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Jun 29, 06 10:46 AM

Update Is Overdue.

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When is the malady Blogger's Guilt gonna be added to the DSM-IV?

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Both Pete and I are creatures of habit; we've eaten lunch at French Meadow, and dinner at Quang almost every night of this session here in Minneapolis. At lunch break, we just get in the rental car and go without discussing where we're going. I have some friends I get together with in New York once a week, and every week we go to Mama's on 3rd and B, and yet we always spend ten minutes discussing where to eat.

We ordered some Brazilian beans from Gorilla Coffee in Brooklyn. Been hitting the coffee pretty hard, as is par for the course in the studio. But it's pretty hard on the mental state. In general I've maybe been in rougher shape than I've wanted to admit to myself. It's stressful.

The guest room I'm sleeping in is adjacent to the studio and next to the drum room. So there's amps and snare drums stacked in there, and in general it feels like I'm sleeping in the middle of the recording process. That can make for rough nights if I haven't remembered to lay off the coffee after 4 pm.

The Wilson house is a fun place to be, though; Dan's daughter Coco has become my guru. Even if she won't let me read her Calvin and Hobbes.

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Music is good. We've been averaging better than a song a day; we had a three song day on Monday! We got through all the tunes that I was certain would sound great, now we're into the ones I find problematic. I've liked them while we were cutting them, which is good fortune, but does not necessarily mean I'll love them when we listen back, or when I listen to them weeks from now.

The miraculous thing about Haughty is that I still love the tracks two years later. Rare for me. I'm hoping for the same phenomenon this time around. But, we're going for a rougher sound this time, meaning more flaws, which may be harder to forgive myself for as time passes.

Pete McNeal has done some drum tracks that I think will make his reputation, they're so great.

Kirby is hot shit, too. We subject him to near-inhuman amounts of teasing, being that he's 23 and girls love him and he's supertalented. But he sounds so great; clearly we're envious.

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Posted by Mike at 10:46 AM

Jun 24, 06 09:30 AM

The Good Good Day.

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Why I got into this mess in the first place.

(Above pic by listener Nathan; pic below by listener Patrick Woodward)

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We were doing this tune, and it seemed pretty straightforward, but Pete and I wanted it to sound tougher. So we toughened it up, and it sounded just kind of harsh and weird, so we brought it back down, but suddenly everybody had changed their part, and we were in the wilderness.

Everybody was lost, and we stumbled through it a few times, and it just sounded like four dudes messing around on four unrelated songs. Pissiness ensued.

Pete was doing this one kind of thing. I took a cue from it, and hooked up my iPod to the stereo. We listened to this one song that I heard as being related to Pete's idea. Pete came up with a long, complex version of what he was doing.

Pete, just play the first bar and loop that.

Pete plays.

No, no, the first bar.

Pete plays.

Pete! Just the first bar! Not the first two.

(it was a long day, I was caffeinated and testy)

And suddenly we had a thing! Is it soup yet? No, but it certainly is broth. We all jumped in, and made adjustments.

Suddenly, it was great, and we kept playing, and it got hotter with each take. Then it got too hot--everyone was hyped up and playing louder and more aggressively than the song needed. That's when we realized that we had it dialed in a couple of takes ago.

Really wonderful.

I slept like a rock (and, incidentally, blew off the Fiery Furnaces gig that I called First Ave and asked to be on the guest list. If anybody from First Ave is reading this, sorry about that)

Posted by Mike at 9:30 AM

More Spiritual Blah-Dee-Blah.

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Somebody wrote me, angry about "His Truth." Again. I wrote her back saying, respectfully, that she seemed angry at this God she didn't believe in. She got PISSED. A friend of hers forwarded an IM exchange.

Here's my response:

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Dear David:

Does she know so much about my life to say that bad shit isn't going down?

I do believe somebody who sees the sorrow in the world and gets pissed off that people believe in a God that's not intervening--rather than, say, FEMA--has an implicit beef with a God that's not paying attention.

