Great stuff.

Prop 8, the Musical. In case you haven't already seen it.



Not quite what I expected, but it's growing on me.


You're a good man, Mr. Hardin

Best of luck to you, too—I hope you sell your book for giant pots of money. Peace, of course. I'll be back on crimespace in a few months, most likely--see you then, I hope.

Uh oh.

Just found a new online source for guitar widgets. They've got Landgraff stuff, and Tim pedals. The question is, can I deduct all the gear I've bought this year, since we played at Blues Fest?

Note to lurking crimespacers re crimespace

Lots of smart people there, many of whom I'll miss. I enjoyed most of the conversation a great deal. I have a lot of respect for the working writers who post there, and I'm grateful to the readers who've bought and enjoyed my book(s). It's a great site and I'm glad to have been a part of it. Rock on with your fine selves. Better yet, feel free to drop by and leave a comment, if the spirit moves you.

When good forums go bad

I've been pretty active in the political web forum world the past few years, and what I've learned is that just about any web forum, no matter how benign its purpose or uncontroversial its subject matter, can turn ugly if negative or hostile or aggressively stupid members are allowed to dominate the conversation unchecked. When that happens you have three choices: you can ignore it, you can fight back, or you can leave. In this case I found it hard to ignore, because the hostility was hitting pretty close to home: a lot of snide remarks about academia, a lot of juvenile stereotyping of academics, a lot of chest-puffing anti-intellectualism of the Limbaugh variety (it was even suggested that I'd been "brainwashed by academia"—echoes of Horowitz, ferfuckinchrissakes). I don't really have the time or energy to engage it—too many papers to grade, little kids, copy edits due in two weeks—plus, after a year or so on crimespace I realize that such attitudes are pretty deeply ingrained: literary fiction writers get all the girls, or something. I did post a long, impassioned rant in which I said as clearly as I could that I took such attacks personally, since my wife, my father and most of my closest friends are artists, poets, lit-fic writers and/or academics, but the poo continued to fly. After another round or two, I left. It's possible that I'll sign up again when the new book is a little closer to its release date. Or, you know, not.


Art vs. popular culture

I used to have this argument with my father when I was, like, thirteen. I believed passionately that art was whatever I wanted it to be, and no one could tell me any differently. My father believed that art was something specific, and that it had rules you could both state and teach, and that those rules had largely been agreed upon in the art world since the advent of modernism. He knew what they were because he was trained to be an artist by other artists, some of whom were a pretty big deal: he went to art school on the GI Bill, first to Yale (BFA), then Cornell (MFA), where he studied with both Albers and De Kooning. He also knew his art history, as we found out in the '60s and '70s when he dragged us through every art museum in Europe. No surprise—he was right, and I was wrong. Because in order for kid-me to have been right, this would have to be art:

Now, if you were desperate you could make the case that "Graceland Christmas" is art, a timeless classic, even, because people like it, and if it speaks to them, who's to say they're wrong? But that would be missing the point. If that's the standard, then soap operas are art, and Judge Judy is art, and internet porn and snuff movies are art, and so on. People like all of those things, after all, and are moved by them, one way or another. So either art is a specific thing, distinct from other things, or it's everything (and therefore nothing). If the latter, there's no point in even discussing it: "art" is just a term without meaning, nothing but an empty catch-phrase for people to throw around. But of course that's not true: art is something—or some things—and not others. Artists, academics and critics have a pretty clear, more-or-less shared view of what it is and isn't, in the broadest sense, at least. It is "Guernica," for example, and it isn't "Graceland Christmas." That's not to say that there isn't some occasional blurring or blending, and that genre fiction, say, can't be both successful genre and do a lot of the stuff art does—but anybody who's worked in both literary and genre forms can tell you that there's not always a lot of room for art-making once you get the genre corset cinched up. This all seems pretty obvious to me, but I've been thinking about it for thirty-five years or so.


Just quit crimespace.

Tired of having the same stupid argument over and over about why Stephen King is not the greatest writer evah, even though he makes more money than me. Oy.



Voted today

Got to talk to lots of nice retirees over at the fire station. Pretty good turnout among the over-70 crowd, looks like.



Wassup 2008

Great stuff. Says it all.


Oil prices falling

This is a good thing, making it a lot less likely (I hope) that we'll have an inflationary depression. Still a good chance of a deflationary depression, of course, but that won't be nearly as bad for us as loss of income AND hyper inflation.


A few noisy drunks wandering up and down the street last night, pretty late. Some kind of small domestic drama playing out; true love on the skids, maybe. Were they the same people who had the cops called on their house party last week? One hates to assume these things, but yeah—probably.



