't know why, but it seems fundamentally impossible that a soul could cease to exist as a soul. I have been told that I have a strong fundamental belief in the harmony God's works, and so maybe that's why it just seems so unwaveringly real. Within the past few weeks I have been thinking about how strange the resurrection is as a concept, because when people will come back, we will all be the same age, or the idea of age will not be part of our bodies.

As someone who has a deep sense of people's age, it's strange to imagine a time when my grandparents and parents and future children will all be hanging out together, but we'll be the same age. My dad will still be my dad, but he will look the same age as me. Maybe I'm missing the big picture, perhaps the whole concept of physical age is not really relevant to the resurrection. The idea of souls living together even after this life is really something amazing, though. That alone is its own little heaven.

Life, it is a hello to the world, and a short goodbye from our Heavenly Father. Death, it is a short goodbye to the world, and a welcome home from our Heavenly Father. This time on earth is precious, as we struggle to make sense of life's challenges and joys. We grow stronger, wiser, and gain in the capacity to love. We learn to love as we have been loved, to give as we have been given, and to grow as we have been planted.

Is American mourning doing it wrong? Are we missing the celebration? Is there too much emphasis on what could have been left to do? The word "funeral" has such a heavy tune to it. What about those people in Africa, the ones who have brightly colored coffins made in the shape of animals or boats or planes, made for carrying their souls into the next life. Why not more like a graduation ceremony, don't they call those commencements? Commencing the next phase, leaving the old you behind. Here's to the new you, grandpa. May colorful birds carry you to your next journey.

There's life in your words, which resound in the hearts of everyone who sings:

Our Savior's love shines like the sun with perfect light.
As from above, it breaks through clouds of strife.
Lighting our way, it leads us back into his sight, where we may stay to share eternal life.


I'll be gone for a few days, to Provo, Utah, the place where I was born, for the funeral and to be with the family. Spring Break 08!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Redneck Pillow Fight

Redneck pillow fight.

I lost. So did the kid after me.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Things NOT to do today:

As I was walking to the post office on 4th street on my way to mail a package, I passed the bus stop on the north side of the street. Anyone who has been there would probably agree that this is one of the most happening places in Bloomington (not like in the "cool" meaning of the word "happening," but that things are always going on, and people seem to be interacting with each other in an intense way as they wait for their buses). People always seem to talk to each other as if they were old acquaintances, and seem to constantly be participating in some sort of contest to see whose problems seem bigger. Accordingly, this corner teems with an energy of both joy and disaster. I used to walk by there twice a day. It's a place that is very alive.

Do you ever feel like the luckiest person in the world? Today I did. As I walked past the bus stop, a bus took off. A man who seemed to be in his mid-20's emerged from the indoor bust stop vending machine area, and was visibly peeved that he had missed the bus that had just departed. He made a face as if to say "Aw mannn. Not again!" He had been doing something else and the bus had left on him.

I know you are probably thinking that I am an a-hole for saying that it made me feel lucky to see someone miss the bus. But there's a very important detail still left to be revealed in this story: This man who missed his bus was wearing a shirt that had these words printed on it:

Things NOT to do today:
Pay attention
The fact that this man had decided one day to purchase this particular shirt at Hot Topic or some other outfitter for rebellious attire, coupled with the fact that his t-shirt was even visible due to today's unseasonably warm weather, coupled with the sheer chance that I just happened to walk by at the right time to witness this event, it was one of those moments when I felt like I had just seen the most poetic thing to be happening on the planet at that particular instant. Aside from the empathy that I felt for the poor fellow missing his bus, it really did just feel so perfect.

Have you ever felt that way? That you might actually be witness to the most _____ thing in the world at that moment? I don't think I'm particularly lucky, but when I put myself in this mindset of wondering if I am witnessing some sort of world-best for an infinite number of bizarre categories (Could this actually be the most delicious smoothie to exist on the planet right now? Is what I am hearing in fact the most irritating put-on-hold telephone waiting music to ever be created? Is this indeed the most pointless blog entry ever posted?), I find that I feel incredibly lucky.

I hope the guy made it to wherever he was needing to go without too much trouble, I really do. But, people like us who scoff at Hot Topic t-shirts, although we see them as being in bad taste, we would be foolish to think that we are exempt from the universal and blind force of irony. Here's how I see it: Even if you think the joke is on the shirt, the joke will someday inevitably be on you.

For example, I tempt this cosmic fate of irony by sometimes wearing a shirt that says "Enjoy Indianapolis" in lettering that imitates the "Enjoy Coca-Cola" ad campaign. To me, the joke is on the shirt, because let's face it, there's not that much to enjoy about the city of Indianapolis, besides the fact that Jared Fogel lives there. But wearing this shirt sets me up for something potentially horrible to happen, for my shirt to one day be as equally ironic as the scenario described above with the guy at the bus stop. How? Who knows! My mind swirls with the different ways in which this scenario could unfold, how the city of Indianapolis will somehow do something horrible to me, causing someone somewhere to say "Yep, that sucker's really 'Enjoying Indianapolis' now, isn't he! Hahahaha!" Perhaps next time I'm there, if I'm wearing the shirt, I'll get some gigantic parking ticket and some guy who thinks he's soooo smart will walk by and see my shirt, see the parking ticket, and be completely jazzed at the thought that he'll have something to blog about later that night. The cycle completes itself, for the forces of irony do not discriminate.*

Note to self: Do not wear "Enjoy Indianapolis" t-shirt while in Indianapolis. Too dangerous.

*David Cross seems to disagree on this matter, saying that the southern US has a disproportionately high amount of t-shirt irony among its trashy folk, who seem to enjoy irony-prone apparel that say things like "Lucky Devil" and "God don't make no trash." I just remembered this. He might have a point there.