It's baffling to me that to believe in God means:

a) I believe in an interventionist God the Dude, rather than a more fluid idea.

b) spirituality has eliminated fear/struggle in my life. You can call it ignorance, but it's not always bliss.

c) I'm endorsing Christianity/"salvation"/some other dogmatic, organized belief system. That spirituality = religion.

I don't have a dogmatic idea of what God is; it changes almost from day to day. Sometimes it's the spirit of humanity, sometimes it's Love, sometimes it's music, sometimes it's The Cosmos (yeah, cornball), and somethimes that old, paternal God the Dude. Among other things. Personally, that's essential to my spiritual consciousness.

"He had no interest in addressing what is widely acknowledged to be THE major question in christianity."

You're right, I have no interest in addressing that. Personally, it's irrelevant to my spiritual life.

"...he's ultimately afraid of uncertainty."

Yep. And not only the terror of confronting the future, but uncertainty itself. Fear isn't gonna change anything, it's just gonna cost you sleep. We live on a ball of dirt hurtling through space, buses and trucks are everywhere, bird flu may be imminent; every day is an act of faith.

Why is an endorsement of spiritual consciousness by nature smug? "This milkshake tastes great." "Fuck you for praising a milkshake that I don't have!"

Is it a contest? Does the most peaceful guy win? Does anybody win?

Why does one have to take "I trust the hand of the almighty and the infinite" at face value, not an metaphor? Are you hearing "the almighty" and not "the infinite"?

The lyric is "Don't fear the random fate." Where am I denying the existence of randomness in that sentence? The first part of the lyric's about the pointlessness of fear. And the second part: doesn't fate mean a predetermined (and implicity gloomy) course of life? The lyric isn't "don't fear the bad shit that randomly occurs in life." The lyric refutes the existence of fate.

I've met a lot of people in my life with much more basic problems than me--people struggling with a special needs child, people struggling with spouses' illnesses, people in Cambodia and Eritrea struggling with poverty, guys who lost limbs in the Iraq war. Some of them are much more at peace than I am. People whose consciousness is "the world is bigger than just me" are happier.

Above all, why would this song make somebody mad? Why not just say, "Ah, this guy's a loon, and not as smart as me," and press the skip button?

Thanks, David.

Mike

Posted by Mike at 5:55 AM

Jun 22, 06 11:03 AM

Superman Have Luv for Me.

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(these pix ganked from listener Russell Sanford)

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Brandon Routh, who plays Superman in Superman has recommended "Looking at the World from the Bottom of a Well" on his iTunes playlist. #1 on his list! Yeah! Go team us!

Posted by Mike at 11:03 AM

First Day of Recording.

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(Above ganked from Russell Sanford; below, ganked from Patrick Woodward)

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We're trying to make this one sound super live. So, we loaded the gear in, and spent hours and hours seeing which snare drum sounded right. Munson came by with his big old bass. Kirby fucked around with his amazing cheap Casios and a Memory Man pedal.

One of the snares is called a Tube-Lug. I don't know if we're using it. But I want to say the name over and over again: Tube-Lug. Tube-Lug. Tube-Lug.

It took us 'til dinnertime to be ready to play. We tracked "27 Jennifers," take after take, the pocket settling and loosening up gradually.

The guitar part is all downstrokes. My wrist was fucking sore when I went to bed.

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Posted by Mike at 10:06 AM

A Homie on the Culture Desk.

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(these pix ganked from listener Garrett Sheehan)

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My old running dog from the NYPress, Sam Sifton, is a culture editor at the New York Times. He's been there a couple of years, and it's embarrassingly thrilling for me when I go out to lunch with him and get a glimpse of the interior of the place. Also, the cafeteria, where dudes play chess at the lunch table; a social microcosm I'd love to observe for a while.

He's got a new thing going on at the online version of the Times, where he responds to readers' questions. Here's how hip he is: I sent him one, jokingly, and he actually answered it, with a Young Jeezy quote.

I've always loved his style, a mix of hard-boiled and affable. See him at: http://www.nytimes.com/ref/business/media/asktheeditors.html.

Posted by Mike at 9:57 AM

Jun 21, 06 10:06 AM

The Long Haul North.

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These pix, of the Cleveland HOB show, ganked from listener Tony Butitta.