Have I mentioned that i'll be very, very glad when this tenure-review business is over (for now) and the revisions are done and sent in? I don't mean to complain, but I kind of miss my wife and kids. And my guitars. And poker. And doing stuff that isn't work.

Tenure/retention review!

Was anything ever this much fun? And then again, in four months!



So, how does one prepare for global economic collapse?

Stock up on canned goods? Buy a shotgun? I'm stumped.

Every now and then

I decide I'm about ready to quit my job and become a full-time blues musician.

Too bad I suck at it.


Even I am amazed at the pure, brass-balls, broad-daylight audacity of the Bush administration's attempt to loot the U.S. Treasury to the tune of $700 billion, no oversight allowed, no strings attached. This is what happens when the corporate ruling class declares itself above the law.


Blues Fest

Our little neighborhood band played at the Eau Claire Coalition Blues Festival on Saturday. It rained (although not directly on us), and I was pretty much the weakest link, at least instrumentally. But still—fun!

I'll post pictures as soon as I can get them from my MIL's camera.

Did I mention that the in-laws are in town? I make jokes, but thank God for them and their excellent babysitting.


Lives of the Poets (Part 1)

Every now and then I have this conversation with a poet acquaintance of mine in which I say something about the unseemly and pathetic clawing after crumbs that is the business end of poetry, and he says, "Well, if you're just writing poetry for what you can get out of it, you should quit." And then what I want to say is: Why is it bad to want to be rewarded for your work? Why is it bad to want to make a decent living? Take care of your family? Make your mortgage payments?

Well, it just is. And if you were really a poet, you'd know better than to ask the question.


Not fully committed to the goals of FYE.

I will not require their attendance at Party House, or the Ultimate Road Trip. Oh, well.


Kelley likes the new book.

Thank God. It's been a ball-buster of a summer.


HIGH SEASON out in paperback

Officially on 7/1, though I got my sample copies on Friday. I like the mm cover better than the hc cover. It's creepier, somehow.


Driving down to Madison yesterday we got caught in a freak hail-storm, complete with thunder, lightning, and me scanning the horizon for funnel clouds. Fortunately the new van seems not to have sustained any damage—the hail was marble-sized and appeared relatively soft. But people were seriously freaking out—pulling off the road and in a couple of instances getting into multi-car fender-benders. It was very odd. I was expecting a rain of frogs next, or maybe the rending of the earth—giant chasms opening in the road surface with flames shooting out of them. One really does get the sense that we're teetering on the edge of the apocalypse right now. Never in my life have I imagined that I'd find myself thinking about buying canned goods in bulk, just in case the shit hits the fan.



It's pretty obvious that McW and his staff don't really understand what's coming down the pipe at them (otherwise, how could they have thought the "green screen" speech was, you know, a good idea?). Fine. The longer McW underestimates Obama and tries to dismiss him as "naive" or "inexperienced," the more Obama will make him look like grandpa Simpson, escaped from the home.


The Summer That Wasn't

Seriously. It's getting weird.


Blasts from the past.

One of the coolest (and occasionally creepiest) things about the blog is that it's put me back in touch with people I haven't talked to or seen (or thought about, sometimes) for twenty or thirty years. On the cool side of the ledger, a nice note and archival photo from my old college buddy Doug Matthews. The fact that I actually got a degree says something about my consumptive/recuperative powers in those days, I guess. Not to mention the benign inattention of OU's faculty and administrators. It may have been technically impossible to flunk out for a brief period there, short of setting fire to the Dean's office.

Anyway, here's the photo. That's actually me, I'm pretty sure. Just out of the picture on the left are Chris Davis (upper, guitar) and Larry Anderson (lower, banjo). The venue is probably Bojangle's; we played there a lot.

Wish I still had that guitar: it's a '67 Martin D28, Brazilian rosewood. It never really sounded that great, but it'd be worth a chunk of change in the current market.

Photo and trip down memory lane thanks to Uncle Douger.

A note to my colleagues

Sorry about that depart mental thing. It's not you; it's me.

Andy's right. Here's another bunny.


They call them departmental meetings

because you always depart mental.


"Sleight of Hand," by Ten of Clubs

If you like blazing guitar pyrotechnics a la Satriani (but with a less processed, more organic feel), fueled by some of the fattest, brownest tones since EVH and ladled thick as ham gravy over tasty swing and Latin grooves, this may be the CD for you. You can buy it here, or on iTunes.