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After a last leisurely breakfast at Waffle House (I get 'em scattered, smothered, covered, and chunked, for those familiar with the Waffle House hash brown code), we said goodbye to Scrap (John Munson's playing bass on the record) and headed north to Minnesota.

I love the atmosphere in the South so much that it makes me blue to head north. Tennessee turns into Kentucky and then into Illinois so quickly. And then there's a shitload of Illinois to plow through.

We slept at a Microtel in Wisconsin--Pete McNeal, who is insane for cheese curds, got a bunch at a convenience store--woke up, found the Starbucks, and then the Cracker Barrel, and made it to Minneapolis by rush hour.

Now I've woken up at Dan Wilson's house and the rock will commence shortly.

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Posted by Mike at 10:06 AM

Final Note on Bonnaroo.

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These pix, of the post-show acoustic mini-set I did at B-roo, by listener Jenn See (more of hers at www.touristofeverything.blogspot.com).

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We kept bumping into Bonnaroo-ers on their way home as we stopped in gas stations. Some of them came over and congratulated us on the gig, which was nice.

Bonnaroo really is as special as they say it is. The music business in general has lost its intense interest in the jam-band scene, but those hippies, man, they still have something beautiful going on. I met the drummer from Umphrey's McGee, he digs my shit, maybe we'll do shows together.

The most fun I had there was when they'd shuttle me around on a golf cart, bobbing and weaving through the dusty, stoned crowd.

I dig all the Weird Shit they put up for the crowd: the flame garden, the sound sculptures, the silent disco, the VW garage, complete with garage bands and basketball hoops. Like a post-Burning Man thing. It's the only festival I've ever been to--groovy European ones include--that try so hard to make sure that you're in a fascinating environment, not just standing in a field waiting for a band.

Awesome scene: at the Sonic Stage post-show mini-show, right in front of me, a girl whipped out her pipe and a ziploc bag and placed it on the stage. She pulled out a bud, cleaned it a little, put in the pipe, and lit it up. Very casually.

I don't like being stoned any more, but it sure is fun to play shows for people on drugs. There were three girls on E just fucking losing their minds there, right in front. Come to think of it, that probably was not so fun for their fellow attendees.

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Posted by Mike at 9:18 AM

Jun 18, 06 09:39 PM

Bonnaroo/Ridiculousness.

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Driving and rocking.

(above pic--of D.C.--by listener Leah; below pic--of Cleveland--by listener Tony Butitta)

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Just got back to a hotel on the outskirts of Nashville from Bonnaroo; we split before Phil Lesh, to beat the traffic; turns out we beat a rainstorm, too.

We drove 600 miles after the gig in Cleveland last night, to arrive at 9 am. We managed to get some Waffle House in our bellies before we loaded in the gear.

The show was BIG. Maybe 3000 people? The largest tent, and it was overflowing.

I did that show, plus a 30 minute set at the acoustic stage, a couple songs on the radio, three interviews, a photo session, and a signing thing where I autographed stuff for a couple hundred people.

(Good Lord, that's three shows in less than 18 hours?!)

I AM TIRED.

Posted by Mike at 9:39 PM

Jun 16, 06 09:23 PM

Philly.

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Pix ganked from the famous Jen and Taia (see below).

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I had some weirdness going on after the gig, so I was kinda shaken. But: I had this dope-fiend-y plan to hotfoot it to Jim's Steaks, next door to the Theater for the Living Arts. I planned all night to jump offstage, towel off, change my shirt, and get my cheesteak (with onions--simply "with," as Philly-ites say--and extra cheez whiz) before the place closed, as it said on the door, at one a.m.

I got there at 12:42 and the doors were locked. I knocked. Dude comes to the door: "We're closed."

ONE A.M.!! I yelped.

"We ran out of rolls," he said.

They ran out of rolls. As the Bee Gees sang: TRAGEDY!

We went to Pat's. It was great. But I'm a Jim's person.

By the way, Philadelphians, what's up with Geno's? (It's right across the street from Pat's, and twice the size) Scrap observed: "With all that neon, it just screams not as good."

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Posted by Mike at 9:23 PM

If Nothing Else, I Can Always Say that Jen and Taia Love Me.

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Jen and Taia were waiting at the van after the TLA gig. I joked that I would force Kirby to wear it at every show. "You mean you're not going to wear it yourself?!" they said.

Posted by Mike at 9:22 PM

Chuck Hooked Me Up with Picks Depicting the Rockity Robot.

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Yeah! I have, like, plastic bag after plastic bag filled with them.

Posted by Mike at 9:01 PM

Jun 15, 06 06:27 PM

In Rhode Island, I Rocked in a Cage.

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This one goes out to all my brothers on lockdown.

(Photos ganked from listener Keith Antaya)

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(Or: Ersatz Go-Go in Providence)

The place we played, Lupo's, is usually a dance club. When we showed up for soundcheck, the go-go cages hadn't been put away yet. So I did the acoustic mid-show miniset inside the thing, jumping off the stage and running over there as the fellaz played a polka fanfare. NICE.

Posted by Mike at 6:27 PM

Toronto: Disaster!

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Fun and mishaps in Canada.

(person who sent me these pix, please write so I can put your name here, because I am a tool and I forgot)

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(Check out that guitar face. Right?)

Maybe the loss of our Canadian ex-keyboardist Handsome Dan cursed us. Firstly, when we walked up onstage I realized that I hadn't put my in-ear monitors on. I got on the mic for the traditional "Toronto, are you ready to rock?!" and thought to myself, that's funny, I can't hear my voice, have they not turned on the mic yet?

In the middle of the first song, Kirby's electric piano began to emit apocalyptic grinding noises. It died right there. He had to do the whole show on a tiny circa-1993 Casio SK-1, which is a toy keyboard, essentially--about the length of my forearm, with keys the size of a girl's pinkie. It has a rudimentary sampler onto which most users usually say "fuck" or "shit" and play it back at a variety of speeds and tones.

It was loads of fun. Also: hot dogs.

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Posted by Mike at 5:27 PM

Troy: Awesomest Thus Far.

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A killing show.

(Above pic ganked from {??}; Kirby pic ganked from Christine McKenzie; cake pic ganked from Trina Evans)

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It was my birthday, and so the fellaz (plus opener Nicole Atkins, and her piano player, the legendary Handsome Dan) came out and gave me a cake. CAKE!

And just a great show. Dancing crowd, yelling, etc. As Pete McNeal says: "We got it dialed in."

Pete often says "We've got it dialed in." Sometimes: "We've got it dialed up," or "dialed out." Or sometimes, simply: "We've got it dialed."

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Posted by Mike at 4:27 PM

What Else to Mention?

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These pix ganked from listener Christine McKenzie.

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Let's see:

I am killing the fried food, and am happily getting pudgier.

Pete took us to Sally's pizza in New Haven--where he grew up--en route to Providence. Insanely good, second only to DiFara's in Brooklyn.

We have an insane overnight drive from Cleveland to Bonnaroo--we have to be there at 9 am to load in our stuff--hence, the moment the House of Blues show ends, we will haphazardly throw everything into the van and start jamming the 600 miles to Tennessee.

We are instituting a tradition in which Scrap sings and plays guitar in a solo rendition of a medieval tune called "Guardame las Vacas." The sole lyric, which he came up with, is "Keeping watch/over some cow."

I have repeatedly forgotten to burn Chuck a CD of Ennio Morricone's "Il Ritorno de Ringo," our usual walk-on tune.

Being men trapped in a van with each other all day, the ebb and flow of homoerotic jokes has become alarming.

Posted by Mike at 4:21 PM

Listener Colleen Forwards This Amusing Photograph.

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Posted by Mike at 4:15 PM

Jun 9, 06 03:38 PM

These Pix of the Buffalo Gig Ganked from Listener Michael Calanan.

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Posted by Mike at 3:38 PM

...And This One of Pete McNeal Ganked from Listener James Goller.

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Posted by Mike at 3:27 PM

A Buffalo Dude Tossed a Box of Caramels Onstage Last Night; Thank You, Buffalo Dude.

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A smashing opener.