Native Bay: A Review

So, the lovely A________ and I went to Native Bay for our fifth anniversary dinner last night. If you're not from around here, Native Bay is a converted supper club perched on the edge of Lake Wissota, about a twenty-minute drive from Eau Claire. The restaurant has lived in its current incarnation for three or four years, and is now a nouvelle-trendy, small-food-big-plates place with a menu that emphasizes local organic ingredients. We've been there four or five times: we like the idea of the place, there's a very pleasant view of the lake, and the interior is done up in an interesting contemporary/organic/industrial style with lots of bamboo and recycled wood: as Eau Claire goes, it wins the ambiance prize hands down (second place is Mona Lisa's, which is noisy and feels kind of cavernous and hectic in comparison).

You can't really have a meal at Native Bay (appetizers, two entrees, wine by the glass, coffee and dessert) for under $100, and it's not unusual to hit $150 with tip. Last night we ordered a bottle of champagne and so were well above that. Our past experiences with Native Bay have been, well, interesting: there's been a certain unevenness to the cooking, shall we say, a consistently annoying stinginess to the portions, and the service has been excellent to spacey/inattentive. Still, we're full of optimism. We have a babysitter! It's spring at last! Neither of us is completely exhausted! So, we arrive and are greeted and seated quickly: nice table by the window, bottle of Veuve Cliquot on ice, per my request. All good so far. We're given water, apparently free of charge! And we wait. For something like fifteen minutes. For the waiter to finally get around to opening and serving the bottle of champagne for us; I'm about to do it myself when he arrives at last. Not good. We wait maybe another fifteen-to-twenty to place our orders—there are a grand total of two other tables seated in the dining room at this point, so it's anybody's guess why it's taking so long. Eventually, a girl strolls past with a basket of bread, from which she's dispensing 2"x3" slices with a pair of tongs. We flag her down. The lovely A_________, ravenous by now, asks for TWO pieces. Bread girl seems shocked, but forks them over. She does not return. We wait again.

At long last, the appetizers arrive. Yay! Food! We ordered three (I know—big spenders): a pork tenderloin medallion dish, a walleye-cake dish, and a carrot-apple soup. The soup is fine (if smallish), although the lovely A_________ makes a carrot-ginger soup that flat kicks its ass. The pork medallions (two of them for $9) are roughly the size of fifty-cent pieces, served on dense, spongy little pancakes (made of I-don't-know-what; something buckwheat-like), and drizzled with a brownish sauce. The pork is a bit dry, and barely warmer than room temperature. Worse, it's utterly without flavor of any sort, almost as though it's been intentionally de-flavorized, somehow. Because it's a restaurant that takes itself a little too seriously, there's no freaking salt and pepper on the table. The little pancakes taste like, well, pancakes, but chewier. The brown sauce tastes brown and earthy, which is to say, a bit like dirt. Not a promising start.

The walleye cakes (two of them, each about an inch-and-a-half square by 1/4" thick, also $9) are dense, greasy to the point of sogginess, and again served at approximately room temp. One appetizer out of three doesn't suck: a good average in baseball, not so great for a "fine dining" joint that runs fitty bones per plate.

Meanwhile, one table over, there's a small drama unfolding: a woman is unhappy with her meal and has sent it back to the kitchen. Shortly thereafter it returns (via waitress), apparently unaltered. The woman seems distressed; she's holding the plate and making little gestures of annoyance at the food. There's much discussion back and forth, which I would pay money to be able to hear. The woman and her husband/date depart soon after. They're not smiling. Is this an omen, I wonder? Perhaps. I pour another tot of champagne.

Post appetizers, there's another lengthy wait. Then, finally, the entrees arrive: the lovely A_________ has ordered a lamb dish, I've gotten a beef tenderloin. Mine is fine: a reasonably generous portion squatting in a sort of mashed-potato foxhole, surrounded by a decorative drizzle of sauce with some wine-soaked mushrooms. Nicely cooked, seasoned and presented, but pricey at $32. The lamb, though, is small and a bit stringy: three thin slices half-hidden in some artfully arranged garnish. It's also barely warmer than the table, say. I resolve to mention this to the waiter, but he does not return to ask how things are. The lovely A_______ , now faint from hunger, eats the cold, tendinous lamb anyway. I give her several bites of tenderloin, generous soul that I am.

The waiter returns at last, as we're finishing up. "And how was everything?" he asks. Past tense.

"The lamb was cold," I say. "But we were hungry so we ate it anyway."

Waiter looks unhappy. "I'll go check with the kitchen," he says. He returns shortly, positively despondent now, with an offer of free desserts. I'm guessing they're coming out of his paycheck.

"Fine," we say. We're still hungry, after all. The desserts arrive after another wait (a bread pudding and a coffee creme brulee), and are again a mixed bag: the creme brulee is fine if unremarkable, but the bread pudding is, in the lovely A_______'s words, lame.

In all, it was a delightful and romantic evening (I'd be happy sitting on a rock, as long as the lovely A__________ was nearby), interrupted by a disappointing and expensive meal. I think we've given up on Native Bay, though considering the sparseness of the Friday night crowd I'm guessing we're not the only ones who've reached that conclusion. Who knows—maybe the universe will come to its senses and Native Bay will revert to supper club in the not-too-distant future (the sooner the better, as far as I'm concerned). When/if that happens, I'll take the large order of prime rib, please.


Did I mention the rat?

The critter on the right is the rat. Except it's really a wolf, apparently.

Still more gear porn

The guitar is a Fender Vintage Hot Rod '52 Tele. It's basically a riff on the thin-skin American Vintage line, with a 9.5 radius, medium-jumbo frets, satin finish on the back of the neck, slightly hotter than normal bridge pickup and a Seymour Duncan Vintage Mini Humbucker at the neck. Great playing, great sounding guitar—found it used here in town for about $450 less than it would've cost new from Musician's Fiend. The amp is a Peavey Windsor Studio. I replaced the stock EL34 power tube with a JJ KT66; I also replaced the stock speaker with a greenback. This thing comes with a bunch of bells and whistles for just under $400: effects loop, built-in attenuator, master volume, standby switch, external speaker jack, line out, ground lift, decent reverb. The sound is pretty amazing considering the modest price and the size of the box. Rich harmonics and tons of natural sustain with the KT66, even w/ single coils. Very nice little Chinese class-A amp for practice or small club gigging; will give the fancy boutique amp makers something to worry about, I'm guessing. Beats the crap out of the Epi Jr., of course, and arguably much better than the boxy, muddy sound of many Blues Juniors. The only drawback is that it's weirdly ugly, like all Peavey amps.

More house stuff

Well, we made it through the hideous winter of '07-'08 without any major catastrophes, house-wise, touch wood. There were a few issues, though: cold floors on the 1st floor (very cold in the basement), very cold along the west wall of H's room and our room, freezing of radiator pipes on west wall, occasional sounds of bats near east dormer, west wall of H's room and in an interior wall on the 3rd floor, very cold mudroom/entry, occasional dampness in SW corner of basement, and, just lately, apparent water infiltration above master bath ceiling. We've already addressed the biggest of these, partially at least: we've had the box sills and west wall "dense-packed" with blown cellulose, which seems to have made a significant difference already. We've also put up insulating blinds on the big living room window; enough with the free neighborhood show, already. Next, a basket of relatively small jobs: 60' cedar fence along w property line, concrete patio/landing for back steps, new front porch/steps, new front walk, general landscaping of front yard, etc. The bat guys are scheduled to start work next week, as are the roof-repairers and maybe the landscapers, along the w property line. So, progress. We're waiting for the first real warm day to have dinner on our fabulous screen porch. Tomorrow, maybe.

The end of the world

I'm not usually much given to apocalyptic thinking: too self-absorbed, probably. In fact, I haven't really felt much in the way of pervasive dread since, I don't know, the Reagan administration, back when it seemed like they were bent on instigating a nuclear exchange with the Soviets. But lately the news has been so intensely and entirely bad—climate, economy, decline of the dollar, spiraling national debt, peak oil, bird flu, creeping fascism (those KBR detention facilities, the shiny new railroad cars with built-in shackles), anti-intellectualism, the immense stupidity of our political discourse, English 110, you name it—it's hard not to wonder what sort of world our kids will inherit. The climate thing is especially worrisome: it really seems that we've unleashed an incremental version of hell on the world; it's going to be bad, but there's no way to know how bad. Creeping fascism is worrisome, too: you have to think Cheney and Rove will do whatever it takes to keep a non-Hillary Democrat out of the White House.

And yet we're buying a mini-van that gets 21 MPG. There's something absurdly optimistic in that gesture. Or fatalistic, maybe. Call it Easter Island syndrome, I guess.

As we know it

Apparently we're getting one of these sumbitches. In blue. Ack.


Reviving the blog

It's been hibernating since January, pretty much. Time to poke it with a stick.


The Blogspace

You forget, when there are no comments, how public it is. Not that one ever thinks of blogs as private, of course—long lost cousins, ex-girlfriends, old high school buddies and folks from crimespace have all found me here—but one does suffer a bit under the illusion that they're personal, as in separate in some fundamental way from one's work life. I know that some businesses and church organizations track their employees' online activities, but I had no idea we were doing it now in academia.

Ah well. Here's the bunny again. Apparently his name is Stewart.


Here's a picture of a bunny.




I'm tired of it already. Let's try something else.