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Probably the best first-gig-of-a-tour ever. We played outdoors, on a square in downtown Buffalo (so many stately old buildings in Buffalo), under a big column topped with a bronze statue commemorating something.

Big energy, fun crowd, lots of smilers. The Brave Youngster John Kirby--playing, as he was, his debut gig with us--looked a little startled whenever something got fucked up, but we all were grinning. At one point, he was messing with a control on a Memory Man effects pedal, and a huge blaring note that would not stop 'til he shut the thing off came out. We laughed. We love fuck-ups.

I think it was his first, like, rock-star experience. He was smiling the whole time. And having his picture taken with teenage girls afterwards. I'm guessing that's not happened to him before.

Stunning, stunning face calls from our drummer Pete McNeal last night. (face calls is a kind of jamming game we play during shows) Just rocked the hell out of it.

Scrap's Tribeca-based bass guru, David Gage, fixed up his bass so it's a lot more audible now, which is fantastic. He was kind of buried, previously. He's also rocking the bass with a bow a lot, which is super fun.

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Posted by Mike at 11:03 AM

Why You Shouldn't Move to Brooklyn?

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I was strolling from the Holiday Inn to get some coffee, and I happened upon a church with a big Righteous Babe logo on a sign next to it; apparently it's owned by my old running dog Ani DiFranco. Firstly, it made me smile that an old classmate that I used to trade riffs with on the roof of a shitty East Village tenement (back when East Village tenements actually were shitty) now owns a church. It also struck me that such a thing would be impossible in New York; too pricey.

It looks like Buffalo is doing a lot to attract young artists; festivals, gallery opening, rock shows in public squares open to the public. I was walking around the Allentown neighborhood, there were these awesome old houses painted in bright colors, like San Francisco Victorians in the 60s. I bet you could get by on very little money, and have loads of time to make art.

I love New York; I have this big renewed crush on Brooklyn, now that I've moved there, and live in a big nice place, and besides live in a neighborhood where hipsters fear to tread. (see the entry below, where John Kirby noted, astutely, that hipsters are people that are constantly complaining about hipsters)

But there's not much to attract artists anymore. If you are an artist, you're a designer, or a fashion person, or something like that (not to disrespect those professions, after all, I'm a professional myself); if you want to pursue something stranger and less commercial, you'll have to do so in your spare time. Why go?

Philadelphia is sposed to be wonderful; I've seen very little but the clubs where I play, and South Street. (it's a problem being a road musician, you tend to see only the downtowns where your hotels are, which, sadly in America, are often beat-down and unpopulated) Or Portland, the town so groovy I would very much like to have sex with it.

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Posted by Mike at 9:55 AM

A Dude Complained.

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A dude complained that he's sick of seeing all the Eritrea pictures; buy a new camera already! The truth is, I'm enjoying the breather; actually experiencing the world rather than just taking pictures of it (which, believe me, is what life turns into when I own a camera).

Also: I have hundreds of Eritrea pix, most of 'em not blogged yet. I'm trying hard not to post any pic twice.

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Posted by Mike at 9:32 AM

Jun 8, 06 12:25 PM

First Day of This Tour.

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First show is tonight.

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We scarfed down a lot of Peter Luger's before we got in the van for the drive to Buffalo yesterday. Their burgers are kind of like heroin, in that they sort of blossom in the mouth once you've taken a bite. Perhaps you'd have to be familiar with heroin to understand that. Their bacon is ludicrously thick and fatty, as well.

Our new piano player, the Courageous Youngster, John Kirby, was staying in Williamsburg (he's a Los Angeles guy), and made cutting remarks about hipsters. But, Kirby, you're a hipster, we pointed out. Kirby made the astute observation that you can tell a hipster because they're complaining about hipsters.

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Posted by Mike at 12:25 PM

"How Many Ice Cold Cokes Would You Like with That?"

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I lived with a rich actress girl in the West Village in the early 90s, in the macked-out co-op her Dad bought for her to live in while she went to school. She paid for the food and let me live rent-free, and I bought the drugs. When we got high, she liked to videotape conversations and then watch them right afterwards.

We ate nothing but takeout. Sometimes we'd fight, and I'd go buy cheap pasta to cook, but she'd always relent and we'd order food that she'd put on her parental credit card. We would order one particular kind of food obsessively; Domino's, for instance, two meals a day for two months.

The guy at Domino's was some kind of budding alpha-male capitalist. After ordering a pizza, he'd ask, really enthusiastically and domineeringly, "AND HOW MANY ICE COLD COKES WOULD YOU LIKE WITH THAT?" Um, how about no ice cold cokes with that, thanks.

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Posted by Mike at 12:17 PM

Shades from Walgreen's.

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I bought these sunglasses at the Walgreen's across the street from the Holiday Inn. I left mine at home. They look like Terry Richardson's. I know T.R. from around the way in New York, though it took me a couple years to put two and two together, that he was the guy who made all the high-art photos of famous models with cum on their faces. Which is a very interesting thing to find out about an acquaintance from around the way.

Anyway. I don't like biting styles. But I dig the glasses. I always worry about this kind of stupid thing.

Posted by Mike at 9:27 AM

Jun 2, 06 10:25 AM

I Am Thirty-Six in Eight Days.

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Caramel treats will be expected from all.

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Chuck "The Legend" Radue, our sound guy, says of one's 36th birthday: "It's the last milestone. You can legally sleep with somebody half your age!"

I feel good about 36. I dig adulthood, and I dig it more, the more adultier I get. More confident and naturally chillaxed. I would like my old metabolism back. Other than that, I wouldn't change a thing.

As my friend Brian often says: "Fucked up shit just keeps happening, and yet, once again, I just had the best year of my life."

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Posted by Mike at 10:25 AM

Trying to Avoid Titling This Entry 'Computer Love,' Or 'Big Mac Attack.'

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Yeah. My Mac dies, long live my Mac.

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There was a cartoon in the New Yorker recently; a doctor consoles a widow in a hospital waiting room, "Don't worry, I got in one last chance to scold him about diet and exercise."

This reminds me of the Genius Bar at the SoHo Apple store; a throng of Manhattanites with broken laptops, all of whose appointments are two hours late (to get in line you have to sign in on their website, and your appointment will generally be five to seven hours after you book it, at the absolute soonest), who will eventually be granted an audience with a cheerful guy in an Apple t-shirt tsking them for not backing up their data.

(Maybe it's different now that they've opened the 5th Avenue store, which is 24 hrs, and I'm sure filled with tweaked-out people with busted iPods at 4 am)

Due to a mishap--which was boneheaded, and my fault, and too embarrassing for me to actually tell you about--the keys T, Y, and 6 stopped working on my Mac. I briefly tried to live life without T, Y, or 6. Then I got a dusty keyboard from an antiquated iMac and hooked it up. The set-up looks so lo-fi I could cringe.

So I ordered a new MacBook--the sleek and chic new black kind. It's extravagant, I know, especially after the whopping expenses--largely Ikea-incurred--of moving. I planned on getting it fixed, paying the $500 or whatever for a new keyboard; last year, I bought the ProCare card, which for 99 bucks buys you the privilege of making more convenient appointments, and, allegedly, quicker turnaround time at the shop)

But my ProCare card had expired. Did I want to brave the hordes at the Apple store? No. I just fucking ordered a new one. (admittedly, it didn't take a lot of self-arm-twisting to buy something expensive and shiny)

I'm a Mac dude. (a MacDude?) I will not snob on PC people, but I like Macs. Here's my problem with Apple: everything costs money. Want to backup your hard drive? That'll be $99 for a dot-Mac account, please; it's the only way to get the backup software without which you are unable to back your Mac up. Want to avoid the lines? $99 for a ProCare card. And, most egregiously, if you want to extend your warranty, it's $249 for AppleCare, which is nice for the phone tech support, but which won't help you much if something breaks--a friend was denied a repair on her hard drive because the headphones jack was loose.

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Posted by Mike at 10:13 AM

In Happier News, Let's All Applaud the New Lesbian Batwoman.

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For Sapphic superhero, click here.

Posted by Mike at 10:05 AM